Thursday, 7 January 2016

@Alan Adaptation Project: First-Look Extracts

  I feel exited about the new project.Speaking with Alan today I decided to look at what books interested me and pick out a few sections that I could possibly develop into an animation. The extracts below do have other accompanying text, but since I have considered focusing on environment design for this project the environments are what take centre stage in these extracts.

The first two are from the space opera novel "Surface Detail", a Culture-series installment by Iain M. Banks.
The second two are from the Memoir-style adventure tale "A Natural History of Dragons, A memoir by Lady Trent" by Marie Brennan.

  She tried to remember the size of the opera stage. She had been here a handful of times with Veppers and the rest of his extended entourage, brought along as a trophy, a walking model denoting his commercial victories; she ought to be able to remember. All she could recall was being sourly impressed by the scale of everything - the brightness, depth and working complexity of the scenery; the physical effects produced by trapdoors, hidden wires, smoke machines and fireworks; the sheer amount of noise the hidden orchestra and the strutting, overdressed singers and their embedded microphones could create.
   Only afterwards - mingling, paraded, socialising, exhibited - had she realised it was really just an excuse and the opera itself a side-show; the true spectacle of the evening was always played out inside the sumptuous foyer, upon the glittering staircases, within the curved sweep of dazzlingly lit, high-ceilinged corridors, beneath the towering chandeliers in the palatial anterooms, around fabulously laden tables in resplendently  decorated saloons, in the absurdly grand restrooms and in the boxes, front rows and elected seats of the auditorium rather than on the stage itself. The super-rich and ultra-powerful regarded themselves as the true stars, and their entrances and exits, gossip, approaches, advances, suggestions, proposals and prompts within the public spaces of this massive building constituted the proper business of the event.
--Surface Detail, ch. 1, pg. 5-6

  Veppers, Jasken Xingre, half a dozen others' of Veppers' retinue plus the Jhulpian's principal aide and a medium-ranking officer from the Ucalegon were sharing a tethered flier making its way through one of the great karst caves that made up Iobe Cavern City. The cave averaged a kilometre or so across; a huge pipe whose floor held a small, winding river. The city's buildings, terraces, promenades and boulevards rose up from the riverside, increasingly precipitously as they approached the mid-way point of the cave, where buildings became sheer cliffs; a few went even beyond that, clinging to the overhanging curve of the cavern's upper wall. The flier tether-rails were stationed further up still, cantilevered out from the cave's roof on gantries like a sequence of giant cranes. A series of enormous oval holes punctured the roof's summit, letting in great slanting slabs of withering Vebezuan sunlight.
  The flier zoomed, rising to avoid a high bridge barring their way. |----| Iobe city had banned flying machines entirely for centuries, then allowed fliers to be used but suffered one or two accidents which had resulted in the destruction of of several notable buildings and brized historic cross-cavern bridges, so had compromised by allowing fliers but only if they were tethered to tracks in the cavern roofs and controlled automatically.
--Surface Detail, ch. 19, pg. 356, 357

  This stood cloaked in pines nearly as tall as the ancient stones, but the trees had no foothold on the gateway itself. The central figure strode out boldly on an outcropping of solid rock, its huma nfeet planted on the ground, its draconic head staring though the clear mountain air toward Chiavora. Vystrani winters had been harsh to the mighty sculpture; its features were so eroded as to be almost indistinguishable, and the lintel of the right-hand passage had fallen, leaving the unknown god with only one wing. The damage somehow made the figure moreinspirinf; nowadays we may carve as large as the Draconeans - the archangel in Falchester is even larger - but no amount of artistic "weathering" can counterfeit the sheer weight of time.
He went on talking, something about double gateways, so characteristic of Draconean architecture, and theories as to their purpose (My favourite, the one promoted by Mr Charving, the great urban reformer; that the Draconeans regulated traffic into their settlements by guiding arriving riders and carts through the left gate, and those departing through the right. It is utterly fanciful, as no one has ever discovered evidence of sufficient traffic at these ruins to require such measures - but as Mr. Charving parlayed this into a very successful scheme for the regulation of traffic in Falchester, where it very much was needed, I cannot but applaud his rhetoric.)
  A little further inward lay the pylons of the temple's front wall, too massive even for time to collapse them. Like the right-hand half of the gateway, the lintel between them had fallen, and an accumulation of debris and dirt raised the passage to nearly a third the height of the wall. Astimir assisted Lord Hilford up this slope, then bent to aid me. My skirts caught on the undergrowth, and one wicked thorn tore a long rent in the fabric, but I did not mind. From the top of the passage I could see into the hypostyle hall, now open to the elements, the thin stones of its roof long since having relocated to the ground, where they lay nearly as buried as the paving in the courtyard.
--A Natural History of Dragons, ch. 12, pg. 179

  I knew little of the menagerie, except that the king's late father had established it on spacious grounds downstream from Falchester, and the son had spared no expense to see it stocked with every exotic creature that could be persuaded to survive in captivity. It existed primarily for the entertainment of the royal family, with occasional public days, which I, growing up in rural Tamshire, had no chance to experience. As Andrew could guess, a tour was a rare treat for me.
  The tour was disappointing in its organisation, for people wandered in and out of the various gardens and glass-walled rooms. few paying even the slightest attention to Mr. Swargain's speeches. I wished very much to listen to him, but didn't dare single myself out by being the only the only one to attend to his words, and so I caught only snatches before we stopped before a pair of very grand doors.
  "in here" the naturalist said, in ringing tones that drew more eyes than usual, "we keep the crowning jewels of His Majesty's collection, only recently acquired. I beg the ladies to ahve a care, for many find the creatures within to be frightening."
  One may measure the extent to which I had cut myself off from my old interests that I did not have the slightest clue what the king had acquired, that lay beyond these doors.
  Mr. Swargain opened them, and we filed through into a huge room enclosed by a dome of glass panels that let i nthe afternoon sunlight. We stood on a walkway that circled the room's perimeter and overlooked a deep, sand-filled pit divided by heavy grates into three large pie-slice enclosures.
--A Natural History of Dragons, ch. 3, pg. 45-47

  At present I am perhaps most drawn to the description of Iobe Cavern City, an underground metropolis from Surface Detail. Although while it only serves as a means to set the location, the opera house described in chapter 1 of the same book is also appealing due to the elaborate, if perhaps somewhat broadly-described interior architecture. At one point in the chapter there is mention of a town-house and personal estate owned by Veppers but that only appears as the woman the section's perspective comes from momentarily wonders if he was moved after being drugged (she wasn't moved, merely confusing a theatre backdrop she lay against for a new environment).

  At first I thought there was an entire section describing the city of Falchester, but this was not the case for two reasons highlighted in the book that both come under 'not relevant':
  • Lady Trent was in Falchester to take part in Courting Season, and the conventions of the season never interested her. So she only covered events that were relevant to her expedition to the Russia-like nation of Vystrana.
  • As a memoir of her life for students or fans, Lady Trent writes little of Falchester likely under the assumption that if you want to learn about the city, you're probably reading the wrong book.
  While there isn't much detail in one place, there is fortunately enough that a loose image of the city can be constructed: City parks, wealthy districts, a giant archangel statue, one or more city gates, dual carriageways running through the centre of the city, a central river, plenty of social venues for the courting nobility, outlying parks and a royal menagerie downriver. All with a lively annual season where the nobility flocks from all over. The combination of a peerage magnet and royal property were what made me assure that Falchester is the national capital.

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