Discussion Board

Topic: Sketches of a Massarat structure

From: Alex Brady
Location: st neots
Date: 05/11/2010

Hi Greg!
I just read Beyond Heavens River and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Im a broke designer in the UK, but like you I love drawing the things I see in the books I read, (illustrating sf books would be my dream job!), but had a really hard time visualising the Massarat structures that house many of the worlds people.
Achieving a sense of scale that the mind doesn't just rebel against is so tricky, as is trying to guess what sort of surface details would be visible on such an immense building.
Here are a couple of sketches; scaled against the tropopause tops of the thunderclouds they might even be a bit small (!) but Id love to know what you they should look like!
Al Brady


PS Colani is god!

Re: Sketches of a Massarat structure

From: Greg Bear
Date: 05/15/2010

Beautiful visuals, Alex! Very much what I was thinking of. (I take Colani's books to meetings with film and game designers whenever I can... Marvelous work.)

Re: Sketches of a Massarat structure

From: Rolf Mohr
Location: Austin, TX
Date: 05/20/2010

Very nice, Alex!


Re: Sketches of a Massarat structure

From: Alex Brady
Location: St Neots
Date: 05/21/2010

Wow Greg thank you very much!
Its hard to condense the into a few lines how inspiring and astonishing and frightening your books have been since I first read and reread them as an adolescent, but you've been a wonderful, thoughtful guide to worlds that seem very real in my imagination; Thistledown, Leviathan, The Noosphere, The Realm, Lamarckia. I like how you never let death go lightly too.
Along with my treasured, dogeared copies of Syd Mead and Roger Dean, and Cordwainer Smith and Theodore Sturgeon, they provide an amazingly rich imaginative landscape, and became a prism through which seeing the real world a bit more deeply is made a little easier. So thank you very much indeed!

PS Do you like Charles Stross?






Re: Sketches of a Massarat structure

From: Greg Bear
Date: 05/28/2010

More excellent work! I've had the pleasure of hanging out with Syd Mead in San Francisco at the Academy of Art University. Great conversations! And of course we run into him on occasion at Comic-Con. Syd's illustrations helped inspire the visual concepts in EON. Let's not forget the major influence of Paolo Soleri in the sixties and seventies, as well. (And of course I like Mr. Stross and his work!)

Re: Sketches of a Massarat structure

From: Summer
Location: NW
Date: 05/28/2010

Wanted to pop in and say the graphics are wonderful. Although Alex, I wonder how you managed to configure the Masserat sketches? Or perhaps this is just what happens when someone divides by zero ;)

Mr. Bear, you captured my mind when I read Blood Music back in '85 at age 16. Fortunately for me, you continue to do so. Thank you, sir.

Re: Sketches of a Massarat structure

From: Greg Bear
Date: 05/30/2010

My pleasure, and thanks, Summer.

Re: Sketches of a Massarat structure

From: Alex Brady
Location: St Neots
Date: 06/03/2010

Hello Summer! Thankyou having a look, youre very kind! I was interested in the Massarats as many sci fi city illustrations seem to essentially show future cities as basic accelerations of the trends of our own; rising land prices equal taller sky scrapers. Fair enough. But Greg's stories are never so prosaic, and these were a good visual example. On the scale of the big washing machine-like cubes normal skyscrapers like would be almost invisible threads and glints of light reflecting off glass down at the ground. Thats why the cubes themselves seem almost bare of detail; my imagination failed a bit there but to be honest all human-scale stuff would be too small to see, in the same way London from 60000 feet would be a grey-green carpet.
To scale them I built some simple shapes in a 3D program I like called 3DStudio Max. I scaled them at about 60000 feet high, twice as tall as the clouds next to them and tall enough to show distinct shapes on the limb of the earth, as mentioned in Beyond Heavens River. At that height, most of the atmosphere would be below you, so I figured they would appear to be sitting in and rising out of a pool of grey blue air. There are few things more beautiful or majestic to me in nature than distance-blued mountains, and these babies are bigger than mountains.

Syd Mead's imagination never fails. His work is dazzling and I strongly recommend anyone to pick up copies of Sentinel, Oblagon and Sentury fom Amazon or Ebay. Better, by two copies, one to keep in good nick and one that will eventually crumble and collapse from use. His technical skill is astonishing, his ideas solid and his composition and colour never less than utterly convincing. His artwork dovetails beautifully with Greg's writing, and Im not suprrised to find he had an influence on Eon. If you look up his Megabeam illustration it is a good fit to the stupendous structures in Thistledown City.

Where Syds work is often cool and rational, Soleri creates beautiful fun objects like I eat hot dinners. I have a huge collection of his work in my interesting things file, and especially love his trains. His architectural concepts are 500 years ahead of their time. Many of my designer pals think they are ludicrous, but they havent spent their imaginative life in the world of architectural nano, thinkers, easy manipulation of matter at atomic scales or things like binding energy at macroscopic ones.

By the way I just read Moving Mars (I bought a foot of Bear stories at Waterstones the other week and have been consuming them one every three days). Its absolutely fantastic. Everything from the human-scale relationships to the inexorable and finely discribed political movements seemed spot on, and the sheer imaginative scope and realism stunned me. Greg talking to you is quite intimidating, what a brain you have!!

Speaking of Division by Zero Doug Chiang has just slotted into my favourite SF authors. Most of his stories are very short and available online. I especially loved understand, a dramatization of which was recently on BBC Radio7 and just blew me away. It was a real insight into how the first days and weeks of a Singularity might play out, thematically similar in some ways to Blood Music, which I also read when I was 16 in 1998. Crunchingly frightening both. I asked Iain Banks if he believed a Singularity might occur but he said it was a failure of imagination.. He also said if it happened I could come back in a time machine and sue his ass. I told him Id see him in hypercourt :)

Re: Sketches of a Massarat structure

From: Alex Brady
Location: St Neots
Date: 06/03/2010

Oo btw I have a blog of all sorts of stuff here: Id love to hear from sci fi enthusiasts, other people who are addicted to drawing, everyone in fact! Theres a lot of yawnsome property visuals that pay the bills on the first page but if you click Older Posts at the bottom after that theres some more fun stuff.


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