Back when I was in college, I double-majored in Geology and Literature. My dad’s favorite joke at the time was, “What are you going to do with that degree, write books about rocks?”
And, Dad, I guess you were right. I did write a book about a rock. A very big volcanic rock called New Pacifica.
As those of you who have read For Darkness Shows the Stars and “Among the Nameless Stars” already know, part of the deal with the Wars of the Lost is that people used weapons on each other and on the Earth that caused massive geologic instability, triggering super volcanoes (like the one that’s way overdue for an eruption right here in the western United States), and messing up the Earth’s electromagnetic fields. I actually studied the potential for such weapons while in school, during one section of a class my classmates and I called “Scare the Crap Out of You Twice a Week 101″but was actually called something far more prosaic like “Natural Resources and Current Events”.
(Note, they no longer offer this course, according to the schedule I just looked up online, but what is interesting to me is that now, the very first course you take as a Geology major at Yale, the 100 level one, is called Natural Disasters — because kids going to college now have grown up with some doozies.)
One of the only reasons the Luddites (Elliot’s people) manage to survive is because they happened to live on a very remote, very volcanically active island where the powers that be, in the war, thought they’d already killed everyone.
The people of Across a Star-Swept Sea come from somewhere different. They were, for the most part, not on Earth during the wars (in this imagined pre-apocalyptic future, there were permanent military installations in orbit, which, like the epic destruction of super-volcanoes, is not actually that far fetched. Others are survivors who somehow managed to make their way to New Pacifica.
New Pacifica itself is the tip of a massive volcano in the Pacific Ocean that was formed in the course of the wars, then terraformed and settled by these few survivors. To create the land of my dreams, I studied the formation and structure of other volcanic islands, like Atolls and Greece’s Santorini. These islands tend to be ring or crescent-shaped, with interior lagoons/seas that were once the cone of the volcano.
Over time and through erosion and the growth of coral reefs, the mountain itself wears away and leaves behind a ring or crescent-shaped island.
On Santorini, the proess was somewhat different. The mountain was the original island, and it blew sky high, leaving behind only part of its former size and shape in the form of a big, crescent chapes scar of a cliff. I’ve been to Santorini, and I will never forget the awe and wonder of approaching the island from the caldera and looking up on those massive dark cliffs:
So that was definitely a huge inspiration for at least the Albion side of my island, and for Scintillans, the home of my heroine Persis in particular. Scintillans is a beautiful estate on the top of the cliffs overlooking a fishing village nestled at the base. There is a switchback road, like you see in this picture, but they are a bit more high tech on Albion, and they don’t really use it anymore.
So, New Pacifica: a mix of Santorini, Pacific atolls, and Hawaiian islands. Lush, tropical, very volcanically active. The people there use geothermal energy to power their world, and they live in a harmonious state of balance with the “nature” they brought with them and created to help themselves survive.
Because the book is called Across a Star-Swept Sea, you may imagine that there is a lot of talk of coming and goings between the two main islands of that continent. And there is. There’s lots of travel around the islands, and where things are is a big part of the story. I try my best to faithfully describe the geography that the characters encounter in their journeys, but I know some people are very visual and seeing a map of a place helps them understand what they are looking at. I really, really wanted a map in this book, even though it’s science fiction, and not fantasy, where you usually have maps. I actually talked about this at length with both my editor and my agent.
Then, last summer, I was at Dragon*Con and I ran into my editor Leah Wilson, from BenBella Books, who puts out those fabulous SmartPop YA books that I’ve worked on. I was on a panel with her about The Hunger Games, because I’d been involved in her title The Girl Who Was on Fire: Movie Edition. At the panel, she was discussing a new Hunger Games tie-in title called The Panem Companion, featuring a fan-made map of Panem. The Hunger Games, of course, is also a futuristic sci-fi novel and so apparently the publishing Powers that Be think those kind of books aren’t map-worthy. But we know better, don’t we?
And I thought to myself, well, if Panem can have a map, I can. So I made one:
Here is New Pacifica, with particular points of interest for my story noted. In “The First Star to Fall” you’ll see Scintillans and Queen’s Cove. Others come into play once you hit the full-length novel this fall. But here it is, the result of that Geology and Literature degree.
So yeah, check it out, and make sure to get your very own copy of “The First Star to Fall”.