Secrets of the Original Viroverse: Part One
The original ideas for Three Feet of Sky were quite different from the finished version. I thought it would be interesting to reveal some of the changes I made and the reasons behind the changes. Of course, you should read the books before reading this:
SPOILER ALERT: READ THE BOOKS BEFORE PROCEEDING!
In the final version, Adam fought the psychos for two years before defeating them. It may come as a surprise, but I only intended two or three visits to the Psychoviro before Adam found the way out. The concept of constant death and resurrection was only a minor part of the original idea.
After writing the first two encounters with the glam gang, I found that the journey was as interesting as the destination, so I added a couple more encounters. Soon, Adam’s painful struggle against the psychopaths took over – like Sisyphus rolling the boulder up the hill – and Three Feet of Sky finally took shape.
Book One and Two were originally meant to be a single novel. However, once I decided to expand the role of the psychoviro and its violently crazy inhabitants, I knew I had to split the story into two.
Originally, the Psychoviro was a dense jungle with a Mayan style temple in the centre. The psychos, dressed in flamboyant music fashions from various eras, congregated around the temple. All the hunting took place in the jungle – lots of tree climbing and swinging from branches. I was going for an Apocalypse Now/Heart of Darkness vibe.
From the outset, I felt the setting was wrong; it seemed boring and soft. I wanted something urban and brutal, matching the brutality of the psychos. 1960’s concrete towers and utilitarian buildings immediately sprung to mind, and the uneasily complimentary 1970’s UK glam/glitter theme soon followed.
A minor alteration was Rampage’s name. I first went with the name Blockbuster, the title of a favourite glam track by The Sweet. Really I wanted a two syllable name, to match the other psychos, and then one of the people checking for errors asked me why I had named a character after a video store. I changed the name immediately.
Groover’s original name was simply ‘The Leader’, but I thought this gave off too much of a Gary Glitter vibe, so it was changed.
Stardust, intended only as a minor background character, sprung to life. Following my instincts, I greatly expanded his role, and he is now, I believe, the most popular of the psychos - although I am not telling anyone my favourite.
During the hunts, I intended the ceiling of the psychoviro to become transparent, enabling the true concierge to watch the slaughter. This gave a point of reference to the difference in scale between the miniaturised Viroverse inhabitants and the full-size people on the outside. Since I was toying with the idea that the concierges were fake and controlled by the AI, I dropped the idea. Even up to the end of Outside Eternity, I refrained from having a ‘Gulliver and Lilliputian’ moment – although this might happen in Book Three … or not.
Escape from the Viroverse, Adam’s ultimate aim, was through a tunnel under the psychoviro. Groover knew about the tunnel but could not enter without alerting the authorities.
As the novel progressed, I decided not to use the tunnel idea. I wanted a means of escape that opened up more opportunities. Even though I came up with the idea of secret portals in every Viro, I retained the underground lair because it demonstrated Groover’s importance and allowed insight into the depth of his madness.
Another idea, which I reluctantly discarded for fear of legal repercussions or at least having the book removed, was a recurring role for Arnold Schwarzenegger. During the dark limbo between lives, Adam imagines himself in a gym locker room with Arnold in his bodybuilding prime. The ‘Austrian Oak’ flexes his muscles and tries to motivate Adam (a difficult task). Over the course of many resurrections, Adam becomes manlier, and his meetings with Arnold become increasingly backslappingly macho:
I only wrote their initial encounter, before Adam wakes up in the Viro for the first time. You can read it on this site:
Ironically, my replacement for the macho Schwarzenegger character was Stern Lovass. Ironic, since Stern was originally Dean, a friendly though boring Australian materials specialist (no naked walks by the river). Deans character gradually evolved into a sex-obsessed American and finally into Stern Lovass, the wickedly arrogant world famous hind-reader.
The chapter where Adam is revealed as Copacabana, Mi Copa Rebosa (My Cup Runneth Over) originally took place in a far more sedate viro. Rather than the Latino fun and colour of Mama Fiestas, I was intending to have a quaint English village of thatched cottages, with a small market square hosting a traditional country fete. Realising that Stern would never jig around with a troop of morris dancers or share a stage with Punch and Judy, I chose a less gentile location more suited to his flair and macho bravado.
The most difficult change I made was Adam Eden’s name. Up until a few days before publication, his name was Alex Eden. I then found that another recently released book had a protagonist with the same name: The Awakening by Stuart Meczes – a popular fantasy YA novel and well worth a read. I admit, I was upset at the time, but, as my Welsh relatives would say, ‘fair play’ he got there first (Stuart was a fellow Authonomite and we ‘shelved’ each other’s books.).
I spent two days pondering the new name. Alan was my second choice, but I finally went for my third choice, Adam. I went back through the novel and inserted a couple of puns on the name. Having spent a few years thinking of my ‘hero’ as Alex, it took many months before Adam settled into my brain. In retrospect, I am glad of the name change as it opened up some interesting themes and possibilities, but rarely, now and then, I still refer to Adam as Alex.
Copyright: Stephen Ayres: 2014