During the first few months of 1998 I immersed myself in Late Bronze Age Aegean archaeology and Greek mythology, and struggled to create a coherent genealogy and timeline of events leading to the Trojan War. A couple of years before, David Rohl had a book and TV series talking about the New Chronology (A Test of Time) and its impact on the timing of Biblical events in relation to the better-documented Egyptian and Hittite histories. Which was interesting in itself, and Rohl’s later work pushed even deeper back into the possible origins of the Biblical story, but my primary interest was Greece and the story of Iphigenia.
David Rohl wasn’t the only New Chronologist. Other archaeologists and historians were scratching their heads over an apparent Dark Age, and arguing for a change (Centuries of Darkness; official website). Peter James was one of these, and he wrote a fascinating book which went in search of Atlantis. (‘Oh, no,’ I hear you cry, ‘not another one!’ To which I would, of course, reply, ‘If you read only one book about Atlantis, make it The Sunken Kingdom: Atlantis Mystery Solved.’) It’s so long now since I read the book that I have forgotten all the details, but what I liked most about it were the peeks into Hittite records about the Achaeans, Arzawa and Troy; and the Throne of Pelops; and the Lydian king Tantalus. He identifies Atlantis as the lost city of Tantalis (‘the city of Tantalus’) – modern day Manisa in Turkey.
Iphigenia was the daughter of Agamemnon, who was the son of Atreus, who was the son of Pelops, who was the son of Tantalus. So says the mythology, anyway. The mythology says further that Tantalus chopped up Pelops and fed him in a stew to the gods, and that Demeter ate his left shoulder; the gods brought Pelops back to life, minus his shoulder which was replaced with ivory.
Which is where the idea was conceived for Iphigenia as a character in a novel… (At the time I was also playing idly with the idea of Helen of Troy being a vampire, but that daft concept mutated radically!) In my version of events, Iphigenia was sacrificed by Agamemnon and Artemis brings her back to life later – as an immortal child.
However, having resurrected Iphigenia, I have never really had the confidence to write her story, because if I ever do write the story of Iphigenia, I want it to be written perfectly. Because I love her.
So instead I wrote Kings of Infinite Space, which is set not 3000 years in the past but rather 3000 years, or so, in the future, on another world entirely. It’s not the story of Iphigenia, but she’s there, and magnificent.
Nice. Great to hear the background. I love how ideas sit in your head for years, and when you finally get to use them, it’s like watching rainbows.
I’m always amazed by the way some people churn out dozens of books in the space of a few years… I always want to have something to say, and it takes time for ideas to coalesce.
Apparently a lot of those authors (broad statistic right there) research first the place they want to right about, and then they write the story. I don’t know if you’ve ever played the Uncharted games, but they do the same thing: research the setting, then write the game.
This approach turns a lot of people off, especially when you hear how it’s done. It becomes a story not about the characters, but about the place. I imagine action-political thrillers are the same. Hear the news, add characters later. I guess it makes for an okay story, and a certain experience… but they’re ever lacking in depth.