Back in Part One of this series, I talked about how I scraped my new novel's ideas from a couple of long-dead ones. The ideas themselves mutated drastically once I had them together under a new roof.
At some point in human history, there was a war whose devastation was unprecedented -- think World War I, since that's the parallel I originally used for the story internally. In the wake of this war, as people were rebuilding and sifting through the wreckage, they encountered fragments of what seemed to be some kind of mineral that had never before been seen on the face of the earth -- perfect cubes of various sizes, which fractured into perfect eights and could be rejoined just as perfectly. They called it aleaum (from the Latin alea, for dice).
At first no one could figure out what properties aleaum had other than its propensity for being divided and rejoined. Then, all at once, they found out: aleaum was an amplifier for human will and desire. In the right hands, with the right lack of inhibition, it could be used to remake the world in one's image. And soon the world became subdivided between dozens of "aleaum masters", all with their own mutually hostile and exclusionary fiefdoms, each remade in their own way. Goods could pass between the borders of such fiefdoms (where they were allowed), but people themselves could not: they could approach each other enough to exchange things, but not cross over completely into another domain. That way lay death.
The aleaum masters also jealously guarded their aleaum, and any other aleaum that might spontaneously appear. Whenever it did, they seized it for themselves, fractured it, and stowed it away. Even if they couldn't use it for themselves -- as any aleaum master is only ever paired with a single fragment at a time -- they could certainly pre-emptively prevent competition.
Once I set all this up, I asked myself the same question I asked after creating the Flight Of The Vajra-verse: How could this break? One of the things that came to mind was if there were folks who were able to do the same things aleaum did -- maybe not in total, but only in some fractional aspect of it -- but didn't need aleaum to do it. After all, when something like aleaum arises in the world, who's to say things will stop there?
Philip K. Dick has a speech, "How To Build A Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later," in which he says:
... it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing. It is my job to create universes, as the basis of one novel after another. And I have to build them in such a way that they do not fall apart two days later. Or at least that is what my editors hope. However, I will reveal a secret to you: I like to build universes which do fall apart. I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the characters in the novels cope with this problem. I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it. Do not believe — and I am dead serious when I say this — do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way to new life and the birth of new things. Before the new things can be born the old must perish. This is a dangerous realization, because it tells us that we must eventually part with much of what is familiar to us. And that hurts. But that is part of the script of life. Unless we can psychologically accommodate change, we ourselves begin to die, inwardly. What I am saying is that objects, customs, habits, and ways of life must perish so that the authentic human being can live. And it is the authentic human being who matters most, the viable, elastic organism which can bounce back, absorb, and deal with the new.
Emphases mine. And after reflecting on the understandings in the latter half of that 'graf, I believed I had what constituted the core of my story. Because I also asked myself this: If it is the script of life for the old to give way to the new, how is that to be done? Is it something that we make happen, or something that we let happen? And if we make it happen, how do we know we are not simply making it happen all over the guy next to us? I wasn't sure I had answers, but I did know it could happen either well or badly. And so I realized the story had to be about the way it happens first badly, and then later on maybe a little less badly.
In the next installment I'll talk about some of the properties and media that influenced and shaped Fall Of The Hammer, and gave it flavor and body.
Other Lives Of The Mind