Under the Trees, Eaten developed from a simple point. The head of BlankSpace Publications asked me if I had any ideas for a sci-fi story the size of a novella, and I came up with one by the end of the day. I had been reading some philosophy that made a very creative ontological use of H. P. Lovecraft, and having long been a fan of his stories, I wanted to create something that would overcome some of the limitations of the Lovecraft milieu.
So I developed a concept for aliens that made them strange to humans, but not horrifyingly destructive, and a storyline that included a major role for the evil and pain that humans inflict on each other. And I developed a protagonist narrator who was not only a woman (non-existent for the Lovecraft corpus), but who could adapt well enough to her circumstances with just enough genre-awareness that, while she still stumbled a bit, could emerge victorious.
The conflicts she facts go beyond just the characters in the book to include actual threats to her narrative voice within the book herself. Her father, occasionally speaking from three years before the story’s main events, buts into her narrative with his more conventionally Lovecraftian style, essentially trying to steal his own daughter’s narrative. Beyond that, the aliens themselves are a meta-diegetic force in the story who also, at least for a moment, overwrite Marilyn’s power to narrate her own life and existence.
Between my own work as author and Jeffrey’s suggestions as editor and chief, we have a tight and wonderful novella to inflict on the public later this month. While I’ll be promoting it at as many bookstores around the GTA as I can over the summer and fall, Jeffrey is preparing for an internet-based blitz. It includes a blog at BlankSpace that regularly publishes short, creepy excerpts from the novella’s text as brief previews.
It also includes a meta-fictional element that I’ve been preparing this week, The Seul-Coeur Logs. This is a blog that will publish ancillary material to the central event that gets Under the Trees, Eaten’s plot moving, the plane crash over the isolated, alien-influenced town of Seul-Coeur, Quebec that killed Marilyn’s mother in 1997. The posts themselves will be written as if they were from the files about the plane crash that Marilyn’s father Paul collected from then until his death (this isn’t a spoiler; he’s dead at the book’s first sentence). It’ll include extended versions of his own increasingly unhinged rantings, pseudo-scientific explanations of the physics behind the alien habitat, and interviews with air transport security officials, which might include a character I’ve thought of including in a possible sequel to the story.
And of course, this blog will be following the story as well, and explaining, spoiler-free, some of the ideas behind each new update on The Seul-Coeur Logs. All these websites – BlankSpace Publications, Adam Riggio Writes, and The Seul-Coeur Logs – along with the book itself, will take part in building the world of Under the Trees, Eaten. The motives of writing Under the Trees, Eaten included my own concerns about science-fiction storytelling, and the characters themselves shape their narratives in ways that suggest they are familiar with the notion that they don’t live in the real world, but in a science-fiction narrative. Understanding the meta-narrative elements of the novella will help a reader see how I put it together, and seeing the cogs and wheels that assemble the whole is part of the fun.
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