Contains some spoilers for book 4 and later.

Brief diversion on the writer’s art to look at these two characters, a brace of Beetle-kinden politicians. Unprepossessing stuff, surely.

However, what the two of them, bitter rivals as they are, demonstrate is the ability of characters to get completely out of control. Along with many writers, I’ve often gone off on one about the plot and characters having a life of their own, and I’m never sure whether people think this is just authorial poseuring or what, so:

If you’ve read as far as the Scarab Path, you’ll remember these two. Jodry is one of Stenwold’s allies, and he kicks the plot of Scarab off by prompting the Khanaphir expedition that Che is a member of. Helmess is the man whose thunder he’s stealing, an opponent of Stenwold and all round less reputable character. That’s the first we hear of either of them.

Except of course that’s not true. However, it was the first I wrote of either of them. And, if you’ve got as far as Sea Watch you’ll know that they both become rather important characters thereafter. Their shared achievement, however, is to somehow concoct an Apt-powered time machine and make subsequent appearances before their intended first outing.

I was writing the first draft of Scarab Path (then called Sacred Servants) at around the same time as my agent was helping me get Empire into shape, and one of his suggestions was an early chapter in which Stenwold gets heavy in the Assembly, Churchill stylee, and for that I needed a foil. It could have been anyone, but i had this chap Helmess Broiler kicking about, and so he got the job. The man of suspect loyalties became a more concrete antagonist, and of course, if you’ve read Sea Watch, you’ll know where that all goes to.

Similarly, Jodry Drillen was new-minted for Scarab Path, but then I ran into something of a timing issue in Salute the Dark. Stenwold returns from his jaunt to the Commonweal and is met by Lineo Thadspar, the old Speaker for the Assembly. Except that Salute had a rejigging in which the order of some sections changed, and abruptly Lineo was basically bedridden when Stenwold needed to chew his ear off. Before I could put in a casting call, enter Jodry Drillen, already with his eyes on the Speaker’s newly vacant sandals, handling Stenwold like a professional.

It’s very likely that without those chance substitutions and additions, neither character would have become sufficiently fleshed-out (literally, in Jodry’s case) to become the major players they are in Sea Watch and beyond: twin careers in politics born entirely out of editing necessity.

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