2% of the world’s population can see monsters. In the US, these people call themselves The Powered, and with the Sight, organized themselves to protect the Non-Powered Citizens (NPC’s) fro threats they can’t see.
Wow, this series and that tagline have come a long way from Mama Ray, Fish, and Anna traveling the US hunting each state’s monster.
You didn’t know each state has a monster… I didn’t either until I found the map.
I was working through the Allazar Universe with it’s lush and dense backstory, and realizing that I had epic fantasy ideas with the heart of a short story writer. To write the Allazar novels the way they should have been written would require Brandon Sanderson sized books (you know, those 500K plus books that have an index and several maps? The kind that you will lose several nights reading if you weren’t too careful?).
I love reading those. I do not have the endurance to write them.
I remember sitting down with my friend Mike, a writer and publisher, and we hashed out what was wrong with Allazar.
- The concepts (a matriarchal society, 5 magic systems, a dark magic system, 5 different cultures – all of them ranging from medieval serfdom to high tech megacities) needed a lot of introduction for readers to get, and a 30-50K book was not enough space to do that.
- There was never an intro character that could bring the reader into the world with them.
- It wasn’t fun.
After that talk, I went back to the drawing board, quite literally with a blank sheet of paper and started again.
What do I love writing about? How could I introduce that in a relatable way?
I love writing about monsters. The flagship characters in Allazar were Micah Leigh, a creature expert, and Amani Phallo, a sentient plant expert. I didn’t want to move them to a new universe, so I need new characters.
So I created a family, the LaCoures, mother Mama Ray, and her daughters Fish and Anna. Their aim was simple – drive fast, sleek cars and trucks around the country, and hunt monsters.
The first thing I need to find out was if there was a monster to hunt in each state. It took 5 seconds to find the answer to that question and this map by Hog Island Press.
Now that I have an area that folks can relate to (who isn’t familiar with the basic concept of the US?) and a clear primary goal (hunt monsters, make money and drive fast cars), I just needed to create a world around them.
That was the next issue, or rather a group of issues:
- I didn’t want to commit to 50 books in one shot – I wasn’t even sure that I could come up with that many engaging stories.
- The US is not a single country so much as a collection of regions, with their own cultures, customs, dialects, and flora and fauna ecosystems.
- I had a sense that I should combine them in some kind of way, but I couldn’t pin down what that should look like.
There’s a quick and easy solution to facing hard questions in my world – place it down and read something.
This something this time was the Bubba the Monster Hunter series by John G Hartness. It’s great light fun along the lines of what I wanted to write, with an array of colorful characters and that country flavor I grew up around.
I forget the name of the story I was listening to, but Bubba identified himself as the “Monster Hunter for the Georgia, South Carolina region.” That stuck with me. He was a monster hunter responsible for a static area and met other hunters from other regions. That shouldn’ve been mind-blowing for me, but I accept that it was and gave myself the task of looking at the US by its regions.
I printed out a map of the US and started drawing lines:
I named the areas (except for Motortown Monsters, which is now simply Motortown, the names haven’t changed). I started thinking about each region as it’s own state with a shadow government that only regulated monster hunters.
Who would lead the monster hunters? How were they organized? I figured that whoever led them had to have a great deal of power or knew how to harness and control that power. A wizard or a mage or a –
“Among the Tucano people, a sophisticated system exists for environmental resources management and for avoiding resource depletion through overhunting. This system is conceptualized mythologically and symbolically by the belief that breaking hunting restrictions may cause illness. As the primary teacher of tribal symbolism, the shaman may have a leading role in this ecological management, actively restricting hunting and fishing. The shaman is able to “release” game animals, or their souls, from their hidden abodes. The Piaroa people have ecological concerns related to shamanism. Among the Inuit, shamans fetch the souls of game from remote places, or soul travel to ask for game from mythological beings like the Sea Woman. ”
Shaman (I read of LOT of Wikipedia, y’all).
I let that tumble in my mind a while.
A state led by a Shaman. A Shaman State (oh, I like that…).
The Shaman States of America.
That was my universe.
This is my universe.
And I am so glad that you are here!