Thursday, April 4, 2013

Filling Your Basket With Literary Easter Eggs

This week's roundtable is a seasonal one (as suggested by my friend Lee Houston Jr.) -- Easter Eggs. You know the little bonuses that companies put on DVD as hidden extras, but what about the fun Easter Eggs we hide in our writing?

What Easter eggs (if any) have you inserted into your works?

Derrick Ferguson: I've hidden song lyrics, movie titles and the names of fictional characters, cities, books and buildings in my writing. For instance, there's a scene in "Dillon and The Voice of Odin" where he is admiring Montoya swords handcrafted by Domingo Montoya who is the father of Inigo Montoya from "The Princess Bride." And in "Dillon and The Pirates of Xonira" Dillon is sent to the island of Xonira on a secret mission by The Braithwaite Group. That's an Easter Egg referring to the classic "Enter The Dragon" where Bruce Lee is sent to the island of Han on a secret mission by a British Intelligence agent named Braithewaite. There's tons more but I think you get the idea. Go look for 'em! And when I needed a name for the gadget filled belt Dillon wears on his adventures I called it a Steranko Belt. In his classic NICK FURY, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Jim Steranko always drew Nick Fury wearing these funky belts with all kinds'a gehookas and gizmos attached and hanging. That was the imagery I was going for.

Andrew Salmon: The biggest Easter eggs I've used have been in my Rick Ruby tale, "Wounds". Let's see, we've got WATCHMEN, Star Trek and Mission: Impossible references all over the tale. "Wounds" is the tale I really went to town on. There have been others in other tales but I don't want to reveal all my secrets.

Mark Halegua: I like to use names in my works from other works and genres. In one story, I have names from Marvel comics, a TV sitcom, pulp authors real names, etc.

Ed Erdelac: Merkabah Rider has numerous references both western and genre. In Have Glyphs Will Travel, my quirky medicine peddler and extradimensional blue-clad "angel" Faustus Montague and his brother Misquamacus (himself a Lovecraft character later expanded upon by Graham Masterton) make various very veiled references to their universe of origin, and their natures in that universe (including their true names), which only scholars of the fantasy works of a certain author and Oxford English professor will likely get. In addition, Faustus refers to twelve heroes with two hearts between them (The Doctor), and battling Adon's Creed atop a mesa at Stallions Gate New Mexico (the future site of Dr. Sam Beckett's Quantum Leap project). The forthcoming Once Upon A Time In The Weird West is chock full of easter eggs. In one cantina scene Lin McAdams and High Spade cavort (both from Winchester 73) alongside Oscar Diggs (the Wizard of Oz himself), John Russell (from Hombre), Freddie Sykes (of The Wild Bunch), and Bill owner (a certain Electrician and Adventurer from House II). When competing circuses start springing up around the town of Delirium Tremens, Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show (Something Wicked This Way Comes) vies for customers with The Dunn & Duffy Circus (the circus train from Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade), the latter of which promises thrills from The Flying Grayson Family. In a nod to Merkabah Rider's thematic origins, the rabbi who presided over the Rider's naming ceremony as a baby is Avram Belinsky (Gene Wilder's character from The Frisco Kid) and his best friend's last name was Lillard (making him the son of Harrison Ford's Tommy Lillard). Also, at one point Adon observes a barefoot man, possibly Chinese, playing a bamboo flute.

Chuck Miller: Quite a few of them. In "Blood of the Centipede," "Nora Desmand" is the most obvious-- her experience playing Bloody Mary Jane obviously contributed to her emotional problems, and there's an unsavory history behind the old mansion she holed up in for so long. "Big Jack" Matteo, the LA County Sheriff's Department detective the Centipede crosses swords with, is the father of Lt. Jack Matteo, Carl Kolchak's police nemesis in "The Vampire" episode of "The Night Stalker." On page 62, Percy and the Centipede use some dialog lifted from the "Blind Mellow Jelly" episode of "Sanford and Son." In the "lost chapter," which may see print one day, the Centipede's brief encounter with a young Orson Welles plants a couple of interesting seeds. There are a few others, and the next one, "Black Centipede Confidential" is lousy with 'em.

Don Gates: In the first Challenger Storm novel ("The Isle of Blood"), four of my online friends appear in cameos as MARDL scientists.  They were folks who contributed their early feedback when I was developing my ideas and I wanted to thank them for it.  I don't think they ever noticed, haha.

