Easter eggs, those little secrets video game designers like to include for players to find, are something I haven’t seen a lot of writers talk about. We love talking about the symbolism and the grand themes of our work, and those are important. However, the themes, symbols, and meanings that readers draw from our work is, in my opinion, more important, because that shows us what our work meant to them. But I want to talk about Easter eggs that I put in my work, little references to genre, history, and popular culture. So let’s talk about some of the eggs I placed in Liam’s Doom.
My work blurs the line between gothic mystery and urban fantasy adventure, and I reference those genres several times in my work. First off, Sam’s hometown is Butcher’s Bend, which is a reference to Jim Butcher, author of The Dresden Files series. In the first scene, Sam refers to the “Dark and Stormy Night” as a Bulwer-Lytton night in homage to the author of Paul Clifford, who began said novel with “It was a dark and stormy night…” There are other aspects of the setting that reference gothic traditions and urban fantasy literature, but you won’t see those until future novels.
Probably the most obvious gothic reference is Sam’s ex-girlfriend, Carmilla Karnstein. The Austrian vampire is my take on the titular character from Sheridan La Fanu’s 1872 novella Carmilla, which tells the tale of a lesbian vampire. As her story develops in Carmilla’s Ghost, more references to 18th and 19th century gothic fiction will occur.
I’m going to simply mention all of Destiny Grimm’s pop culture obsessions mentioned. Her Gardevoir pin from Pokemon and her playing of Animal Crossing: New Horizons were two obvious examples. I had reasons for specifying that specific Pokemon, but I’ll leave that for readers to discern. Animal Crossing, well, I played the hell out of that while I was drafting this novel. That cozy little game helped my wife and I get through the early days of the pandemic.
The owner of the B&B Sam stays at, Mr. Darby O’Gill, is named for the titular character of the classic Disney film Darby O’Gill and the Little People. That film also features a wailing banshee bringing doom to a family. Speaking of Disney, the “run from your life because cannibals are chasing us” references Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. I was watching the film while writing, so it was on my mind.
Slightly more obscure, is a reference to Princess Mombi from Return to Oz, the only movie that caused me to run out of the theater due to fear. This was the woman with the yellow ribbon around her neck. Additionally, I thought about several horror stories like “The Green Ribbon” and “The Adventure of the German Student.”
Probably one of the more interesting references is when Destiny mentions that Nick Scratch, the Devil, lost a fiddle contest to a Georgia hillbilly. Of course, this is a reference to the Charlie Daniels song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and I offer the Devil’s take on the events. Also, as a violinist, the Devil’s fiddle solo is so much more complicated and technically proficient that Johnny only wins due to plot protection.
Liam’s Doom features numerous other Eggs and references/nods to literature, folklore, and pop culture that I didn’t mention here. For me, these references help ground the story in a world with history, media, and culture. Also, it’s a way to add extra layers of meaning for readers who are “in” on the reference. If someone gets the reference, they may glean a small amount of insight into the story that can foreshadow subtly. It’s not necessary to get the references, but I think it adds to the experience.
What are your thoughts on Easter eggs in fiction?
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