It took me almost a year to research the “Piercing the Veil” series before I actually started writing. For those who are curious, here’s a breakdown of some of the concepts I didn’t make up, appearing both in Intangible and Invincible.
General plot structure:
- Penumbra: the word technically means eclipse, but it also can be translated “shadow.”
- Nimbus: the word nimbi means ring of light, or halo (and the plural is indeed nimbi). I chose the word to contrast them with the penumbra, as light to darkness.
- The Taijitu: Although this symbol is most popularly affiliated with Taoism, the symbol was also used in the Roman army’s Notitia Dignitatum around the time of the fall of the Roman Empire. However, the Taijitu has no relationship to the astrological symbol of Cancer other than the fact that they look sort of similar if you turn the latter on its head.
- The Ancient Tongue: it’s actually ancient Irish.
- Sargon: Sargon was the name of the first ruler of Mesopotamia, living from 2296-2240 BC.
- How the penumbra can “cross over” to our world: According to legend, in the ancient Middle East there was a city called Gordia that would eventually be absorbed into the territory of Alexander the Great, and it was a place where the veil between the dimensions wore thin, held together only by a knot. The legend had it that if the Gordion Knot was ever untied, the veil would be torn entirely. Alexander the Great had also heard that the one to untie the knot would become king of Gordia. He tried to untie it, but eventually gave up and sliced the knot in two with his sword. (I intended to work this story into the first book to explain why the penumbra and nimbi can cross over into our world, but never found a good place to mention it.)
Concepts of alchemy:
- Alchemy: the pseudoscience of the middle ages in which alchemists (the forerunners of chemists) believed one form of matter could transform into another, particularly metal into gold. From a mystical standpoint, base matter could also achieve spiritual transformation.
- The Tria Prima: these three symbols are the Three Primes of Paracelsus, and they represent sulfur, the omnipresent spirit of life, mercury (the fluid connection between High and Low), and salt (representing base matter).
- The Punctum: This symbol represents the sun, and was associated with the Egyptian sun god Ra. It is also the alchemical symbol for gold.
- The Philosopher’s Stone: Alchemists believed they could transmute one form of matter into another, but it didn’t actually work. So they theorized the existence of the Philosopher’s Stone as the missing ingredient. (I intended to state that the Philosopher’s Stone was the Holy Grail, since that object appears so frequently in Arthurian legends, but it never became relevant to the plot.)
Concepts from the Arthurian Legends: most of my research on the legends came from “The Arthurian Legends, An Illustrated Anthology,” by Richard Barber; “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” by Simon Armitage; “The Book of Merlyn,” by T.H. White; “The Once and Future King,” by T.H. White; and the legendary “The Death of King Arthur,” by Sir Thomas Malory.
- The Fata Morgana: According to legend, Arthur’s evil half-sister Morgan (or Morgana, depending on the version you read), also called the Fairie Queen, created a castle in Avalon that was half part of our world and half part of another. Sailors claim to see the mirage of a castle off the banks of the Straits of Messina in Italy, but regardless of how long they sail towards it, it always hovers just out of reach, and they are said to drown in its pursuit. They call it the Fata Morgana.
- Excalibur: Famously, Arthur pulled this mystical sword from a stone, fulfilling the prophecy that the one to do so would become the rightful king of England. I chose to make the sword gold because of its relationship to alchemy (gold represents “spirit” or otherworldliness, which is why the sword can bar the Shadow Lord from his return into the world of men). After the Battle of Salisbury Plain where Arthur died and Camelot fell, one version of the legend has it that Lancelot and the last remaining Knight of the Round Table, Girflet, throw Excalibur into the Straits of Messina.
- The Fall of the Roman Empire: The Huns and the Visigoths (warring Germanic tribes) attacked the Roman Empire around 470 AD, displacing Roman soldiers to Britain. These soldiers intermarried with the native Celts, and that is how Britain came about. This is also around the time that historians estimate the real Arthur might have lived.
- Guinevere: Queen Guinevere (or Guenever, nicknamed Jenny in some versions) was Arthur’s one and only wife—and she was human (there was no Cecily.) She had an affair with Arthur’s best knight Lancelot, forcing Arthur to charge them both with high treason.
- Mordred: most versions have it that Mordred is Arthur’s nephew, the son of his half-sister Morgan, rather than his son (although in some versions, Morgan tricked Arthur into sleeping with her, and she became pregnant by him). In either case, once Mordred grew to adulthood, Arthur left him in charge of Camelot. In Arthur’s absence, Mordred set himself up as king, and Mordred and Arthur killed one another in the Battle of Salisbury Plain.
- The Order of the Paladin: the name was originally used to refer to Charlemagne’s Twelve Peers in fourteenth century France, his best warriors. The word paladin is also associated with Arthurian legends in general to mean any chivalrous hero. (Isdemus tells Peter that this was the original name of the Watchers, and the name lingers in Carlion here and there—for instance, it is the name of their secondary school, Paladin High.)
- Carlion: Again according to “The Once and Future King” by T.H. White, the city of Camelot was situated in the greater region known as Carlion.
- The Pendragon Crest: Most versions depict only one golden dragon on a red background (or red dragons on a gold background), but for my purposes I made them two. This obviously became critical in Invincible—which was originally titled Double Dragon.
Concepts from Physics: I knew next to nothing about quantum physics before I began to write Intangible. Most of my research came from the following books: “A Brief History of Time,” by Stephen Hawking; “The Dancing Wu Li Masters,” by Gary Zukav; “The Physics of Superheros,” by James Kakalios; “Equations of Eternity,” by David Darling; “Parallel Universes,” by Fred Alan Wolf; and “The Philosopher’s Stone,” by David Peat.
