This one started out as a riff in my head on Les Daniels' movie starring Halle Berry. No, I don't mean plot-wise, just title-wise. I always loved that title, always wanted to use it somewhere, where it makes some kind of sense, and... oh, well, here we are, then.
Plot-wise, this chapter owes an awful lot to good, old-fashioned decadence, primarily that of the European 18th century. And when it comes to that, what better example than that of Marie Antoinette, eh? And no, not the Sofia Copola movie, which still makes me shudder a lot, I'm talking about the actual person. Also a major influence, especially in the way Nichole starts to reveal herself here, as a maniuplative, scheming witch, was the Russian Tsarina Katherine The Great. Read an awful lot about those two powerful women and their courts while preparing to write this bit, and must admit that of the two Katherine The Great is definietely the one I would have preferred to meet (and mate)... although the biggest influence of the Tsarina can be found in the previous chapter.
In a way, the Smoking Mermaids' Dreams sequence in that one was almost entirely based on the notion that Katherine The Great had her own hidden room that was almost entirely devoted to sex. Furniture. Tapestry. All showing sexual arousal. Like I said, who wouldn't meet and mate with that woman, eh?
Now, obviously I couldn't go all-out in a book like Wizard, so I decided to write a sequence that was all about sex, all about arousal, but never actually make it about sex itself... let the dirty minds of the reader do the rest (the reader is your friend, he or she sometimes does all the heavy lifting for you, if you give him or her the right idea).
The ball scenes here were also a conscious rejection of those moments in high fantasy, where the evil forces gather and... well, they gather a lot, it seems all they ever do is gathering, so what would such a gathering be like, I thought?
I settled on the notion of a ball, and filled it with little tidbits that evoke fetish balls, frat parties and all-around debauchery. The entire chapter is based on the notion of perversion, again showing the creatures to be somewhat less than wholesome, to bring it home that (a) they shouldn't be like that and (b) they have started to enjoy being like that.
In a society that decadent, I thought, the notion that one of my chorus trolls, Lottabutt, would be considered to be a total pervert, because he actually finds humans... attractive is only one of the layers I put in, mainly because I could contrast it with the revelation of Isaac (unintentionally as it may be) by the drunken satyr.
And all over sudden, we know that Isaac is God.
Now, not The God, obviously, but here we start to see the second great theme of the book, and one that will bring us to the end.
We are in the middle of Revelations.
Oh dear. When did that happen? Actually, the seeds for it were there right from the start, as Hope tells Isaac when he comes through the tunnel in a blaze of burning light, No Angel. But no man either. What are you, then?
And it was further explored in the sequence set in Hope's church hideout (which is incidentally at St. Marks, that was my little private joke to a girl I once met in Manhattan right outside that church), as Hope tells Isaac that It's a good name. It's an old name, before she wonders about the light of god, that it must have been that what she saw, the light of hope that burns brightly.
Only that I took that theme of Revelations and made it a bit more manageable, scaled it down a bit. Instead of looking upwards to God and wonder how our final days will be, I turned it around and had God come home, for Isaac is nothing less to those creatures.
I didn't want to be like this, cries the satyr, I was supposed to be better. I was supposed to be good! And wouldn't we react in pretty much the same way if and when confronted with our creator, especially when we were, uh, not quite as well-adjusted as we thought we would be?
A lot of the scenes in this chapter play off each other, especially the intercutting between Nichole's chat with the Nymph Queen, where I put in the fight between Lottabutt and Guildenfang regarding the former's perversion. This entire scene, incidentally, came to me – in terms of structure – because of what I still consider to be the best written movie in modern history (and you may laugh now): Shaun of the Dead.
In said movie, the opening sequence, in which we see Simon Pegg argue with his girlfriend, only to have a literal "translation" of what they are dancing around to be provided by Nick Frost... provided the foundation for my scene, so hats off to Edgar Wright, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg for that. Couldn't have done it without you, chaps. And if Edgar Wright has nothing better to do... let me raise my hand and nominate him the director of any potential movie.
THE EVE OF DESTRUCTION
Now, this was one of my clever moments that nobody else, neither the artist nor the publisher understood. I forgive the artist, because English isn't his first language, and sometimes the subtleties of wordplay eluded him completely (which is the reason that in the book there is a scene in which you see an old coin as Bonaventura talks about his daughter as The Eve of Destruction, and if you have no idea why that coin is there, it wasn't supposed to be there, I simply wrote around it when the art came back to me, because writing around art doesn't cost you as much time as explaining again why that doesn't make sense, and have new art produced. But I bet you wondered...)
The Eve of Destruction as a chapter title was based in part of the song of the same name by Barry McGuire, one of the seminal protest songs of the 1960s. And again I went for the double meaning that was provided for me here, for eve obviously stands for evening, or as my good buddy Billy Shakespeare would call it, the St. Crispin's moment
In the use of religious themes that are part of the book, though, Eve is also the woman who not only is the mother of all mankind, but also the woman who had us get kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Oh, those wicked women, eh?
Naming Nichole like that served as a further reminder of what she was all about, death, decadence and destruction... and perhaps a new age of wild magic that would spread from the Magic Kingdom to the rest of the world.
The chapter title is also there to reinforce the notion that shit's going to get really bad, real soon. Outside Manhattan, you have the military forces gathering, inside Manhattan you have Isaac starting to live up to his responsibilities, and Hope? Hope has decided to go down fighting, if that's what it takes. I don't care what he says. We're going to save him. We're going to save everybody!
The Eve of Destruction, indeed.
Or, as Barry McGuire wrote...
Don’t you understand what I’m tryin’ to sayCan’t you feel the fears I’m feelin’ today?If the button is pushed, there’s no runnin’ awayThere’ll be no one to save, with the world in a graveTake a look around you boyIt’s bound to scare you boy
And you tell meOver and over and over again, my friendAh, you don’t believeWe’re on the eveof destruction