Guest Post from Author Catherine Fisher!!
December 10, 2010
One of the pleasures of writing fantasy is that you get to build worlds. To design universes. Tolkien called this sub-creation, and felt it was almost a mythical process, and I think I can see why. He took it to great lengths, and I don’t have that stamina, but I do know the addictive pleasure that forming a world with its own history and fauna and cosmology can give. Or in the case of Incarceron, two worlds.
My first idea for the Prison- in fact the first idea for the whole book, was ‘what if you had a prison you could hang on your watchchain?’ A striking image, literally. But from inside, it would be vast, and dark, and metallic. An echoing, violent, futuristic place smelling of oil, where even the forests are of iron. Prisons have great imagery-
locks, keys, chains, dungeons. I wanted Incarceron to have both a medieval feel and a sense of modern faceless cells, of white space. It also had to have a history, of why and by whom it was made. Finally- and this was in pretty much from the start as well- I knew it was going to be alive.
Science fiction is full of immense buildings. Think of Gormenghast, or the Dark Tower, or Pandemonium itself. I wanted mine to have a personality- one that could be wistful, cruel, dangerous, curious. Its not a new idea and I don’t claim to have invented anything, but I wanted
the Prison to be a real character. I was also thinking a bit of the medieval vision of Hell; a great mouth that swallows us all. And then there’s the Frankenstein thing. You make something, you give it life. And it turns on you.
Outside had to be completely different, to keep both me and you, the reader, interested. So the Realm is everything the Prison isn’t- light, beautiful, sunny, green, quaint, peaceful. Well, apparently. The fun with this side of the book was in building up all those seventeenth century details, and I loved describing those rooms and textures and manners. And then, slowly, subverting them. It made me realize that the past is in itself a fantasy world- we can only glimpse it in books and visit its carefully presented remains, but we can never go there. Not really. All we have is what the Realm is, a construct we have made ourselves. A fake. The Protocol is that no one actually says that, and
we all behave as if its true.
Incarceron isn’t the first world I’ve made and I hope it won’t be the last, but it will always be a special one. It was a bit claustrophobic at times, so the vision of Escape, of getting Outside, was a strong driving force. Perhaps the very greatest pleasure in making a world is getting to leave it whenever you like; being able to put the pen down,
or close the book and go downstairs and make a cup of tea.
And hope there are no small red eyes watching you.
Thanks so much, Catherine. It has been a true honor to host you on the blog! -Kirsten