Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Noah Farlee's Giskard the Genius

It's got steam. It's got eccentric people building things. It's got machine parts falling down mountains. What more could you want?

Noah Farlee, the sixteen-year-old author of Giskard the Genius, is interested in writing graphic fiction. His first try at it, he says, "...was awful. But a while after that, when I was thirteen or so, I started work on my first major comic project, which was about a little robot named Mechanic who had to go and fix the very universe of fiction itself after the fundamentals of storytelling broke down one day."

He is fascinated with Steampunk, Clockpunk, and all things similar, and began to work on the universe for Caelum, where Giskard is set, after shelving his early comic project. There are a million things which have influenced him but the thing that strikes me about Giskard, and what I've seen of the rest of his Caelum series, is that they are fundamentally original, humorous, and completely creative. So much of what we see coming out of so-called prodigy works is simply a rehashing of other peoples' fantasy novels; but Noah's Caelum world, and the stories that happen there, seem to be more complex, more unusual.

Noah himself is very articulate about it:

"The fictional universe for this this story is a planet called Caelum (Hooray Latin!). The largest body of water is the Vertiginous Ocean, which is essentially a gigantic spiral current in the center of the map spinning clockwise. The land tends to follow the same pattern; though it's mostly just thinner landmasses like long islands and peninsulas which noticeably curl clockwise. It's actually possible to walk from the north pole to the south pole on Caelum, but travelling over the Vertiginous Ocean is a much more efficient route between the east and west, provided you can find a safe means of travel. Giskard's town of Pawl Hollow is in a valley in the Rooftop Mountains, which run right along the northern border of Ironfoundland. Ironfoundland is an industrial country about the size of the Louisiana Purchase (a strange comparison, but I didn't realize the near perfect correlation until later), and it's where most of the Caelum stories are set.  
"So far, Giskard the Genius is the only complete Caelum story. However, there are four direct sequels to it which I have outlined, three or four "big" stories which are slowly developing in the back of my brain, one short story which is about halfway written down, and several dozens of ideas which I'm still getting around to even considering."

Which is about how most authors seem to work, as far as I can see, walking around with the backs of their heads hanging open for the spores of stories to take root in, while they make notes on anything that comes to hand about whatever strikes them, and then hoping it will lead somewhere.

I talked to him about his choice to go with the lighter look, rather than some of the grimmer and grittier patina which make up parts of his own reading. He is a fan of China Mieville and Alan Moore, and is well-read in some of the darker graphic fiction, though he says at the moment he is inspired by the many new and cool artists in the Flight series, which he says is "visually stunning, wildly creative and pure fun from start to finish." When I asked him about going dark with this story, he said, instead, that "Giskard happened because I had the characters, the setting, and the machines, and I knew I had to do something special with them. With Giskard, I wanted to prove that you could still tell a story for a story's sake. I wanted a story that was enjoyable to people of any age, instead of just "acceptable" for all ages. No gritty violence, no brooding main characters or political commentary, but also no distracting morals or nauseating innocence. Just plain clean fun."

When asked if he wanted to write, draw, and ink all his own comics, he responded with a smart negative. He likes the drawing, he says (and he's good at it, I said), but it's the writing that interests him; and I got the feeling that he would be most happy working with other creative people, making stories about things he loves.

The full 12-page Giskard (in pdf form) can be had here.


annie said...

zounds! where did you meet this amazing scoundrel of graphic wonder!

Anonymous said...

Wow... I wonder if he has read any of Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" series? It seems that Caelum is very similar...

I love his drawings! Like Shel Silverstein meets Dr. Seuss meets Saturday morning cartoons...! What a fun style!