Traktionstadts, a Mortal Engines Questionnaire & Steampunk in Doncaster


Here's a fine digital sketch by Kaek J Kaekington of the armoured cities of the Traktionstadtsgeselleshaft from Infernal Devices / A Darkling Plain, looking very much as they did in my mind's eye when I was writing those books.

It's always nice, and kind of strange, to see someone using my stuff as a springboard for paintings, models or animations, so I was pleased to hear from Carrie Louise Jones, who contacted me via my Facebook page to say:

Hello everyone!! I'm an art student from the UK currently carrying out a final project, where I have chosen to produce conceptual design and illustration for Mortal Engines. I have produced a short questionnaire for fans of the book to complete, which is accessible through my blog. I would love fans of the book, and perhaps Philip Reeve himself, to help me with this project as I am extremely passionate about illustration and the Mortal Engines books.

Thank you very much :) All help is appreciated.

You can find Carrie's questionnaire here: there are already some good responses.  (I'm fighting off the temptation to fill it in myself, but I think people might be less likely to give their own opinions about how things look and what they mean if I'd been on and given my own answers.) 

Also on the Facebook page, Candice Foers-Bates got in touch to let me know about a new steampunk festival which will be taking place in Doncaster on the 15th and 16th June this year.  I have my doubts about steampunk, as you may know (I think I've decided that it makes a nice seasoning, but not much of a dish), but Steampunk Doncaster looks as if it will be be fun. I'm afraid it's too far for me to go (I have commitments in the south around the same time) but hopefully it will be such a huge success that it will become a fixture of Doncaster life and I'll be able to attend in future years.

Animated Exeter


Sarah McIntyre and I had a good day in Exeter on Saturday.  I was commissioned about a year ago to write a story for the city's animation festival, Animated Exeter. I ended up with a magical adventure called The Exeter Riddles, and festival organiser Susannah Shaw has had it bound in a limited edition of 500, with illuminated capital letters by some local artists and one by Sarah M, whose cute gargoyle is also on the front cover.

So first we signed copies of The Exeter Riddles in Waterstones, which is just a stone's throw from the cathedral whose carvings inspired the story.  Then we headed over to the Phoenix Arts Centre for a two-hour event. I thought an author talk in an animation festival might seem a bit strange, but a comics event makes perfect sense; there are all sorts of connections between comics and animation. So after I'd talked a bit about the Riddles story things quickly morphed into a comics jam, with the whole audience joining in, telling us what to draw and then making comics of their own.

Meanwhile, Sarah (Reeve) and Sam had been out and about in the streets of Exeter, spotting some of the curious characters who had fallen into the present day through the city's fraying timelines - all part of the Timewinders street-game, which was loosely inspired by my story.  

Sadly we didn't have time to have a go at the game, or to hang around for the spectacular closing performance, but everyone I know who has been to events in the festival has had a great time, and it's been a great privilege to be involved with it.  Look out for Animated Exeter 2014!

Exeter Extravaganza Looms...


Festivals Galore

Photo: Ruth Huddlestone
If you can look closely at this photo you can just make out Sarah McIntyre and myself in the middle, drawing Goblins and Monsters for an audience of about 600 people at the Royal Festival hall on Sunday, as part of the Imagine Festival. We had a great time, and hopefully the audience did too; we certainly met a lot of keen young comics artists and world builders. Sarah has already blogged about it in more detail here, and if you're near central London the festival continues until the 24th February and features lots of great writers and illustrators.

And our next festival appearance is at Animated Exeter this coming Saturday! We'll be doing a comics jam and I'll be talking a bit about The Exeter Riddles, a short story I wrote for Animated Exeter, and which they've had bound as a very lovely little hardback book, available from the Exeter branches of Waterstones.  Here's a little piece about it by Martin Chilton, from the Telegraph website last week (thanks Martin!).

The a limited edition handbound copies look wonderful, and are being auctioned in aid of the charity Literature Works.  And as with the Imagine Festival. Animated Exeter runs all through this half term week, and features lots of workshops and screenings: here's the full programme.

Hazlegrove Festival of Literature


Hazlegrove School in Somerset is running its own literary festival next month, featuring a star studded line up (and me).  My event is for pupils from Hazlegrove and some other local schools, but some of the others are open to the public: you can find the programme and book online here.

I believe some free tickets are still available for local schools: contact to book.

