Wednesday, October 27, 2010

GUEST BLOG: What If?

Jon S. Lewis is the co-creator of the world of The Grey Griffins in The Revenge of the Shadow King (2006), which has been optioned for a movie by Deathly Pale Productions. A new Grey Griffins trilogy begins with The Brimstone Key, Book I of The Clockwork Chronicles. The book is the first foray into Steampunk that Jon and co-author Derek Benz have taken with the series.

I spent quite a few Saturdays in my local comic book shop growing up, and I was always intrigued by Marvel’s What If titles. Each issue asked a deep philosophical question like “What if the X-Men died on their first mission?” or “What if Spider-man had six arms?”

Okay, so maybe the questions weren’t very deep, but we’ve all played the “what if” game, right? “What if I would have married the first person I kissed?” or “What if I would have gone to medical school like my brother who drives the BMW?”

“What if?” became an important question for the Grey Griffins . . .

Derek and I decided early in our writing careers that we weren’t going to name modern technology in our books. That meant words like “cell phone,” “laptop,” “SUV,” and “iPod” were banned. Why? Technology is moving so rapidly that we didn’t want to date the stories. I mean, when we were writing our first book (The Revenge of the Shadow King), the term “smart phone” wasn’t even coined yet, Napster had stronger brand recognition than iTunes, and eReaders were little more than a dream.

There was a problem, though. Tweens and teens are hardwired into digital communication and even though the hardware is bound to change, their passion for digital media won’t. So introducing technology into the series was critical, but how could we do that without making our stories stand out like butterfly collars, bellbottom jeans or parachute pants?

At about that same time, Derek picked up a copy of Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. We were already fans of the Steampunk aesthetic, but for some reason the idea of introducing Steampunk into our stories hadn’t crossed our minds. Alan Moore helped us see the light, and we asked ourselves the following question: “What if our world was invaded by Steampunk culture?”

It was the perfect solution! We could introduce futuristic technology wrapped in a timeless package, like laptops in leather cases with brass corners where the keypad looked like it was taken from an early model Remington typewriter. And instead of walking around in wizards robes, the students at Iron Bridge Academy could wear things like classic safari gear, petticoats, knickers with argyle socks, driving caps and goggles.

Then, instead of fighting trolls, dragons and faeries, we could set our heroes against fresh villains like clockwork soldiers and steam-powered war machines. It was too delicious to pass up.

We hope the end result is an action-packed adventure that fans of our original trilogy will enjoy. At the same time, we’re excited about introducing a new crop of readers to Steampunk in much the same way that J.K. Rowling introduced an entire generation to fantasy books through Harry Potter. Okay, so maybe we won’t have quite that impact, but you never know.


EDITOR'S NOTE: The contest to win a Grey Griffins prize pack is open until November 5; put your entry in the comments thread of the announcement post to be entered for a chance to win.

1 comment:

Donna Hole said...

Great post Matt. I was a bit confused though about who was the "voice" of this post. Uhm, I thought you were a part of this writing.

Maybe if you put a little blurb between "The book is the first foray into Steampunk that Jon and co-author Derek Benz have taken with the series" and the first person POV "I spent quite a few Saturdays in my local comic book shop growing up . .", it would help make the transition from your introduction, to the Author J.S. Lewis' comments.

I totally enjoyed meeting JS. Wow, what an inspiring concept - What If. A I think its cool not to "name" specific technology but to allude to it in other guises. When you build a fictional world I don't see that its important to use recognizable terms. But you'd need to have the technological applications understandable. It sounds as though the authors had this in mind when writing the novels.

I am intrigued enough to put this on my to be read list. Thanks Matt, for the introduction to the series an the authors.

..........dhole