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Never-Ending List of Things to Do, Feb ’16 Edition

9 Feb

Write a blog post.

Quiet, brain, I’m working.

Write a blog post!

Working. Hush. I’ll give you cookies.

Write a blog post or I’ll remind you about this thing you did when you were eight.

Fine. Okay. Right. Let’s organize the work schedule for the next few months, shall we?

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George Washington is the most fun, ever.

22 Jan

Haven’t written anything over here for a few days, so here. Have some thoughts on George Washington. No, not that one.

This one.

This one.

Whenever I include a historical figure in the comic, I’ve tried to read as much of their own personal writings as possible. (Amelia Earhart was fantastic, by the way. I know I’ve said this before, but if she were alive today in the era of social media, she’d be killing it. Yeah yeah, she flew a plane. Whee. But did you know she addressed women’s social roles so thoroughly that she decided to start her own clothing line focused on practicality and wearability first, and appearance second, because she knew women needed to Get Shit Done? And that’s just one example and… and… Right. This is about Washington.)

Ahem.

Writing George Washington is so much fun. In the comic, his character is completely out of fucks to give. He has seen and done everything. In life, he survived betrayal, extraordinary loss, and hardships that we in this modern era can’t even imagine. Once the war was over, all he wanted to do was go sit on his farm and grow old, but no, there was this whole new country and he felt responsible for it. So he governs until he was sure it wouldn’t fall apart without him, and then he went to sit on his farm, with brief and much-resented interludes where he had to come out and make an appearance.

Can you imagine how pissed George the Ghost must have been when he died and found that the other ghosts thought he was still responsible for the country? Not only that, but he was so romanticized and heroized within society that he finds himself a super-powered ghost… an American god?

Man, he must have been pissed.

When I was first writing the ghosts into the story, I knew he’d show up. It’s a comic with the Founding Fathers in it, after all, and you cannot exclude Washington from that lineup. I had two options, and both of them would have been perfectly in character with George Washington’s in-life actions: George the Ghost could have stayed on his otherworld farm and removed himself from politics completely; or, George the Ghost could have rolled up his sleeves and started cracking heads.

I decided to go with the second option because Lincoln was the ghost who had banished himself to the afterlife. And because it was more fun. George the Ghost is great. He only looks like George Washington when he’s drawn as half-drunk and bitterly sarcastic. He only sounds like George Washington when he’s stating facts. Yeah, they’re just his opinions, but in his mind, they’re Facts.

He doesn’t like Pat. He doesn’t have to like Pat. He’s George Washington–he doesn’t have to like anybody! But if you earn his respect, he considers you a friend.

PITCH US! 2014 (makers)

23 Dec

I try to do this every holiday season over at the comic, but I’m slammed this year and I thought it’d be nice for people to have a permalink to their sites. Plus, I’m slammed this year and can’t email the emails. I’m so slammed, I’m just cut-and-pasting this header from the previous writers’ and artists’ pitch posts.


That moment when you realize your search for "makers" is already weirder than anything you could add to it.

That moment when you realize your search for “makers” is already weirder than anything you could add to it.

Makers! Knitters, woodturners, programmers… lend me your fingers! LEGO master builders, Sudoku puzzle crafters, hobbyists and pros of all stripes… What do you do? And why do you do it? Tell us, please, and be sure to link to your work!

(Please try to keep it short. If you’re a writer or an artist, there are other posts for you!)

Master Plans, and the Problems Therein

17 Nov

Spoilers ahead. Have you read the comic? It’s free!


It’s hard to be a supervillain. Clarice had this brilliant master plan to set herself up as a new god.

(yes, I know it's almost a line from HELLRAISER I swear you people don't know me at all...)

(…yes, I know it’s almost a line from HELLRAISER. I swear, you people don’t know me at all…)

But the ghosts who support her decided: Whoa, lady? Worldwide death and destruction? That’s a bit over the top!

Which is me wiggling out on the story I had planned to tell.

I wanted to follow through on Clarice’s master plan. It’d be great! It’d be entirely in keeping with her character, and within the rules of the universe. Essentially, it’s drawing on the premise that fame is a form of energy. Fame is remarkably similar to belief. It’s an investment of thought and attention, and if it is sustained over enough time, its target can draw upon this energy.

But fame is fleeting. Even U.S. presidents fall out of active memory. Benjamin Franklin and George Washington are among the most powerful ghosts in American history because everybody knows who they were, but Calvin Coolidge? The poor guy is relegated to “Worst President” lists and the occasional bad joke. If he’s lucky.

If Clarice spent the rest of her natural life setting herself up as a highly controversial figure who broke the modern world, she’d never be forgotten. (Or at least, not within the span of modern civilization, because Ozymandias, but she’ll take what she can get and then orchestrate her legacy from the grave.) This is what Clarice should have done.

