Edmund Orville Gurth's story has a peculiar origin. In the early 00s, I began composing a story in my head about a prison-worker overseeing a prisoner who was not quite what he appeared to be. The setting wasn't the Eternal Dungeon, but when it came time for me to write Sweet Blood, I decided that this prisoner was too interesting to leave behind, so I transformed him into Gurth/Or.
At least, that was where I thought the origins of his story lay. But
around the time I began writing "Split," I was sorting through a box of
news clippings left behind by my late mother. I began reading an article
that I had the feeling I'd read before, even though the clipping was thirty-five
years old. Then I reached this passage:
When Wilbur first summoned up Billy, Milligan jumped off
his chair and said, "Every time I come to, I'm in some kind of trouble.
I wish I were dead."
—"The Man with Ten Personalities: Experts unravel the psyche of an Ohio rape suspect," Time (23 October 1978).
Apparently, Gurth/Or's origins lay a lot further back than I had thought.
"Split" is set in 1882. The phenomenon of split personality, currently known as Dissociative Identity Disorder, was only just beginning to be studied intensively by the medical world in the 1880s. The idea of split personalities became popularized to the public in 1886 through Robert Louis Stevenson's novella, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Today, controversy continues over whether such an illness actually exists.
The background of Sweet Blood is the same as in the previous two volumes of the Eternal Dungeon series: the late-nineteenth-century rise of labor unions and other movements toward greater freedom for the individuals, particularly the oppressed. Prison reform and protests against the use of torture against prisoners were part of this rebellion against the old order, although in our world, the rebellion took a somewhat different form than in the Eternal Dungeon.
Sweet Blood is the climactic volume of the Eternal Dungeon series. However, just as "The Unanswered Question" serves as a prelude story to the series, there will also be a postlude story that wraps up some loose ends. Unlike most other stories in the series, the postlude is set outside the confines of the Eternal Dungeon, in the lighted world above. However, a few familiar faces will return or be referenced, as should be clear to longtime readers from the postlude's title: Forge.