Most of my Easter eggs so far have been really stupid.  Things from sitcoms have a weird habit of becoming my Easter eggs.  There are two references to "The Golden Girls" in "Isle of Blood": the Mortimer Club is an exclusive social club in one episode and it's mentioned in the book, while the names of the Villalobos Brothers (twins Jorge and Esteban) are lifted from a pair of brothers Blanche dated after meeting them at a Jimmy Smits lookalike contest.  In the second Storm novel ("The Curse of Poseidon"), sitcoms show up again.  When I needed a name for a tiny Greek fishing village that gets destroyed, my wife suggested "Katsopolis" after John Stamos' character's last name on "Full House".  Then there's the American tourists on a yacht who discover a mysterious body in the sea... they bear more than a passing resemblance to the cast of "Seinfeld".  Also I named a very minor character "Stalfos" after the skeletal enemies in "The Legend of Zelda" video games, purely because I liked the Greek-sounding name.

Billy Craig: In Emerald Death, Hannigan arrives in Africa aboard the African Queen, In the Sky Masters there is chapter title that tips a hat to the most famous of the Hope and Crosby road movies, Ferrari and the Blue Parrot make an appearance, and Rick's Café American is mentioned. Ian Watson will even be making an appearance in The Hand of Evil.

In the Decker P.I. books Willie Nelson is represented in the character of Wally Norwood, the title of the fourth book Smugglers' Blues is a tip of the hat to Miami Vice and Glenn Frey, to name a few.

Jim Beard: In my Star Wars story, "Fallen Star," I had the artist insert a shadowy figure in a few panels. The story concerned a twelve-year-old Luke Skywalker getting into some mischief in Mos Eisley. The background figure is a hooded Ben Kenobi, keeping an eye on the young Jedi-to-be.

I.A. Watson: I put lots of them in my earlier work, far less now. Even tipped a nod at other writers characters and stories sometimes - until that came back to bite me. Not everyone likes the nod. Wrote in characters based on friends or lovers - while they were friends; much harder to go back to those characters when the friend turns out not to be so heroic or the lovers not so loving. Used to make references and in-jokes to other stories I liked until I realised that some people felt I was sneering at them for writing stuff that would "go over their heads" and others fixated so much on the "easter eggs" that they completely ignored the meat of what I wanted to say.

Ron Fortier: I've always loved playing with the names of my friends, both in my comics work and prose.   Rob Davis is a night clerk at the morgue in an early Brother Bones story and very recently, Nancy Hansen joined the BB cast as the familiar to a new vampire character I've created.   Oh, and Nancy Hanson also pops up again, this time as one of Captain Hazzard's dirigible crew aboard his airship ARGOSY. One of my personal Easter Eggs was putting a 1930s recurring film character, Tugboat Annie, into my fourth Hazzard novel to see if anyone would recognize here. A few readers (the older ones....ha) actually did.

Nancy Hansen: Now and then I'll pop something in, but I tend to go more for characters than references. I'm kind of a visual thinker, so I have to be able to picture something or someone in order to describe them. For instance, Jordyn Orion from The Silver Pentacle series is visually based on David Bowie in Labyrinth. Sameil the Angel of Death is patterned after Rob Zombie on a couple of his album covers. I've used people I know as characters—and especially those I despise often appear as villains. In an upcoming book series I have a modern day wizard named Nigel Gillette who also happens to be an action/adventure writer that tends to research a story by becoming the character he wants to play. In looking for a description, I chose latter day Sam Elliot with the gray hair and that luxurious mustache to be Nigel's avatar. In the same series is a woman referred to as 'The Countess', who is a witch and a writer of how to books, owns her own network, has various estates, and is just about as perfect a person as you can get. Her full name is Gina Jardinere-Duval von Stuart, and she's a conglomerate of cooking expert Ina Garten (The Barefoot Countess ), Carol Duvall (DIY craft programs) and of course Martha Stewart. In fact in that series, my cowriters and I have written ourselves in, because it started as an online bulletin board joke. My sons appear in that series as extras, as does my grandson.

The book I'm working on right now was started when my boys were both young (they're both pushing 30 now). When they asked me what I was writing they asked me if I could write them in as heroes. So whenever it comes out, when you read the story of the orphaned brothers Ethan and Nicholas, you're seeing my Jason and Brian as they wanted to be known 20 something years ago.