But she couldn’t, because while she’s vicious and amoral and would think nothing of worldwide genocide to further her own ends, she’s also a character in a webcomic that updates twice a week. The medium through which her story is told cannot sustain that type of decades-long plot. It’d take sixty years of machinations to get Clarice to a point where she’d be poised at the brink of winning, and then-spoiler!-our heroes would finally pull their last-minute save out of their collective butts and send her to Hell.

Our very, very old heroes. As drawn by a very tired, and probably as equally old, me.

Couldn’t be done. Just in terms of audience attrition alone, I’d be ending a story followed by maybe sixteen hardcore readers (hi guys!). The characters themselves would have aged significantly, and their traits changed accordingly. It’d be sort of neat to carry a story through the length of their lives, and get into the nuts and bolts of political and religious plotting, the outcome of major plagues and nuclear fallout, the societal and cultural issues raised by coping with a reduced population…  Well.

Writers tell similar long-term story arcs all of the time, but they don’t have to draw it out on a per-update basis. I can (and often do) spend three weeks on a brief interaction between two characters. A webcomic is not the right format for this type of story. Judge Dredd might be able to pull it off, but me? Not so much.

I’ve known about this problem for ages, and wrote myself a series of outs, just in case I decided to abandon one storyline and jump to another. There’ve been some hints that the ghosts who allied with Clarice weren’t cool with the whole global chaos/genocide thing. Now, it seems they’ve asked her to tone it down a notch or they’ll pull their support.

So, Clarice isn’t getting her long-running Master Plan. She’s forced to make do with something fast and dirty. Something also in keeping with her character but better suited to a comic format.

*sigh*

I’m sad I don’t get to play with mass murder, but there’ll be other opportunities.





On race, gender, and characters, comic and otherwise.

8 Oct

Note: Someday soon I’ll put up a companion piece to this one about Rachel being blind. It’ll be very similar in content, but will cover the year after publishing Digital Divide where I went from, “Hey, I’ve got a book out” to “Hey, there’s a need for representation of persons with disabilities in science fiction and Rachel is blind so I’m doing something good!” to “Um… Rachel can still see so I’m going to put this banner down and quietly back away before I get myself into trouble.” I will definitely be exploring a comparison between Rachel and her brain implant, and deaf persons and cochlear implants, in an upcoming book.

_____________________________________________

I’ve got the plot for the comic planned out, but I do a lot of last-minute tinkering with scripts. The strip for October 2 was supposed to be quite different, with Hope offering Mike to Lincoln as a possible therapist.

Hope's body language in the first panel matches the current strip, not the original dialogue. CRAISENS! CRAISENS! CRAISENS!

Hope’s body language in the first panel matches the current strip, not this rough script. CRAISENS! CRAISENS! CRAISENS!

I backed away at the last minute. I’m glad I did: I’m trying to get through the entire story without mentioning the characters’ preferences in sex partners. (I was also trying to do this with race, but I think I blew that in one of the earliest strips.) I’ll explain why, but I’ll ask you to do a little light reading before we get to that:

“Pete and Pete was all white people”

Don’t be fooled by the first couple of questions. Once you get past the normal Ask:Response section, the interview goes batshit. You can almost pinpoint the exact second when the interviewer realizes that this was no longer a fluff piece, and the pleasant stroll down Memory Lane has careened into Racism Road.

Yes, diversity matters. Yes, representation matters. No, we don’t have to hang spotlights off of every single difference to show that these matter. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a Jedi more than anything else in the entire world. I wanted the lightsaber and the mindpowers and the… the everything! But I couldn’t, because girls weren’t Jedi. They weren’t anything, really.

Probably the only time I'll ever reference "Family Guy"

Probably the only time I’ll ever reference “Family Guy”

If the Star Wars expanded universe had existed back when I was a kid-if I had seen just one female Jedi way off to the side!-the games I played with my friends would have been different. The stories I wrote in my head would have been different. When you’re a very young child, you don’t realize you’ve got options. You learn from example and context. Role models can be something as stupidly simple as a background character. The fact that they exist can open entire worlds within a kid’s head.

So I don’t talk about race or preferences in sex partners in the comic. They exist. Hell, they exist in the main characters: Mako is Black, Rachel is Chinese-American, Mike and Rachel are gay, Josh is so straight the Kinsey scale needed to be pushed into negative numbers, and Pat’s bisexual. (I’ve got a side story in the works that addresses this, where Pat wasn’t entirely comfortable with this aspect of himself until the collective kicked in, and then came the mental rush of everybody doing everything with everybody else. Sharing a hivemind shatters a lot of mental walls.) But they exist in the background, to inform the characters’ choices and actions. They don’t take the spotlight from the actual story.

