September 22, 2015
I have, I think, over a thousand sketches, drawings and paintings of the various scenes and characters in my books. I love commissioning artwork–it’s a bit of an addiction, I think. When I was a kid I loved all the illustrations in my Chronicles of Narnia books. I’d stare at the pictures by British artist Pauline Baynes for hours. Baynes also illustrated JRR Tolkien’s Farmer Giles of Ham, which I also loved.
I swore if I ever managed to collect the crazy ideas in my head into an actual book I’d have it plastered with illustrations.
Flash forward about thirty years. I made good on my promise. With an average of twenty-five maps and illustrations per book, I’ve got over 200 in print and counting.
A Picture is worth … a thousand less words.
The practice of adding illustrations to the interior of books seems to have vanished in modern times. When folks pick up my books to have a look at them, they almost always fan through the pages–what are they looking for?? Most books don’t have anything but printing in the interior and checking the pages for them usually comes up with nothing. But, imagine their surprise when they flip through my books and come to a page with a beautiful illustration. It’s a genuine moment.
Illustrations are also helpful when you’re dealing with a fantastic, completely made-up world like what I write. You have to describe everything, and that can derail the plot. Modern readers don’t like that, plot is very important Instead of spending a couple thousand words going over one of my whacky creations, why not toss in a cool picture and go a little lighter on the descriptions?
A Creative Symbiosis
I usually give my artists a lot of freedom when they create an illustration. Some authors can be quite exacting in what they expect, me, I’m easy. I rather enjoy seeing how the artist interprets the subject. If I see something I really like, I’ll often add it into the writing, it’s only natural to do so.
Take this image of Princess Marilith of Xandarr by Carol Phillips. This is one of the first commissions I got from Carol, going all the way back to Book 1. As you can see, it’s a nude. I don’t recall asking Carol for a nude. Princess Marilith is an angry, spurned, blue-haired woman, heartbroken and vengeful. However, my early visualizations of her were fully clothed. Carol’s painting of her captured those various feelings–you can see how upset she is in her painted face. Her unexpectedly nude body is strong and beautiful. I was captivated by what I saw. Inspired, I went through and re-wrote the Princess, making her essentially nude in the story. She comes from Xandarr, a very hot and dry place, so it seemed to follow. Wearing only light veils or nothing at all, daring you to look her in the eye, has been her trademark ever since.
Revving-Up my Creative Process
I usually come up with an idea or a character years before they actually appear on the page. Typically, as the image clarifies in my head, I get all excited and commission a drawing of it. Seeing the finished artwork gets me going every time and influences what happens in the books.
Take Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, EVoR. I was sitting at a Burger King several years back when I came up with a foil and opposite number for The Professor–Lt Kilos’ brainy husband. I imagined a tall, rather swarthy woman dressed all in white, her skin powdered to pearly perfection, her raven hair tucked up into a large white wig. I immediately sent a note to my friend, the amazing Eve Ventrue, gave her the details and waited a week or two to see the results.
Eve came up with Hannah-Ben sitting in an opulent padded study. As usual, I incorporated her study into the writing, the image of Professor Shurlamp sitting in her fine red room is her standard calling card.
That first painting of Hannah-Ben was stunning, she was beautiful, but I thought she was missing a little something. She was too demure, too unassuming. Professor Shurlamp is anything but unassuming–everything she does is big and bold and in-your-face.
Not enough wig, not enough eyebrow and piercing stare. I wanted something beautiful, yet sort of horrible as well, rather like Gerald Scarfe’s work on Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Just like that. I wanted something cool, but a little creepy.
Enter Carol Phillips, the Queen of the League of Elder who has contributed probably 40% of my massive art inventory. Carol went to work and produced the second painting of Hannah-Ben.
Working with Carol for so long, she is often able to pop my head open, pull out the mess that’s inside and paint beautiful things with it. The painting Carol created of Professor Shurlamp was absolutely perfect. She was a mile high, she had the wig, the eyebrow, the “You are nothing to me” expression … everything was perfect. Even her snowy white gown was perfect–look at the frills, the buttons, the tight waistline and the bows. So many bows …
Seeing this thrilling painting gave me the added “oomph!” to finish The Shadow tech Goddess, a tome that had taken me four years to write.
And then came Stenibelle, another book where Hannah-Ben Shurlamp makes a notable appearance.
I wanted another image of Hannah-Ben for the book, I thought it would be a nice touch, and this time, Carol came up with a true masterpiece–the ultimate image of Professor Shurlamp holding her Glyph with scores of data orbiting her head. This image gave me chills when I first saw it (really–no kidding!!)
Seeing that giant wig, those curls, that glyph-wand in her hand helped me figure out the various twists and turns in the story that had been giving me a few minor fits.
So, when in doubt, get a piece of artwork and let it fire your imagination, you’ll be glad you did.
Copyright 2015, Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips and Eve Ventrue
September 7, 2015
Over nine books, I’ve introduced a number of sciences delving into all sorts of odd things. Of course, I’m not a scientist, and therefore, all the sciences I introduce are pure fantasy. As they are fantasy, I don’t hesitate to make these made-up sciences as bizarre and off the chain as I can.