Wayne Reinagel: I admit, I've done this once or twice. Just kidding, folks. My novels are loaded with dozens and dozens of basketloads of eggs! As Rick Croxton would say, a whole kitchen sink of them. One day, when I do an annotated version, I have to make a list of them all. It will probably take a whole book just to list them all.

Lee Houston Jr.: My New Adventures of the Eagle story: "A Black Friday In Australia" is not only based upon a real historic event, but I managed to insert a couple of references to J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit within my tale, which was just a recent release at the time the Eagle story occurred. The astute reader will find plenty within my upcoming novel Hugh Monn, Private Detective: Catch A Rising Star. There's even a couple within Project Alpha, if you know where to look. I have others, but can't mention them right now because I don't know when those short stories will be published.

Bobby Nash: I love inserting Easter eggs into my work. From having Tony Stark's parents and Dr. Erskine (creator of the super-soldier serum) attended the opening of Ravenwood's Jazz club to having G-Man Agent Palmer show up in Lance Star: Sky Ranger and The New Adventures of The Eagle. This Agent Palmer is the grandfather of FBI Agent Harold Palmer from my Evil Ways and Evil Intent novels.

The Easter Eggs I'm asked about most often are the items in Mr. Biggs' collection from my Green Hornet story, "A Thing of Beauty." There's a piece of Kryptonite, a Batarang, The Lone Ranger's mask and six-shooters, plus a piece of wreckage from lance Star's experimental plane that was shot down by Baron Blood when young Skip Terrel died.

Not sure if this counts as an Easter egg or not, but since many pulp heroes tend to go up against mobsters, I have created two rival mob families that I've had multiple characters run into. You can follow their stories (out of order, of course) in bits and bites. So far Domino Lady, The Green Ghost, Green Hornet, Secret Agent X, The Rook, Rick Ruby, and Nightbeat's Randy Stone have crossed paths with members of the Tommasso and Manelli Crime Families. I'm sure more characters will run afoul of them in the future as well. I also have an actress, Margaret Grace, appear much the same way. She's appeared in 3 different time frames (and different stages of her career) in Domino lady, Ravenwood, and the upcoming Box 13. It's like revisiting old friends.

Erwin K. Roberts: Most of my fiction is littered with references to real people, places, & fictional ones. 99.99% of the time you don't have to "get" them. The story reads the same way if they were all named John Doe.

For one thing, I write as if just about anything you can think of exists in a common universe. That is why, in Dr. Watson's American Adventure, you are introduced to Robert van Loan who is probably the father of the Phantom Detective. Not to mention Franklin Havens, founder of the Clarion chain of newspapers. (Franklin Havens' great-grandson, Curt van Loan is a childhood friend of my latter day hero, the Voice.) Speaking of newspapers, in my world both William Randolph Hurst and Charles Foster (Citizen) Kane exist.

Also in the book, for no good reason, Dr. Watson works with Detective Walter Brooks who shares the name of the author of the dozens of Freddy The Pig books and was the creator of Mr. Ed.

One of Jim Anthony's regular sources of information in my stories is a fellow who owns and lives behind a cigar store in Manhattan. I'm not sure if anybody has realized that this guy once was Johnston McCulley's hero the Green Ghost.

Not all the references are pulp related, either. Need a reliable taxi in New York City? Probably shouldn't bring in Moe Schrivnitz. So Jim Anthony, Tony Quinn, and others call for Quality Comics Hack O'Hara.

For real people Bob hope appears off-stage in my Moon Man tale. Howard Hughes & Douglas (Wrong-Way) Corrigan appear in the second half of Sons of Thor.

Van Allen Plexico: Everything from very hidden to very overt clues that connect HAWK toLUCIAN to LORDS OF FIRE, and even obscure things like naming a planet "NM-156" in a scene in LORDS inspired by the film "Prometheus." It's a double Easter Egg, actually-- it uses the same "two letters/three numbers" style as the planets in the "Alien" movies and "Prometheus," but "NM-156" specifically is also the name of a Queensryche song I like, which just happened to fit the pattern.

And with the Sentinels novels, I've been dropping things in since very early in the series that pop back up again much, much later. Some of those might not fully qualify as "Easter Eggs" but they're pretty close, because it comes (I think) as quite a surprise when they pop up\ again. For example, the black box that the Blue Skull is escaping with in the very beginning of WHEN STRIKES THE WARLORD... It seems like a nothing bit, but it becomes very, very important later on!

