Saturday, November 29, 2008

Fantasy Art: Sandara Tang

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Sandara Tang is a talented young artist from Singapore. Her very interesting works picture among others fantastical creatures and fantasy characters and scenes. Her portfolio is growing constantly and she frequently updates it at her DeviantArt page.

Interview Sandara Tang

Dark Wolf: Sandara, thank you for your time and for this interview.
How did you become interested in art? What was the impulse that made you draw for the first time?
Sandara Tang: I was interested in drawing ever since young. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing.

Dark Wolf: Who are your favorite artists? Which one has been the most influential on your works?
Sandara Tang: I don’t have any single artist who is my favourite, but game art is my favourite.

Dark Wolf: I’ve seen that you worked with watercolors, pencils and digital tools. Do you prefer using one in particular? Would you like to improve your works with one tool or another?
Sandara Tang: I started out with watercolors and pencils before moving on to digital. Although I prefer digital and also my work now requires me to work in digital, I hope one day I can go back to traditional watercolors.

DW: Your works are focused on fantasy themes. What attracted you at fantasy? Would you like to try different themes too?
ST: I like to read fantasy stories and play fantasy RPGs. Not so much sci-fi or other genres, so I guess I was stuck with drawing fantasy. Yes, I suppose one day I would like to try other genres.

DW: You have made a few illustrations based on fantasy novels. What inspires you in a novel? What makes you draw a scene or a character from a novel?
ST: If I enjoyed reading the novel or if I have a favourite character from that novel, I will draw it.

DW: Many works of yours picture mythical and magical creatures. Do you enjoy drawing such creatures? Does your interest in these creatures go beyond art?
ST: Yes, I enjoy drawing them very much! I do like reading about them, or watching movies that have them.

DW: I’ve seen also a number of fan works of World of Warcraft. Is this your favorite game? Would you like someday to work in a concept art for this game or one such as this one?
ST: Yes, right now it is my favourite PC game :)
I am now working on a MMORPG, like WoW, but not on such a big scale.

DW: From all of your works do you have one that is closer to your heart? Which one do you consider to be the best you made so far?
ST: I think it's Roughwork 2. It is fully digital, but I managed to make it look like watercolors hahah. Also, my favourite Greek myth is the Hades and Persephone one.

DW: What job opportunity would be hard to refuse? Would you like to work in particular art field?
ST: If any large game company offered me a job, that would be hard to resist. I would like to work in the concept art field.

DW: May you tell me a little about your future projects?
ST: My company will be starting to work on another MMO next year, so I guess that’s what I will be working on. It’s based on a series of books written by a Taiwanese author.

Thank you very much for your answers.

You can find a complete portfolio of Sandara Tang at her website,

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Friday, November 28, 2008

In the mailbox

I received a few more books this past week and I'm pretty excited about them. Especially about Sergei Lukyanenko's novels, because the ecranization of his novels made more than curious about them. So here are the last treasures found in my mailbox:

- "The Night Watch" by Sergei Lukyanenko (through the courtesy of Arrow Books);
- "The Day Watch" by Sergei Lukyanenko (through the courtesy of Arrow Books);
- "The Twilight Watch" by Sergei Lukyanenko (through the courtesy of Arrow Books);
- "The Last Watch" by Sergei Lukyanenko (through the courtesy of Arrow Books);
- "Royal Exile" by Fiona McIntosh (through the courtesy of Harper Voyager).

Thank you very much for all these books.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

2007 Chesley Awards

Over one week ago, on November 17th, on the site of The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists were announced the winners of the 2007 Chesley Awards. The Chesley Awards are offered yearly in the recognition of individual works and achievements in art. The awards were established in 1985 and are named in the honor of Chesley Bonestell. As the site states this year several awards were decided by decimal point difference in the final rankings. Here is the full winners list:

Best Cover Illustration – Hardback Book: Donato Giancola - “The Outback Stars” by Sandra McDonald

Best Cover Illustration – Paperback Book: Donato Giancola - “Crystal Dragon” by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Best Cover Illustration – Magazine: Cory and Catska Ench - Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, March 2007

Best Interior Illustration: James Gurney - “Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara” by Andrews McMeel

Best Gaming Related Illustration: Donato Giancola - “Vanguard: Saga of Heroes”, Sigil Games Online

Best Product Illustration: Todd Lockwood - “War of Angels”, poster for Bullseye Tattoo

Best Monochrome – Unpublished: Donato Giancola - “Season of Change”, Pencil and Chalk on Toned paper

Best Color Work – Unpublished: Donato Giancola - “Red Sonja”, Oil

Best Three Dimensional Art: Vincent Villafranca - “Conscious Entity and Its Maker”, Bronze

Best Art Director: Irene Gallo, Tor Books

Award for Artistic Achievement: Michael Wm. Kaluta

Congratulations to all the winners!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cover art

I almost finish the novel of Peter V. Brett, “The Warded Man” (“The Painted Man” in the UK). It is an interesting and catchy novel and but I believe that now I have a new series to follow. Anyway, the second novel, “The Desert Spear”, will appear next year in August (I have a humongous wishing list for the next year :D). And through the Peter V. Brett's blog I found the UK cover art for the sequel of “The Painted Man” made by the great artist Larry Rostant. It looks really good and joins the wonderful covers I have seen lately. As I said before we are quite spoiled with this wonderful works featured on the covers.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Spotlight & giveaways

As usual, the blogosphere provides many fascinating content, with articles, reviews and giveaways and makes my surfing through the Internet very pleasant. Today I will focus on some contests running around the blogosphere, but first of all I will start with an amazing article.

