Thomas Zane was a bestselling poet who visited Bright Falls in the 1970s, where he became inspired to write fantasy tales and poems about Cauldron Lake. He owned the Bird Leg Cabin on Diver's Isle, the same cabin that Alan Wake stays in during the Alan Wake game.
Thomas Zane was a well-known writer of fantasy stories and poems and was famous before his death. He wrote about creatures and Cauldron Lake with the help of his lover, Barbara Jagger, who acted as his inspiration and muse. One morning, Barbara went swimming and drowned under mysterious circumstances. After she died, his assistant writer, Emil Hartman, convinced him to write her back to life using the supernatural power of the lake to turn fiction into reality.
Although Zane was successful, the Dark Presence came back with her, possessing Barbara's body. When he realized that the Barbara that lived with him was not the real one, he cut out her heart, finding only darkness within. He wanted to make sure that everything that caused these events was destroyed, and thus used the power of the lake to write himself, the island, and everything else involved out of existence entirely. This was likely the cause of the 1970 eruption of the Cauldron Lake volcano.
However, as a contingency, Zane also wrote that any of his belongings left in a shoe box would remain in the real world. He used the lake's power to write a character called Alan Wake, who would someday come to Cauldron Lake and defeat the Dark Presence using a light switch called the Clicker imbued with magical power. Zane wrote that Alan had nightmares and a fear of the dark as a child; to help him overcome his fear, Alan's mother gave him the Clicker, pretending it was magical and it could defeat the monster from the dark. The page then said Alan remembered this when years later he stood at the bank of Cauldron Lake holding The Clicker in his hand just as he was about to jump into the Lake to defeat the Dark Presence.
Zane then put on his diving suit, took the possessed Barbara, and jumped into the lake, diving deep into the interdimensional Dark Place beneath it. Zane sacrificed his own human body to the Bright Presence, and it and the Dark Presence rose to the surface of the lake to continue their conflict. The spirits of Thomas and Barbara, meanwhile, descended ever deeper into the Dark Place, where Zane recited a final "master poem." In doing so, he created a "baby universe" where he and Barbara continued to live happily ever after.
In the game, Zane appears as the Bright Presence that helps Alan. Alan wrote Thomas Zane into the story to stop Alan from completing the manuscript by shining his light on him. Alan said that his act has plunged Thomas even deeper into the nightmare the Dark Presence keeps him in. He later appears to Alan as a shining light and in the final episode as a diving suit with a bright light shining out of the helmet. Although far weaker than the Dark Presence, he is capable of suppressing and warding the Dark Presence away. He is also capable of removing the Dark Presence's poltergeist abilities just by appearing.
Alan Wake (Season 1)
Zane makes his first appearance in Episode 1, where he appears in Alan's nightmare. Zane appears as a bright, shining light in the sky who saves Alan from the murderous hitchhiker by shining light over a house Wake is trapped in. This causes the hitchhiker to retreat. Zane provides light for Alan, healing him. Afterward, Zane gives Alan a message in poetry:
For he did not know, that beyond the lake he called home,
There lied a deeper, and darker ocean green.
Where waves are both wilder and more serene.
To its ports I've been,
To its ports I've been.
Wake does not understand this, but Zane moves on. He quickly teaches Alan how he will fight with the Taken, which he will have to do in real life. Zane supplies Alan with a high-powered revolver and a flashlight, and then leaves, giving Wake back his dream.
As the game unfolds, Zane's presence becomes more and more felt. He is responsible for leaving the manuscript pages for Wake to find, scattering them through the trails that Wake will take. He may be behind the Safe Havens that Wake takes cover in, seeing how once in a while, a light pole will turn on unexpectedly.
Eventually, Wake pieces together what happened on the night his wife Alice was taken away. When the Dark Presence, in the form of Barbara Jagger, tricked Wake into writing a horror story for it, Wake became aware of its goal to kill everyone in the town (and possibly take over the world). Knowing that he could not get out himself, he wrote Zane into the story to come and free him with his power, and then take the manuscript pages and help him reveal the Dark Presences intentions to himself. Thomas did like the story asked, and used his power to drive the Dark Presence away from Bird Leg Cabin. He then freed Wake, and took the manuscript pages just as Barbara Jagger reasserted herself in the cabin. Zane escaped, and then proceeded to help Wake throughout the story.
It is revealed that Zane has created a weapon for Alan to end the Dark Presence with, the clicker. When Alan was a young boy, his mother gave him a broken-off light switch, which he named The Clicker. Every time Wake would push the button, an imaginary light would turn on, and the "monsters" would go away. When Wake enters the Well-Lit Room with his friends, he amazingly finds the Clicker. Wake then set out to destroy the Dark Presence by diving into Cauldron Lake and ending Barbara Jagger.
