The Night Land blog - an extension of

Wednesday, 26 March 2014


To: Andy Robertson; Brett Davidson

Bearing in mind the comments, I thought I'd send you a couple of more recent sketches.
Much the same design, but slightly more 'Baroque'.
I think I'm getting the hang of it...

From:Brett Davidson
To: Andy Robertson; SMS

Image "Landsuit_Above_Patterns30%" is terrific - and shows why I wanted the SMS touch.

Quibbles/praise follow:

"Scream" of the mask may be interpreted too literally.  Perhaps needs to be altered?  Horizontal louvres are too obvious...?

Diskos, to be a practical weapon, needs to have its full perimeter or as much of that as possible exposed.  I also imagined it having a subtly double-curved shaft, like a scythe (expediters as Grim Reapers - why not?) - however, the dimensions and shape, I appreciate are subordinate to composition.  The implication that it is a double-ended weapon, the heavy powerpack or whatever it is at the end opposite the blade is interesting - never thought of it, but the martial arts taught to expediters would no doubt involve the use of a diskos as an impact as well as cutting weapon, so a substantial mass opposite the blade could be handy.  In some short story or other, I described training/use of the thing and noted that there would be a lot of inertia tied up in a rapidly spinning blade, and so combat would appear to be a rather formalised dance... rather like Kendo...

Love the composition!

Ruff and helmet crest work for me.  Love the "explosive" shape of the ground.

This image doesn't need to be more complicated, as far as I'm concerned - I leave this to your judgement, but depicting a specific incident with all present, accounted for and in their appropriate poses is not an issue for me.  This says enough - as the drawings are a suite, we'll see the faces of Meyr and Pallin elsewhere.



From:Andy Robertson
To: Brett Davidson; SMS
Yeah, what he said.
Also, one notes there is no reason for all diskoses to be the same size, shape, etc.   In TNL it's a hand-and-a-half weapon - may be used two handed or at a pinch one handed - and so must be about 3 ft long or slightly longer.   In some of John C Wright's stories it's like a polearm, with a shaft at least six foot long.  And the heavy pommel/counterweight seen here is consistent with a one-handed weapon, but it's all good.  
However I agree with Brett about having the whole arc of the blade exposed.
Additionally, the "below shoulder angle" sketch is really fine.   Lots of dynamic motion trapped in the metal.
About armour:
Lames.  Armour is essentially composed of overlapping lames, which are ring-shaped, cylindrical, or slice-of-cone-ical pieces of metal assembled to cover a limb or body; lames overlap downward, that is, where two lames overlap, the larger lame goes on the outside; lames may be partially cut away where the limb intersects the body or another limb, in which case the segments of lame remaining are held together by pin-and-slot constructions to stop them gaping. 
Where does the arm attach to the body?  NOT THE SHOULDER, BUT THE INNER END OF THE COLLAR BONE.   The construction of the arm armour and especially the pauldrons (big stuff covering the shoulder) reflects this.  Practicable pauldrons are split up into multiple lames and can fold up like a concertina so you can raise your arm.   SEE GOTHIC SUIT.  Armour that does not follow this rule is usually ultra-heavy tournament stuff not designed for much mobility, overrepresented in surviving suits.
The "neutral" position for the knee or elbow is half bent.  Not straight.  The swollen-on-one-side-cut-away-on-the-other  lame covering the knee or elbow (called a COP) reflects this fact.  The pauldron is also a sort of cop.
Lames look ok in these pix.
Looking very good.

((but Vertical "scream" face not quite right somehow.))

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


To: Andy Robertson; Brett Davidson

Hi chaps.

The first pic I've been messing about with layouts for is the 'Outside on the land, Meyr ravished by Eater whilst the others weild Diskos'.

Thus, befgore I decide exactly whom goes where, I've been doodling a lot of 'Space Armour' in an attempt to get something different from the Usual Look and to discover how these chaps occupy space.

