I Got Quoted, She Makes Comics, La-Mulana Cries, and A Pixie Is Making Games

This will be my first post written directly on schedule and I hope to make this a habit again. So what I’m going to do is the following. I missed you guys so much that in my haste to actually let you know what’s been going on with me lately, I’ve actually forgotten t mention a few things.

The first is that Anthony Martignetti, the author of Lunatic Heroes and now Beloved Demons, has created his own writer’s site and in its “Reviews and Endorsements” section is a blurb, at the very bottom of the page, taken from someone that all of you might find very familiar. Basically, Anthony quoted me. 🙂 I found this when I was at the Toronto Global Game Jam (which probably explains how I forgot to write about it with all the writing I had to do there and after) and in addition to all the positive energy that was already around me, it made my day. The fact of the matter is that I am honoured and feel kind of unworthy to be mentioned in such really august company.

That said, it still makes my day and reminds me that I am actually doing some good work here on Mythic Bios. I will tell you right now that it has been difficult to return back to my regularly scheduled posting. I still plan to do some writing outside of Mythic Bios and the Net and, regardless of even that, it took a while for the old, weird ideas to come back into my head and flow properly as they did. But I do have something to work with now.

And Anthony, I have not forgotten about you. You will all see something new about Anthony’s work relatively soon.

But here is what I am going to do for the rest of this post. I am actually going to be doing some very shameless plugging for some really cool things that haven’t been derived from me.

For first thing’s first. The Sequart Research & Literacy Organization is making a Kickstarter Campaign called She Makes Comics. Basically, this is a documentary about women in comics: specifically women as creators, editors, researchers, and publishers in the comics world. It really makes me frustrated that, despite all the comics I’ve read, I actually had to struggle to suggest some prominent female comics creators. In fact, it makes more than frustrated. It makes me sad. I am doing my part to support this Kickstarter. I even wrote a G33kPr0n article on She Makes Comics to give you another look or perspective on just why this is so important. I hope that you will support this campaign, or at least send the links out to those you know and, if you are Facebook or Twitter users, please do not hesitate to use the hashtag #SheMakesComics.

There is also another Kickstarter I would like to draw your attention. The La-Mulana 2 Kickstarter has reached its baseline goal. However, in order to unlock more goodies from chests not rigged with spikes, including the addition of extra character journals and story-modes to an already dangerous quirky puzzle and monster archaeological game of death, it requires more funding: with not much more time to spare. I always hated “timed levels” and I hope that someone here will make sure that this remains in reality and not in the game: which I hope to see funded as far as it will go.

I still hope PLAYISM will have time to post up my Twine fanfic in another Fan Art Update: as it has not happened yet. 🙂

Finally, last by not least there is a game-maker that you should be following. She is Gaming Pixie, whose work and process I reviewed in Life and Identity, Eden and Hell, and not only is she working on a video game that centres around a girl surviving seven days with her alcoholic father, but she has made offline versions of her Twine games Eden and Shadow of a Soul. The latter games are very complex and if you purchase them you will be able to store them on your hard-drive to play at leisure and also experience far less graphics and sound loading time. In addition, with the very modest prices that she offers for both games, you can also help to continue funding her endeavours. I cannot recommend Gaming Pixie’s work highly enough and it will only get better with time and aid. You can find both games here and, if you’re a Windows user, you can download “the first day” of her first major game Fighting the Monster for free.

are-you-sure

And that’s it for now. I had this all in my head for a while and there is still so much more work to do. I will speak with you all soon again I’m sure. Take care now, and have an excellent week.

A Surprise Post Appears! La-Mulana, an Age, and Solo Jamming all Entwined.

I have been meaning to write here for a very long time. So I am going to write behind my own designated schedule and wave hello at all of you.

So I am still alive and I am hoping to write here again a lot more often now. For those of you don’t know, I went on something of a hiatus to finish a short story that may have me see actual print: as in something actually published in print in addition to my poem in the art book Klarissa Dreams. That is all I can really about that at the moment, but please stay tuned.

In the meantime, however, I have been busy with other things as well. So where do I even begin?

Well, I participated in the Unwritten RPG Kickstarter Campaign. I essentially made an Age for them. In case you don’t know, Unwritten is a table-top RPG based on the universe of Myst: in which you must go through several Descriptive and Linking Books that connect to other worlds. The D’Ni civilization figured out a way to write Books that allowed people to link to other worlds or gradations of a particular world: or Ages as they are called. I read the books and played two of the games in my formative years and for about a decade I had an idea for an Age and a people.

