The minute I knew the story was set in the future, I started poking at the edges of the world. How could a giant live and love in a world that accepted him as he was? What kind of world would allow that kind of extreme physical enhancement (and threat)? And how would two men so obviously different wind up together butt naked in a tropical paradise?
I didn’t even know if the story would work, and Riptide Publishing hadn’t even appeared on my radar yet. But I felt like there was an edgy romanticism to these mismatched men and I decided to just jump in because my Muse kept nudging me. The beach setting indicated something primal to me: a raw untested landscape. And the ruggedness of the men indicated pretty grueling gruntwork and a lot of time spent baking their formidable physiques in relentless UV. Tropical setting. Genetic design. Hard labor. The job came almost instantly: terraforming... the process of modifying an existing world to support human lives and industries.
These two studs were building a planet from scratch. Cool.
Okay… so who can afford a planet? Well, obviously the necessary technology and resources indicated a lot of money and political clout, but these fellas seemed pretty working class. So they had to be employees of some kind, hired to terraform for a big company with unfathomable influence and domination. Obviously no company earns enough to buy several star systems without being fairly slick and ruthless. These men’s contracts had to be with a massive conglomerate integrated vertically, with divisions covering everything from baby formula to smart weapons to digital coffins.
And so the HardCell Corporation was born.
So Grown Men takes place on an agricultural planetoid that’s been designed to generate simple high-volume food for HardCell employees across the Galaxy.
Of course, I immediately got interested in WHAT that food would be. If I ran a giant galactic corporation and needed to feed people, what would the products be? I figured fast food will never go away, and will only get more primitive and guttural… flavored mush that you can suck out of plastic packaging. HardCell would definitely sell shiny, MSG-soaked goo to anyone willing to buy it. Who needs a kitchen or utensils or teeth?! And so “mealpaks” sprang fully formed as the bastard spawn of our fast-food nation. :) But mealpaks would be a treat… too expensive for the average worker.
Likewise, I needed to know what my two heroes would grow in outer space on their island. It needed to be high-protein, high-yield, and highly portable. With an artificially fertile tropical setting, I added the idea of crop terraces borrowed from the Inca. Soybeans and lentils seemed like a no-brainer. Soybeans gave me the idea for SoyShimi because HardCell would want to “package” and brand the crop for consumers. And because lentils are slow, I crossbred it with kudzu, aggressively speedy and a food source in itself. And branded plants would keep HardCell in control of profits. I added mangos because they’re a tropical superfood, very hardy, and easy to ship.
So then, I went through the catalog of planetary objects likely to sustain earth-like life forms and zeroed in on candidates with two suns. I scrolled through hundreds of star maps and tried to find a star system that wasn’t on the far side of the galaxy (because HardCell couldn’t have expanded that far even within a thousand years from now). Little by little I zeroed in on several stars in Andromeda (because of their proximity to our sun AND because I love the myth of Andromeda. Likewise, my gut told me that the myth of Andromeda and the sea monster would be good in a story featuring eels and a possibly murderous giant. And finally I found the solar system HardCell had redesigned: HD10307… and invented planetoid HD10307-E.
Now my unlikely lovers had a job: on an alien planet somewhere in Andromeda, they farmed and ranched eels, crating and shipping the harvest for profits. By meeting their quotas, they work towards corporate citizenship and the HardCell stock options that will make them more than low-paid employees.
Two strong men struggling for a better life and forced to trust each other. Yay! From that point the love story exploded out of me onto the page. Each of my men met their match and much more….
Of course, the world continued to bloom organically around the characters; HardCell and its branches became so crammed with cool situations that I already want to know what happens next. SO many options for other dramatic characters trying to fight the corporate hegemony! So many futuristic redemption stories I’m dying to tell! And so much sci-fi romance out the ying-yang because nothing makes Love more delicious than struggling against impossible odds. *cue ominous futuristic chord* Can anyone bring down HardCell and save humanity from itself?
And all that grew out of looking at a picture and building the HardCell Universe one idea at a time.
About the Author Damon Suede grew up out-n-proud deep in the anus of right-wing America, and escaped as soon as it was legal. Though new to M/M, Damon has been writing for print, stage, and screen for two decades. He’s won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his demented family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who keeps whispering in his ear, year after year. Get in touch with him at DamonSuede.com.