Thursday, July 19, 2018

Ronan Rafferty chats about his role as Bevis in ME

ronan raftery actor

Star on the rise Ronan Raferty has done an interview with MajorSpoilers as part of the promotional rounds for Mortal Engines.

Raferty plays Bevis Pod, a key supporting character that has a lot of heavy lifting to do with Katherine Valentine.

Here's a few quotes from the interview:

Can you talk a little bit about working with Christian Rivers, and what he, as a director, is like and how he’s helping you with your performance and how he’s shooting the movie?

RR: I love working with him. He’s very detailed, very well-prepared, but also quite flexible. He loves ideas in the moment from anybody. It doesn’t really matter. Wherever an idea comes from, if it works for what he’s trying to make it, then it goes in. If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t.

But yeah, obviously, he comes from a more technical background, but he’s incredibly intuitive with every character’s emotional journey and with how actors work and with how the technical side works and how those two aspects of filmmaking have to come together perfectly to make a good film. He’s, I think, a brilliant leader from that perspective.

How closely involved is Peter Jackson and how have you been working with him?
RR: Peter is mostly working on second unit with stunts. So, as I said, I haven’t really gotten to that stage in my film, so I haven’t even been on set with him yet. Yeah, but we talk and he’s obviously one of the writers, so we talk about things like that. And he’s around. On main unit, he’s more of an offset presence on that. His influence is there, of course, but Christian is very much our director and everybody’s loving that.

But it’s great to have someone like Peter as a producer and as a writer, and on second unit, where all of the fun, big stuff that he has kind of made his name with. It’s great to have him on that side of things. I can’t wait. My first day with that is tomorrow, so I’m really looking forward to it.

Leila George mentioned that between Katherine and Bevis there’s kind of a realization about the class structure and how Bevis comes into it with a little more of a chip on his shoulder. How do they kind of learn from each other and cooperate despite that?

RR: Yeah. We do, at it from totally different perspectives, but she’s less aware, I think, at the start of the divisions between the class, and he’s hyperaware. So I mean the influences are there very quickly. Once they both realize that they’re both good people from two different worlds, those barriers, as in the real world, those barriers really do start to fall away.

It’s the only way to get through, to overcome any kind of prejudice is through communication. Absolutely. Yeah. I can’t talk about it because it’s so intuitive to us on set, but I think it’s their bond that allows them to see through each other’s past and the fact that they do become close quite quickly, which makes it not a big leap for us as actors to forget about a lot of that stuff and just begin to focus on the present.

Follow Ronan on Twitter

leila george
Leila George plays Katherine Valentine

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Ian McQue's full cover of Night Flights

If you've been living under a disused traction wheel, you may gave missed that legendary concept designer and artist Ian McQue has recently drawn new covers for the first four Mortal Engines novels and the new shorty story collection about Anna Fang, Night Flights.

He has now released the full cover art in all its majesty!

night flights cover by Ian McQue

If you've seen the recent Han Solo movie or played Grand Theft Auto, you've probably seen some of Ian's work!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Philip Reeve explains the stories of Anna Fang in Night Flights

anna fang drawn by ian mcque

Here's author Philip Reeve giving us the inside scoop on how the new short story collection Night Flights came to be - serving as a promotional tie-in for the forthcoming Mortal Engines movie, the novel gives the coolest character in the series a very strong back story.

Over to Philip:

The original idea was just to re-publish an existing story, Traction City, with a lot of new illustrations. But while I was in New Zealand last year I talked to Jihae, who plays Anna in the Mortal Engines movie, and it made me realise we need More Anna Fang. So I thought a group of stories about her, at different points in her life, might be a more interesting idea. It would have been nice to do five or ten, but I was busy writing Station Zero at the time, so I settled on three. 

Here’s a brief description of each. I’ve included some of Ian’s pictures, but only as thumbnails – you really need to see the book to appreciate them in their full glory.