There were some changes I had to make, but what resulted is pretty impressive based on a creative collaboration with the team. I can’t wait for it to come out so I can show people that I was part of the Guild of Writers and I finally made my own Age. My nineteen year old self would be proud of what the thirty-one year old me has become capable of doing: at least to that regard.

I also admit one other thing. So you know the game I vowed never to play? Well, I am playing La-Mulana now. In fact, very soon the La-Mulana 2 Kickstarter will be making more Fan Art Updates and my Twine story The Treasure of La-Mulana will be featured in one of them. I will be on the look out for that and at some point I will link that update to all of you. It’s funny. I have gotten to know quite a few people through this game and it is perhaps one of the few sources of real community that I’ve felt in a really long time, if not ever. I am not a game-designer in the programming sense. I am a writer. Of course, Christine Love herself said the same thing and look at the places she is at now. Granted, she has programming knowledge and I don’t. But that’s ok.

In fact, I hit another milestone relatively recently. I attended the 2014 Toronto Global Game Jam. As some of you know I participated in the event last year, but armed with a basic understanding of Twine, I registered as a Solo Jammer and completed my first Twine game as such. I go into a little more detail about that on my G33kPron article Experiences from the 2014 Toronto Global Game Jam, but given what this Blog is about I wanted to talk a little shop about my game.

The Looking Glass was an experiment. After my Treasure of La-Mulana fanfic, I realized I could tell an extensive story with Twine, and use the hyperlinking transitions to control how much text the reader sees, and how much I wanted to pace the narrative. My Haunted Twine was an earlier attempt at this, but it was a lot clunkier and it still has issues that I need to address in future works. But I wanted to add more of an interactive element besides clicking on words this time around.

In addition, I was following a person’s experiences with a particular game online and, as my brain often works, I combined a few ideas together and came up with a concept and a few notes that you can see in all of their natural idiosyncratic handwritten glory down below.

I had a choice between this and a game about a serial killer. I was at first happy with neither of these concepts as I wanted to make something very personal and me for this Jam, but when I realized that my version of a “choose your own adventure” Twine game about my experience at the Jam itself would not be good enough at this stage in my development, and not really feeling the killing thing by the second official day of the 48-hour Jam I went with my original, very complex yet simply elegant idea that I should have taken more than two days to do. I may create more games like this one in the near future. In fact, I may be personally showcasing this one at the Toronto Global Game Jam Arcade in April. We shall see.

So now that I have at least four working Twine games or stories, I decided to expand a branch of Mythic Bios to contain them. You can find it on the menu bar above or click here on this link. I thought I would only make two relatively big Twine novels, but it seems my brain had, and needed, other plans. Perhaps sometime in the near future I will see what will be done with those.

And seriously ladies, gentlemen and other sentient beings, this is it for now. As I said before, I hope to be writing here more often again and I have some plans, as always. I have a few posts that are overdue and I want to fee more time to explore while continuing some of the work that I have been cultivating in my long self-exile. Poor January only had one post. Let’s see how many posts February will have as result shall we? 🙂

La-Mulana 2

Oh and before I go, please support NIGORO and Playism’s La-Mulana 2 Kickstarter Campaign. The universe of La-Mulana is both an archaeologist’s and a gamer’s dream and worst nightmare: it will challenge your ingrained assumptions about gameplay and mechanics. It also has a really nice unfolding story and a quirky character about it that few other games I’ve seen can match. So please check it out. You will not be disappointed and we might get to unlock some goodies without the spikes.

Mostly. Err …

Take care everyone.

Going Deeper Into Myth, Farewell For Now

A long time ago now, as I always like to say, Mythic Bios started out as a series of private notebooks where I wrote down story sketches and some short stories as well. So I hope you will forgive the following hyperbole and metaphors as I give you some news.

I’ve been working on the Mythic Bios Blog for over a year now. It started from a great pit in my life and it’s kept me sane in a sea of chaos for about that same amount of time. I knew when I took on work at G33kPr0n and, to some extent, Sequart before it that I would have some challenges on my hands in writing for all three of them. At one point, I even toyed with the idea of cutting down my posts on Mythic Bios from two a week to one.

