Answered some questions for Mark Penman for his dissertation. Some excerpts here will have to suffice for the Only Thing I’ve added to this blog in over a month.
Q-In the about section of your site you say that the website is a home to comics about your world Overside. Was that the intention evolve as you wrote Rice-Boy?
When I started Rice Boy I didn’t have much of a conception of the overall world, and I didn’t think I would do anything else with it. But going through that story, and kind of assuming a deep history was there and playing with it, led me to start thinking of the world as something bigger than one story: a sort of aesthetic, metaphorical tool I could use in other stories. And now I’ve done a lot of stuff in this setting, but even then I’m kind of rebuilding it each time: starting with an outline of the world and its history as I’ve set it up, and tweaking the details and the overall aesthetic to work better with the particular story I’m telling.
Q-Your stories include very well defined cultures and religions. Do you draw much inspiration from cultures of our world?
I definitely do; I try to get ideas from wherever I can take them. Often this means being inspired by somebody else’s fantasy culture, setting, or idea, and then following that into the real-world historical inspirations for it. But yeah I’m very interested in how culture and religion and mythology work, and the roles they play in human life. Vattu is sort of about that, and about how these elements work to build a person’s sense of identity.
Q-How much consideration do you put into the art and symbolisms of the cultures you create? Would you say that the artworks of a culture are important in defining the look of their settlements and fashions?
I do think a lot about the art and architectural styles of different cultures I’m making. Particularly in Vattu, there will be several different cultures that I need to keep distinct and clear. This, to me, is usually a question of emphasis: how can I stylize the visual style of this culture to isolate and emphasize the central ideas that I want to communicate about it? This includes representational art, buildings, furniture, clothing, everything. I’ve just gotten to the part in Vattu where they get to the city Sahta. There is a definite “Sahtan style” which emphasizes austerity, sturdiness, boldness, and spare, geometric ornamentation. I think you can see this in much of the design of the place.
Q-Your stories often centre on conflicts, be it between characters or from environmental influences or disasters. Do you see conflict as an important part of creating a world or would you say that it only aids storytelling?
Here is the secret: worldbuilding is just a convoluted sort of storytelling. There’s a tendency to look at it as actually literally building a world, but I think a more valuable approach is to look at it as developing a tool for storytelling. You aren’t making a static, detailed substrate to put stories on top of; you’re making a dynamic setting which is part of the story itself.