For the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2019, Punch the Rabbit delves deep behind the scenes with a series of Author's Notes related to the Stone Soldiers, Spectral Ops, and Shadow Detachment series.
This summer, Will Smith comes to the big screen as the jovial, magical blue being known simply as “Genie” in Disney’s live action version of the animated classic “Aladdin”. While it’ll most likely be a fun movie filled with humor and big budget special effects, it isn’t exactly accurate when it comes to Genie.
The term Genie actually comes from much older name—Djinn (or Jinn)—referring to a supernatural being of the Middle East that can mean spirit or demon, depending on the source material.
I first began researching the topic of Djinn (a singular and plural term) several years ago when I was writing a prequel short story to the Stone Soldiers series, Catching Fire. The story centers around Daniel Smith, a resurrected U.S. soldier who returns to the Middle East a new, supernatural man, to investigate reports of living fire attacking American bases in Afghanistan.
For the story, I wanted to try and use some Arabic folklore concerning fire elementals—Catching Fire was to be one of four stories pitting the supernatural soldiers of Detachment 1039 against nature spirits. What I found when I was Googling the subject was a lot of information about the Djinn.
First off, Djinn aren’t blue-skinned, cheerful beings trapped in magic lamps, waiting to be set free and do the magical bidding of humans. One explanation for the origin of the word Djinn (Jinn) is that it comes from the Semitic root jnn (Arabic: جَنّ / جُنّ, jann), and means "to hide" or "to conceal". Some scholarly types have taken this to mean that the Djinn are, literally, "beings that are concealed from the senses".
Alternative theories are that this is a word derived from Persia—and the word "Jaini", which was a wicked (female) spirit.
In Pre-Islamic Persia, Djinn were apparently worshipped, but were not considered immortal, like the gods. The term was also used for a variety of supernatural entities, including demons.
In the course of reading about the Djinn, I learned that some folklore had there being good and bad Djinn. And that some Djinn were invisible, while others appeared as flame, and others as thick smoke. But the best thing I learned doing this research, was the story of Solomon’s seal.
Solomon, a Biblical King, is said to have received a special seal from God, which he branded a demon with, making it his slave. Solomon then ordered the demon to take the seal and go brand others of its kind, creating an army of supernatural being all bowing down to Solomon… who made them build a Temple to God.
Now, this story immediately resonated with me. My original concept was to have a fire elemental, or a Djinn, attacking U.S. forces. But why would it? Would sch a being even care which humans claimed to rule the sands of the Middle East? Probably not. But what if one of those humans, an insurgent, had the Seal of Solomon, and used it to bend a demon/djinn to his will? That would be a weapon that not even the U.S. Army could stand against… at least, not the conventional forces of the Army. Enter Detachment 1039, and their supernatural soldiers.
Once again, a simple supernatural concept for an action-packed story seemed to almost write itself.
You can find Stone Soldiers: Catching Fire on Kindle, or in a collection of short stories entitled Stone Soldiers: Elemental Warfare, available now on Kindle, and in Print