Guest Blog by Vlad-Andrei Cucu
‘Man or woman? Black or white? Omnivore or vegetarian? All irrelevant now. They were taller than anyone on the street. Their soft and round flesh is hard and pointed steel. The last remnants of their face are two eyes, bright red light bulbs. They were stripped of human needs. They are now just another combat drone with a confusing code to tell them apart, XR1251T, codename "ElectroBody".’
This specific paragraph, albeit slightly awkward in its wording, is part of the seed that would later grow into the proper 'Iron Fox in the Marble City' story. Back in 2019, I took a class in creative writing at the university in Limerick, Ireland. Part of our assignment for the class was to write four different texts, and after writing mostly comedic stories for the first three, like a parody of ‘Dirty Harry’ style vigilante cops, or plot about Santa Claus meeting Dracula, I decided to finish off with a slightly more dramatic cyberpunk story, from which this paragraph came from.
The full title was ‘Watch out! It’s ElectroBody’, and the plot was partially similar to the story I submitted to the ‘Multispecies City’ anthology, albeit presented from an outside point of view. However, I did not initially intend for the submission piece to end up as a sort of sequel, but instead it was an idea that developed along.
When I first heard of the call for stories, I did not have any experience with the solarpunk genre, much less writing for it, but I wouldn’t end up anywhere without taking risks in art. So I wrote an initial draft while following some examples provided by Youtube videos and blog posts about solarpunk. The initial draft was terrible, bland and generally felt like it was the result of a corporate run computer told to generate a solarpunk plot. At the time, I held by it, but slowly realized how shallow it came across, so I scrapped it, but not without retaining some aspects.
The major one would be the setting, as I initially chose Japan due to its frequent association with the cyberpunk genre, to which solarpunk was the antithesis. The dome garden in the story and the plot point of its protection were also there since this first draft. After some reconsidering, I was suggested by a friend who read both the first draft and the ElectroBody story to potentially combine the two. Surprisingly for a story set in Japan written from a western perspective, the only influence from anime and manga that came to mind was the visual design of Kithound, which I loosely based on the character Briareos Hecatonchires from the cyberpunk manga AppleSeed. I’ve never actually read AppleSeed so it didn’t carry any significant meaning, just thought it was a very visually striking design to work with. Of course, people are always invited to come up with their own imaginative designs while reading.
From that point on, everything clicked into motion smoothly. I thought it would be a good idea to use an-ElectroBody like character, who would later become Kithound, as while they represented a lot of cyberpunk tropes that would contrast against the setting, it would also fit under the theme of multispecies in the anthology as the degree of technology implanted into such a person was so severe and drastic that the change essentially turned them into a new type of lifeform that would be neither machine or human, but instead a new species.
Initially, it was going to be a standalone setting, before deciding to reuse the entire universe so I could add some nods to the original story, even if they might come across more as personal in-jokes, partially because it’s fun, but also because it’s interesting way of making the world sound bigger and more lively outside of the main narrative. This is also the reason why some things are not completely elaborated on, instead leaving a lot of ambiguity for the reader to imagine for themselves.
The other aspect I retained was the main antagonist and their plan. Initially, the plot was going to slightly sillier and have more of a pulp comic vibe, with the major villain being a character called Baron Gold Blood, and the sub-plot of the captured animals was originally going to be the main focus that lead to the action-packed finale. Eventually Gold Blood got separated into the two characters of Mrs. Gulblut and Capital C, and everyone else was new to the second version.
Of course, it didn’t just stop there. Something I learned about genre writing after being done with the new draft and during the editing phase was that an interesting way of writing is to start off by incorporating as many cliches and genre conventions as possible in an initial draft, and then look for the more generic or bland ones and see how they are integrated. Depending on whether they might be irrelevant or not, I either cut them out completely or tried to implement them in a more subtle way. One such instance was describing the city of Tokyo itself by directly referencing art nouveau in Kithound’s perspective, but later edited it down to actually describing those art nouveau elements.
In the end, I’m very happy with how the result came to be, and I’m thankful for anyone that encouraged me with writing the plot, and Sarena Ulibarri and everyone else from World Weaver Press for the advice on editing the story, and I hope it proves to be an enjoyable read.
Vlad-Andrei Cucu, by day an average student, by night an average student that expresses himself through drawing, indie game making, and more recently writing. Trained in the methods of anarchism in Romania’s mountains, and the art of creative writing in Ireland, he is eager to let out some weird, but interesting transhumanist ideas.
World Weaver Press
Publishing fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction.