Easter Eggs are a popular addition to video games, but it’s rarer to hear about them in literature. I suppose that’s one of the reasons I throw them into my own work. I also find it fun to slip tiny nuggets in there, to see if anybody notices. So far nobody has.
One of the major ways I incorporate Easter Eggs is through language, in particular if I have to use any language other than English. It is especially true of Welsh. Often these are extremely childish, smutty, and often in the form of names. The village Otto and Claire visit in The Rebels, for example, is called Hen Pidyn- Or Old Penis. Some characters mentioned in the Aunt Mable stories all have ridiculously childish names as well. I won’t say who they are, you’ll have to find them for yourself. Sometimes it isn’t smutty though, sometimes it’s just ordinary- There’s a moment in Swarm with a cleaning lady speaking Dutch and later on when Madonna tells her girls that Amsterdam is under attack. Both are ordinary conversation translated (badly) into Dutch. Then we get back to the Welsh and it isn’t so child friendly, although it does fit in with what’s going on in the story this time. My best advice for finding all these linguistic Easter Eggs would be to translate everything– Though if you want to translate the name of Dewi Croft’s company in D.S Proctor I’d advise you only do it after you’ve finished reading, otherwise it might be a bit spoilery.
Sometimes my Easter Eggs only take the forms of references to other works and popular culture, which is actually common across all mediums these days. These are occasionally really easy to spot, like in Spawn where Doug mentions that Lord of The Rings fans don’t go around spray painting graffiti. Unlike the first form of Easter Egg these don’t just apply to my fiction. They’re everywhere- There is one especially good one in an article entitled Why Wales Never Had a Walter Scott. They’re in some of the travel pieces as well. There are loads in there and most of them are obvious.
There are some other subtle references and homages across my cannon. Stop The Cavalry is packed with little references to the great war films- The in your face one is A Bridge Too Far but also look out for the Dambusters, Kelly’s Heroes, The Guns of Navarone, Saving Private Ryan, Bridge On The River Kwai, Where Eagles Dare, Apocalypse Now and others.
More subtle are the call backs to previous books, or in some cases call forwards. After reading Stop the Cavalry you might begin to notice that something sinister happens at a couple of points in the previous book, something that might suggest Will wasn’t hallucinating. Corwen’s hat in D.S Proctor is that same hat which Otto buys in The Rebels. Some of the stories in Inn of Last Orders even make sly references to each other. Because I rearranged them they are sometimes call forwards and sometimes call backs. There are even references to stories that I thought about writing but never got around to.
There are cameos by well-known faces, though they’re hardly ever stated outright. Phil Collins and Cliff Richard are the ones that are on the nose but there are other, more subtle ones. Sid Vicious appears three times in Rebels, once at the beginning, once at the false funeral and then at the end where he’s joined by Quentin Crisp and Nancy Spungen (it’s that night in the Chelsea, if you know what I’m talking about.) Maggie Thatcher was also in there at one point but I can’t remember if I cut her out or not. For the most part I like to keep these subtle, not draw attention to them as otherwise I find they stick out of the story a bit too much. I never, for instance, mention who the grey haired professor is in Swarm. Cliff Richard’s star turn in Spawn was pushing it but I got away with his inclusion because of the comedy aspect. I got away with Phil Collins because he isn’t supposed to be real. Or if you want to go with the other interpretation, it’s not actually Phil Collins. What you really don’t want to do is take people out of the story and a gratuitous celebrity cameo will usually do just that. Plus, the subtlety means that people can seek them out, go on a celebrity hunt sort of thing.
Just yesterday I wrote a segment involving David Lloyd George and H.G Wells. The first was subtle, only slight hints as to who he is. I only ever refer to him, in the story, as ‘Uncle David,’ a Welshman with a white moustache who enters the story after seeing something from the window of the Treasury. Wells I put in because the scene was set in one of his favourite restaurants. It seemed a nice fit that he might be there at the same time as my scene was happening and it adds a bit of colour to the story. Lloyd George has a meatier role (another reason why he needs to be subtle) and drops some exposition that forms an important plot development.
Easter Eggs in literature make great fodder for the reader. It gives them a reason to go back, a reason to re-read and go through and find the hidden messages and Easter Eggs. I haven’t mentioned all of mine here, there are so many now that I can’t. There are now eight books worth of the things, and all the as yet unpublished bits beside. One of them runs deep across several books and I’m waiting for someone to work it out. It’s kind of obvious once you know it’s there… And then you’ll also realise what a sneaky, dirty trickster one character in particular was. I’ve also been building something up for a long time (that isn’t specifically an Easter Egg, it’s more metaphorical) and that, now, thanks to Inn Of Last Orders, is detectable if you look hard enough. It ties into the other thing as well.