“2000 AD” turned heads last year with the publication of “Brass Sun,” fan-favorite writer Ian Edginton’s epic ode to steam-punk that featured an entire clockwork solar system. “Brass Sun” centers on teenage girl Wren’s quest to travel The Rails to the center of her solar system and restart the ancient mechanical sun at its heart. Along the way, she must overcome ancient technological puzzles and a fanatic cult devoted to keeping the true origins of the Brass Sun secret. “Brass Sun 2” once again features the art of co-creator I.N.J. Culbard.
Edginton spoke with CBR News about “Brass Sun 2,” revealing his inspirations for the steam-punk world, announcing a new series of “Stickleback” with the other “Brass Sun” co-creator D’Israeli, confirming the existence of “Brass Sun 3,” and much more.
CBR News: Ian, for new readers, what’s “Brass Sun” about?
Ian Edginton: The “Brass Sun” itself is the heart of The Orrery; a full-sized, mechanical solar system with a vast, life giving brass sun of the title at its center. Its origin is lost in time but much is made of the mythic, mystical figure know as The Blind Watchmaker.
The Orrery supports a panoply of exotic and eccentric worlds. There are enormous gas giants that are farmed for their fuel and where people live in transient airship towns. There are factory, forest and ocean worlds and a red brick planetoid. These are only a handful of the many worlds that are out there.
Connecting the worlds to the sun and each other, are a series of metal spars containing a transit system known as The Rails run by an order of monastic mechanics and engineers known as The Prime Numbers.
For millennia, the Orrery ran like clockwork until there was a war over the possession of the key which could restart the Sun. Whoever possessed the key, had power over all of the system. The war went on for too long and all progress on the worlds stopped or went into reverse in some cases.
Several millennia on, most of the occupants of the Orrery are unaware that there’s life on those other worlds. Worse yet, the Sun is winding down and the outer worlds have begun to slow and ice over. Someone needs to find the key and start the Sun. That task falls to Wren, a young woman on the glaciating outer world of Hind Leg.
She’s in her mid-teens and was raised with her grandfather Cadwallader after the Inquisition murdered her parents for heresy, for trying to tell everyone that their world was dying and it might be a good idea to try and do something about it. Cadwallader’s a scientist, and knows if Wren remains on Hind Leg, she faces a slow terrible death as their world ices over. He has researched into the supposed myth of the key and Blind Watchmaker and charges her with the task of finding the pieces of the key (it was broken up and lost after the war) and use it to restart the Sun.
However, in order to do this, she has to get off-world and for this Cadwallader has to make the ultimate sacrifice. She then embarks on a journey throughout the Orrery, acquiring friends and enemies along the way. She also discovers that the key isn’t quite what she (and we) think it is.
Wren is a determined and self-sufficient young woman. She’s had to be to survive on her dying world but even her handy skill-set doesn’t quite prepare her for the fantastical things she encounters. Having barely escaped Hind Leg alive, she’s now joined on her quest by Conductor Seventeen, a young novice from the order of The Prime Numbers. Their next port of call in search of the Key is the world of The Keep. This contains one enormous, solitary landmass that is in fact a gigantic house very much in the Gormenghast mold.
It’s the home of the 203rd Scarlet Duke Radiant Taurus Simeon De Kype. He’s embroiled in a bloody family feud with his fearsome virago of a sister. Wren and Septimus find themselves dropped down slap-bang in the middle of it all.
And where will Wren find herself in the new series?
We pick the story up a few months later. She and Septimus have gone native, passing themselves off as locals. They’ve also formed an uneasy alliance with Ramkin, one of the Dukes aides. On The Keep, you’re born into a job or role and that’s where you’ll remain until you’ll die. Ramkin has, shall we say, ambitions. He wants more from life and sees Wren as his ticket off-world. In exchange he offers to help them locate the whereabouts of a portion of the Key that’s been hidden somewhere on The Keep. He’s a treacherous, Machiavellian sort but isn’t quite as smart as he thinks he is.
What was your inspiration for the story?
It was a happy accident. I was researching into orreries for another story that I was working on kept on finding one wonderful example after another, and just thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if these were real.’ Imagine standing on one of the worlds and looking up to see the vast sweep of the metal spars passing over head connecting a clutch of strange worlds to an even stranger sun.
The idea then was coming up with a story and again the core concept seemed pretty simple, what happens when the sun starts to wind down. The repercussion are so simply of course and that’s where the meat and potatoes of the story lies.
Who built the Orrery? Will we ever discover its true origins?
There’s been mention of The Blind Watchmaker as being the architect of the Orrery. We’ll also sdd that each world and its faith has its own kind of creation myth that all have a common thread at their core. It’s like an operating system disguised as a religion. As the series progresses, we’ll be able to piece some of the origin of the Orrery together but I don’t want to give the game away to soon!
Is the Orrery the only system in this universe or is there an entire clockwork galaxy out there?
No, there’s just the one. It’s unique and there’s a reason for that but I’m not telling.
What new planets will we visit in book two?
Most of the action for this series takes place on Hot Air, a huge gas giant planet that was the Orrery’s primary fuel producing world but like the rest of the wheel of the worlds, it’s fallen back into a more feudal state following the war. As you might expect, everything on Hot Air takes place in the air. It’s a world dominated by air travel in all its forms but expect to see a lot of airships!
Is our traveling crew going to only be Wren and Septimus for a while, or will they be gaining new companions as the series progresses?
Ramkin will be traveling with them for a while and they’ll be joined by another character called Aerial along the way.
What’s going through Wren’s mind at this point? She’s being opened up to a world she never knew existed. An entire universe she never knew existed. Is she going to have any trouble coping with that?
The enormity of the task at hand is staring to sink in and, quite naturally, she questions if she’s up to the challenge. She comes from a tiny, parochial, back-water world and the great sprawl of the Orrery is overwhelming. She wants to save her world, she wants to save all of the worlds, but more than anything, she wants to honor her grandfather Cadwallader who died to save her and set her on her quest. Doing so, however, is another matter entirely. She does have a meltdown and it’s Septimus who steps up and proves himself to be her rock.
What’s going on with your other “2000 AD” projects at the moment?
Well, series three of “Brass Sun” has just been confirmed as well as a new series of “Stickleback” with Matt Brooker entitled “The Thru’penny Opera.” I’m also working on a “Judge Dredd” story with Dave Taylor.
Will your other “Brass Sun” co-creator and artist, D’Israeli, be contributing to “Brass Sun 2” as well?
Sadly no. The initial plan was for Matt Brooker (D’Israeli) and Ian Culbard to alternate series but getting schedules to synch up was a nightmare, so Ian’s the permanent artist now but we might try and get Matt to jump in on a Christmas special story or something along those lines.
“2000 AD” prog 1850, featuring the first chapter of “Brass Sun 2,” is available now in UK comic shops and digitally worldwide in the App Store.