travel and inspiration
November 28, 2012
I travel a lot, because I like seeing new places, seeing places in person that I’ve only read about, having new experiences, and so on. I also get ideas from traveling — but maybe not in the way you think. It never fails, I announce I’m going diving in Cozumel or visiting Croatia and someone will ask me, “So is Kitty going to go scuba diving? Is Kitty going to Croatia? Are you writing a story about scuba diving?” And to all of those, the answer is no. (Do you really think a werewolf ought to be participating in a claustrophobic, stressful activity like scuba?) Instead what happens: everything goes into the file cabinet that lives in my head. Later, if I need some kind of coastal fortress for a story, I’m likely to remember Dubrovnik. Or if I want to describe a sunset over the ocean, I know exactly what that might look like. That troubadour who played for spare change in the restaurant in Arles? Yeah, he’s in the filing cabinet. So are the parrots in Dulwich park, and the freezing cold off the Hudson River during a cold snap in February. More than anything, traveling greatly expands the filing cabinet in my head, giving me a lot of ideas to draw on.
I’ll also get more specific inspiration regarding specific stories, but in unexpected ways. For example: My deepest dive last week went to about 75 feet. People talk about diving being the closest we can get to feeling weightless here on earth, but it doesn’t really feel like being in space because gravity is still in evidence, the surface of the water above you still means there’s an up and down, and the fish and coral are mostly oriented the same way you are. But there’s another way diving resembles being in space: your utter dependence on technology to keep you alive. It’s a relatively simple set of devices you’re relying on: compressed air, a regulator that delivers said air to your mouth. But the physiological issues of breathing compressed air at depth mean that if something goes wrong, your day is going to get very bad indeed. When you’re diving at 75 feet, you are trusting your equipment with your life, just like astronauts in space, high altitude pilots, and so on, do.
This is not something one ought to be thinking about while one actually is breathing compressed air at a depth of 75 feet, but I did it, and I got an amazing idea out of it because I was also thinking, in the back of my mind, about my Harry and Marlowe stories. I’ve sold three stories about them, and a potential entire story arc that connects all the stories, current and future, is taking shape in my mind. The big issue across that arc: technology. New technology, alien technology. And I realized: Harry doesn’t trust Aetherian technology, and that’s a big part of her arc. Future stories are going to have to be about her not trusting that tech, and what she’ll have to do to be able to trust it, to be able to follow Marlowe on his technological experiments.
Whew. Now, that makes me want to get writing.