I have been painting panels for the next issue of Salvage (Issue #2), and I am leaning toward a more painterly style, no hard lines, no pencils visible. Issue #1 on Comixology: https://www.comixology.com/Salvage-1/digital-comic/175314 –Based on the book Salvage (Masque Books, 2013) http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ED0081O
Category Archives: comics
Several readers have asked for details on how the “seaborn books” are connected, and in what ways. Most of the books and stories I have written over the last ten years are tied together in one timeline, sharing characters, a couple of them extending over a generation. A few clearly share the same setting–our near-future world, with seaborn characters, but without Kassandra making much of an appearance–or not at all (Salvage).
You may have noticed that there’s a genre mix, from what would neatly fall into fantasy, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, etc. to stories that could legitimately be categorized as science fiction or tech-thriller (Nanowhere, Salvage), to stories that may not clearly fall into any bucket (Winterdim). Futuristic fantasy?
You may have noticed that most of these stories take place in the future. That’s on purpose. You could also look at the stories in this timeline and see the advance of technology from one to the next–especially when you get twenty or ninety years into the future, from Nanowhere to Teller and finally to Winterdim. I am a software engineer and technologist, so I am always interested in the progress of technology, where it will lead us, and where it will be applied in the fields of health, culture, military, and–very important to me–in or on the ocean, in support of preserving ocean wildlife as well as how we will continue to provide enough seafood for the world’s every growing market for it.
Want to print out the timeline, or get a closer look? http://www.saltwaterwitch.com/img/TheSeabornBooks-ChrisHoward_rev9.pdf
Let me know if you see typos, problems with the order or dates. I threw this together quickly, a lot of of it coming out of long email discussions with Georg (https://www.facebook.com/gtrimborn), Lorena (https://plus.google.com/117462233542667604483), and others. Also, I mention characters, plot direction for future books, and other details that you may consider spoilers, so read some of the longer blocks of fine print at your own risk!
I know. I know, it’s been too long. I’ve been busy working on the Salvage comic, and left Saltwater Witch to just sit there for a couple months. Well, I’m back in business on Saltwater Witch, with three more pages–the rest of chapter 17 scripted and storyboarded. I just need to do the art and lettering. Soon. Very soon! In the meantime I’ve posted a new page for chapter 17, Kassandra and her grandmother still discussing the coming problems with Tharsaleos. The talk’s getting a little more intense.
There’s a day left on the Salvage Goodreads giveaway. Still time!
To tease you a bit, here are two more panels from the Salvage comic, the opening page of the next chapter. That’s Martin in the Knowledgenix control room, and below that, a kilometer off Moss Landing in Monterey Bay, it’s John Andreden chatting with Theo–who’s starting to look like a cyborg killer whale.
Check out the Salvage comic preview on the Salvage site.
Did I tell you there’s a comic edition of Nanowhere in the works? (Right now it looks like a December 2014 release for Vol. 1). Here’s a concept sketch for the opening page, with Kaffia breaking the top panel to flip off the annoyingly loud gunships going overhead. They’re on their way to capture Straff, who’s hiding in the woods that surround the skatepark. In the book (Get it at Amazon, B&N, iBooks, etc.) Kaffia and Alex come in on the second scene of the first chapter, but I want a mood-setting intro into the story. This may be it, or It may not be it.
Nanowhere… it’s a love story with all the usual elements: rogue soldiers, computer hacking, tyranny, cryptography, hit-men with an affinity for rolled adhesives, rebellious skateboarders, and sentient billion-node self-organizing nanotech ghosts. Oh, and Kassandra from Saltwater Witch makes a couple appearances.
I started out with the idea of spinning this topic away from the Saurons of the genre—the supremely bad players with vast armies of hideous soldiers and architecturally magnificent but poorly-lit fortresses, players who want to take over extensive amounts of someone else’s territory, an entire world, or some valuable plane of existence. I wanted to spin this topic toward the blended moralities in Glenn Cook, Joe Abercrombie, Brent Weeks, and others, where the main characters are not always good, and some are clearly great fans of seeing others in pain—proudly wearing their “Go Sauron” jackets when off screen.
On the other hand I know the “evil protagonist” thing is all the rage. Every fantasy and SF discussion group on Goodreads and the Amazon forums has a dozen threads on “books where there main character is evil”, or something like that.
What about the good villain—or apparently good villain? I don’t mean where the villain thinks he’s doing the right thing, because that’s pretty much what drives every complexly-written scoundrel. Power-hungry, ladder-climbing, step over the bodies of your superiors to get what you want types of characters are the mainstay. Power, money, control—these are the things that motivate so many baddies, along with a generous portion of justification for whatever they are after.
