Guhhh, this bout of the Martian Death Flu apparently wanted to cram four or five days worth of feeling crappy into about twelve hours. I’m over the worst of it, and don’t actually feel bad, but I could use about ten hours of sleep. Thankfully, the snow appears to have stopped with less accumulation than would have required shoveling, so yay. Oh, yes, also webcomics.
I don’t think that there’s a world-builder of alien¹ environments and characters² that’s more accomplished, more thorough, more in tune with the totality of what’s being dreamed up and then deposited on the page³ for you to read than Evan Dahm. We’re conditioned by years — decades — of entertainment to think of not human as human, but slightly taller/shorter with different ears/nose/forehead, possibly a vocal tic, and entirely analogous to one particular culture, but Dahm’s creatures and characters and architecture and scripts and, and, and spring from a place that isn’t merely the familiar with a smear of paint and some prosthetics.
Case in point: Overside.
I’ve lost count of how many cultures and species and languages and geographies and histories Dahm has created to populate this place that feels organically4 real, and for each of those that he shares with us, there are hints about many more just around the corner. Junti becomes the most curious and inventive Surin in history and takes to the skies and it is exhilarating … but around each of those corners and alleys surrounding the Chapterhouse enclave there’s a debate, a haggle, an argument, a conspiracy taking place, because the city of Sahta is more than just the scene that’s being depicted now — it’s someplace that Dahm has made breathe since the first time we glimpsed it.
By the way, we spent 200 pages building up the story of Vattu, whose world can’t conceive of such a city. And as of yesterday, he’s spent another 300 pages building up the experience of Vattu (and Junti, and other captives, exiles, citizens, and rulers, highborn and low) in that city, and bringing us along for the ride. We’ve learned bits of culture, society, religious thought, calendrical structure, climate, politics, economy, and natural philosophy5, never laid out explicitly, always sneaking in at the periphery of whatever’s happening on the main stage.
So there we are, 500 pages of the current Overside story, rendered in glorious color, and we might be approaching the 40% mark of the story. There’s much more ahead of us than we have behind, and there are many more eras and lands in Overside still to share their secrets6. Given that Dahm’s about to be able to ship the first volume of Vattu, this would be a good time to catch up on at least one of those stories (there are others), and luxuriate in all the world-building. You’ll be glad you did.
¹ In the sense of not like that which is familiar rather than the sense of outer space monsters.
² I should probably say people instead.
³ Or screen; work with me here.
4 Free-range, even. Locally-sourced.
5 I almost said science, but I think that Junti is the first Surin to approach unweight — and life, possibly — with the critical, systemic approach that demarcates the line between natural philosophers and scientists. She’s going to spark the Sahtan equivalent of the Enlightenment, that girl is.
6 Not to mention what he’s doing with L Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Dear glob, that’s going to be beautiful.