Last time I blogged about Sunder City, I said that I’d discuss fantasy next. That’s probably why this has taken so long.
When I was writing about the noir and mystery elements of Sunder City, I knew that Chandler was my main man. He was the spark that ignited Fetch Phillips in my mind, and the touchstone I’d go back to when I got lost in the woods.
When it comes to magic and monsters, things aren’t as easy to explain.
I have no single inspiration for my fantasy universe. Imagined worlds are everywhere now. I’ve been sucking them into my eyeballs and ears through video games, books, tv, film and anime from before I could talk. Apparently, I tried shouting “He-Man” before I could say “Mum” or “Dad”.
With all these references and influences out in the world, it might seem lazy to fill the Sunder City with creatures we’ve seen so many times before; species that sprang out of Middle-Earth or mythology and refuse to retire, kicking around in cartoons, comics, and D&D.
But I have an explanation.
This world is made for Fetch. We are here for his story, told in his voice. In The Last Smile, you’re only going to get the details he cares to mention. In a lot of ways, Fetch is pretty self-obsessed, so I needed to create a world that would naturally roll off his tongue.
Elves, Dwarves, and Vampires are part of our shared culture. If I’d made up all-new monsters and called them something else, I’d have to ask Fetch to describe each one in detail. Why would he do that? He lives in his world and he assumes that the reader does too. So, if there are Clubbergubbles living downtown, why would he waste time telling you what a Clubbergibble is? It would be like explaining a spoon.
I guess I imagine that every sci-fi or fantasy story set in a different world must get put through some interdimensional translator. You can’t explain every little thing, so it all gets rounded up to the closest name we recognize. Thimthams become trees, Zibbyzoos are horses, and the Hairy-Squatmen of Sunder City look kind of like Dwarves, so let’s call them Dwarves and get on with it.
Another reason to steal a few pop-culture creatures is that this world has gone to shit. Six years ago, the magic disappeared. Every magical species is now suffering from a painful, post-magic hangover. Since you never saw Sunder City before it was broken, I want to start you off with a few familiar signposts. A dead flower doesn’t carry much significance if you don’t know what it looked like in bloom.
Some people like their fantasy dense, other-worldly, and wholly original. I get that. Maybe one day I’ll write a book with a ten-thousand-year war and little notes at the bottom with important dates and the names of long-dead imaginary people.
It just won’t be this one.
Fetch doesn’t care for all that. He just cares about his case. And it’s good for him to have a case. It keeps his mind from this wounded world and the stupid part he played in it all. It stops him from thinking about the things he would change or the man he betrayed or her.
Wait till you meet her.