I have a series of posts about Earthly locations that look quite alien. While the photographer responsible for the images I use may not have always been inspired by the same thoughts, I think there is something in all of us that responds to the “alien”. Not many of us get to travel, and so we spend our lives surrounded by the familiar. Images that expose us to the unfamiliar can elicit a variety of responses ranging from fear to wonder.
When I look at these images, I almost always imagine a location—either for a story I have read, written, or the one I have to immediately sit down and make notes for.
A picture of the Mir Mine, located in Mirny—Eastern Siberia—immediately caught my attention. At first, I wanted to know what had made that huge hole in the ground. I might have been imagining giant worms, or maybe a massive drill. The answer is actually more fantastic, in a sense, and I don’t use the word “fantastic” to mean great or wonderful.
Men made this hole. In conditions that would have many of us thankful we have never traveled, at least not to Siberia, workers used jet engines and dynamite to thaw the permafrost, before tunneling over seventeen hundred feet into the earth. Keep in mind that up there, winter lasts approximately seven months. Mining is a dangerous occupation.
Add in the freezing temperatures and dangerous evacuation methods, and I’m sure this wasn’t a job many cherished…and that’s what makes this location perfect for a story I have written. One of my characters is a former prisoner of war. The majority of his incarceration took place on a dust ball of a planet captured by the enemy—where the only thing of value lay far beneath the surface. Slaves make cheap labour and he worked the mines for three and a half years before he escaped.
Looking at the concentric rings of the Mir Mine, I could easily imagine the scene. Wondering if others had been similarly inspired, I did some internet research to see if any movies had used the location as a set. I didn’t find any, but I did find a Reddit thread regarding a proposal to turn the abandoned mine into a domed eco-city by 2020. Being a Reddit thread, the conversation quickly degenerated to a discussion of swamp lizards vs. mole people.
Still, it’s a fascinating concept and the ideas—for writers and scripters—are numerous.