This was another chapter that had little change in it during the writing process. One of the first things I thought of when I started writing what became Cavern of Babel was how alpacas would view other alpacas. It seems to be a common mentality in life that people view those who are different as being inferior. Whether it’s racism, sexism, xenophobia or whatever, it’s something that has caused almost limitless pain and suffering in the world, and it’s something I think is baseless. An advantage of fantasy is that the author can show everyday emotions in an unusual way, so that readers can step outside the ordinary to see things in a new light. So with Buttersby’s prejudice against Suris, one can laugh at her for thinking she’s better than another alpaca for petty reasons like the length of her ears or the look of her fiber. To humans, they’re all alpacas anyway, so what’s the big difference? But isn’t that how alpacas would view human bigotry? This is something that obviously became one of the themes for the book, especially once Buttersby was thrown into the caste system later on. I didn’t want to get too heavy-handed with it, but it was an interesting area to explore.
Enough of that heavy sort of talk. I have a treat to show on this commentary as well. I think one of the trickiest parts of the illustration process for Shawn was getting the alpacas right. (Although perhaps he’d have to speak for himself on that count.) I know that Gwen was a real stickler for how Meander and Buttersby ought to look, and Shawn went through multiple versions of them before we settled on the final drawings. Actually, Meander came a lot more quickly than Buttersby, but I’ll save the Buttersby versions for a later posting. For now, here are some of the previous looks of Meander. My biggest requirement was that he look laid back, but not stupid. Shawn ended up capturing him extremely well. The first picture is the original concept drawing of Meander by Gwen. The others are Shawn’s early efforts.
That’s all I have for this time. Thanks for reading!