The Novelization of Girl Genius

At the World Steam Expo this year, both Phil and Kaja Foglio read from the novelization of the Girl Genius comics they are currently writing.  For those that don’t know, the Foglios are releasing a trilogy of novels retelling the story we are familiar with from the comics.  The first of these is scheduled to be released next Spring, and should retell the Girl Genius story through volume three of the comic.  The next two books, according to Kaja, will cover the story up to and including volume ten.  No word as to when books two and three will be released or if the rest of the comic after volume ten will be novelized (I assume this will be dependant on sales and writing schedules).  As of now, the first of the trilogy is in its second draft, and will likely go though a third before publication.


The reason for this novelization is that the Foglios wanted to fill-in details and clarify points that didn’t, for one reason or another, make it into the comic.  Of course, it might also help bring in people who wouldn’t normally buy or read comics to get hooked on the Girl Genius story.


On Saturday, Phil started the first of the two readings with the prologue.  The scene opens 18 years prior to volume one of the comic.  It has been three years since the destruction of Castle Heterodyne, the death of Klaus Barry (Bill’s son) and the disappearance of Lucrezia (Bill’s wife).  The Heterodyne Boys, Bill and Barry, are watching the night sky outside the town of a Spark whose name I can’t remember.  The scene is told from Barry’s point of view – a third person omniscient view (which is how the whole story is written, with perspective changing as scenes change).  Barry comments on Bill’s deteriorating mental state as they prepare equipment to observe an attack by The Other on the unaware town (but not completely, the Boys did try to warn the ruling Spark that an attack was eminent, but he chased them away with flying weasels or something… I don’t remember).  At this point, 32 of the Fifty Families that ruled Europe had been wiped-out completely from The Other’s attacks, and it looked as if another would be joining them in oblivion.  Barry also comments about The Other, the Hive Engines, the Warrior Bugs, the Slave Wasps, and finally, the Revenants – summing up the basic information most fans of Girl Genius would know about The Other and her tech.


The attack begins as Bill sees two new stars in the heavens.  These points of light (revealed to be large spheres) quickly descend until a parachute deploys to slow their fall.  If I remember correctly, these turn out to be hive engines and warrior bugs come out of them to eat the parachutes (Barry comments that would explain why no evidence of parachutes were ever found because they were destroyed by the Bugs).  Then, they watch as the Spark’s castle is completely destroyed by a boulder falling from the sky.  Soon after, eight more boulders descend upon the town in a geometric pattern, causing more destruction.   Barry comments at this point that this explains why no chemical residue was ever found at the site of an attack by The Other – it was the shear impact of the boulders falling from high above that caused the devastation observed.  The prologue ends with Bill checking the equipment once again and stating that he knew where the attacks were coming from and where The Other must be.


The rest of Phil’s reading basically retells the story starting from volume one with some embellishments.  It opens with Agatha dreaming about the mechanics of the universe and just as it is about to make sense, the whole thing shuts down on her.  She wakes up, and tries, with limited success, to remember the dream as she works on a project that has been baffling her.  As her third alarm clock rings, she hurriedly dresses and heads off to school, skipping breakfast.  The chapter proceeds with Agatha encountering and commenting on the Jaeger, seen here: .  There is a funny scene between this Jaeger and one of the Tyrant’s (as Dr. Beetle is referred to) clanks, where the Jaeger struggles to read a note about wanting to buy, not steal, a piece of ham.  The clank responds, “This horse is dead.  Please remove it”, before walking away.  Agatha comments that Dr. Beetle’s clanks were once the finest defensive machines in their day, but sadly her master has not kept up with their maintenance.  Finally, we have the electrical disturbance and the “hole in the sky” opens.  Phil’s reading ends with the line, “… Like THAT?!”


On Sunday, Kaja began were Phil left off, with Agatha’s fear of the vision causing her to run down the alley to have a date with fate.  The perspective changes as we are introduced to Moloch von Zinzer and his bother Omar.  The text expounds on the swill that Moloch is drinking, the various libations that he has quaffed before, and how he would like to partake of the foodstuffs sold on the streets Beetleburg, especially the bread, but can’t due to the fact Omar spent the last of their money on the swill.  The rest of the scene proceeds as it did in the comic, with some commentary on the danger Agatha is now in (not just from being mugged, but implying that Agatha fears she might be sexually accosted – but this is played for laughs as it is described with Judy’s attempts to explain “the birds and the weasels” to Agatha.  It is actually funnier than I just described) and with more description of Dr. Beetle’s bell jars as punishment for criminals.  Then, as Agatha leaves the alley, she encounters another Jaeger, who offers her something to drink, but runs off when she hears the town clock (Mister Tock) chime the 7th hour.  The Jaeger that aided Agatha states to another Jaeger that he didn’t know who the girl was, but she sure did smell “goot”.