But now the insanity is different, and I have to do something different, at least for the time being.

I find that for the first time in over a year, I am going to be taking a break from Mythic Bios, to go back to my Mythic Bios. There is a story that I am writing right now that people are depending on. If it was just the other magazines and Mythic Bios, I could handle that but this story requires much of my attention.

So what is happening is that, with my special golden pen that I rarely use, that was in fact a graduation present for my Master’s Convocation, I am writing out this story by hand in the last Mythic Bios notebook that I have, until now, neglected for the computer screen. In order to accomplish my goal, I have gone back to the basics: to the very beginning.

It isn’t just that, of course. Life has been happening with me at a very accelerated rate compared to the slow molasses of earlier times and while this story is my top priority–with my Dark Crystal story following right after it–I find that right now I need to write less about life and actually start living some of it.

I’m not going to be completely gone. In this day and age it is simply impossible for me not to be entirely on the Internet. I will be continuing to write a few G33kPr0n articles and an article that I am really proud of is going to be published on Sequart in an instalment of three parts separated over three weeks. I may even take some time to do a quick update and let all of you know about my article.

But here are the facts. I’ve been really late making posts on here for the past few weeks. I mean, this in itself is already a weekend post and I’m not entirely sure how many of you are going to see this. I’ve learned a lot through this Blog and the challenges I’ve posed myself. I even made a great many friends and shown many of my old friends and contacts just what it is I can do beyond merely talking about my stories and my writing. I intend to continue to do so and make posts far more eloquent than the one that preceded this.

It pains me, and I am not doing this lightly, but I have priorities and hopefully when the first priority is finished I will have something to be proud of, and something to tell all of you. In the meantime, you will have plenty of reading material to tide you over here. I have no illusions that everyone has read everything on this Blog, and to those people who are my new readers, you will have a lot of entries to slog through … or anything that piques your interests. You can even look at my G33kPr0n and Sequart works, if you’d like.

I’m glad you have followed me this far. During the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who I felt like I was The War Doctor, constantly in battle and hardly letting myself rest or even feeling the inclination to rest unless I had to pass out for a time.

But now, right now, I realize that the real war is already underway and unlike the wars of our world in which nobody wins, I hope that in this one there will only be one victor and that, in the end, you will be looking at him. I’d like to think that a good writer goes to war.

I will be back relatively soon, my friends. Take care. And, in the meantime, back to my notebook.

Looking Outward

My Second Twine Game: Haunted

Me and my Head

I am apparently now in the habit of posting late. So a week or so after the WordPlay Twine Workshop with Christine Love, and exploring Faerie Dark’s world of interconnected Twine games and stories–essentially the progression of a universe-seed in progress–I felt compelled to make another Twine.

My first Twine game was mostly an experiment to see what I could apply in a very basic way to the software medium. I wanted to see if I could tell a story and use the medium to mimic page-turnings, or panels, or–if you prefer–punctuation. With this game, I wanted to do two things.

First off, I wanted to make sure what I did before wasn’t a one-off and I wanted to keep up the practice for when I create some of my more involved works. Luckily I have the template of “Level-Up” to work off of as well as some Twine tutorials and the instructions of Anna Anthropy and Porpentine as well as Gaming Pixie’s advice to go off of too.

But the second reason I made “Haunted” is because I wanted to make both a longer story and something personal. And this story is personal. I don’t just mean that it is based off of some of my life experience, which it is, but it really taps into feelings. I wanted to make sure that I could do this. It feeds into part of a feeble excuse in which I didn’t edit the text or anything, just because it was something I wanted to say and express while it felt real and fresh and, more importantly, tangible and cohesive in my mind. So, in part, I am basically taking Twine and telling a story as flat-out as I can and I admit that process is rather cathartic, if nothing else.

This also gave me an opportunity to explore the boundaries of my own ignorance. Right now, I am at the stage where I am basically taking basic Twine hyperlinking and knowing how to make titles and attribute my name and nothing more. I don’t know how to grey-out or eliminate links once they are chosen. I don’t know how to affect the game when certain items are chosen or not, or when certain places are clicked on or not selected. I have to be mindful about what words I will be using to click from one plot box to the next.

