This fall, I’m taking time to reread some of my favorite books and series, and because I’m not a monster, I’ve started with Harry Potter. I haven’t reread these books in several years. (I know. It hurts me, too. There are just so many new books to read.) So this is my first time reading from my new illustrated versions. So. Fun. I am not a very visually oriented person, so I don’t normally worry much about pictures. But the experience of reading this story is enhanced so much by these amazing illustrations.
Of course, in children’s books, pictures are accepted and even expected, but it’s gotten me thinking about the use of visuals in speculative fiction. When the imagination is being stretched to visualize fictional creatures, never-before-seen worlds, and alien architecture, does it help the reader to see an artist’s depiction? I think my answer is yes, as long as it’s done carefully and I still get to use my own imagination.
One of my favorite examples of well-used illustration is in Brandon Sanderson’s fantasy series The Stormlight Archive. Sprinkled throughout the books are fashion sketches, maps, and field drawings of creatures, all ostensibly made by one of the main characters. They’re lovely…and with such a detailed fantasy world, they help.
Tolkien was doing this sort of thing long before, when he included his own sketches from time to time in The Lord of the Rings. We don’t need these drawings to understand the action, but the visual glimpse into Tolkien’s imagination brings his descriptions to life.
Susanna Clark includes illustrations throughout Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell. In this case, they aren’t particularly illuminating, but their old-fashioned style adds to the atmosphere of the book. It helps the narrative that this was written a very long time ago as a true history of England.
With all of this in mind, can I show you something that makes me happy? I recently had an artist create a couple of sketches of the plants and animals in TWIN. As it turns out, I’m probably not going to include them in the published version of the book for now. But I still want you to see my favorite ones. Because they’re too fun not to share.
I’m grinning right now. Because that gashi is so perfect, and the yesela’s eyes haunt me. I’ve been living on this world in my head for a while now. I can’t wait for you all to come and visit.
It’s still a few weeks before you can read TWIN, but if you want to visit the world that holds that story, check out UNA, available now on Amazon or for free on Smashwords. UNA is a collection of short stories that tells the history of the Maymar Colony, leading up to beginning of TWIN. It’s only available in ebook form for now, but that means you can download it now and start reading without delay!