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My Thoughts on the Girl Genius Novel

If you haven’t read my last post on the Novelization of Girl Genius, I recommend doing so, as I will be referring to the summery I wrote there.

 Overall, my impression of the novel was very positive.  It was great to revisit the story in this way.  In many ways, it was like hearing it for the first time, regardless how both the situations and the characters have become so familiar over the years.  I’m really looking forward to picking up my copy next Spring.

 The best part of this, however, has to be the prologue.  Finally some new information about The Other and the Heterodyne Boys – especially the later considering that almost all information we have about them up to this point has been either inaccurate stories or mere hearsay.  It was cool to see them work together, in particular the fact that when they Heterodyne, they do so in harmony (something I forgot to mention in my last post).

 The most interesting information, I believe, is what we learn about The Other.  It is not much information, but I believe it is important.  One thing I found interesting is the way The Other attacks - it strikes reminiscent of how the Bugs attacked Earth’s cities in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.  Also, the text seemed to suggest that the attacks were “other-worldly” in origin, like from Mars, but I have to wonder if this is just a distraction.  After all, how hard would it be for a powerful Spark to rocket boulders and hive engines to a high altitude and, with a precisely calculated degrading orbit, have them land on target to decimate entire towns?  At least, that is one possibility.

 It is also important to point out the difference of the attack described in the prologue to the attack on Castle Heterodyne that Carson described to Agatha.  While Castle Heterodyne was nearly completely destroyed, the town of Mechnicsburg was unharmed.  While this may have become more obvious in the comic recently, I see this as more evidence that the attack on the Castle was not an attack at all, but a lab experiment that went very, very wrong.  Thus, Lucrezia had to destroy her notes and servants, and escape, being then forced to put her ultimate plan for conquest into action before everything was ready (like perfecting the Revenants).

 One last thing I would like to point out might be significant, or it might not.   Let me explain:  you’ll notice in the prologue it was stated that it had been three years since the attack on Castle Heterodyne and Lucrezia’s “kidnapping”.  However, the events in the prologue are supposed to be 18 years prior to the beginning of the first chapter.  This raises some problems.  Either Agatha is older than she thinks she is, or Bill Heterodyne is not her father (or it could be something involving the time windows, which is my default theory whenever something doesn’t make sense).  All of this may not be an issue because I received an e-mail from someone who was able to read a first draft of the story in which it was three months, not three years, since The Other’s first attack on Castle Heterodyne.  This would make more sense.  This may just be a case of waiting for the book next Spring in order to find out what makes it into the final draft.

 Finally, I would like to close this post responding in more detail to some comments made to my last post.  Some were obviously upset by the novelization of Girl Genius because this appears to put the once promised Girl Genius GURPS Sourcebook not just on the back burner, but completely off the stove.  For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, the GURPS sourcebook was a project that Kaja was working on in coordination with Steve Jackson Games.  This was before Girl Genius became a web comic, and fans only had the yahoo group.  Kaja would make a post once and a while on how the sourcebook was coming and how it would be out “soon”.  As months passed, we heard less and less about it to the point it was never mentioned again.  By that time, the fandom was up in arms about the conversion from traditional, single issue comics to the web comic, so over time the sourcebook was never spoken of again. 

 What the sourcebook might have been, from how it was billed, was something akin to a Girl Genius Encyclopedia – information on the people, places, history, and technology of this fantastic world.  That being the case, I can understand the disappointment that some feel at this point, but I think this all needs to be put in proper perspective.  Some of these points I have made before in my replies, but they bear repeating, as well as expanding on.

 First, I think the main reason that the sourcebook was not published was because, by its promised nature, would have been very spoilerish.  It is possible to believe that if it truly was going to be a type of encyclopedia, then in order to be truly comprehensive, it would have to include information that the Foglios would not want revealed just yet.  Another possibility is that, in some ways, the World of Girl Genius continues to evolve.  While the Foglios have an idea of the beginning, middle, and end of this story, the details that connect these are under their creative flow and change.  Therefore, it would be unwise to commit to print something that might need to change for the sake of plot development.  In any case, it appears it was a doomed project from the start.

 Second, it is important to also point out that the Foglios were not alone in this project.  Steve Jackson Games had their stake in this as well, since they were to be the ones to publish the sourcebook.  Thus, they could have been the ones to pull the plug on the sourcebook if they thought the Foglios were taking to long in writing it, or perhaps there was no indication that a Girl Genius Sourcebook would even sell.  Remember, the sourcebook was proposed around 8 years ago when Girl Genius was still building a fan base, and streampunk was nowhere near as popular as it is now.

 Third, while I enjoy comics and RPGs, even I have to admit they are a niche market.   Novels, on the other hand, if marketed right, can appeal to a wide array of different people – not just those with a like of steampunk or science fiction, in this case.  Plus, novels don’t have the sigma that comics have of being for geeks and nerds.  With the success of novel series like Harry Potter, and, yes, even Twilight, reading novels has become cool.  So, the move that the Foglios have made to novelize their story is a sound one, especially when you consider the rise in popularity of steampunk in the mainstream.   I think a series of Girl Genius novels could be the next “Harry Potter”, but I would like to save the discussion of the future of Girl Genius for another post.

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Would we get Terry Gillaim to direct the movies this time at least?

I have no idea. Based on what Kaja said to me about adaption of the story to either the big or small screen, I think they would prefer an animated one over live action. In fact, Kaja stated that ideally they would like Studio Bones to do the adaption. Kaja has a love a anime and prefers traditional animation to CGI.

