History of Black Womb 3

Black Womb, 2007, Matthew LeDrew
Black Womb, 2007, Matthew LeDrew

When we last left our hero (sarcasm) he was just beginning to pen the first Black Womb novel.

I’d like to keep in mind that I was never intending, at this point, to write a series… Or even a novel, for that matter. No, I was just writing, and I can’t stress enough how important it is to just do that… For enjoyment.

That said, these posts aren’t a writing process series… That’s what the “My Writing Process” posts are for. This is the how and why of Black Womb, and I’m going to try and articulate where the inspiration for each element of the story came from.

Let’s get this out of the way: everything comes from somewhere. There is no magical Muse that puts random thoughts in your head, it all comes from somewhere. In On Writing, Stephen King talked about how his first book, Carrie, was inspired by two thoughts (telepathic phenomenon and the memory of a poor girl from high school) coming together. That’s fine. Two ideas merging to create something new is what life and procreation is all about, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Just make sure it’s not blatantly plagiarism. Taking one small element from another source is one thing, taking everything from that source is quite another.

Okay, so now that we’ve admitted that everything comes from somewhere, let’s talk about where everything came from. It sometimes seems as thought all my readers have their theories, but they’re typically just… Wrong. So here’s the truth to set it straight.

The Xander Years
The Xander Years

Names: This is a big bone of contention for some, who have noticed coincidental patterns in the names. Xander is a big one, because there are so few fictional characters named it that it’s easy to see the strings as it were. So, for the record, yes it was inspired by the Buffy character. However, in my defense, while I eventually became an avid fan of Joss Whedon I wasn’t at the time. I had named the character in my previous stories and liked it because someone had told me it meant “hero of the people” and I thought that fit well, so I wanted to use it again but also didn’t want to be repetitive, so I was trying to find some other permeation of it. Someone had given me a novel called “The Xander Years” assuming I was a Buffy fan. It was just a novelization of a few episodes, but when I started reading it I quickly discovered that Xander was short for Alexander and adopted it. That simple.

Harris is Mike’s last name and Xander’s last name from Buffy, but that’s innocent as well. There was a politician here in Newfoundland and the time named Mike Harris. I already had Mike’s first name and when trying to come up with the second name that one just popped in. It wasn’t until years later that someone pointed it out and I realized where I’d gotten it from that I recognized what I’d done, and laughed tremendously.

Similar story with Sara’s name. I was wondering what went good with Alex and kept going “Alex and… Alex and…” and the name Sara kept popping in, so I used it. Didn’t realize until after that my cousins were named Alex and Sarah (both girls) and that’s typically how we referred to them… That’s why it sounded so right together. Sarah has since said she doesn’t mind.

My fellow author Steve Lake believes no matter how many times I tell him otherwise that Sara is named for Sarah Michelle Gellar of Buffy fame as well. Sorry, not the case, although I imagine he won’t believe me even now.

The Womb: There are also a few Womb elements that are borrowed, though not from Venom like people always say. Part of it is the Black Man dreams as I explained in the last post in this series, but other elements come from somewhere very different.

This is a touchy subject with me, but I’m trying to be as honest as I can.

Around the time I was sitting down to write the first Black Womb novel, my grandfather had developed a nasty bout of pancreatic cancer. He has since died, though not of the cancer… He beat that. I miss him very much. Becoming was dedicated to him.

X-Files
I really can’t believe my parents let me watch this.

Though I’ve never been good at externalizing my emotions in healthy ways, what I write is typically a good indication of what I was feeling at the time. At this point I was very worried that my Grandfather would die of cancer. I remembered an old episode of the X-Files (my father and I often watched it together) in which there was a black creature that was apparently made of cancer. It was cancer embodied and made sentient. This appealed to me greatly. I think some part of my teenage mind wanted to make cancer something tangible… A physical villain I could punch like the heroes in comics. So the Black Womb suit became a skin of black organ. The Black Womb, in original conception, was cancer. He’s not anymore, but that’s how it started.

When my Grandfather went in for an operation to try and remove as much as the tumor as possible, and when they did they discovered that the cancer had eaten part of his rib. If anyone notices, there’s a scene during Black Womb where that exact thing happens.

