Illustration Friday: Stripes

Late in 2011, editors Edwina Harvey and Simon Petrie invited a number of people to write stories for their new anthology Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear (due from Peggy Bright Books in June 2012). The title was intriguing, and the topic was elaborated as follows:

“Nothing happens without some initial impetus or spark. But it’s also impossible to predict exactly what will happen once that spark is struck, that match lit. Will the rocket shoot skywards? Will the dragon shoot flames from its mouth if provoked by one more jab from the rusty sword? Will the fireworks display appease, or at least distract, the ruthless, jaded emperor? “

I find set topics attractive, but this turned out to be a very tricky idea on which to get a grip. Almost all stories have something that sets them off, and I came up with scores of excellent impetuses, but those stories all became about what happened afterwards, not about the point of ignition or the catalyst. At last I wrote my way into “Kindling”, and a dingy cafe in an odd, little, over-mapped world: part noir, part fantasy, part steampunk. No images for it – I do occasionally live an unillustrated life – but I managed to name-check the creature in the illustration above (there is also a very oblique Darren Hanlon reference). With adjustments from helpful beta-readers and a few editorial wranglings over the correct nomenclature for several professions, the story was accepted!

The line-up is impressive:

As is the cover from Les Petersen:

The writing of the bio proved to be as fraught as the writing of the story. My final bio is fairly respectable. The original, vetoed bio was written late at night in a state of desperation and included the following edifying anecdote:

“When Kathleen Jennings was young, an old man with an enormous beard who played the piano accordion gave her a Nobel Detonator tin. He told her that Nobel had switched to packaging its detonators in cardboard, but mice ate through the boxes and ran away with the detonators. When the mice bit into the detonators, he heard the mice go “pop, pop, pop”. The theme of this anthology has given her flashbacks to that story.”