Just 402 kilometers from north to south, ALABAMA ranges from the fast-flowing rivers, waterfalls and lakes of the Appalachian foothills to the subtropical bayous and white beaches of the Gulf Coast. Most of its industry is concentrated in the north, around slums and abandoned zones of Birmingham (Security Rating E), and the lower-middle class city of Huntsville (Security Rating B), first home of the nation's space program before AresSpace consolidated most of their assets in Cape Canaveral and Houston. (However, they still own the Space Camp here in Huntsville.) The sun-scorched farmlands of middle Alabama envelop sober Montgomery, the state capital, and home to many of the State’s politicos, it receives the best protection of any Alabama city (Security Rating AA). Away from the French-influenced coastal strip around attractive Mobile (Security Rating AA), fundamentalist Protestant attitudes have traditionally backed a succession of right-wing demagogues, such as George Wallace, the four-time state governor who received ten million votes in the 1968 presidential election.
Times have moved on since the epic civil rights struggles in Montgomery, Birmingham and Selma (Security Rating D). Monuments and civic literature celebrate the achievements of the campaigners, and even Wallace renounced his racist views, courting – and winning – black votes in his successful campaign for governor in 1982.
Civil rights struggles continue to wrack this state as countless Metahuman rights groups fight to ensure and protect their rights, much as the black community a hundred years ago.
Alabama's Gulf Coast
Alabama's narrow share of the Gulf coastline is blessed with an abundance of fine white-sand beaches, laundered by clear blue waters. The coast veers sharply inward to the port city of Mobile, featuring hundreds of antebellum buildings in a tree-shaded center. Away from the water's edge, agriculture, dominated by pecan, peach and watermelon growing, flourishes on the gently sloping coastal plain.
Around the Bay Area
32 km south of Mobile, off I-10, the 65 acres of landscaped color that make up Bellingrath Gardens – once the home of a Coca-Cola magnate – include a quarter of a million azaleas (daily 0800–sunset; c$21.60). Fifteen miles further south on Hwy-193 are the quiet beaches and undisturbed pine forest of sunny Dauphin Island, which has a campground (LTG# 6334 [61-2742]; from c$35.10 per tent site) on its eastern tip.
The Mobile Bay Ferry links Dauphin with the larger Pleasure Island, 8 km away (round-trip c$8.10, cars c$67.50; LTG# 6334 [34-7345]). The real gem here, and indeed on the entire Alabama Gulf Coast, lies 32 km east, in the shape of GULF SHORES (Security rating AA), a stunning beach where ultramarine waters sweep gently over blinding snow-white sands, just beyond the junction of Hwy-59 and Hwy-182. Although it never gets overcrowded, the beach is particularly busy on a Sunday, when wealthy young people from all over Lower Alabama choose the resort over those of the more expensive Florida Panhandle. A smattering of lively cafés specialize in freshly caught shrimp, particularly the lurid and popular Pink Pony Pub (LTG# 6334 [48-6371]) .
Pink Pony Pub
Large Restaurant and Bar Archetype/137 East Gulf Place/Gulf Shores, AL, CAS/Marjorie McElwayne, Owner/No Racial Bias/ LTG# 6334 (48-6371)
Tourism is Gulf Shores' only trade; if you get bored with the beach and the bars, there's not a lot else to do. Accommodation is pricey and often booked up at summer weekends, though the Holiday Inn White Sands Resort, a mile or so west at 365 E Beach Blvd (LTG# 6334 [48-6191]; c$135.00–202.50), is a good value and has its own stretch of sand. Otherwise expect to pay in excess of c$216.00 for a double, or camp three miles further east at the Gulf State Park Resort (LTG# 6334 [48-7275]), where tent sites are $35.10. The Gulf Coast visitor center (LTG# 6334 [68-7511]), on Hwy-59 near Gulf Shores, provides comprehensive information.
Holiday Inn White Sands Resort
Luxury Hotel Archetype (2 floors)/ 365 E Beach Blvd., Gulf Shores, AL, CAS/Brett Kohs, Manager/No Racial Bias/LTG# 6334 (48-6191).
The busy port and data manufacturing city of MOBILE (pronounced mo-BEEL) traces its origins back to a French community founded in 1702. These early white settlers brought with them Mardi Gras, celebrated in Mobile continuously since 1704 – several years before New Orleans. Virtually every street is transformed in early spring by the delicate colors of azaleas, camellias and dogwoods – a beautiful complement to the many early eighteenth-century Spanish and colonial-style buildings. Parallels with New Orleans are everywhere you look in Downtown Mobile, from wrought-iron balconies to street names like Conti and Bienville and gumbo specials in the restaurants.
Mobile survived the torches of the Union army during the Civil War, and possesses enough antebellum buildings to designate four sizeable areas as historic districts. Even so, the city is unlikely to hold your attention for more than a day. The obvious place to start exploring is Fort Conde (daily 0800–1700 hours; free), a reconstruction of the city's 1724 French fort that was constructed to mark the Bicentennial in 1976, and has undergone reconstruction three times since then. Simsense dioramas in its low-ceilinged rooms cover local history, while its ramparts provide a good view of the World War II battleship USS Alabama permanently moored nearby (fort & ship daily 0800–1800 hours; $27.00, parking $5.40). Fanning out north of the fort, the Church Street Historic District holds 59, mostly pre-Civil War, buildings, as well as two museums (both Tues–Sat 1000–1700 hours, Sun 1300–1700 hours; free). The Museum of Mobile, 111 S Royal St (Mon–Fri 0900–1800 hours, Sun 1200–1700 hours), displays glittering Mardi Gras costumes and lavish horse-drawn carriages, while steam-powered fire engines, resplendent in original livery, shining brass bells and trumpets, are the stars of the Phoenix Fire Museum, 750 S Clairborne St (Mon–Fri 1000–1700 hours, Sat–Sun 1300–1700 hours).
