A Wee Bit of History

Sami's World Header

Every story needs a backstory, and I’ve given a lot of thought (some might say too much!) to what kind of world Sami, Aunt Root, and the Mermaid’s crew live in. As the plot has progressed, the world has revealed itself as well, sometimes in conflict with what I originally thought it would be like. As we journey with our characters, more will be revealed, but for now, I feel safe in presenting this bit of historical background of the world above the waves (we’ll get to the merfolk culture a bit later!).

The world of Mermaid Music is in some ways much like ours, but in some ways very different, at least from where we are now in our own history. At some point in the past there was foreseen a general collapse of a world-wide civilization due to environmental causes and overpopulation, if things continued as they were. Fortunately, there was enough warning, and due to the efforts of a few wise leaders, the population of the whole world embarked on a gargantuan project to avert the disaster.

A new cultural paradigm led to a drastic reduction in the birthrate, and every effort was made to study ways that people could work with nature, rather than against it (much like our concept of permaculture), and to educate every person in their implementation. This mitigated the worst of the impact on the human population, though for a while, they struggled with new diseases, hunger, and a collective, debilitating guilt that they had caused such severe damage to their world. The biological sciences ascended to prime importance during this time, and many experiments were made in an effort to preserve enough diversity to keep the planet’s ecosystems from total, irretrievable collapse. Some of the achievements will look very close to magic to our eyes, but as has been said, “one man’s magic is another man’s technology”!

However, all these efforts were not enough to forestall the rising of the seas due to the melting of the ice caps. Many lands were drowned, and the continents reduced, with chains of large islands where coastal mountain ranges had been. Huge storms and earthquakes caused by the redistribution of the seas’ weight further reduced the population and changed the landscape. Complete chaos was only averted by the fact that care had been taken to maintain a world-wide communications network, and caches of all human knowledge.

At last, the Earth settled, and the present, much reduced population lives in a calmer time; people make their livings in ways that look familiar to us, like farming, fishing, shipping, trade, and the arts. Because the population was once much more mobile, people have mingled to the point where most are some shade of brown, and racial tension is a thing of the past. Both women and men do any job that they feel an aptitude for; in the days of population reduction, all hands were needed, and any division of gendered work-roles fell by the wayside. They are also very sensible about relationships, and many varieties of partnerships and family units exist in harmony. But as utopian as this sounds, people will be people, and conflicts do arise; these are dealt with in various ways by the local populations, with greater and lesser degrees of success.

The technology level appears on the surface to be roughly equivalent to our 19th century, but only because people have chosen to eschew some of the more damaging sources of power that were used in the past, being wary of synthetic materials and processes which might cause damage to their environment. They do use wind, tides, and geothermal power, and have perfected extremely efficient solar power, and even use some steam power created by using alcohol-burning boilers, but these are regarded as somewhat suspect, as skirting too close to the old ways, not to mention using up perfectly good crops to produce it. There is some experimentation with solar power to produce steam to drive large ships, which looks promising. Horses and other animals are used on farms and for land travel. Most goods are made by skilled craftspeople, as mass-produced goods are regarded as shoddy and lacking a certain spiritual essence.

Most sea traffic is done by small, family or cooperatively-owned sailing ships along the coasts and among the islands where Sami lives. There are great solar-engine-powered ships, more like floating nomadic colonies, with the ability to extract drinking water from sea water, and these are used for longer explorations. Sailors and the owners of ships nominally belong to a shipping guild, which resolves problems and disputes involving shipping and commerce, but training and certification are left to the individual families and cooperatives.

Commerce is mainly in goods and services, though there are ways of tallying credit; people have a mistrust of portable money as a means of exchange going back to the collapse. Some places use a system of art objects as a means of portable exchange; the value of the objects is not fixed, but is negotiated with each exchange.

In a way, this is a post-apocalyptic story, but instead of the usual dark and gritty outcome, in this world people have managed to pull it together. It’s a world that I would like to live in and explore, and I welcome you along for the voyage!

(The drawing at the top is one I did many years ago for a short-lived mermaid magazine that some friends were doing. I added some colour to the original pen-and-ink in Photoshop, just because I can!)

A Brief Pause

Hello faithful followers! Friday’s post marked the conclusion of Chapter One of Mermaid Music. I’m going to take a brief interlude to regroup, but will continue to post goodies in the form of blog posts about the world of Mermaid Music: maps, some history, character studies, maybe even some sneak peeks and views of my process.

I plan to resume the story at the beginning of August; as the first Monday is the 3rd, that will be the date I am aiming for. In the meantime, I’ll be scripting, drawing, inking, and painting to take us into the next phase of Sami’s adventures. I’ll also be working out the best ways to make it possible for online sales of the comic, as well as art, and who knows what all else I’ll come up with! Who wants mermaid t-shirts?

Elemental Mermaid (water element, from a series of the four elements); watercolour and collage

Elemental Mermaid (water element, from a series of the four elements); watercolour and collage

It’s A Book!

