Reading John Shirley’s answer below inspired me to ask some of my favourite writers the same question: what was the spark that inspired the story?
I’ll be posting responses over the next few months, as they come in.
I just received Gary McMahon’s The Concrete Grove and the first page is already devastatingly good. Here, he talks about his short story “Diving Deep”.
“My story DIVING DEEP (published in the anthology The End of the Line, by Solaris) is an attempt to marry the cosmic themes of H.P. Lovecraft with something intensely intimate. I’m always fascinated by the collision of internal and external forces and its effect on damaged characters, and I thought about what might happen if a personal with a void inside them came into contact with a vast emptiness from without. I’m also scared of enclosed spaces, and most of the story is taken up by an ice diver in the Arctic swimming through a tunnel in an iceberg that closes up behind him as he moves through it, so he can’t go back – only forward. It’s one of the few stories I’ve written that actually unnerved me while I was working, and that made me realise that the story was probably going to turn out okay…if you scare yourself, you must be onto something, right? Another huge imaginative spark for the story was the fabulous Werner Herzog documentary Encounters at the End of the World, which has our intrepid Teutonic auteur visiting remote parts of the Arctic to interview guitar-playing scientists living in isolated research stations, film insane landlocked penguins looking for the sea, and watch the idiotically brave ice divers enter supernaturally clear icy waters by means of small shafts bored through the ice cap…amazing stuff, truly astonishing.”