Artwork: Ky Vatta by Lana Klassen

Posted: October 16th, 2015 under artwork.

As I told you awhile back, I met a talented artist at KeyCon (Winnipeg) back in May of this year and commissioned her to do a portrait of Admiral Kylara Evangeline Dominique Vatta, or Ky as most of us know her.   I think she did a great job.  It took awhile, because she had to finish the school year (she teaches in a high school) and then had something else to finish, and various other things happened, but here it is.


Like most everyone in the far distant future, Ky is a blend of what we think of as races,  mostly along the old trade route from Turkey to India.   (Family just came home–more later…)

Back again.  No doughnuts…waaaah!   OK.   So when I first started writing large-scale SF–stuff that spanned multiple star systems, etc–I thought about which humans would go, and where, and how they would interact, and what they might look like down the centuries.   It seemed reasonable, given the probable cost of getting “there” (wherever “there” was)  that at first you’d have the carefully-selected-astronauts (which are not all white or all from the same corner of this planet) and then you’d have the carefully-selected-colonists sent by either a) a government or b) a corporation for a particular place and planned activity, and then–assuming some very useful advances in transportation, and a lower cost as well–the deluge.  There would be groups from the same area traveling together, settling together, but every new planet would be big enough to bring in more people from more other places.

Many humans like to be with people like themselves.  Some want to get away from people like themselves.   That will likely continue.   Human modification has already occurred here (prosthetics, including bionic “implants”) and the first CRISPR babies are expected within the next five years–babies genetically modified for one reason or another.    Once used, that science will escape controls and the “one reason or another” will get farther and farther from the original plan.   “Humods” as in the Vatta books already written are not beyond reach in another century, or sooner (assuming no cultural collapse…but I’m writing science fiction.)

For each of the science fiction books set on other worlds,  I chose existing or historical populations from specific regions and “ran them forward” to see what interesting things might happen.  In Remnant Population,  Ofelia and her fellow colonists came from working class part-Native, part-European stock from former Spanish colonies  from southern Mexico to central South America.   In the Serrano/Suiza books, the Serranos were Spanish/North African and the Suizas were central and eastern European. (The original rulers of Esmay’s home world were of northern European stock; the Families of the Familias Regnant include both European and African Seatholders, as does the Regular Space Service.   The Compassionate Hand is Mediterranean and with a little Asia Minor.  And so on.)    The  Vatta books include worlds that are now homogenous (self-selection) for origin, and others that are almost homogenous through mixing.   Both series include different religions, philosophies, forms of government, etc.

This image of Ky does not show the bulge of her implant.  In most families, an implant is not considered a modification, because it’s like glasses or a cane–they see it as just an assist, not a radical change.  An infant’s brain and skull are prepared for an implant early in life, with a nonworking balloon-like implant gradually “bulging” the skull in the right place; the first child-level implant is then installed before the child starts formal schooling.   However, though to most people on Slotter Key (and indeed on most of the world visited in these books) the implant bulge is so common as to be ignored, it might look so strange to people here and now that they’d fixate on her asymmetric skull shape.  This image shows what’s important to me: she’s dark-skinned, dark-haired, a little hard to untangle the ancestral gene mix.   Most of the people on Slotter Key are some shade of brown, but certainly not all.

Interestingly, though designed humans, from humods like those in the books to the extreme ‘mods’ of “Chameleons” (set in the same universe but not directly connected to Vatta books.  Yet.  Maybe never)  are all over the place,  few are “modded” for skin color.  Skin color is less an issue in most worlds (though, as shown, Gretna is one full of very white people who don’t like anybody else.)  Eye color was a fashion at one time, so there are a lot of people with “exotic” eye color (purple, green, turquoise, etc.)  with common brown skin.  There’s just as much nastiness between groups, but most of it is not based on skin.  Unless your skin doesn’t look human.

Stella, you recall, is described as a stunningly beautiful blonde.  My mental image of her is that of a young woman I saw in college: north Italian, blonde with brown eyes, and the most perfect bone structure you can imagine.  She stopped conversations when she entered a room.   (It wasn’t easy on her: she was also brilliant, and being seen as “the beauty” was a distraction she’d have preferred not to deal with.)   Stella was adopted by the specific Vattas who took her in, because Helen, her adopted mother, was lighter and some of her relatives (Greek, Balkan, and Italian heritage) were light-haired too.  It made the relationship plausible.

So there’s Ky, intense, focused, and…now…in a situation that being Grand Admiral has not prepared her for.




  • Comment by Butterwaffle — October 16, 2015 @ 3:29 pm


    Neat! Her expression seems to change a bit depending where on her face you focus.

  • Comment by elizabeth — October 16, 2015 @ 4:10 pm


    I noticed that too. I don’t know how Lana did it.

  • Comment by Cindy — October 16, 2015 @ 4:36 pm



  • Comment by cgbookcat1 — October 16, 2015 @ 8:19 pm


    This is beautiful! I am happily anticipating the new book.

