by Sandy Auden
This month: A Comic Book Retrospective for Vertigo with Alex Irvine; Stan Nicholls
warns that the Orcs are coming; Peter V Brett's new and original
fantasy The Painted Man; Nigel Suckling talks fangs with
The Book of the Vampire; and the Fall season line-up from Small Press
Dorling Kindersley has released the first of two big coffee table books about the history of comics.
The Vertigo Encyclopedia by Alex Irvine is celebration of DC Comics' Vertigo imprint. It starts with detailed chapters of the line's most famous series, such as Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon and Neil Gaiman's Sandman, then follows up with some of their smaller projects, giving overviews of the characters and behind the scenes details.
Author Alex Irvine is no stranger to researching non-fiction books, with titles like The Supernatural Book of Monsters, Spirits, Demons and Ghosts already under his belt and he stopped rustling through his reference books long enough to answers a few pertinent Vertigo questions...
Why did you decide to do the book?
Where did the research take you?
I made several trips to the DC offices too, where the hardest working editor on 53 Street, John Morgan, set me up to read uncollected issues out of DC's library. Some of the stuff I was writing about has gotten pretty rare -- the entry on 100%, for example, was written using Karen Berger's personal copy, which she lent me because another one couldn't be found anywhere. Other stuff, like the uncollected runs of books like Doom Patrol or Black Orchid or Animal Man, was considered too valuable to leave the building, so I went to New York and read it there.
I also had the good fortune to use a couple of students at the University of Maine to help with researching old reviews and that kind of thing. So here's a tip of the cap to Tim Moore and Jasmine Haines.
As far as who I talked to, it was usually John Morgan and Alastair Dougall, who was handling things from Dorling Kindersley's end. They were great, and they also made sure that the creators got a look at the entries to make sure that there weren't any egregious errors of fact.
Were any sections particularly difficult or easy?
A comic like Hellblazer was easier to write about in certain ways, since so much has been written about it before -- but more difficult in certain ways, since the sheer volume of story means you have to make hard choices about what to cut. That was one of the entries that took a while to settle down, since we had to go back and forth among me, DC, and Alastair Dougall at Dorling Kindersley to sort out what the priorities for the entry would be. A book that's been running for more than twenty years presents a challenge for someone who needs to summarize it in maybe 800 words.
What's the most interesting fact you've discovered?
Which titles were the most fun researching and why?
Beware: The Orcs Are Coming
Stan Nicholls's Orcs: First Blood trilogy was first released back in 1999 and has been growing in popularity ever since. The omnibus edition, now on sale around the world, is proving just how interested fans are in finding out all about the world of magic from the Orcs point of view.
So it's good news for the fans that Nicholls has now penned further adventures of his fascinating band of Orcs fighters as they explore other dimensions in an attempt to find peace for their race and escape the savage expansion of mankind in their homeland.
Since the first trilogy, Nicholls has been off having fun in the worlds of
the Quicksilver trilogy so how did it feel returning to the Orcs?
Did writing the Quicksilver trilogy change the way you approached the Orcs?
What will Stryke and his warband get up to this time?
What has been the hardest aspect of writing the new trilogy?
What's been the easiest part?
Why has the new trilogy taken so long to appear?
How do you think the Tolkien purists will react to the new trilogy?
Peter V. Brett on The Painted Man
Peter V. Brett's debut novel is an engrossing tale about ordinary people who refuse to succumb to situations they live in. Refreshingly free of peasants who don't know they're really royalty and evil wizards usurping kingdoms, The Painted Man follows Arlen's life after his mother is killed by the demonic corelings that assault his village every day. Kept back by wards written on doors and windows, his village is terrorised every night and spends the days burying the dead when the wards have failed. Travelling to the cities, more than a day's journey away, is a risk left to the Messengers who survive with portable ward circles and a lot of luck. But eleven-year-old Arlen is sick of living in fear, especially when his father cowers behind their wards while his mother is ripped to shreds by fire-demons. Looking for a better life, Arlen runs away and heads for the city of Miln but without any wards to protect he might not last the first night.
As with many debut authors, Brett has had the luxury of time to polish this first engaging volume…
That draft, of course, never saw the light of day. It was deeply flawed, and I retreated for some time to lick my wounds after receiving a blunt rejection letter that told me just why it was so. But deep down I believed the book was salvageable, and after I had grown a thicker skin, I threw out more than half of it and completely restructured the story. That second draft was written almost entirely on my cellphone keyboard whilst commuting to my day job over the course of 2006, and it was the version that finally sold.
Now that it's released, it's still a little surreal. Writing fantasy was always my dream career, and I still have trouble believing I'm really doing it. Beyond that, though, it feels amazing. Writing is a very private endeavor, and when you spent countless hours crafting something and then put it out in the big, bad world for people to judge, it can be a little scary. But reader response thus far has been amazingly and overwhelmingly positive, and I can't think of a better feeling than to see people enjoying something I poured so much of myself into.
Leesha the Herb-Gatherer is a beautifully written character in The Painted Man. How
did you get so much understanding about women?
I don't really think, however, that I have a special insight into women in general, because that kind of trivializes the entire gender. Women are hugely varied and complicated, like all people, so I try and think of it on a smaller scale and understand my characters as individuals. When I'm writing a character it's not "What would a woman do in these circumstances?" but rather "What would THIS woman do?" I like to think that whatever she chooses, I could create a believable woman who is motivated to do the opposite.
