We’re very excited to announce that to coincide with the opening of Visions of the Universe – the upcoming exhibition at the National Maritime Museum – Pandemonium Press are publishing The Lowest Heaven, a new anthology of contemporary science fiction.
Each story in The Lowest Heaven is themed around a body in the Solar System, from the Sun to Halley’s Comet. Contributors include Alastair Reynolds, Kaaron Warren, S.L. Grey, Lavie Tidhar, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Sophia McDougall, Maria Dahvana Headley, Adam Roberts, E.J. Swift, Kameron Hurley and Doctor Who’s Matt Jones.
The stories are illustrated with photographs and artwork selected from our world-class collection, while the book’s cover and overall design are the work of award-winning South African illustrator Joey Hi-Fi. Joey has provided us with an exclusive Q&A about how he created the design for the cover artwork.
A limited edition hardcover is available for purchase exclusively through the Royal Museums Greenwich shop at http://bit.ly/17LpKDe.
Find out more about Visions of the Universe and book tickets online at rmg.co.uk/visions
Cover artwork for The Lowest Heaven. Copyright Joey Hi-Fi
The design you created for The Lowest Heaven centres around a map – where does this idea come from?
With The Lowest Heaven being an anthology, the brief was to create a piece of artwork that would tie all the stories together. Since the book features stories based on various celestial bodies in our Solar System – creating a bespoke solar system map seemed like an interesting way to do that.
Plus, having a fascination with all things cosmic (bordering on Kosmikophilia), I couldn’t resist. I used to draw maps of alien solar systems as a kid – peppered with space battles of course. So this is a childhood dream come true.
I was inspired by the wall hangings in the National Maritime Museum collection. These were produced by the Working Men’s Educational Union in the 1850s and based on astronomical themes. The hangings were printed lithographically on cotton, which gives them an interesting appearance. I liked their simple, yet striking design. One in particular (see jpeg) formed the basis of my design.
I just took a more modern approach – if you can call it that. My map has more of a 1950s aesthetic as opposed to one reminiscent of the 1850s.
"Solar System", 1850-1860 Artist: Unknown, Working Men's Educational Union. Object ID: ZBA4550. Copyright: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
The map also has hints or elements from the stories themselves. Can you talk us through these, and how you settled on which ones to include?
I wanted the solar system map to be unique to The Lowest Heaven. So I thought it should not only include the celestial bodies – but elements from the stories themselves.
What would make a map of the solar system even more awesome? Why, Spaceships of course! I decided to include some simple illustrations of the space-faring vessels (as well as an asteroid and a comet) that were mentioned in the various stories.
I had read the entire book already, so I went back through my notes and picked the objects I wanted to include – in the end, I settled on four. I’ll leave the reader to discover which stories they fit. To match the retro feel of the map, all the spaceships (bar Voyager) have a 1950s retro feel to them.
There are two editions of The Lowest Heaven, but this map is the central design for both of them.
For this project I decided to illustrate and design the fold-out solar system map (to be included in the hardcover) first. I felt it would be simpler to work from a full solar system map and then decide how to adapt that artwork to work on the two book covers.
What would work on the fold-out map wouldn’t necessarily work on the book covers, given the change of size and so on.
I wanted the covers to have the same character as the map – but I didn’t want the cover artwork to be exactly the same as the full fold-out. For both creative and practical reasons.
Since a simple crop of a section of the full solar system map wouldn’t work as a cover, it required reworking the typography, changing the design & removing small details while adding others.
Is designing for an anthology different from illustrating a novel or a single story?
It is. This is my first cover for an anthology featuring different authors. I had to approach it in a different way conceptually. Whereas a novel may have one central protagonist, voice, style or tone – an anthology obviously has many. Finding that common thread can be a challenge.
Many of the anthology covers I see tend to be quite generic in terms of concept. Science fiction will have a space ship on the cover, horror a ghoul of some kind, etc. For The Lowest Heaven, having each story based on a celestial body made for a strong central concept, one that was unique enough to steer clear of cover clichés.
I also felt that I didn’t want to focus on one story over another. I wanted to have the various writers all equally represented on the cover.
For more artistically readers: how did you go about making this? There’s so much detail!
I do the basic layout. Then, at night, extra-dimensional space elves materialize and complete it.
Jokes aside – having never designed a solar system map before – It started with much research.