- Superstring Theory: According to Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time,” string theory describes strings as the foundational matter of the universe—instead of particles, the smallest units are strings. (Isdemus’s explanation of the strings as a trampoline are my attempt to get this picture across. Because the nimbi and penumbra exist outside of our universe, they are therefore outside of the “strings”. This explains how the nimbi and penumbra can pinpoint bizarre activity.)
- Quantum physics: On a very small scale, at any given moment, a particle may move in infinite or near-infinite possible directions. This constellation of possibilities is called the quantum wave function (represented by Peter’s rainbow). However, when an outside observer acts upon the particle in some way, the quantum wave function “collapses” into a single event. This interpretation of quantum behavior is called the Copenhagen interpretation, and it is the one I went with in Intangible. The other interpretation for the behavior of quantum activity is the multiple universe theory, which holds that every possible movement of every particle actually takes place in an alternate universe. (I thought about incorporating this into the plot, but it just became way too complicated.)
- Entanglement: the Watchers’ entangled coins are based on the idea that two particles which were once connected remain in “communication” with each other regardless of where they later end up in the universe—for instance, when one electron spins in one direction, its entangled twin spontaneously spins in the same direction, even if they are light-years away.
Concepts from general science:
- Peter’s experiment: At the beginning of the book, Peter performs a titration experiment in chemistry class in which sulfuric acid breaks down a chocolate bar into elemental carbon, repairing a leak in his damaged plastic tubing.
- The “crack” with the appearance/disappearance of the penumbra: the speed of sound is about 340 m/s. Any matter moving faster than that will break the sound barrier, and cause a sonic boom. Since the nimbi and penumbra (and also space specialists) spontaneously disappear and re-materialize, they move faster even than the speed of light—so they would break the sound barrier easily. However, when nimbi and penumbra appear in their own dimension, they have not taken a physical form in our world and therefore can do so silently.
- The event horizon around a porthole: The event horizon is the “point of no return” surrounding a black hole where even light cannot escape (which is why black holes are black). I use the same term for portholes (or wormholes): when a character or object comes within a certain distance of the porthole, he or she is compelled to pass to the other side.
- Dark matter: Some 85% of matter in the universe cannot be seen, though its effects can be demonstrated. One possible explanation for this includes multiple dimensions (several of which are explained by Superstring theory)—however, Bruce’s literal interpretation of “dark” matter as the opposite of light (photons) was my own.
General Plot Structure:
- Squaring the Circle: As mentioned in Intangible, the Philosopher’s Stone was the legendary object connected with alchemy, necessary to convert base material (like a physical body) into a celestial body (like a penumbra). Squaring the Circle was the symbol associated with it in alchemical writings.
- Newton and the Philosopher’s Stone: Many great scientists were said to have been obsessed with finding the Philosopher’s Stone, including Isaac Newton and Nicholas Flamel.
Egyptology: The majority of my research came from “The Message of the Sphinx,” by Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval, and “Ancient Egyptian Mysticism and its Relevance Today,” by John Van Auken.
- Zep Tepi: the “First Time” (or the dawn of time), as referenced in The Book of What Is In the Duat.
- Isis and Sirius: The Egyptian goddess Isis was represented by the star Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. Ancient Egyptians believed that the story of Isis and Osiris was played out in the stars.
- The Age of the Pyramids and the Sphinx: Most scholars put the date of the pyramids around 2500, and under Pharaoh Khafre. However, according to some more obscure Egyptology circles, the Sphinx dates back to 10,500 BC. First, the water damage on the Sphinx points to a very wet climate; however, in Khafre’s day, Egypt was already a desert. Second, the Egyptians believed the heavens to be a reflection of the earth (“as above, so below,” just like in alchemy), and so it made most sense for the Sphinx, which represented a lion, to mirror the position of the heavens during the age of Leo. This would indeed have placed its construction around 10,500 BC. This was the reason why I placed the Great Deception at that date.
Concepts from Arthurian Legends
- Turning into finches: In “The Once and Future King” by T.H. White, Merlyn teaches Arthur about the animal kingdom by turning him into various different kinds of animals (one of which was finches).
- Vortigem: Vortigem was an evil king mentioned in the Vulgate Cycle of the Arthurian legends. (I considered using this as the name of the Shadow Lord instead of Sargon.)
Concepts from Physics:
- Quantum vs Newtonian physics: Totally different physical laws govern the behavior of matter at the quantum versus the macroscopic level: while quantum particles have near-infinite possibilities available to them, in our world, if you drop a stone, it’s going down. Einstein spent the latter portion of his life trying to determine how the two were connected and has never managed to do it, nor has anyone since. For the purposes of the trilogy, prior to the Great Deception, the macroscopic world obeyed quantum laws (controlled by the Ancient Tongue); it was only afterwards that the two became disconnected, and people’s use of the Ancient Tongue became limited to the energy within their own bodies. For my purposes, the one who holds the Philosopher’s Stone will reconnect quantum and Newtonian physics, for himself as well as for all who obey him (rendering him essentially invincible).
- Chaos Theory: According to Edward Lorenz, weather systems are so sensitive that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings can change tomorrow’s weather on the other side of the world (called the Butterfly Effect); small changes can amplify to have magnificent effects down the line. (For more on this, check out “Chaos Gaia Eros,” by Ralph Abraham, and “The Seven Life Lessons of Chaos,” by John Briggs and F David Peat.)
- Superspace (Peter’s Space of Possibilities, or Meadow): According to “Parallel Universes” by Fred Alan Wolf, superspace is “an infinite space that contains all possibilities including other universes” (66). I didn’t read much more about it to be honest—I just took it from there!