Robert, the very nice blogger from Fantasy Book Critic, has an absolutely stunning spotlight of the upcoming novels in 2009. The article is impressive in length, content and titles and in my opinion is not to be missed (well, it made my to buy list even larger than it is already).

Graeme, the blogger from Graeme's Fantasy Book Review, has two giveaways. At first we can win a copy of "Prince of Stories: The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman" by Hank Wagner, Christopher Golden and Stephen R. Bissette. This competition however is open only for the US residents.
The second contest is open to the UK residents and has as prize two packs of Charles Stross' "Merchant Princes" series, containing "The Family Trade", "The Hidden Family" and "The Clan Corporate".

At Book Spot Central you can always find interesting contests. The last ones that caught my eye are a signes copy of Samantha Henderson's "Heaven's Bones" (with a catchy and interesting cover art :) ) and 5 copies of the forthcoming novel of Holly Phillips, "The Engine's Child". The contests are open to all the Book Spot Central members.

Theresa at Fantasy & Sci-Fi Lovin' Book Reviews has contest with a very attractive prize. We can win 3 short stories collections, "Witch High" edited by Denise Little, "Better Off Undead" edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Daniel M. Hoyt and "Moving Targets: And Other Tales of Valdemar" edited by Mercedes Lackey. The contest ends on 5th of December.

Last, but not least Pat at Pat's Fantasy Hotlist has another goodie (as usual). His giveaway has quite a prize, 2 ARCs of "Busted Flush" autographed by all the contributors, George R.R. Martin, Melinda Snodgrass, Carrie Vaughn, S. L. Farrell, Victor Milán, John Jos. Miller, Kevin Andrew Murphy, Walton Simons, Caroline Spector and Ian Tregillis and 2 signed posters of "Busted Flush".

I wish you (with only half of mouth ;) ) good luck to all!

Friday, November 21, 2008

An update

I have to apologies for the delay in my Fantasy Art posts. I try to make them weekly, but sometimes it is a bit difficult. I have 4-5 interviews in work and some of them are pretty close to finish. All the delay is understandable and is totally objective, I know how hard is to deal with a tight and busy schedule. However, I hope that a new Fantasy Art post will be ready soon.

Until then, I will try to relate to my Fantasy Art posts with the presentation of a blog I follow for the past 3 months. I believe that Julie Bell and Boris Vallejo are in no need for introduction. They are one of the heavy names of Fantasy Art, with huge talent and marvelous works. Since August this year Julie Bell and Boris Vallejo started their own blog, Paint And Brush, where they keep us up to date with their works. I really like to visit their blog for the latest drawings, for glimpses of their latest paintings, for scheduled appearances and events. And one of my favorite posts is one of Julie Bell’s paintings in progress, a wonderful display of wolves (how else? ;) ). So, if you want to be up to date with the works and activity of Julie Bell and Boris Vallejo, please visit their blog, Paint And Brush.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

In the mailbox

Here are the recently received books, the majority of them provided by Pan MacMillan UK. And to my great joy, "The Tower of Shadows" came with a very nice dedication from Drew. Thank you very much, Drew :)

- "The Tower of Shadows" by Drew C. Bowling (through the courtesy of Drew C. Bowling);
- "Return of the Crimson Guard" by Ian C. Esslemont (through the courtesy of Bantam Press);
- "The Dreaming Void" by Peter F. Hamilton (through the courtesy of Pan MacMillan);
- "The Temporal Void" by Peter F. Hamilton (through the courtesy of Pan MacMillan);
- "Therapy" by Sebastian Fitzek (through the courtesy of Pan MacMillan);
- "DogFellow's Ghost" by Gavin Smith (through the courtesy of Pan MacMillan).

Thank you all very much for these wonderful books.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cover art

I know that lately I posted a lot about cover art, but I can’t help myself. I really like fantasy art and I’m always interested in the covers of novels. So here it is another cover which I like.
This year Bloody Books published two horror novels written by Bill Hussey and Joseph D’Lacey. Next year Bloody Books will host again the novels of these two authors (both very nice guys, trust me :) ). So, in 2009 we can read both authors second novels, Bill Hussey’s “The Absence” and Joseph D’Lacey’s “Garbage Man”. I already saw and posted about the cover of “The Absence”, but today I found the cover art for “Garbage Man” too, through the blog Horror Reanimated. It looks very nice and intriguing. I know that Joseph D’Lacey’s first novel didn’t sit well with me, but I will certainly give “Garbage Man” a chance. One thing though, I think that Stephen King’s statement shouldn’t appear again on the cover of Joseph D’Lacey’s novel. I don’t have a problem with it, Joseph is a nice guy and deserves the best, but it already appeared on the cover of “Meat” and twice in a row might not be a good idea. I wish both the very best of luck and I am waiting to read their novels.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"The Guin Saga Book One: The Leopard Mask" by Kaoru Kurimoto

"The Guin Saga: The Leopard Mask"
by Kaoru Kurimoto
Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Publisher: Vertical Inc.

“The Leopard Mask” is the first novel in the “Guin Saga” series, a heroic fantasy saga written by Kaoru Kurimoto, which has reached a recorded number of 123 volumes until 2008.

In a dangerous and haunted forest two twin children, Rinda and Remus, who escaped from an attack on their home land, Parros, meet with a strange character, a warrior who wears a leopard mask and doesn’t remember where he comes from. After a night full of events they are taken prisoners by a Mongauli patrol and brought to Stafolos Keep, ruled by the dreadful Black Count.