The first of the triptych is the story of how Anna Fang escaped from the slave-holds of Arkangel by building her own airship. It’s a tale which was referenced several times in the Mortal Engines quartet: Anna mentions it to Tom in the first book, and we hear it from Stilton Kael’s point of view in Predator’s Gold. 

But both of them are unreliable narrators who have twisted the facts to reflect better on themselves (or maybe in Anna’s case just to cut a long story short). Now, for the first time, the truth can be told… I’d written and cut various versions of this from various books in the quartet, so it’s nice to find a home for it at last.


An earlier version of this story was published as Traction City, a World Book Day book in the UK back in 2011.  It’s been fairly heavily rewritten to place Anna at the centre of events. 

It’s set about twenty years before Mortal Engines, after Anna’s escape from Arkangel but before she joins up with the Anti-Traction League, and most of the action takes place aboard London, which is dragging itself over what’s left of the Alps in search of fresh prey on the plains of Italy. 

Little do most Londoners realise that they have picked up a very sinister stowaway…


In Mortal Engines, Anna mentions in passing one of her previous missions, to the island of Palau Penang. 

Palau Penang anna fangCombined with an idea that came up while Jeremy Levett and I were brainstorming predator towns for The Illustrated World of Mortal Engines, it sparked off this, the only completely new Mortal Engines story I’ve written since Scrivener’s Moon. Anna is older in this one, much closer to the Anna in Mortal Engines and an intelligence agent for the Anti-Traction League.

One of the problems of working up a throwaway remark into a full-length story is that it shows up the paucity of my original research. Is ‘Palau Penang’ meant to be modern-day Penang? I dunno – it was just the first name that sprang to mind when I was setting up a cheap’n’cheerful raisin/sultana joke, it never occurred to me that I’d be actually setting a story there twenty years later. 

After much fussing over atlases, I decided that it MIGHT be some much-altered future version of Penang and, equally, it MIGHT NOT. (Palau Penang means ‘the island of the areca nut palms’ I think, so it could well have been applied to another island by the time of Mortal Engines.) 

Wherever it is, Anna’s mission there leads her into dangerous waters and an unexpected alliance.


All these stories are – hopefully – linked seamlessly together by the conceit that they are incidents Anna remembers while stopping at Airhaven on her way west to investigate London’s mysterious movements on the night she first meets Tom and Hester. 

When I was writing Mortal Engines she seemed like an enormously important character, but once I’d trimmed the manuscript down into its final, published form she had surprisingly little page-time. I hope these stories will work on their own for people who may not know Mortal Engines, or know it only from the movie. 

But I also like to think of them as a sort of expansion pack, restoring some of the lost AF backstory which I lopped out twenty years ago. If you’re re-reading Mortal Engines you could try stopping when she first appears, reading Night Flights, and then carrying on, with a bit more of Anna’s background coloured in.

Order Night Flights from Amazon. It's out in the UK now, and North America in September.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Mortal Engines Cast and Crew featurette

PJ and the crew including director Christian Rivers talk about how they made Mortal Engines in this promo featurette.

There's a little bit of extra footage in there that wasn't seen in the trailer.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

What are all the easter eggs in the Museum of London?

The Museum of London in Mortal Engines is quite the curation.

Thousands of years have passed since the 60 Minute War which as Chudleigh Pomery points out 'took humanity to the brink of extinction".

Those who remain, scavenger the Earth for its relics and hidden secrets. Old tech proves quite useful for making armies of the undead and well a little device called Medusa...

Many a trinket and treasure has found it's way to the London Museum as curated by the Guild of Historians, led by Thaddeus Valentine.

Here's a few things that the Mortal Engines film reveals as being in the museum.

In the novel, we know that statues of Mickey Mouse and Pluto get a look in. Given those two are Disney characters and Mortal Engines is a universal production, the Minions have been swapped in.

The Minons can be found in the 'Deities of Lost America; section of the museum and we'll see Stuart, Kevin and Bob from the Minions spin-off movie.

