The Night Land blog - an extension of

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


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.


  1. Well, this is interesting. Nice to see it.

    I have to say, the Manshonjaggers have been one of the more fascinating appropriations that we've made. I certainly don't approve of eugenics, but I've tried to envisage a society that does and has had to cope, long-term, with the consequences of that choice, especially when it's given that authority to an external power... which then developed its own agenda. The Manshonjaggers are intelligent, they're inhuman, but in their way, they love a concept of humanity. How would we deal with such things? That is what I've tried to address. Sometimes they're champions and sometimes they're enemies. That, I hope, will become clearer in my coming stories, including Anima.

  2. I think the blog is ideal for displaying this sort of thing

    Nextup: SMS's early NightSuit drafts