Another common theme is the bad guy or girl who must do something evil in order to survive —kill, drink blood, go all Mr. Hyde on us, or do bad things as the result of some curse. Come on, doesn’t everyone deserve to survive? Every reader can understand that kind of drive, and in many cases it’s the thoughtful appreciation (and sometimes sympathy) that shapes the reader’s reaction to the villain’s actions, usually based on the physical and emotional price paid by the afflicted character in order to fight or throw off the curse.
Still, that’s still not quite the evil I’m thinking about—or the “good” when I say “good villain.” Like many writers I spend a lot of time thinking about evil—evil people, as well as their actions and motives. First, someone tell the NSA I was just doing research. Second, here’s where I’m going:
What if the character or characters who represent evil in a story want to help develop the world instead of destroy it? What if they benefit as much as the heroes, the shopkeepers, as much as the simple but courageous village gardeners from the worldwide advancement of magic, technology, living conditions, clean water, and green pastures? What if they are as turned off by a giant volcano spewing reeking sulfurous clouds as any hero? What if they are against war of any kind?
I started down this path in Teller, with the principal evil character making it clear that she wants all of humanity to progress. She’s even willing to help in an underground, organized-movement sort of way—you know, duffle-bags full of cash, “removing obstacles”, and other varieties of influence in the right places. Teller is contemporary fantasy, and so the characters are living in a world with runes, rockets, and Reddit. Think of hundreds of “evil” characters around the world, nominally working together, with the common goal of getting rid of humans. Not by wiping them out—that would be messy, but by making sure that civilization either advances to the point where humans can travel to other planets—getting the majority of them offworld, or to the point where humans develop the technology to “digitize human consciousness” and go virtual—with two paths from there: withdrawal into some localized computational substrate with a small realworld footprint (e.g., “still here, but quiet and out of the way”), or by extending the range of exploration by sending “digitized human freight” to planets lightyears away and decanting the data into physical forms on the other side (e.g., “grass is always greener colonization strategy”). The baddies want our world after all—and although they really don’t get along, there is one clear and shared requirement for the take-over: they want the world in move-in condition. Furnished would also be a nice perk.
I continued plotting and writing using this flavor of evil with my latest book, Salvage, where the principal evil character, Damaris, is completely open to discussions with one of the protagonists, and even hints that he’s going to invest in the character’s company, Knowledgenix, which develops advanced autonomous robots. Damaris genuinely likes Jon Andreden, and wants to help him succeed.
Evil in the fantasy genre doesn’t have to mean miles of wasteland, ever-present storm clouds, minions with sharp weapons and low morale, or any mode of transportation that involves chiropteran wings—although I am a fan of some of these, especially the wings. To me, a villain who shares values with the protagonist frightens me more than any straightforward grab for land, money or power. It totally freaks out the heroes, too.
Chris Howard is just a creative guy with a pen and a paint brush, author of Seaborn (Juno Books, 2008), Salvage (Masque/Prime Books, 2013), Nanowhere (Lykeion, 2005), and a shelf-full of other books. His short stories have appeared in a bunch of zines, latest is “Lost Dogs and Fireplace Archeology” in Fantasy Magazine. His story “Hammers and Snails” was a Robert A. Heinlein Centennial Short Fiction Contest winner. He writes and illustrates the comic Saltwater Witch. His art has appeared in Shimmer, BuzzyMag, various RPGs, and on the pages of books, blogs, and other interesting places. Find out everything here: http://www.SaltwaterWitch.com
I’m working on the cover for the next volume of Saltwater Witch Comic–16. I wanted Kassandra trapped underwater between forces she can’t control. About six hours in AR4 and CS6. Saltwater Witch: www.saltwaterwitch.com
This has been a really rough month for me. Haven’t done any writing or drawing in over two weeks–probably longer than I’ve gone without writing or drawing for a decade. Anyway, I’m getting back into the things, and started with the last few pages of Saltwater Witch 15, just sketching and storyboarding at the moment:
Got up early this morning to finish and post the finals for another two pages for chapter 15 of the Saltwater Witch Comic. This set has the first look at Kassandra’s mother, Ampharete (pronounced Am-FAIR-eh-tay) holding Kassandra as a baby, along with the first appearance of Ampharete’s bodyguard, Zypheria. I did most of the line work for these in AR4, the rest in CS6.
I’ve also spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out a way to convey the power of the Wreath–this power that’s inside Kassandra–in a visual way. In the books it’s really an internal feeling, sort of an awful power welling up and taking over, but with a comic I have to solve this with something the reader can see. The result: Kassandra gets hideous for a few moments.
The comic and everything else is here: http://www.SaltwaterWitch.com