Two of my biggest influences for writing and story occurred when I was twelve. Maybe I was young enough where they actually behaved as an imprint, like a duckling following the first thing it sees out of the shell.
Terminator 2. My dad took me to see it at Arcadia, an old theater on the main street of St. Charles, Illinois. An organist played before the show. Girls felt inadequate in their teens because of Barbie. Boys had He-Man and Arnold Schwarzeneggar to live up to. I cried at the end when Arnold harakiri’d into the molten metal. Frankly, if I’m alone (I still watched T2 about twice a year) it still gets a bit dusty in the room. My wife makes fun of me when I choke up at movies. It’s tough being a modern man.
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King. I picked it up at the school library. Roland Deschaine, The Man In Black, the beams, the doors, Shardik (the giant rotting robot bear), that entire universe. It all came from between two ears. However my imagination or sensibilities would have developed (“nature” versus “nurture,” discuss) that road was blown out and replaced with something rocky and dirty, that – if you weren’t looking – could snag an ankle. And it led DOWN.
From then on, if it was gothic, horror, science fiction, fantasy or gory, I was into it.
The Northern Star came to me in a song. About ten years ago I was listening to “I Might Be Wrong,” by Radiohead and it just popped into existence. Even after a decade, I can still see it: a rainy night, a man outside a seedy bar that looks like a large industrial barn. In his arms, an unconscious woman: his wife. The Northern Star was the cause (I didn’t know what it was exactly, but that was part of the mystery). He had come to enlist the help of the man who owned the bar. An old soldier, giant, massive and metal. That man wore a dirty canvas tarp around his neck that poorly hid his mechanized frame. His hands were the size of boulders. His name was John Raimey and he was the first Tank Major, the first bionic. The man outside was Mike Glass, a new breed designed to look more human as the prosthetic technology had evolved. But something had gone awry and now he was rogue.
The story has changed a lot since then, but the core elements remain. Even then, The Northern Star was the cause of all their pain.
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