This book cover art, by Johann Goutard, was last week’s top image on my Facebook page. It was posted Sunday, quickly raked in 339 Likes, and held the top spot all week. It’s a great image and, at first glance, looks like a scene from Bungie’s Destiny. But the planet in the sky lets you know it isn’t Earth, and the orb floating above the city is too small to be the Traveler. Goutard mentions the book La fraternité du Panca in the image description (which roughly translates to: The Brotherhood of Five), a space opera series written by Pierre Bordage. However, I wasn’t able to find a book in the series using this cover art.
Regardless of its association, I think what makes this such a great image is that it captures a feeling shared by many science fiction fans. I won’t try to name it, because it isn’t anything specific. It varies from mind to mind and could be anything—curiosity, pride, longing. Exactly what the image makes you feel doesn’t matter, and I think that’s what makes it great. It captures an emotion, but allows the viewer to insert his/her own vision. As fans of science fiction, we’ve all stood on that platform, gazing out in awe at some epic, interstellar future that exists only in our minds. Science fiction, like this image, can be whatever we want it be. And that’s why we love it.
"I'd love to see sunsets like this every day." ~ Bill Spagnuola
"I'm curious about the close proximity of the planet & moon & their tidal & other effects?" ~ Andrew Miller
"Our homeworld, there in the night sky a reminder of our mistakes." ~ Shawn StClair
Jerad Marantz’s The Blind Ones was this week’s top image on my Facebook page, and quite possibly the best received image to date. It got 337 Likes on the page and another 60 on Shares.
The craziest thing about the post was, as much as I liked the image, I thought it might be too creepy for some, and never expected it would come close to being the top image. But, in retrospect, I think that despite their leathery skin, black garb, and being shrouded in mist, Jerad Marantz manages to give these beings an air of majesty. Their stance, the flowing tails of their garments, the lighting, and their perceived height all work to overpower the underlying creepiness and peaks your curiosity, instead.
A few questions that popped into my mind were:
Friend or foe?
How do you they see?
Given the decorative nature of their clothes and the structure in the background, I think it’s safe to assume they have other perceptual ways of navigating their environment.
Are they leaders, or do they all appear and dress this way?
They remind me of the Heirarchs from the Halo Universe. I can easily imagine them as a leadership caste/group.
Is that a female on the left?
I’m assuming there’s a reason why that one has four arms and a slightly different head dress.
And that’s just the immediate questions. It’s amazing how a single image can set your mind running. What do you think when you look at The Blind Ones? What would you like to know?
"Holy shi* I want one as a friend." ~ Callum Hoof
"Woah dude, would not want to see them behind the helm of any starship!" ~ Jeffrey Linn
"Something tells me that even without eyes, they "see" just fine..." ~ Evan Hourihan
"Not something too stare at too long before bedtime." ~ Jim Mason
"Run.....run away now!" ~ Matthew Allen
Concept artist Johnson Ting claims this week’s top image on my Facebook page. His image, Frontier Buccaneers, pulled 261 Likes, which, as of today, was actually tied with Dmitry Dubinsky’s Stronghold, but Ting’s image had more comments, so it takes the top spot.
I think it’s a brilliant image, providing lots of great detail, while also leaving quite a bit to the imagination. Where/what are they dropping into? Is it a ship or a station? Derelict or crewed? Are they expecting resistance—civilian or military? And those visors! Imagine the psychological effect they’d have.
A few people pointed out that glowing visors weren’t suited for combat situations—basically acting as a target, telling the enemy where to shoot. While that’s absolutely true today, I wonder if it would be much of a concern in the distant future. Advances in night vision and computer-assisted targeting might make it a moot issue. If the enemy can see at night just as clear as day, then the glow wouldn’t really give anything away. And if a computer is selecting targets and identifying the most vulnerable areas to fire on, then it’s probably already locked onto the head, or, may not be concerned with it at all (contrary to popular belief, center-mass is actually the best place to aim in combat—the chest area providing a much larger target than the head). Of course, if the enemy doesn’t have these capabilities, then their tech must be old. In that case, maybe they aren’t firing anything strong enough to break the tensile strength of the pirate’s visors.
That’s what I love most about science fiction—there are no certainties, regarding the future. The only thing we know for sure, is that new discoveries and technologies will be made. But how they effect and transform our lives and understanding of the universe, is anyone’s guess. When it comes to writing futuristic fiction, the possibilities are truly endless.