Then there are the comics-creator-inspired names I've used such as the "Moench-Mantlo Prison" for super-villains and the "Kur-Bai" (Kirby)aliens...!

Why did you put them in, or why do you avoid them?

Derrick Ferguson: I put them in mostly to amuse myself as I don't think anybody takes the time to look for them and even if they do they probably wouldn't get the references. They're just fun to drop in and another way for me to keep myself interested when the mechanics of writing a story can be tedious.

Andrew Salmon: They are fun to do and they are a nudge and a wink to readers, a way of saying we're on the same page so to speak.

Mark Halegua: It makes it fun, and I like it when readers email me with notes they've spottted the names they find. No one has managed to find all of the names in my story, "The Night Before Christmas."

Ed Erdelac: Mainly to amuse myself, and, at least in my own mind, tie my characters to other fictional characters I enjoy.

Chuck Miller: I enjoy doing it, and when someone spots one of the more obscure ones, it marks them down as a person of interest.

Don Gates: I guess I put them in there more for my own amusement than anything else, just to have a little fun with it.  I'd like to work in more of them in the future, but hopefully not all sitcom stuff.  I can't think of any that I'll be working into any of my current projects, but in the future there is something that I'd like to write that cameos a few adventurers from movies.

Billy Craig: Sometimes they are intentional, sometimes they just pop up and fit the story so I leave 'em in.  Sometimes I put them in to see if anybody will even notice them.

Jim Beard: Ben had nothing to do with the story, but I thought it made sense that he'd be there, watching. When I started pointing it out to readers, they thought it was pretty cool, so then, for me, it was totally worth it.

I.A. Watson:  I'd say about a third of easter eggs are well-considered and effectively used. There's a discipline writers have to exercise at professional level when they self-edit. Is there a good reason for that paragraph, that sentence, that word to be in there? How does it serve the story? If there's no good answer, that bit of the text should be gone.

That's not to say there's no place for hidden references and nostalgic shout-outs. If one is writing a story about a "heritage" character then sometimes its those little treats that show the reader that the author knows his stuff, has "got it". If one is trying to place one's characters in a wider fictional universe then so be it. If the idea is to make the reader go "wow" or smile a little then that's fine.

But often the easter egg breaks the suspension of disbelief. It takes the reader out of the story to consider the reference, reminds them that this is a fictional invention referencing other fiction. For example:

The TV series Arrow is a version of DC's Green Arrow comic, and its quite fun. A few DC universe references get tossed in there for the fanboys, or for versimilitude: the diner's a Big Belly Burger franchise (a subsidiary of Lexcorp); Dinah Laurel Lance's free legal clinic is called the CNRI (=canary; in the comics this character is Black Canary); the main villain trained at Nanda Parbat, a hidden mystic city where in comics Deadman mentor Rama Kushna resides (and Judomaster, Batman, and others also trained at some point), a train arrives from Bludhaven (Nightwing's base of operations), and so on. DC fans get a smile and it does no harm to casual viewers.

But in the most recent episode, "the Saviour", a character returning to her home says of the quick redeye journey "I'll be back to Central City in a flash." (The Flash is based in Central City in the comics) For me that was a joke too far . Another time in another scene I might have smiled, but this was such a self-aware joke, placed in an emotional departure scene where we were supposed to be seeing how much these parting characters were hurting, that it shattered the moment. This was an easter egg too far.

If a story does that, or worse, depends upon someone picking up some obscure reference to help define the character, then that story is the weaker for it.

Information required to understand the protagonists, the plot, or the backstory needs to be there for all. Otherwise that story is elitist and inaccessible. Worse still, constant references trying to tie a story into other works, especially those by other more successful authors, often comes across as trying to hitch on the coat-tails of the greats.

I get annoyed sometimes when critics assume that easter eggs betray a "lesser" work. "Chandler never needed to slip in Doyle references, so his works have authority." I can see the argument; many of the best fictional worlds are complete unto themselves, requiring no support from other creations. But I think there are also gains to be had for "recombinant" world-building. Wayne Reinagel's Viktoriana is a good example, where the easter eggs have escaped the basket and have become the story. And where writers use minor references to connect up their tales to a larger universe they are crafting - as with Moorcock (or Plexico) - then that's really just using detail in service of a wider creative process.

