Friday, November 16, 2012

Guest Blog by Trey Garrison - On zombies, Nazis, robots and cowboys: Writing the book was the easy part - November 16, 2012

Please welcome Trey Garrison to The Qwillery. Trey's debut novel, The Spear of Destiny, will be published in 3 e-parts starting in December 2012. A print version will follow.

The first part, Black Sun Reich, is out on December 18, 2012.

On zombies, Nazis, robots and cowboys:
Writing the book was the easy part

     Describing THE SPEAR OF DESTINY was about as hard as writing it. I’m still not 100 percent sure I’ve got it down pat. Along the way, I’ve made a few mistakes. Let me explain.

     The last thing I want to do is invoke the ire of steampunk purists. I love the purists in any fan base. I am one. As far as I’m concerned, there is no Star Trek outside the 23rd Century and The Empire Strikes Back was the last Star Wars movie they made. Barry Allen is still dead, zombies shamble slowly, Han shot first, and Superman wears red underwear over his blue tights.

     But early on when THE SPEAR OF DESTINY was being pitched it picked up the steampunk label. I’m not sure if it was my agent or my editor. It was hard enough distilling the description down to “genre-mashing alternate history Nazi zombie supernatural comedy adventure with robots, cowboys and monsters.” (Somehow, “Indiana Jones meets Shaun of the Dead” sounded too much like a bad pitch to Griffin Mill in The Player.) I don’t know how the label got thrown in there.

     Granted, I took a lot of the elements from steampunk, but steampunk is more than just brass goggles, steam cars and airships. For purists it has to be dystopian, 19th Century, set in London, and adhering to the other rules of the genre. My book is none of those. It’s more dieselpunk in terms of time setting. It’s not completely dieselpunk either, though a lot of the technology and aesthetics are. If anything, it’s sort of a literary incarnation of the Art Deco and Art Nouveau of the 1920s, in an adventure story. I love the boldness of the art and architecture of that era, and I think that seeped into the fabric of THE SPEAR OF DESTINY.

     I set the story in the 1920s for several specific reasons, and among those reasons is my love of the look, the feel, the fashion and the mindset of the time. It was a time when the “world of tomorrow” was looked to with optimism. There was a sense of style and utility in everything, a style that embraced the past but faced always forward. There was a strength and beauty in the architecture and a belief in the promise of progress and science. It was in everything from the swept shape of automobiles to the fonts in advertising. It was also a time in America of great contradiction – laissez-faire economics co-existing with Prohibition. American racial laws actually inspired the Germans a decade later, yet we claimed to be a beacon of freedom and a haven for immigrants.

     My story is set in a 1920s different on a lot of levels. North America is as balkanized as Europe at the turn of the 20th Century. Technology runs the gamut from horse-drawn carriages to high-speed airships. Magic and technology co-exist. I think given all these competing forces and effects, it was important to bring to the story the sense of “technological promise just over the horizon” that steampunk embodies in all its incarnations. Even if my story goes far afield from the usual rules of steampunk, I think it’s part of what tied everything together.

     Telling an alternative history story like this means you really have to help anchor the reader to reality. To do that, you have to really know the hows and the whys of the world you’ve created. I was already fascinated by the 1920s, but to write this book I immersed myself in the decade in every way I could. To bring a sense of reality, I couldn’t just wave a wand and make something so. I had to weave true reality – detailed, gritty reality – into the fantasy. For instance, I make a point of the attitude of equality that arose because of the cowboy culture. In the mid-19th Century, skilled hands were in such demand that ranchers didn’t care what color a cowboy was, so long as he could do the job. That’s really a thing you’ll find in cultural monographs about the cowboy subculture. That was critical to the story and I had to ground that in reality. Then sometimes the final result of hours of research would be some little throwaway detail about the cut of a man’s wool jacket or the kind of tin a biscuit would come in, but I think that’s the kind of reality nugget necessary to help the reader suspend disbelief about later when you bring out the undead and the clockwork assassins.

