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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Alagaesia News

Christopher Paolini at the Comicon International: San Diego with members of Shurtugal

Kvetha Fricaya! Greetings Friends!

News! Last month, I traveled to Los Angeles and visited Fox studios, where I met some of the many people involved with the Eragon movie.

I also got to watch clips of the film itself. It was both strange and exciting to see images based on something I wrote! The teaser trailer Fox showed me contained only brief glimpses of the world and characters, although a dragon is always memorable, no matter how fleeting her appearance. The other sequences I saw were in various stages of completion—with rough CGI and temporary music—but even so, I got a pretty good idea of how the scenes will play in the final version of the movie. Based on the footage I saw, Jeremy Irons makes an excellent Brom. He and Ed Speleers (Eragon) seem to interact very well, with the sort of old-wolf, young-wolf dynamic the story requires.

I learned that the reason Fox made certain changes to the book was to produce a movie that looks and feels as real as possible. For example, in the novel, I describe Saphira as having sapphire-blue scales. When they applied this color to her on-screen form, however, she looked cartoonish. So after much testing, they settled on a leathery-blue skin tone, which makes her appear more like a living creature. And I saw how, bit-by-bit, computer animators are bringing Saphira to life. Fox is pushing the boundaries of current technology. The time needed to create her is so great that work is now divided between ILM, in California, and WETA, in New Zealand.

As with every book-to-movie adaptation, the filmmakers have their own vision of the story. I learned that hundreds, if not thousands, of people have been and are working on Eragon. I look forward to seeing more, to get a better idea of how the plot flows and the characters interact. The way I think about it is that Eragon provided the inspiration for the movie, but that they are separate works with their own unique attributes. I find it fascinating to see how other people interpret the land of Alagaësia. It’s like seeing my own dreams reflected back to me through a thousand different prisms.

After my visit to the studio, I went to the offices of Vivendi, the company behind the Eragon video games. To be precise, Vivendi is distributing the games, while Stormfront Studios (Lord of the Rings games) is the company that actually developed them. The people who work there have some of the best jobs in the world.

As I count it, four-and-a-half Eragon games are developed. There’s an action adventure game for consoles and PC, a dragon flight combat game for the PSP, and a different RPG for the Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance respectively. The half I mentioned comes from the fact that the Xbox 360 version of the main console/PC game not only has beefed up graphics, but two new levels that further explore the world of the book. One level even has the Kull in it! To my delight, the game designers made the Kull look almost exactly as I originally imagined them, horns and all. Even though I invented them, I have to admit that the sheer size of the Kull surprised me. I knew they were big, but to actually see one next to Eragon . . . Wow!

Given that I haven’t played the games from start to finish, what I did see was exciting. Controlling a computer-generated version of an actor portraying the character of Eragon or Brom or Murtagh in a video game based upon a movie adaptation of a book I wrote . . . is certainly one of the most surreal and weirdly enjoyable experiences of my life. You can run around and hack-and-slash things, and if you press the right buttons, Eragon shoots a magic arrow and shouts, “Brisingr!”. Very cool.

I next drove to San Diego to speak and sign books at Comic-Con International: San Diego, one of the largest science fiction and fantasy conventions in the world. For those of you who have never attended Comic-Con International before, here’s a brief description: Imagine a large, modern, multistory convention center designed to hold about seventy thousand people. Over a hundred thousand people show up. Some wear clothes you see every day on the street and in the office. Others dress in black leather and plastic or skin-tight unitards or Stormtrooper armor or large gold wings or strange contraptions that make avant-garde fashion appear dowdy or, quite often, almost nothing at all. A wall of heat, humidity, sound, and moving bodies hits you as soon as you set foot on the convention floor. Display booths are everywhere: large, loud, blinking, flashing, moving, crawling. Costumes . . . movies . . . games . . . comics, cartoons, graphic novels, and manga everywhere. Swords everywhere. And if you love even some of this stuff, your head feels as if it’s about to explode from the amount of input.

Before my events began, I visited the Vivendi booth and spent some more time playing the PS2 Eragon game. How could I not? At Comic-Con? I’m still grinning from the memory.

My speaking event was structured as an interview, with renowned author Peter Beagle asking me questions on writing, fantasy, and what it means to be an author. Peter is a wonderful person: wise, generous, and full of stories. It was an honor to meet him, and I’m glad he agreed to do the event with me. The highlight of it came when a thirteen-year-old girl stood up, said it was her birthday, and asked if I would sing her Happy Birthday! Fortunately, everyone else joined in and helped me out.

Peter is an amazing writer, an icon of the fantasy genre. Some of his books include The Last Unicorn, The Inkeeper’s Song, and his most recent, The Line Between. His plots and prose occupy that magical place between waking life and sleep, between reality and dreams. If you’re interested in checking out his work go to (click on Books).

After the interview, I signed copies of my books. I love signings because it’s an opportunity for me to meet my readers face-to-face. Some of the stories I hear are remarkable. One man told me he had flown from London, just to get his book signed!

As soon as the last person came through the line, I was whisked into a taxi, off to the airport, and onto a plane only minutes before a flight attendant closed the hatch.

That was my California adventure. It was a hectic trip, but I had a great time. Still, as much as I enjoyed it, the only thing that matters now is Book III. It looms above me like a giant mountain. Every page is a step forward, and while many steps lie behind me, my journey to the summit is not yet over.

May your swords stay sharp,

Christopher Paolini


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