Kaoru Kurimoto sends the reader into action since the beginning of the novel. After a small prologue I was introduced in the middle of events, with a high pace and with events kept in a rapid rhythm. Along this high paced action I could find a great number of fighting scenes and although these particular scenes are not the best I read are pretty enjoyable. However I believe that the story would have benefit more if those fighting scenes were reduced in number. Also I didn’t liked two scenes in particular, one of them being the end, and I found these scenes too melodramatic and more appropriate for a Hollywood action movie. These scenes are so hard to believe that I will always have a problem with such scenes, particularly in my readings.

The story is centered on three characters, Guin, the leopard-masked warrior who doesn’t remember anything about his past beside a name Aurra, Rinda and Remus, the twin princes of Parros who survived the attack and the conquer of their home by the Mongauli warriors. I wasn’t particularly attracted by any of the characters and they woke mixed feelings in me throughout my reading. I was rather impassible toward Rinda, a bit sympathetic with Guin and rather annoyed by Remus, who in my opinion behaves like a spoiled prince and not like a surviving one. The negative character is a mystery and I enjoyed him the most. Unfortunately his story fells short at the end and I found the resolve of his mystery a little forced.

The world-building is the most interesting, but it is not fully developed. The author introduced me to her world and I could find a little bit of history, a little bit of geography, a more detailed fauna and flora and a reach pantheon of deities. But like I said despite many attractive aspects of world-building it seems underdeveloped. However I believe that the world-building and the characterization of “The Leopard Mask” is only an introduction in the series and a familiarization of the reader to the general setting. And I believe that if these aspects aren’t developed in the next novels than this series will not meet my expectations for a fantasy novel.

“The Leopard Mask” is a quick and action packed read. Kaoru Kurimoto’s novel will not reach a best of list, but will not touch the bottom either, and I will read the next novels in the series because I have hopes for the general setting of the “Guin Saga”.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cover art

Lately it seems that the attention given to cover art is increasing. I believe that we can blame the marketing, but I believe more properly is to praise them. I say this because it seems that the quality of cover art is reaching high levels (or maybe I have eyes for the good ones only ;) ). Anyway, with the help of Joe Abercrombie and his post on his website I found out about the cover art for his upcoming novel “Best Served Cold”. This cover is the work of six people (for more details please read Joe Abercrombie's post) and the novel will be published by Gollancz in April 2009. I have to put money aside, because I will not settle for less than the hardcover edition (which will appear in June 2009).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

International Horror Guild Awards

I know that this is old news already. I don't know how did I miss posting about IHG Awards since I followed this particular award with great interest. Well, I think that is better later than never and here is my post, with my apologies for the delay. The International Horror Guild Awards were announced at the World Fantasy Convention. This year's judges were Edward Bryant, Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, Ann Kennedy, and Hank Wagner, with award administrator Paula Guran. Here are the winners:

Living Legend Award: Peter Straub

Novel: "The Terror" by Dan Simmons

Fiction Collection: "Dagger Key and Other Stories" by Lucius Shepard

Long Fiction: "Softspoken" by Lucius Shepard

Mid-Length Fiction: "Closet Dreams" by Lisa Tuttle

Short Fiction: "Honey in the Wound" by Nancy Etchemendy

Anthology: "Inferno" edited by Ellen Datlow

Non-Fiction: "Mario Bava: All the Colors of Dark" by Tim Lucas

Periodical: "Postscripts" edited by Peter Crowther & Nick Gevers

Illustrated Narative: "The Nightmare Factory" by Thomas Ligotti (creator/writer), Joe Harris & Stuart Moore (writers), Ben Templesmith, Michael Gaydos, Colleen Doran & Ted McKeever (illustrators)

Art: Elizabeth McGrath for "The Incurable Disorder"

Congratulations to all the winners!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Bloodheir" by Brian Ruckley

Format: Hardback, 544 pages
Publisher: Orbit Books (UK)

“Bloodheir” is the second novel in the Brian Ruckley’s “The Godless World” series and is following the events described in “Winterbirth”.

The war is spreading and following the initial success the Black Road numbers increases and their army is growing. The Black Road continues to march south and to battle the True Bloods. Aewult, the Bloodheir of Haig, is certain that he will achieve a quick victory in front of his army and will therefore make his Blood more powerful. Banish by the Black Road Aeglyss the na’kyrim will return with renewed power and with new allies. And Orisian, the new Thane of Lannis Blood, will have to fight for his people with old and new enemies.

Brian Ruckley continues his story in a pleasant way and I will admit that I was hooked since the beginning and I enjoyed his second novel even more. The story flows naturally and the conflicts and the events presented in the first novel of the series continue to grow and be built toward a high point. The world is revealed further on and I really liked how the author described different towns or places of this world. Many times the descriptions caught my attention and sometimes I felt like looking at postcards or pictures of the specific places.

The politics of this world and the machinations and interests surrounding it were other aspects which I really enjoyed on “Bloodheir”. All the wheels of politics are rotating in a realistic way and the ambitions of the different houses, the personal likes and dislikes, the religion influence the movement of these wheels. And I believe that Brian Ruckley made a very good job in creating the politics in the way of medieval era, with which his created world resemble.

I liked the development of the characters too and I rediscovered the ones I liked in the first novel with pleasure. But besides those I did enjoy discovering others too. I liked Kanin, but “Bloodheir” made me become sympathetic with his sister, Wain, too. I become more involved in the story of Taim Narran and I watched the course of his actions with an increasing pace in the page turning. Mordyn Jerain, the very interesting chancellor, does seem to develop, but his side of the story is catchy. I still liked this character a lot and the end of the novel makes quite a captivating promise for the outcome of him. Orisian remains the character which attracts me the least, but I will not complain because on the big picture he plays his role. The author introduces some new figures in “Bloodheir”, but most of them have only short appearances. However, Brian Ruckley seasons their short story in a way that doesn’t leave an unpleasant feeling of their passing through the main story.

