I really should send a bottle of wine or something to the Boskone program committee. This makes two stories that were directly inspired by program items — “Sunlight Society” came out of a panel on superheroes (darned if I can remember the actual topic, but it did go into the unnerving nature of vigilantism). And now “A Death for the Ageless,” out in Beneath Ceaseless Skies this week, which started when I was on a panel about the detective in urban fantasy.
As is usually the case, I got caught by an irrelevant point and ran with it: where are the Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple figures in urban fantasy? So many urban fantasy detectives are based on the American hardboiled detective, but we get fewer of the eccentric, quiet, cerebral detectives. In the panel itself, a few were pointed out to me, but the idea still lodged in my head. How would you capture some of the spirit of an Hercule Poirot in a fantasy setting? Well, much of the tone of those stories draws from the post-World War I atmosphere, and much of Poirot’s charm is his “fish out of water” status…and then there’s the difficulty of writing a murder mystery in a short story form to begin with…and then there’s the Hastings character, the narrator, who isn’t the detective but these days can’t just report on how brilliant the detective is…
By the time Boskone had ended, I had the opening of “A Death for the Ageless.” I even had a pretty good idea whodunnit. And I had more: the odd friendship between Mieni and Swift, which drove the center of the story and made it an awful lot of fun to write. The backstory of the City started to come together after the first draft (I now know who the Usurper is, and where the worst battles of the war were fought, and a few other important things) and I had a world to play in.
So take a look. I had a blast writing this story, and I hope you like reading it. And if it leaves you with a craving for salad, well, that’s all part of the plan.
Elariel of the Ageless, once high in the courts of Poma-mèl, had been taller than most human men, with the harsh and elegant bone structure common to all Ageless, his expression now distant and tranquil. Shame about the multiple stab wounds; there was nothing tranquil about that ruin of a chest.