J.J. Abrams’ Stranger

J.J. Abrams has a new mystery project out, code named: Stranger. Take a look at the trailer here:

Whilst everyone else is speculating on what the project could be, I’ll throw my suspicious hat into the ring… J.J Abrams is a fan of The Mariner and is adapting it for the screen! Of course, it must be true! What’s more, he must have had access to the original artwork, which you can see below.

Original Reverse of Cover – Loose Lips Sink Ships concept

As you can see artist Christopher Hayes originally pursued a loose lips sink ships concept, which references the fear of triggering cases of Mindlessness, but also a deleted flashback scene in which [SPOILERS] Harris sews his crew’s lips shut as they begin to go mad. The scene was intended to follow on from his London flashback to demonstrate what happened to his doomed command before the ship crashed into Grace’s zoo.

Hmm.. whenever I discuss the plot of The Mariner it sounds damned ridiculous.

Anyway, in all seriousness, I have no idea what Stranger is, so calm down.


Thank you to David Chapman for sending in these pictures of himself with a copy of The Mariner at various sites in Sighisoara! I’d been meaning to do a quick blog post about this amazing medieval town and he has given me the perfect opportunity. Here’s the pictures of David, and if you haven’t read The Mariner, beware – there be SPOILERS ahead!

Sighisoara is a well preserved medieval town in Transylvania, Romania. Most famous for being the birth place of Vlad Tepes (aka Vlad the Impaler, aka Vlad Dracula), but unfortunately this is probably the site’s biggest drawback as it’s littered with tourist traps stuffed with vampire memorabilia. I visited Sighisoara way back in 2007, before the onset of vampire-mania, so I dread to think how bad it’s gotten now.

The site was originally that of a Roman fort, built upon by Saxons and then in the 12th century a citadel was constructed, but it was only in 1431 that we find the first reference to the name Sighisoara being used. Highlights include a 14th century clock tower, church on the hill, Venetian house and Church of the Dominican Monastery.

Sighisoara Clock-tower

My own experience of Sighisoara was that of a fever dream. A friend and I had travelled to the town of Targu Mures for a music festival, but alas fate (and twelve shots of vodka) conspired to render us lost in this town with nowhere to stay and without a tent to camp in. A freezing night later and I was a wreck. Worse for wear (I shall spare you the gruesome details) we abandoned Targu Mures and fled south, hoping to find sanctuary at the next major tourist destination: Sighisoara. Shivering, sweating, shaking and swearing, I remember all too well the long walk from the bus stop to the citadel, desperately hoping I’d be able to keep control of my bowels until we found a room in an inn. Fortunately, we did find a hotel with space: the beautiful Casa Wagner, which our budget could extend to a single night.

Unfortunately my illness, while abating somewhat over the next 24 hours, never departed and our stay in Sighisoara was limited. We were soon forced to abandon our trip around Transylvania and retreat to Bucharest to find a doctor to bribe.

So when the Mariner sought his own oasis, it seemed only natural that his should be the same as my own. Indeed, his waking in the town square was reminiscent of my friend leaving me shaking on that same spot whilst the locals kept a wary distance in case I was contagious.

So is Sighisoara the same one that features in The Mariner? Yes and no. Similar to the fictional island, Sighisoara does have a hill rising up inside a citadel, and as in the book that hill is topped with a church. In the story, Tetrazzini has built a comfortable home around it, symbolic of his apparent stabilising influence in an era difficult to pin down.

After the Shattering, as the Wasp slowly drew the minds, meme by meme, from the human race, the world as it had stood became fragmented and chunks ceased to exist. Those minds that remained untouched, or only slightly removed were those closest to the source of the Wasp’s panic: [the Mariner] himself. So those in faraway Romania would not have been left “untouched” by the Wasp; they would have become mindless as their minds became a part of the collective whole. Sighisoara would have gone the way of most of the world, disappearing as the cocoon of reality dissolved, had it not been for Christopher McConnell, focusing his mind on a place he’d never seen but been described by his father. In the turbulent time of the Shattering, when reality (supported by the collective minds of those infected by the Wasp) was morphing in response to that collective splitting, Sighisoara was preserved, albeit a version more closely associated with the Sighisoara of McConnell’s imagination, rather than the memory held by his father.

