Friday, February 08, 2013

Crabs and Serpents

While I was drifting off to sleep the other night the title of a story popped into my head: The Sky Trees of Holdar. Now this isn’t a new title but one I made up many years ago. All I had for the story was a mental image of floating trees – spherical growths like mistletoe – between which people were cycling about on floating bicycles, one of the people looking very Victorian and wearing a stovepipe hat. This was a story that, so to speak, never got off the ground and I believe a piece of it resides in the depths of my ‘BitsSF’ file.

This got me to thinking about some other stuff that went through my mental processor and either got discarded or used in a different way. I remember, when I was maybe 16 or 17, starting to write something that was a mish-mash of hazy ideas and stuff swiped from books I’d read (as all such early writing is). I had a title for it: The Crab, the Serpent and the Carpenter. I liked this title but hadn’t got a great deal to fit it. The title, I suspect, took its form from books read in my early teens (or earlier – long time ago now) like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.


In this I visualized a world that consisted mostly of mud flats, which probably arose from the mud flats of the Essex coast and my experience of struggling through them for miles on fishing trips. It had giant glassy centipedes that skimmed across the surface and would of course kill any human they found. Here then was the serpent, which owed its genesis to a strange combination of the sandworms of Dune (because I’m sure a product of their life cycle was some kind of drug) and fishing again, well, bait digging. A character in it was Councillor Ebulan the Crab. I enjoyed describing him but thereafter had no idea what to do with him. The project died a death after a number of pages and disappeared, but the ideas didn’t. Ebulan the Crab was the start of the prador and put in an appearance in The Skinner. And over the years the ‘glass serpents’ transformed into hooders.


Do the pictures of that mentioned bait here – king ragworm – look familiar?

14 comments:

Graeme Finch said...

Fascinating.

Jezcentral said...

Yup, it reminds me of the first time I read Neal's first book, The Parasite, years after I started reading his other stuff. So many of the finer Polity details were recognisably there, in embryonic form.

vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins said...

of interest?

http://vimeo.com/58950548

Neal Asher said...

Yes Jez, it reminds of the parasite wrapped round one of the victim's spine which, incidentally, I'm sure was a scene that was swiped for Babylon 5 (only kidding).

Yeah, love that stuff vaude.

Unknown said...

I wonder if you are familiar
with some of the Cambrian
fauna found in the Burgess
Shale? Judging from artist's interpretations of the fossils,
the so-called Cambrian
Explosion produced some truly phantasmagorical creatures.
Might they have, at some point,
been fodder for your imagination?

Trainer John said...

Spent three years of my earlier - very much earlier - life analysing estuarine fish gut contents and the mouth parts of the ragworms and related polychaete worms were often the only recognisable bits. And before that I worked with shore crabs. So the post struck a chord and left me fascinated to read how you could spin such slender threads of memory into such great stories.

vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins said...

whoah whoah....wait. was The Technician actually a well disguised fantasy? aw jeez..

Neal Asher said...

Unknown, in reality I don't need to go to the Burgess Shale for that fodder. The natural world around us is as fantastic as it is. Take this latest one for example: http://phys.org/news/2013-02-bird-plane-squid.html However, I have read up on the Burgess Shale both out of interest and for research into Cowl.

Trainer John, can't get enough of that stuff. Much of The Skinner I think arises from childhood holidays mucking about in Scottish rock pools.

What makes you think that, Vaude? No, that early story was SF and I moved on to trying out fantasy later.

Mike Franklin said...

I can certainly see how, with a little adjustment of scale, the ragworm (Lord, how I hated digging them up for bait as a little kid!) might have transformed into the hooder!

Your spherical mistletoe-like trees remind me of the trees in Baxter's Raft.

Neal Asher said...

Mike, they scared me as kid too, especially when I was showed the pincers that extruded.

Graeme Finch said...

That is an amzing Squid. Who knew? And thus proving day after day, you learn something new every day.

Neal Asher said...

So 'squids in space' looking less unlikely, Graeme?

vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins said...

was joking about the fantasy bit.

you know?
http://vimeo.com/59330169

stones have feelings too.
http://www.messagetoeagle.com/livingstones.php

Neal Asher said...

Ah, thought you were referring to my early fantasy writing, Vaude.