That was pretty much all the direction Mike gave for the anthology. Which, sometimes, is a good thing, and sometimes makes it a little . . . tough. After all, Pangaea is HUGE! I mean, it’s the supercontinent, after all—the one and only landmass in the entire world, as big as all of our modern continents put together.
That’s a lot of space in which to find a story.
So what do you do when you’re presented with such a dizzying array of possibilities?
You narrow it down.
For me, that meant reading through the small Pangaea bible Mike had written up, giving a few basic details about the world, and looking for any details that jumped out at me.
Fortunately, there were a few:
- Geothermal energy
- The “coastal” states involved in a technological arms race over building hydroponics
- The plains, with their rougher, looser structure and wilder, freer ways
I considered those elements again, separately and together. Volcanoes, hydroponics, scientists, arms races, the coastal states and the plains.
And then I had an image appear in my head of a mad scientist laughing maniacally from within a city—built inside a live volcano.
I had my story.
Mike liked the idea, fortunately. With one reservation. “This sounds awfully pulpy,” he told me. “I’m not sure it’s going to fit the tone of the rest of the book.”
“Tell you what,” I replied. “If you’re really worried about it, I can preface it with a ‘torn from the pages of Lurid Tales of Mad Science!’ sort of header, set it up as being a story told in a Pangaea pulp. How’s that?”
He thought that sounded fine, and I got to work. The story wrote itself, as is often the case when you get a good strong narrative voice going—In this case, all of four lines and Hank Land had taken form (“How do you steal a scientist? It’s not like you can just stuff ’em in a sack! And what would someone be doing with them? Mounting them on a board like so many butterflies? ‘Look, I just added a botanist to my collection!’?”) and I was just along for the ride.
By the time I was done and had turned in “Up in Smoke,” Mike had already received several of the other stories. And, after he’d had a chance to read them over, he told me “you know what? Don’t worry about that header. Your story’s going to fit in just fine.”
I’m glad it did. Because I really like thinking that, in this world of Pangaea, Hank Land isn’t just some character on a page—he’s real, and live, and ready to roll, eager to chase down some bad guys and stop some crimes.
Fortunately, with all that space on the supercontinent, I have the feeling he’ll find plenty more cases to keep him busy.
I just hope he lets me tag along on them as well.
Pangaea is now available in digital and print editions.