In short, there's a place for easter eggs, but they need to be used as carefully and calculatedly as every other weapon in the writers arsenal. Or, to take the metaphor to extremes, easter eggs can be a treat, but they can also ruin your pants when you sit on them because they've been left to melt in the wrong place.

Ron Fortier: These are always fun to do and just add a little extra to what I write.

Nancy Hansen: In my case it's both as a way to picture what's going on better, and because it's a lot of fun. And when I have an issue with someone, they get killed off in a very nasty way.

Wayne Reinagel: Some are just tilts of the hat, such as creating characters with names of writers or artists from the pulp era, which only hardcore fans would catch. Most are homages or my version of existing (sometimes real-life) characters. But they are ALL in the story for a reason, not merely for the purpose of name-dropping.

Lee Houston Jr.: I don't intentionally set out to insert an Easter Egg into everything I write, but will not hesitate if appropriate, just to have a bit of fun at the keyboard that the readers will enjoy. The best Easter Eggs are the ones that occur to me naturally over the course of working on whatever project I'm writing at the moment. I won't insert one if it doesn't add to the story, or will affect the story in a negative way.

Bobby Nash: I add them because they are fun. I won't add them if they hurt the story, but sometimes these little nods are fun for the reader as well as for myself. I like that, at least for me, these characters all live in the same world. Sometimes I've tied stories together. In All-Star Pulp Comics #1, I have Secret Agent X doubling Claudio Tommasso (as mentioned above) because the mobster is turning state's evidence. Cut to a couple years later and I write a Rick Ruby tale for the upcoming vol. 2 that features a mod run prostitution ring. Who runs that ring? Hello, Claudio. I did a similar thing with the story in Secret Agent X vol. 4. There is a sequel to that story starring Lance Star that appeared in the Lance Star comic book. Each story is stand-alone, but when read together paints a larger picture.

Erwin K. Roberts: I do it because its fun. Often, it is also a hat tip to those that came before.

Van Allen Plexico: If I have to name something, I figure I might as well make the name a little "extra"-interesting. As long as it doesn't distract toogreatly from the story. I actually worried that "Moench-Mantlo" might knock readers out of the story, it's so blatant!

What is your favorite hidden surprise you encountered within someone else's work?

Derrick Ferguson:  My favorite hidden surprise was when I realized that Michael Moorcock had his own multiverse and that all his characters were connected in some way. Being a reader of Marvel/DC comics I was familiar with the concept of a multiverse in comics but this was the first time I had read it in prose. It's the reason why most of my stories tend to take place on what I call Earth 59 which is where Dillon, Mongrel, Fortune McCall and most of my other characters live and work.

Andrew Salmon: I don't know if I have a favorite but I do find a smile on my face when I stumble on an egg in someone else's work. Alan Moore is particularly good at inserting these and almost every pulp tale these days has one. And I say, keep 'em coming!

Ed Erdelac: Probably when the characters from Stephen King's The Stand found Christine rusting out in the desert outside Las Vegas.

Chuck Miller: One that springs immediately to mind is a collected edition of some Spider-Man novels by Adam-Troy Castro, "The Sinister Six Combo." It is jam-packed with cool literary and pop culture references, including one from a favorite novel of mine, A Confederacy of Dunces.

Don Gates: My favorite Easter Eggs are the ones hidden in Alex Ross' artwork for DC's Kingdom Come.  Every time I read it I find something new.

Billy Craig: Warren Murphy used to be really good at slipping them into The Destroyer books as well as Trace and Digger.

I.A. Watson: There's a few ways that Easter eggs work.

A recent example of an Easter egg folding into the main plot was in the Doctor Who christmas special The Snowmen. This Victorian adventure chronicled the origin of a disembodied and sinister Great Intelligence, which the Doctor defeated and exiled using a tin lunchbox with a map of the 1968 London Underground on it. I was amused that many uninformed reviewers felt it set-up the villain for a sequel adventure, perhaps set in the sixties. In actual fact, the sequel has already been done, in an adventure broadcast in 1968, The Web of Fear, in which the Doctor battles a disembodied Great Intelligence in the London Underground. The sheer cheek of doing a story that turned out to be a prequel to one from 45 years ago took my breath away.

An example of an in-house-joke kind of Easter egg occurs on the final page of Fantastic Four Annual #3, in which two would-be guests are tossed out of Reed and Sue's wedding by SHIELD security. These characters - who refer to each other as Stan and Jack - walk away disgruntled to "get their own back" by "plotting the next issue". It's a sly metatextual moment - much rarer then than now - that tops off an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink celebration story where even Millie the Model gets a cameo - with a smile.