My absolute pleasure of “Bloodheir”, like in “Winterbirth”, remains the battle scenes. I believe that Brian Ruckley shows a great talent in the description on these scenes. He carefully builds the battles, adding on the canvas of these scenes from the background picture to the smaller details, combining the sensations of sound, color and movement in a way that made me believe that I was magically transported to the actual place of battle.

“Bloodheir” has its weak spots and is not without flaws, but I will not complain. Its flaws and shortcomings are overwhelmed by all the aspects that kept me turning the pages and captivated me that I prefer not to mention them at all. I believe that Brian Ruckley’s “Bloodheir” is a very good novel, one which I really enjoyed, and I eagerly wait for the third novel in the series, because the setting and the events built in the first two novels promise a very interesting reading.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cover art

I know that do to subjective and objective motives Brian Ruckley’s “Bloodheir” was delayed quite a lot. But I finished the novel a few days ago and I am working on the review, which most probably will be ready tomorrow. To compensate a little all the delay here it is the cover art for the upcoming novel in “The Godless World” series, “Fall of Thanes”. The novel will be released on May 2009 and I can’t wait to see the outcome of this series which really caught me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In the mailbox

Here are some new books I received recently with my thanks for the nice people who sent them to me:

- "Anathem" by Neal Stephenson (through the courtesy of Atlantic Books);
- "Witch Hunt" by Margit Sandemo (through the courtesy of Tagman Press);
- "Depths of Darkness" by Margit Sandemo (through the courtesy of Tagman Press);
- "Aríel’s Journey" by Doug Kane and Christy Wood (through the courtesy of Tyler Abbot from Cadence Marketing Group and Blue Ink Press);
- "Erikk the Giant" by Omar Abedin (through the courtesy of Omar Abedin).

Thank you very much.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The David Gemmell Legend Award

As we all know as each year draws to its end a series of awards are given celebrating the year which is ending and its achievements. I like watching the awards, although with all the honesty I don’t agree with every single nominee or winner. But this year I am glad to be a part of an award, because I signed up sometime ago for the new created community, The David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy. We already have a huge list of nominees (I still have to read some of them ;)) and we are drawing close to voting time which will start on December, 26. The DGLA will be awarded for the first time in 2009 and will celebrate the best Fantasy novel of 2008. Anyone who wants can be a part of this community and can take part at the voting process. The DGLA has also a nice forum where we can discuss the books nominated for the award and also one lucky member will be chosen at random for a fantastic prize, SIGNED COPY OF ALL THE BOOKS ON THE SHORLIST! (don’t touch this, it is mine, all mine :D). I hope to see you there!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Cover art

I continue with another cover art post, maybe to compensate a little the previous one.
One of my favorite reads of this year was “Through a Glass, Darkly” and I believe that Bill Hussey made an impressive debut with his novel. Bloody Books, the publisher of Hussey’s debut novel, will publish next year his second novel, “The Absence”. With the help of the blog where Bill Hussey is one of the major contributors, Horror Reanimated, I found the cover of his future novel. It is an interesting one and I believe that this type of cover on horror novels has a powerful effect. Sometimes a subtle image can have a greater impact than an obvious one. Anyway I’m looking forward to “The Absence” and to see Bill Hussey’s talent at work again.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Cover art (a bad one unfortunately)

In Romania my favorite reading genres, Fantasy and Horror, are covered in a very small measure. These genres and Sci-Fi are still seen as bad literature and unserious. However over the last few years these genres have set a small step in our literature market. With a greater opening toward the English titles, I mean here that it is much easier now to buy the books from outside through the online bookshops, and with our publishing houses trying to bring at least the heavy names of the genres it seems that my favorite genres are finally trying to establish themselves in my country. But still they have a long way to go.

Anyway, one of the publishing houses which try to bring us the wonderful titles of these genres is Minerva. Minerva steps alongside with the publishing houses which promoted these genres so far, like RAO (with many Fantasy and Horror titles and with the rights for Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time”), Nemira (with a long line of Sci-Fi titles, Stephen King’s novels and with the rights for George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”), Tritonic (a new name on the market, focused mainly on the new titles and authors of these genres, but which still needs to work on their book format and presentation) and Millennium Press (a smaller publishing house, with laudable efforts and with very attractive upcoming titles). The wonderful efforts of Minerva brought in Romania the series of Terry Brooks, “Shannara”. And I am not certain, but I heard that they have the rights for some of R.A. Salvatore’s titles.

However, as much as I appreciate their efforts I could not buy their second title. Trust me, I tried to, but seeing this cover art I couldn’t take my money from the wallet. Now, I am perfectly conscious that the most important part is between the covers, but still. I believe that the cover art plays a role in the selling process and to the pleasure of reading and owing a book. And with our consuming society today it plays quite a role. So although Minerva treat us with Terry Brooks’ titles the job made on the cover art is bad. And with all the respect if they keep it up like this I will stay with the English versions.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Guest Blogger: Kirsi Salonen

One of the guests of my Fantasy Art posts was the very talented artist, Kirsi Salonen. As you might know from my interview with Kirsi, she is working on her debut in the writing world, the fantasy novel named “Ordera”. Kirsi was very kind and offers us a taste of her work through the prologue you can read here. Also the image from this post is one the pictures of her upcoming novel. Thank you Kirsi and I wait with interest your upcoming novel :)

Ordera – prologue
by Kirsi Salonen

“The truth is, that no matter the insurance of light in the darkness, the blind one is still blind”
- Kafko Qumer'moora, the chief of the Moora-tribe

Welcome to the introductory part of the story. It is important for you to know that this isn't a familiar fictional tale. This isn't something you've come to terms before. It is something completely new. It is a story of life.

