Monday, March 28, 2011

Hellgate ... hello, beautiful -- golden eyes and all!

The challenge: create a character who is not merely drop-dead gorgeous, but also different; a guy you'd trust with your life at the eleventh hour -- frighteningly intelligent, with something about him that tells you he's immensely old, though in human terms he doesn't look it ... at least six-foot-six with a mane of golden blond hair, and eyes the same color, and an exotic taste in clothes that speaks of other cultures, other peoples ... other worlds. Have you placed him yet? Mark Sherratt. At last! I've been working on and off with Mel Keegan for almost a year to create Mark, and it's been one of the most frustrating processes you could imagine.

The usual first question is, "Okay, hot-shot, cast the part, give me an actor who could play the part if Hellgate were a major motion picture."

And there isn't one. He'd need the stature of Jason Momoa -- whom you'll see soon as Conan, in Conan. He'd need the gravitas of Viggo Mortensen, the golden blondness and the sheer sensuality of Brad Pitt, the velvet smoooothness of George Clooney, the tangible genius of the three guys who taught Spock astrophysics, all rolled into one ... and then there would need to be that something this hypothetical actor would bring to the role, which would tell you the character is immensely old, as well as an androgyne -- his people are single-gendered ... yes, he's not quite human. Resalq. At last I got the "wonderful!" stamp back from Mel Keegan, and I am sooo glad, because to me this really is Mark Sherratt. This is what I've had in mind, golden eyes and all, while the story unfolded.

If you know your Hellgate, you'll know that the Resalq have been re-engineered to pass as human, out of necessity. They're the survivors of a pogrom, "hiding among humans," while the humans themselves have just blundered into the same war, out on the frontier, where the Deep Sky blurs into Freespace. (Don't you love this stuff? Gives you a tingle.)

To put Mark Sherratt into perspective, here he is with Curtis Marin, whom he mentored when Marin got out of Fleet and joined Dendra Shemiji:

Hellgate is very much on my mind, because the gargantuan task of proofreading has begun. The new book is way over 200,000 words -- it's like prepping two books at once, and in paperback (yes, we're doing it in paper, too!) it's going to be less a book than a brick. This is the fifth of the Hellgate books -- one more to come after this, to finish out the series, and then I'm going to take great joy in returning to a favorite old project from years ago, The World of Hellgate.

Two things stopped us doing it before now. First, the series had to be complete, and it's been a ten-year odyssey -- also over a million words. To put that in the frame for you, The Lord of the Rings is "only" half as long. And secondly, the volume of art required to do justice to the project would not have been possible without doing it in CG, so this is actually the first chance we've had of bringing it all together in reality.

So, what's the deal with Hellgate #5: Flashpoint ...? Ooooh, exotic locations, babes, hot sex, fabulous technology, mind-blowing science, action, violence, drugs, a ravel of politics, space battles, chases, shootouts, unexpected humor, romance, cultures in collision, massive personalities in conflict ... stuff like that. And we're proofreading right now. If you like your Mel Keegan, and if you haven't yet gotten your teeth into Hellgate, now's the time, because the words "The End" will be typed at the conclusion of the whole series, around Christmas 2011. The last one, #6: Event Horizon, is a wedge of notes as long as some people's novellas, and Mel is diving right into it, in April or May. I've read the notes, and was speechless. Oooooh, yes.

Anyway -- Mark Sherratt. And I am so tickled with this one, you have got to see it at full size:
Jade, 28 March
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