These are the present 'Shape' I'm playing with.
I'm assuming we have 'Stuff' to disperse/repulse in the Night land which gives me an excuse for Valvepunk-looking metallic  nozzles. The helmet arrangement has a 'crest' but it's horizontal rather than the standard vertical. This is actually an armoured array for a bank of lights that sit either side of the head (Headlights, if you will).
The 'Helm' consists of the goggles (Themselves, fitted with lots of lenses and do-hickeys) and 'Empty scream'-shaped mouthpiece under a small peak, all iof which swing back onto the helmet itself, to expose the face behind the 'cheekguards'.
The shoulders are, you'll note, topped with a ruddy great 'Plasma dispersal' (Whatever) array' which slightly echo an Elizabethan ruff, slightly echo some gothic yoke and generally look 'spikey'. This is attatched to a similarly 'spikey' backpack, giving it a Gothick sort'v look.
The chest is very prominent, akin to the Conquistadors, but this time we have the excuse of it being filled, not with rags but with 'Life Support Tek'
The boots were either going to be small and dainty or big and clompy. With all that weight on the upper torso, I've opted for the great clumpy boots and legs.
Kurosowa-style 'banners' complete the 'look'. Probably something more baroqe than the ones shown. It also occurs to me that there's absolutely no reason we can't have fabric streamers to this outfit if needed.
The whole thing should, finally, have a slightly 'Insectile' texture in the plateletts, decorated with scrollwork. I suspect Andy will interpolate the word ;'Fractal' here.
I've been presuming the 'Quints' have different armour, but now I find myself thinking 'Why?'.
What's the verdict here?
Comments welcome.

From:Andy Robertson
To: SMS; Brett Davidson

Some reactions
- the idea of the Helm being especially festooned with sensors and filters is one which fits very well with other NL stories.   The developing idea is that in this era the Helms have to filter the Night Land into a sort of virtual reality in order for the wearers to endure it.  cf for example the story "Slope"  (by me, but Brett and I have used each others' ideas extensively
Their nightsuits are not the heavy amplified coverings used by the Watchmen for patrols or close exploration work.  They are as thin as cloth and as light as paper, unamplified and uninstrumented.  Their only augmentation is in the complex filters in the Helms, which make up thirty percent of the suits' weight and consume all their power.  Long ago, men could survive in the Land by relying only on their own senses.  Now they must wear the Helms, which mount shields and sensory enhancements on a pattern two million years old.  The Helms capture and amplify sound, and scavenge what little light there is in the Night Land.   They map the paths through the dark, and they pass messages to other men in ways that hopefully are not obvious to the entities of the Land, where even telepathy is too risky to be used.   They enhance and they communicate and they also protect, for they shield the eyes as well as the Soul from that which can destroy merely by being sensed. 
 but these are the heavy amplified suits used for close in work,
- the one thing I don't like are the heavy lower limbs and boots.  Very bad mechanically - the last place you want energy-soaking mass is at the end of your limbs.  reminds me of mecha, not in a good way. mecha are not the product of real world evolutionary selection
- is there a risk of the "ruff" looking foppish?, - maybe more like radio telescope dishes / bat ears / antennae?
- another gothic suit

good stuff :-0


To: Andy Robertson; Brett Davidson

And the results are now in...
Actually, for the third section there is really only one real contender:
P's 222 - 223:
Inside the tunnels, Mira removes her helm and some plates of armour (I wonder if we;'d be surprised it it was a breastplate?) in true 'Maryr' fashion in front of Maansonyagger with the 'Butterfly' flayed body hanging in the background.
Just thought you'd like to know.
Now, it's beginning the long series of sketches in between the comic strip...
Input on either of you chaps vision of both the armour and the Mansonyagger, welcome.
(Yes, I know it's 'beetle-like' and has an array of probes, arms and sensory devices and, yes, I'm assuming the 'Armour' is somewhere between C16 armour and plated spacesuits with straps, lens-like eyepieces and a hint of the 'Cyber' about 'em. Further 'impressions' welcome)
And the Watcher?
As Andy says, it's background scenery.
Drawing the noumena might take more time and money than any of us have.

Fun. Fun. Fun.

From:Brett Davidson
To: Andy Robertson; SMS

The "Eater" illustrations are to me a benchmark and this:

shows the bulk one would associate with a suit packed with various complex systems and gadgets giving a unique, contingent aesthetic.  I like the fact that it suggests a recognisable human form, but certain parts, such as the helm, make no concessions to anthropomorphism.

Samurai armour.  A cliche, perhaps, but at least a beautiful one.

If you google "negroli" and select "images", you will find fine examples of baroque parade armour.  See the attached image of a shield, for example.  This inspired the gorget (a crescent-shaped neck piece) as much as Giger's "Li 1" that Pallin wears.  However, parade armour is not fighting armour, and the kit worn out in the Night Land is more functional.

I was very impressed by the Cylon centurions in the new Battlestar Galactica.  See attachment.  They're inspired by Epstein's The Rock Drill, as were the phantoms in the Final Fantasy film, FWIW.   Now of course you can't fit anything human into that wasp-waisted shape!  However, the broad planes of the centurion's armour are i.suggestive of what a human would look like if we had exoskeletons, and would suggest a culture that is both dependent upon technology and determined to treat it as art.  People go out, or Go Out, into the Night Land as demonstrations and tests of their essential nature, and so there is a certain ceremonial aspect to their expeditions and it would be logical that aesthetics would play a part in the design of their armour.  There may well be ornamentation as the individual adventurers carry with them the pride of their clans, so various family motifs and suchlike would probably be included, either worked in if the armour was made by an artist, or painted on in the manner of the art that was applied to aircraft in the First and Second World Wars.