I had to brush up on the orbit of the planets, their approximate sizes in relation to each other and so on. I wanted the map to have some semblance of scientific accuracy. The gaps in my knowledge of our solar system made me realize I should have payed more attention in science class at school – instead of filling my textbooks with super-hero themed doodles.
I then moved onto some rough sketches of the solar system map design (incorporating typography and other additional elements). Once I’d decided on a rough layout/design that I thought would work – I then started on the finished illustration.
Parts of the illustration were done in Illustrator or Photoshop, others by hand (ink on paper). I also scanned in various old paper textures to help give the solar system map that slightly aged / retro feel. I enjoy using a combination of various techniques in the illustration process. It allows me to experiment a bit.
"A Representation of the Meteor Seen at Paddington about 12 Minutes before 11 o'clock, on the Evening of the 11th of Feb. 1850", 1850 Artist: Leggatt, Hayward & Leggatt, Lloyd Brothers & Co, Wyatt, Matthew Cotes. Object ID: ZBA4550. Copyright: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Which was your favourite story?
By Grabthar’s hammer! My illustrator sense foresaw that question coming. Do you want all of the contributors to The Lowest Heaven to hate me – bar one?
Tough question. It’s so hard to choose. All the stories we amazing in some way. But if you insist on putting a phaser to my temple – I particularly enjoyed the tale for Jupiter by Jon Courtenay Grimwood.
Did you want to be an astronaut when you grew up?
Oddly no. I wanted to be a ‘Diver Uncle’. Which was my four year old self’s term for a deep sea explorer. At a young age I was watching Star Trek (plus other 80s Sci-Fi classics) and dreaming of space exploration – but I was equally fascinated by deep sea exploration. And I still am – who doesn’t find giant squid fascinating?
Find out more about The Lowest Heaven and Pandemonium Fiction at http://www.pandemonium-fiction.com/lowest-heaven.html
Our Curate the Commons project is moving on apace. Over the past month our participating Flickr users have been “favouriting” and tagging their chosen images. With varied backgrounds and interests everyone has approached this selection process from a different point of view. The next (and potentially trickier) stage will be to narrow down the selection of what goes on display in the Compass Lounge as a group.
Here Nerisha explains her top five picks and why she chose them, we’ve linked all the image titles back to our Flickr photostream:
Two crab-eater seals on the ice, Weddell Sea
Reproduction ID: P00017
Maker: James Francis Hurley
Date: circa February 1915
Materials: Gelatine dry plate
The contrast of colour between the seals and ice provide something very interesting for the eye. The ice seems to go on forever in the background and gives you a real sense of the environment.
Camel in Kuwait carrying fuel for cooking
Reproduction ID: PM5322-6
Maker: Alan Villiers
This photo is simply striking, unusual and makes me wonder how far are the man and his camel travelling? How much food will that amount of fuel cook?
A sailor and his accordion on-board the ‘Parma’
Reproduction ID: N61653
Maker: Alan Villiers
This photograph is interesting as it offers a glimpse of daily life and activities. I like the composition as there is a view of the sea, the boat and at centre the sailor plays his accordion.
Restful days on-board the ‘Parma’
Reproduction ID: N61612
Maker: Alan Villiers
Sailors’ life, basking in the sun. This photograph is beautifully composed, the basking men draw your eye in and you notice the men at the centre of the photograph.
Commercial Dock Pier
Reproduction ID: P27581
Maker: Waldo McGillycuddy Eagar CBE
Date: circa 1914
I love the photographer’s perspective, a peek into what happens down at the docks. I love the way the photo is ‘framed’ by the chains.
Our project participants have an external blog of their own charting this collaborative process at curatethecollection.wordpress.com
The Museum is embarking on its second co-curated exhibition since the July 2011 opening of the new Sammy Ofer Wing and the Compass Lounge – a dedicated space for participatory displays developed by the Museum and the public together. The Compass Lounge is a place to make new connections with our collections, and to offer alternative and multiple perspectives to the Museum’s interpretation of what’s on display.
We’ve invited members of the Museum’s active Flickr community to curate a display of historical photographs from our collection, to give our audiences a chance to highlight objects and images that are significant to them. Over the next few weeks those taking part in the project will add their views and thoughts to the Museum’s Collections Blog. Here’s Duncan on his first impressions:
On 14 April 2012 the assorted members of the Curate the Collection group met for the first time at the National Maritime Museum. For me personally, it was the first time I have visited Greenwich or the National Maritime Museum. I had no real expectations for the meeting apart from a desire to see how exhibitions are constructed in a museum space using both interactive content and user opinion/feedback. Armed with my historical hat on I approached the meeting with increasing excitement. I spent the morning exploring Royal Greenwich and after being surrounded by Maritime buildings, pubs and boats (Cutty Sark) I was ready to begin debating. I was very encouraged by the diversity of personalities, ages and opinions amongst the group – all brought together by a mutual appreciation of Flickr and its communal spirit.