As Alan succeeds in reaching the lake and diving in, Zane floats around in the water slowly around Alan, where he tells Alan to use the clicker to destroy Barbara Jagger, to "fill her heart with light." Before leaving, he shows Wake Mr. Scratch, a doppelganger of Wake. Mr. Scratch is an anomalous creation of the Dark Presence that will take Wake's place in the real world (Mr. Scratch is featured in the XBLA game "Alan Wake's American Nightmare"). Zane then leaves abruptly, leaving Alan to kill Barbara Jagger and write the ending to the story.
Zane later talks to Alan to keep his focus, warning him that he should not go any further. He shows him a video of Alan struggling with reality and even telling of recent events. Later, he and Alan meet each other in Alan's own home, tells him its not the Dark Presence that's causing this but himself is responsible for making this happened: he is trapped in his own nightmares and fighting himself. After Alan angrily refuses to believe he is indeed responsible for this, Zane is forcibly pushed away before Alan's battle with the televisions.
Zane appears as a light through a window at Cauldron Lake Lodge, informs Alan that he must reach the Lighthouse and by giving him a manuscript page allows him to bring out words to form a path. He also tells Alan that he is the part of Alan that doesn't want to give up and that the real Alan Wake is at Divers Isle, currently lost in the darkness and going insane after completing his puzzles. Along the way to Divers Isle, Barry states that Alan has ditched him as a friend, feeling replaced with Zane and gets enraged.
According to the books found in Bird Leg Cabin by Alan Wake in Nightmare:
- It is speculated that Thomas was actually Alan's father, before moving to Cauldron Lake and meeting Barbara. This would explain how he was able to shape Alan's childhood (he would then only need to apply the idea that, for example, the clicker is a magical artifact, rather than writing the memory into existence), without having Alan as a completely written-to-existence character. You know, within the game. Also, in The Signal DLC, Alan's TV self reveals that Wakes father left him at one point. The TV tells that Wake would play alone at playgrounds as a child, pretending that he didn't miss his father, that he never knew.
- Thomas Zane seems to have great insights into the future. He knew that Alan Wake would come to Bright Falls, that Alice would get taken by The Dark Presence and Alan Wake would be searching for a way to defeat the Dark Presence. It's unknown if he simply knew these facts or manipulated them like the Clicker. It could be that Thomas using the power of the lake, made the events from the last page become real, giving Alan his name and bringing him to Bright Falls to destroy the Dark Presence.
- Thomas donned the diving suit to sink into Cauldron Lake, in an attempt to save Barbara Jagger (the real one), which explains why he is only seen while wearing the suit. Incidentally, it is thought that he became the embodiment of light after diving into the lake.
- Alan Wake novels tell stories about a New York Detective named Alex Casey. During a flashback in Episode 2, Wake can walk into a room in his apartment which has several copies of Casey novels. Two manuscript pages, The Sudden Stop 1 and The Sudden Stop 2, are part of a novel by Wake that kills off the protagonist Alex Casey. Both Casey and Thomas Zane are voiced by the same actor, James McCaffey. While Casey may be reference to Max Payne, he may also be a reference to Thomas Zane, because he was a diver, he also lost his wife.
- Thomas Zane could be named after a polish poet Tomasz Zan.
- Alan Wake may only be a character written by Thomas Zane. Therefore, everything that has happened to Wake was originally scripted by Zane, and Wake is only acting leading role in a story created by Zane. This would explain how Zane wrote about Wake seven years before Wake was born. It would also mean that Alan Wake as a character exists only to defeat the darkness. This can be backed up by the fact that the Anderson brothers's song about the Lady of the Light actually tells Wake about rewriting his own destiny, not about following Zane's goal to defeat the Dark Presence.
- At the end of Alan's dream, in the first episode- Nightmare , Jagger says "He is here." Could Zane have just written that, at some point, another writer would come to the town and defeat the Dark Presence? The Dark Presence being aware of this, could it now know that the one Zane foretold of has finally come when Alan arrives?
- Zane is voiced by James McCaffrey, who also voiced the title character in Max Payne, Remedy's prior game. Could this be Remedy's hint to Zane's identity; if Zane is Alan's father or past incarnation, then McCaffrey could be a link between the two titles, as Max Payne was the predecessor to Alan Wake in the same way that Zane was predecessor to Wake.
- Thomas Zane could be an evil entity (like a demon) that has learned to use the Light to keep Alan Wake on a constant diversion away from his goal-- saving Alice.