Probably matt black.

What comes to mind immediately, something like a stag beetle crossed with a wolf spider as drawn by Ian Miller.  I like Miller's work, but his style is a bit stiff and angular considering the fluidity of movement (and Hannibal Lecter personality) I'd associate with a Manshonyagger.  What intrigues be about stage beetles is that we assume that jaws are part of the head, but in fact the "upper jaw" of a stag beetle is a protrusion of the thorax and not part of the head at all.  Now, there's no need to be literal in imitating its form, but I do like the uncanny aspect there.  As stated above, it's not a bulldozer or an M-1 tank or any version of current technology as popularly represented.  In a continuum, it could at one end resemble a real insect, coconut crab or whatever, and at the other, some pice of beefed-up NASA probe, mixing features that we try to categorise as "bug-like" with a casual asymmetry - yes, it has something we'd call a head, but it's off-centre, and there's this boxy thing and... etc.  However, a NASA probe, while elegant in its own way, would be far too frail for something that is a dedicated fighting machine, designed to withstand serious defences...

No huge bug eyes, please.  I imagine a selection of sensory devices, each highly specialised and placed according to functional requirements/contingencies of well-it'll-fit-in-here.

The sentinels in the Matrix films?

The Manshonyaggers are all very, very old.  Their scars would have scars, which would have settled down and raised families long ago. They may have simple, rounded beetle-like carapaces, but in all of the ages that they have lived/functioned, they would have sustained damage and repaired themselves many times, creating a dense pattern of marks... and possibly, being intelligent, they would have ornamented themselves, so they may well have a kind of baroque texturing as well.

As a precedent, I suggest the new Battlestar Galactica again - the Galactica itself is zoomorphic, suggesting an alligator in this case, but I read somewhere that the designers were also thinking of human muscles in the design, hence the curves.  The ribs are supposedly some sort of energy-dissipation feature, like the spaced or gridded armour now applied to modern armoured fighting vehicles in Iraq and Afganistan.  I've attached an image of the Big G showing how it looks after it has sustained cumulative battle damage (also, have a look at how it appears in the very last scenes of the final episode, "Daybreak", with buckled and warped plating).  Now, as I mentioned, the Manshonyaggers can self-repair, but they also self-design, so symmetry might not be retained over the ages.  Going back to the stag beetles, there might be some strange distortion of the body form that coincidentally resembles something else.

On the other hand, just to throw a spanner in the works, and to mix metaphors, the look of stealth bombers is cool - very simple shapes, smooth, matt, flowing surfaces, everything that has to be deployed, extruded, is under oddly serrated hatches and flaps.

Again, treat the preceding as a menu, not a checklist.  Personally I like the Galactica look, with a baroque or samurai twist, but I'll be happy with a surprise.



From: Andy Robertson
To: Brett Davidson; SMS

A few points 

** the most beautiful machines human beings make are war machines.   This is comprehensible because war machines, like living things, are undergoing intense real-world selection and the unfunctional unbeautiful gets flensed away according to criteria which are absolute and objective.

The most beautiful war machines approach the grace of a living thing.  

** the most beautiful of an evolving line of machines are the last ones built before the machine type becomes obsolete under the impact of a quantum leap of new technology.  Battleships like the Scharnhorst or the New Jersey were built just before big-gun warship was pushed aside by the aircraft carrier, for example. Contemporary fighting arcraft are about to be pushed aside by drones, but they have achieved real beauty too.

** this applies to armour.  (Armour is a machine for the purposes of this discussion).  Perhaps the most beautiful ((and therefore most functional, if the equation I'm drawing is correct)  form it took was the Gothic, which unsurprisingly looks not unlike a Centurion. A little after this peak it was rendered pointless by gunnery and became ceremonial - and it's at this time that the parade armour becomes popular.  ((Which rather undercuts Brett's referent to Negroli, because he was working in an era of armour's decadence, while in the Night Land the armour is still vitally functional and undergoing cutting-edge evolutionary selection by the forces of the Land.   This is not to say that the point of armour as decorated, or as an expression of clan and personal status, is wrong, because it isn't, but there is a difference here which must be appreciated.  The Negroli forms are over-ornate to a nonfunctional degree.   But decoration and badges of status and affiliation were used on armour at all times.  They tended however to be separate from the armour - surcoats, crests, etc.   Well, Brett has actually said all this already, hasn't he???))

