Inspiration (or theft)

The five of you who’ve read Genius Loci will know all about Pinky and Perky the two terraforming machines that play a small but crucial role in the plot. They’re also a really classic example of subconscious idea theft and it’s taken me a while to pin down where they came from. Now the image of the implacable building machine came from numerous sources not least the logging, spider, walking thing from an episode of Thunderbirds but the indelible idea – a machine building in a straight line across alien continents – came from a book I never owned and never actually read. At least not all the way through.

The beauty of the modern internet age is that you can google a series of vague recollections from your childhood and discover that that image comes from Planet Story, written by Harry Harrison and illustrated by Jim Burns. I think it belonged to the father of one of my schoolfriend’s and I don’t believe I ever read it all the way through. Still something must have stuck.

This is an illustration of just one inspiration for just one element of just one novel. It takes literally hundreds, if not thousands, of ideas to construct the world of your story and this is why whenever somebody asks a writer – ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ They tend to give them a blank look.