Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cities in the air ... Jarrat and Stone are back!

Click to see all images at 1000 pixels or more -- they're uploaded large!

If you're on the Mel Keegan mailing list, you know what's going on behind the scenes: we're working on converting all the old files for the NARC books (yep, Jarrat and Stone!) to the requirement for upload to Kindle. It's a monster of a job, because these books only exist, in electronic format, in DTP software and in the PDFs made from those files. They have to be shipped out of the desktop publisher and into Word, and then the fun begins. Three are finished (Equinox, Stopover and Aphelion), and two remain to be started on (Death's Head and Scorpio). And then, when Mel is done with the sixth and final novel in the Hellgate series, Jarrat and Stone will be back...!

(If you have no idea what Jade is rabbiting on about, go here to find out: Mel Keegan OnLine. A word of caution before you depart: these novels have glbt content. Gay heroes. Gay science fiction -- SF that will stretch your imagination, plus the most delicious gay heroes ... what a combination! Mel Keegan is best known for this work, and if you try some of the free samples, you'll soon see why. Content waring? Not for juniors. Nuff said.)

So yes, you bet, these novels are very much on my mind, and you'll have to forgive me if I'm rendering my favorite science fiction heroes again, while I work on developing the cover elements for the new covers for these books...

The element that had me the most concerned was the floating sky-cities which are a pivot point for Scorpio. They float in the sky of a world called Aurora ... and NARC is expected to fight major battles around structures that are this fragile, this delicate?! It was a heart-stopper of a climax to a book that had already been "out of this world," and I knew I had to really, seriously, do justice to these cities.

So at last I girded the loins and grabbed the bull by the horns. These renders were done in Bryce 7 Pro. Moreover, you see the cities -- buildings, trees, domes, antigravity platforms and all ...? I built those. Also in Bryce. Now, I won't tell you that I'm up to making the buildings -- not yet. Those skills come right after I (somehow!) master the Bryce materials lab. To this point, it's starting to make sense, but there's so much more to learn. One of my new year's resolutions was to stop being a bloody grasshopper ... settle down and learn one thing at a time, learn it properly, fully, then progress to the next level.

But I lucked out and found a Bryce "scene" on sale at Renderosity -- Alien City Blocks. These scenes are packaged and sold so that you can reverse engineer them, and learn. There's all sorts of scenes, like frozen mountain lakes and forest glades. The space city was the first one I've ever actually worked with. I borrowed a few of the buildings; added a park in the middle of the city -- micro-miniaturized trees and hillocks! Then I built the decking underneath, and popped a sphere on top. The rest of my floating city scene was done with some mountaintops and a sky -- which I also designed ... I've got my head around the Bryce Skylab. It's started doing what I want it to do. At last.

While I was messing around in Bryce I also did this...

...which came to me when I was fiddling around in the materials lab and spotted a certain texture that looked like a city at night. It made me think of Death's Head, and the spaceport city, simmering under its smog blanket, while the sky lights up with the sternflares of big ships heading up for orbit. (Damn, I love these books! It's "my kind" of science fiction ... then, if you add in the most gorgeous gay heroes who ever walked on paper or celluloid ... how could you go wrong?)

So elements of that one could end up on the cover of Death's Head, and now I'm starting to play with images of the planet Earth, and massive spacecraft, because the signature "thing" of Aphelion is that the carrier NAC-Athena returns to Earth after a whole career in the rimworlds. Hmmm. Lemme think.

Anyway -- that's where I am at this moment. Before I go -- have some more Jarrat and Stone pictures. You didn't really think I stopped at two --?

And if you notice, in this last shot, I put one of the floating sky cities in the window. I need to get the camera in close to the cities themselves, and show you the parklands. The whole gist of this was that Aurora is a world which is strategically positioned for navigation and "staging" colony ships out beyond the frontier, but the world itself is cold and harsh. An engineer-architect called Leo Michiko made his fortune on constructing these cities ... or did he? What's his connection to the Angel (drug) cartel known as Scorpio --? And of course, that's where the title of the book comes from.

In fact, Scorpio is the one I'm converting next -- and sure, it's a chore. But the source material is so delicious, it makes the work a pleasure too!

Jade, 29 January
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