“Outlines”, I thought. “Outlines.”
What would I draw with the exact opposite of my usual Illustrator style? I didn’t know. Then I went to Morsel for breakfast and read the next story in Michael Swanwick’s collection “The Dog Said Bow-Wow”. The title story is about a couple of conmen in a Dying Earth; Surplus (a dog-man) and Darger (a guy) run a con involving an ancient modem that lets a cyberspace demon out of the now-closed-off networks from before the Vaguely-Hinted-At Apocalypse. Swanwick clearly enjoys writing them, as he’s gone on to write two novels featuring them. Which I enjoyed a lot.
But a few stories later, we come across “An Episode of Stardust”, in which a dwarf on a train encounters a con-man who tells him the story of how he paired up with a vixen, then perpetrates a daring escape and an expensive heist. It feels like another take at the same core idea of Surplus and Darger – a charming pair of cons in a fantasy world. But it’s in a fairly ordinary modernized fantasy world, and Nat Whilk and his nameless vixen companion never really quite gel as a pair. They vanish off the back of the train into a thousand other stories we’ll never hear. If Swanwick hadn’t written “Bow-Wow” I would happily read more about their cons, but he did, and I think he’s quite right to explore the crazier world and better chemistry of Surplus and Darger than to play in pretty much the same territory as “The Iron Dragon’s Daughter” and its sequel.
Still: I liked Nat Whilk and the Vixen. Or perhaps the Vixen and Nat Whilk given that she seemed to be the brains of the operation, hiding behind his pretty-boy distraction. And they were in my head after thinking about how they failed to become quite as well-developed as S&D.
So I drew them.
Fare thee well, Nat and Vixen. I hope you have a long and rougish career swindling your way through the Twilight Realms.
Illustrator, 2h, partially because it crashed near the end, partially because I started trying to do very traditional-looking “inks” on my rough before switching to this more mannered and mechanical look.