Monday, January 26, 2015
The Gate In The Void is on Amazon!
The Gate In The Void is the second in A Dark Road, my 10 stories in 10 weeks project featuring Hengist of Tintagael.
I originally titled it Black Ctesiphon, after an oldschool dungeon rpg module I wrote for my kids. I thought it would be cool and fun to write at story that takes place in a setting modelled 99% faithfully on my actual dungeon writeup. Hence the name.
But it turned out that very little of the action took place in the dungeon (after Hengist puts the smackdown on the giant solifugid, that is).
What the story ended up being was an old fashioned netherworld foray surprisingly similar in structure to an early Jirel Of Joiry tale.
I was pretty happy with this since I'm a massive CL Moore fan. But the really interesting thing is that I didn't plan it that way (and at first actually resisted it). It grew naturally from the structural constraints of a 5000-word S&S story.
That is, I had 5000 words to:
* sketch my protagonist
* assemble a supporting cast
* establish the opening setting
* establish a reasonable premise for all the characters to be there and to be working together
* describe the netherworld: physical characteristics, laws, denizens, atmosphere
* bring the plot home
* establish the hook for the next story
* make everything above interesting
These are staples for pretty much every S&S short story, except the netherworld element: and that's the one, it turned out, that needed the lion's share of the word count. I think the biggest reason was simply that you can't convey weird + spooky + alien (or at least I can't) without a serious chunk of screen time. You need to paint a word picture of pretty much everything the heroes do and encounter there, because you can't use mental shortcuts to setup a scene the way you can in a familiar setting.
So the alien world becomes the main feature, and you have to pare back everything else. That left me with no room for tooling around the dungeon.
I could have left out the netherworld entirely and made the mainstay the dungeon itself, but I wanted to do both. Then when the story wasn't long enough to keep both, the strongest contender elbowed out the other one.
So I ended up with an old-fashioned pulp S&S netherworld story, and "Black Ctesiphon" got replaced with a much more old-fashioned pulp S&S name.
Which as it turns out, I like better.
The next one in the series has a working title of A False Sea. Its where Hengist travels to the Caspian Sea in the belief that it holds what he's looking for. Only instead he ends up hooking up with Medea and fighting giant blind sharks and getting stuck in the middle of centuries-long sorcerous war (and of course he doesn't find what he's looking for after all. Its still only Book 3).