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Alex Jay Brady p3

Artist Alex Jay Brady mentions some favorite sci fi novels and their influence on her work...

READERSVOICE.COM: When you read scifi do you immediately want to create a scene from the story, or do you just find that an image sticks in your mind that you want to create, like Sandworm from Dune?

ALEX JAY BRADY: I love reading because it’s then quite simple to draw the image your mind generates while you read! Well, sometimes!
Sometimes it takes a bit more effort, so I like to build prototypes, make lists of things I need, make giant folders of imagery that fits the -feel- of the story, or to provide examples of props I need to build.
I also have a weakness for a first read gimmick. So, for example, in my research I learned about side winders; snakes in most deserts have evolved sidewinding as a way of rapidly moving over hot sand, and I found the idea of a sidewinding Shai Hulud moving like a tsunami over the desert irresistible. It’s a total gimmick, but if it leads to cool images Ill shamelessly exploit it!!
Sometimes I’ll be out walking or in the gym and the idea will lock into place fully formed, I just need to do successively more complex sketches till the image on the page fits with the one in my head. Sometimes the first 2 days are a slog and I can’t find any good ideas till 4am on day 3.
By the way, I think the Lynch movie is magnificent with perfect casting, music, design and I think the worms looked just right. John Schoenherr who painted all the dune covers and influenced the movie was a total genius, so rather than simply do an inferior copy of his work, I wanted to do somethng slightly different, just to plant my own flag. But it doesn’t come close to that stuff. I admire John Schoenherr work so highly [illustrator of Owl Moon by Jane Yolen].

RV: What did you like about the novella Missile Gap by Charles Stross, which inspired the Nuclear Ekranoplan ‘Smelost’ sketches. Awesome movement by the way.

AJB: Stross is great, so creative, always readable. I love that it reads like a dark sarcastic retelling of Star Trek with all the optimism replaced by cold war anxiety and cosmic horror by way of Roadside Picnic [a novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky from 1971]. Something about that mix of flavours really hooked me. ‘Smelost‘ is the result google gave me when I translated Enterprise, although I’m told its meaning is closer to courage. The engines and saucer AWACs dish are references to the shape of the Enterprise.
In the story, people realise at a point in the early 60s that the earth was in some way recorded and reconstituted onto a flat disk the size of a solar system, by parties and for reasons unknown. The galaxy overhead shows evidence of extensive remodelling. The government consults Carl Sagan which leads to some mindbending exposition. I thought it would make a cool Lost style series, with the truth slowly revealed as the crew explore the seemingly infinite ocean humans now find themselves stranded in.
Charles Stross reposted the images which totally made my year as I’m a huge Stross fan!
The story owes a lot to Stephen Baxter, Philip Jose Farmer as well as Lovecraft.
Speaking of HBO shows, check out Leftovers, which draws from the same well. One day two per cent of the world’s population vanishes, and the show charts the results in small town suburban America. It’s grim, and series 2 and 3 are some of the most bananas amazing TV I’ve ever seen. It’s very much inspired by Roadside Picnic IMO.

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-copyright Simon Sandall