I mentioned in my 29-year history of Strings that it came about because I got into both the Beatles and Dungeons & Dragons at the same time. It's a bit more complicated than that, really.
The seed was planted when I was a young teenager, probably 13-14. I remember being in Safeway and looking at a tabloid on display, probably the National Enquirer. The main story was one about Elizabeth Taylor. Back then (late 1970s) she was always in the tabloid news. To which I said, Who gives a shit about Liz Taylor? I could never understand the obsession with her. I couldn't remember her doing much while I was conscious; to me, she was famous because she was famous.
That got me thinking about celebrities and how people behaved towards them. (This was before I was into the Beatles, and I never had a serious celebrity crush before them, so I could be objective.) I realize this makes me sound like some kind of weird brainiac teenager; well, I was; I was a very early female nerd. Drove my mom crazy. But anyway. I don't remember the exact thought processes that went through my head at the time, but one thing that did result was an attempt at a short story.
The plot fell thusly: a young teen idol is at home. For some reason he needs to go to the library. It's a stormy day, and when he gets to the library there's a tornado warning. He is herded down to the storm shelter in the libraryand it turns out that an entire girl scout troop is also down there!
I never got very far with the story, but it set the stage for what would become Strings, except that, of course, I used real celebrities. I guess I must have been fascinated with the concept of celebrity and how it affected people, not just the celebrities themselves but the people around them. Much later I would read or hear early interviews with Paul and George where they mused about how the people around them changed once they became famous, but they didn't think they had changed much. Of course, they had....
Anyway, to draw a parallel between reality and Strings, the main reason they're on C'hou in the first place is because some alien Fans thought it would be cool to put them there. Both sides end up changed as a result. So the book is, in essence, about the interdependence between the Beatles and their fansor not, that wasn't the point in the first place, though the theme certainly worked its way in there a bit.
To this seed I added the fertilizer (and yes, you can call it shit if you like) of my immense distaste for stupid fantasy. Even as a kid I hated a lot of fantasy because it was badly written, usually clichéd, and, quite frankly, meant for morons. There were also a lot of things in Dungeons & Dragons that I found ridiculous. For example, I could never believe that an adventuring group powerful enough to take on armies would defer to a king rather than try to depose him and rule in his stead. Or, for that matter, that there could even be any kind of government in a land with multiple competing groups of adventurers. And why didn't these big, tough adventurers constantly bully and steal from the hapless peasants growing the food and making the clothes? And why are there dungeons filled with treasure, and why doesn't the government hunt down the monsters plaguing their populace?
So one of the underlying bases for Strings was this sense that I wanted to create a fantasy world that I could believe in, given the conditions found in roleplaying games. The details changed a lot over the years, especially after I met Lynn Williams and began to appreciate utopias and dystopias; but I always wanted there to be at least a whisper of RPG fantasy game premises are stupid. Frankly, I have no idea if this whisper can be heard in the book; no one I know who plays RPGs has yet read it and mentioned anything to that effect.