Sunday, April 10, 2011

Backstory: "In the Shadow of the Sphinx"

Partly to offer some extra insight into "Zero Hour," (and partly as a way to make myself blog more consistently!), I'm starting a series where I focus on the 15 stories in the book, one at a time, and share some of the story behind how they got written.  Think of it as being like the commentary on the "special features" of a DVD.  Anyway, here's the backstory on "In the Shadow of the Sphinx":
  1. Perhaps more than anything else in the Bible, the ten plagues of Egypt strike me as something that, if you really try to imagine it, would probably look like something out of a spec-fic horror movie.  As a result, that's been a theme I've revisited.  This one was inspired by the plague of boils, and two other "Zero Hour" stories ("The Watchman," "Darkest Before Dawn") were inspired by other plagues.
  2. The Hollywood connection came in when I tried to think of a story to tell around the boils.  So many movie stars' careers are built in part on their looks; what would happen if those looks were marred by boils?  The Hollywood angle grew from there.
  3. I've always been an old movie buff.  I lived with my grandparents for about 3 years when I was a kid, and I guess that's partly where it comes from.  Anyway, during that time they introduced me to the 1956 version of "The Ten  Commandments," directed by Cecil B. DeMille, and told me that DeMille had also done a silent version of it back in the 1920s.  As I was planning this story, the idea came to me that Preston Rusch should be a rival director, trying to compete directly with DeMille's second version, which is supposedly in production in the story's setting.
  4. A lot of people forget that, in the biblical account, Moses tried to use being "slow of speech and tongue" as an excuse to get out of facing Pharaoh, at which point God told him that Aaron would serve as his spokesman (Exodus 4:10-16).  It's certainly not addressed much in DeMille's movie.  I wanted to acknowledge it, and that's where the characters of Silent and Spokesman came into play.
  5. I wanted to add something to the boils besides just a skin condition.  Since I was dealing with actors and actresses, I thought it would be interesting if the boils stripped them of the masks we all wear, forcing its victims to quit putting on an act and to be real with each other.
That's the backstory for "In the Shadow of the Sphinx."  Until next time, Philippians 4:13.--SMS

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