     Then there’s the issue of working through logically the repercussions of the historical changes you make. For instance, in the world of THE SPEAR OF DESTINY, New Orleans becomes the crossroads of world commerce, trade and culture – complete with the Statute of Liberty – that New York City occupies in our world. From there I had to consider how that would have changed both little and big things in the culture – from how relations might have evolved in a North America comprised of many nations to what the fashions and customs might been. Then I had to consider what New York City would have been like had a smaller, weakened, socialist United States arisen after the Civil War. I wanted to consider what the Nazis might have been like if they hadn’t learned the lessons from the failure of the Beer Hall Putsch, and what the Nazi ruling circle would have been like if the Thule Society and all that arcane Aryan mysticism had the sway it did in the 1920s after they had power. It takes a lot of sustained speculation if you want to make it believable.

     Of course, the more afield you take your alternate history, the more you have to have someone through whose eyes the reader relates. It seemed natural for that person to be Dr. Kurt von Deitel. Granted most of us can’t easily relate to a high-born Prussian doctor, but it’s the nature of his sheltered life that gives us a segue into learning more about this world. I think it worked and I was a little surprised how the doctor became my favorite character.

     THE SPEAR OF DESTINY has no pretensions to being great literature. It’s just a fun story the likes of which inspired me as a kid to want to set out on my own adventures. It’s a bold, swashbuckling tale for readers of all ages. I hope people love reading it as much as I loved writing it – even the steampunk purists.

The Spear of Destiny

Black Sun Reich
The Spear of Destiny: Part One
HarperVoyager, December 18, 2012
eBook, 100 pages

Black Sun Reich: Part One of three in The Spear of Destiny, the first novel in a new steampunk, horror, alternate history, action-adventure series set in a 1920s where the Nazis have begun their subjugation of the world using the occult, advanced science, and a holy relic with awesome powers.

And don't miss the other parts of this serialized novel—Part Two: Death's Head Legion and Part Three: Shadows Will Fall.

Trey Garrison recaptures the unapologetic adventure, wonder, and excitement of the classic pulp fiction of the 1930s and 1940s, blending elements of steampunk with deeply researched historical fiction and a good dose of humor. The novel also explores major philosophical and moral issues relevant to our contemporary world: the trade-off between security and liberty, the morality of preemptive war, and what fundamentally separates good from evil.

The North American continent is made up of several rival nations, and a Cold War is building among them. The Nazis rose to power a decade ago. People travel by airship, and powerful organizations calculate with Babbage's Difference Engine. The Nazis have hatched a plot to raise a legion of undead soldiers.

Enter Sean Fox Rucker and Jesus D'Anconia Lago, two Great War veterans and freelance pilots who are pulled into the quest. They are joined by a brash Greek merchant, a brilliant Jewish cowboy, and the woman who once broke Rucker's heart. This ragtag band of reluctant, bickering, swashbuckling heroes is soon locked in a globe-spanning race against Nazi occultists, clockwork assassins, and a darkly charismatic commando. In a world where science and the supernatural coexist, and the monsters of legend are as real as the necromancers who summon them from murky realms, our heroes alone stand before the rising shadows. But all their efforts may not be enough.

The Spear of Destiny, Parts Two and Three:

Available January 2, 2013

Available January 22, 2013

About Trey

     Trey Garrison has been a newspaperman, a magazine writer, and a soldier of misfortune. Trey’s secret identity is working as a mild-mannered journalist, editor, humorist, consultant, and part-time sybarite. Maybe the best word to describe him is racontrepreneur. Currently he is director of communications for a foundation based in Dallas that promotes free market solutions and free enterprise.
      Trey’s work has appeared in a number of publications, often with his consent and sometimes with his knowledge. He’s been a contributor and editor for D Magazine — considered among the best city magazines in the United States — and for Reason magazine, the national magazine that promotes free minds and free markets. Trey has been a special contributor for The Dallas Morning News and a field reporter for The Land Report.
     He’s a master in the kitchen, great at the gun range, and decent at Kung Fu. He lives in Texas. This is his first novel.
     His blog is and you can pre-order THE SPEAR OF DESTINY here:

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