Back in Part Two of this series, I talked about the bare idea behind Fall Of The Hammer, and the general outlines of the story it inspired. Here, I'm going to dive into some of the other media that influenced how Hammer took shape and direction.
Alfred Bester's 1956 novel, one of only a few he wrote in his lifetime, crossed my path in my first year of high school (1986). A thirty-year-old SF novel should have dated at least topically, but Bester's epic, proto-cyberpunk reworking of The Count Of Monte Cristo felt like it had been published only the other week. Sixty-plus years later, it still grabs you by the throat like almost nothing else out there.
Many aspects of Stars influenced Fall Of The Hammer: the forbidding future setting, where there are more possibilities than we can imagine now but also more limits than possibilities; the wild, stylized elements of the setting; and the anarchic spirit of its conclusion, where the old rules are ripped up to make way for new possibilities.
One of a number of films I call "adult fairy tales", Streets Of Fire came billed as "A Rock And Roll Fable". Its story is Kleenex-thin, but I loved its atmosphere and attitude: a fantasyland of post-WWII urban Americana, where biker gangs fight with sledgehammers, every train is an El, and rock'n'roll was just beginning to tear up the airwaves. It also has a young, venomous Willem Dafoe as a great antagonist.
A setting with that kind of flavor appealed deeply to me, and at least one setting in Fall Of The Hammer took major cues from Fire's backlot mini-universe.
E.E. "Doc" Smith's writing was so pulpy you could have plastered the holes in the wall with it, but there's no question he thought and dreamed big. His Lensman stories were key influences on everything from Star Wars on down, and on Hammer, too — in particular the idea of an artifact of power that focuses the wielder's psyche and places them above the realms of mortal men.
The Shadow's influence was much the same vein as Streets Of Fire: mainly atmosphere and flavor, rather than story or ingredients. Not a great movie, but a fun one, and I particularly liked the Pre-WWII Noirpunk flavor of the setting.
This was such a profoundly disappointing film for me that it was hard to fathom it, which is part of why there's no product link for it. I wasn't expecting much from it to begin with, given how Zack Snyder had turned all that was noble and fun about DC Comics in general and Superman in particular into such bogus gravitas with Batman v Superman. The fact that the movie we got was essentially a salvage job didn't change my feelings about it; in fact, I wrote my own little essay on how they might have been able to make the film marginally less terrible without too many major reshoots.
But sometimes bad work inspires good work. Over time, my disgust fermented into what I guess I could call "dissectional curiosity": the urge I have to take apart a bad thing, look for pieces in it that could be salvaged or repurposed, and make something new (and, one can hope, better) from it. Bits and pieces of JL floated around in mind, linked up with other ideas of my own, and eventually broke free of their source inspiration.
Next installment I'll talk about how all these blended with my existing material to create the story I have now.