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — October 17, 2015 @ 7:02 am


    Somehow I missed her joining the grand admiral. I’m going to have to go back and reread the series.

  • Comment by elizabeth — October 17, 2015 @ 8:15 am


    Daniel, this is Ky at the beginning of the new series, several years after the end of the earlier one. SDF is BIG, the rank structure had to be expanded, and the political situation around it–the competing governments who have contributed ships and personnel–have insisted on people they contribute coming in at their existing ranks. A little of that will show up in the current book, in the background. Eventually it will either fall apart or settle down into its own entity, but at the moment, the transition from “emergency association of ships and crews and governments to stave off disaster” to “permanent, well-organized multi-national(interstellar) force with well-understood structure and functions and governmental support” is still going on. Think of the problems in this world where emergency alliances have attempted to meld disparate military units into functional forces over the long term. Everybody has an agenda.

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — October 17, 2015 @ 11:01 am


    Thus the U.S.’s one and only six star general.

  • Comment by Lana Klassen — October 18, 2015 @ 5:18 pm


    Hi everyone!
    I’m Lana, the artist of the above image. Thanks for your kind words! This was one of the most satisfying portraits I’ve done, working in close collaboration to bring Elizabeth’s character Ky to life. I had a blast, and would do it again in a heartbeat. Thanks, Elizabeth, for trusting I could do Ky justice.

  • Comment by elizabeth — October 18, 2015 @ 10:46 pm


    Welcome, Lana. Thanks for turning up here. She looks good on the blog, doesn’t she? She has a temporary home also on the main website, introducing the new series of Vatta books.

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — October 19, 2015 @ 7:08 pm



    You say words like that and Elizabeth might take you up on it. I’m sure there are plenty of other “characters” to bring to view from Elizabeth’s vision of what they look like.

    I know I have some I’ve visualized but I believe we’d all like to view Elizabeth’s versions of whomever we have in our own heads.

  • Comment by Lana Klassen — October 19, 2015 @ 8:25 pm


    Daniel, I would gladly draw more of Elizabeth’s characters! It was very satisfying to draw Ky the way Elizabeth wants her to look, not the way the Art Director thinks the cover should look to sell the book.
    Elizabeth, I’ll have to check out the main site to see her there!

  • Comment by ellen — October 21, 2015 @ 3:22 am


    Wow, great job Lana. Pretty much how i pictured her. I like trying to picture what the characters in various books like. For example the character Rebecca in the movie “The Core”, played by Hilary Swank, always makes me think of Esmay Suiza, and a tv movie i saw the other day has a character who reminds me of Heris Serrano, wish i could draw them…

  • Comment by Kaye M — October 23, 2015 @ 9:17 am


    To me, all the female characters that have appeared on book covers of the Paks series resemble this latest one of Ky Vatta–pointed chin, full lips, long nose, almond-shaped eyes, and a skin color that is coffee-colored with varying amounts of cream added. I have wondered whose natural preference that was to portray heroic women.

  • Comment by elizabeth — October 23, 2015 @ 9:55 am


    Kaye M. I think you must be referring to the covers for the recent 5 book series. In the original Paks books, Paks was shown (correctly) as a yellow-haired, gray-eyed young woman. In the later series, the most prominent woman on the cover is Dorrin Verrakai, who is dark-haired and dark-eyed (as are most Verrakaien and for that matter most magelords.) Dorrin’s skin color comes from years as a mercenary captain campaigning in the south. Magelords were on the lighter end of the skin color spectrum, ranging from light brown to white–though they tended to tan easily if they were out in much sun. So yes, that presentation was something I wanted.

    Paks–from well north of the Honnorgat, and thus in the north half of the lands north of the Dwarfmounts–had mostly Old Human ancestry. Old Humans–especially in the north–tended toward skin paler than magelords and looked “redder”–they usually didn’t tan as easily, and with normal outdoor activities looked pink-to-sunburnt rather than going brown. Hair usually mid-brown to blonde or redhead, eyes usually blue, gray, or gray-green, sometimes hazel. Faces broader, build a little shorter and heavier.

    There’s a small portrait of Paks on the hardcover edition of Limits of Power…showing her as blonde and lighter than Dorrin (in the other covers.)

    South of the Honnorgat, interbreeding between magelords (the conquerors) and Old Humans produced a range of skin, hair, and eye colors.

  • Comment by Kaye M — October 29, 2015 @ 11:56 am


    Yes, I was referring to the recent 5 book series. I remember that Paks is blonde–in fact Sheepfarmer’s Daughter was the first book of yours that I read, and went on to read some of the Vatta books, Remnant Population, and Speed of Dark. Funny how these characters and even the worlds they live in become very real to both the writer and the reader. And a credit to your skill as a storyteller.

  • Comment by Genko — November 5, 2015 @ 7:22 pm


    Not how I pictured her, but as soon as I saw this, I liked it. I can see her this way. Beautiful illustration. I like that she’s not a classic beauty, which is how she’s described, after all, and yet has a lot of strength of character, and looks interesting.

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