Here they are in no particular order:
The science of maiming, enslaving and killing men is practiced on the dark, remote world of Carina 7. The ladies inhabiting Carina 7 are the descendants of the haremites of the Emperor King of Ming-Moorland. After centuries of being tormented by the Emperor, the ladies of Carina decided to turn the tables to some extent and created a whole science dedicated to enslaving, fighting and killing men. Any lone man who happened to make his way to the stony surface of Carina often found himself an unwilling victim and test subject as they refined their techniques.
Eventually, Gynology became a well-honed and proved science. A trained Gynologist, armed with a host of man-killing weapons, could effectively control men using various scents and an insidious device known as “The Barb”. A “Barbed” male would be enthralled to the Gynologist for the rest of his life, however long that lasted.
The Sisterhood of Light took a secretive interest in Gynology and managed to replicate some of its various tenets. What the Sisters do with this incorporated knowledge is currently unknown.
Anthecary is a mind/body enhancement technique practiced on Onaris, particularly in the south Calverland region. Onaris’ majestic Lone Rider Mountain is the home of the Stoutback, a huge, six-legged lizard the locals have (somewhat) domesticated. Those herding the creature, known as Stoutback Shepherds, must do so in the near vertical pastures dotting the mountain’s face. Unable to afford technology to assist them in getting around in this grueling and dangerous environment, the shepherds developed a mind technique called Anthecary which would allow them to “stick” to the vertical surface of the mountain using their minds. Anthecary also “hardens” their bodies, allowing them to stand upright without having to brace themselves. When the League Stellar Marines adopted the giant S/K pistol as their standard-issue firearm, they adopted the use of Anthecary to combat the deadly recoil of the weapon. “Hardened” in an Anthecary state, the S/K can be safely and accurately fired.
Xaphan Cabalism is a veritable mixed-bag of herbology, home-remedies, quack medicine, folklore, arcane investigation, machine science and religion all rolled into one. Cabalism was the Xaphans answer to the Hospitalers in the League, attempted to treat wounds and other medical maladies using pieced-together knowledge from various sources. Though rightly considered to be horrendous quacks and frauds, the Cabalists did managed to gather some practical knowledge, primarily through seducing and or abducting Hospitalers.
In the burgeoning field of communicating with unconscious and comatose persons, Mentralysis is in the forefront. Using sophisticated computerized devices known as Mentralysis Decks, one may speak with a sleeping or comatose person as if they were awake. The Gold Coast of Hoban is the home and major research center of Mentralysis.
A major breakthrough with this science came when it was discovered that within all people is a Sleeping Self (SS) which takes control while asleep. The SS has a unique and independent personality, and may be very similar to the Waking Self (WS) or may be radically different. Mentralysists, through analysis, have determined there are seven types of Archetypical people, depending on how different the SS is from the WS.
Mentralysists have determined that various neurosis due to incompatibility between the WS and the SS can be treated, and oftentimes cured, using Mentralysis techniques.
Given the fact the League is full of people with an excess of spare time, a number of novel fads have come and gone through the years. One fad that took hold and has continued to grow is Cyberlitica, where one fabricates a completely different persona of either a fictitious person or, in some cases, of themselves. Using Cyberlitica, the fabricated “Changling” has a birth-date, public records of their passing, receipts, diplomas from various universities, have taken husbands or wives, and may have criminal records. The overriding goal of Cyberlitica is to create a completely convincing persona. If a Changling happens to make the posts, that is an added benefit. One man, a Lord Sharper of Stillville, divorced his wife after he learned most if not all of her glamorous wealth and exploits were fabricated via Cyberlitica. The Sisterhood of Light doggedly investigates Cyberlitica, and those who have been found to have created a Changling face heavy fines and or imprisonment.
Never underestimate the Xaphans for coming up with crazy sciences. Bondarism, practiced in the city of Waam, is no exception. Bondarism is the notion that the human body can experience accelerated evolution if the body is rigorously stressed by placing it into unusual and uncomfortable situations. Buildings and various vehicles built with Bondarism in mind, have little to no ergonomic considerations, are suicidally unsafe and are impractical in the extreme. However, the people of Waam do appear to exhibit a number of advanced abilities, including the ability to fly and walk up walls. Perhaps there is something to Bondarism after all.
TA (Time Apparent)
TA is a form of Time Travel being studied by the Hospitalers. Time travel is a very difficult thing to achieve, though the mechanics of it are fairly well understood. Temporal Gravity (TG) is the most difficult aspect to overcome, as your TG ceaselessly attempts to pull you back into your proper place in time. Perception is also a very confounding thing to deal with, as time travelers will “forget” what they’ve come to do. (A legendary machine is said to have overcome all these problems, though its existence is in dispute)
An odd solution to the various issues with time travel is called Time Apparent by the Hospitalers. With TA, instead of sending your physical body ahead in time, only one’s consciousness goes. Once in the future, your consciousness will inhabit your body, in whatever condition your body happens to be in. You could appear as an animated corpse, a skeleton, a cloud of dust, or, in some cases, as a group of people if your material has been reincorporated into new life forms.
TA is only effective going forward from your apparent place in time. It has yet to be approved for general use by the Sisterhood of Light.
copyright 2015, Ren Garcia