In my previous installment in this series, I talked about the major influences on my forthcoming novel The Fall Of The Hammer. Here, I'm going to talk about the way those influences came together to form a story.
If I run down the list of influences on FOTH in the last post, each has one of two things to contribute: atmosphere, and ideology.
In the case of The Stars My Destination, it was both. The proto-cyberpunk setting was something I wanted to emulate in my own way, but without copying -- hence, a post-WWI-esque environment, when the devastation wrought by the war was accompanied by stark disillusionment in the promises of modernity, and how the hunger that arose in the years followed was fed by the rise of the fascists. Smash the world out from under people, and is it any surprise they go looking for absolute power as a way to not only get back on their feet but not be knocked off them again?
But the other major political/ideological/sociological thread from TSMD that made it into my story was the near-anarchic ending, where the power that was once reserved for the few is now thrown into the hands of the millions. That was something I wanted in my own story: the solution to the problem of power is to make it irrelevant, or as close to irrelevant as humanely possible. Democratization of power is the least awful solution we have, but that makes it a bridge towards incrementally less awful ones, and maybe even one day a genuinely good one.
From Lensman came a big, obvious one: the trope of the artifact as a magnifier of human potential. What I kept thinking of, though, was the idea that the artifact itself had properties that either allowed it to be monopolized or democratized. You could use it either way; it was up to you. If you democratized it, you gave up a small share of your power now in exchange for having greater power spread throughout many later, the better to face challenges that you yourself would have been oblivious to. Personal willpower alone isn't enough to face all manner of challenges. Sometimes you need only what others can give. It was something I wanted to see explored, and so I realized the job fell to me to do that.
As for Streets Of Fire and The Shadow, those were almost purely atmosphere. But every work of atmosphere brings with it certain senses about how its world works. In both cases it was about worlds where corruption, crime, and under-the-table, handshake-deal, cash-on-the-barrelhead deals were how the world turned. Yes, even in places where you'd think such things didn't exist; maybe especially so. Those were embodiments of the grit and disillusionment that had come to dominate life in my story's world, and I wanted the story to be informed by that flavor.
Now the big question you've all been on tenterhooks about: what about Justice League?
Remember I said last time how a negative influence, or an aversive one, can be just as powerful as a positive one? That you can be influenced tremendously by an example of what not to do? Yeah. I went into Justice League with at the very least deflated expectations, and when I was over I had all the enthusiasm of someone getting out of a car sporting four flat tires. I always enjoy stories about teams of diverse misfits finding ways to blend their strengths and compensate for each others' weaknesses (yes, Superman is a misfit, just a very charismatic one), but the results were too slapdash and haphazard for me to care. I'd done stories about teams of people before (Vajra), but I'd never done one that tended more towards superhero-fantasy than straight SF or what have you, and in time my disgust with how the movie had turned out goaded me into making it happen.
I'm never happy about the idea of doing one thing as a reaction to something else, but maybe that's only because historically I've had a limited way of thinking about how "reaction" works. "Reaction" is an inch away from reactionary, with all that it implies (mostly negative), and my common wisdom tells me nothing conceived in spite is ever likely to blossom fruitfully. But the more I thought about it, the more spite wasn't the motive. It wasn't about doing something as revenge; it was about doing something as redress -- an attempt to fill the hole in the world not filled by the thing that had been so disappointing, and to fill it with something that wasn't just spackle and sheetrock.
Next time around I'll talk about the roster of characters I created.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind