As we were departing Lunacon, my friend John Joseph Adams recommended a book to me, but cautioned me that the book contained talking animals, as if that might put me off. I replied automatically, “No, that’s cool. I like talking animals.” Later I thought back on that and realized that, hey, yeah, I /do/ like talking animals, and yet I’d never published a story that contained any talking animals. I started thinking it might be fun to write a story about some talking animals, but only if I could come up with some new angle — something sufficiently skewed and offbeat.
A few days later I remembered a conversation I’d had years ago with some of the other students at James Gunn’s writing workshop at the
which … ?” Remembering that, I suddenly thought, “Hey, that’s not bad.” I had just come off a white-hot streak of writing successes, and I was in the mood for a challenge, such as taking a joke situation and trying to develop it into a narrative that contained as much emotional depth
and thematic significance as I could manage.
One other inspirational moment I remember: I had read a news article about a left-wing intellectual type who had recently been knighted in the
I had a blast writing this story. It was enormous fun to be able to go back and write my own old-school fantasy complete with heroes and monsters and talking animals and a quest, just like the kind I read so many of when I was a kid, and I felt inspired to sneak in an unusually
high number of sly allusions and little in-jokes. My interest in politics and culture tends to show through no matter what I write, so I think the story also contains a lot of hidden depth. I also think I managed to bump my sentence-level writing up a notch with this piece.
I wrote the story during a summer in which I was living in a small apartment in South Central
a gigantic and sinister owl (the sweltering heat probably contributed to the near-hallucinatory intensity of this vision), and I would stare up at that monstrous owl and think, “Crap, how the hell am I going to kill this bleeping thing?”
I was really happy with how that part turned out. In fact, after I wrote that scene I couldn’t restrain myself from sending out a bulletin to all my Facebook friends announcing, “I just wrote the best sword-wielding mouse versus owl fight scene you’ll read all year!” Writing isn’t all
fun and games though, of course. For whatever reason I had a hell of a time describing the throne room. I worked for an entire day — eight hours or so — on that one stupid little paragraph, though that time included many hours spent online perusing photos of various real-world
throne rooms. I also found it challenging to work out exactly how the climactic scene was going to go down (even though that scene was something I’d planned from the beginning and was in fact the genesis of the whole piece). I spent several days wrestling with the logistics of
the thing until I finally hit upon the image of a spooky, mist-shrouded landscape, which instantly felt right and which immediately solved a lot of my problems.
I had a great deal of fun writing this story, and I really felt as though I were living through the events as I was writing them. I hope that some of that same experience comes through for people when they read it.
Read "Red Road" in issue 9 of Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show, available now
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