Sound confusing? Basically, Sighisoara in the book should not be taken as a direct representation of the one in real life. Like all the ideas, religions, sciences, politics and philosophies in The Mariner, the landscape is rotten. Entropy is at work everywhere.

The Mariner’s Sighisoara is another broken promise. It is the illusion of redemption. The Mariner arrives at the settlement thinking that he is the monster, but what he finds is a society corrupted to the core with the façade of civility. At the first instance he is accosted by corrupt officials and soon after observes the funeral of a young lady who’s been recently murdered, the killers of whom he clashes with when he witnesses a gang rape in a shady gambling den. Indeed, even the supposed beacon of light, Tetrazzini, reveals himself to be a far darker creature than the Mariner could ever be. To paraphrase JRR Tolkien, the Mariner looks foul but feels fair unlike Sighisoara which (in the book) is quite the opposite. It looks fair, but as the Mariner soon learns, it is most certainly foul.

So once again, thank you David! And to the rest of you out there, why not do the same and send in pictures of you doing something Mariner related with your own copy? How about petting a Tasmanian devil? Flagellating with a whip? Or perhaps simply masturbating off the side of a boat? The choice is yours!

Oh, and for those of you wondering, the rest of my stay in Bucharest did not improve my luck. No sooner than I’d recovered from my illness I got attacked by wild dogs. Ho hum.

Tetrazzini’s Sighisoara, artwork by Christopher Hayes

Mariner Redesign Finalised

And the final version is….

The Mariner, Kindle Edition

Bravo, and huge thanks to artist Christopher Hayes!

Blogger, writer and editor C.W.Rhodes recently reviewed The Mariner for his blog. Below is an except:

“I haven’t felt so many wonderfully conflicting emotions while reading a book in a long time. This story is the wildest of rides – fast paced, energetic, unafraid, relentless, exhilarating, disturbing, and smart. I absolutely loved it. The plot was magnificent and revealed its points in such a way that was always exciting, always changing, always moving forward into some new territory. There are so many interesting ideas thrown into it that not only kept me entertained, but intellectually interested in what was being said.”

To read more, check out the full review here.

Mariner Cover Revision

As a part of a redesign of the Mariner (Kindle edition), artist Christopher Hayes has taken his original work and re-jiggered it to work better in thumbnail format. What do folks think?

EDIT: Any now we’ve added a third!

In other news, Eastleigh by-election is taking place. This vote looks to be a disaster for every losing party (aside from UKIP), and not much better for the winner neither. Keep an eye on twitter for cursing well into the night, though I expect many a re-count will be requested.

The Mariner, Hardback Cover

Hardback Cover

Kindle Cover

Alternative New Cover

Hail To The Chris

Forest Dragon 2 by Christopher Hayes

Steam Engineers, The Tote

Many have been praising the artwork within The Mariner of late, so I thought I’d draw your attention to the illustrator behind them: Christopher Hayes. Chris lives in the Yarra Valley, outside of Melbourne, though like myself can trace his scarred memory back to Croydon, England.

He is one of the three developers of the world of the “Tote”, a steampunk environment for which he is the principal artist. Whilst Paul Hayes and I thrash out the workings of the great city and those who live within, it is Chris who gives this world its visual style and flavour.

A long time horror fan, Chris was able to turn his skills to the darker arts, supplying all the artwork for The Mariner, both the front cover and the ink sketches within. Below is a scene from the book in which the Mariner observes an abandoned philosophy teacher adrift in the ocean. Those who have read the chapter will notice Chris’ amazing ability to take the flavour of the scene and then go in his own direction creating something that is more than just a representation of the events.

You will hopefully be seeing more of Chris’ artwork later this year with the release for the first Tote novel. Too see more of Chris’ work, please visit his deviantART page.

Rotten Philosophy by Christopher Hayes