I’m back home in Wisconsin, and more or less well, and upright and functional again after getting savagely whiplashed by that damned virus I brought with me… chills! Shaking fits! Lassitude! Sweating fits! Major stomach upset! Everything but a chestburster. Not quite the begging-for-death spectacle that H1N1 was a few years back (imagine a weekend in which approximately 20 pounds of sweat jet from every pore in your body, like you’re some sort of water porcupine). Nor the pneumonia that made my 2006 UK book tour such a joy for everyone. Nor the binary clusterfuck that resulted when I returned from my 2010 UK visit with a nasty flu, and neglected to refill my antidepressant prescription for… a truly stupid length of time. But this thing made a solid fourth-place showing in the Pathogen Olympics.
From the Department of More Gooder News: I did manage to see both Emma and Steve at lunch last week before I was confined to sick bay, and I dispersed to them their shares of your generosity that had poured in by that point (I expect to see them again after Worldcon). Emma was on her feet again post-surgery, with a fetching bandana covering her Sweeney Todd-esque surgery souvenir.
Steve had his own surgery two days ago; by all reports it too went well, and he’s back at home, tweeting and chafing under his post-op instructions, which appear to be “don’t have any fucking fun for two weeks or you will explode.”
Now, thanks to several ludicrously generous donations of late, we are PAST the $4,000 mark, and thus past the point where I owe you the crown jewel of your faux-Kickstarter “prizes.” Oh, you poor creatures. I am still hard at work on the bigger QotIS e-book, having set myself a bit backwards while attempting to work on it while I was still sick and feverish. I have, however, had a long dance with a scanner.
Context! When I was a teenager, I suffered from the delusion that I was going to grow up to be a comic book self-publisher. In those long-ago pre-ebook days, self-publishing went through a sort of mini-golden age wherein all kinds of hip, quirky, niche-hunting stuff that had no chance in hell at any major publisher managed to flourish, or at least bob gamely a few times before sinking. It seemed like genuinely important battles over creators’ rights were being fought before my eyes, month by month, in letter columns and at summits and conventions in exotic places like Everywhere Else But Where I Lived. I wanted to be Dave Sim when I grew up… in those amazing times before he went catastrophically bugfuck nuts, he was my honest-to-god hero.
My collection included Cerebus, True Swamp, Wandering Star, Stray Bullets, Bone, Rare Bit Fiends, Starchild, Strange Attractors, Hepcats, Poison Elves, A Distant Soil, and similar charming weirdness. Said collection, by the way, was stolen in 2000 (whether the thief was expecting pristine Wizard magazine price list investment fodder, or just happened to have randomly exquisite taste in comics, I’ll never know).
Anyhow, there I was, dreaming of a future writing and drawing until my spine snapped in half. Fortunately for myself, and for everyone spared an opportunity to read the stuff I planned, I lacked the discipline to take my illustration past a certain plateau. The following sketches in a 10 x 15 pad still survive; I adjusted the scans a bit in Photoshop to make the pencil work as clear as possible. Thumbnails link to larger versions.
1. Cover sketch for Orbison the Alien, 1994-1995
Orbison was intended to be my first foray into self-publishing, a four-issue limited series about an alien broadcast monitor who crashed his personal saucer on Earth and was forced to scrounge up temp work, attempting to communicate using the limited patois of pop culture references he’d gathered from scanning our TV channels. If it sounds like a one-joke concept, that’s ’cause it was. I planned to write, draw, and publish this during my senior year of high school, and by providence I discovered roleplaying games instead. Which was amazing luck… even if I had managed to create the pages, any attempt by me to run a business at that point would have been raw atomic failure.
2. Concept sketch for The Mutt, early 1995
The Mutt was the project I intended to follow Orbison with, a seven-issue science fiction series based on the dumbest premise ever… well, surely a dumbest premise ever. But it did feature a moderately cool alien species obviously based on Velociratpr/Deinonychus. I called ’em the Chensakau (and later adjusted that to the more poetic Chensathra). The influence of David Brin’s Uplift universe on this project was extreme.
3. Chensakau cybernetic combat skeleton concept, 1995
The Chensakau were intended to be a cybernetics-happy species, for a very Cyberpunk 2020 value of ‘cybernetics.’ Their elite royal commando formation, the Giirdaan Regiment, were augmented to ludicrous extremes. You can see from this conceptual sketch of a cybernetic skeleton replacement that I had no real grasp of concepts like “surgically feasible” and “guaranteed death on the operating table.” I mean, damn. Poor space reptiles. “Now comes the part of the operation where we hold your brain very, very gently while we replace your entire skull all at once. This is why you earn your hazard pay, lizard marine!”
I must give my dumbass teenage self a tiny bit of credit, and admit that there are perhaps less cool things in the universe than the notion of hundreds of cybernetic velociraptors pouring across a landscape with laser guns in hand and grenade launchers sticking out of their spines.
4. Chensakau architectural concept, 1995
The original caption, which didn’t fit into the scan, read: “The Imperial Tower, 15,000 feet high. Home of the Empress on the Chensakau Homeworld.” I was aiming for a bio/mechanical hybrid aesthetic, buildings that looked almost grown, studded with technological features and surfaces. This is a concept I’ll revisit at some point, in a story that makes sense.
5. Extraterrestrial dinner conversation, 1995
I’m not sure if the diner on the left was meant to be a Chensakau, or just a variation on a theme. Another major influence on me all those years ago was Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials, an extraordinary work created by a genuine artist when he was just a couple years older than the Scott that produced these sketches.
6. Embarrassing Cyberspace Trilogy Fan Art, 1995
A third major artistic lodestone in my teenage years was cyberpunk, particularly the earlier work of William Gibson and the goofily lovable CP 2020 roleplaying game. This, I think, must have started out as a sketch of one of my characters; by adding MAAS-NEOTEK to his t-shirt I suppose I transmogrified it to Gibson fanart. And doesn’t the woman in the background look thrilled to be there?
More to come…