First, three questions from an anonymous person, asking questions of the characters themselves!
Q: To Betty and Li: Do you think you two will ever get along? I mean snakes love warm things and cats ARE warm. you two could just share a shaft of sunlight or something! 🙂
Li Xue Zi: I will confess, it may be difficult. Cats have a rather instinctive reaction to snakes, as you may know if you’ve ever watched those videos with the cucumbers. I do not hold any particular grudges against Betty, but… I cannot help but feel a little angry that she could not save either Randall or Oliver Creed.
Betty: That snake kissed my human, and is oozing the urge to mate with him. I’m going to make her into boots someday. Him. Damn snakes.
And I am NOT afraid of snakes.
Q: To Horace: What do you do for fun? Say on a day with no responsibilities? see a movie? play video games? model building? Vacuum your cat?
Before I met Betty, usually I’d just surf the net, talk with people on chatrooms, and complain about how I should be doing something productive with my life, with no idea of what that is. I’d go out for walks occasionally, but otherwise, I didn’t do much of anything. Work being all-consuming didn’t help that.
Since then… well, I’ve been trying to find a good martial arts dojo, though I can’t really afford one. I’ve been trying to do more running, spend as much of my free time reading up on the occult, try to… y’know. Be better next time.
Q: To Dane: Have you tried getting info about nasty supernatural things weaknesses from Betty?
I have. The answer is almost always ‘claw it to death’.
She’s an amazing protector, a naturally skilled fighter, and a great hunter. But Horace is the one who’s usually got access to sources I wouldn’t otherwise have, and the friends to tell him which are good information and which aren’t. Betty might remember something if you jog your memory, but that sort of thing doesn’t matter much to her.
Next, we have some questions from van den Berg.
Q: In your setting most people are unaware about the dangers and wonders of their world. How many humans still deal with things like them. Will that ever change?
A: Generally speaking, the supernatural is not very well known, but it is not completely hidden from human authorities. As we’ve seen, the city of New York at least has some acknowledgement of weird shit going on. But the main issue here is that the supernatural is not a monolithic society. Someone might know about cults and alien gods, and have no idea of the existence of the Horsemen, or of the smaller supernatural communities. There’s a lot going on in this setting, and while it all is broadly interconnected, few people have a complete view of everything that’s happening. But this will change. The reason most people are unaware of the dangers of the world is because the dangers have been hibernating. It’s been the better part of a century with magic and the wild things of the world left out of the limelight. But with the destruction of Zion, they’ve begun to return. That’s why Betty went quiescent in the 70s. That’s why the Order of Set seemed to fall apart. That’s why the artifacts lost their power. That’s why Phoebe went into hibernation. And that’s why they’re reviving.
Q: When Nash was thrown into Hades Pearl (or Promethea) was already saved. How did that work? Some sort of time travel?
A: Yes. Tartarus exists outside of the normal flow of time, unlike the rest of Hades. There is a very good reason people don’t use time travel regularly, though. Among other things, it’s not reliable.
Q: In your setting, supernatural beings are formed by beliefs about them. How do these beings change if belief changes? And what are the limits of their powers and what they can be? Are there still some general laws of nature like relativity and the like that such a being is bound by, or can they create things out of nothing and go faster then light?
A: Generally speaking, the beliefs of humanity are a very powerful impulse on their behavior, and the way they appear. They have a great deal of influence on these supernatural beings, but it can be resisted to one degree or another.
On the question of their limits, many could probably cheat around those limits, if not necessarily break them outright. Is it breaking the speed of light if a supernatural creature teleports from the earth to the moon instantaneously, without crossing the intervening space- Or is it simply an Einstein-Rrosen bridge? Certainly I’d be at a loss to explain through physics how Nergal managed to transform the moon into a second sun. Let’s just say that the laws of physics apply unless otherwise stated. But nobody’s ever met a truly omnipotent god.
Q: In your stories there is always a great danger, or other problem. Would you ever write something more lighthearted in the same setting? Like showing how these supernaturals behave when there is no trouble. Not saying what you are doing is wrong in any way, just asking.
A: If there’s a call for it, certainly! This seems more suited to a short story or something along those lines, but it’d certainly be fun to write something light-hearted or slice-of-life with the characters. I’ve been considering putting together a Patreon, where among other things, I’d take suggestions for short stories that would take place in Hell’s Kitchen Sink that would run concurrently with the main storylines. That seems an ideal place for them.
Q: Would you mind fanart/fanfiction about your setting? And if you would allow them are there any preferences or requirements you would like people to follow?
A: I honestly think there is no more flattering show of love than fanart/fanfiction about the setting. If someone wanted to do it, the only thing I’d ask would be for them to approach me so I can offer suggestions and worldbuilding information they might need. And I want to be clear: I don’t care whether you think you’re good or not. If my work interests you enough that you’d want to make something out of it… That’s awesome.
Some general information
This is just me sort of tooting my own horn and putting up some annotations, but they’re things I think might be interesting to people, to give them an idea of my thought processes…
One of my favorite touches is Li Xue Zi. His name can be translated as ‘strong snow child (masculine)’, which was an early hint of his true nature- That is, being a guy. A somewhat less subtle hint is the fact that Randall refers to the snake as a male like half a dozen times in the chapter Horace Whisperer. That was me taking advantage of the fact that Li Xue Zi had not been introduced as a person yet; The intention being that the reader will remember that there was an albino snake and may make the connection, but won’t remember the fact that the snake was introduced as male. It seems to have worked!
Phoebe- And everything she does in the story- was actually added after I’d written the first three chapters. I was writing Catfished as a possible novel to publish, and talked with an agent who suggested that around 90,000 would be a good round number to aim for in length; I added the additional arc which revolved around Phoebe, and it wound up being perfect for the story. One of the benefits of writing by the seat of my pants. And she wound up fitting in perfectly, which just goes to show that as long as you leave a space while writing, it’s okay to make changes.
You’ll note that I don’t like to kill people off. Mooks dying, main characters dying, I don’t like to do that without really good reason. Betty is, in many ways, probably the ‘darkest’ protagonist in these stories- Which is why she’s teamed up with Horace, of course. After thousands of years of protecting humanity, Betty can get pretty callous, plus she’s a cat, the most murderous of all things. When she’s around, there’s a much greater danger of people dying. Randall, Phoebe, the Deacon, the rat-face cultists… We’ll see how that goes in the future. You have to let characters die sometimes, or readers get complacent and won’t feel tension in moments of danger. Of course, there are other ways to provide tension which I greatly prefer, but still.
Randall, for his part, was one of my self-imposed challenges- Writing a character who comes across at first as a complete monster, but who nonetheless is a hero. I sometimes think of characters in the terms of tarot, and in those terms, Randall represents the Sun- The dawning of hope, the proof that men can wield the power of gods without being consumed, the hero who saved the world. If he hadn’t withdrawn the plague, a lot of people across the world would have died pretty horribly. If he’d just been able to let go of his grudge, he could’ve been one of the great heroes of the setting. For better or for worse, he’s going to stand out as a symbol for a lot of people who think they know best in future stories.
Horace is, in many ways, a Support character. He is, in his own way, incredibly powerful. But he can’t really appreciate that on his own, because he has no personal control over his power. He has to rely on those around him to use the power he gives them responsibly. Nonetheless, he can make a difference by inspiring others, appealing to their better natures, and that’s why most of the things he’s surrounded by are basically pets. And you’ll note that after a few weeks study, and with the help of a homicidal apartment goddess, he was capable of healing that, while seemingly small, was in some ways more powerful than anything gods or monsters could manage in A Serpent in Zion. That’s important. Of all three main characters I’ve written for Hell’s Kitchen Sink, he has by far the most in-born talent, but he also has explored it the least. For now, he has too much to lose to take serious risks for the sake of power. When people start threatening the things he loves, that’s when it’s likely to get messy.
Comedy-wise, I think there are two paths you can take. You can have serious characters in a silly world, or silly characters in a serious world. I like the latter. The situations are terrible and Lovecraftian, and people fight that with humor. Though I will confess that I really enjoyed the pun that killed Randall. In this sense, I took a lot of my inspiration from this story for Ghostbusters, which I always thought was a fantastic example of horror comedy by making the comedy come from how characters react to the situations, rather than the situations themselves. That movie’s premise was pretty terrifyingly fucked up in absence of the comedic behavior of the characters.
You may also notice the change from third person to first person. Chances are probably pretty good that I’ll generally stick with first person in the future, but it’s fun to change them around. Third person feels more appropriate for those who are trapped in despair or otherwise depersonalized somewhat. I’ll have to think about how to use that for stories properly in the future, but Nash is probably going to be a third-person kind of guy whenever he shows up…