The Imaginarium

Book One — Eva’s Story

The Imaginarium — Gary Nicholls

Rumours abound of spellbinding gadgets that can turn ordinary men into Steampunk Giants; rumours of time-travelling winged angels with steam-powered jet packs and a secret in a box. — Gary Nicholls, The Imaginarium

I met Gary Nicholls at Asylum Steampunk Festival, a four day steampunk festival in Lincoln. Gary had a corner of a marquee in Lincoln Castle. We had a long chat and he told me a little of himself and The Imaginarium.

Forty years ago, Gary Nicholls was a lecturer in graphic design, he left to work on a building site where he could earn more money.

It is only now he is pursuing his love of art.

2012, five years ago, he was at Asylum Steampunk Festival in Lincoln, and it was here that the ideas for The Imaginarium came to be. Originally not a book, a series of images, technology had made possible what he wished to achieve. High-resolution digital cameras, high performance lenses, powerful computers and image processing software, and the printing technology.

The Imaginarium was originally a series of half a dozen images. These have expanded into 450 images with a story to tell.

The images are printed on metal sheet, not canvas or paper. Printing on metal allows the light to pass through and be reflected back.

The images are limited editions. Each one printed individually to order, checked by Gary Nicholls, signed and a hologram fixed. Only then are they supplied to whoever has bought that image.

I commented that I was reminded of Old Masters, with some of the images though not all.

This was intentional, to copy the style of painter like Caravaggio.

Not all the images are in the style of Old Masters, that too is intentional. The style changes as the story changes.

At first, I did not like how the images were printed in the book, as they reflect the light. It was almost as though text accompanying a photo album. I queried this, as now possible to obtain high quality on matt paper. Gary showed me an example of a print on museum archive paper, then a print in the book. What he was trying to achieve was the same effect as his prints.

There has been several offers to turn The Imaginarium into a film. These have been wisely rejected. I agree, as a film would destroy the book. Though maybe whoever directed Taboo.

What would work would be a stage play.

Next year will be the tenth anniversary of the Asylum Steampunk Festival.

Why not a play in the theatre at The Lawn, a former lunatic asylum?

My one rule is that that you have to be a genuine steampunk to be in the story. If I meet a steampunk in an amazing costume the character will instantly form in my mind, including their whole back story. It is like I have lived their character’s life.

All the characters depicted are real life steampunks. Gary sees someone, likes what he sees, invents a character, then weaves a story around their character.

One image Alice Through the Magnifying Glass gave me an idea. I suggested he produced to the same high standard, leather-bound, limited edition Alice using the original text. This would be two books.

I also suggested he illustrate The Alchemist, were Paulo Coelho to agree, and mentioned a graphic edition exists. It would be different to The Imaginarium, artwork based on events and characters in The Alchemist, though not every page an image. The same typeface on a dark background.

For example, Santiago in a ruined church dreaming about treasure, meeting the wise old king, meeting a crook in a tavern, admiring a sword, his gold being stolen, crying in the market place, helping the man selling glass, setting off across the desert, meeting the Alchemist. This again would be a leather-bound limited edition. The characters could be fans of Paulo Coelho.

A precedence exists with short video footage of characters in The Witch of Portobello.

The Imaginarium Book I

In Book I, we have the story of Eva.

Eva was orphaned at birth. She is put to work in a mill. As she grows a little older, she is hired out to work in a brothel as a skivvy, then she works as one of the prostitutes. She enjoys her work, is good at it. This makes her an enemy of the other prostitutes who are losing clients, and of Lord Montague Belvoir who is losing income.

Eva is very reminiscent of Maria in Eleven Minutes, a Brazilian girl who is enticed to work in Switzerland and ends up working as a well-paid prostitute.

Dr William Percival Stockdale is an inventor of gadgets. These gadgets are real, and were on display at Lincoln Castle. He falls for Eva, who is by now locked away, beaten. He decides to rescue her, though much to the displeasure of his friends, who do not like him falling for a prostitute, and who at best think her a gold digger.

An age old dilemma, the men only too happy to seek the pleasure the girls bring, but not acceptable in society as a wife.

The Reverend Potts, only too happy to help fallen women, and oh what pleasure they bring, necessitating regular visits to hep these fallen women.

The style of the writing is interesting, extensive use of Victorian slang.

Dr William Percival Stockdale

Many of the images have the appearance of Old Masters, as we see when after meeting Eva, Dr William sets about inventing a magical object that will help him free her from her life in the Bordello.

I asked Gary Nicholls about this. He said he was trying to re-create the style of Caravaggio.

The imagery is also reminiscent of that used by Montegrappa to launch The Alchemist pen.

The Airship

The Airship with which Lord Montague Belvoir arrives onshore to prepare the way for the harlots to move the kidnapped Eva to the Pumping Station could be straight from H G Wells.

The Airship was in a raffle at Asylum Steampunk Festival in Lincoln Castle. I was the last to buy a ticket, but sadly I did not win.

Alice Through the Magnifying Glass

Alice Through the Magnify Glass could be straight from Lewis Carroll.

The Town

The Town is an imaginary place, sits in the imagination of Gary Nicholls. The buildings are real, the people are real. It took Gary Nicholls several hundred hours of painstaking work to create.

Many stories are being told via the different characters we find in this scene.