Welcome to the online home of children's novel, The Crystal Ship. As the writer of the book, I would like to bid you a very warm welcome. The Crystal Ship was my attempt to create what I like to call a science fiction fairy-tale. By which, I mean a story that falls under the umbrella of science fiction, but also incorporates key characteristics of a traditional fairy-tale. It is my intention to write further stories in a similar vein, but only time will tell if I actually get around to this.
I have created this webpage for the benefit of everyone who has read or is interested in reading The Crystal Ship. Here you can find out everything you could possibly want to know about the book, and share your thoughts with other readers. Navigation is via the menu below. Enjoy your stay and be sure to keep checking back, as I will be adding occasional updates...
The Crystal Ship takes place in a faraway galaxy ruled by the mighty King Axor. Axor is rich, powerful and beloved of his subjects, but feels there is something missing in his life, because he has no queen. To cheer him up, his three closest friends decide to throw him a surprise birthday party.
The party goes as planned, until a mysterious stranger in a golden mask arrives. When challenged, the stranger tells the king and his guests the tragic tale of Princess Sky, who was sold to an alien prince by her own sister hundreds of years earlier. This prince fell in love with Sky during the journey back to his home planet, so when his ship came under attack by a powerful enemy, he put her into hibernation and launched her to safety in a crystal escape pod. The prince's ship was destroyed in the ensuing battle, but the escape pod was somehow overlooked and drifted away into space. It is suggested by the stranger that it may still be out there somewhere and that the sleeping princess could be alive and well.
Axor is so moved by the stranger's story that he resolves to find the drifting escape pod and marry the princess. He can't go looking for it himself, because of the demands of his kingdom, so he decides to hold a contest to find a champion. A lowly farmer's son called Tik hears about the contest and is determined to be the one the king chooses. The only thing that stands in his way is a fearsome robot dragon. Can Tik defeat this dragon and prove his worth to the king? If so, what strange adventures await him in the void of space? Find out in this action-packed adventure from the pen of C.J. Carter-Stephenson.
Writing a book is sometimes compared to having a baby, and whilst I have no personal experience of giving birth (and never will have, of course), it is not a comparison I would normally argue with. In the case of The Crystal Ship, however, I'm not so sure. Why? Simply because the creative process was relatively painless.
As far as I can remember, I went from a few vague ideas to a full manuscript in less than three months. This is especially surprising when you think I was still making changes to the plot halfway through the first draft. By rights, pulling together the different threads of the story should have been a real challenge, but it wasn't.
On the other hand, I can't pretend there wasn't a little uncertainty. Particularly with regards to the ending. I don't think I've ever written anything before where this was so last minute. For a while, the only thing I knew for sure was that it was going to include the immortal words, "...and they all lived happily ever after." It was a little disconcerting, but it was also very exciting, as it allowed me to lose myself completely in the story.
So where did the idea to write a science fiction fairy-tale come from? Given that my background is mainly in horror stories, it was perhaps not the most obvious project to choose. I suppose the seeds were sown at an exhibition on Hans Christian Andersen at the British Library. While I was reading about Mr. Andersen's amazing work, it occurred to me that although it is timeless, it is also of its time. By which I mean it is firmly grounded in the past. The same is true of pretty much every fairy-tale I have ever read, including a number of modern efforts. What I hadn't come across was something which was set in the future, but still retained the unique fairy-tale style and atmosphere. This is not to say such a thing didn't exist; merely that I personally had never come across it. The more I thought about it, the more I was determined to fill this apparent void.
Unfortunately, I was working on another mammoth project at the time, so I reluctantly decided to postpone any active work on the idea until a later date. The strange thing was, although I put it on the backburner, I never really stopped thinking about it. It was as if the story had a life of its own and was begging me to write it. So despite not typing a single word, I was still developing the plotline in my head, be it on a crowded train, in the bath or any other situation where my mind wasn't occupied by other things.
Finally the other project came to an end and I was able to turn my mind to my science fiction fairy-tale. I certainly had plenty of ideas to be getting my teeth into. One thing I didn't have, however, was a title. Back then, I was considering calling it The Thousand Year Sleep, but this title had already been taken, so I decided on The Crystal Ship. This was partly in homage to the late, great Jim Morrison, whose poetry has been a great source of inspiration to me, and partly because it tied in so well with something I had been thinking of incorporating.
