>from the dried and burnt California fled on the coattails of tech elite that spread like locusts from the barren wastes of decayed silicone valley to greener pastures in Austin, those that could afford the move.
As someone who's lived in Austin for 24 years, I think it is very kind of you to think that this place won't go up in flames due to our severe drought cycles and like we didn't just have massive wildfires that ravaged the entire north side of town about 10 years ago.
Now as for the actual setting of Houston proper, I can give some decent knowledge of the place, owing to the fact that I have a ton of friends and some family who have lived there for a while.
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There are some pretty good-sized Chinese and Vietnamese communities in Houston. It's Chinatown is a decent size, but it's more of an "Asiatown" for the entire Asian-American diaspora than anything specifically related to Chinese-Americans (If you think racism might have something to do with that, congratulations for using your brain and welcome to Texas). Most of the Vietnamese came there during the mid-70s and have stuck around since. You get occasional groups of Koreans and Japanese, but again, nothing i'd really consider out of the ordinary for
About Houston's layout: It's fucking disperse. If you want cyberpunk-styled megacomplexes and giant concrete spires, Houston is not your place. All those pretty skyscrapers you see in those pictures of Houston's skyline? Yeeeeep, those are all office buildings. You aren't gonna find too many high-rises over in H-town: It's a lot of like 2 or 3-story apartment complexes that look like Motel 6's and then a bunch of neighborhoods from around there, all stemming off from the absolute congestion nightmare that is Houston's infrastructure. Seriously. Driving in Houston should be standard practice for measuring someone's blood pressure.
Now, there is a decently interesting take you could spin this all with Houston's economy: A huge part of Houston's historic economy was how all the refineries and petroleum companies were located there. But if there's a huge shock and the oil industry is going to shit with a huge push for electric stuff and alternative energy, then all of a sudden Houston's staying power is thrown immediately out the window and it becomes another Detroit. So you could do some cool stuff where like abandoned refineries are used as hideouts and marketplaces, and there's all these basically-abandoned office high-rises downtown that have been basically converted into squatters' communities, maybe run by the local slum lord.
you hit the nail on the head with this one. Houston is definitely a very spawl-y city. It has weird pockets of suburbia meshed right next to office buildings and strip malls, but they're really nothing impressive to look at. I don't currently live there (sometimes I visit for a few months), but you can really go forever and a day without setting foot in downtown if you don't work there. It does, also, take fuckin' forever to drive everywhere despite the absolutely massive highways/freeways/whatever.
It also does have a pretty decent asian community. There's probably several, but I'm familiar with the Bellaire area. However, it also has a sizeable Indian population, as well, which might actually be pretty interesting. Of course, it being Houston the other predominant culture is Latino/hispanic (I'm one of them).
This actually gives me an idea...I have a southeast asian-latino character who is affectionately known as "Tex". He's also a street racer. From personal experience of formerly living by busy roads, Houston has a street racing problem. I think he'd work pretty well in this setting