On Shadows, AI and inspiration

This weekend, I flopped onto the sofa, waved my hands excitedly at my tipsy housemate, and proceeded to try to explain the Shadow Series in about thirty seconds. I got diverted at least four times by explaining the city, why it needed vigilantes, a sidetrack onto genders, a second sidetrack onto the drug and arms trades…but we sort of got there. Ish. And then I proceeded to work out what I could change.

It was the first time my housemate had really seen me do a flurry of inspiration, and I think he found it alternately amusing, terrifying and inspiring.

My default characters for Shadow tend to be male – mostly because I was a teenager when I wrote it, and inspired by a lot of crime dramas (and THIS is why representation is important, people! It breeds!) What would happen if I genderswapped everyone? Dini could be Harry – oooh, that would lead to an amazingly fun relationship if I left Mike as male, and Harry/James would be SO SWEET. Could everyone else swap? Well, sure, Matt’s pretty much the only person that I’d like to stay the same…

Can I change the politics? I’ve done the default of “gangs mostly bad”. Well, what if they needed the arms trade? What if that was in the right, that they were fighting an oppressor or something? How about the general set-up? Politics and police are the eventual aim, but I need a set-up that shows the reasons why they haven’t got a hold in this part of the city. Can I throw most of the cliché out the window?

How about setting? Again, default was a city kinda like London. How about a dystopia? Or sci-fi? What would I need to keep the ‘feel’, and to avoid the most clichéd elements of those genres? I don’t really want dystopia as the plot of Ghosts is sort of dystopia anyway, but I could do sci-fi…

Housemate: Hey, how about robots? Or AI?

Me: *waving hands excitedly* Oh my that could be AMAZING but would that work and oh wow that would change EVERYTHING-

Housemate: Make sense. For ten seconds. Possibly.

Me: What if Dini was an AI? If you’re an assassin hunting someone, how would you even know they weren’t a human? How would you even kill an AI?

That was the point Jon turned up and, having read Shadows, he got a lot more coherence out of things…although I think we became less coherent, particularly because the conversation went into split-personality AIs and devious assassination possibilities. The housemate certainly went back to his computer in despair at that point.

Anyway, the eventual result of my hand-waving and general squeaking was that I could write pretty much anything. The housemate suggested doing some short stories in the various settings, just to see what I’d enjoy and how it would work. Jon suggested doing the split-personality-AI-hunting-assassin as a short story, which would be pretty cool. I’m debating gender-swapping Dini at least, if only because a gay couple would be adorable and it would lend a really interesting aspect to the story.

I’ve got some plans for it anyway; I want to make Matt the centre, give the city a lot more personality, rewrite various sections. I want to put more danger in and make it grittier (Jon commented that on every revision, it’s got darker anyway). So I’ve got plenty of work to do – but it’s always fun to throw around possibilities, even if I don’t end up using many – or any – of them!

Author: kate

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at writingandcoe.co.uk. When she's not working, she fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.