J. M. Lee is the author of Shadows of the Dark Crystal, a standalone novel set years before the events of Jim Henson’s 1982 groundbreaking fantasy film The Dark Crystal. In this short interview, Lee talks about his earliest experiences with the movie and how he set about exploring the world off screen.
UNBOUND WORLDS: The Dark Crystal was released in 1982. You look a little young to me!
J. M. LEE: I’m probably not as young as I look, but I was born in 1984, after the film was released. In terms of the main fan group, I’m kind of a late bloomer, I guess, but the film has been part of my childhood since I can remember.
UW: What can you remember from the first time you saw the film?
JML: I can remember only the scene with the skeksis eating all of the food, and of course, the draining scene in the Chamber of Life where they strap the podling to the chair and make him stare into the light—the face-sucking scene! Those are the only things I can remember from the first time.
UW: It sounds like you were suitably traumatized!
JML: Absolutely! One hundred percent!
UW: There’s been a sort of cult fandom around the movie for a long time, but I was surprised to see this new book.
JM: There was the graphic novel, Creation Myths, The World of the Dark Crystal, and some manga. I was really happy to find out that they were looking into a novel series. It’s kind of a missing medium that could definitely benefit the Dark Crystal world.
UW: How much of the world were you able to explore on your own, and how much freedom was given to you to make it your own?
JM: There was obviously a huge amount of information in Brian Froud’s work, and then I was really encouraged to think outside the box and go where the story took me. As a group, we were able to come together and say this fits the story really well, and this maybe not so much. This was more of an exploration and reining it back. I was able to go anywhere I wanted and then we went to the revision phase.
UW: Tell me about the story.
JM: Shadows of the Dark Crystal follows the story of Naia, a gelfling. It takes place sometime before the film. She leaves her hometown to find her brother, who has been accused of treason by the skeksis.
UW: These are the skeksis before we see them in the film. They have a different kind of relationship with the world around them.
JM: Yes, absolutely so. They are still hiding their evil nature at this point and the gelfling don’t know that they’ve been secretly sapping life essence out of them at this point. They’re a little sneakier than they are in the film, where it’s just like “This is what we do: We’re here to eat you!”
UW: Will there be any more books?
JM: Yes. We just announced at Comic Con that there will be three more books, to make four in total. The next one is scheduled to drop next summer.