Posted by on Feb 19, 2011 in Blog | 0 comments

Click to read my commentary.

I’ve set myself a February goal of illustrating every chapter of Kim Stanley Robinson’s alternate-history novel, The Years of Rice and Salt, and so far it’s been really exciting! I feel as though I learn three or four new things with each drawing, and each is (to me) better than the previous. The only downside is that it’s making me slack off on my main project, Savage Nobles in the Land of Enchantment. For some reason I do not put as much effort into my comics pages as I do into these illustrations – maybe it’s because of the demanding 2 1/2-page-a-week schedule of SNitLoE, or because I’ve been drawing those same characters off and on for two whole years. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely plan to finish the story. But my “side projects” are opening new and fascinating possibilities for my future!

So even though this illustration is pretty exciting, “Widow Kang” is definitely the book’s most boring chapter. Most of it is about the feisty titular widow and her second marriage to a Chinese Muslim scholar, Ibrahim Ibn Hasan. Ibrahim is a sort of alternate-history Hegel who undertakes the possibly impossible task of synthesizing Islam and Confucianism, but stumbles upon some clever ideas along the way. He sees the philosophical synthesis as indispensable, for huge populations of Muslims continue to move into western China’s Gansu corridor, where this chapter takes place, and skirmishes and rebellions are frequent.

Since most of the chapter is about two middle aged people sitting on their porch and debating ideas, it makes for interesting reading, but not much worth drawing. Until there is a huge flood! Poor Kang has to evacuate her house and try to save her writings in a state of advanced pregnancy and with legs crippled long ago by footbinding. (And in the story, her husband was not there to help her – I just added him to the illustration for the heck of it.) I did some google searches for images of footbinding… just, ew.