As for the story itself, I was not immediately sure what form it should take. I briefly considered writing it as part of a short story collection, but it soon became apparent the idea was too complex to be contained in such limited parameters, so I made the decision to approach it as a novel. Novel writing wasn't something I had a great deal of experience of, but it really did seem like the right medium for this particular piece of work.
From Paper to Computer...
As luck would have it, the start of the writing proper exactly coincided with the arrival of my new laptop. This proved to be a great asset, as it meant I was able to work on the novel at times when it would not previously have been possible.
Mind you, I can't pretend I entirely did away with handwritten notes. For some reason, I find these to be a great aid to the imagination and continue churning them out to this day. Click on the thumbnails below to see some examples of my handwritten work for The Crystal Ship. They are a little tricky to read, I'm afraid, but they do show you how I work.
My influences in writing The Crystal Ship were many and varied, but as these are considered in detail in their own setion (see here), I do not intend to go into them now. Suffice it to say, that when I finished the story I felt as if I had become part of a grand tradition.
I can't tell you how much fun I had writing The Crystal Ship, but all good things must come to an end. It was with a sense of both triumph and regret that I typed the final sentence on my keyboard - triumph, because it marked the culmination of a lot of hard work, and regret, because there was a part of me that really didn't want it to be over.
The Search for An Artist...
Yet, even as I typed that final sentence, I felt there was something missing. The story I had written was full of fantastical characters and objects, and what better way to bring these to life than by accompanying them with some specially commissioned illustrations? The problem was finding someone who could tap into my vision enough to turn it into a reality. As is so often the case in these kinds of situation, the solution came when I least expected it.
Enter Mauro Vargas, a prodigiously talented artist from Argentina. I had posted an advert on an art forum in relation to an entirely unrelated project and Mauro was one of the many artists who replied. From the moment I saw his work, I knew he was the right person to illustrate The Crystal Ship. He has a unique style, which is ideally suited to children's fiction. We talked the project over and it wasn't long before we had struck a deal.
No sooner had I sent Mauro a marked-up copy of the story, than he began firing back sketches with a speed that seemed almost superhuman. I gave him a few pointers before he started work on the finished versions of these sketches, but in all honesty, there wasn't much to be said, as he had pretty much nailed what I wanted right from the word go. It was as if he was plucking the images straight out of my mind.
Soon, the interior artwork was finished and it was only the cover that remained outstanding. The briefing I had given Mauro for this was a little vague, but as before, the ideas came out of him thick and fast, and he quickly came up with a rough version of the picture we eventually used. I decided at once that it was perfect, because I felt it would blur the lines between fact and fiction by suggesting the entire book was being narrated by the character of the storyteller. A few days later, Mauro sent me the inked version and I found myself with a collection of artwork exceeding anything I could possibly have hoped for. He arranged for a longstanding collaborator called Andrés Carranza to colour the cover in and the rest, as they say, is history. To see some of Mauro's wonderful work, check out the Multimedia section.
The Final Stages...
Of course, preparing a manuscript is not the end of the journey. When the writing is done and the accompanying artwork (if any) is ready, it is time to start looking for a publisher. This is the really hard part, as it means releasing your story into the big wide world and seeing if it has what it takes to make its mark. I had a very positive feeling about The Crystal Ship, but you never quite know how other people will perceive a piece of writing. I guess the experience is not entirely dissimilar to what parents go through when their children leave home. Perhaps writing The Crystal Ship was not so different to giving birth after all.
There were a number of key influences that shaped my writing of The Crystal Ship. These ranged from old English folklore right the way through to cutting edge science fiction. Find out more below...
THE SLEEPING BEAUTY
The story of The Sleeping Beauty has been around for a very long time. Probably the most famous print version is the Grimm Brothers' Little Brier-Rose, although this is not the oldest. Charles Perrault, for example, had included a variation of the story in 1697 in his Histoires ou contes du temps passé (aka Mother Goose Tales). I think you'll agree that the idea of a young girl existing outside of time, waiting for the right person to come along and rescue her, is fascinating on a number of different levels. The story captured my imagination as a child, and as a result, I decided to incorporate a reworking of it in The Crystal Ship. The parallels between the two stories are obvious. Both feature a beautiful princess forced into a prolonged and unnatural sleep, and both present their heroes with a series of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The details of the plots are very different, but these basic concepts are the same.