We also see:
  • Smart phones
  • Video game consoles
  • CD (I might be wrong but I think in Predator's Gold the Margraeve wears a necklace of CDs)
  • Televisions both flat screen and tube
  • Projectors
  • An aged McDonald’s sign
  • Skulls of a T-Rex and Triceratops
  • Skateboards
  • Washing machines
We presume the Whale makes an appearance...

Mortal Engines is actually littered with references to pop culture.

chudleigh pomery - mortal engines historian

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Junkie XL confirmed to score Mortal Engines

junkie xl - tom holkenborg -mortalengines

If you thought it was time for a little less conversation about the Mortal Engines film, you'd be wrong.

It would seem the guy that brought Elvis back from the dead is scoring the soundtrack to the film.

While I haven't seen an official source, there's plenty of internet whispering and the IMDB now says it's happening, so Junkie XL it is then.

Indeed, our friends at The Sheehab gave us a tip (and proof) that Conrad Pope conducted the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra playing Tom Holkenborg's score so it seems pretty legit.

 Pope was involved with the Hobbit's Desolation of Smaug soundtrack so it all makes sense.

So who is Holkenborg person and why do they get to team up with Peter Jackson and company to make some sweet music together?

Junkie XL brought Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation into the world in 2002 and it was a world-wide smash.

Having had a fair bit of success under that name in the first half of the new century, Holkenborg then turned to composing for the movie industry with scores on a variety of films which include Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Kingdom of Heaven and the Justice League.

He is arguably most well known for his score of Mad Max: Fury Road. Which you just know is going to fuel comparisons between that film and Mortal Engines.

His next big release is Battle Ange Alita.

And what of the name?

"I called myself Junkie XL from the point of view that once you're completely overworked, you never want to go there again. The 'XL' stands for expanding limits; broadening up your vision."

Monday, June 18, 2018

Philip Reeve discusses the influences on the Mortal Engines books

valentine kills anna fang drawing

Mortal Engines author Phillip Reeve had such a good time on during his last Q&A (The Reevening) with the the great fans that lurk on the Mortal Engines Discord Server that he readily agreed to go another round of questions and answers.

As before, this is a selection of ME related discussion, there's plenty more Railhead and the like on the Discord.

Phillip Reeve sure is a good bloke! Questions in bold...

Crow-Caller kicked the Reevening 2 off with:

From Mortal engines to Larklight to Railhead, your worldbuilding has always been an inspiration to me. Is there any particular approach you take when writing? Beyond an initial idea, how much planning do you do? What is your process like, if you have one, for world making?

Good question...

I tend to start off with an image and mood I'm after. Then I just start writing with very little planning, going as fast as I can, writing all sorts of scenes which probably never get used, and slowly the world starts to come into focus. I like to keep them very expandable, so that things I notice in real life can find their way in: I don't start out with a firm set of rules or a map, I prefer to let the story help to create the world as it goes along.

So in Mortal Engines, for instance, Mr Shrike suddenly turned up, and I had to work out what he was, were there any others like him, if not what had happened to them, etc. And a bit of the world's history took shape around him.

In Railhead I had this whole galactic empire set-up sorted out, and some of the planets, and then the idea of the trains which link the different worlds came quite late, and the whole thing had to be rewritten around them - but the feel of the world was already set.

Actually, the mobile cities came quite late in Mortal Engines, too...

I basically faff around for about a year, and then the big central image arrives which makes sense of it all!

Epiphany Continumm chipped in a comment in reference to the cities:

wow, really? they're there in the original Urbivore short, which i assumed was a very early iteration

No, it started out as a sort of post-apocalyptic thing; the airships were there, and a sort of proto-Hester. When I thought of the cities it seem,ed such an obvious idea that I was afraid someone would beat me to it before I could write the novel, so I banged out a short story as a way of staking my claim. (I'm mortified that it's still available in some form, but that's the internet, I guess - nothing's ever gone!

Of course, you could argue that the early versions without moving cities were actually a different book, and I just used bits of it in M.E. But to me it felt like the same project.