That Pete and Pete article? It’s lovely. I mean that. It’s a wonderful example of why it’s critical for creators to use characters that don’t conform to a standard template of traits. And yes, there is the threat of tokenism if a single person uses a wheelchair, or if a single person is Black or female within an entire cast of White males. But I think a lot of young girls would have played different games on the playground if they had seen one female Jedi.

Now, if Yoda had been female…

vagina

Samples of MAKER SPACE

13 Dec

I’m sure most of you good folks over here at Ye Olde Blogge follow the comic, but in case you missed the news posts (and you wouldn’t believe how almost everyone misses the news posts), I’ve put up the first nine chapters of MAKER SPACE, free.  You can download a .pdf here, or a Kindle-compatible .mobi file here.

Why give away the samples? Many, many, many reasons. To get readers interested in the release, sure! But there was also that little matter of a television series with a lot of similarities to AGAHF. I was supposed to have MAKER SPACE out three weeks before the show was released, but they pumped the show’s premiere to early January. Le sigh.

FOR THE RECORD — It doesn’t matter where the ideas in that show came from. They are remarkably dissimilar to the book which inspired the series, but (a) you can’t copyright an idea, and (b) if the main character suddenly has a wisecracking sex-crazed koala as his best friend, I wouldn’t have the money for a legal battle anyhow. I’ve basically decided to never watch the show, and just appreciate how Josh Holloway is now paid to pose shirtless from time to time.*

What I am concerned about is having fans of a brand-new television show claim that this fictional universe I’ve been working on for more than seven years is a derivative of this other similar work. I’ve invested too many hours in developing these characters, their society, and how the implant functions. So, nine chapters of MAKER SPACE have been released ahead of schedule. There’s not enough of plot in these chapters to form spoilers, but the two tech concepts associated with the implant that I have developed in this book are firmly established.

So, be sociable. Share! And download some free content when you have time! Again, you can download a .pdf here, or a Kindle-compatible .mobi file here.

*And answer a lot of emails along the lines of Why aren’t you suing-Why don’t you-Why won’t you… These are already showing up in my inbox, and I am not looking forward to January. Guys, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There’s not just one vampire movie, or zombie movie, or even one cyborg movie. The best thing to do is to say “Hey, if you liked that, then I bet you’ll love this!” and spread the word of the comic and the books.

More information about INTELLIGENCE

16 May

Ok…  Right.  This again.

A little backstory: in February, it was announced that CBS had purchased the rights to make a pilot based on an unpublished young adult novel by new(ish) author John Dixon.  This pilot was loosely adapted from the novel, and featured a government agent who had been part of a top-secret program.  Based on the very sparse information in the press releases, the plot centered on an agent with a chip implanted in his brain which allowed him to access the entire EM spectrum.

I spoke with my lawyer, who advised three things:  (1) Get the news of this series out to the readership, so we did not appear ignorant or  blindsided if/when the pilot hit; (2) Document everything, and I mean everything; and (3) Speed up publication of Digital Divide.  I did all of this.  I even had a brief but pleasant discussion with John Dixon on his blog, so he was aware that there were some concerns of trope crossover (I cannot find these posts to link to them at this time.  They were attached to this article, but the follow-up comments forming a nice conversation between Dixon, AGAHF reader Alexander H., and myself are no longer there.).

Now, we’re keeping the Kraken on a short leash, guys, remember?  We are not going off half-cocked and misinformed, remember?

With that said, CBS has just released the trailer to Intelligence, and now we have a little more information about the chip-in-head-meets-Secret–Government-Agency tropes in play.

I can overlook the tough-as-nails dusky blond hunk and the sassy brunette “minder” whose job it is to protect him.  Attitude + sexy = win.  I can ignore the whole “we gave a human the kind of power that was previously only seen in a machine” theme.  Been done before.  The shift from accessing the EM spectrum to controlling the EM spectrum (two very different things) is understandable as it makes for better action, and one can lead directly to another.  I can even overlook that they are portraying the agent and what he represents as “this generation’s Manhattan Project,” which is a major theme throughout the seven-plus years of the comic and Digital Divide, even though that trope is less well-established in the general sci-fi & government conspiracy theory literature.

But…. Guys, the uber-elite Secret Agent with the chip in his head makes constructs. He says that an “unexpected” side effect of the implant is that he can project what he sees.  “The intel I have access to… I can see it.  It’s like a virtual evidence wall.”  This is very unique and differs from other projection-type tropes, such as Gary’s in Alphas, where he translated what he perceived into images that only he could see. The Secret Agent in Intelligence can also perceive snipers from a distance, which is straight-up Rachel.  The more information that we get about these projects, the harder it is for me to separate the ideas in them as being unique from my own.

I am trying very hard not to cry right now.

More data is needed, but I have renewed conversations with my lawyer.