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The 5 weirdest things in my fantasy trilogy ‘Metiks Fade’ (are all real)

When I was writing stories in school, research was to be avoided at all costs. It was the momentum-killer. Research threatened to erase all my creativity with cold, hard facts and banal reality. Research told me a human couldn’t jump twenty feet in the air to do a spin kick, laser beams were not viable weapons, and dragons were not the “coolest type of dinosaur”.

Now I’m (trying) to be a bit more serious about my writing, I find research is not where creativity goes to die, but where ideas can be discovered, grown and sent off to work in “Idea School”, also known as my book.

I think that all the strangest, best ideas in Metiks Fade (and all the best ideas in the world) come not from raw, abstract creativity, but from remixing and reinterpreting the amazing things in the real world. Metiks Fade is a story about magic, but the real world is already magical, so here’s five things I remixed (stole) from the reality to inspire my fantasy trilogy.

5. Bone Music

In Anna and the Moonlight Road, an early fight scene has Teej facing off against a nightmarish rock-and-rock Dreamer called Mustaine in a dive bar by the riverside. It’s a gritty, brutal opening to the book, and signals just how much more dangerous and visceral the conflict between the Metiks and the Dreamers has become since book 1. I won’t spoil the conclusion of the fight, but the dénouement features what Mustaine calls “Bone Music”. It’s a strange concept, and it’s absolutely a real thing too.

ROENTGENIZDAT was Soviet ‘Music on the Bone’. During the Cold War, there was a desperate hunger for western imports like jeans and Coca Cola. More than anything else though, cultural imports were in high demand, and none moreso than rock and roll music on vinyl.

But both the music itself and the vinyl it was pressed onto were both forbidden. In their place, an underground market emerged for music pressed onto the most widely available medium that mimicked the properties of vinyl – x ray film. Though the material was less durable and would only stand up to a few plays before the grooves degraded completely, thousands of these records were pressed and shared all over the Soviet Union.

Both fragile and necessary, nothing could sum up the transient wonder of Dreamer’s and their Art better than the real world concept of Bone Music.

4. Canfranc Station

In Anna Unreaming, Teej and Anna’s first Haze together takes them on a train journey into disaster. Narrowly escaping before their locomotive crashes, they find themselves stranded in the mountains by a massive, deserted train station, looking out at a towering mass of thousands of ruined trains. They lick their wounds, talk honestly, and Anna begins to believe Teej really is telling the truth about the world Behind the Veil.

One of the most interesting ruined buildings in the world, Canfranc Station in the Spanish Pyrenees is at one end of the massive Somport railway tunnel under the Pyrenees Mountains. Opened in 1928, the main building is very long, with ornate windows the whole way along. It was constructed because the French rail sizes were different from the Spanish, so a simple journey across a border became a huge ordeal as carriages were unloaded or converted to a different rail size. After a huge derailment in 1970, there was no political will to repair or clear the railway line again. Today it remains almost completely intact, albeit overgrown. It’s a faded, deserted monument to a past we seemed to be heading towards but never quite reached.

3. Saturn Devouring His Son

Often described as the most terrifying painting ever created, Goya’s image of the dead-eyed old Titan Cronus is one of those pieces of art almost everyone recognizes. In the myth, Cronus would devour each of his children at birth so they would never fulfil the prophecy that one of them would grow up to overthrow him. The imagery was controversial at the time, and has gone on to inspire modern horror in pop culture. Notably, Guillermo Del Toro’s pale man in Pan’s Labyrinth was based on the painting.

In Anna and the Moonlight Road, Anna, Teej and some new friends confront the monster as it is brought to life by a Dreamer. The dramatic battle rages through a museum called “The Groven” – one of the most dangerous places to face a Dreamer who can make paintings come to life.

The Groven is inspired in no small part by Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Museum – one of my absolute favourite places in the whole world. The horror of the battle is fictional, but the terror inspired by Goya’s painting is very real.

2. The New Motive Power

Because it takes place towards the end of Anna and the Moonlight Road, I won’t say too much about The New Motive Power as it exists in the world of Metiks Fade, but the real life version of the story sounds absolutely unbelievable. I once tried to tell a friend The New Motive Power was real, and even after I showed them the Wikipedia entry, they didn’t believe me. They thought I’d edited the entry. I’ll let you read it below, as I don’t think I can make it sound more amazingly weird and wonderful than it already is:

Spear and a handful of followers retreated to a wooden shed at the top of High Rock Hill in Lynn, Massachusetts, where they set to work creating the “New Motive Power”, a mechanical Messiah which was intended to herald a new era of Utopia. The New Motive Power was constructed of copper, zinc and magnets, all carefully machined, as well as a dining room table. At the end of nine months, Spear and the “New Mary”, an unnamed woman, ritualistically birthed the contraption in an attempt to give it life. Unfortunately for Spear, this failed to have the desired effect, and the machine was later dismantled.

“Unfortunately” is working really hard in that last sentence. I’ve never read a word written with such an obvious arch smile.

1. Kanna/Canna Island – The Real(?) Avalon

An important location at the end of Anna and the Moonlight Road, Kanna Island is inspired by the real life Canna Island. In Metiks Fade, Kanna Island is also known as Avalon, the mythical island from Arthurian legends. In real life is Canna the real Avalon then? No. Definitely not. Probably.

I might have to go and check.

You can buy Anna Undreaming, the first part of Metiks Fade, right here.

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