During a chemo treatment something amazing occurred. My Grandfather’s appendix ruptured and shot poison throughout his body, or at least that’s how it was explained to me. I’m not sure on the actual science, maybe Heidi Paulin from over at Ink’d Well Comics can make a post to educate me. In any event, we almost lost him right then and there… But when they flushed the appendix poison or whatever out, they discovered that the poison had killed the cancer. It was gone, at least for the time being.

If anyone wonders why the Womb’s power lies in his appendix and that it gives him miraculous healing abilities, you can trace it back to here. That one miracle gave us ten more years with my Grandfather, and helped inspire to course of my life.

This is how Black Womb was formed. The rest, the plot, is all me. Everything else is just story that came together around these elements of my life. I’ll try to delve into the other books as well, but I doubt any of them will have as much impact on me as the History of Black Womb.

Continued? Maybe. Let’s see.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

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3 thoughts on “History of Black Womb 3”

  1. Hey Matthew – thanks for the namedrop! It’s hard for me to comment on exactly what happened without more of the details, but I’ll try.

    1) It’s not too surprising that your grandfather had complications during his chemo. I don’t know what regimen he was on, but chemo frequently causes immunosuppression, not to mention the fact that his tumour was also likely causing some degree of immunosuppression itself. Infections are very common during chemo – and GI tract infections are a frequent problem in this group, so a ruptured appendix is not completely surprising.

    2) The “shot poison throughout his body” sounds like they might be describing sepsis. It’s not so much poison literally leaking from the appendix into the abdomen, but it’s a blood infection. The bacteria from the appendix get into the blood stream, and that, along with the body’s response to the infection, causes a ton of severe changes in the patient and actually has a pretty high mortality without serious and fast treatment (in this case, surgery to remove the appendix, appropriate antibiotics and other measures like fluids, oxygen, etc).

    3) Now the miracle part of the poison killing the cancer. I don’t want to ruin your story, but I don’t think it’s quite how it was explained to you. I won’t say definitively that it wasn’t the appendicitis or sepsis or something along those lines that killed the cancer, but that’s a rather odd thing to happen. More than likely they noticed the tumour had completely disappeared at the time of operating on the appendix, but it wasn’t specifically because of that. At least the majority, if not all, of the reason the cancer disappeared was due to the chemo – that’s what it’s designed to do.
    Pancreatic cancer can be really awful – aggressive and hard to treat – but not all pancreatic cancer is the same and likely your grandfather had a really good response to his chemo — better than predicted by his oncology team. It is possible that the infection played a role, in that when he got septic, it induced an immune response. His immunity was down due to the cancer and chemo, but the body still has some ability to respond, and sepsis is hugely immunogenic. So the increase in his white blood cell (WBC) count and all the chemical factors that come from his WBCs to fight infection may have played some small role in the tumour destruction. Part of our immune system’s function is to naturally destroy abnormal and cancerous cells. When cancer develops it spreads partially because the body can’t destroy the abnormal cells (whether it’s unable to, or the cells grow more quickly than they can be controlled, or the cancer cells “hide” from the immune system, etc). The increased immune response may have helped kill off his tumour, but since this was such an acute and rapid event, the tumour would not have just disappeared like that. It takes quite a bit of time – more so that just the time your grandfather got sick.

    In short – the cancer was nearly all or completely killed by your grandfather’s chemotherapy with an unknown degree of assistance from his own immune system. Beyond that I can’t postulate. Furthermore, could it be the appendicitis itself that destroyed the tumour? I’d have to say no, but it may have made a small contribution.

    Of course, there may be other factors at play that I’m not aware of (drugs, other treatments, etc), but that’s the best answer I can give you.

    Hope that helps!
    – Heidi

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  2. One more thing …
    Another factor in the disappearance of his cancer is possible spontaneous tumour regression. It’s uncommon but definitely occurs. The mechanisms of this aren’t really known, but there’s likely a large immune-mediated aspect. This may have also been happening in tandem with the chemotherapy effect. It’s absolutely difficult to say.

    But either way – I’m glad your grandfather did much better than expected and that you had extra time with him because of it.

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    1. Thanks for the medical awesome, Heidi. :). Knew I could count on you.

      Never the less, the way I understood the situation helped shape the nature of my novel series. Sometimes mistakes are good. 😉

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