When my editor, Sheila Gilbert at DAW, said she was planning to get Stephan Martiniere to do the illustration for the cover of Empire of Dust I confess it was a name I didn’t know. Turns out I was showing my ignorance, bigtime. The man’s a genius, with awards to prove it and a portfolio that spans book illustration, comics, cartoons, theme park design, games and movies including 300 Rise of an Empire, Total Recall, I Robot, Battlefield Earth and, yes, Star Wars. Does it get any better than that? His book covers are simply amazing, as you can see from his portfolio: space ships, futuristic cities, demons, weird landscapes, habitats, humans, creatures and aliens. He’s done great covers for so many books it would be impossible to start to list them, but go and look for yourself.
So Sheila asked if I would pick out a couple of scenes which might be good to illustrate and after a bit of discussion we came up with a small scene just after Cara and Ben land their ship-load of settlers on the planet Olyanda. Cara and Ben are working together to set warning beacons around the new colony. It’s not a pivotal scene in the book, but it offers the opportunity to include: an alien landscape, weird lighter-than-air creatures, an antigravity car, a half-built, futuristic settlement based around the flying saucer-shaped landing vehicle, and my two main characters, Cara Carlinni and Reska ‘Ben’ Benjamin. I was asked to supply descriptions of clothing, characters, places and things and suddenly had to think about them in much more detail. I tend not to give detailed descriptions, but let my readers build their own picture based on a few salient features. I usually have more in my head than goes down on the page.
We were trying to produce a picture based on my words and Stephan’s imagination. Yay for Stephan’s imagination! I saw it at the unfinished sketch stage and then a few weeks later got the finished ting. I love the result. Here’s a breakdown.
This tells it’s own story. The natural landscape has weird rock formations – kind of hoodoo-shaped – on the edge of a wide river-valley. In the valley there’s a hustle and bustle of a settlement in the first stages of construction. In its centre is the saucer-shaped landing vehicle, a one-time-use space-ship designed to get the first load of settlers and essential equipment from orbit to the ground, and then to become the headquarters for the psi-tech team setting up the colony and guiding it through its first year. (It doesn’t end up being as simple as that, of course…) The sky is abuzz with smaller shuttles ferrying supplies down from the great ark ship that brought them all safely through foldspace.
Cara and Ben are using an antigravity ‘groundcar’ which will skim rough terrain safely. Ben is setting warning beacons taller than himself, while Cara is on watch for anything untoward. There are three trikallas, alien creatures that float close to the ground and live on copper deposits and seem oblivious to the human invaders – a bit of a nuisance when they decide to sample some of the offworld alloys, but otherwise not dangerous.
Ben and Cara are almost exactly how I imagined them. Ben is mid brown (African/European heritage, but born on the long-established colony planet, Chenon). He’s tall and well muscled without being beefy and has long hair tied back into a short plait. I’d imagined just a plaited pigtail, but Stephan gave him corn rows. Cara is European, born on Earth, of medium height, slightly built, but wiry with (at this point in the story) close cropped fair hair. Both characters are wearing standard issue ‘buddysuits’ – ‘smart’ clothing, protective, with built in health monitoring, heating and cooling systems.
The image as a whole really encapsulates the early days of the Olyanda colony and paints my two characters as individuals who look competent and active. I love it.
Thank you Sheila Gilbert and Stephan Martiniere.
Empire of Dust is out from DAW on 4th November 2014.