Thanks to everyone who tried to figure out the inspiration behind my short story "The Blue Room," which was recently published by Daily Science Fiction. While there were a ton of great guesses, no one came close to winning the prize.
Before I spill the beans on what inspired "The Blue Room," I should first give a little background. The story is a non-traditional fantasy set on the Great Plains and focuses on the life of Aiesha, a teenager living with her Grandpa Loren. The ancient house they live in was built by their ancestor Jedebiah, who while serving with the Buffalo Soldiers discovered a secret stairway to a mysterious pool of water. But while you'd think Aiesha and Grandpa Loren's claim to their land would be secure since their family has lived there for more than 100 years, they are still fighting a cold war over the place with the Eiseley family.
So what inspired me? Loren Eiseley's classic essay "The Places Below," originally published decades ago in Harper's Magazine and also available in his wonderful collection The Night Country.
So who is Loren Eiseley? In addition to being a well-known anthropologist, Eiseley was also one of the most gifted science writers of the 20th century. But Eiseley didn't simply explain science to the masses – he went beyond explanations to the deeper philosophical and emotional issues behind humanity's need to understand the world. In this manner he is often more correctly described as a naturalist along the lines of Henry David Thoreau.
Eiseley's writings have really stirred my soul. Among his best works are the collection of essays in The Night Country and his haunting memoir, All the Strange Hours. His memoir has already inspired me to write a long essay titled "Returning Insight to Storytelling: Science, Stories, and Loren Eiseley" while, as I just mentioned, his essay "The Places Below" inspired "The Blue Room."
I strongly urge people to check out Eiseley's writings. If you want to read "The Places Below," you can do so through Google Book Search. I think people will find the essay to be fascinating, insightful, and disturbing. You will also find a number of obvious tie-ins with my story, including Eiseley's use of the term "the blue room" to describe a similar well of water underneath a house on the plains.
And before anyone yells at me for making a contest over such an obscure inspirational source, I worked Loren Eiseley's name into the story – see the summary above – and the story's title was a direct quote from his essay. All people had to do was Google the right terms!
But yeah, it was still quite obscure. All I can say is that inspiration's a weird beast. You can't always pick and choose what stirs you into writing a story.