I've always been fascinated by people and their motivations, be they logical, emotional, or the result of experience. I try to understand everyone, especially those who think differently from me. I think that's the key to creating compelling characters. Writers who fail to do this tend to have cookie cutter characters who all think and act more or less the same, or stereotype characters who lack any motivation apart from the demands of the plot.
The third important character in The Painted Man is Rojer, the jongleur (juggler). Which
character arrived in you imagination first out of Arlen, Rojer and Leesha?
Rojer and Leesha were meant to be Arlen's adult companions, and in the first draft of the book, we meet them both as adults. In the second draft, I decided to go back and show where they both came from as well, and I think it was this change that truly made the book resonate. They found their own voices, and I soon found both of them, Leesha especially, taking over and driving their own portions of the story. There's a certain magic that happens when characters come to life like that, and for me, it's what writing is all about.
The story, like many fantasy novels, is actually about real life and the way we live in fear in
the Western world. How intentional was it to include that theme?
Of course, cliché though it sounds, things changed after September 11. I was in Manhattan when the towers fell, and remembered how all my coworkers and I felt as we watched the smoke rising from our office windows. My father and mother in law were actually in the towers, though they were amongst those lucky enough to be evacuated in time. After that, I watched the nameless fear I had wanted to write about grip a nation, and a world, and I thought long and hard about terror and what it does to people. I try very hard to touch on that theme in The Painted Man in particular, and the series in general.
Can you give a brief preview of what will be happening in book two?
I also think Jardir's origin story is chock-full of nonstop awesome, but that's just my opinion.
The Desert Spear will also focus on another bit character from the first
book, Renna Tanner of Tibbet's Brook, and show what became of her after Arlen left. Renna is very
different from the other women I've written about, and I've come to really love her. I hope my
readers will, too.
Vampire fans have a treat in store with the release of Nigel Suckling's Book of the Vampire in September. Illustrated through out with gorgeous original artwork from Bruce Pennington, this high quality hardback is simply stuffed with well researched information about Vampires. From Bram Stoker's Dracula and Vlad the Impaler to the significance of bloodlust in medieval times, there's something for every discerning vampire lover within its pages.
So how did the project come to be published?
Publication was a happy combination of simple curiosity and my editor happening to ask what I would most like to write about as the sequel for a book on unicorns which we had just packed off to the printers. For whatever reason, the vampires just popped into my head.
What sort of content will we find in book?
Did your previous experience with non-fiction books help with this volume?
Did any sections cause you more difficulties than others?
What's the strangest book you used for research and what info did you get from it?
There's lots of detailed info in the book but also some overviews where you look at patterns
forming. How easy did you find it to swap between the two levels of thinking?
What do you think of the illustrations and which one is your favourite?
Of the stock illustrations we also have, probably my favourite for poignancy is the original programme on page 45 for a stage reading of Dracula, as required by law at the time to establish Stoker's copyright for a possible play. As a theatre man he would have loved to see a stage version of Dracula but that didn't happen till after his death. This performance was little more than a public reading of the novel which Henry Irving, his boss at the theatre, considered 'dreadful'.
Or possibly, on grounds of sheer creepiness, the wonderfully claustrophobic illustration by Harry
Clarke on page 94 for Edgar Allen Poe's The Premature Burial.
Telos Publishing Fall Line-Up
Telos Publishing have announced their new titles for the end of 2008 so if you're a Torchwood, Doctor Who or Horror movie fan they've got something for you.
August saw the release of Something in the Darkness: The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Torchwood Series Two By Stephen James Walker. This is a companion guide to Telos' best-selling guide to the first series of Torchwood. Stephen James Walker unpicks the series, looking at the development and build up to transmission, and then extensively reviewing and analysing the transmitted episodes.
Hot of the presses in September was Taboo Breakers: 18 Independent Films that Courted Controversy and Created a Legend by Calum Waddell. Eighteen key films are analysed and discussed by Calum Waddell, with extensive interview contributions from the producers, writers, directors and cast.
This month (October) brings the two Silver Scream volumes by Steven Warren Hill covering Horror movies from 1920 to 1951. Hill discusses and analyses 80 key titles from the period (40 in each volume). 80 classic films from The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari to The Thing From Another World.
It Lives Again! by Axelle Carolyn brings you up to date with Horror movies in the new millennium. Presented in a large format, full colour illustrated hardback edition, Carolyn's assessment and analysis of the state of horror in the 21st Century will be of great interest to film buffs, critics and viewers alike. With an Introduction by Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent) and a Foreword by Mick Garris (The Stand, The Shining).
And finally, December brings a present fit for any Doctor Who fan in your life: Monsters
Within: The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Doctor Who 2008 by Stephen James Walker.
The 2008 series is subjected to analysis and discussion as Stephen James Walker continues
Telos' series of titles looking at the new series of Doctor Who.
More Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on the way!
Penguin have announced that it is to publish the sixth novel in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series.
In their press release, Penguin gave the following details:
Eight years after the tragically early death of its creator, Douglas Adams, widow Jane Belson has sanctioned the project to be written by the international number-one bestselling children's writer, Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl novels. The new book is entitled And Another Thing… and will be published in hardback by Penguin in October 2009.
Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic interviewer/reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; and a diligent interviewer/reviewer for Interzone magazine and SF Site. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. For background information, visit www.sandyauden.co.uk.
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