Remember the first times when you asked how the world actually works? You ran around in that small woods nearby your house and watched frogs jumping out in the rain and looking at the sun really hurt your eyes, but you did it anyway. All of it was simply wonderful. The world made your heart sing. The world welcomed you in its embracing arms. All the answers were there in the horizon, waiting for you to discover.
“Discover”. Isn't that word such a rarity these days? But I can tell you… The same thing can happen again. If you close your eyes and think about how history is repeating itself somewhere else… Stop for a moment. Stop and let go of the running of time and the walls around your house.
Disconnect your life from your parents, your friends, your worries, stress, accustomed habits and even most fundamental laws, religions, beliefs and reasons of fear.
Just let the story guide you to another world and another time, and see it happening from someone else's eyes. Maybe you can discover something completely new.
That is my only wish as an author. To let you find yourself again.

Imagine a world without humans; anything that was ever created by humans; humans with all their restrictions, cultural heritages, philosophies, traditions, various gods and basic physics. Above all – discard the technology we know, the places we know, the talks and anatomy we know does not apply from now on. You can imagine it, if you let yourself.

Imagine you could see spirits from another consciousness, spirits who will protect you and guide you and help you on your journey through life. Imagine you could even see the world through eyes that can see the world as it is: naked and revealed; all its secrets uncovered; all the dark, gray, bright, smudged; all the light, beyond time, distances, levels of space, beyond all the dirt and steel. All of it finally leading to this point. What is true and what is real? Who decides those things? What makes us love the sunset and sunrise so much? Why do we all love the same thing but disagree on everything else?

Now you must imagine more.

Visualize a human-like being called a guroae (pronounced as guroi), who can multiply his/her strength, speed and abilities genetically and use body x times equal to their normal strength. Visualize a being that has no boundaries, but is bound by itself only. A guroae desires to control its own fate, forges its own blade and bows only to a society of massive unity and leading strength. A guroae is a mirror image of us as humans, a being with so much capacity and will, that it makes itself our idol-being. This book tells about that journey and what really becomes of that idol.

But Ordera isn't just about the guroae. There is more.
Now imagine a sangrae (pronounced as sangray), who can manipulate surrounding nature and this same energy that flows within a guroae by his/her will and compose 'chants' from that energy. The same strength that a guroae controls physically, a sangrae controls mentally.
These two races sound equal, right?

But it isn't this simple. Sangrae are the lesser ones. They act towards higher thinking instead of acting towards power and greed, so they are forced to take orders from their physical superiors. They succumb to this rule in time. They even embrace it as a part of life. Until something happens and this ancient order suddenly shakes. Changes start to occur like ripples across water, until it becomes a tidal wave, a tsunami.

So, overall, a question remains: what is the order? Who has ever created such thing, if it is destined to war against something else? Why is the order always in a state of chaos among men?What if the whole concept of order and rule is an orchestrated illusion?

This is Ordera – the place of the rule. Obey and live.

Little do we know about it even down here on Earth. Little do we know how it has all been there before us. Think about it for a moment.
It is strange how cultures and ages keep on coming and going, civilizations fall and rise like castles in the sand. With a quick glance, it sounds a lot like evolution. But it is still not quite so. Why do some things remain and keep on coming again in just slightly different form? Why do we still repeat the same patterns as we did thousands of years ago? It might even seem like some complex game of some higher control.
Have you ever thought about it?

Now is your chance to compare different realities, or keep them as the same.
A question is thrown in the air: do you live in it?

Well, here's the big thing: you can find all about our Earth and People through the people of Ordera.The story's leading characters are archetypes of different individuals, from which you can very well find yourself, tucked inside their personas.

Look and listen closely to what they are saying and where they are going. Can you learn from or agree on what they do or how they behave? Look even deeper inside you: would you follow their example? Do you even follow yourself at all?

”I believe, that all those mystical disappearances will lead to that one place, as now even your people are being taken there with a rope around their necks. I just won't sit back and watch this abuse and wait that time will correct it or assume those bastards will quit eventually. I have sworn an oath to myself: that I will never obey any laws but my own; the ones written inside me. That oath applies where ever I go, no matter which world I walk upon. I am aware that for this, I am alone, and alone I most likely always will be. That is the way I've chosen and it is my truth. Without truth I am indeed the feared monster behind these eyes you see.”
- Raeson ”Rei” Haverth, (an Ah'Arean aurora -mercenary)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"Extraordinary Engines" edited by Nick Gevers

"Extraordinary Engines"
edited by Nick Gevers
Format: Paperback, 448 pages
Publisher: Solaris Books

I personally enjoyed in my reading years the English novels set in the Victorian era, but not only the novels set in that period, also the authors of that period, such as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, just to name a few. And the combination between this era and a modern technology used in steampunk made me read with interest and curiosity this sub-genre when I got the chance. I got such a chance again when I picked up the anthology edited by Nick Gevers, “Extraordinary Engines”. “Extraordinary Engines” is a collection which gathers between its covers 12 steampunk stories written by some of the present speculative fiction authors.

