A story must always begin somewhere, right? But every story begins in the middle of something else, and even the birth of a person happens in the passage of, or sometimes the end, of a mother’s life. So where does the story begin for my characters in City of Steam? At the end of a city, the end of an empire, as an ancient object from the sky comes thundering down and awakening that which had slept in the midst of the city. It is odd to think that a city would emerge and grow in the shadow of a Colossus the way most towns would around a body of water. What would it be about a giant, slumbering, mechanical god-like creature that would offer such a promise of protection?
That offer of protection failed as the city of steam turned to the city of smoke and ash, with its people fleeing or dying beneath the onslaught of battle between Colossus and the ancient object. But, what truly causes an empire to fall? Is it when the smoking husk of the city ruins are visible? When all the people have fled or died? Or does it take longer than that? Does an empire last so long as someone claims it as a birthplace, identifying him/herself as a citizen of its former glory, or does that person’s citizenship and loyalty belong to another place? Can we define an empire by the physical foundations or by that which is the foundation of the idea of an empire? I am reminded here of Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities as borders and boundaries of any nation only exist in the collective agreement of the people. So when the city of steam turns to the city of smoke and ask, do the people collectively agree that their homeland is being laid to waste by that which has fallen from the sky and the very Colossus they had felt previously sheltered beneath? When the city is left as a burnt husk on the horizon, as its people flee by trains which I helped collect fuel for, and left as a nest for the Brood that emerged alongside the bloodshed, is the empire to be abandoned, neglected, forgotten all but to the annals of history?
This Empire Will Only Rise Once: