Friday, January 25, 2013

Clustering stories & Easter eggs

Apologies for skipping a few times - my day on the blog is Friday, and some Fridays are utter pigs in terms of workload, and sometimes I remember only on Saturday it was my turn. (This is not to talk trash about pigs - perfectly nice, tasty animals.)

I  also don't really believe in blogging when I have nothing to say. (Yep, it happens. I can spend days just sitting by myself, perfectly entertained without any need to talk about it or to anybody. I call those phases the introvert part of my cycle.)

Anyways. One fascinating question I've recently thought a lot about is - when we're creating worlds, are we really creating ONE world? To explain, I'm sometimes fascinated by the idea that characters from different books meet. Silvio could conceivably be in London, where I'm increasingly drawing my international characters - a weak imitation of the real diversity going on here. But it's a setting I know reasonably well, and London would be an attractive base for many of my characters (though Stefano and Donata decided to settle in Paris - just a short train ride away, really). Nikolai and Henri are definitely settling in London for the time being.

Stephen King did it. His stories were full of cross-references. You ended up with Stephen King's take on Maine rather than individual stories. (As a kid it annoyed me a bit - it could seem like an elaborate reference/joke that I could never work out.)

As an adult, I really like that idea. I like shared universes, too (like the Tucker Springs series by LA Witt, Marie Sexton and Heidi Cullinan), the idea that we're looking at something larger that exists outside the one book we're currently reading, but the current book is adding to it.

My own worlds are increasingly converging. Incursion is set in the same overall sci-fi set-up as Dark Edge of Honor (the Doctrine is just such a fascinating thing to explore - I can't stay away from the impact of totalitarian systems on human souls). There's a brief mention of the Doctrine in Incursion, which likely adds nothing to Incursion, but opens that large arch that invites the reader to see the bigger picture. It's an Easter Egg to discover and enjoy.

Mostly, I'm doing these in one genre - the Market Garden contemporary series (written with LA Witt) mentions characters who are the main characters of other parts of the series. While Tristan and Jared open the series in Quid Pro Quo, Nick is mentioned who is the main character in two novellas. In those, we mention the owner of the club, Frank. Who gets his own novel. It's fun. (And seems to spark further books on Frank's friends Mike and Geoff and Raoul in Frank's novel. Think of it as a literary daisy chain, where everybody gets to have fun...)

But then the real Easter Eggs: "Market Garden" of course is the name of a WWII operation. With the club owner something of a military... enthusiast, he's aware of that and chose the name as a bit of an insider joke. That all goes back to my WWII novels, which all happen in "the same version of WWII". All my main characters I set in WWII are taking part in the same war, and some have walk-on parts in the stories of the others. (Baldur of Skybound was the pilot who shot down my American pilot in an as-yet unpublished WWII novel, for example.)

Or another one: There's a part in a Market Garden story where our contemporary characters go to a museum to look at some paintings. These paintings showed up first in my WWII novel set in Paris. In the context of my overall work, the paintings are silent witnesses to a story that was never really told "in the real world", hopefully building a resonance, for want of a better word.

I see my stories as a kind of modern chorus ensemble - ideally, taken as a collective, they'll build more force and feed off each other, building harmonies and dissonances, but those are just my very "arty" concepts. I'm essentially hoping to mimic things I've observed about the "real world" and comment on history versus story versus reality, but wow, deep shit, and it should absolutely work without all those crazy meta ideas.

Maybe what I enjoy most is to cross genres there. Not only am I moving items and themes from the past into the future, but I'm firmly connecting my "literary" efforts to my "genre" work. Same brain. Same process. I don't like divisions here, and they are all happening in the same world. All I'm doing is apply slightly different tools and voices. You CAN play metal on classical instruments.

I'm just hoping that my faithful readers who read everything I do, enjoy finding these cross-references. It's the best I can do to map my own brain and creative processes - that express themselves in stories. Actually, in clusters of stories. Can't help it, that's how I roll.


rodeoroughstock said...

I love when you do this. I love how the worlds mesh, into other stories. So much fun. Means I need to pay closer attention, too.

Kat Merikan said...

It's loads of fun and a lot of readers love to find those cameo appearances and hints at things from other series. I also mix contemporary with fantasy by making a fantasy story a book/video game/movie the contemporary characters engage with. Gives them another thing to talk about and gives the readers chuckles. Or having the characters dress for Halloween as characters from the fantasy book. Gah! It's endless fun ;D

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