Continuing my series on inspiration and influences for my novels, in this post I am taking a look at the ideas behind my George Hughes science fiction adventure trilogy, which comprises (in reading order) George goes to Mars, George goes to Titan and George goes to Neptune.
The original idea for this series came from an article I once read online, about how various celebrities had bought plots of land on the moon to build homes there in case it was ever colonised. The person they bought the land from had made a claim with the US Land and Registry office on the entire surface of the moon, which apparently is legally binding (not sure how exactly, as I don’t see how this takes into account the laws of other nations).
The George Hughes series are mysterious, action-packed space stories aimed at the young and young at heart. Each story is a stand-alone adventure, but they do follow on from one another as well. They are not just for children either. Amid the excitement, humour and thrills, I touch on everything from murderous religious fundamentalism to sexual equality, civil rights, slavery as well as more metaphysical elements.
Here are five key influences on the stories:
The Alex Rider series (Anthony Horowitz) – Because so much science fiction literature is more grown-up and serious in nature, I wanted to write something that wasn’t Asimov or Herbert, but more of an unashamed thrill ride that could be enjoyed by all the family. The action packed tone in the George Hughes trilogy very much takes its cue from Horowitz’s brilliant teen spy series. The Alex Rider books particularly impress me because they are well researched and detailed, whilst also being completely non-patronising with adversaries as dangerous as anything in James Bond. In the George Hughes books, I have included a lot of accurate detail on the planets George visits, as well as some properly ruthless villains.
Flash Gordon (Alex Raymond) – The thrills of the original Alex Raymond Flash Gordon comics were another key influence. I wanted each novel to have perilous narrow escapes of the kind that occur so brilliantly in the panels of that seminal publication that later went on to become the Buster Crabbe Saturday matinee serials of the 1940s, the TV animated feature and series, and of course the glorious (if overly spoofy) 1980 film.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl) – The extreme poverty George and his adoptive parents find themselves in at the start of George goes to Mars is akin to the extreme poverty endured by Charlie Bucket and his multiple relatives at the start of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Despite the science fiction setting, I wanted to create a similar, rags-to-riches sense of fairy tale in the way George suddenly comes into his inheritance.
Artemis Fowl (Eoin Colfer) – The mysterious character of Giles, who acts as a protector of sorts for George, draws a certain inspiration from the character of Butler in the Artemis Fowl series. The relationship between Artemis and Butler is also not unlike the relationship between Giles and George, at least to begin with. But of course, over the course of the George Hughes novels, that relationship evolves in rather different ways.
Explorers on the Moon (Herge) – There is a sequence in this comic where Tintin, Captain Haddock and Snowy explore a cave on the moon, which directly inspired the cave exploration sequence in George goes to Mars. Obviously the situation and the outcome are very different, but on a purely visual level this inspired my imagination. The idea of exploring caves on another world is oddly thrilling, and I always wanted it to lead onto a more profound discovery. Of course, in George goes to Mars that is exactly what does happen, though I wouldn’t dream of spoiling that here…