A discussion on UFOs sighted in Reeve's Dartmoor led to this comment:

I've vaguely thought about doing a UFO book - kids in the 70s faking a close encounter for some reason. It would be a historical novel, based on history I lived through!

Hello!! Your books are full of brilliant, distinctive character names that seem to get stuck in my head e.g. Threnody Noon, Arlo Thursday, Pewsey & Gench. How do you go about choosing names for particular characters? And which of your characters do you think has the best one?

Prof Pennyroyal has an old flame called Minty Bapsnack which is a name I'm rather pleased with.

It's usually about finding the right sound, and the right rhythm. Some names just come instantly, others you have grope around for and they change many times. Some are real names - Pewsey and Gench both came off of gravestones in Brighton Cemetery. Others are places - Natsworthy is just up the road from me here on Dartmoor, Hester was originally Hester Shaugh, after Shaugh Prior, another Dartmoor village, but it's best to have names people can pronounce, so she became Hester Shaw.

I'm always noticing names, or colliding two words and finding they make a name. It's the most enjoyable bit of the job!

Oh, and airship names I usually take as an excuse to insert a 'found' name - a line of poetry, the title of a song or book - its the same with trains in Railhead. I don't expect people to get them all as references - and if you do recognise them, I don't think it adds anything - it's more a way to give some texture to the world. Our own world is full of references (street names, pub names etc) so it's a way of replicating that process in my made-up world.

I think it was the ugliness and curtness of Shaugh which made it appeal. And I used to think Hester was a kind of hissy, unattractive name, but after writing about her for all those years I've come to like it.

Re. airship names, there's a SF novel by M John Harrison called The Centauri Device which I read when I was a student, and it has great spaceship names - The Strange Great Sins, the Atalanta in Calydon - such a change from the usual Enterprise, Liberator, whatever. So I always tried to emulate those. And I guess Iain M Banks read it too...

[ed note - we love the reference to the Liberator from Blake's 7!]

Did you originally write ME etc. by hand? I've seen you write "putting pen to paper" a few times and it made me wonder...

Yes, the early drafts were in notebooks - usually pencil rather than pen. I didn't own a computer then! The final drafts were mostly typed, but I still sometimes write longhand.

We’ve heard “Mortal Engines Quartet” “Predator Cities” and “The Hungry Cities Chronicles” to refer to the series as a whole. Which do you prefer? Also, which book cover designs are your favorite for the series?

Aaaargh, the proliferation of series titles has been incredibly annoying! I've always called it the Mortal Engines Quartet, I think the other names are rubbish. My first US publisher wanted to call the 1st book 'Hungry City' and when I refused they consoled themselves by using that as a series title. 'Predator Cities' was an a later attempt to link the books together. The result is that nobody knows what the series is called, including me.

David Wyatt did some fabulous covers, but they were used with a strange outer cover with a hole in, so they were hard to read and kept getting damaged. His covers for the Fever Crumb books are great, too; they've just been used on new UK paperback editions. I think DW's ones are closer to my vision, but the D Frankland covers are lovely, and by far the most popular.

What are some of the most memorable fan interactions you've experienced?

It's mostly pretty much like this, to be honest - nice people wanting to talk about the books. It's very civilised!

The first time I met people who'd dressed up as characters was good - I've met a few Hester's and Shrikes now. And sometimes there's someone whom something in the books has really touched , something they've found very personally helpful or moving - that's lovely, but I'm never sure what to say - people bring their own stuff to the books often.

Thing is, if you've read the books a couple of times in the last few years, you probably know them much better than I do! I've been off writing new things, I haven't exactly forgotten M.E., but the details are starting to get hazy, the way you start to forget a house you once lived in - some things are very vivid, others just kind of go...

A very simple question: Shrike VS Grike: Do you know what happened? Why the Americans decided his name simply had to be changed?

