Of all the fairy tales available, few are as unromantic as The Pied Piper of Hamelin, with its plague of rats, avaricious mayor, and the death or disappearance of the town’s children by a potentially paedophilic piper dressed in an outlandish costume and out for revenge. But wait! It’s do-able … so long as we toss in space travel, mutant space rats, and a shadowy League with the power to save or destroy the pearls of humanity strung about the galaxy.
That is the backdrop for Piper, a space age version of the Pied Piper with the added bonus of a May/September MM romance. My name is Leona, this is the first stop on Piper’s blog tour, and I am trembling in my armchair just to be here. Thank you so much for having me.
Piper’s plot and many of the details are based on the versions of the fairy tale by the Brother’s Grimm and Robert Browning, wherein a struggling community hires a piper to rescue them from a rat blight and then sends him away without paying him. The piper then teaches them an important lesson about commerce: If they do not want to pay him, he will extract his due another way.
There are a few minor differences. Instead of a town, Piper has a space station. Instead of a mayor, a Station Commander. The piper, Atmosphere, is not a lone traveller, but part of a League. This League is responsible for protecting humankind from the ever-present threat of rats that have adapted to thrive in the hostile environments of space ships and stations. On the side, the pipers put on glam rock concerts and support a thriving community of fan clubs. Where the fairy tale does not even attempt to explain how music entrances the rats and children, Piper explains the method at great length, delving into the ramifications of a technology that can control minds.
Most importantly, where the Pied Piper of Hamelin mentions nothing of love, Piper revolves around the relationship between Atmosphere and Jacob Tucker, son of the Commander and a rewritten version of the “one little lame boy” who survives the wrath of the piper for no other reason than that he cannot dance to the tune.
So, why write a fairy tale romance? I adore fairy tales. The grimmer, the better. There’s always someone dying or meeting a terrible fate because they did something stupid. It’s delicious and so very different from modern fantasy.
I chose the Pied Piper first and foremost because it seemed like a terrible idea for a romance. Where would you even put it in? Of all the tales out there, I think it’s the most gruesome based on body count alone. Terry Pratchett does a fantastic job in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, with a cute relationship between a boy piper and a town girl. I wanted something directly related to the tale, though, with a character who is specifically mentioned in the original. That left me with the mayor, his advisors, or a young person with a mobility disability. Enter the May/September and a whole slough of other issues that could be addressed within the narrative.
Too soon, Atmosphere finished one tale and didn’t immediately launch into another. He performed his usual check on Starlight, who had turned onto her other side and curled into a tight ball, then said, “I’m getting carried away. My apologies, Jacob.”
“It’s all right.” Jake slouched, anticipating his impending dismissal. “I enjoy listening to you.”
“And I enjoy talking, but I’m sure you came up here to do more than listen.”
“I …” Jake’s initial purpose seemed so far away, but, as Atmosphere brought the interview back on course, he realized it might have been his only chance to ask. He rummaged in the chaos that Atmosphere had made of his mind for the exact wording he had settled on earlier: an innocuous start that would hopefully lead to a well-balanced and convincing argument. “I’m doing some research and I need your help.”
“Let me guess. Research on pipers? No. Research on me. And you want to experiment.” Atmosphere’s perfect white teeth flashed. In a smooth movement, he closed the space between them. “I’ve never been happier to partake of science.”
Another reason for the choice was the challenge of making the piper a sympathetic character. Granted, he was taken advantage of in the tale, but who murders children just because people don’t make their payments? Crazy people, that’s who. Well then, Atmosphere would need to be a little bit unstable, too, which would be accompanied by another bushel of issues.
After some thought and extrapolation, Piper almost wrote itself while I tried to fill in the gaps to explain what happened and why, and put it into the framework of a romantic narrative. I tried to stay true to the details in the original tale, with some exceptions here and there, and I am excited to know how I did. I’ll be giving away a copy of Piper, either electronic or print format, at the end of this blog tour. Every comment on this and the other four posts will be another entry into the draw. I will write them onto little pieces of paper and put them into a legitimate top hat, pull one out on September 15, and email the winner.
Come and join me for stop number two at It’s Raining Men [link: http://rainingmenamen.blogspot.ca%5D, where I will regale you with my thoughts on writing a character with a mobility disability opposite a character with inhuman power and very human frailties.