“Steampunch” by James Lovegrove – In a remote prison, an inmate recollects the story of his life to a new arrival and the story of Steampunch. Steampunch was a robot who took part in the mechano-boxing, a sport involving steam machines, and the inmate his trainer. What I liked at this story is how the author transposes the world of boxing in the mechanical world. I liked how every robot has a nickname matching his boxing performance, how the sport was covered in the papers and also how was contested. Also the end of the story is interesting and I mean here that I liked where James Lovegrove places the prison giving his story a deeper touch of the Sci-Fi Genre.

“Static” by Marly Youmans – Estella Hightower is kept prisoner by her aunt in her own house, but when her aunt dies by instant combustion Estella faces her freedom, but also the investigation of a young man, who she admired from her tower prison. Well, I have to admit that I’m not particularly fond of this story. Although it has the feeling of the Victorian era, with an evil aunt who terrorizes her niece over an inheritance, I found the story moving slowly and without very much action. This didn’t apply well to my entertainment.

“Speed, Speed the Cable” by Kage Baker – A trans-Atlantic cable is set to make the connection between the Americans and the English. But not everyone sees this as progress and agrees with the cable. So, different factions fight to prevent or to allow the existence of the Atlantic cable. The story is focused on the progress, represented here by the trans-Atlantic cable, how the society receives the progress and the debate around it. Also it deals with the philosophical questions of the sacrifices imposed by progress, if they are justified or not. The end of the story is ironic and it has an interesting issue around copyright and a writing figure of that Victorian period.

“Elementals” by Ian R. MacLeod – James Woolfendon is an active young man and now he tries a new theory of his, the theory of elementals. But his experiments will change him and our storyteller forever. I was interested in this story until one point, but unfortunately from that point it became rather ambiguous and it seemed that the author speeded up the end, because I found the story a little rushed to a conclusion.

“Machine Maid” by Margo Lanagan – In the Australian colony a young wife finds herself alone for a while, without any companionship besides an automaton. She discovers that this mechanical maid has some features different from the usual ones and she will try to change the automaton and her life. The story chances the difficulties which encountered the women in that era. Mrs. Goverman has an inner struggling and is trying to outcome a society in which her behavior is imposed and she must fit a specific standard. She also exercises a talent thought inappropriate for her by the society, but with a stunning result.

“Lady Witherspoon’s Solution” by James Morrow – Captain Archibald Carmody of H.M.S. “Aldebaran” finds a new island on the Indian Ocean. On this island he discovers some pre-historical men, but no women, and also with the help of one of the inhabitants a journal that would clarify many aspects of his discovery. What I liked at this story is the hidden experiments that are taking place here and the tests made on themselves by some characters in a true “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” style. The story is quite catchy and the action kept me turning the pages quickly.

“Hannah” by Keith Brooke – Inspector Derby is investigating the murder of a little girl, Hannah Mason. He is helped by the storyteller, a doctor who has a new technique that might revolutionize the forensic science. The story is centered on the medical technique of that era, with an ethical question behind it and with a little twist behind the murder of Hannah Mason.

“Petrolpunk” by Adam Roberts – The Queen has forbidden the Earth foray and the society is relying only on the steam power. A new group is emerging trying to force a change in this policy and to profit after the huge resources of the Earth. This story is one my favorite from this anthology. I liked that although the author keeps England close to the reality of the Victorian era his world has some very interesting changes. Also the elements of Science Fiction stories are present on almost every step and I really liked the irony behind the petrol, the pollution and exploitation notions present in the story.

“American Cheetah” by Robert Reed – The election campaign of Abraham Lincoln is helped by a few machines that resemble perfectly with the American president and are present in different corners of the country. After the death of the president one of them settles in a small town and becomes the sheriff of that town. And now he is facing the threat of some well-known villains which are not very different from him. This is a western story with accents of Sci-Fi, with the development of technology and how that technology is put to use.

“Fixing Hanover” by Jeff VanderMeer – On a remote island the sea brings to shore a robot. And a genius who hides on this island has to repair him. I believe the characters of this story are the most emotional involved from this anthology. It seems that the author caught in the few pages of the story the turmoil of the main character. Also behind the main characters I could see another philosophical theme which leaves the reader thinking, how the character deals with the consequences of his actions.

“The Lollygang Save the World by Accident” by Jay Lake – Per is a member of the Lollygang and that group lives and acts like everyone else on one of the decks of The Big Pipe. When he tries to revolt against his group his punishment leads him not only to his saving, but to the world’s saving too. That is another story I really liked, mainly because of a few ideas behind the story, like how the world lives in The Big Pipe and this idea made me think of the post-apocalyptic stories I enjoy so much. And the atmosphere of the story resembles the atmosphere of a post-apocalyptic story.

“The Dream of Reason” by Jeffrey Ford – Amanitas Perul is a renowned luminist and he believes the stars are made of diamonds and the matter is merely light slowed down. Now he is trying to obtain diamond dust from the starlight. An interesting story especially because it is set in a fantastic world. It is an interesting world, with a different society with different rules. And the author shows us some glimpses of this world geography.

“Extraordinary Engines” is not a perfect anthology. No anthology is! Like in every anthology Nick Gevers gathers in his one, stories that I really liked and some stories that weren’t on my liking. But “Extraordinary Engines” is a nice foray in the steampunk with interesting stories for those familiar with the sub-genre and for those unfamiliar too.