** however we are now at the end of time looking backward to the past and there are no more leaps in tech.   Armour has become perfected to a level never seen in our history, and looks as graceful as a living thing.   How to draw this?  Well, in the absence of any other option I'd draw on the coolest Gothic suits I could find on the web and make them a little smoother and at once more organic and more high-tech - chaos-death-spikybits seem intrinsic to the Gothic forms but are probably counterindicated in the Night Land.  

This last advice is very detailed, probably going beyond useful levels, because too exact & particular, and I emphasise please,treat it as just my feelings at this time, definitely not prescriptive

MANSHONYAGGER.  The same grace-beauty-deadliness equation applies.
And a little voice at the back of my head says "fractals."   Fractal forms seem intrinsic to entities that self-repair and self-construct as opposed to being manufactured.   The manshonyagger's scars, repaired, might bloom into a life-like clustering of units and sub-units much as a tree's scars put forth branches and the branches twigs. 
But there will be a functional tension between this working and tis exploding into self-repair-cancer (future societies will have a short instantly-understood word for the cancerous proliferation that results from control failure in self-healing autonymous systems).   OTOH it's the m. that have the capacity to self-mutate who will have become autonymous survivors and "players", therefore they will come from the grotesque end of this spectrum.
In haste, more may follow
   -Andy R

From:Brett Davidson
To: Andy Robertson; SMS

 I don't want to spoil the broth with more variations and details, but I am intrigued by the implications of the Manshonyagger's self-repair systems.  The analogy with a tree is very.... hmm, what's the word?  Provocative? Fascinating?  They would have a gnarled, twisted appearance, the friction of the ages would have smoothed their rough planes.  In addition to simple self-design and self-modification, they would have practiced a form of self-topiary...

Wikipedia has some images of bristlecone pines that would suggest the resulting look perhaps.

Geekery: Aldiss' Helliconia trilogy has animal-plant creatures called stungebags...

The attached image is of a typical pine, which I could imagine as an old m'yagger, like a dragon having slept for a millennium underground emerging once more to survey its domain.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Awake in the Night Land

From Vox Populi

Castalia had already announced that we would be publishing John C. Wright's collection of essays, TRANSHUMAN AND SUBHUMAN: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth, which will be published in April. Today we are absolutely delighted to be able to say that we will also be publishing AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND, a collection of four novellas set in the Night Land of William Hope Hodgson.

AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND is the first of five novels and novellas written by Mr. Wright to be published by Castalia House. It clocks in at 116,500 words and will be priced at $4.99. We will release the English ebook later this month; the German translation is already underway with an anticipated July release. We also expect to publish a hardcover version this summer.

Apologies to those waiting for THE ALTAR OF HATE, but we are delaying it until April in favor of Mr. Wright's book. It will be sent to the pre-release reviewers in a few weeks.

Speaking as a reader and as a fan, I can say that the Night Land novellas are spectacular. They combine the intelligence and gigantic scale of Iain M. Banks with the eldritch forboding of H.P. Lovecraft, but with a humane soul that is alien to either of the two late authors

Congratulations to John on this resale, which wlll give his stories a far greater eposure than our obscure website has been able to.

Receiving a preprint copy, I am moved to see that he has dedicated the book to me. Certainly there are few things I am prouder of than having enabled, in a small way, the production of these magnificent stories.

Unfortunately this means the copies of these stories on the Night Land site will be removed: our contract only purchases the right to keep story online for five years, and they have all remained online here for far longer than that. But don't despair: the whole set will be available from Castilia House cheaply, and if you won't spend $5 for this ebook, you are a hopeless case.

And John may be able to get something else for his kitchen at last . .

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Ex Machinae by Brett Davidson (the first story in the Founder sequence)


The sky itself was dying. There was one less star to be counted, and thus the call came to strive ever harder against our opponents. Our legion, Abiding, ranked facing the eternal wind and before the unmoving Sun. We cast our shadows before like spears.

And before us, the end of the latest tide of organised opposition to our dominion. The enemy called themselves “the people”, or at least that is what the word they used for themselves meant to them. To us, it was as it always was: outsider, threat, enemy, not-yet-vanquished.

They had established a peculiar symbiosis with their chattel animals, I had heard, and now I saw them mounted on these beasts first hand for the last time. They were odd creatures, strangely distorted and yet also strangely elegant variations of the human prototype. Like true people, they had four limbs arranged in pairs at either ends of compact torsos, heads bearing ears and eyes of intelligent intensity atop streaming-maned necks. Strangely, they ran not on feet, but four sturdy-nailed fingers. The name they gave them, I believe, was “horse.”

