Infected trilogy author Scott Sigler: "A tattoo is the ultimate love letter from the fan to the creator"
When I embarked on my quest to become a full-time author, there were certain high-water marks I knew would eventually make the endless hours of work all worthwhile: seeing my words ink-stained into a real book; knowing that people I’d never met were lost in my stories; pulling my novel off of a bookstore shelf.
Those things happened, and they were amazing, but what I didn’t expect was to see the products of my imagination forever embedded in living human skin.
In other words, people getting tats based on the images in my stories.
I won’t lie: it’s a trip. A tattoo is the ultimate love letter from the fan to the creator. It’s a lifelong way of saying thank you for doing what you do, and thank you for making what you made. And for a thank you of that caliber, you’re welcome doesn’t even come close. Five years since the first fan tat of my work, and at least twenty-five fan-tats later, I still, frankly, don’t have words to express how it makes me feel.
Some of the images come from my novel Nocturnal, which is rife with mystical symbols perfect for inkin’ up. Others are logos of teams in my YA Galactic Football League series. Most of the tats, however, come from my Infected trilogy, and with good reason: the stories involve body horror, which — in a twisted kinda way — makes it logical for people to put these horrors on their bodies.
The trilogy consists of Infected, Contagious, and the final book, Pandemic, which is out Jan. 21, 2014 from Crown Publishing. The tale revolves around a pathogen that highjacks the human body’s cellular reproductive process to create a self-assembling smart material. This material forms into tiny collective organisms shaped something like an inverted pyramid, with the bottom point consisting of a long, spiked tail that wraps around the nearest bone, widening to a triangular top that’s just visible beneath the host’s skin. Deoxygenated blood tints the triangle a familiar light blue.
As these organisms grow into something nefarious, they become larger and more defined. The lovely creatures also tap into your nervous system, flooding your brain with a heavy neurotransmitter overdose that makes you aggressively paranoid and, quite often, exceedingly violent. Oh, and they tell you to do things. Bad things. Which you usually do. Most often there is blood involved.
It is a horror story, after all.
I think there’s something uniquely compelling about having an image on your body that looks exactly as it does on the body of the characters in the book. It blurs the lines of reality, just a little bit, in a way that having, for instance, a sweet Firefly-class ship Serenity tattooed on your arm doesn’t. It’s one thing to wear a tribute to an element from a story, and another to know your art could be a snapshot straight from the story itself.
But whatever image the fans choose, they don’t ink up unless the story really resonates with them. For some, it’s remembering that sense of primal fear they felt while reading. For others, it’s the “wow” factor that comes with “I’ve never read anything like that before, and I want that thing on me because it would look damn cool.” And, of course, sometimes people stumble across my work when they know they want a tattoo, but have no idea what they want that tattoo to be. A bloody “Hatchling” instead of a me-too tribal tat? The fan winds up with something that you don’t see every day, and that’s sweet.
The Boing Boing editors asked me to point out my favorite tats. This is an impossible task. I’m so damn humbled by each and every bit of ink that I can’t imagine saying one is better than the next.
I should, however, point out two whose origins have escaped me, in hopes the monstrous Boing Boing readership can help me track them down.
One of those was the first fan-tat I ever saw (photo at top). I was in New York City, caught up in the madness of my first book tour. This hulking bikerdude comes up, says “I want to show you something,” and starts pulling off his shirt. While I wasn’t sure what to think, I was fairly confident that a giant stranger stripping down in the middle of a Manhattan Borders wouldn’t end well. I was wrong, obviously, because he just wanted to show me his “triangle tat.”
I was so blown away, I didn’t even think to write down the guy’s name. Hey, Big Biker Dude With The First Triangle Tat? If you’re a BoingBoing reader, how about throwing me an email?
The second one is an amazing piece of art (right). I’d love to give a shoutout here to the fan who wears it (and to the artist who inked it), but again, I totally failed to write down the fan’s name after he showed it to me. This one depicts a “Hatchling,” the final stage of the Triangle organism life cycle. Some serious talent went into creating this.
I’ve learned from those two mistakes: now whenever I see a fan tat, I add it to the Siglerism Tattoo Flickr set along with the bearer’s name. You won’t foil me ever again, dodgy memory!
My readers have tats on their chests, their backs, their legs and arms. One girl has a triangle on her inner lower lip, FFS. There are triangles, hatchlings, protection symbols, Savior Crosses, team logos, even one of the “chicken scissors” that feature rather prominently in INFECTED (and Junkies, if you’re reading, don’t spoil why in the comments, capice?).
I’m told there are more Siglerism tats out there, but the bearers haven’t gotten around to sharing the photos. I’m also told that several fans are planning their skin homages, and will get them soon.
If you’ve got the magical Number 26, I’m on tour again as of January 18 — so if you see me in a bookstore, feel free to lose that shirt — it’s sort of a tradition.
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