In truth, this is the first drawing I made for this book, but as it more clearly indicates the nature of the first chapter I thought it prudent to release after.
The sky gave me some trouble because at first, my research indicated that my Martian sunset should be in hues of lime green and turquoise but after a conversation with another sci-fi writer, Allen Shoff, I was assured that once my Martian planet had a relatively-self-sustaining atmosphere the sky would take on a more familiar hue.
The dust storm on the left also gave me trouble and I don’t think I’ll ever be quite happy with it. Perhaps I should travel to a desert location and experience one in person before I could ever be completely satisfied with it.
The trees are deliberately inaccurate. My story opens in Autumn so the whole world is cast in golds and oranges. Symbolically such a choice made sense to me for the story but in visual art, it did not offer enough contrast.
The title is a joke on an oft-quoted adage from writing classes; “There are only two types of stories, A Person Goes on a Journey, and A Stranger Walks Into Town.” The Vines of Mars definitely falls into the latter category, though I hope it may be as original in the telling as it is typical of a beginning.
This one comes from a short image at the start of my book. My main character, Tomas was born on Earth but spent his childhood on Mars. He has a childhood memory of finding this helmet and skull buried in the sand. As a young boy, the find was a precious romantic treasure but it hints at the planet’s long difficult past.
Below I’ve included an excerpt explaining a little of that past.
“Above them, he could hear the wind howling through the tree limbs. “It’s autumn,” he reminded himself, so there was still a chance. It was the summer, not the autumn storms that were the worst. Autumn storms only lasted a few hours. Sometimes summer storms lasted for as long as a week. The amber curtain covered the whole planet in sand clouds and dust devils that rose into the sky like long twisted skyscrapers. Afterwards, everyone would come up out of their basements with brooms and shovels. The town would dig out their plants and homes again like nothing happened. Rarely, did anyone get stranded outside unawares anymore. If they did finding the body was likely to be gruesome. Once, when he was younger, he and his friend Amun had been digging a ditch for some fort or other, and come across a lost skull, picked clean by the wind. It wore a miner’s helmet, of the kind people used to wear back before the vines kick-started the atmosphere, back when this planet was just dust and silicon-diggers. The last storm victims had been Professor Whitehead, a teacher of his. A few weeks later an older kid in school, Langston Freeman, and his sister Maria disappeared on the same day. They’d never found Maria’s body but Langston’s mother was the unfortunate one to stumble across her son’s body first. Adele and the boys might complain about all the weighted clothing Tomás made them wear but he wasn’t about to back down. He wasn’t about to find them spread out over two square meters just because Martian gravity wouldn’t let them develop a proper bone-density. And, of course, there were more dangers on Mars than just the storms. Anything might happen to a person if they strayed outside the colony borders.”