The princess and the orrery:

inspiration, Easter Eggs and References


There are probably a whole host of other works that have inspired and influenced The Princess And The Orrery. Creativity never happens in a vacuum, after all. However, these are the inspirations I was consciously aware of when writing.


I referenced and drew upon different Shakespeare plays and little quotes and nods to these are scattered throughout the novel.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This is probably the most obvious, given Melly’s revealed history. References are made to dreams and nightmares, as well as the Bottom character. Equally, as mentioned already, the King and Queen of the Fairies, Titania and Oberon, have always been in reference to this play. Melly also makes reference to a fight she and her husband had over a child - this mirrors the inciting incident from the play that heralds the involvement of the King and Queen in the humans’ affairs.

Romeo and Juliet. When the tompte spying on Bea and Mistasinon considers their ‘violent delights’, this is a line from the play:

“These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triump die, like fire and powder
Which, as they kiss, consume”

Macbeth. Chokey asks ‘When shall we three meet again?’, in reference to line from the three wyrd sisters in the opening scene of the play. This felt rather fitting to me, given that the three witches in Macbeth are trying to influence political events.

Hamlet. Alfonso talks about catching the conscience of the Baron, but complains that the line doesn’t scan. The original quote is “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.” and refers to the moment Hamlet decides to rewrite the play to show his uncle murdering his father. Alfonso’s hope, here, is that by making their play more complex, more challenging, they can elicit deeper, more critical thought from their audience (in contrast to Joseph, who is following a literal path in which he is the hero because he ‘deserves’ to be.)

I thought Hamlet fitted nicely, as well, because it is a story about power and the corruption of power and the title character, Hamlet, is quite different from traditional protagonists in that he is remarkably vulnerable. More on this here.

Books and FILMS

War of the Worlds (novel and musical)

The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms

The Kraken

The Blob (1988)

The Thing (1982)

Quatermass And The Pit

Various H. P. Lovecraft

The Time Machine (particularly the Eloi and the Morlocks)

The Dark Crystal - The inspiration for the orrery

Various fairy tales, but specifically The Princess And The Pea - The idea for Amelia came from thinking about what kind of person might notice a pea under all those mattresses, and also inspired the title of the novel.

Les Miserables (musical) - sorry not sorry for any earworms!

Blade Runner & Blade Runner 2049 - I was specifically interested in the use of smoke, light and shadow in both films, and tried to capture some of that essence throughout, but most specifically in the scenes with Joseph. There’s a little shout out to the franchise in one of the later chapters.

The Expanse And The Gentlemen Bastard Sequence helped me get to grips with both writing a longer book and connecting overarching stories. Having said that, any dull moments or poor pacing in The Orrery are, of course, entirely my fault!


Alfonso talks about his character’s ‘super objective’, a reference to Stanislavski’s theory of character development.

The Ænathlin Again group have the slogan ‘Make Ænathlin Great Again’. This is a totally obvious and unveiled reference to the Make America Great Again movement (though, as a British person, I would elide this with UK-based groups of a similar ilk, such as the EDL).

There is also a slightly ‘Trump’ element to the Baron…?

The slogan on The Fairy’s United leaflets (chapter 42) was inspired by this poster (found here):


Starry Castle was inspired both visually and conceptually by Uraniborg in Sweden.

Mary Anning, one of the first paleontologists, was a big inspiration for the Sisterhood of Cultivators. However, unlike Naima, Anning was not taken seriously and her work was only recognised after her death. She is a really fascinating woman (and also from the same part of the world I am!) so I was very pleased to revise history a bit in my world.