The Inspiration for the Ghost Line

Photo credit: Maurizio

Our Novella The Ghost Line, published this week, is the story of an abandoned luxury liner travelling between Mars and Earth, and what happens when a small group of explorers break into her (hint: it’s not as abandoned as it looks) sprang into our heads from a couple of places.  J.S. Herbison provided the initial spark when she read this article on the BBC about Ghost Trains.

Ghost Trains still operate – they run empty, between stations that themselves may also be empty. They’re legal placeholders. As long as there’s a train on the route, even infrequently, and even with no passengers, the company running it keeps the right to the route. Of course there are enthusiasts who try to sleuth out the trains, take photos of the stations and even manage to get tickets to ride on them.

The next spark came from urban explorers. These intrepid souls live to find abandoned places and explore them. They post haunting videos online of decaying hospitals, schools and industrial buildings. Detroit is a favourite of ours, as is Chernobyl. J.S. is an avid follower of Bionerd23 a (possibly German) woman who is obsessed with exploring Chernobyl and finding traces of disaster in the plants and animals near the nuclear plant.

So, we have empty trains. We have obsessive explorers, captivated by decay, abandonment, the traces of humanity we leave behind us. And then we started thinking about a spaceship that was similarly abandoned. Though in space, you don’t get animals and plants reclaiming human creations. Things stay the same.

Or do they?

So we created the Martian Queen, a former luxury liner that had travelled to Mars with a string quartet on her maiden voyage. We thought about Bionerd23 and about explorers, and what motivates them. We soon had Saga, formerly an urban explorer from Iceland, now doing salvage and creating interactive art in abandoned asteroid mines and spaceships.

The rest of the story fell into place, inspired by our love of films like Alien and The Shining, as well as the rich possibilities of an industrialized solar system that writers such as Kim Stanley Robinson have explored.

We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed creating it.