Well, Mermaid buddies, I’ve just sent off my files for the proofs of the first Mermaid Music book. I’m exhausted (several 14-16 hour days in a row and very little sleep) and elated (like, oh boy am I looking forward to sleeping), and full of ideas for what comes next. I’ve decided after much waffling to leave the posts at two a week, so there won’t be too much of a break while I’m getting the next chapter ready — but if you can’t wait you can order the book! I’ll write a bit more soon about the whole process, but for now, here’s a sneak preview of the cover (both sides) — I’m so excited!

MM cover FF

Dreaming of Mermaids

Nothing like snuggling in a hammock with a kitty!

Finally the pages I’ve been itching to show off! This double page spread is the turning part in this chapter, and I had such fun painting this. And I finally got to show a mermaid! Don’t worry, there will be lots more in future chapters, and one or two more in this one. Although this is two pages, I’ll be updating as usual on Friday, which kind of counts as three pages this week.

As usual, it’s watercolour with ink, but I used coloured ink for the dream part, and black ink for the “real world” part. For those who are interested, the inks that I’m using are FW acrylic inks, and they are really fun to use. I also changed tools for the outlines — the black ones are my trusty old Pigma Micron pens, and for the coloured outlines of the dream I used a brush, a Dynasty Black Gold number 0. The colours of the inks are so clear and beautiful, I know I’ll be using them in the future for washes as well, as soon as I get control of them — they are permanent when they dry, which makes them several orders of magnitude more scary than watercolours!

I also added a bit of Photoshop magic to tint the mermaid green. I’d already painted her scales (in watercolour) and I didn’t want to risk muddying them by painting a wash over them. I was originally going to leave her blue and white, like the rest of the dream, but a friend suggested it and I thought it was a good idea!

I hope you’re enjoying “Mermaid Music” (and if you just found it, now’s a good time to catch up!). Please feel free to comment, and if you also make webcomics, share your URL and I’ll come have a look!

Extra Post Added!

I’m pleased to announce that I’m finally feeling far enough ahead to make two Mermaid Music posts a week! The webcomic will now update on Fridays and Mondays. My ultimate goal is to be able to do three times a week, hopefully in the next couple of weeks.

I’m planning to have the first chapter of 36 pages in print before VanCAF in late May, after which I’ll take a breather of a week or two to get the next chapter underway. But don’t worry, there will be mermaid art to fill the gap — here’s a way-ahead teaser!

One of the concept drawings for the merfolk that our heroine will encounter in the next chapter, after we finally get her into the water!

One of the concept drawings for the merfolk that our heroine will encounter in the next chapter, after we finally get her into the water!

Comic Arts Festival Time!

For those of you who have been following my other blog, Karen Gillmore Art, you’ll know that I’ve been deeply immersed in preparations for the Camosun Comic Arts Festival, mainly as the coordinator of the Indiegogo fundraiser. It’s now less than a week away, and I’m gearing up to have a table there to display my work. If you are in the Victoria, BC area, do come this Saturday, April 11th, for the afternoon — we’re going to have lots of comics to see, creators to talk to, and things to do. I’ll have comics and art prints for sale, and some originals to look at (including Mermaid Music).

There will also be a keynote panel talk the evening before, with several great local comics artists giving their take on what it’s like to be in the comics business today, and talking about their work.

Hope to see you there!

My table last year at CCAF (which was then called the Camosun College Comics Conference — we were into alliteration!). I got a luxurious amount of space last year! That's my handsome hubby, Ron, holding down the fort while I take pictures.

My table last year at CCAF (which was then called the Camosun College Comics Conference — we were into alliteration!). I got a luxurious amount of space last year! That’s my handsome hubby, Ron, holding down the fort while I take pictures.

Some of the Polymer Clay Maquettes I brought to show off at my table.

Some of the Polymer Clay Maquettes I brought to show off at my table.

Up and Running, sort of!


I’ve just put the first five pages of Mermaid Music up for the world to see, and I’m still having a few issues with the navigation buttons. But if you start here, and follow the link that I’ve put in as at the bottom of the page as a stop-gap, you’ll reach the pages with the working buttons. I’d appreciate feedback from anyone as to how this is working — I hope to have it fixed in the next day or so. This theme has both “posts” and “comics”, so it’s a bit confusing.

I’ll be posting new pages every Monday, so keep an eye out for them (or subscribe)!

Update: the navigation buttons have appeared overnight! Magic!

Mermaid Music Coming Soon!

If you’ve happened upon this site through a search or just serendipity, stay tuned. Mermaid Music is  a comic by Karen Gillmore that will be launching on February 2, 2015. I’ll be releasing it as a regularly updated webcomic, then as print: first as a chapter series, eventually as a graphic novel. The story is about a young girl who accidentally runs away to sea and finds herself in deep waters indeed!

Right now the site is under construction. In the meantime, please head over to my blog to find out what’s going on!

“Queen of the Sea”, linocut, made sometime in the mid-90s.