For the uninitiated, Macgufins are a literary device that acts as a sort of suspended disbelief in a novel.
Dilithium crystals and warp drives are Star Trek's MacGuffin, and for that matter their artificial gravity. Thor's hammer is a MacGuffin. Excaliber is a MacGuffin. The Force is a MacGuffin. They hold the world together by making you believe something that isn't true or possible about the world the story takes place in.
When I began even thinking of the Legends of Pyrerock, I knew I was going to have a MacGuffin, and it was going to be just as integral to the story itself as the character. I wanted a thing that could almost act on its own. something that would make certain people evil, and certain people, good. But most importantly I didn't want to have a Macguffin for its own sake.
Pyrerock is a fictional Meteorite crystal that collects energy mostly from the sun and discharges it when struck or vibrated. Stike it too hard though and it explodes. Raw crystals are handled like the Bag of Sand and Idol that Indiana Jones held in the scene with the boulder. Also MacGuffins. Pyrerock produces an off-gas when it expels its stored energy that is light pink and smokey like the clouds during a red sunrise. This gas is much lighter than air and rises fast, giving the world the necessary technology for airships. Everyone's favourite Steampunk trope.
It also does things to people. When supercharged or heated it turns humans and other living creatures into living solar-powered monsters if they touch it. The crystal bonds with organic matter and lets the person or animal absorb energy and expel it at will. For more tension, I decided the transformation also affects the size of the subject and also gives them a narcotic-like need for sunlight or discharged crystal energy.
We'll get into the pseudo-culture that spawns from this transformation later.
The reason I decided on Pyrerock is that I needed a way to make steampunk believable. I love the steampunk aesthetic and setting but it's always in the category of plausible pasts or entirely fictional worlds. There are never any plausible steampunk futures. There is also a subtle inclusion of vampires and other pseudo humans as the baddies in these stories. an underlying grain of transhumanism. Of people becoming something else.
What I wanted to do was take the reason for the steampunk world and marry it to the transhumanism so prevalent in steampunk worlds, so they couldn't be separated without conflict. To take the airships and make them almost dependent on the monsters, if only or even by what made both possible.
Then the hero couldn't just kill the monsters then. He would need to solve the problem of a world where MacGuffins are real. He would need to come to terms with the impossibility of the Macguffin in the first place and where he landed would be a place where that line between good and evil, monster and man would be stark and troubling. No idealistic ending, but no cliche conflict either.
I hope it does the trick.
This is the first in a long series of blog posts I hope to do on all my future books. why hoard all the un of world-building, amiright?