If you’re a writer, that’s where the cooking pot comes in. Because I was striving to recapture that special frisson in the haunted ship sequence in Blood Sword 5: Doomwalk.
I won’t give away what happens next in the book, but that’s where it was dredged up from – getting spooked out by a story in childhood. And that’s appropriate for this book because, as much as it’s a descent into the lands of the dead, it’s also a journey into dream. This is not the afterlife of fiery torments that Dante described, but a chilly protean clime where you might trip over ghosts creeping about looking for bowls of blood to lap up, or bump into a half-cadaverous goddess in the myths. I mean mists.Black clouds clot along the horizon. Only minutes ago the sky was as blue as a sapphire, now the furled sails mutter fretfully in the easterly gusts. You shiver and follow the mate below. The entire ship’s company is crowded into the forecastle, and oil lamps are lit and the hatches are battened down against the coming storm.
The first part of Doomwalk involves finding a way to reach the afterlife so you can go and retrieve the Sword of Life stolen by your enemy, Icon, at the moment you killed him. If you first put in some library time like a good Scooby, here’s how a dusty book you find describes the land of the dead:
Your search through Emeritus’ books drags on into the evening, when the muezzins’ call and the sound of church bells mingle in the dusk outside. A servant comes into the library to light the lamps. You are on the verge of giving up when you find some more references to Sheol. Theodoric of Osterlin Abbey writes that Sheol is a dream landscape comprising fragments of various mythologies. He confirms the claim that you found earlier that mortals can reach Sheol – but adds that the longer one spends there, the more difficult it is to return.I thought, as was editing this book, ‘Dream landscape? I must have been ripping off Gaiman.’ But in fact I completed the manuscript for Doomwalk a full year before Sandman #1 went on sale. I expect we both had in our blood the same cocktail of Ron Embleton’s Wrath of the Gods and the cosmically bleak stories of the BBC’s Out of the Unknown, we both devoured Norse myths and the gloriously far-out fantasy strips in Valiant, were both reared through adolescence on the same heady stew of Moorcock, Dunsany, Lovecraft, Calvino and others. Or, I dunno, maybe it was just that kickin’ early-80s Afghan Black.
More about the influences on Doomwalk next week, but drop back Friday for another announcement.