Hello! So, you’ve read Hexagram huh? Wondered what the hell I was trying to do with it? You’re supposed to reply, “Yes,” else this next bit is not going to really do much for you. Good, so, as with the other pieces on my books, there be spoilers ahead, DO NOT READ ON, unless you have read the book, or you just like ruining book endings.
Ready? Let’s begin…
First off, the idea came to me after the summer conventions in 2015. I looked at the array of books we had on offer through the Sinister Horror Company, and two things were evident. 1, I was fast becoming zombie boy, 2, I didn’t have any novellas. I thought, right, let’s correct both of these oversights. As per normal, a simple notion spawned in my brain, from the adage, ‘We are all made of stars.’ What if this essence, this stardust, inside us, could be harvested, what could you do with it?
That got me thinking…which is good, as that is an important precursor to actually writing books. I wanted the main protagonists to be female, as I had never really done a book focused on lead characters with the XX chromasone. The idea hit me, of doing it on twin sisters. Searching for names, I decided to stick with the star motif, so found Esther and Stella, which are both translations for STAR in other languages. With that decided, I started, crashing out a few thousand words, and thinking that all was good with the world. In no time at all, I thought, I’d have a new book, which would be both a novella, and contain not one member of the undead. Then I went to sleep.
I woke up, with the ole grey matter bubbling away, and waiting for me. “How about…” it began (that’s my brain talking to you now). “How about you say how this knowledge came to pass? I mean, these two sisters didn’t just stumble upon finding stardust in people now, did they?”
No…they didn’t. Who would be best placed to be quite mystical, and able to carve bodies up, to find this in the first place. Of course…the Inca. Great, I thought, so now, I have the modern day, being linked to events nigh on five hundred years old. How in the name of Jiminy Cricket am I going to link them together.
“Hey!” (That’s my brain again)
“I got this. How about…we do individual stories, which show the information changing hands, across history, from those dusty temples, to a suburban house in Wiltshire.”
Thanks. So, I did. It was ruddy good fun to write as well, though took a bit longer than planned. Below is a little bit on each section, followed by my thoughts on the wrap around story. Originally called STARDUST, once I worked out that it was going to be six stories, both the number of degrees of separation, and the points on a HEXAGRAM, I just had to find the right time periods to use, thus:
INCA – The Inca themselves would be no good for transferring the knowledge forward in the story, but the Spanish conquistadors would be ideal. After some digging, I read about Francisco Pizarro, who conquered the Inca, but got betrayed and murdered by the locals. I used this story almost as a mirror for the events. I love cults, as if that wasn’t transparent from the CLASS xxxx books. So, I came up with the priests who, even within their own culture, were kinda acting outside of their remit. Interesting factoid…the dialogue was actually going to be in Spanish and Inca, but as the story grew, it was going to be impossible. With the betrayl dealt with, the knowledge is left in peril. There is literally ONE person in the entire world, who knows about the ritual. Much like the gunner at the beginning of New Hope, his position is pivotal to the story. Had he destroyed it, like the Death Star gunner should’ve done to the escape pod the droids were in, there would be no story. Instead, he decides to hide it away, preserving something of the culture. It lays dormant, hidden away within a metal cuirass, just waiting…
1715 TREASURE FLEET – With the historical events, I wanted to use ones which gave me wiggle room in which I could do my own thing. First off, I was looking to get the knowledge across the Atlantic and into Europe, until I read about the 1715 Treasure Fleet. It stood out, as it was Spanish in origin, and on the East coast of America. Dashed in a ferocious storm, three ships were unaccounted for. Perfect. So I chose one, and based it on that. This story was so much fun to write. A first person confessional, from an unnamed man, to a priest. Personally, I love how the character recalls his descent into obsession and madness. Having survived the native onslaught, he succumbs to the prospect of raising a god, and slaughters his mates, what for? Would he have been able to survive alone? I doubt it. The way he stores the knowledge, is key, as without it, the story would die, but not in the linear fashion that you would expect. So how does the story continue, as the man is sent to the gallows to atone for his crimes, well…
KOLBS FARM – Not too far after the previous story, I knew that I had to get it across the pond, so that events could start gearing up for the sisters, in the modern day. So, I set it on a small battle at the end of the US Civil War. Again, I didn’t want to use a Gettysburg, as it is too well known, this small engagement was perfect, mainly for its location. It introduces a shadowy organisation, residents of a church, who take in the wounded Confederate soldiers after the battle, saving Rusty from certain death. He tries to make friends with one of them, and sees a golden hexagram sewn onto her garments. The cult (another one, see I bloody love ’em) were spawned by the Padre, who was confided in, in the previous story. Over the years, it has grown, and become its own thing. With the war going on, and their collection interrupted, they send an envoy to the UK, along with some of the stardust, so that should the worst happen, their holy mission will continue. As Rusty escapes, barely with his life, only to be killed by Union soldiers, he holds aloft a mysterious book…