I concur that the story keeps evolving. Those of us who got the card game Girl Genius: The Works will remember that it contains a spoiler: after the derigable city was going to be followed by something involving subs. That part of the plot never materialized. Also, as has been recently revealed, Jagerkind was an on-the-spot add-on inspired by one picture drawn into the second comic. I love how the story keeps evolving and don't want the Foglio's to tie their own hands by having a source book out that they then have to later contradict. The novel sounds like it covers parts that are already published, so little chance of that needing any rewrites or retcons. We still have no idea how much more of the story is to be told, and there is plenty of room for follow-up stories. So the GURPS worldbook disappearing may be a good thing in the long run.

I have The Works as well, and while I remember several cards with subs on them, I never took that as the next possible part of the story after the Castle Wulfenbach arc. Also when you consider that after the Mechanicsburg arc, they have a lot more story to tell (another 10 to 13 volumes after volume 10), I don't see why something with subs can't be worked in.

I think a GURPS sourcebook or an encyclopedia could still be made, but not until the story is complete. That should be about 10 to 13 years from now.

The impression I've gotten from the last few SJG stakeholder reports is that Munchkin has pretty much taken over the company. GURPS is still supported, but the card games pay the bills and get most of the development time/effort as a result. It may just not be cost-effective to revise what's already been done to the new rule edition, at least until the plot gets to an "OK, almost everything is wrapped up, we're starting new arcs" point.

I didn't mean to infer that the sourcebook would never be made, but based on what I said and what you said, it sounds like such a project is not even being considered at this point. However, I could imagine it might come about, but after the series is done, like in 10+ years, once nothing can be spoiled. Also, Kaja is kind of busy at the moment with other projects, so for the time being, I don't think anything will be done on it.

Please do some research before you compose your theories. Evidence like Kaja's own words that they were holding off on the RPG until they got to a stopping point in the story, because it would be spoilers for what they were working towards. The interviews are all indexed on the wiki, if you can't find it in either her LJ or the Yahoo! archives.

As you can see, it's still listed by SJG, with no annotations about cancellations or delays. A pending project is a pending project.

Since this has also been referred to as 'Secret Blueprints Volume Two', there's every reason to hold off until a hiatus between story segments, to help keep the audience engaged in other ways, and bring in new readers.

As to 'the fandom was up in arms about the conversion from traditional, single issue comics to the web comic' -- oh really? When was this? I read a few rumbles, and then the Yahoo! group membership and commenting took off increasing geometrically -- along with the readership and sales. Would you like to provide some documentation for this 'up in arms' comment? Upset people don't buy books, they boycott.

Thank you for this information. The reason I didn't look for this info is simply because I didn't know it existed. It was very nice of you to bring this all to our attention.

However, I don't see any indication when a sourcebook will be produced. We could assume that it might come out soon after the Mechanicsburg Arc (which has been suggested as a potential "stopping point"), but neither Kaja or Phil gave any indication at the WSX this year that a GURPS sourcebook was going to be published soon. Nearly everything they talked about was about the novels. As far as I know, no one asked about the sourcebook either (I didn't even think to ask about it). However, they also didn't mention anything about the project they have with Sony either (which may be because they hadn't been approached with it yet, or the deal wasn't finalized until after the Expo), so take that with a grain of salt.

Based on what you stated, it could be they are keeping the sourcebook under wraps because they will want to soften the blow when they reveal that they will be taking a hiatus from the comic. I don't know about you, but I have become so very addicted to my tri-weekly fix of Girl Genius, that I believe I will go into withdrawal without it. In that regard, it make them seem like a type of drug dealer on their part. Offering the comic for free for so long, then one day saying, "Hey there! We are going to take a long vacation for a year or so from the comic, so there will be no new pages up for awhile. But please buy our Girl Genius GURPS sourcebook from SJG for around $40 to $50, which will have a whole bunch of cool stuff in it about Agatha's world and new adventures and even some spoilers! Hope you have the money to afford it!". I could imagine some rather unethical webcomic artist doing that in order to make money, but not the Foglios. They have been very generous with their fans, and I refuse to accept they would leave their devoted fan base high and dry unless they are willing to shell out money. For some (myself included, due to prolonged unemployment and benefits that are soon to dry up), the free entertainment is a god-send. With out it, I'm not sure what I would do. However, I'm not accusing the Foglios of anything, just expressing my concerns.

I also have to wonder when that page you linked was last updated. I vaguely remember seeing this exact same page years ago. I don't know how reliable SJG is with publication of promised material (I'm not a fan of GURPS), but it is not uncommon in the RPG industry for various games and sourcebooks to be in production indefinitely until it becomes clear to the fandom that said book will never be published.

However, I don't mean to indicate that a GURPS book will NEVER be published, or that this was a bad choice on their part. Same thing with the updating the comic to a web comic. This could be a situation in which we remember things differently, but the main complaint among some (in which I have to include myself) was that the conversion to a webcomic would sound the death knell of the Girl Genius saga, not that anyone had a profound love for dead trees. Webcomics had, at the time (seven years ago), a notorious reputation for not updating regularly or even dying a slow death. We feared for the future of Girl Genius and thought the Foglios were making a foolish choice. Thankfully, we were proven wrong. As you pointed out, it was the best decision they have made (so far) concerning their intellectual property. I was going to address this very fact (with more detail) in my next post, "The Future of Girl Genius".

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