Third up out of our interviews with contributors to the fifth issue of Alt Hist is Micah Hyatt, author of “The Bridge”.
When you wrote “The Bridge” did you have an actual bridge in mind?
In my day job as a train conductor I cross hundreds of bridges. Last year a bridge collapsed beneath the train ahead of me and dropped a couple thousand tons of coal into a ravine. So bridges are often on my mind.
The bridge that inspired the one in the story is an old railroad bridge that spans the Missouri river. My train got stuck on it for several hours one night, and I had nothing to do but stare down into the dark water or explore what I could see of the beams and structure with my lantern. Everything was rusted beyond belief, but I found a marking that said 1924, which I assume is when the bridge was built.
Later that month, I decided to write a horror story. I had been listening to some old Johnny Cash recordings, and there was a line that got stuck in my head:
“…A place called Boulder on the wild Colorado, I slipped and fell into the wet concrete below…”
Do you think that large infrastructure projects create their own mythology?
Projects of sufficient scale become far larger than their physical counterparts – they embed themselves in the culture and are a monument to the time in which they are created. You cannot think of the pyramids without thinking of the ancient Egyptians. You cannot think of the Hoover Dam without thinking of the Great Depression, speakeasies and G-men.
On the subject of mythology, there’s quite a strong element of mythology in your story. Can you explain some more about the symbolism behind it?
Large projects tend to bring people together and create communities. This seems like a noble, beautiful and wonderful thing. But consider the Manhattan project – the American people united to do something incredible. The accomplishment would not have been possible without an entire people united in mind, will, and spirit. But the end result was an atrocity of an unimaginable scale.
I wanted “The Bridge” to seduce people with the idea of unity, but with the end result being something very evil. That’s why when Ryan is going to pitch the bridge, he keeps practicing the line, “The bridge will connect the districts”, playing on this sense of community to get the bridge completed.
Behind the scenes, there’s an ancient battle going on between uniting people for good and uniting people for evil. The tower of Babel was used because its a classic example of uniting people, and because I wanted to show the timescale.
There’s a boy at the end of the story and it’s implied he will become a great leader of people and a uniting force for good. I was specifically thinking of Martin Luther King Jr., but in the story I intentionally left out his name.
How did you get into writing?
I loved reading as a kid. One of my aunts sent me 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, King Solomon’s Mines, and Treasure Island. I read them all and in my childhood naivete I thought I could do better.
So at seven years old, I wrote the first few chapters of a story called “Sword Island”. It had lots of swords in it and was set on an island, because in my mind these were the key elements to good fiction. Of course, it was terrible.
Twenty-Two years later I am just beginning to write fiction that isn’t terrible. But swords and islands are just as awesome as they ever were.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I read about four hours a day. I love Patrick O’Brian, Cormac McCarthy, Brandon Sanderson, and Ian M. Banks.
I used to be able to play video games, but now that I have four kids…
Occasionally my wife and I find time to get in a couple hours of Borderlands 2 on PC.
Are you working on any other short stories or novels at the moment and if so can you tell us a bit more about them?
I’m writing a book called Light Swallower-Book I of The Long Council. It’s set in a world where these enormous whale-like creatures provide the main fuel source for society.
Joshua Camblin, an expeditionary army captain, is sent to eradicate the indigenous tribes that hunt the whales. Instead of wiping the tribes out, he tries to save them.
It’s 600,000 words, but I’m currently trying to split it into two books, with more (much, much more) to come later.
Titan’s Lullaby is a high-fantasy novella that follows two traveling performers.
Mira is a mythdancer, and when she dances she can pull in light and sound and transform it into hypnotic scenes from ancient tales. Her partner Bashan is a Jindosi, a race of horned-people born without vocal chords who can only communicate through musical instruments.
When the Titan entombed beneath the luxuriant mountain city of Merio begins to wake, Mira and Bashan seek to cash in by plying their trade on the wealthy, fleeing refugees.
Eating the Exhibits is a novelette set in a zoo during a fungal-zombie epidemic. When the city is evacuated, a group of workers and zoologists stay behind to care for the animals.
I’m planning on putting it up on Amazon once my wife finishes with the illustrations.
What are your ambitions as a writer?
On days where my confidence is high, I want to be the next George RR Martin and Ernest Hemingway combined.
Other days I just want to write something that won’t make me cringe, that uses active rather than passive voice when appropriate, and avoids egregious use of adverbs.
I’d like to be able to write full time, but I am content right now to be able to provide for my family and produce work that I am proud of.