- Thomas Zane's name could be a reference to Erich Zann of the Lovecraft story "The Music of Erich Zann", a musician whom plays to keep the darkness outside his window and the horrors it contains at bay.
- How did Emil Hartman know about the lake's powers? Emil Hartman is said to be Thomas Zane's former assistant when he lived in Bright Falls and to be the one who encouraged him to bring Barbara Jagger back to life through writing a poem.
- Did Zane write that Alan Wake would come to Bright Falls and defeat the Dark Presence? Was the page in the Well-Lit Room (written by Zane) describing Wake's life the only one?
- Did Alan write that Thomas Zane would be his predecessor in fight against the Dark Presence? Was the part after he arrived to Bright Falls only one he altered or did he create Thomas Zane from scratch?
- Did Alan creating Thomas that creates Alan that creates Thomas etc. make eternal loop of parallel universes folded in each other like suggested in one of "Night Springs" episodes?
- Did Thomas create the Dark Presence or was it always there?
- The Dark Presence is keeping him inside the lake, how much power does he still have left?
- Why do the Anderson's call Alan "Tom"? Could Alan be a child of, or perhaps a reincarnation of Thomas Zane?
- Did Thomas write Mr. Scratch into existence and if he did, then did he know that Alan would not make it back?
- Thomas Zane, while saving Alan from finishing Departure, stated that the Darkness took over Barbara's physical form and saying that "she looks so old". Could this mean that Thomas Zane hasn't aged ever since he wrote himself out of existence? "It stole the skin of my Barbara a long time ago". "She looks so old". - Thomas Zane.
- Thomas Zane wrote on a page that when he wrote himself out of existence, the only things of his that would survive would be those found in a shoebox. Is there more than just one shoebox? If so, where? And could he create more with new things in each one?
- In "Season 2", will Tom's face finally be revealed?
- When Alan meets the Anderson Brothers in the Oh Deer Diner, they call him Tom, which could speculate that Alan is a reincarnated version of Tom or looks exactly like him. Alan seems to take the name as if they were just old people using "Tom" as a nickname.
- The theory that Alan Wake is a reincarnated version of Tom is further backed up by the fact that after beating the darkness tornado you can hear Tom and Barbara talking from when Tom killed Barbara after realizing it was not her; Tom's voice sounds exactly like Alan's.
- Thomas Zane is voiced by James McCaffrey, the voice actor of Alex Casey, and Max Payne in Remedy's previous game installments.
- During the Nightmare sequence in episode one, there are many references to Thomas Zane's character. There are at least two posters that portray his diving suit, one of which bears the title "Tom the Poet".
- Several of the books in the Bird Leg Cabin are attributed to Zane, and he seems to have found something when he mysteriously disappeared. When you try to inspect the books, Alan will claim he's never heard of the writer before.
- Zane's works are always found inside a shoebox, including the collection found in Bird's Leg Cabin. This follows Zane's 'exception' that his possessions can be preserved as long as they are in a shoebox, including the box in the well lit room.
- Thomas Zane was an avid diver and he dived in the lake on a regular basis; thus the small island he lived on came to be known as Diver's Isle.
- The diving suit Thomas Zane appears in strongly resembles that of one used in the James Bond film 'For Your Eyes Only'.
- Specifically, the suit worn by Thomas Zane is known as a JIM suit.
- In Episode 5, Sarah Breaker says that Thomas Zane was a myth. Alan relates by saying that Zane was real.
- Zane's face is never seen.
- He takes his diver suit form the most in The Signal and The Writer DLCs.
- Whenever Zane appears, there is always the sound of deep water and the breathing sound of the diving suit indicating that Thomas Zane is still in the lake.
- Tom makes a slight appearance in Alan Wake's American Nightmare when he can be seen on a movie poster for "Tom the Poet" towards the end of the Drive-In Theater sequence.
- In the song Balance Slays the Demon (a song that Barry wrote for the Old Gods of Asgards) features the quote of Zane featured in the Cauldron Lake Lodge Monument- "Beyond the shadow you settle for, there's a miracle illuminated."
- A blackboard appearing in Remedy's follow-up game, Quantum Break, is covered in references to Alan Wake, including a portion of the poem recited by Zane at the beginning of the game; "...deeper darker ocean green where the waves are both wilder are more serene." Quantum Break features characters named Beth Wilder and Paul Serene, and the fact that the words matching their names are underlined on this blackboard suggests that the characters were deliberately named after the poem from Alan Wake.
- In the game Control, Thomas Zane is mentioned as a poet that the main character Jesse is fond of. This, along with multiple references to the writer Alan Wake and the events at Bright Falls, confirm that the two games are set in the same universe.