It’s technically Wednesday here now, so how about a little worldbuliding?
The Cloud Factory is an idea I’ve been sitting on for years, barely more than a basic premise I hung onto for the day I’d have the freedom and support to write and illustrate my own stories. The origin isn’t a unique one; there are a few factories on the river just south of Indianapolis, which I would have to drive past any time I went downtown or to work. Smokestacks always look like they’re making clouds, but on overcast days when the clouds hung particularly low, it really looked as though they were coming from the factories themselves.
That musing grew into the idea for a short children’s book, which grew into the idea for a small graphic novel, which grew into the idea of a longform webcomic—hopefully the first of many. The Cloud Factory will be a self-contained, chapter based story with a definitive end. I can’t accurately ballpark how long it will take to run in its entirety yet, but at an ideal pace of one full color page per week, my best guess is at least a year!
I won’t be revealing too much about the plot in this post, and will only be introducing a couple characters along with some cursory concept art, but I thought I might talk about the setting of the world in which The Cloud Factory is going to take place. Bear with me though, it’s still in its early developmental stages! I don’t have very many visuals yet.
The Cloud Factory takes place in a low-fantasy, Earth-like setting, with a civilization in the midst of an industrial age. The larger cities have an Edwardian aesthetic, coal and water-based electricity is commonplace, and a lot of major technology is steam-driven, but I wouldn’t consider it steampunk. There are definitely elements of otherworldliness, but you won’t find superfluous cogs, monocles, jet packs, corsets, or time travel in this comic.
Their technology is equally dependent on artifacts found in the scattered ruins of an ancient civilization, and naturally occurring energy storing crystals that can be attached to devices and programmed to perform set functions via inscription. Think computer chips with their own power sources.
The story itself pays little attention to anything that goes on outside of the valley the characters live in, however. This valley, which has yet to be named, was a rich agricultural hub until a previously dormant mountaintop ruin suddenly sprang to life 100 years previous to the story’s timeline, covering the valley in rainclouds. The rivers swelled, the crops washed away, and the pastures turned to marshland no longer suitable for livestock to graze. For decades, the sky remained completely obscured at all times, grey and overcast when not drizzling rain. Many have struck out to investigate the ruins, but most return empty-handed (if they return at all), unable to gain access to its interior.
Most of the valley’s villages died out with time as the land became unsuitable for planting and the ecosystem crumbled. Many of the residents left to make a living in the nearest major city (also yet to be named) and its surrounding fields, but those who remained went on to live hard lives and the surviving villages turned to new exports to survive. Fortunately, the valley’s new watery landscape lent itself well to the growth of river lilies, a white water plant with curative properties used in many medicines, and those who were strong enough to brave the mountain paths took to mining for previously untapped wellsprings of ore and precious gems.
Due to their remote locations, valley villages have a much more rustic aesthetic. Towns sport largely tutor-inspired buildings with only sparse influences from its metropolitan counterparts, and villagers dress in earth tones with bold but simple plant and animal motifs. Caravans with supplies come monthly, but the journey is weeks long so fresh fruits and vegetables are impractical imports. Much of what they receive is dried, pickled, or otherwise preserved, but they aren’t without their own sources of nourishment. Carp, crawfish, and frogs exist in abundance, as well as many scrubby, but edible, plants and the occasional wolf or swampcat unfortunate enough to wander close to town.
There will be many supporting characters along the course of The cloud Factory, but the story follows the parallel adventures of two main characters, Théo (pronnounced tay-oh) and Molly.
Théophil Laforge (17) - Son of accomplished tinkerer and smithy, Rufus Laforge, and a talented tinkerer himself. He’s bright and hardworking, but bullheaded and a bit of a scrapper, often getting into fights standing up for his beliefs or defending the underdog. His mother, Anette, died in childbirth, and since he was raised in part by Rufus’s old friend, Dame Bellefleur, he grew up as close friends to the Dame’s niece…
Molly Millbrooke (16) - Daughter of botanist Lilian Bellefleur and businessman Michael Millbrooke. With her rare sun-touched hair and sky blue eyes, she was the subject of many fights between Théo and the village youth. She was also the end of them, having no tolerance for bullies and showboats. Molly moved away to the city with her parents at age six, but returns 10 years later at the beginning of the story to assist Dame Bellefleur in the running of the family shop.
And that’s all I’m going to give you for now! I don’t want to divulge any of the plot just yet, so I won’t answer any questions relating to that aspect of the story. I will, however, answer questions about the setting should anyone choose to ask!