The Windhover Tetralogy as Illustrated Books

The Windhover Tetralogy as Illustrated Books

Our latest Weird Sisters Publishing project has turned into a series of illustrated books. Yes, my novel Bone of Contention is the next publication in the lineup as I write this (pub date: September 24, 2024). There’s still work to do for that one, but the XK9 “Bones” Trilogy isn’t the series I want to talk about in this post. It’s The Windhover Tetralogy.

We’ve had plans to reissue some of my late brother-in-law Warren C. Norwood’s books since before the formation of Weird Sisters Publishing. We wanted to bring them back into print right alongside my books and the books of my sister G. S. Norwood. Indeed, since there actually were three Shakespearean “weird sisters” (based, of course, on even older stories), we figured Warren was our honorary “third Weird Sister.”

But owning the intellectual property rights (G. inherited them) doesn’t instantly translate into producing books. And since most of Warren’s work hasn’t been preserved in digital form, we had some added challenges. We decided to start where he himself started, with a four-book series originally called The Windhover Tapes (back in the early 1980s, when we couldn’t imagine a time when tape wasn’t going to be an important technology).

The four 1980s “Windhover Tapes” books featured two rather dull spaceship images and two “sexploitation” covers in the worst 1980s tradition, none of which represent the stories well. Shown here on a tan faux-fur surface that also evokes the 1980s, they are: Top row L-R, “An Image of Voices” and “Flexing the Warp.” 2nd row, L-R: “Fize of the Gabriel Ratchets” and “Planet of Flowers.” Photo by Jan S. Gephardt.
The 1980s were strong with these covers. Warren purely hated them.

First Efforts on the Windhover Books

As the Art Director of Weird Sisters Publishing, I’m the designated book designer. But producing the books, which we decided to rename The Windhover Tetralogy, has been a multi-step process. Just getting them scanned and “translated” into digital text was the work of many hands and approximately two years, from raw scan through several reviews and at least three or four proofreading passes.

Our original idea was to give them new and better covers, not turn them into illustrated books. But last winter I realized that I had the access to license astronomical paintings by my artist friend Lucy A. Synk. She has built a large catalog of original works. If I wanted to put a different astronomical at the start of each chapter, much less on the covers, I wouldn’t be in any danger of running out. Better yet, by licensing existing works, we could afford more art.

We also by then had a wonderful new rendition of the eponymous Windhover, protagonist Gerard Manley’s sentient spaceship. Indeed, we have her in a range of different angles. One of our favorite artists, Chaz Kemp, had created them for us in 2022. Unfortunately, Chaz was otherwise obligated for the non-astronomical scenes we’d need for some of the chapters (especially in the fourth book). But I was able to interest yet another favorite artist, Jose-Luis Segura, in creating color line art for those. He’s also creating five additional spaceship designs. In the montage below, I’ve included an earlier project he did for us, as a sample of his work.

This montage includes one of Chaz Kemp’s variations on the “Windhover” space ship in the center. Behind “Windy,” clockwise from upper left are Lucy A. Synk’s “Quadra,” “Thisseling and Rajor Zee,” “Mosseen,” Jose-Luis Segura’s “Mac and Yo-Yo in their workshop,” and Lucy A. Synk’s “Kril, Daytime, with Moons.” The words say, “Astronomicals © 2019-2024 by Lucy A. Synk,” “Windhover ship ©2022 by Chaz Kemp,” and “© 2021 by Jose-Luis Segura,” on the “Mac and Yo-Yo” picture. Montage by Jan S. Gephardt.
I’m excited to be in the early phases of what should be an interesting project. Artwork in the image above is © 2021 by Jose-Luis Segura, ©2022 by Chaz Kemp, and © 2019-2024 by Lucy A. Synk.

Illustrated Books are Special

I was excited by the idea of creating illustrated books with a picture at the start of each chapter. Part of that is because I love looking at illustrations, and part is because I have always loved interior art in books. To me, it just makes them more of a treasure than they already are. I remember looking at books from my grandmother’s house, with tipped-in color plates and greeting each with a smile of delight.

Another reason why I wanted to give Warren’s books a full dose of beautiful art is my own pushback against the original editions’ book design. That was the era when genre books had to be created as cheaply as possible and pumped out in mass quantities to maximize the publisher’s profit while keeping the prices competitive.

