We have another awesome guest post from author James Dorr, as he shares with us the inspiration for Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, which releases in May. I have to be honest, it has been a true pleasure reading James' insightful posts, and I am definitely excited to read Tombs! Without further ado, let's turn the time over to James!
The original planning for Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth began with a map--different areas were defined in terms of the people who lived there. More or less “normal” people lived in the New City and the Tombs; ghouls, the eaters of the dead, were in the Old City; boat gypsies lived on the river--they were mostly normal, but prone to disease from the river’s poisons, thus leading short but more intense lives; more or less normal people again lived in the Port City, far down the river, but had a higher proportion of mutants.
I asked myself how people made a living (in the Tombs, for instance, in trades related to undertaking: digging graves, guards to protect from corpse robbers, but also tombstone artists and carvers, curators for record keeping), and then what the social structure would tend to (in the New City an exaggerated version of parts of current America with rich getting richer and more privileged and poor getting poorer--and with hierarchies among hierarchies, as in varying levels of respect even among the city’s beggars). I asked about male-female relations (in New City, especially among the wealthy, rather “male chauvinist piggy”; on the river more rigid but also with the sexes more equal; in the Tombs the society in general tending to more individuality but also more collectivist when it comes to meeting mutual threats). The physical world is a dying Earth with mixed levels of technology (the New City, for instance has electricity, but boats on the river are powered by sail) and with a sun that’s gradually swelling, becoming hotter to the point that it’s dangerous to go out in daytime, so part of the game is watching people within their various societies adapt themselves to a nocturnal existence. But the thing is, you start with these strictures, then have to work through them to their logical conclusions (how, for instance, if the sunlight during the day is deadly, do homeless in the New City survive; or what of those with so little money they can’t even afford to bury their dead).
So, filling the map, it starts with the river, suddenly turning east in a great bend, circling about, then continuing to south. On the east bank--as if with a bite taken from it by a huge mouth--stands the New City, with bridges connecting it to the Tombs; while the Old City consists of ruins spilling onto both sides and partially surrounding the Tombs to west, all of which once had been part of a vast ancient metropolis until it had contracted inward, leaving its outcasts to fend for themselves. Even before sundown carts are assembling, forming the corpse-trains that make the journey, two, three times a night, bringing the New City's dead to rest, to the ever-expanding necropolis, monuments dotting the hill that rises beyond its walls, surmounted by a huge step-pyramid said to have once been an Emperor's grave-site. Walls glow a pale green with luminous fungi, as torches dot paths between mausolea, while outside the gate the first corpse-train master reaches up to the bell-pull provided, pulling it once for each corpse in his cargo. Haggling with gate-guards over the corpse gifts he brings with his charges, until the gates open. Across the river, silhouetted against the brighter lights of New City, new carts are loaded.
And thus the process is repeated, again, again, as the night goes on, until the first glow of the sun is seen to the east. Business is hurried, the now-empty trains racing back to the city, to shelter and safety as, higher to the east, the red, bloated sun now appears in its fullness, its actinic rays flooding those streets not protected by awnings. All who are still out by now will have donned all-encompassing chadors, day-masks and sunhats, as they scurry homeward too, as their counterparts in the Tombs descend into catacombs beneath the surface, seeking their own beds amidst the coffins of those that they care for.
And thanks to James, I learned two awesome new words! The lexicomaniac within is greatly satisfied! If you find James Dorr as exciting and enthralling as I do, then be sure to follow his blog (I have absolutely been loving it!) and follow him on Facebook.