Published by Tiny Fox Press on July 20, 2021
Those are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to actions some will take to protect their interests in æther-oil, the coveted substance that fuels the city of Huile.
As both veteran and private investigator, Marcel Talwar knows this firsthand, and he likes to think he'd never participate in such things. However, that naïve idea comes to a crashing end when he takes on a new case that quickly shatters his world view.
A trail of evidence points to someone in Marcel's inner circle who's using him as a pawn to conduct grisly experiments-experiments that could lead to genocide.
Now, Marcel is more determined than ever to discover who's pulling the strings to this sinister plot. But the further he gets, the larger the target on his back becomes, and it's not long before Marcel has to ask himself how much and how many he's willing to sacrifice to get to the truth.
Top 9 Books/Games/Fictional Universes I Was Inspired By/Gleefully Purloined From When Writing The Sightless City.
By Noah Lemelson
“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
This is a great quote to start off an article about inspiration. I know, because I stole this idea from a 2016 video essay from Superbunnyhop.
Now is this quote true? Eh, kinda sort of maybe yes, but also no. In its most literal sense its wrong, obviously. We’ve all seen ads for “The Transmorphers,” or “The Amazingly Spidered Boy,” we know that just stealing another idea is crap, and produces crap. And yet there is a truth underlying the quote, which is that art is invariably inspired by other art. Ideas are brought up in one piece, expanded in another, challenged by a third, and revolutionized by a fourth That’s how human expression works, no song is truly a solo, everything is built upon past work and past generations.
So how does this apply to The Sightless City? It doesn’t, The Sightless City is a work entirely unique, made whole cloth, without any influences from anything else.
Okay… maybe there are some influences. Let’s say, for the sake of a listicle, 9 influences. I came up with the universe of The Sightless City as a book-loving, video-game addicted teenager, and my interests affected the themes and idea that eventually became present in The Sightless City. I think it might be fun to share a few of those.
Ah, Dune. I still haven’t decided if I think it’s the greatest science fiction novel ever, but man, if it isn’t one of the most epic. Dune was an revolutionary mix of science fiction and fantasy. Mysticism and history combined with thoughtful analyses on human psychology and desert ecology. I particularly loved its mix of technological levels. There’s space travel but people fight with knives, there’s giant machines but no AI. Arrakis itself is such a wonderful setting. Its vast desert landscapes that no doubt influenced my conception of The Wastes. What Dune taught me more than anything, is that human nature is the same regardless of setting. People strive, plot, betray, and love just as much in space as they do on earth. And, of course, if you take a valuable resource and make it limited, be it oil, spice, or sangleum, you’ll quickly see what people are capable of.
Forget Children of Dune (I never read it anyways), Star Wars is the real, well, child of dune. From its swordfights in space, to its galactic empires, to its love of desert worlds, Star Wars took a lot of what made Dune great and made it digestible for the blockbuster-viewing masses. Of course, I was part of those masses. I grew up loving Star Wars. From its multi-genre western/samurai/war movie blend, to its conflict between a totalitarian empire and freedom-loving rebels, there’s a lot of influence I took from Star Wars. But there is one genius choice that people don’t talk enough about. Lightsabers. Specifically, that you can turn lightsabers off, and store them on your belt. Do you know how hard it is to have a character drag a giant sword around a city without raising any eyebrows? I do! Because I tried it!
Warhammer Fantasy and 40K
Speaking of stealing (I mean taking influence from). Warhammer, in both its fantasy and space-faring varieties took so much from the speculative fiction of its era, and yet created something unique. Fantasy is ripped straight from Tolkien and real history, while 40K took a ton of influence from… yep Dune again. And yet each brought their own spin to things. Despite how ridiculous both settings can be, I loved how there was something a bit more grounded about Warhammer Fantasy compared to other fantasy settings. Just because there is magic doesn’t mean people are any less awful to each other. Society is still society, even if you toss a few wizards and giants into the mix. I wasn’t great at the game, but I became enthralled by the centuries of history covered in its rule books. I soon ached to create my own world, with its own past, and its own stories.
A Canticle for Leibowitz
Okay, I now have to swerve back into the literary. I read A Canticle for Leibowitz much later in life, part-way through my drafts of The Sightless City. Still, it is a classic of post-apocalyptic literature. I like how it didn’t focus on the just-after, on the brutality of apocalypse that so much of that sort of fiction focuses on. It asks what happens long after. Once everything’s been destroyed, what happens to the people who try to rebuild? What do they make of their buried past? And will they make the same mistakes of their ancestors? (Spoiler alert: probably.)
Fallout New Vegas
Bam, back into games. There’s not too much to say here. Fallout New Vegas is one of the best post- apocalyptic games out there. It’s also one of the closest to home, Vegas is only a day’s drive away from Los Angeles. And there is something naturally Wastes-like about much of California’s landscape. As a thousand NCR soldiers say, “Patrolling the Mojave almost makes you wish for a nuclear winter.”
Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
You know what’s cool? Science-magic. That’s where something is treated like science, but has all the power and explosiveness and general razzmatazz of magic. You know what series has great science-magic? Fullmetal Alchemist. I think I came up with the idea of Engineers before watching Fullmetal Alchemist, but they definitely became a lot cooler after I finished the series.
The Sightless City has some noir aspects to it. I love the way noir positions its protagonists in morally complex ways. It avoids the generic hero’s journey and plays with flawed characters. Only issue is, I actually haven’t read/watched that much noir. I mean, I think I might have read The Big Sleep at one point, and I’ve seen Vertigo. (Oh! And I did read Low Town, which I highly recommend!) So I have some notion of noir, but I wouldn’t say any noir film ranks among my all-time favorite. That is, except for Bladerunner. But wait, you say, Bladerunner isn’t noir, its cyberpunk! Come on now, strawman I made up for the purpose of making a point, cyberpunk is just noir but with robots! We all know it, let’s just admit the truth. And damn if I don’t love Bladerunner. Did it influence The Sightless City? I mean, probably? But mostly it’s a damn fine movie.
And finally, we get the book that inspired me to write my own novel. If you don’t know what Hyperion is, basically it’s The Canterbury Tales, but in SPACE! If that doesn’t help you, you’re not alone, I haven’t read The Canterbury Tales either. But what I loved about Hyperion, (besides the everything else) was its structure. Most of the book is told in backstories, travelers sitting around the proverbial campfire, sharing their life’s tale. By using this structure, the book is able to paint a vivid and diverse picture of its universe, with each chapter not only showing a different corner of the world, but doing so with a different emotional lens and even in different genres. Indeed, this structure is what I first stole when writing my novel. The plan was to follow a group of bounty hunters, deep in the Wastes, all searching for the same criminal, and through their backstories we would get a sense of them, of the world, and of the man they were hunting.
This… is not how the book is currently structured. But if you look closely you can see remnants of past drafts. It’s in this original draft that I came up with Lazarus Roache, as well as the three, at that point bounty hunters, Marcel, Sylvaine, and Kayip. I also created another character who won’t appear until Book 2, as well as another one I cut, because he was edgy and dumb. But the most important thing Hyperion’s structure did was give me an impetus to write, to give me a guideline for how one might begin a novel. The Sightless City may not resemble much its first draft, or Hyperion, but without that beginning, it wouldn’t exist at all.
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