Monday, November 3, 2008

World Fantasy Awards

The winners of the 2008 World Fantasy Award were announced. Here are the winners as stated by the World Fantasy Awards website where you can find the full list of nominees too:

Life Achievement: Leo & Diane Dillon; Patricia McKillip

Novel: "Ysabel" by Guy Gavriel Kay

Novella: "Illyria" by Elizabeth Hand

Short Story: "Singing of Mount Abora" by Theodora Goss

Anthology: "Inferno: New Tales of Terror and the Supernatural" edited by Ellen Datlow

Collection: "Tiny Deaths" by Robert Shearman

Artist: Edward Miller

Special Award - Professional: Peter Crowther for PS Publishing

Special Award - Non-Professional: Midori Snyder and Terri Windling for Endicott Studios Website

Congratulations to all the winners!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fantasy Art - Philip Straub

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Philip Straub is a well known American artist, featured in numerous times in several publications and digital art websites and forums. He graduated in 1995 the Pair College of Art with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration. His works were featured in different areas of digital art and he has a vast experience in games, film, broadcast, children’s book and book jacket illustration, editorial, advertising and licensing. He worked as an Art Director for companies such as NCSoft and EA and now he founded and develops his own company, Unity New Media Entertainment. Philip teaches an online Concept Art class to students around the globe. Philip is also a founding member of CGSociety and regularly contributes to the illustration and digital art communities and judges several illustration competition. He continues to work on his own children’s book as well another story aimed for feature film development. He is constantly attempting to improve his skills as an Illustrator, Concept Designer, Art Director and Author.

Interview with Philip Straub

Dark Wolf: Philip thank you very much for the opportunity of this interview.
Do you remember your first art work and when it was made? What attracted you toward art?
Philip Straub: I honestly don’t remember the first drawing or painting I did when I was a child. I’ve been drawing and painting ever since I can remember and do recall trying out every media imaginable, watercolors, pastels, colored pencil, acrylics, and the list goes on. I was lucky enough that my parents allowed me to experiment with all these mediums. What I do remember is that I was painting different things than most children, while most kids were drawing monsters or comic books I was studying landscape painting at around 6 years old :)

Dark Wolf: What do you consider to be your main source of inspiration?
Philip Straub: Life! There is inspiration in everything around us- in our friendships, our relationships, our family, and in the wonderful world we live in. I enjoy music and film for inspiration and love the access to reference and artist communities the internet has allowed artists.
I have a pretty active imagination so I usually have a backlog of ideas I’m trying to get out – the trouble is balancing this with all the other responsibilities I have.

Dark Wolf: Your works are dominated by imaginative architecture and vegetation. Do you feel more attracted by these fields of work or do you feel more inspired of these subjects?
Philip Straub: Well a good body of my work is focused on environments but, that is changing- more and more of my work now includes multiple human subject matter and creature design. My Utherworlds books has allowed me to focus on character and environment.
The other reason a large body of my work is landscape is because that is what I’m known for so the more of a particular work you have the more likely you will be asked to do more of that type of work.

DW: Your works appeared in many children books. How different is working for children than a more mature audience? Do you feel more challenged working for children?
PS: I think I find creating children’s content more challenging- in general it requires a different technique than my realistic stuff and though it may look simpler, it is at times, depending on style, more time consuming. The images in my Secret Places Intellectual Property are extremely time consuming so and challenging images but, I do enjoy both.

DW: How is the work of Art Director? Do you feel that this particular job is difficult than the basic process of creation?
PS: It’s great - I love it actually. I wouldn’t say it’s more difficult but, I would say it requires a particular set of skills and unique set of interests. Multi-tasking is something an Art Director has to enjoy doing; from scheduling, to mentoring, to pipeline management, artist career development, product vision development, and political navigation. Some folks would rather just sit and paint and draw all day, I actually like the diversity an Art Direction brings to my day- I like learning new things and getting to help develop artists skills and careers.

DW: I am familiar with a usual saying which states that being your own boss means dealing with a drastic boss. How was it for you? Was it easier working for an already established company or for your founded one?
PS: Running Unity Entertainment is infinitely more difficult than any of the other roles I’ve held. The main difference is that all the other studios I’ve worked at had huge companies with deep pockets behind them. What this essentially meant was that when these large companies like EA and Vivendi Universal worked with other developers or vendors everyone listened. Unfortunately, in some cases, people operate under fear, if a small company works with a goliath like EA they definitely won’t challenge decisions or try to get away with certain things. When you have a small company like I do, you’re a-lot more vulnerable to the littlest thing, and you don’t have deep pockets or a team of lawyers available to protect you. But, all of these challenges are overshadowed by the experience of completing something that you truly believe in and are proud of- something you did on your own without the big corporation- that is extremely rewarding!

DW: I’ve seen that you taught a Concept Art class at EA University and also you have Concept Art class every year. What satisfaction do you have as a teacher? What interesting experience did the teaching process offered you?
PS: Yes, I’ve taught a number of classes and lectures over the years. I really enjoy the teaching process and enjoy being part of the growth of students as artists and people. The most interesting experience about teaching for me as learning how to articulate succinctly all the techniques I use to create my artwork. When you’re forced to actually explain how you work it forces you to analyze your process further and you end up learning more along the way. So, I find that when I’m teaching my actual work improves.

DW: You are often invited to judge different art competitions. What impresses you on a work and which criteria do you use in the judging process?
PS: The thing I always look for first in an image is the story, message, or symbolism behind the it. I ask myself “What is the artist saying here, what kind of emotion are they trying to evoke in the viewer?” Then, of course, I look at technique and overall execution of the image. How accurate is the lighting? How accurate is the perspective? Is the color and value structure correct etc etc……?
There are a million different ways to paint the same subject matter so it’s the artist’s job to apply their individual style and approach to any image. So, I look for an artist to take a given subject matter and really find the most interesting way to present it.

