Today we have a Guest Post written by R. S. Belcher whose first book – The Six Gun Tarot was released yesterday by Tor books. He’s a debut author who has created a fantastical version of a Western styled steampunk world - an alternative semi-historical world where steam-power is the norm. And just look at the wonderful cover!
Let’s welcome Rod as he shares with us how and why he created his fantastical yet historical world.
One of the things that’s the most fun about writing fiction is creating worlds. The very best fiction I’ve read creates a universe so plausible, so detailed; you come to live in it and may not want to leave, or at least want to come back and visit as often as you can.
The process for creating the town of Golgotha was a big part of how and why The Six-Gun Tarot is structured the way it is. Golgotha, itself, is a major character in the book and I wanted it to be a memorable place, unique, but also historically realistic. I also wanted it to reflect the mythological west many of us grew up with on TV and movies.
To that end, first I made a crude map of the town and the surrounding terrain. I tried to add features that relate to the long and very strange history of the land, even before the town sprung up there. I wanted Golgotha to have secrets and to hint at them at every turn. The map got adjusted as the writing went along, but it was invaluable to me in giving the feel of my characters moving through a real three-dimensional place with streets, and landmarks. I think that adds a lot to making the town seem real.
I studied a lot of material on the wilder western towns and on the skeletons of those boom towns, the ghost towns. Till and Jordan’s Great Ghost Towns of the West, and Davis’ The American Frontier, gave me lots of ideas and some grounding to build my world.
Most of the fantastical parts of the geography grew up out of the characters’ back stories. To the naked eye, Golgotha seems like a pretty normal town, circa mid-to late 1800’s. It’s actually a bit more grown up than most towns its size (I figured a population of about 610 people or so—at least that was what my map declared. That number goes up and down a lot depending on what trouble is blowing through town at any given time.). Elements like Johnny Town, the squatter camp on Argent Mountain, the fine homes on Rose Hill and the Mormon temple are all amalgams of larger communities, but I wanted them all in Golgotha, so there they are.
One last bit of social architecture I settled on when designing Golgotha was the premise that the town attracts the best and worse people in the world, and that all of them are weird as hell. I wanted the majority of the town’s population to have odd stuff in their back stories. I finally decided that while not everyone in town is WTF-freakish, a lot are, and even the ones that aren’t have developed a certain resistance to all the insane stuff that goes on in town.
I hope, if I get the opportunity to write more Golgotha books, to tell the stories of some of the places in town touched on in The Six-Gun Tarot, like the cave dwellings, the old well and the creepy old cemetery at the edge of town.
I was actually kind of surprised that Six-Gun was being considered a part of the Steampunk aesthetic. It’s very cool, but it was kind of a pleasant surprise. Looking back now, the character of Clay Turlough would fit into the mold of a Steampunk mad scientist, pretty easy. I wanted a character, in Clay, who was brilliant, alienated and both creepy and tragic. When I began to build the story arc for Auggie, Gerta, Gillian and Clay, It seemed natural to tip my hat to Shelley’s Frankenstein. I decided to make Clay a fan, and it wasn’t until the first few bits of reporting talking about Six-Gun did I realize, “yeah, it does have Steampunk in it.”
The sequel to Six-Gun I’m working on now includes a continuation of Clay’s story and has even more elements that are very, um…Shelley-esque, very Steampunk.
I write what I think is cool and I go for the “neat-o” factor a lot. I try really hard to avoid being pinned in one genre; I think it’s more fun to mix and match- like when you were a kid and you’d put some of all the different sodas into your cup from the fountain at the 7-11 (we called them “suicides” and they were a rite of courage and independence- especially when you parents would look at you like you were crazy!) Sometimes it tasted great, and sometime it was swill. I’m hoping folks are enjoying the genre mash-up in The Six-Gun Tarot.
Thanks so much for your interest in my book and having me as a guest. I hope we can talk again very soon. I enjoy letters and comments and you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org , or reach me through my website: www.sixguntarot.com , or my facebook pages: The Six-Gun Tarot, or Author R S Belcher.
Tor; Hardcover; 368 pages; January 22, 2013.
About The Six Gun Tarot: Nevada, 1869: Beyond the pitiless 40-Mile Desert lies Golgotha, a cattle town that hides more than its share of unnatural secrets. The sheriff bears the mark of the noose around his neck; some say he is a dead man whose time has not yet come. His half-human deputy is kin to coyotes. The mayor guards a hoard of mythical treasures. A banker’s wife belongs to a secret order of assassins. And a shady saloon owner, whose fingers are in everyone’s business, may know more about the town’s true origins than he’s letting on.
A haven for the blessed and the damned, Golgotha has known many strange events, but nothing like the primordial darkness stirring in the abandoned silver mine overlooking the town. Bleeding midnight, an ancient evil is spilling into the world, and unless the sheriff and his posse can saddle up in time, Golgotha will have seen its last dawn…and so will all of Creation.
About the author Rod Belcher: He won the grand prize in the Strange New Worlds SF-writing contest. This is his first novel.
Author’s photo copyright by David Hungate at Dominion Images