In my previous installment in this series, I talked about how the major influences on my forthcoming novel The Fall Of The Hammer came together to create the story. Now, to talk about the characters that populate that story, beginning with the main cast.
Almost nothing from the earliest incarnation of Fall Of The Hammer remains in this version. What few things that did make it across the bridge were drastically transformed, or ended up becoming a mere direction of inspiration for new material. The characters I started with, and the characters I ended up with, had almost nothing to do with each other.
No notes remain from that period; I don't even have the original draft anymore, so I'm reconstructing all this from memory. (Somewhere along the way, I deleted all that material in a snit of pique, a subject for another blog post.) I don't even remember much about the protagonist I created, save that he was a blank-slate sort -- the kind of character that things happen to all the time, and the sum total of his reaction is to reflect on it and go "What a world we live in." Not someone who really drives a story, and I suspect his thirstless character was a major reason why the story didn't go anywhere. ("Thirstless", in the sense of the Kurt Vonnegut dictum: a character in a story should always want something even if it's only a glass of water.)
Among the characters I created, I also remember a "wild-child" pair -- a brother and sister orphaned by calamity, making their hardscrabble way through the shattered world. They actually appeared fairly late in the story -- at least, what I'd written of it -- and I never figured out what their function was in the goings-on. I mostly threw them in for the sake of contrast, to have a point of view in the story from characters hanging on to life by their torn fingertips.
Curtain falls on the whole project. Years go by. Curtain rises to reveal an empty stage.
When Fall Of The Hammer started to become a thing again, I'd already started entertaining several possible protagonists who were a little more, um, motivated (or just plain interesting) than my original henoheno. I liked the idea of having an outsider character as the focus -- someone now twice as much on the outside because of the world's shattering and subdividing. So maybe someone who was an outsider by choice, not simply by circumstance.
I originally conceived of someone like the titular character in Dersu Uzala, but changed it up for the son of someone a little like that. Not someone who was originally a forest-dweller, but someone who quit the civilization that he felt had nothing to offer him, post-Hammer, and lit out for the trees. His son is not ignorant of civilization -- they deal with the little town in the valley where they get their supplies, and reading material and such isn't hard to come by, although it's often out of date by the time it arrives. He's inherited from his father the older man's attitude towards the world -- but when the younger man finds out he could potentially take for himself the power that's remade everything, he finds a new sense of mission: Bring back the world my father lost. (Now, nothing says his goals can't change, but one thing at a time.)
And thus was Jotham born. An outsider many times over. who wants to retake the world that was stolen away before he ever came into it.
In previous installments of this series, I mentioned another ancestor project of this one: Out Of Place, a sort of SF-fantasy take on the "many forces in collision" variety of storytelling as seen in films like Traffic (a favorite of mine). From that abandoned project came the idea of a host of artifacts that change the world in highly normative ways, and the people who traffic (pun intended) in them.
The first idea, you can guess what influence that had on this project. But one of the characters left over from Out Of Place also ended up in Hammer: Teryl Heylinde, an underground weapons dealer who becomes a trafficker in artifacts as well. She was dangerous to begin with, but after Things Changed in her world, she became twice as dangerous. I tried in vain to find a home for her over the following years, but nothing really clicked; she had been born and bred, as it were, to fit into a story with the same general outlines.
When Hammer started to come together, I realized she belonged in it, in big part because of what it had been culled from. But more than that: her don't-cross-me-but-if-you're-in-with-me-you're-in-for-life attitude fit as well, if not better, in this story as it had in the original.
Another never-started project yielded up one character, who in turn yielded up another. At some point I mulled a kind of mutant take on fairy tales for adults -- "Gramma Moon" for "Mother Goose" -- but the only thing that came from it was a character named Miss Mab. The character, like the story, never got beyond the conceptual stage: she was a witch who used her reputation to keep the foolish at bay, and the few who actually treated her like a person and not a "witch" were worthy of more than just hexes. But the idea stuck around, and soon incarnated itself in Hammer-world. Someone like that could be one of many incarnations of power that didn't need aleaum. Likewise, her husband, İlhan Mozovu -- well, ex-husband in this version, as the two of them, young and in love, once tried to hatch plans for how to use their non-aleaum powers to change everything, and couldn't agree on how to do it. Not at first, anyway.
I have a soft spot for characters with a theatrical bent to their personality. Hence Cioran in Flight Of The Vajra, or most of the cast of Welcome To The Fold. With Hammer, it was one of the newly-created characters for the setting -- someone originally affiliated with İlhan, but whom I eventually made a partner-in-not-quite-crime with Teryl Heylinde. Gapardino, a former professional wrestler turned bodyguard, whose career ended when he came into possession of a scrap of aleaum at a time and place when, according to the powers that be, people like him -- a hero to the millions, especially kids -- weren't supposed to have access to such things. But when he gets his hands back on that missing fragment, look out.
Next time I'll talk about the second-tier characters in the story, although they are by no means less important, just introduced later.
Other Lives Of The Mind