WHY, YES. IT COULD.
(Incidentally, despite mostly despising puns, I still think that one is hilarious.)
So, the bracelet! When I first came up with it, I was engaging in the time-honoured writing method of “throwing stuff in there and seeing what happens”. I already knew Ellie wasn’t going to be typically feminine, and that Mark wasn’t going to be typically masculine so I thought it would be interesting to give Mark what is commonly thought of as a very girly piece of jewellery, and make that the source of his power.
It then instantly provided a reason to force a conversation between Ellie and Mark, and after that I decided the entangled hair was the source of Ellie’s own delayed awakening, which would indicate that her own powers would be object-based. When I started thinking about where the bracelet would come from and who might have helped Mark make it, for what reasons, Mr. Sand happened.
You can see that I sort of go at these things backwards.
My friend and first reader Rachel Edidin is immensely crafty, able to make art in a number of ways. My craft skills are limited to baking, so I’m always impressed by people who are multi-talented in that arena. Anyway, she rather liked the original description of the bracelet:
Mark lifted his hand, easing the sting in my scalp, and I saw the cause – a strand of my hair had come loose and wrapped itself around something silver shining on his wrist. In defiance of the uniform code, it wasn’t a watch, but a bracelet made of links of hammered silver, small charms hanging off the heavy loops. The charms weren’t like my childhood jewellery – no tiny ballerinas or rearing ponies – but a jumble of more ordinary things: a small key; a bottle cap; a broken sea shell; a tuft of white wool; a grey pebble with a hole in the centre; a stick figure bent out of No. 8 wire. My hair was twisted around the bracelet itself, caught between a stylised plastic lightning bolt and a rusty screw.
“Karen,” she said to me one day. “I will make this bracelet for you.”
“Awesome!” I said, and promptly forgot about it until she sent it to me, neatly wrapped in a little box. Rachel is also excellent at wrapping.
You can see that this bracelet is not exactly the same as the one described – it also has a coin, a button, a piece of sheep bone, and a thing that reminds me of a bullet, but is actually a screw-in spike from a Rachel Summers costume*. It has no rusty screw (which was added to the description later), and the tuft of white wool is really wool, and not, as Ellie later discovers, human hair.
Also, I cannot use it to strike down my enemies with lightning.
This is all to the good. I am not superstitious, but the idea of an exact replica of something Mr. Sand created creeps me out just a touch. It is a perfect replica in spirit, being deliberately slapdash, and slightly uncomfortable to wear. Mark cannot really cope with having nice things because of his impressive and misplaced guilt about being himself. Mild forms of self-flagellation are just his style.
* Rachel Summers is the daughter of X-Men Cyclops and Jean Grey from an alternate apocalyptic future who tumbled into the standard versions’ timeline and stuck around to make sure her future never happened. She has the least bizarre origin story of all the Summers-Grey kids.
My first encounter with Guardian of the Dead was with a very early draft (in fact, the version I read wasn’t even Guardian of the Dead yet–it was titled “Children of the Mists,” and its Ellie was a university student, which should tell you just how early a draft it was). From the start, I was intrigued by the intensely object-based–”animistic” is the word that I keep coming back to, although it’s not really the right one–nature of magic in the book, and I was particularly taken with the image of Mark’s bracelet.
Through reading the draft, writing up notes for Karen, and a series of subsequent conversations, that image stuck with me, although I didn’t make the jump to actually crafting it until after the book had been picked up by Little, Brown and I was racking my brain to come up with a Guardian-related congratulations gift for Karen. “Aha!” I thought. “I have pliers and an anvil! I’m going to make Mark’s bracelet!”
The comment from our earlier conversations that most informed my eventual design was that the bracelet should look “cobbled together.” In my own pieces, I work almost entirely with found objects, and the bracelet’s wild eclecticism appealed to me, as did the challenge of coming up with a design that looked amateur but would have the structural endurance of a more carefully crafted piece. I wanted it to be noticeably awkward, both visually and tactilely, functional rather than stylish, and a bit uncomfortable to wear.
The chain is cut from a pocket watch I was given as a high school graduation present and later destroyed in the wash. To attach the charms, I avoided the traditional jump rings and instead anchored each charm to the chain with twists of wire, switching between a few different gauges to amplify that aesthetic.
The objects themselves were a combination of what Karen described in the novel and a few additions that I stuck on as visual ballast; I had assumed that Ellie’s list was exemplary rather than exhaustive.
Just as the bracelet as a whole is a somewhat diagonal replica of its textual counterpart, so are its individual components. Many of Mark’s charms were deliberately reflective of New Zealand’s culture and geography; several continents away, I was left to choose between crafting replicas–keeping the bracelet closer to the original in letter but straying further in spirit–or looking to my own environment for found replacements. The final bracelet is a compromise between the two: most of the charms come from my cities and travels, but I chose them with an eye for designs and origins that might have held some significance to or paralleled Mark’s.
- The grey stone comes from a beach on the coast of Lake Michigan, where I used to walk with my grandfather.
- I found the shell in the summer of 2003 on a beach on Inishbofin, a small island off the west coast of Ireland.
- I don’t remember what brand of beer the bottle cap came from, but I do remember noticing the fluke design as I pried it off and pocketing it to use in the bracelet.
- The woolly bit is, as Karen pointed out, actual wool. I briefly considered stealing a lock or two from a stranger on the bus, but quickly thought better of it.
- The key is one of those mysterious orphan keys that congregate and breed at the bottoms of junk drawers. I have no idea what it opens, if, indeed, it opens anything at all.
- The stick figure–and the idea for it–came from a few broken paperclips. It’s also the only place where my version of the bracelet informed the version that made it into the novel.
- Plastic lightning bolts seem to be rarer than saffron these days. I searched for more than a month before finally making this one out of shrink plastic. This is the only place on the bracelet where I cheated and substituted a crafted “charm” for a found one.
As for the apocrypha–
- The button is from an antique East German officer’s cap (the cap itself, sans insignia, ended up part of Lady Blackhawk costume, which is another story altogether. Suffice to say, this one’s as much a wink and nod to Mark’s creator as to Mark himself).
- My partner brought the coin back from a college trip to Greece. I chose to use it on the bracelet because of the dolphin on its face.
- The white pebble is actually a sliver of sheep bone, bleached and smoothed by the sand and saltwater at the same Innishboffin beach where I found the shell.
- The charm that reminds Karen of a bullet is actually a spiked rivet left over from yet another superhero costume. I liked the weight and ambiguity of it, and I think Mark might appreciate the allusion to a different sort of symbolic armor.
One piece is missing: the rusty screw. How it slipped through the cracks, I’m not sure, but perhaps it’s for the best–after all, some things should only be copied so closely.