Monday, December 2, 2013

Writing BRASS STARS: Dust, Sky and Religion in Space

The early drafts of Brass Stars (and there were two and a half before I got to the one that was published by Eggplant Literary Productions) didn't have much in the way of religion. Tashn wasn't much a believer in anything except revenge and it didn't seem necessary to develop a system of belief for the other characters who popped in and out of the story.

There was, of course, mention of the crucifix her mother had given her, but Tashn never put much stock in it. She carried it for two reasons. One: because her father believed it was strong medicine that would protect her in the future as it had in the past and it was a small concession to his outlook on the world. Two: because it was a constant reminder of what had happened - a concrete little piece of the injustice done to her and her mother.

But that was the extent of the mention of religion, barely more than speck of history from the long-lost Earth.

Then Jackson became a central character and a foil of sorts to Tashn's quest for vengeance. He was on a mission of his own: redemption. And that meant I had to think harder about what sort of belief system might exist in the dusty edge of space.

The result was, at first glance, a kind of Yin/Yang or a dichotomy between flesh and spirit.
The idea of Sky: the invisible, eternal and all-encompassing thing sometimes called Space. Boundless and intangible, its appearance changing based on the perspective of the viewer, but never its nature.
The idea of Dust: the physical, palpable and corruptible matter of the universe. The building blocks that every visible thing is made of and to which we all return.

It was a simple idea.

But on paper it was complex. Tashn knew and acknowledged the existence of both, but rarely in a meaningful way. John Crow relished the nature of Dust, the needs generated by the physical and the satisfaction that came from sharing in the tangible. And Jackson looked to something transcendent to make up for his own corruption.

And that corruption and redemption, much like Tashn's need for revenge and Johnny's need for love, played out in the physical realm but reflected something that was more than just flesh and bone.

I tweaked and fiddled and put stuff in and took it out and finally decided to let it all ride. I'd chosen not to use a specific existing religion or spiritual system because I didn't feel it needed to be one special thing or another, so why would I try and make it into one special thing or another?

And that was that. Dust. Sky. Redemption. Judgement. Loss. Love. And a merciless young woman with a score to settle. All the makings of a good story.

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