Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fangirl Squeeing: Scott Westerfeld in Vancouver

So, with the inaugural convocation of the first Vancouver Steam Librarium & Consortium scheduled to discuss Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan, imagine my delight upon discovering that Scott Westerfeld was scheduled to speak in Vancouver on October 11, a bare week after the book club meeting, as part of his tour for the third book in his trilogy, Goliath.
"Meet Scott Westerfeld" was hosted by Kidsbooks, with a ticket price of $5, redeemable against the purchase of one of his books, and there was a signing opportunity after the author spoke.  The crowd was mixed, mostly older kids, young adults, and parents, with a few avid young steampunk all dressed up!

I was most delighted to realize that Scott Westerfeld is an excellent speaker.  (Not all authors are good at getting up and talking to their fans.)  He discussed the Leviathan series at length, and also made references to his previous (non-Steampunk) series, the Uglies.

Along with sharing the information that the Leviathan books were inspired by the "boy's own adventures" that were popular in previous decades, and were written to provide an opportunity for girls to have their own adventures, the author also gave an interesting perspective into the place of artwork in fiction.

Previous to and throughout the Victorian era, adult books often included art, including the works of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.  This was a common feature which fell out of favour and was delegated to children's books, as photography came to prominence and replaced artwork in newspapers, magazines, and catalogues.  Book artists lost their bread and butter of commercial artwork, and as a result, faded.
Shown above are two illustrations (by Hugh Thomson and C.E. Brock) for Victorian editions of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, as well as one by  George Cattermole for Charles Dickens' Old Curiosity Shop.  Below is the frontispiece for the original printing of Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
By deciding to include illustrations by Keith Thompson in the Leviathan series, Scott Westerfeld brings art back to our literature.  He completely dismisses the modern notion that illustrations belong solely to the sphere of books for young children.  And thank heavens for that.  Anyone who has seen these books has surely admired Keith Thompsons amazing illustrations.  If you want to peek at more of his art, his gallery is here.
Westerfeld discussed the unique relationship between himself and his illustrator, pointing out instances where they have pictured things differently, and times where Keith Thompson has inspired him to write scenes.  In order to ensure continuity when doing scenes on board Leviathan, Thompson apparently has drawn layout diagrams of the ship, which introduced Westerfeld himself to areas of the ship he hadn't even imagined (and then had to set scenes in, just because they were there).
Westerfeld announced at the event that there will be a fourth, supplementary book in addition to the Leviathan trilogy, which will utilize the layout diagrams and other behind-the-scenes artwork by Keith Thompson, to give fans a further view into the workings of the fabricated beasties and clankers of Westerfeld's and Thompson's alternative world.  I keenly anticipate the publication of this 4th supplementary art book, and will be keeping an avid eye out for further information and preordering!  How can one resist an entire book of artwork like this:
Keith Thompson's caricature map of the powers of Westerfeld's alternate 1914 world.

A piece of Clanker propaganda, drawn by Keith Thompson.
In summary, the evening with Scott Westerfeld was highly enjoyable and well worth attending.  My only regret was that I had lent my copy of Leviathan to a friend's son, so did NOT have it with me to get signed.  Though I did buy a copy of Behemoth, which I got signed.  I will await Goliath in trade format, which is easier to read on public transit!

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