The relationship between Lancelot and Guinevere is such an important part of the legend of King Arthur that it is hard to believe it doesn't actually feature in the first major chronicle of the story, Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae. It was Chrétien de Troyes who invented the character of Lancelot and the adulterous affair a number of years later. The tangled relationship between the two lovers and King Arthur really struck a chord with people and was greatly embellished by later writers, such as Sir Thomas Mallory and Alfred Lord Tennyson. Love is shown to be a wonderful and powerful emotion, but it is also shown to be the cause of much heartache. In writing The Crystal Ship, I felt it would be interesting to introduce a similar conflict. Like Lancelot, the hero in The Crystal Ship is torn between love and duty. The situation resolves itself very differently in my story, but there are definite parallels.
Many of the themes in Washington Irving's story of Rip Van Winkle are similar to those in Sleeping Beauty. The reason I feel it deserves a mention of its own is that Rip Van Winkle is much more concerned with the aftermath of the artificially induced sleep. In other words, exploring what it is like to wake up in a world that has changed dramatically from the way it was when you went to sleep. I didn't go into this in great detail in The Crystal Ship, but it is certainly an idea that is touched upon.
As with Sleeping Beauty, it is the Grimm Brothers who are probably most responsible for the popularisation of the story of Snow White, though there were earlier incarnations. My clearest reference to the story in The Crystal Ship is the projectors used by Sky and Scarlet to change their appearances. These projectors are deliberately echoic of the famous magic mirror belonging to Snow White's evil stepmother. The other main similarity between the two stories is that the cause of the heroine's plight in both cases is someone from her own family.
Not a particularly strong influence, but an influence just the same. The legend of Saint George and the dragon is known throughout the world, and has become an intrinsic part of English cultural heritage. It has appeared in various forms over the years, but it is Jacobus de Voragine who is most responsible for the story as we know it today. I don't suppose I need to tell you what part of the legend influenced The Crystal Ship, but just in case you haven't worked it out yet, here's a clue - it's covered in scales and has fiery breath. That's right, I'm talking about the dragon. Not only is there is a clear similarity between Saint George's dragon and the one in The Crystal Ship (notwithstanding the fact that the one in The Crystal Ship is a robot), but I also emulated a few of the dynamics of his battle with it, while putting my own spin on things. Read the account of Saint George's fight at the link below below and see how it compares with Tik's fight in The Crystal Ship.
This part of the webpage is dedicated to pictures and audio files. Anyone who is familiar with the The Crystal Ship will know it features some truly outstanding illustrations by up-and-coming artist Mauro Vargas. Samples of these illustrations, together with a large number of preliminary sketches (which give an excellent insight into Mauro's way of working) can be can be viewed below. You can also listen to a chapter of the book in audio form or check out some pictures of Mauro. For pictures of yours truly (the author), click here.
This section will be added to if additional material becomes available. For example, it is my feeling The Crystal Ship would work very well as an animated film, and I would certainly post some screenshots if one were ever made. Not that anyone has approached me about this, I hasten to add, but I can't pretend I don't live in hope.
ARTWORK - PRELIMINARY SKETCHES
THE AUTHOR READS CHAPTER 13
Listen to C.J. Carter-Stephenson reading an extract from The Crystal Ship here...
Mauro Vargas was born in Bariloche, Argentina on 25th June 1979. At the age of 17, he began studying film-making in Buenos Aires, while also indulging his passion for drawing comics. He went on to make a number of shorts films, before concentrating on freelance artwork. His commissioned comic work includes inks for the Dark Horse miniseries Star Wars: Darth Maul—Son of Dathomir and illustrations for the Evil Dead spin off Ash Vs. The Army of Darkness. He also writes and draws personal projects.
Here's what people are saying about The Crystal Ship...
You can write to me (C.J. Carter-Stephenson, author of The Crystal Ship) at the following address:
c/o Bonito Books, Unit 60424, PO Box 6945, London, W1A 6US, United Kingdom
I am happy to sign anything you send me (particularly copies of the novel), but only if you enclose sufficient return postage. Any item not accompanied by return postage won't be sent back. Subject to this proviso, all signed items will be returned as soon possible (dependent on the demands of my schedule).