Then there's the subtle "that was a plot point all along and we never noticed it" kind of revelation. A recent episode of How I Met Your Mother pulled this off very effectively. The long-running romance subplot of two regular cast, womanizing Barney Stinson and relation-phobic Robin Sherbotsky, was concluded in a stunning manner in "The Robin". Told with flashbacks to a dozen previous episodes and leading up to a marriage proposal, this tale shows us scenes we had seen before in stories we thought complete - but puts an entirely different spin on them. What we thought we saw wasn't what was actually happening. Very clever stuff with some long-term planning.

Finally, there's the basic "I get that reference" kind of reference. The late lamented animated series Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes was quite good at this. Apart from slyly slipping in additional supporting characters in the background, it also sometimes ventures into mischievous commentary on the comics themselves. Avengers fans may recall how, during Brian Bendis' initial Avengers comics foray, he "killed off" Hawkeye by having the archer's quiver catch fire and the blast arrows inside it exploding. Longtime Clint Barton fans felt this was a poor cheap shock ending for their swashbuckling hero, as well as suggesting remarkably poor professionalism on Hawkeye's part at not having a way to detach an exploding quiver. The cartoon also used this situation. Hawkeye's quiver caught fire and was about to explode. He casually hooked it off and tossed it to take down the bad guys following him and to set up an attack on Baron Struker - with a smirky grin! That's Hawkeye - and a wonderfully subversive Easter egg that made me have a smirky grin too.

Ron Fortier: Martin Powell had me appear as a doctor in one of his early Sherlock Holmes comic books.

Nancy Hansen: I can't say it was a favorite, but it was the most memorable. Well known author Wally Lamb lives in this area. He used a lot of 60s song titles for his book titles and local color in his story. There was a character in the first one (SHE'S COME UNDONE) that I immediately recognized as based on a couple of employees in the school where his wife worked at the time. Wasn't the most flattering portrayal, so it was a bit weird after reading that to face these folks.

Wayne Reinagel: Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassady. This series is absolutely fantasic and loaded with references from 60's horror movies, Steampunk era, pulp era, silver age comics and lots more.

Lee Houston Jr.: Within the fifth season premiere of Quantum Leap, Sam Beckett spends practically the whole two hours stuck in Lee Harvey Oswald, because series creator Donald Bellasario never believed the conspiracy and multiple shooters theories surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Unable to alter events in the future assassin's timeline, at the crucial moment Sam finally escapes Oswald and leaps into one of the motorcade guards just as the shooting begins. At the hospital, trying to get his bearings, Sam asks his guide Al why all that happened, because he/they couldn't save Kennedy and didn't change anything. That is when Al tells Sam that they did. Because of his leap infected "Swiss cheese memory", Sam doesn't remember that, in the ORIGINAL history, Jacqueline Kennedy was killed too!

Bobby Nash: I was also featured in George Perez's Crimosn Plague comic book. It was a thrill seeing my likeness drawn by such a master artist. I was also on the poster.

Erwin K. Roberts: This goes back awhile, to the first run of DC's Deadman. In one panel there is a group of tall flames. If you held the book almost at a right angle to your eyes the flames spelled out, "Hey, A Jim Steranko Effect!"

Van Allen Plexico: Gene Wolfe's four-volume BOOK OF THE LONG SUN is written entirely in third-person POV... or so it seems for the first two and a half books.And then comes a moment, totally randomly, so quick you could miss it if you blinked, halfway through volume three (CALDE OF THE LONG SUN), where the narrative suddenly uses the word "YOU." I don't recall exactly how it goes and don't have it handy to look up, but this is a close approximation:

Patera Silk climbed down the wall and exited the fortress. And then you came around the corner and greeted him. And Patera Silk said...

MAN! That totally blindsided me. Why? Because it means that rather than a faceless, limited-perspective third-person narrator (like most books have, these days), these books actually were written in SECOND PERSON POV--something you almost NEVER see-- and I simply hadn't had the information to realize that until Wolfe just casually dropped that "you" in there. It meant the story was being TOLD TO US by a CHARACTER ACTUALLY IN THE STORY, and that "WE" (ie YOU) are a character in it, too! Staggering! And just from the use of one little two-letter word. That blew my mind, how it was so easy to totally turn the structure of an entire series upside down with one little word.