The City of Many Forms

December 2, 2011

I discovered as I went through the various drafts of The Temple of the Exploding Head trilogy that I had an issue with some of the bad guys.

"The City of Many Forms" by Carol Phillips

I had originally intended the Kestral Oligarchy to be the main bad guys of the story–the fair, golden-skinned, shape-shifting evildoers from far away. It was the Kestrals who once inhabited Kana with vast, unsmiling cities and tormented the Monamas and built into them the horrid “Heart-Trigger” which reverts them into Berserkacides. The Kestrals also “invented” the Killanjo and worshipped an obscure Elemental Spirit of Lightning who granted them mastery of time and space, allowing them to simply step out of thin air. When the League arrived on Kana at the beginning of the EX Time Epoch, the Kestrals fled, ostensibly fearing the Fleet and waited in the wings silently fanning the flames between the League and the Xaphans.

One of the hallmarks of the Kestrals–they were strange and unknowable. As they are aliens, I wanted them to be just that: alien. Alien thought processes, alien logic and methodology, I wanted them to be odd and inscrutable. I believe I accomplished that, however, the end result was rather lackluster. The Kestrals were weird, but in a very flat, boring sort of way. Plain and simple: they weren’t very interesting bad guys.

The drafts continued and it was the Elemental Spirit they worshipped who became the true villain of the story: the horrid Horned God who lived in a temple deep in the ground. As the Horned God’s role increased, the Kestrals got pushed to the side and forgotten, turned into mere henchmen in the Horned God’s evil schemes.

Eventually, I added the plot device of the Secret-Talker, a god’s dictaphone recording for all time everything they have done, good or bad. It was the addition of the pursuit of the Horned God’s Secret-Talker where our old friends, the Kestrals, came back into prominence.

Stellar map of Atrajak of Want detailing the location of the City of Many Forms (Eve Ventrue)

I dreamed up a City of Many Forms where the Kestrals held sway. It was intended to be an insane city of strange proportions and mind-bending intent with an unguarded pathway leading to the Horned God’s Secret-Talker. I made it as strange and confusing as I could dream up. It was supposed to be a window-dressing getting the reader from points A to B, a carnival ride through the Fun House to the Secret-Talker, nothing more.

But then I wondered …

With the City of Many Forms, I could have my cake and eat it too. I could keep the Kestrals weird and creepy, but I could also use the city to demonstrate their purpose and intent and make it plain without ever actually having to say what it is. Walking its streets, I could transform the Kestrals from mere henchmen to pretty cool villains with a clear agenda. With that, I dove headfirst into developing the City and exploring its secrets. It grew into a place of mis-matched architecture and deep-water canals that I based off of an old map of Atlantis I’d once seen with skies full of golden monsters.

After you visit the City of Many Forms, you might wish I’d left the Kestrals alone.

Book V: “The Temple of the Exploding Head” will be published by Loconeal Publications in late December, early Januray 2012

copyright 2011, Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips and Eve Ventrue

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