Sunday, October 06, 2013

Anatomy of an Idea: Lightning Strikes

My story "Lightning Strikes" was just released by Kaleidotrope - go and check it out if you haven't.  This story has a lot of history behind the scenes, which all began with my favorite pastime:  worldbuilding.

A long time ago, I started working on a world just for fun - an ancient setting with various Greek-inspired city states.  I worked extensively on naming languages, in particular, but also designed a full pantheon and explored each city in depth.  I had intended to design other cultures - an ancient Egypt analogue, a Celtic / Spanish cross, and possibly a Native American-esque culture - but I never did get to that point.

However, I used this backdrop to write a story.  Nope, not "Lightning Strikes" - it was "Chatter Me Timbers," inspired broadly by the mythological Argo, the ship with a talking board installed by Athena.  It was published by the now-defunct Afterburn SF, which I miss - such a fun magazine.

Unless you have both stories for reference and are looking for it, though, you'd probably miss the connection between the two tales.  "Lightning Strikes" is set several hundred years later - Rome to Chatter's Greece.  I've done similar loose connections before, and coincidentally, the story was also published by Kaleidotrope:  "Voices" is a near-prehistory prequel to my novel "Journal of the Dead."

The idea for "Lightning Strikes" started with two ideas.  First, I wanted to write an action story with a character who wasn't career soldier, fighter, mercenary, etc, and second, I wanted to write about augurs.  As I started to develop the storyline, I decided to use marauding barbarians ... and for interest, I decided to make them centaurs.  (I did very loosely use the Native American inspiration.)  This meant I had to consider a fair amount of logistics about how they would deal with buildings in the city ...

When designing the climactic fight in the story, I decided I wanted to hit all the elements - earth, air, fire and water - but have the solution to each be inspired by a specific Greek myth.  The result was a story I'm very pleased at last found a home.

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