...It Is A Silly Place

I've been putting loads of my own illustrations on here lately, so I think it's time for one by someone else.  A few months ago I featured a lovely Mortal Engines poster/cover by Kathryn Rosa Miller, and she's now done one for Infernal Devices too! It's not meant to be a literal interpretation of the book, but it works for me.  She explains how she approached it on her excellent tumblr blog 'Nest of Straight Lines'. (Nice to see the Pepperpot up there on the left - I lived just down the road from the real one for my first 18 years).

Airships of the Traction Era

This is one of the images which appears in the new Traction Codex e-book.  Unfortunately, like all the other illustrations, its been reproduced there microscopically small, which is a pity, since I worked quite large and expected them to be hi-res images.  So in case you can't make it out on your Kindle-screen, here's a larger version (click to enlarge still further).  (This is my idea of what the WoME's airships look like, but I don't regard it as definitive because it's limited by my drawing skills. I'm always happy to see other illustrators' takes on my stuff, many of which look a lot better than mine).
1. Green Storm Air Destroyer
2. Twin-envelope 'sky cat'
3. The 13th Floor Elevator
4. Spice Freighter from the Thousand Islands
5. Murasaki Fox Spirit
6. Cruiser of the Anti-Traction League
7. The Jenny Haniver
8. 'Goddess' class passenger liner
9. Serapis Moonshadow
10. Spudbury Sunbeam
11. Experimental rocket-assisted Zhang Chen Hawkmoth Mk VI, firing its boosters on an attack run.
12. Heavier-than-air fighter, as used by the freelance air-forces of the Traction War.
13. Zhang-Chen Hawkmoth.

Lego Shrike and Hester


Look! Lego versions of Shrike and Hester Shaw from the Mortal Engines books, as shared by Kaek J Kaekington on my Facebook page!

Thanks to everyone who has already downloaded The Traction Codex. If you like it, please spread the word.  I shall be posting a few of the pictures from it here over the coming days - I did them really big, but the versions in the e-book are tiny, for some reason, so I thought it would be nice to show them off in all their cross-hatchy glory.  Here's my sketch of Tunbridge Wheels to be going on with...

And here's a blog on the subject by my co-author and ace technical/historical/military advisor Jeremy Levett.

The Traction Codex

A couple of years ago I spent a very pleasant few days with Jeremy Levett in Bristol, coming up with something called The Traction Codex. It's a sort of encyclopaedia/history of the World of Mortal Engines, featuring all those things you Always Wanted To Know But Could Never Be Bothered To Ask, like, how did Airhaven get airborne? Why do the cities use heavier-than-air fighters while the Green Storm stick to airships? Who was Red Loki? etc, etc.  We've also added some details which never made it into the books, like the alarming sport of 'Traktionturnieren' or civic jousting...
If you've bought an e-book edition of the Mortal Engines books recently you may have found The Traction Codex attached to it as a sort of appendix, but if you already own the books and still want to look at the Codex, your luck is IN: it's now available separately on Amazon (UK).  It even features a few illustrations by yours truly, like the turnierenstadts above, or this one of Batmunkh Gompa:

Because of the way it's been bundled up with the books, it proved quite tricky to write - we had to leave a lot of details because we wanted to avoid spoilers for people who might be referring to the Codex while reading Mortal Engines, and wouldn't want to learn what happened to characters in the later books.  So it's by no means a complete guide, but I'm pleased with the way it turned out; Jeremy was able to provide some rather elegant escape-routes from the logistical corners I'd painted myself into while writing the books, and it was nice to have a chance to expand the Mortal Engines world a bit without writing a whole 'nother novel - as much as I'd still like to do that too...  I'd also like to come back to the Codex in a year or so, add a lot more entries, and publish a paper version with extra illustrations, but whether I'll ever have the time and energy we can only guess.

In the meantime, The Traction Codex is a snip at only 85p, and it's available HERE.

EDIT: I didn't realise that Kindle books have 'regions' like DVDs. This version of The Traction Codex won't be readable if you're in the USA (and if you're anywhere outside the UK it's probably best to check that it will be compatible before you splurge 85p on it). Hopefully Scholastic will one day make a US version available too.

(NB: As with the current UK editions of the Mortal Engines books, the cover is pretty repellant: I had no control over that, and can only apologise. It also very shabbily fails to credit my indispensable co-author, Jeremy Levett.)