My writing tends to take inspiration from myth and legend. While Atlantis has been the source of lots of sci-fi and fantasy literature, when I read Plato’s original account, it struck me as an open canvas. The story’s characters – what interests me the most – are not much more than seating cards at a dinner party. Plato gave them exotic names like Cleito and Elassippos, but they don’t interact or do much in the story. The familiar ones Poseidon and Atlas are curiously off-message for Greek mythology. Who knew Poseidon settled down on an island with a mortal girl and raised five sets of identical twin sons? Atlas is supposed to be a titan holding up the world, not Poseidon’s son who has a twin with the odd name of Gadir. There was a lot of opportunity for me to flesh out these characters, and add some new ones who could have been more important in Atlantis’ history than Plato realized, or wanted to admit.
Something that also inspired me from Plato’s account, not related at all to Atlantis actually, is the setting where the storytelling takes place. It’s a legend recounted by philosophers during a boys panegyris, where the sons of noblemen do manly things like compete in poetry readings. That was a nice little portkey that transported me into a great big queer epic. I wanted two boys to fall in love in Atlantis, and I wanted that love story to be a major narrative drive. To keep with an epic sensibility, I created a fantastical adventure.
I like to think my novel is more about people than the fantasy that surrounds them, and particularly people who are on the fringes of traditional legends, or absent from them completely. My very favorite author who writes in that vein is Gregory Maguire. In his Wicked series, he took villainized or marginalized characters like The Wicked Witch of the West and the Cowardly Lion and turned them into complex characters. For me, those characters were more relatable heroes than the ones in the original story.
Another thing about Plato’s tale of Atlantis is that it’s not much more than a morals lesson. The legendary empire is punished by the gods for hubris. It’s really more a biblical-style tale of reproach, like Noah and the Flood, than a full-fledged Greek myth. The anti-authority skeptic in me wanted to turn that part of the story on its head.
In that sense, The Seventh Pleiade is a vindication of lost Atlantis. Its people were flawed, like all of us, and they suffered a terrible tragedy. I wanted to bring out the pathos in that. Hopefully I wrote a novel that brings complexity and intrigue to a story people think they know.