“My favorite thing you have shared to date.” ~ Andrew Reed
“Want that armor!” ~ Melissa A Hamilton
“From a person who was born on "International Talk Like a Pirate Day" and who has two Pirate Captains (One with the surname Morgan) in his family tree . . . Liam M. Approves!!!” ~ Liam M. Edwards
“If someone were to make these visors, they would be rollin’ in the doe. LOL.” ~ John Bumgarden
“When I am a high tech engineer, I am gonna make some of these and send one to u.” ~ Callum Hoof
This amazing concept art by Jean-François Liesenborghs was last week’s top image on my Facebook page, grabbing 239 Likes, and it’s easy to see why.
What I like about the image is the cropping. The structure is immense, but you’re left wondering just how big it is. The two ships provide a sense of scale, and let you know that even if it doesn’t extend too far out of view, it’s still enormous—decades beyond our current construction capability, maybe even centuries, depending on how large it actually is.
Another thing I like—and quite possibly the most—is the fact that it’s not solid. I’ve seen a lot of concepts of extremely large, dense buildings that could possibly hold tens or hundreds of thousands of people. But as much as I love looking at the art, I’m always left wondering how it would actually work, infrastructure wise. Ventilation for one thing. How do you get fresh air to the inner most parts of a structure that’s several kilometers, or more, wide? Perhaps that’s what prompted the civilization depicted in Jean-François Liesenborghs’ “Labyrinth” to build in an open, maze-like pattern around a central core. Either that, or it was built by Replicators, and they just happened to be into spirals that year.
“Oh shit, better get SG-1 on the case...” ~ John C. Scott
“It was left by the Forerunners.” ~ Philip Archer March
“Love it. Love it. Love it.” ~ Jyothi Kuruvilla
One of the things I love most about post-apocalyptic artwork is that it makes me think about the history behind the collapse. As a writer of speculative science fiction—most of which takes place in the far future—I find these periods of disruption incredibly useful when developing the backstory of a novel. They free me from modern conventions and expectations of how things will or should progress and allow me to rebuild the world in a way that best suits the tale I’m telling. I can slow down the pace of technological advancement, or use the collapse as a unifying event that spawns a new golden age of global cooperation. After wiping the slate clean, the possibilities for the future become endless, and I’m free to tell the story the way it wants to be told.
Below are a few thought-provoking images to help your Muse destroy the world and become the master your fictional future.
Click to enlarge image.
I’ve been told I write strong female characters, which is good, because so far the majority of my protagonists have been female. It’s nice to know I do them justice and create characters that both men and women enjoy following.
So it’s no surprise that last week, while browsing for inspiration, the image below caught my eye. The character is sensibly clad, and looks like a formidable fighter, someone you’d approach with caution, no matter who you were. Impressive, because the realistic depiction of female warriors in sci-fi/fantasy isn’t exactly the norm. I clicked through, curious about the artist, and discovered she had included a short brief with the image. It deepened my appreciation for the artwork, and I share her sentiment. It’s the main reason I try hard to craft female characters that are just as complex, strong, confident, and independent as any male protagonist could be.
I contacted the artist and asked if I could repost her comments along with the artwork, because they're a good complement to the image. She was kind of enough to allow it, and I've included them below,
"Hilda" by Ros Kovac
I've expressed my thoughts in regards to the female representation in fantasy settings, few times in the past.
In short: I understand why artists make depictions of women that focus on showing off her body, instead of armor protection; I get the appeal of making huge breasted girls in high heels, that can magically kick ass. I totally support the right of artists of making chainmail bikinis, especially when they don't have any say in the design, because they're hired and respond to an Art Director. However, the fact that I get it and don't demand for them to stop, in the name of what I consider appropriate, doesn't mean that I like the bikini armor, or the bimbo that only serves as eye candy to sell a rather mediocre product.
Instead of whining about "why no one makes female warriors that I, as a woman, find appealing!?", I took on the task of creating a rather simple design of a woman that could potentially kick ass, but still appealed to what I find physically/visually attractive as an artist—mostly because I like painting attractive people, and this is a personal work, so I just have to please myself for once!—and that's how Hilda was born.
"Hilda" was just a quick name that came to mind after finishing the work, since "Generic barbarian woman" was too bland for a title. I mostly focused on the aesthetics aspects, especially the armor, taking into consideration what I expressed above, my parameters were:
This is by no means an attempt at a statement, lecturing or trying to tell people this is the right thing to do with female characters. It was simply, a very fun exercise I made between client works, which had been occupying my entire time lately.
