Santiago Belluco’s story “The Bonesetter” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 19 August 2016.
Most of my stories start out with a scientific concept that I feel is not often explored in speculative fiction, or at least not in the way I would like to read. “The Bonesetter” began in this way, from the idea of how divergent biological strategies can arise in the face of conflict, one being the establishment of an adversarial, predator-prey relationship, another being the development of parasitism or different flavors of symbiosis.
However, the story only really came to life when I paired that central theme with a character that is on the losing end of an adversarial conflict, namely the conflict between her craft’s use of living tissue with the increasingly dominant use of wood. This was the basis for Nissil, a very skilled scientist who is nevertheless well beyond the peak of her skill’s popularity. Thus she not only has much to lose but also a strong drive to regain what she once had.
Creating a world for Nissil to inhabit that would accentuate her conflict was a pleasure to develop. One of the ways I like to world-build is by imagining our world and not only adding features to it (i.e. magic), but also removing certain aspects of it that we take for granted. This forces me to think of ways technology and society would develop around that limitation. For “The Bonesetter”, the limitation was that the world is without rich sources of metal, thus modified bone and wood are the best one can do for weaponry and tools. Of course, since magic is also prevalent in this world, the combination of magic with wood and bone was obvious, and allowed Nissil’s civilization to become powerful and developed.
As the story was being developed, these elements became inexorably linked to such an extent that looking back at earlier drafts, it’s hard for me to deconstruct which of these early ideas were most foundational to the finished story.
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