Shadowbridge is vast–these first two books (with Lord Tophet coming out in August) represent a very small part of the larger place. I started working with it years back when I wrote the novelette “How Meersh the Bedeviler Lost His Toes” for Asimov’s Magazine. That was the moment when shadowpuppets took center stage for the first time (but well before Leodora was born), and I saw my way into this world. My original notion was of a world where all the adventure, commerce, and stories took place on the spans, where the world has existed for enough time that the separate cultural elements have bled together, and stories have both a familiarity and alienness as a result. If you wanted excitement, you traveled the spans. To me at that point they were the New York, the Paris, the Bangkoks and Machu Picchus of the world.
Usually I sketch characters’ portraits as I write. In this case I sketched part of one span instead–an image of London Bridge that I’d come across someplace–and it became the image I returned to when I thought about Shadowbridge.
I considered relating the tales of the seigneurs who control traffic upon the bridges much as feudal seigneurs did. I wrote stories for Leodora to perform that did not make it into the finished volume, but must now wait for another venue. I sketched, drew maps, and tried to imagine the world of Shadowbridge as Meersh saw it in his dream in that original story, from high among the clouds. I was astonished–I mean “robbed of breath” astonished–when Thomas Thiemeyer captured it exactly on the cover of this book and the next.
I have long loved M. John Harrison’s Virconium stories for the way he made that place an essential character in his tales–place not merely coloring but flavoring every story–and that was something I strove to achieve. So, too, Gormenghast, for the same reasons.
I read Jane Jacobs’ seminal work on the death and life of cities, and Jan Morris’s travel writing, including her fantasy novel Last Letters from Hav. I contemplated catalogs of imaginary places, utopias and impossible realms. I desired that Shadowbridge present a world far more vast than what’s encountered in the first volumes–perhaps so vast, so infinite that we’ll never see all of it–and that every taste will make readers wish to savor more. Maybe, if we’re lucky, the journey will forever unfold.