A YA fantasy by Emily Devenport and Ernest Hogan

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


It's August in Phoenix, and getting up to over 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Folks on the street have that zombified look. Consulting a mirror, I see that look on my face, too. Any sane person would be taking it easy, or at least taking off to a cooler climate – like one where it's down in the nineties – but I can't help myself, I've got ebooks to get ready for release, and the time to do it is now.

My current tasks are a cover for Cortez on Jupiter, and a cover plus illustrations for Obsidian Harvest, a novella that I collaborated on with Rick Cook. It was featured in Analog and Gardner Dozois' eighteenth The Year's Best Science Fiction. It's not just a matter of grabbing the sketchbook and scribbling – to do this right, this calls for research.

Ah! Research! A wonderful excuse to satisfy your lust – I mean, curiosity. “Why are you looking at those horrible books and websites?” Research. “Oh. I guess that's okay.” It's usually more enjoyable than the real work. For me, I find that writing and art are often excuses for me to indulge in doing research.

Coming up with a cover image for Cortez on Jupiter was a bear. I didn't want to draw Pablo's art – it's impossible in Earth gravity. Attempts to create a suitable Great Red Spot or spatter drawings fell short. The image that worked was the actual Great Red Spot.

Luckily it was available in public domain. I emailed the NASA/Hubble/STSci site, asking what the proper procedures were – just because I want to avoid any chance of having to change the cover after releasing the book. This resulted in some Kafkaesque correspondence with a HAL 9000-type entity. I groaned, did some more sketches, but finally a message from a human being arrived, explaining that they liked to have a credit line mentioning the agencies involved, and a copy for their files.

I'll worry about how to send them an ebook later.

I also needed to research old fashioned, East L.A. Chicano graffiti,which led to some interesting sites where graffiti fonts were available online. Ironically, it was a science fiction contact, Eileen Gunn, that led me to the most helpful sites.

I was also learned about graffiti-inspired artist Chaz Borjorquez, who has some interesting things to say about the future of art and culture.

For Obsidian Harvest, I needed material on Aztec weaponry:

For the main character, “Lucky” Tworabbit, Rick Cook said, “Think Mexican beer ad.” This led me the iconic art of Jesús Helguera:

Also there were the “steamers.” Fortunately, is a portal to a world that steampunks need to explore. I may just have to draw existing vehicles and decorate them Aztec/Mayan/lowrider style.

And the story does feature intelligent velociraptors:

Then there's the whole subject of putting illustrations into an ePub file . .

The best part of this is, at the end of day, I can call all this “work.”

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