Thanks for reading,
You can check out more of Ros’ work at the portfolio links above. And if her comments resonate with you, share the link. Who knows, maybe we can inspire others to think a little differently about character development, regardless what form it takes.
Sometimes, all it takes is a single image to bring a story to life. It could be a scene or location, from the past or the present. Where the image falls in the story timeline isn't important. If it can help you better visualize the world(s) your characters occupy, then that’s all that matters, because the better we're able to visualize our settings and scenes, the more vivid and detailed our writing becomes.
If you’re writing science fiction/fantasy, at some point, you’re probably going to want to develop a world or location with a sense of character and personality that sets it apart from the familiarity of Earth, past and present. Whether you’re looking to add a touch of wonder to a new world, or imbue an ancient culture with a sense of honor and timeless tradition, the images below are bound to set your Muse on the path to conjuring something majestic.
Click to enlarge images.
I like to people watch (airports are one of my favorite places), so I guess it’s no surprise that I draw as much inspiration from character portraits as I do from looking at scenes and settings, perhaps even more when it comes to story development. Just as in real life, there’s a story behind each face. Eyes hint of pain, joy, confidence and love; scars raise questions; and clothes, accessories, and hairstyles can reveal so much about culture. It’s amazing, the number of questions a face can conjure in one’s mind. For writers, these questions beg to be answered, and in the answers we discover a story waiting to be told.
Below are a few interesting portraits I've collected from various artists, characters that, for whatever reason, I find curiously compelling. They may be the protagonist of a great adventure, or simply a minor character that brings a touch of color to a single scene. Whatever the case, most would make great additions to any sci-fi/fantasy world. You can mix and match, or develop around them as they are. Character portraits merely serve as foundations, starting points to jump start your imagination. If you ask the questions, and let your Muse provide the answers, you may discover a new character worth writing about.
Need help with the questions? Pick an image that interest you and try some of these.
Click for full-size image.
I often mention how images inspire me to write, and share a lot of the really cool stuff I find—pictures that stir my imagination, make me long to be in far off places and speculate about the future. But just as those images conjure ideas of places, characters, and scenes I’d like to write about, I also collect images that help me envision my settings and scenes more clearly. For me, observing these images is like being there, and I find all kinds of little details I can use to develop my own unique setting.
We've all heard the saying, “Write what you know.” Well, most of us have never been in a starship hanger bay, but by studying a variety of images, we can make observations and collect enough details, to paint our own picture. And by mixing, matching, and adding our individual perspective, we can create a hanger bay that’s unique to our ship and our story, and full of colorful, descriptive details that help ground our readers in a setting that feels a little more real because we were able to be specific.
Truth is, no two writers will look at anything and describe it the exact same way, so it occurred to me that, like writing prompts, these types of images might be fun to share as well. And, we all know you don’t have to be a writer to appreciate a good futuristic setting. We sci-fi fans love just about anything that stirs the imagination, and these images do just that.
So, that said, you can expect to see similar posts like this in the future (minus the long-winded introduction, of course). Let me know what you think. :)
First up is “Arbor Vitae” a terraforming station created by environmental artists Philip Klevestav and Helder Pinto. There’s an impressive amount of detail in these images, and although your story may not need a terraforming station, chances are—if you’re writing science fiction, that is—there’s at least a scene or two taking place in some kind of facility. “Arbor Vitae” has enough detail to spread around just about any type of futuristic setting.
Also, if you like these images, check out the artists’ websites. They both have a lot more environmental work in their galleries. www.philipk.net and www.helderpinto.com
So many details—the curved outer window, with orange markers; the upper level along the left side; the holo-image and cables hanging from the overhead projector; the shine of the floor plating; the exposed conduit running along the floor and up from the center well; the hard light stations around the room; the ventilation ducts at the base of the window. Take your pick.
Same room, different angle. You can see a lot more ceiling detail and the texture of the wall panels.
The lighting is nice, as is the grated floor, and if you look close, the walls appear to be sweating. I also like that open area in the middle of the pic. Nice place to stage a fight. That drop would make a serious obstacle for the characters to avoid, or use to their advantage.
The upper level: main console and smaller hard-light stations; different sized floor panels; exposed conduit; the lower level lighting is much brighter than the softer recessed lighting overhead; and the whole level has a darker contrast to the natural light illuminating the main floor.