Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Guest Author Post: Inspirations For Phoenix by SF Said - Published by David Fickling

My new book Phoenix is set in space.  One of the biggest inspirations for it was an amazing book of astral photography created by the Hubble Space Telescope .  I found this book in Reykjavik, on a trip to see the Northern Lights, and it stayed with me through the seven years it took to write my story, always giving me a sense of wonder when I needed it.  
http://hubblesite.org/
        

I was so glad when I learned that Dave McKean loves space photography as much as I do!  When the writing was complete, I passed the Hubble book on to him.  I think he made incredible use of it in illustrating the space sequences in Phoenix, though he also added many unique and mind-blowing concepts of his own, including the idea of using fractals to represent the connections between all things.
           

When I was thinking about how to navigate through space, I was very inspired by the idea of Astrolabes.  These were ancient astronomical devices, popular in the Islamic world a thousand years ago, and then in medieval Europe.  They enabled people to find their exact positions, even at sea, for the first time.  They were analogue computers – like the GPS of their day!
                          

I found a beautiful catalogue of Astrolabes put together by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich
http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections.html#!csearch;searchTerm=astrolabe
which has a fantastic collection of them.  Again, this book stayed in front of me while I was writing.  Then, when I was done, I passed it on to Dave, who found it as breathtakingly beautiful as I had.  And again, I think he did something extraordinary with it.


Perhaps the hardest part of Phoenix to get right was the idea of the Twelve Astraeus.  In the story, these are the astral origins of all the ancient gods and mythologies.  It was very hard to write about beings of such mystery in ordinary prose.  Very late in the writing process, at the urging of my editor David Fickling, I found another way of describing them.


I realised that information about the Twelve Astraeus could be communicated in a series of song fragments, accompanied by illustrations.  I imagined Dave doing a series of portraits, depicting each of the Twelve Astraeus in turn, along with their attributes.  Through these images and fragments, readers might just glimpse them, and form their own ideas about who they were.  This seemed like it could be much more powerful and resonant than simply being told.


I'm happy to say that when Dave's portraits came through, they had exactly the numinous luminous glow I was after.  They gave me the sense of awe and wonder that I always wanted my story to have.  I can't really thank him enough, because in truth, although there were many inspirations behind this book, perhaps the biggest was Dave himself, and his infinite imagination!



SF Said Website: http://www.sfsaid.com/p/phoenix.html
Twitter: @WhatSFSaid
David Mckean Website: http://davemckean.com/
Twitter:@DaveMckean
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