Sometimes I have made mistakes. In my old Twine story, I didn’t even unload it to Philome.la, a free Twine Twitter-based hosting site, properly. It took a few tries and I succeeded thanks to the very prompt and patient guidance of one Colin Marc. This story, such as it is now, is structurally limited but it is more of a game than the first one is. There is more exploration and you will have some–albeit simple–options. I am still focusing on story and expression, this time more personal expression, but I hope to eventually make a stronger game mechanic to make that exploration more potent … with editing, I assure you.

That said, I can see some “dictatorship of the narrative” going on here and I don’t know how well a more generalized audience will be able to relate to this game, but as I have said many times this is a story and I am working on one thing at least that might be a bit more inclusive. At very least and if nothing else, I made an experience and a story.

So here is my answer to the question of whether or not you can haunt the places of your own life. I hope you will appreciate it, and take it for what it is. Until next time, my friends.

For now, become Haunted.

ETA: Based on scraps of what I can remember from Christine Love’s Workshop, I believe I recall what the vertical bars, the |s do. They actually create Headings so that you can Rewind your game to that point and start off from there again instead of doing it all over. I will keep that in mind next time once I figure out how to utilize it properly.

How You Can Help Me

Remember my post where I Am Asking For Your Help? Well, this follow-up post is both late and a long time coming.

I have been insanely busy. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said it feels like I’m in a Time War of my very own. I am trying to find that balance between having a life and using my art to support that life. It’s hard. When people tell you that attempting to become a published writer, especially a published writer that makes money off of your creations, they are not exaggerating. I have attempted to get published “legitimately,” and while I have still not ruled it out by any means, and I have one work in particular that I want to send by those channels, there is this one hard fact to consider.

I am working hard to make content and I am not getting paid for it.

Don’t misunderstand. I enjoy writing for Mythic Bios and being given the opportunity to contribute to the other online magazines in which I publish articles. I write much better when I get to focus on the matters of Geek Culture and other areas of interest.

This not about them or any of that. I just can’t ignore the facts. I am on social assistance, and I am working hard to write articles and stories that are not making me any money.

And this has been bothering me for a very long time. To be perfectly honest with you all, I know I’m talented. I know that I have accomplished a great many things in this past year alone and I continue to make myself believe “in as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” which is a far cry from the one or two I barely had energy to concentrate on back in the day, but despite my efforts and my audience I am quite simply not getting paid for any of it.

So I have thought about a solution to this issue. I’ve realized that this is no one’s responsibility but my own and I am now going to take steps to deal with it. The fact of the matter is that throughout my entire life, I’ve never done anything through orthodox channels, and even when I’ve been in established institutions I have had to find my own methods of dealing with them, and creating my own learning path. And now that I’m outside of academia and those established places I realize that I have to apply that same mentality to life. That said, I didn’t even know how begin to deal with life on those terms.

Until now.

Anna Anthropy, through her own quests to support herself and her work, made me aware of a new crowd-funding platform called Patreon. It is essentially an application that allows an artist’s supporters to become their patrons: to donate money to their art. It is a lot like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, but while the former are made to support larger projects, Patreon is created to fund artists on a smaller and yet potentially longer term monthly scale.

So now this is the part where I finally get to the point. While Anna Anthropy was the one who lead me to this platform, Amanda Palmer introduced me to the Art of Asking: to the power of crowd-funding, of trusting in the goodwill of your fans, and to simply asking for help.

And here is how you can help me.

I have created a Patreon Profile. I would like you, my loyal friends and Followers to read over what I have written on this Profile and do one of two things: become my Patrons and donate whatever amount of money you feel comfortable paying to my art, or spread word of my art and my Patreon Profile to the people that you know.

I go into a lot of detail in the Profile, so please read it closely, but allow me to clarify a few other matters first. I am not charging money for anyone to view my work on Mythic Bios or anywhere. Aside from the fact that I lack the authority in those other places, I do have the authority to state that Mythic Bios’ content will always be free to the public. If you’d like, think of it as what the name suggests: you are patronizing me (hopefully in the positive sense of the word) for the work that I already do and if you do become my Patrons in addition my Followers you will get to see some Patron-Only work, or be the lucky ones to get a first view of it before I launch it more publicly. And I am also willing to undertake research and creative commissions.

I am not begging you for charity and most of you already know this. I am asking you for the opportunity to work for pay doing something that I love doing and making that connection with you.