After this, most of Kaja’s reading followed the comic very closely.  The only thing that was different was that Agatha was carrying her “proto-Dingbot Prime” with her (that was what she was working on in the beginning of the chapter).  Also, when Merlot comes into Dr. Beatle’s lab and mentions that the Baron Klaus Wulfenbach is here, the text gives us some back story on him – his association with the Heterodyne Boys, his romance with Lucrezia (which was apparently widely known, which would mean Bill must have known… unless Bill was completely clueless), how he then “lost” Lu to Bill, and how he mysteriously disappeared just before the wedding only to return four years later. 


Kaja managed to read up to the point the Jaeger comes in and states, “Nobody move!” before time was called (each reading was only about 30 minutes long).


So… That was it.  Not much, but it was enough to encourage me to buy the novel next Spring. 


Next time, I will give some of my thoughts concerning the readings and how it pertains to the story.


After that, I hope to tell you about the Q & A panel, and then about the radio theater.  Hopefully by then, I will have pictures to share, and I will tell you more about the Expo as a whole.


If you have any questions, ask away!

Your questions to the Foglios answered!
The World Steam Expo in Dearborn, MI was great.  I managed to ask both Phil and Kaja these questions as they sold there wares in the dealers room.  As I promised, here are the answers to the questions you asked.

Is Slepinir a spark?

The answer I got from Phil is a definite NO.  He did add that Slepinir likes hanging around Sparks.  This fits with what I remember Kaja writing once that Slepinir was a "fan of science". 

I hope this brings that argument to a rest, once and for all.



How old some of the characters are, like Gil and Zeetha?

The answer I got for both Gil and Zeetha is that they are both around 21 to 22 years old.  So, if the theory about them being siblings are true, then they must be twins.  Faternal, of course.


Who does Phil consider a source of inspiration for his style?

The person Phil mentioned as most inspiring of his style is someone named Dr. Tezzuka (even Phil was not certain of the spelling).  I'm not an artist, so I don't know anything about this guys work.  If anyone wishes to give us some more information, it would be greatly appreciated.


What was Bill and Barry's mother's name?

As I suspected, neither of them ever thought to give her a name, as it never came up.  After all, they never even gave the Heterodyne Boys' Father a name.  However, when I mentioned to Phil that I always thought that Agatha would be named after her grandmother, especially considering the profound influence she had on both Bill and Barry growing up, and it seemed only natural that Barry would give his niece the same name, he didn't say anything, but his non-verbal reaction indicated to me that he was thinking it might be a good idea.

So have I influenced Girl Genius canon?  I have no idea.  Maybe we will find out someday.



Would Phil draw a map of Agatha's world (the whole world, not just Europe)?

When I asked Kaja about this, her first reaction was "what a great idea!"  However, she also clarified that while they would love to do something like that, it is a matter of having the time to do so.  Right now, they are too busy with too many things, such as the color version of volume one and the novelization of Girl Genius (I have more info on that), to consider another project.  Also to clarify, it was Cheyenne that drew the map of Europe, so he would be the one to draw a map of the Girl Genius World.... if they ever get around to doing it.



A backstory on the Amazing Higgs?

I was told we would find this out soon.  How soon is 'soon'?  I'm hoping within the weeks of getting back to the main storyline.  However, it could mean before the end of volume ten.  Your guess is a good as mine.



If Girl Genius were ever translated into other media (cartoon show, mini series,live action movie(s) how would you want it done and by whom?

Kaja expounded on her love of anime, and stated that, ideally, she would like Studio Bones to handle a movie/series of Girl Genius.  She also stated that she would love to see video games made as well.

How did you come up with/what inspired the jaegers?

When I asked about this, Kaja pointed out this page to me:


Notice the jaeger-like being in the second panel.  Well this is the character that inspired every single jaeger that would come after him.  Phil told Kaja after he drew him that he would like to draw more of them.  Kaja told him that is was his comic and he could draw anything he wanted.  So when he came to this page:

The Jaeger was not originally part of this page.  Phil added him to help fill the page better.  From this, the Jaegers - their history, their alliance to the Wulfenbachs, their link to the Heterodynes, and all the Jaegers that we would see in the comic - all evolved from that first jaeger-like being.



Will we see Gil's mom sometime during the course of the story?

The answer is a definite YES!  However, given the way the Foglios write, I'm not sure even they know when or how this will come up, but it is one of the milestones they want to hit along the way.



How old were your kids when you introduced them to the story elements, and how corrupted did they become?

[I was recently embarrassed by my almost-three year old talking about jaeger monsters in public places.]

Kaja told me that introducing her children to Girl Genius just came naturally.  After all, both Phil and Kaja work at home, so their kids knew about from day one.



Hey Phil, are you still stealing plates from the hotel and drawing on them? (He used to do this way-back-when, then put the artisticly defaced plate in the auction).

NO!  Any more questions?


I want to know more about Carson Mekkan's family, especially Vanamonde. Is his mom a meaningful character? Was he the only child of Carson's son who was killed? Is he dating anyone?

As of now, all of this is an unknown, simply because it is not important to the story.  If it should become important... well, who knows?

Well, that is it for the questions.  I have more information I gathered from the Expo.  So, stay tuned.

They Won!
Now Girl Genius can call itself, "Hugo Award winning Girl Genius"!  Congrats to Phil and Kaja!


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