So... The Glass Republic. I loved it.
One of the things that fascinated me most about the book was its preoccupation with perfection and reflection, so when the opportunity arose to have the author blog about something for The Speculative Scotsman, it didn't take long to for me to come up with a potential topic for Tom.
Alas, the blasted Book Smugglers had already booked the author for a post about beauty, but Tom, ever the gentleman, was willing to approach the idea of the images from another angle. And in the end, I think it worked out well. Fittingly, in fact, you could consider the guest blog below the mirror image of Tom's contribution to SFF In Conversation.
As a child I was pathologically drawn to things that looked like doors but weren’t: picture frames, fire places, bookcases, a rectangular pattern of cracks in a brick wall, or in the bark of a tree trunk. When I was eight, the first thing I used to do when I went into any room was try and discover the piece of furniture that was hiding the secret passage.
The thing that fascinated me most, though, was mirrors (which wasn’t, I hope wholly narcissism). A mirror was more than a potential hidden door, it was a doorway, a hermetically sealed world, teasing my delusional childish mind with the space sealed behind the glass.
Mirrors as portals onto fantasy worlds are nothing new. Lewis Carroll nailed it so hard that going "through the looking glass" has entered the lexicon as a euphemism for any strange situation.
So, when the time came to create London-Under-Glass, the city of the Mirrorstocracy, the inverted doppelganger of the fantastical London of The City’s Son, I knew I wanted the mirror to be more than a doorway. I wanted it to be founding principle of the entire world.
In London-Under-Glass, everything is built on reflections. The citizens are living reflections, laminates of the images of their doppelgangers in our London, built up layer after layer, day after day, until they become conscious. The buildings are warped and distended the way we see sometimes see them in our mirrors, swollen in odd places by clots of the precipitecture than falls from the sky.
In London-Under-Glass it snows brick dust, and hails slate. It literally rains cats and dogs because all of these things are caught in the river’s reflection, churned and broken by the tide and eventually evaporated and rained back down on the city. The citizens of the mirror city are used to this, but even they are occasionally unnerved when the droplets coalesce into whole faces in the puddles who try in vain to whisper secrets to them before the tyre of a passing car dashes them away.
All of that was fun, worldbuilding-wise. But the thing that really helped me with the story was the trial that such a world presented to my lead character, Pen.
In the first book, Pen was possessed by a parasitic creature made of barbed wire (work with me). She’s still bearing the scars of that attack, on both her face and her heart. Now she has to enter a city where how you look is everything, where image is substance. "Into that world inverted" she goes, and to survive she has to turn her scars into tools, her wounds into weapons. In a book about mirrors, it had some symmetry.
Thank you a thousand times, Tom, for stopping off at The Speculative Scotsman to share a bit about how the Mirrorstocracy came to be.
Now get back to work on Our Lady of the Streets! :)