Writing: According to Culture

At least one review has noticed that I stole elements of my short for Astounding Frontiers #1, “According to Culture,” from a historical incident. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, I’m a historian.

And, as Jeffro noted, there are elements of the film Taken in there. Believe it or not, the Taken thread was the first thing I thought of when I sat down to write it. The premise was the easy part: kidnap someone. Kidnapping comes with an automatic clock, and if there’s one thing I learned growing up with Jack Bauer, is that a ticking clock makes everything better.

I guess I could have killed someone’s puppy.  But anyway…

One of the first characters I had created in my writing career was Sean Patrick Ryan, space ranger, for lack of a better term. There’s a lot of background to the Rangers I made. But they operated very much like Texas Rangers: their jurisdiction is wherever they are. If you don’t like it, you may not survive.

Since I’ve got whole volumes about Ranger Ryan on my computer (which I’ll get around to releasing one day, when I’m happy with them), I knew he lived long enough to have kids. So let’s kidnap one of them.

Okay, that’s a good start, but this is Pulp, right? Some dirty little slavers aren’t going to be that much of a problem. Not big enough of a threat. How about an Empire? Can I get Ming the Merciless on speed dial? … Eh. Ming was okay, but let’s go bigger. How about a twelve-foot tall, four armed gorilla?  Yeah. That’s more like it. How about a solution. Hm? Single combat?  Let’s steal some low gravity tactics from John Carter … It’s not bad.

Another part of Jeffro’s initial review was that there was a second level to the threat. Just when you thought it was over, something else happens. It’s not as bad as the five hundred villains at the end of a JPRG, but it escalates the threat. That was originally the end of the story.  No second level threat. Nothing.

I read it again.  Nah. This was too easy. I need to beat this guy up some more. A lot more.

That’s where the dragon comes in. Mostly because I really like dragons. Who doesn’t?

But no spoilers.

To end where we began, about the historical anecdote slipping into the story, that was an ad lib. Mostly because I don’t outline books, or short stories. The last time I tried outlining a novel, I found it easier to just start writing the novel. Usually, I have scenes or images already in my head before I begin. But it was an anecdote I’ve always liked, and it just fit.

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About Declan Finn

Declan Finn is the author of Honor at Stake, an urban fantasy novel, and nominated for Best Horror at the first annual Dragon Awards. He has also written The Pius Trilogy, to be released by Silver Empire Press. Finn has also written "Codename: Winterborn," an SF espionage thriller, and "It was Only on Stun!" and "Set to Kill," murder mysteries at a science fiction convention.
  • That is a good story. Whenever I see ‘Space Ranger’ I hear it in Tim Allen’s Buzz Lightyear voice. Then it’s “You are a sad, strange little man. You have my pity” and I’m remembering sadly that the VCR player broke years ago…

    Anyway, looking forward to Issue #2 and future Finn stories.

  • BTW: a coworker to whom I recommended the anthology just came by to say there are a couple a stories he really liked – and this is the one he referred to. He mentioned your memorable turns of phrase – the throne with four armrests being one. Also said he hopes it works out so that there are future issues. Score one for According to Culture and Astounding Fronteers.