Pieces of Cake: Where Giant Thief meets Labyrinth
One lesson I learned during the writing of my first novel Giant Thief is that you don't always realise your own influences.
Whatever I was consciously considering, as random as some of the elements I deliberately threw in were, I don't remember thinking much about the movie Labyrinth. Not that it would have been so strange if I had, since it's one of my favourite fantasy films of all time. I'd cheerfully describe it as a masterpiece, and probably will before this post is out. But the gritty yet humorous Crime / Fantasy adventure I had in my head was a thousand worlds away from Jim Henson's delirious, often silly, always brilliant Muppet-featuring masterpiece.
(Well that didn't take long.)
Although ... truth be told and now that I think about it, one small similarity did occur to me fairly early on. When I was trying to visualise my protagonist Easie Damasco riding on the shoulder of Saltlick, the giant he'd just absconded with, where could my mind go but to Sir Didymus? Because let's face it, the sight of an insane fox creature mounted on a cowardly Old English Sheepdog takes all the biscuits when it comes to images of things riding on other things.
As major, conscious influences went, though, it was only when I started trying to come up with concept images for the cover that the first major similarity hit me. How best to describe Saltlick? He wasn't your typical, monstrous giant. In character and appearance both, I had something quite different in mind. Not quite so tall but broader, considerably nicer, a creature of few words but more than capable of picking the right ones at the right time, kind of like ... well ... a lot like a shaved version of Labyrinth's good-hearted monster Ludo.
That was it, though - as far as conscious influences went. But realising those two was enough to set my mind ticking for unconscious ones. Had a little bit of Labyrinth's Sarah fed into my tough, well-intentioned but sometimes perhaps a little self-deluding heroine Marina Estrada? Was the reason I was determined to have some humour in the mix a hangover from reading too many Terry Pratchett books, or did it perhaps have more to do with the way Labyrinth (and for that matter other classic fantasy films of the time) undercut their more serious themes with heavy doses of comedy?
Then there's Easie Damasco himself.
At time of writing, Damasco has already been compared with Shakespeare's Autolycus (by Adrian Tchaikovsky) and Jack Sparrow (by SFX magazine), not to mention my friend Bill Brennan describing him bizarrely as "a cheerful Raskolnikov." But no one has as yet pointed out how much he has in common with Labyrinth's treacherous, stature-deprived, morally see-sawing hero / villain Hoggle.
So I'll do it myself. Because both have a magpie's interest for gewgaws, which often gets the better of their interest in people. Both are almost blinded by their cynicism and their sure belief that everyone is just as self-interested as they are. Both have a conscience, but also a staggering capacity to ignore it. And, however minor or tenuous some of these influences may have been, I've no doubt that Hoggle's relationship with Sarah fed into Damasco's with Saltlick. Labyrinth toys mercilessly with our instinct to like Hoggle despite his multitudinous flaws, and our urge to trust him just as Sarah wants to trust him. Even as he lets her down, we want to believe the next time will be different. So it goes with Damasco and Saltlick. Damasco is a charming but outrageously flawed individual, and he's the only hope Saltlick has of ever returning home - if he can just stop behaving like a weasel for long enough.
Anyway, my point here isn't that I've written a colossal rip-off of Labyrinth. I'm hopeful I haven't written a colossal rip-off of anything! No, my point is that a) Labyrinth is a brilliant movie, and a fantasy classic that maybe doesn't always get the credit it deserves and b) like I said at the start, you don't always know your own influences - and discovering them can come as quite a shock.
However, in the interests of not looking like a big plagiarist, here are some of Labyrinth's vital ingredients that definitely don't appear even slightly in Giant Thief:
There are no muppets. At no point does David Bowie appear, with or without padded underwear. There are neither goblins nor babies. Nobody sings or narrowly avoids a dunking in the Bog of Eternal Stench. At no point does anyone remove anyone else's head.
Actually ... no, wait...
I wrote most of this piece on the train to Prestatyn, heading for the SFX 2012 Weekender.
I'd barely arrived and hooked up with my roommate-to-be Lavie Tidhar when I ran into the Angry Robot team who, along with a couple of old friends, were drinking in a quiet corner of a large room being used as a combination cinema / bar. And barely had Angry Robot co-editor Lee Harris popped the cork on the champagne he'd smuggled in to celebrate Lavie and mine's book launches, but what should start playing on the screen?
Yeah, that would be Labyrinth.
Sometimes, life is very strange.
About Giant Thief
Giant ThiefTales of Easie Damasco 1
Angry Robot Books
January 31, 2012 US/Canada, February 2, 2012 UK/RoW
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
Meet Easie Damasco, rogue, thieving swine and total charmer.
Even the wicked can’t rest when a vicious warlord and the force of enslaved giants he commands invade their homeland. Damasco might get away in one piece, but he’s going to need help.
File Under: Fantasy [ Big Trouble | Deception | Saltlick's City | Hang 'im High ]
From David's website
Not liking to be pinned down, David's work ranges from gruesome horror to comic fantasy, from political science-fiction to tales about mechanically assisted grizzly bears battling Nazi dolphins on the moon.
He's been writing off and on since he was about six, drawing comparisons to Enid Blyton in those early days, but thankfully less so recently. And he's been writing pretty much flat out since around 2005, having realised he enjoys it a lot more than any of the other jobs he's tried his hand at.
Most of his remaining time is eaten up by his regular employment as an itinerant IT Technician, and whatever's left he spends reading books, watching films, hiking, drinking wine and failing miserably to grow bonsai trees.
The photograph was taken near Robin Hood's Bay, which is somewhere behind the camera- person. There are some seals basking off to the left. If you've never seen a seal up close then you should really try to, they're awesomely weird looking creatures.
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