Downtown Mobile's lack of action outside of Mardi Gras is made up for by an amazing display of greenery, particularly down its main thoroughfare, Government Street, which is shaded by a canopy of adjoining oaks, and central Bienville Square, a popular picnic spot with free lunchtime concerts every Wednesday during summer.
Northern Alabama, on the trailing edges of the Appalachians, is a blighted region that contains many of Alabama’s industrial centers and factories that have been dug into the surrounding mountain and polluting the area’s lakes, rivers and canyons of the Tennessee River Valley for decades. The area's first white settlers were small farmers who had little in common with the big plantation owners further south, and attempted to dissociate from the Confederacy during the Civil War. Substantial postwar mineral finds led to an industrial boom that peaked in the early Thirties of the twentieth century.
The rapid transformation of farmland into the city of BIRMINGHAM began in 1870, when two railroad routes met in the Jones Valley, a 161 kilometers south of Huntsville. What attracted speculators was not the scenery, but what lay under it – a mixture of iron ore, limestone and coal, perfect for the manufacture of iron and steel. The expansion of heavy industry was finally brought to an abrupt halt by the Depression. Today iron and steel production account for only a few thousand jobs, but new service and medical industries have helped transform this once smog-filled metropolis into a prosperous and pleasant city. The manufacture of auto parts for Ares Macrotech as well as cyberware and electronics for the Japanacorps and Saeder-Krupp have also brought more industry to the area. These megacorps, though, use Birmingham as one big wage slave and Metahuman slum for their workers as their corporate housing does not amount to much more than that.
Being known as the "Pittsburgh of the South" might seem like faint praise; however, Birmingham also earned the label of the "Johannesburg of America" for the brutality and intolerance of its police force. First, an intense civil rights campaign in 1963 was the turning point, setting Birmingham on the road to smoother race relations. Since 1979, under five-term black mayor Richard Arrington, the city has slowly but surely turned itself around, and the 1990s in particular saw a growing self-confidence in Birmingham's potential to be the "next Atlanta." Nonetheless, even a short stroll around downtown leaves the rather depressing impression that a lot remains to be done. Then, in 2021 riots erupted again throughout the city as many of the residents underwent Goblinization. The Orks and Trolls were soon corralled into makeshift housing and Metahuman Housing Projects. Several of those were burned down in future riots, killing thousands.
South Central Alabama
Southern Alabama – memorably depicted in Harper Lee's child's-eye view of racial conflict, To Kill a Mockingbird – still consists mostly of small, sleepy, God-fearing rural communities. Only state capital Montgomery, with a population of just over 1,193,227, achieves metropolitan status. It lies in the heart of the Black Belt, originally named for the rich loamy soil, but these days more usually taken to refer to the region's ethnic make-up. Cotton was the major earner here until the boll weevil infestation of 1915. Now it has been supplanted (officially) by soybeans, corn and peanuts – though surveys suggest that the leading cash crop is, in fact, marijuana.
MONTGOMERY's Black Belt position, 145 km south of Birmingham and 258 km west of Atlanta, made it a natural political center for the plantation elite, leading to its adoption as state capital in 1846 and temporary capital of the Confederacy fifteen years later. Despite its administrative importance, Montgomery is strangely quiet, largely because many businesses have relocated to the suburbs. Most neighborhoods are either exclusively white or totally black; integration sadly does not appear to be on the social agenda in the city that saw the first successful mass civil rights activity in 1955–56. Further dividing the city are the Metahuman poor and the Human middle-class and wealthy, such has been the status quo since the Awakening in 2012. Practitioners of magic, no matter their tradition, are expressly not welcome among human society.
The tidy market town of SELMA, 81 km west of Montgomery, became in the early 1960s the focal point of a national voting rights campaign. Demonstrations, meetings and attempts to register were repeatedly met by police violence, before the murder of a black protester by a state trooper prompted the decision to organize the historic march from Selma to Montgomery. On "Bloody Sunday," March 7, 1965, six hundred marchers set off across the steep incline of the imposing, narrow Edmund Pettus Bridge. As they went over the apex of the bridge, a line of state troopers fired tear gas without warning, lashing out at the panic-stricken demonstrators with nightsticks and cattleprods. This violent confrontation, broadcast all over the world, is credited with having directly influenced the passage of the Voting Rights Act the following year. The full story is told in the National Voting Rights Museum, beside the bridge at 1012 Water Ave (Tues–Sat 1300–1700 hours; c$10.80). Outside the 1965 campaign headquarters at the Brown Chapel AME Church, 410 Martin Luther King St, a bust of Dr King forms part of a monument to the struggle that also includes explanatory plaques along the street.
To this day, blacks, Metahumans, and the Awakened are still not fully welcomed or integrated into Selma society. Many Policlubs, such as the Mothers of Metahumans, the Ork Rights Committee, Young Elven Technologists, Humanity One, Elven Support Coalition, Hands of Five, Humanis, and scores of others, all have chapters here.
Selma's history stretches back well before the 1960s; its huge arsenal and shipbuilding plant were prime targets for Union troops who looted and burned most of the buildings in March 1865. One of the few remaining plantation homes is Sturdivant Hall, 713 Mabry St (Tues–Sat 0900–1600 hours, closed Sun; c$13.50), an attractively furnished house with an accessible cupola and lovely grounds.
Lined with independently owned stores and cafés, Broad Street is the town's busy main thoroughfare, running into the wide riverfront Water Avenue, which still feels set in the 1940s with its frontier-style storefronts, seed warehouses and garages. Just a few blocks away stand the beautiful homes of the town's Historic District.
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