For the last three thousand years, the sentiment that “there’s nothing new under the sun” has been repeated ad nauseam. I tend to agree with the idea, but then again, I’m (also) a historian, so I’m intimately familiar with the source material. Regardless of what other writers create (or recreate, if that’s how you prefer to view things), the Subsumption Series stands on the shoulders of many intellectual giants.
From books to TV, and movies to music, there are countless examples of inspiration that motivated what appears on the pages I’ve produced (and will continue to produce). Below are a few of the most prescient examples. Behind the scenes, I (and my editor) refer to these occurrences as Red Herrings—but beyond inspiring my own writing, I’ve added them into the narrative to support my goal of intertextual symbolism. Warning: spoiler alerts abound beyond this point, so proceed with caution.
When Monica encounters Hi!-D and Brad for the first time during Disclosure, Starship Troopers is playing on the television in her library. While this is an intentional nod to the seminal sci-fi story, deeper connections are woven into the Subsumption Series (beyond the term “Federation”). The fascist ads, from the mind of Robert A. Heinlein, asking if the viewer “would like to know more” provided a model for the daily Public Service Announcements that Hi!-D delivers in Subsumption. But Starship Troopers wasn’t the only inspiration for these messages from the sky; I also borrowed from Orwell’s propaganda machine exemplified by the Two Minutes of Hate in 1984 (along with the real world government propaganda of Channel One News). I was mirroring how central authority uses public messaging to invade and influence citizens’ lives.
I appropriated from another sci-fi classic when creating the Experimental Chamber, called the Liberty Bell, in Brad’s Lab (where Subsumption takes place). The most obvious model for this environment was the zero-gravity Battle Room from Orson Scott Card’s classic, Ender’s Game. Like the young Ender Wiggen, Marcus Adams and the other members of the Cohort wear special suits during their training. But unlike Ender, Marcus and crew have no memory of the Sequences they completed while under the Federation’s influence. Still, the idea of a futurist training room free of gravity’s influence to prepare individuals for a pending war was a vital motivation for Subsumption.
Related to sequences, another source of literary inspiration for the series happens in the opening scene of the Subsumption when Marcus is falling from a disintegrating plane. This image was borrowed from a scene in Chuck Palahniuk’s cult favorite, Fight Club, when the story’s protagonist (spoiler alert: his split personality turns out to be the story’s antagonist) finds himself on a flight wishing for a mid-air collision. That image of a plane ripping apart was the first scene I wrote in Subsumption, and the importance of this moment (as it relates to Marcus’s journey) became clearer during revisions.
TV & Movies
People often ask me which character is my favorite, and without hesitation, I answer that it’s Antony. He’s my spirit animal (after Axel Foley and Mr. T). As is explained in Subsumption’s narrative, Antony’s “Guardians” include the creators of South Park. It should come as no surprise that their irreverent sense of humor seeped into my story. On multiple occasions, Antony utters phrases directly inspired by the children of that quiet Colorado mountain town. But beyond any one specific expression, every part of Antony’s personality was influenced by the cartoon personas from the show.
When you think of James Cameron, I doubt the 1995 film Strange Days comes to mind. But this directorial god indeed wrote that box-office bomb. Still, it was one of my favorite films (why a ~15-year-old was watching this movie is a discussion for another day); the “SQUID” technology from the story (which records a user’s cerebral cortex data) was the single most important inspiration for Tek in Subsumption. However, unlike the EEG cap used to record a user’s data to MiniDisc format in Strange Days, the Federation’s technology wirelessly captures the user’s POV (and memories) and uploads the information directly to the cloud. Despite these subtle differences, after a few decades of advancement, Mr. Cameron has proven to be a tech visionary.
While Jordan’s character is based on my real-life friend (also named Jordan, but who is tall and slim in contrast to the portly young man of Subsumption), the primary inspiration for my conspiratorial character was Mel Gibson’s portrayal of Jerry Fletcher from the 1997 film Conspiracy Theory. This fast-talking, borderline-schizophrenic man who believed he saw the world for what it really was, imprinted himself deeply into my psyche. So as I began to write the character, I often returned to that imagery. Like Jerry, Jordan is lovable. Beyond having names that both start with a J, both are ultimately vindicated by the outcomes they saw coming—even if no one believed them.
Music has played a bigger role than any of the other media formats featured in this blog. Maybe it’s because I was a musician in another life, or maybe it’s because sound has a more lasting impact on the human mind. Either way, songs have been a core source of inspiration for the Subsumption Series. For example, as an overachieving undergraduate at the University of Utah, I often played Glassjaw’s “Tip Your Bartender” through headphones as I walked between classes. I remember one such journey when I arrived early at my Creative Writing Honors course. Headphones weren’t as developed back then, so another student overheard the last few brutal bars of the song. She didn’t mask her horror at the cacophonous sound, but I loved it all the same—intuitively, I knew the song would prove to be paramount to my project and eventually, I used it as Antony’s fight song during his initial battle against Zedd in the Black Market fight scene at Nerio. I regret nothing.
Less aggressive songs have formed an equally invaluable part in the Subsumption Series. In particular, the tracks of Seven Lions have been more inspirational than any other artists to date. From the Great Divide (from which I named the concept expressed by Brad to Marcus in the final chapters of Subsumption) to the notion of “seven lions” as the group of leaders in the post-Reset human world, all of these came from listening to this talented EDM DJ. There are other examples, so I’ll simply reiterate that no other source of popular culture has had the same impact on me and my writing as this artist. Go download his songs, and enjoy.
The final example (but not the last in the long list I could create) of inspirations came indirectly to me. As a non-Mormon tween in conservative Utah during the 1990s, I was drawn to the controversial music of Nine Inch Nails. This affinity has continued to the present, and The Fragile is one of my favorite albums of all time (a love that was renewed by the use of “The Mark Has Been Made” in the vigilante justice film Man on Fire). But inspiration hit like a tsunami when my editor showed me the Polybius-themed music video for “Less Than.” It’s not an exaggeration to say that the entire story of Coverted, and Velia as a character, was born from watching that music video.
Ready to immerse yourself in the pop culture influence of the Subsumption Series? Coverted and Disclosure are available to read for free, along with the first five chapters of Subsumption. Or you can read the entire Subsumption story for free with Kindle Unlimited. Below are additional details about the inspiration behind the series …
Some Interesting Sources of Inspiration for the Subsumption Series
- R.E.M’s “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” inspired the opening scene of Disclosure
- Cat DeSpira’s investigative article about Polybius and its connection to Utah wilderness schools for troubled youth was a major source for details in Coverted and foreshadowed the suffering recently brought to light by Paris Hilton about these “tough love” schools for troubled teens
- The Ivan-GM trance remix of “Et In Terra Pax” was a big influence for several scenes in Disclosure
- While individual conspiracy theories haven’t been covered in this blog, they were central to themes for the Subsumption Series. Among the most crucial of these are the theories about Project Blue Beam
- Dr. Steven Greer’s Disclosure Project provided details about Dugway Proving Grounds and the various types of encounters with aliens
- Bob Lazar’s whistleblower activities were incorporated into Coverted, including the biometric hand scanners used at Groom Lake
- Graham Hancock’s seminal work Fingerprints of the Gods was possibly the first (and most important) book that started me down the path to creating the Subsumption Series and will appear heavily in Guardians