DW: I’ve seen a very interesting project made by Justin Lassen, “Synaesthesia”, and a fascinating concept, “Hearing pictures, seeing sound”. What do you think about this project of Justin Lassen in general and about the work made by him on your artwork in particular? What do you think about the association between different categories of art?
PS: I think Justin’s project is really interesting and inspiring. He’s a smart guy for coming up with that concept - it’s a win - win for all involved. By combining his musical vision with artists in the digital arena - he created something new and exciting that puts what’s possible in new media in front of the masses.
As for the association of different types of artistic expression, I say the more the merrier. I believe so strongly in combining different creative expressions I was inspired to form my company Unity Entertainment to produce the Utherworlds Intellectual Property. It combines music, animation, story telling and illustration in a different way.

DW: From all of your works and projects is there one in particular that you preferred or you enjoyed more making it?
PS: Definitely my Utherworlds project - I’ve been working on it for 5 years now and took a year off from my full time Art Direction duties to complete it. It was a story I wanted to tell to the world – I wanted to produce something that I really felt could make a difference in the world. Plus I’ve learned so much about things I never could have imagined in the process.

DW: What is “Utherworlds”? Can you reveal something about this project of yours?
PS: Yes certainly! It is an original novel of about 60,000 words, nearly 70 full color illustrations, two unique written languages, a spoken language, and a ton of maps that define the world. The novel is being published by Ballistic Publishing and is really a first in the publishing world. I’ve looked and looked and can’t find anything out there like it….probably because nobody has been crazy enough to try and pull it off!
The story revolves around the concept of Dreams and Nightmares and their connection to the conscious and unconscious thoughts of sentient being, especially humans.
The basic idea is - All thought is alive – each hope, fear, and memory is a part of the whole we call the universe. Every living creature contributes in their own unique way to the balance of positive and negative energy in the world. This energy is channeled to the Realms of Nightmares and Dreams, a visual manifestation of all thought energy that is located far in the depths of the universe.
For eons a balance has been maintained between the positive and the negative but, the balance has shifted and the natural order has been disrupted. Sentient beings have lost their way and have given into the temptation of negative thought. Hope, empathy, and truth are being challenged by the growing forces of greed, hatred, and lust. War, global climate change, and industrialization grow with each passing day unchecked. It is true - the universe has reached a tipping point. A time of no return is nearly upon us all. Those who are open – those with true presence and a belief in hope are called upon to reclaim and restore the balance.
Our main characters is thrown directly into this conflict when his family goes missing and he finds himself in the Realms of Nightmares with no memory of who he was or how he got there. He must find his past and understand how it is tied to his future and the future of the known universe.
In addition to the book, there is an interactive website I’ve been working on with a few folks that will be supplemental material to the book- almost like a field guide with additional information folks can find to enrich the story. But, if someone doesn’t have the book, it can be an introduction to the mythology of Utherworlds. The website will feature an original soundtrack produced by Alan Hewitt, a well know composer for film, game, broadcast and also tons of famous acts out there like Earth Wind and Fire, Eddie Money, and even Warrant! Alan also has a very successful solo career and has a new jazz fusion album coming out in 2009. The animations and development side of things for the site is being handled primarily by Mark Stefanowicz. Mark is a veteran in the games industry having worked on a ton of game titles and a very accomplished artist in his own right. The animations we’ve done for the site are very unique. You’ll just have to check them out at when it goes live in December.

DW: I know that you are also working on a children book. Is it possible to tell me a little about this project too?
PS: Secret Places is the children’s book project that I’ve been working on for quite some time – it’s been a hard thing to finish with the Utherworlds project, my freelance work, licensing work, and AD duties.
Secret Places is connected to the Utherworlds story but draws from completely different mythology and characters. The basic premise is as follows: Secret Places is a hidden world on earth that has existed since the creation of the earth. Not so long ago, all the children of the world danced to the ancient songs of animals living in harmony with one another. It is true, under the warmth of the summer sun, children everywhere listened to the animals around them play the music of life….each child playing along with them. Little did they know that these playful interactions assured that humanity would always be connected to the world where they came. And so it was for thousands of years - as children grew into adults, they retained the memories, fantastical lessons, and knowledge of that simpler time. Such as memories go, most would forget the details but, the memories that remained guaranteed humanity would become the stewards of the world.
The creatures of Secret Places, along with all life on earth, teach us that every human being has a unique relationship with the wild world, and that the discovery and cultivation of that relationship defines us. We learn, through our early exploration, that childhood innocence and wonder sprouts into an adolescence of creative adventure and finally blossoms into an authentic adulthood filled with artistry and visionary leadership.

DW: Besides these projects do you plan already other ones?
PS: Oh I think I’ve got my hands full right now! The Utherworlds project is scheduled to go content complete at the end of 2008 with the site launching just before the new year and the book hitting stores around late March/April. I’ve already written up roughs for book 2 and book 3 and while there will be a climax and some resolution in book 1, there will still be many questions left unanswered. So, with that the plan would be to pfinish up books 2 and 3 sometime in the near future. We have some merchandise available for Utherworlds already but, I’d really like to expand that out - there's a lot of cool things we can do with the property and I want to take some of the profits and donate to charity.
I’m also looking for my next big AD challenge - with Utherworlds wrapping up – I’m ready for something new and want to work on a game or film in the fantasy and/or science fiction genre that I, and the whole team can be proud of.

Thank you very much for your answers and your time.

For a full resume and a complete bio and portfolio of Philip Straub, please visit his website, The Art of Philip Straub.

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.