Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Designing Worlds

I strive to appreciate the physical settings of the fictional events in Poul Anderson's works, e.g.:

the city of Archopolis in Dominic Flandry's period;
the environments of planets like Diomedes, Avalon, Aeneas, Imhotep and Daedalus;
the city of Inga on the planet Asborg in For Love And Glory.

By taking notes on what we are told, I usually find that the characters move through a fully realized and consistent environment. In fact, the author has usually imagined more than we are shown in the action of a single novel. In prose fiction, the author must do all of this creative work himself, although he might acknowledge advisers.

Visual media are more collaborative. In a film adaptation, how many people would design the costumes worn in Archopolis? Dave Gibbons, who drew Alan Moore's Watchmen, writes:

"Whilst Alan was coming up with new character names and backgrounds, I thought about the ways Watchmen's alternate world differs from ours and presented him with notes about fashions, social and scientific changes, and so on. I mentioned the idea of pirate comics, reasoning that a world with real super heroes would have no need of them in comics."
-Dave Gibbons, Watching The Watchmen (London, 2008), unnumbered page.

This comparison of Anderson's prose novels with Moore's and Gibbons' graphic novel is not as fanciful as it may appear because Gibbons had written a few pages previously:

"I had an epiphany one day when I realized that Watchmen was not a super-hero book as such, but rather a work of science fiction, an alternate history."

Watchmen shows its readers an alternative New York just as an AI "emulation" in Anderson's Genesis immerses two of the characters in an alternative York.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Your mention of the "costumes" worn by Flandry and his contemporaries reminded me of Esteban Moroto's illustrations for A STONE IN HEAVEN (Ace Books: 1979). With only a few exceptions I thought Moroto did a very good job of both illustrating how the characters in that book looked showing us convincingly what they wore.

Moroto avoided making the mistake of depicting the characters in outlandish and implausible attire. First, the human FORM would largely determine what would be practical. Second, Technic Civilization sprang directly from our Western civilization, so it made sense that many our basic styles continued to be used even a thousand years or more from now.

My only real complaint with Moroto's work for A STONE IN HEAVEN being that I think he somewhat over did it. I think trimming back the illustrations by ten or 15 would benefit both the book and the remaining pictures.


Paul Shackley said...

When a novel is illustrated like that, we get some visual input from an artist. Usually, it is only on the book cover, if that.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I agree, an artist who illustrates a book gives us, in effect, what he thought or "read" into the book.

Not many of Poul Anderson's works have been illustrated like A STONE IN HEAVEN. I can only think of EARTHMAN'S BURDEN and HOKAS! (co-authored with Gordon R. Dickson), THE DEMON OF SCATTERY (co-written with Mildred Downey Broxon), and CONAN THE REBEL.