Yes, we need to keep costs in mind for every project. But those old 1980s books were printed with narrow margins and low-quality ink in tiny font sizes. They’re made with cheap, acidic paper that’s only a step or two above a “Big Chief” tablet. In case you don’t’ remember those, they were (are??) a carelessly-racist feature of elementary school in the US during the 1960s, made of really cheap newsprint paper. They sucked to write on. Or, for that matter, to touch. Gross!

Samples from the “Image of Voices” include, clockwise from upper left: Windy off Moseen, Quadra, Windy over Alvin’s Place in the Pleuhockle System, Thisseling and Rajor Zee, and Windy off Pleasaunce. Astronomical artwork © Lucy A. Synk – “Windhover” spaceship © Chaz Kemp.
I now have accumulated most of the finished artwork for the first book, “An Image of Voices.” Astronomical art is © 2019-2024 by Lucy A. Synk; “Windhover” spaceship is © 2022 by Chaz Kemp.

A Better Representation of Warren’s Imaginative Span

The Windhover novels span galaxies. They introduce a dizzying array of speculative entities and imaginative cultures. In the first two books, each chapter is organized around a particular part of space where the action is occurring. Now readers will see a new place, with characteristics of that location, in the opening of each new chapter. In the print and some e-editions, they’ll be seen as opening two-page spreads.

I was pleased to utilize new technology that enables many e-readers to reproduce color. I also wanted to open up the design with more white space and readable fonts to give these stories more “breathing room.” Although the trade paperbacks and some e-versions won’t be able to reproduce color, even in grayscale these illustrations look good.

Readers who appreciate the magic of illustrated books are getting their wish more and more. They don’t have to be graphic novels or graphic books of the sort I discussed and reviewed recently to count as “illustrated.” Goodreads now has a list of Illustrated Books for Adults. They’re popping up here and there – and not all are limited editions (although some are).

On a square, multicolored background that echoes colors in the two covers, the first “Windhover” book, “An Image of Voices” and the second in the series, “Flexing the Warp,” are shown as if seen on a white e-reader and as a trade paperback. On the cover of “An Image of Voices,” the words from top to bottom say, “’Warren Norwood’s just set a standard for first novels!’ – Anne McCaffrey. An Image of Voices, The Windhover Tetralogy – Book 1 Warren C. Norwood. Two-time John W. Campbell/Astounding Award Nominee. Illustrations by Lucy A. Synk, with Chaz Kemp.” On the cover of “Flexing the Warp,” they say, “‘Superb! I am truly impressed!’ – Anne McCaffrey. Flexing the Warp, The Windhover Tetralogy – Book 2 Warren C. Norwood. Two-time John W. Campbell/Astounding Award Nominee. Illustrations by Lucy A. Synk, with Chaz Kemp.”
Here are the first two books’ covers (the only ones I’ve finished so far), rendered as 3D ebooks and trade paperbacks. Astronomical art is © 2019-2024 by Lucy A. Synk; “Windhover” spaceship is © 2022 by Chaz Kemp.

Developing the Illustrated Books

Developing these editions as illustrated books has been more logistically challenging than I expected. It helped a great deal to make storyboards. That way I could lay them out chapter-by-chapter on a grid. That made it easy to note the development status of each, and make sure I didn’t miss anything. Lucy and I have been checking up on each other in the last couple of months to make sure we’re both – literally – on the same page.

It’s exciting to be able to type in “FINAL RECEIVED” for each chapter as the high-resolution files come in. I’m really looking forward to sharing Jose’s work when it’s ready t be shown, too! The production pipeline is still pretty long: I’ll be working on these books through the fall, working toward winter 2024-2025 presentations.

The more I work with Warren’s original texts, the more I think they deserve this more loving treatment. The beautiful art that has been, and still is being, made will combine to create visually wonderful books. I hope this treatment – turning them into illustrated books – will open these stories to a whole new generation.

About the Author

Author Jan S. Gephardt Is having a lovely time developing the illustrated novels of The Windhover Tetralogy when she’s not working on her own XK9 Series of science fiction novels and shorter fiction. Subscribers to her monthly newsletter currently have access to more original short fiction set in the XK9s’ universe than is currently available for sale. Her newest title, Bone of Contention, is set to be published September 24, 2024. It completes the XK9 “Bones” Trilogy, although the series will continue.

IMAGE CREDITS

Many thanks to Lucy A. Synk, Chaz Kemp, and Jose-Luis Segura for the artwork in the montages for this post. All book cover designs and montages in this post are by Jan S. Gephardt.

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