Of all the characters in Double Jump who have immediately recognizable video game counterparts, Steel Serpent is one of the most direct. I think only Mariano and Larry, who make only occasional appearances, are more obvious. Most of the other characters are composites–characters who draw inspiration from two or more figures from video games. I felt it was important, though, for Jeremy to meet someone right away who set the tone for the Lattice of Worlds. In many ways, this place in which Jeremy finds himself both is and is not a reflection of the games he’s played. There are differences, jarring ones, and he starts to encounter them early.
Clearly anyone who’s even dabbled in popular games from the Playstation consoles would be familiar with Solid Snake. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that many readers of Double Jump would be more familiar with him than I am. It might surprise people to learn that I have not played a lot of the Metal Gear games. I played the Metal Gear Solid demo on PS1 about twenty or thirty times, but only took the real game as far as the boss riding in the tank. That’s not very far. With Metal Gear Solid 2, I also played the demo about a dozen times, but in the real game I think I got about as far as getting onto the ship from the bridge. I didn’t really want to go through the whole thing. I just thought that the whole “hiding in a cardboard box” thing was one of the most hilariously bizarre elements in an otherwise serious game that I’d ever seen, and I wanted to bring that into Double Jump. It was one of the initial sparks that spawned the novel, in fact.
What makes Steel such an interesting character, to me, for helping Jeremy reflect on the nature of the Lattice is that Steel knows that he is a copy of an original, an imperfect mirror seeking its own identity. As a generally tight-lipped military type he doesn’t talk about it much, and Jeremy has to learn that fact from another character. Even so, I knew as I wrote about Steel that this truth resonates within everything he does and thinks. It both drives him but also leads him to doubts about himself which affect his judgment, and I think that his struggles with the question of “who am I?” makes him a worthy mentor for Jeremy in this new, unsettling universe.