I must admit that individually, a horse was a beautiful thing, and with a rider upon its back, the pairing was in no way grotesque. It was, indeed, bold, and in action their synthesis was both powerful and elegant.

Militarily, however, they could be no match to our own powered frames that had no mediating intelligence to guess and mistake our intentions. I raised my arm in a preparatory signal, and reading directly the impulses of my nerves, my frame amplified the gesture as naturally as my own flesh.

In instants such as this, the greater the tension, the longer time is attenuated, but it ended and we charged and they charged and we came to the clash. There was no time for contemplation, but now, after, I have time and so I do insert a moment that traverses many years.
You do not know my name; one way or the other it has been erased – by time or more deliberate censorship. Allow me then to introduce myself: as you see, in that artificially stalled moment with my arm raised, I am at the head of a great legion; my rank is Agetor; my clan, Indikos; my city is no city but the one Great House of the Twilit Land – and my name, that is Chryseo Drakonhaema Phylindikos.

Perhaps you have heard of me; as recollections of the aged under the Lights, in curses or whispers in the halls of the Great House. Perhaps there has been another Adjustment in that place and I am rehabilitated, my deeper loyalty seen for what it is or was.

Returning to the field under the halted Sun, we are outside that moment of anticipation and well into the act. The nails of the horses pound the earth as if it were a drum and raise a cloud of dust that rises above the army like an array of banners. We hear the riders howl.
We ourselves are silent, disciplined, sharpened and buffered by synthetic hormones and enzymes in our blood. My earpieces relay a theme designed to manage my heartbeat at the optimal tempo and a melody to keep my moves in step with the order of our tactics. Every step is efficient and accurate and I feel something akin to rapture as I perform my bloody dance. Looking from above, as indeed our recording instruments do, you might see something like a reaction between two volatile fluids. Theirs is effervescent, unstable, surging like a wave, thick foam of anger breaking at its lead. Now look at us: something like oil in our smooth density, something like smoke the way we coil and eddy. A red mist rises from the reaction.

There is of course something artificial about this battle. We have at our disposal flying machines of many kinds, a mere few of which could butcher our opponents safely from heights they could never reach. Likewise one Kastchei-class manshonyagger could wade through them and quickly dispatch the lot with dispassionate precision. That though would not serve our longer purpose; if we stood too far above them, then they could convince themselves that they fought demons and that rightly then they should continue as the struggles against demons is proper to being-in-action. That could not be permitted. They had to see our faces and know that they were defeated by true men and thus we showed our faces and our hands to them, even enframed in metal.

And of course we saw their faces and refused to notice that we could not see any difference from ourselves in them.

The horses, though… They were different, and aroused in me peculiar emotions. Their long, bony and soft-lipped faces could not be read as naturally as a person’s, but I saw in their wide eyes, in the specks of foam flying from the bits of their bridles real rage and real terror. The reactions of lesser beasts and mechanical devices are only reactions, no more, but an intelligent creature could and must have such emotions, for they are engendered by knowledge of pain and mortality and love and loyalty.

It was not right to erase from this already famished world such beauty, but sentiment was cast as a weakness in the Great House and there could therefore be no riders, no horses ever again. If we admired them, then it was because they were powerful, and if they were powerful they were a threat. I knew a little of their diet and requirements; they were creatures of open plains and the Great House could not contain them. They could only remain outside and that was intolerable to our masters. I think perhaps that jealousy was hidden in their motives.

And as for myself, perhaps I could not bear to see such a thing corrupted either by enslavement by the abhumans I knew would master the Valley in the end and neither could I bear to see them constrained in the black metal halls of the House.

I did not think too long on that last point. Sentiment, I said, is a weakness, and worse than that, it is hypocrisy. I would not permit myself to weep as they died, as I killed them.

Continue at THE NIGHT LAND

Monday, 3 March 2014

cover art for Kevin Bryce's THE NIGHT LANDS

Interesting new cover art for Kevin Bryce's THE NIGHT LANDS
@copy; hal hefner
click for fullsize

What is interesting is that there's nothing like this in the original book by Hodgson: but it could very well illustrate a story from the Darkening. If this is intentional, it shows rather more attention to the source materiel than is usual in such things. If mere neglect, it is sadly typical.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Art by Maureen Shockey


 The Maid Of Olden days

Two pages meant to look as if from an illustrated "Night Land" (Which does not exist beyond these samples and a few more sample pages, alas)


© Maureen Shocky

view more pages . . .
visit the artist's site at