A few weeks back we interviewed Stuart Boon, line director of Cubicle 7’s Cthulhu Britannica line and award-winning writer of Shadows Over Scotland. Lots of folks seem to have enjoyed reading Stuart’s comments, so we thought we would invite him back to answer a couple more questions . . .
CR: One of the most praised aspects of Shadows Over Scotland is the way it tackles presenting source material in a informative, exhaustive but also more entertaining way than many of the Cthulhu location books from recent history. Did you have any particular approach or methodology you applied to writing those sections of the book? Were there any particular sources of inspiration that helped in creating an innovative presentation of sourcebook material?
Stuart: My intention with writing Shadows Over Scotland was always to write the book ‘for Keepers’ — that is, to write for an audience that is looking to acquire and make use of detailed, informative, and evocative source material, but who also want to be entertained in the process. These days it is easy enough to dial up information on people, places, events, etc. in Wikipedia or the like, so I personally don’t think it is enough for sourcebooks to be mere repositories of information. That said, a lot of sourcebooks I own and have read are written solely to disseminate information and care little for engaging readers. When the opportunity to write Shadows came up, I planned from the beginning to write a book that had the material (e.g. histories, events, local knowledge, etc.), but that would situate it within a larger story (that of a Mythos-infused Scotland in the 1920s) and emphasise atmosphere and drama over sheer quantity of information. So, from the get-go, I was very conscious of writing a book that would be entertaining, and hopefully inspirational, for Keepers.
CR: Why do you think there is such a vast difference between the production standards applied to recent European Cthulhu editions (French, German, Spanish) and those produced for the English Language? Do those publishers just have bigger art budgets, or a buying public that will pay at a higher price point for quality products, or are they just more creative at applying their art budget to produce more beautiful results?
Stuart: Hmm, that’s a hard question to answer from a desk in Scotland. It would be fascinating to get an answer from the French, Spanish, and German designers themselves. For one, however, I suspect there is a very different approach to production design in those European editions. I think the European design houses have tapped into the fact that the relatively small, but very loyal Call of Cthulhu fan base is willing, and has the disposable income, to purchase prestige products.
So, to answer your question, I think they are designed differently from English publications at the outset. They may well have different approaches to the use of art, but I think what drives them is their ability to produce attractive, specialised products for a targeted audience. They may well be selling lower numbers, but making a modest profit and the final products that we’ve seen so far have been truly spectacular. I can see little reason why such an approach could not be adopted by an English language publisher, but no one as yet has made the effort.
CR: Thanks for allowing yourself to be dragged back by Cthulhu’s tentacles for a second round. Best of luck on the First Aid and Psychoanalysis rolls 🙂