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
Have you ever wondered how 18th and 19th century scientists explained the universe?
The NMM has recently published on Collections Online a new section called Popular Astronomy, which reveals through our collections how genteel ladies, gentlemen and even the general public were learning about the heavens. It was hoped that teaching such topics might encourage individuals to turn away from more frivolous occupations and toward a contemplation of the sublime nature of the universe and its Creator.
Urania’s Mirror or a View of the Heavens (AST0049)
Many new objects are online for the first time, including orreries, lecture slides and wall hangings. We hope you enjoy viewing these fascinating items.
In 2009 the Museum celebrates the International Year of Astronomy (IYA), which commemorates the first use of an astronomical telescope by Galileo in 1609 as well as, amongst other things, the first moon landing (1969). It is hoped that the IYA will increase our awareness of the impact that astronomy has on our every day lives and our understanding of how scientific knowledge can contribute to our daily existence.
During my travels around the Museum I noticed this fascinating reproduction of a 17th century print, which is currently on display in the stairwell adjoining the Octagon Room, at the Royal Observatory (ROG). It shows three figures using astronomical equipment in the Great Star Room or the Octagon Room, as it is known today, at the ROG. To the left an observer is using a quadrant to carry out astronomical observations. While a seated figure, on the right, studies the sky through a telescope. Portraits of Charles II, whose support Sir Jonas Moore had crucially secured for the founding of an observatory at Greenwich, and James, Duke of York (later James II), can be seen in the background.
This is a reproduction of one of twelve plates showing the Royal Observatory and its equipment that were produced by Francis Place, c. 1676, after drawings by Robert Thacker. The print series was commissioned by Sir Jonas Moore, a mathematician and one of the founders of the Royal Observatory, to commemorate the opening of the Observatory which was established to solve the problem of longitude in navigation. It was hoped that by charting the position of the stars relative to the position of the moon, astronomers would be able to solve the more earthly concern of navigation at sea and, consequently, reduce the risk of shipwrecks that inevitably resulted in loss of life and livelihoods.
The original print was probably made to illustrate the newly established Royal Observatory as well as the research it was undertaking into the compelling and earthly problem of navigation at sea. Like the IYA, which aims to raise awareness of the effect that astronomy has on our lives, the Royal Observatory was founded and equipped in recognition of the fact that an understanding of space and an ability to apply this knowledge can solve some of our more earthly and daily concerns.
At the National Maritime Museum we continue to catalogue and digitise our collections and we regularly review our online collections to keep them up-to-date with our progress. The most recent additions to our Collections Online are drawings, prints and watercolours by the artist Nicholas Pocock (1740-1821).
Nicholas Pocock, A third-rate, a frigate, a fishing lugger and other craft off shore in a calm, 1794 (PAH8403)
Nicholas Pocock was a leading British painter of naval and marine subjects. Here, at the NMM, we have an extensive collection of his works and the largest collection of his paintings in Britain. His fascinating sketches, watercolours and paintings show important events including: the Seven Years War (1756-63); the American War of Independence (1775-82) and the French wars. His works, in our collection, range from rough sketches through to oil paintings, which give us an excellent insight into historical events and his artistic practice, so it is important to us that they are available to our online visitors.
Nicholas Pocock, The Battle of the Glorious First of June, 1794; plan of the action (PAD8870)
In 1778, following a career at sea, Pocock set up on his own as an artist and began exhibiting works at the Royal Academy from 1782. He was present at the Battle of the Glorious First of June 1794, on board the frigate Pegasus, and he sketched the action as it unfolded. This is the first instance that we know of a professional artist accompanying a fleet with the intention of documenting a battle since Willem van de Velde the Elder (1611-1693). Pocock’s sketches of the battle are, as a result, records of the event by an eyewitness. Subsequently Pocock made paintings of the battle, based on the sketches that he took on the spot, which he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1796 and 1797. An example of which, The ‘Brunswick’ and the ‘Vengeur du Peuple’ at the Battle of the First of June, 1794 (BHC0471), is in our collection.
Nicholas Pocock, The ‘Brunswick’ and the ‘Vengeur du Peuple’ at the Battle of the First of June, 1794, 1795 (BHC0471)
Many of Pocock’s works were engraved for publication and, following the death of Dominic Serres in 1793, Pocock became the leading naval painter of his age. You can browse or search our online catalogue of prints, drawings and watercolours by Nicholas Pocock on Collections Online. Alternatively, take a closer look at some of the objects that have featured in our exhibitions or peruse other online topics including Franklin relics and Maritime Art Greenwich.
We’ve joined The Commons on Flickr, where we’re enjoying sharing some of the content from PortCities. PortCities was a NOF funded digitisation project, which ran between 2003 and 2005, so we’d like to wish everyone season’s greetings and share this PortCities animation that relays a Christmas message…
It’s derived from a print (see below) in the Museum‘s collection. It shows the last great frost fair, which took place during the winter of 1813-14, on the Thames.
The fair on the Thames, February 4th 1814 by Luke Clenell
During particularly cold winters, the Thames would freeze over and spontaneous frost fairs would follow. Frost fairs were popular events and Londoners took to the ice for entertainment. Revelers can be seen dancing and playing games including skittles, while musicians are performing for the crowd behind. The event was captured by typographers who erected printing-presses at the fair to commemorate the festivities.
We hope that you’ll enjoy this short animation and we wish you all the best for the season.