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In the Shadow of the Skull: Origins

People frequently want to know where an author gets their ideas. My own inspiration tends to come from things I read about or see in films and TV shows. Either I imagine myself in the scenario and think about how I would react, or I wonder, "What if this. . ?" "What about that. . ?"

Every year around Halloween, I marathon my favorite films, some of which I've watched for 20 years in a row or more. After so many viewings, my focus sometimes wanders from the plot. During one of my multiple viewings of King Kong years ago, my attention drifted to the frightened young woman being adorned with flowers at the foot of the massive gates in the moments just before Carl Denham and his crew are spotted: The Bride of Kong. I wondered who this person was. I imagined she must have been someone important in the community to be chosen for such an honor. Perhaps she was related to an important figure. More likely, she was the most beautiful girl in the village and therefore the most desirable bride. She had probably led a charmed life up to this point and anticipated a marvelous future and her pick of suitors. But her charms backfired on her when she was chosen to be sacrificed. What must this young bride have been thinking as she sat at the verge of death? What would have crossed her mind when Ann Darrow showed up? She probably thought her luck had changed again. She must have thought she was safe and free to live that wonderful life she'd hoped for after all.

Except she wasn't.

Even though she was no longer the Bride of Kong, even though she survived the ceremony, her world collapsed. Her village was destroyed in Kong's rampage; her people were trampled under his feet or crushed between his powerful teeth.

To a small population, even a handful of deaths can be devastating. If the dead are the young and virile men who are supposed to protect and provide for the community, the devastation is compounded.

Further, Kong destroyed the wall holding back the bloodthirsty monsters in the jungle, so after his initial attack on the village, the dinosaurs, giant spiders, and other beasts would be free to wander over whenever they wanted and pick off any remaining survivors. What a nightmare!

King Kong has been adapted into multiple films, and in no version have I seen any treatment of what happened to the islanders after Kong was taken away. Jeff Bridges's Jack makes a passing remark in the 1976 King Kong that in a year's time, the islanders will become "burnt-out drunks" because the wonder of Kong has been taken from their lives. Still, we don't actually see the suffering of the devastated people. We don't witness them grieving over their lost family and friends, or their lost God. What about the collapse of their way of life? What about the destabilization of their world view caused by seeing their all-powerful God-King hauled away in chains by some strange newcomers? That's the stuff of which postapocalyptic fiction is made.

And what about before the apocalypse? Just who were the people of Skull Island? How did they manage to live side-by-side with monsters? How did they serve Kong, and what did he mean to them? How did they survive from day to day on their remote island? The movies don't tell us.

Even Skull Island's position is nebulous. We're only told that it's "way West of Indonesia," placing it somewhere in the Indian Ocean. The 1933 film cast African-Americans as the islanders, but the costumes and set designs are more typical of the South Pacific than of Africa. What sort of society is this? What history does it have? What legends does it tell?

I decided I might like to address those questions and tell the story of Skull Island and the Bride of Kong--someday.

Years later, my version of that story is now my newest novel, In the Shadow of the Skull, and "someday" is December 15th, when the ebook goes on sale.

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