In my previous installment in this series, I talked about the major influences on my forthcoming novel Shunga-Satori. Here, I'm going to talk about the way those influences came together to form a story.
When I read Mervyn Peake, it was Boy In Darkness I encountered first, as a young'un, and the shadow of that shorter story stayed with me across all readings of his other work later in life. It is widely regarded as being a side-story snippet from the larger storyline of the Gormenghast cycle, but it works well enough as a standalone, barring the appallingly abrupt ending. (It feels like the same thing that happened when Douglas Adams was supposed to hand in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy: he had a deadline, and on the day for that deadline a messenger showed up at his house waiting for the manuscript. He finished the page in his typewriter, threw that into the envelope alone with the rest of the text, and handed it in.)
What stuck with me most apart from the bare atmosphere was the sense of being an explorer in a realm that could easily have been the main character's own subconscious. I loved stories about people retreating within themselves to examine their psyches from within as if they were physical landscapes (Steppenwolf also comes to mind). But I didn't simply want it to be a walking tour of a space; I wanted there to be an actual quest.
With Legend, I sensed an attempt to create a kind of personal mythology — something similar took place in The Cell — and I decided in time that any story about such an inner quest would also be about the revelation, or examination, of such a personalized myth. One the mythologizer might not even be aware of when they created it. In fact, most of our personal myths are unquestioned anyway; that's probably why they deserve the label myth to begin with.
With the Brothers Quay and the imagery of Bellmer and Yoshida, I had images of what kinds of denizens would populate that landscape. It then hit me that it might be worth telling the story from the point of view of one such denizen — someone who didn't know they were a symbolic figure in the psychic economy of another.
From all that, I decided the story in question would be a kind of inner quest — a spelunking through the landscape of a psyche, or maybe not even one person's psyche, but the psyche of a whole collective.
Next time around I'll talk about the roster of characters I created.