WHITECHAPEL MURDERS – Okay, so who hasn’t heard of Jack the Ripper? With the grisly MO, and lack of identity, I jumped at the chance to base the next story on this period of history. A few short years after Kolb’s Farm, a chance discovery in Wilton, leads Detective Norton (so named after Justin Park’s detective in Terror Byte), on a trail of mysterious glistening powder and hollowed out bodies. I LOVED writing this story, in faux olde English, and being based in the South of England, including the actual street I live on at the moment, it was a blast to write. In the story, the interruption in Wilton, makes the perpetrator flee, unable to continue with their mission, the stardust stashed away, but impossible to obtain. So what does a murderer do, when the reason is taken away? They just kill, it has become all they know. But instead of Jack the Ripper, it’s Jessica the Ripper. Her flat in Salisbury, where the stardust lays behind a false wall, will reappear later on…
GIMBALTOWN – Admission time, I hate it when people say that their work is ‘an homage to xxx’, it really gets on my tits. Saying that, the story about Pastor Gimbal, is my homage to Tarrantino. The Jonestown Massacre is such a huge event, to me at least, about the human psyche. But unlike the previous events, which were plucked as being vague, the events at Jonestown are too well known, and I didn’t want to write a story on it, of fiction, and have people point out, that it was bullshit. So, I used it as the template. I wanted Jim Gimbal to be a cariacature, larger than life, on the surface, outgoing, with a magnetic personality. Yet, I wanted him to be like a hair trigger. On collection day, he was pulled tauter than a violin string, and any little thing would set him off, ending in people dying. The deaths are intentionally OTT, about really stupid little things, likewise with the dialogue. Hence the stoners chat about Empire Strikes Back, which was good fun to write about. Though when I finished it, I realised I hadn’t linked it to the end story, hence the after action transcript. The title page, is lifted from the Waco transcripts, which I added for some hint of authenticity. So, with the knowledge seemingly having come to an end with Gimbal’s death, surely the world was safe?
ESTHER AND STELLA – I always had it in my head, that I didn’t want Esther to be a murderer, she’s a bad person, of course, but that escalates later on. The people she is hollowing out, are dead already, nothing wrong with that, is there? I also wanted the twins to be polar opposites, Esther the insular one, even though she is the one going out and doing all this stuff. Stella, by contrast, is the impulsive one, who doesn’t heed the consequences. With good reason, as you found out, she’s dead. I wanted this twist to be hidden, and I guess, it’s a 50/50 split on those who sussed it, and those who didn’t. I loved the idea of two people, living in one. Their aim isn’t to raise a god, it’s not as grand as that. It is simply for them to be together, as one. So, a question, are they bad people? Did you consider them to be on a par with Gimbal, or any of the other characters? They end up wiping everyone out, just to be together.
BUT…and this is the central theme of HEXAGRAM, it is not the end. Okay, so this is my take on it, and life in general. We are nothing but energy, living inside of a machine made of flesh and bone. There is something in me, in my body, an essence if you will, that makes me, me. When my granddad died, my dad was sorting through his things. He had gone when a blood vessel burst in his leg, and he died from internal bleeding, at home, on his bed. Both the watch on his wrist, and the clock on the nightstand next to him, had stopped at the exact time that he had died. It was like a mini-EMP pulse had gone off, at the moment his corporeal body stopped working, and was unable to contain that energy any more.
BULLSHIT, I hear you say, well, that story is true, and it has stuck with me. I don’t believe in God, of any description, it just seems impossible to me, that a deity made us, and the world. I believe that we, humans, are a random occurence, but we are not alone in the sheer expanse of the universe, it’s impossible, and arrogant, to think that we are. I used to meditate when I was younger, and had an experience, where I floated out of my vessel, and looked down. I saw me. The machine that I drive around. It was mental. So, I believe that this energy that lives in me, lives in every living thing. When we die, that energy is dispersed, but is not destroyed. I couldn’t tell you where it goes, and I don’t much care, because this energy is linked, not just to everything on this planet, but everything in the universe.
That is the crux of the wraparound story, the prologue and epilogue. This father and daughter travel through hell to ascend a mountain top, waiting for a star to be born. Most are created as expected, but some, are born when this ritual, the one in HEXAGRAM, is completed. All that energy, from all of those people dying, all at once, is expelled. That creates a singularity, a star, and it is linked to that little girl on an alien world. When she dies, her energy will be a part of that star, which in turn is linked to all of the other stars, and the energy which lives in them. One of which, is her mother.
You’ve probably read the last few paragraphs with raised eyebrows, and you’re entitled to. This is just one person, who doesn’t need to believe in something after I die, trying to work out the one mystery that every single one of us contemplates at one point or another. This is my take on it, that’s all. We as a species, will accomplish nothing whilst we fight each other, and ignore the obvious. The only way, is by working together, making life an experience, not a chore. We are all made of stars, and one day, our bodies will stop working, and that spark of electricity which used to make you think and walk around, will vacate it, onto the next step of existence.
Ha, I think I need a cup of tea now, don’t worry, it’s back to zombies next. Take it easy y’all
16 October 2016