“Curate the Collection” Flickr group looking serious and listening intently to the project outline! By benicektoo on Flickr.
The breadth of individual interests certainly complicated our attempts to ascertain a common theme for our project. This was further complicated by the wealth of available archive material that we could have access to. Our resources include the Flickr Commons, the National Maritime Museum digitalised collection and a planned visit to the photographic archive at the Brass Foundry. As a group we were also introduced to ‘The Compass Lounge’ exhibition space and caught a tangible glimpse of our future interactive exhibition space. Marrying both digital and print photography in an interactive space may pose some interesting challenges for the group but I was again encouraged by the plethora of imaginative ideas.
I was also surprised to learn that only about 1% of the NMM’s photographic collection has been digitalised. If anything this project will hopefully be a reason to digitalise individual images that would not usually see the light of day outside of the NMM collection.
Next stop the Brass Foundry!
Our project team have an external blog of their own charting this collaborative process at curatethecollection.wordpress.com
I am an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award holder in my third year of my PhD at the University of Sussex and the National Maritime Museum’s Centre for Art and Travel. The award has allowed me to spend time researching the significant yet largely unknown NMM collection of photographic albums bought and compiled by naval officers in the 19th century.
Traditionally the museum has catalogued these albums by the ships’ portraits and topographic views included within them. However, these albums offer a fascinating insight into the social history of the Royal Navy as well as into each individual compiler’s beliefs, interests and collecting habits. They also provide a rich comparative archive of material from which to examine the construction of photographic albums as a new form of visualizing the world and as revealing the dominant visual strategies of the day.
My thesis examines these albums from an art historical perspective, looking at how and why early travel photographs were bought by naval officers and how the officers’ compilation of personal albums allow conclusions to be drawn as to how they perceived the world. Taken collectively these early photographic albums can reveal how naval officers were conditioned to see, how photographers overseas responded to their needs and how these men then ‘curated’ their own experiences from photographic fragments into modern narratives.
Paymaster Frederick North compiled three albums that are now in the Archive of Historic Photographs at the NMM [ALB0029, 30, 167]. The first of his albums, ALB0029, begins with photographic portraits of his friends and family before including views of people and places bought around the world. North had a strong aesthetic sensibility and he bought work by leading photographers who worked overseas, such as Felice Beato in Yokohama and John Thomson, who operated studios in Hong Kong and Singapore in the 1860s and 1870s.
North also enjoyed arranging the photographs he had bought overseas in unusual and artistic ways. He had bought his album at Reed the stationer’s on Oxford Street, London and most probably compiled it in England between postings overseas. He hand-decorated several pages of his album and pasted the photographs in himself. At times he employed fashionable collage techniques usually associated with women’s albums, such as this example of an anchor made from photographic portraits of people, a ship and a lighthouse:
He often centred his displays around things that were important to his life, such as the ship he was sailing on. Captain Tynte F. Hammill similarly centred some of his photographic displays around his ship, for example in this page from his large-format album that documented travels made throughout his career:
Hammill’s album includes 666 photographs from the 1860s to the 1890s. On this album page the H.M.S. Rodney can be seen at the centre of a display of eighteen photographs chiefly featuring Japanese views and people. Hammill sailed on the Rodney as an 18 year-old midshipman in 1869, and his album also includes officer portraits from this time, taken on board in Yokohama and Hong Kong.
From these few examples it is possible to glimpse the complex layers through which these albums can be read. I am hoping my thesis will examine both the construction of individual photographs seen in the albums as well as the selection processes by which officers such as North and Hammill acquired them and the further selections they made in their personal arrangement of images into travel narratives of their own. In this way I hope to reveal the contribution made by early travel photography and photographic albums to the visualization of the world in the 19th century.
This month the NMM has released a cute and cuddly batch of historic photographs on Flickr. The new set depicts a variety of animals that travelled onboard ship around the world, keeping sailors company.
The mascot of HMS Renown
The images can also be found in a charming book of the same name in the Museum’s shop which tells some of the tales of these animals and the feelings that their shipmates had for them.