For this group, my thought is each of the council members represents one of the core aspects of power that’s typically used to control populations in societies: military, media, technology, economics, legal, religious, and cultural. So, each council members is associated with one of these types of control. The way they operate is that there are positions on this shadow government council, which new members inherit. The positions are named after influential American figures.
As a result, there are 13 members with names like Hemingway, Tesla, Edison, Hearst, etc., led by “Washington”. They exhibit the worst characteristics of exactly the kinds of abuse of power that conspiracy theories love. So, for instance, Edison is a Mark Zuckerberg type who’s tasked with spying on the American people and controlling the flow of news. Hearst, obviously, is controlling the media, and another, Young, an older Maester Pycelle type, is giving marching orders to the major religions of the country. Were one of these council members to die, their replacement would inherit their name.
One character I’d like to focus on a little bit is Hemingway, since he has a significant role in the plot, just to give you a sense of the world we’re inhabiting here and the types of characters who exist there. Hemingway has the appearance of a 13 year old boy. He looks somewhat like Baron Trump, but the key influence for him is actually a character from the anime “Cowboy Bebop”, from an episode called Sympathy for the Devil.
The episode is about a kid who is committing crimes, but it turns out he’s actually a fully grown adult in the body of a child. And that’s exactly what Hemingway is; he has the appearance of a child, but he actually stopped his aging when he was young. He has the mind and experiences of a fully grown adult. Part of the reasoning for this is, besides the fact that I think it’s a really cool backstory for a character, is it implies the timelessness of cultural works. Once printed, they exist as they were, even as the author ages and eventually dies.
Another thing I gave a lot of thought about when conceptualizing the behind-the-scenes villains is this idea of an alpha male. I think, typically, there’s some untruth to this theory that humans look for the loudest, strongest male to be their leaders, but taken at face value, I always wonder who the alpha male of American society is.
If humans organize like wolves, surely there’s some gruff, fit, ultra masculine elder with a Paul Newman circa Hudsucker Proxy kind of vibe pulling the strings, right? In the real world, I don’t think this is necessary true, but in the novel there is an element of that and… well, I don’t want to spoil it, there’s a bit of a surprise there. Look forward to it!