During the month of January I had the oportunity to read Antiquitas Lost by Robert Louis Smith. I'll be posting my review later today. Below is a guest post featuring author Robert Louis Smith- in it he
shares his inspiration for Antiquitas Lost as well as insight into the amazing illustrations
done for the book by Geof Isherwood.
Smackdown: Pangrelor vs. Middle Earth
By Robert Louis Smith,
Author of Antiquitas Lost: The Last of the Shamalans
In 1954, J.R.R. Tolkien published the first of a breathtaking series of books that would go on to become some of the most influential novels of the 20th century. As anyone who has ever read The Lord of the Rings knows, Tolkien's books are so imaginative and unexpectedly powerful that his fantastic tale still captures our imaginations more than a half century after its original publication. These stories gave birth to the modern fantasy genre, and it is perhaps inevitable that so many contemporary fantasy books replicate aspects of Tolkien's writings. So pervasive is Tolkien's influence that the Oxford English Dictionary offers a word for it: Tolkienesque. Perhaps this is why we see so many fantasy tales that feature elves, dwarves, wizards, magic rings, and magic swords. The presence of these features is, in many ways, what we have come to expect from a modern fantasy novel.
But over the course of 57 years, these constructs of classical Northern European (or Tolkienesque) fantasy fiction have been imitated to the point of monotony. In tome after tome, we see elves and dwarves wielding magical swords or speaking in Northern European conlangs (fictional languages) as they follow some particular heroic quest. And let's be honest. Although there are many wonderful and imaginative novels that feature these elements, no one has done it as well as Mr. Tolkien.
When I sat down to write Antiquitas Lost, I promised myself there would be no magic rings, magic swords, elves or dwarves. A major goal was to create a fantasy novel where the creatures and setting were fresh. Pangrelor, the fantasy world described in Antiquitas Lost, is envisioned as a pre-industrial, medieval society with beautiful artistic accomplishments set in a savage and magical natural environment -- the Renaissance meets the Pleistocene, with magical beings and crypto-zoological creatures. Devoid of elves and dwarves, Pangrelor is inhabited largely by creatures that we are familiar with, but different from the usual fantasy fare -- gargoyles, Bigfoot creatures, Neanderthal types, Atlanteans and dinosaurs, to name a few. These differences give Pangrelor a much different feel from Middle Earth and the countless, adherent worlds that have followed. Hopefully the reader will find this refreshing. Over time, I have come to think of Antiquitas Lost as more of a "North American" tale, with many references to new world mythologies, as well as a hint of Native American influence.
Although Antiquitas Lost is not immune to Mr. Tolkien's sweeping influence, it is unique in many ways. When you take your first journey to Pangrelor, it is my sincere hope that you will experience a hint of the joy that accompanied your maiden voyage to Middle Earth, and that you will connect in a meaningful way with this unprecedented new cast of characters as you explore an altogether unique fantasy destination.
New Orleans Mansion.This was the second illustration Geof drew, and he really wanted to capture the feel of the New Orleans Garden District, where chapter one takes place. He modeled the Antiquitas Lost mansion after an 1898 photo of an old New Orleans estate, and scouted the appearance of Garden District street corners by using images from Google Earth. As anyone familiar with New Orleans can see, he really captured its essence here. To the left, you can see the street sign for Pleasant Street, which was the New Orleans street where my wife and I were living when I began writing Antiquitas Lost.
The character, Hooks, depicted here, was one of the earliest Antiquitas Lost characters conceived. He remains one of my favorite characters. This chapter illustration was the first one Geof completed, and was the first time I really got to see what Hooks looked like on paper. Both Geof and I found this to be a powerful illustration, and it really got us excited for the scope of the artistic journey ahead. Geof found inspiration for this drawing in the works of the great Bernie Wrightson.
This is breathtaking. Depicted here is the Darfoyle, Ecsar, commander of the serpan legion that is preparing to storm the gimlet enclave of Scopulus. Darfoyles share remote biological origins with another species in Pangrelor, the grayfarers. Both are loosely based on gargoyles. As you might have gleaned from this illustration, these are some of Antiquitas Lost’s many bad guys. In the novel, the darfoyles are described as larger than grayfarers and darker in color. Unlike the grayfarers, darfoyles have tails. When Geof asked me to give him a feel for how I thought darfoyles might look on paper, I told him I thought they looked something like demons. Geof prepared for this drawing by creating a number of anatomic sketches focused on the musculature that would be needed to power the massive wings.
To me, this is one of the more iconic drawings in Antiquitas Lost. The character depicted is a runt serpan warrior named Slipher. While writing scenes with Slipher, I hoped to add dimension to serpan culture through this characters interactions with others and through his own inner dialogue. In this scene, Slipher, has just rifled the body of a dead gimlet priest in search of valuables. In the gimlet’s pocket, he finds a pipe and a mirror. As the story progresses, we learn that these items hold great importance, though Slipher is quite disappointed in them at the time.
For a variety of reasons, this is my favorite illustration in Antiquitas Lost. In this scene, Elliott (the protagonist) is awakened to find himself amid a swarm of bizarre, hopping creatures called salax. The location of this scene is the Forest of Golroc, which the reader soon learns is a place to be avoided at all costs. In creating the salax, my goal was to develop a dark, viscerally terrifying monster which we have never seen before, and something completely unique to Antiquitas Lost mythology. Among those who have read advance copies of Antiquitas Lost, the strange scenes that showcase the salax are always a favorite topic. After reading Antiquitas Lost, Geof was also intrigued by the salax, and he recognized they offered an opportunity to create something entirely new. While developing their appearance, he spent several days making sketches, and created several versions before settling on this one. When he sent me the pencil for this illustration, I remember grinning outright. I love that the creatures face is expressionless, and we only get a sense that something is terribly wrong by the look of fear and shock on Elliott’s face.
Robert Louis Smith, author of Antiquitas Lost: The Last of the Shamalans, has numerous degrees, including psychology (B.A.), applied microbiology (B.S.), anaerobic microbiology (M.Sc.), and a Medical Doctorate (M.D.). He serves as an interventional cardiologist at the Oklahoma Heart Institute. He is married and the father of two young children. He began writing Antiquitas Lost in 2003 while studying at Tulane University in New Orleans.
For more information please visit http://www.antiquitaslost.com, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.