Yes! Apparently, there's a character called The Shrike in some SF books by Dan Simmons. (Oh, thank you, Jenny Haniver!). I'd never heard of them - I got it from the bird - and there's no copyright in names - it's like The Master in Dr who and The Master in Buffy I guess - but the US publisher was worried about it and asked me to change it, and since time was very short and I was busy with serious real- stuff at the time I just went 'Brike? Crike? Drike? Frike? GRIKE, that'll do.' I always wished afterwards I'd put up more of a fight because it's led to endless confusion, but hey ho.

(He was called Shreck originally, I guess that would have been worse.) I think I heard something about the Shrek film coming out and changed it for that reason - I can't remember.

(He was named after Max Shreck, the actor who played Nosferatu in the Murnau film.) oh, Murnau, that came in useful, too...)

Our note: Max Shrek was also the bad guy in Tim Burton's Batman Returns. 

The scene in Infernal Devices when Oenone goes to the chapel where the lines from Eliot's Little Gidding are carved into the wall has always been a favorite of mine; it has remained vividly in my mind ever since I first read it. What made you choose those particular lines from that particular poem for the scene and for Oenone's code words?

I was in Canterbury for some event around the time PG came old, and I wandered into the cathedral, and those lines were on a little etched glass panel on the wall. I didn't know where they were from, but I found them incredibly moving (and still do).

My son had not long been born at that time, and I'd just come through quite a serious illness, so life and death etc were much on my mind, in a more serious way than they had been when I wrote the earlier books. 

So I wanted to use them, but they were too long for an airship name, so they became the code that reprogrammed Shrike - I thought they were quite unlikely lines to quote in the middle of a huge sci-fi action sequence, which of course made them appeal even more!

Is there any music (specific songs, artists, or albums) that inspired, or you associate with, the Mortal Engines books?

Well, there are loads of song titles which become airship names, but I don't think they were running round my head while I was writing - if I had any music in mind it was more likely something orchestral - Wagner, Beethoven, something huge and German.

With other books the association has been much stronger. Here Lies Arthur has this kind of scuffed, stripped-down language that was partly inspired by Tom Waits.

And when I was starting Fever Crumb and trying to decide what made my Elizabethan-level post apocalyptic London different from just plain Elizabethan London I thought of the weird electronic howl which opens David Bowie's Diamond Dogs, and he became the presiding god of that city (hence the pub names)

Who would you say influenced your drawing style? Are there any particular artists you enjoy and have tried to emulate?

When I was about 13 I discovered Brian Froud (who went on to design Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal) and also Alan Lee (who designed LOTR) and they were my heroes for the next few years, I loved Froud's stuff particularly. But I quickly found lots of other illustrators - there was a bit of a fad then for large paperback books collecting the works of SF and fantasy illustrators, I had quite a library of them. 

And, as with writing, you nick bits from one and bits from another, and slowly your own style emerges - later on I discovered 'real' artists, too - the Pre-Raphaelites, the Symbolists, Picasso - But most of my published illustration work is humorous stuff and cartoons, I doubt you can see much of any of them in it!

Is pineapple on pizza good, or bad? Is blue cheese good, or bad?

Pineapple on pizza is OK, though not my favourite. And blue cheese too - a bit of Stilton goes down all right. Pineapple is best cold and pizza is best hot, so it's an uneasy alliance. Flavourwise it works, it's the temperature thing that's a problem.

Do you think any other cities survived the 60 min war in the USE. Like raft cities on the west coats?



I think it's actually highly unlikely that the US is a 'dead continent' - however badly knocked about it was, it would have been re-seeded with plants and animals by the time of Mortal Engines. So I expect Valentine and other explorers have missed a lot of thriving low-intensity settlements and secret airbases.

I was thinking of secret airbases full of pirate airships etc, but who knows - maybe there are whole underground societies which went into deep bunkers when the bombs started falling and are still waiting for the all clear.

I think I just invented the 'Dead Continent' idea because I didn't want to have to deal with Traction Chicago, Traction New York etc - it would have made the book too big. But as the series progressed, yes, it's not an idea that makes much sense - it's clearly a Traction Era myth, ripe for overturning.

It's been a pleasure! Thanks for having me.