Now, this will be a learning process for the both of us. I myself am still figuring out the details with regards to Patreon and it will undoubtedly change over time. Also, I just want to state that if you ever want to stop funding me for whatever reason, you can easily cancel your donations. I am simply hoping for a modest cumulative monthly donation of some kind which I plan to share the results of with you.

The thing is: this is both really hard and very easy to ask this of you. What Amanda Palmer espouses, asking for help, is something that has been ingrained in me ever since I was diagnosed as being learning disabled. The very term “extra help” is indicative of asking. But as I said, I have challenges but I will not beg and if you can’t or don’t want to donate anything to my work I understand and, like I said I hope you will keep following it and let other people know about it and my Patreon.

There has always been a stigma to asking for extra help, or even just asking someone for help in society. But here is where I began to realize the difference. I am not asking a bunch of strangers for change. I am asking you–my friends, peers, colleagues, and loved ones–for help. I am letting go of the negative part of my stubbornness: the pride and the fear of change that does not want to admit weakness or, in this lexicon, vulnerability.

I am trusting, all of you, to help me in some way. Even if it is only in the form of suggestions, questions, concerns, or advice about the contents of my Patreon please let me know and I will treasure what you tell me.

So I am going to re-post a picture I’ve been using for two posts now, and with good reason. This was me looking at the horizon a few years ago: wondering what was going to happen next. And this time, not only am I doing exactly the same thing but I hope to see you all there with me. I will keep putting myself out there. I promise you that. I owe you that. I owe that to myself.

Thank you for supporting me: in any way that you can. You already are.

*Hugs*

sincerely,

Matthew Kirshenblatt

Looking Outward

P.S. I am going to pay this attempt at good will forward. Gaming Pixie is an excellent reviewer, graphic artist, site designer, and video game creator. She is one of those that already believes in six impossible things before breakfast. But due to life circumstances, she needs more help than I do at this moment. Please consider donating some money to her art on her website and seeing what she can truly do. Because just as I believe in her, I also believe in all of you. Please encourage her to believe in a seventh impossible thing.

And check out Anna Anthropy’s Patreon as well. She cannot have enough support for the work that she is doing: not only being one of those creating games with her own voice, but advocating the creation of means for other people to do the same.

Dark Crystal: Connection

From the moment they entered this world, YiYa knew that Thra was special.

Even though they had come through the Crystal of their homeworld as exiles—transported here to deal with the imbalances within themselves as this world came to its next Conjunction—it was no coincidence that they had been brought here. YiYa firmly believed that there was a reason they had been sent to Thra: so much so that now, when the prospect of finally returning to their homeworld came, it leaves him feeling … unfulfilled somehow.

The two Gelfling and the Podling representative, along with the Landstriders that brought them here to watch this moment in the Crystal Chamber fascinate him. In fact, every life-form on Thra—from Aughra and her son, to the Gelfling civilizations, even to the nebrie—all fascinate him. He never dreamed of this. Never in what was a million of this world’s trine did he ever conceive of such a variety of life even existing in the multitude of possibilities that the Universe had to offer.

Even now, holding the stave that Aughra made for all of them, YiYa remembers SoSu abjuring the urSkek Collective’s decision to banish him along with the others. He told them that he had committed no crime: he did not know what he was doing and that he had no place with them. But YiYa interrupted them. He had been so curious. He always wanted to know not so much how, but why. He was the youngest of the eighteen. Only the most discerning of Thra could see that he was a little smaller and brighter than his other brethren. And always wandering. He could never stay still unless the occasion demanded for it.

That time on their homeworld he had been reverberating with eagerness, just as he was with reluctance at this time now in the Chamber. The Collective had said that the mere act of wanting to explore was enough to place him out of consensus and into the dangerous sense of individuality that the other seventeen found themselves in. YiYa had felt such fear and joy that time when he was allowed to join his brethren—his adventurous brethren—to see another world after developing such complexities within himself: to not be uniform again. He also recalled SoSu’s sad eyes as he told him that this would be a great burden, these barely controlled passions that they had: that it would be sad that he would have to learn of his role in another world. Still, SoSu vowed that he and the others would watch over him and that they would return here together when they did what needed to be done.

YiYa grew up, in a fashion, on Thra. He watched TekTih interact and examine the organic and the inorganic parts of this world. He heeded SoSu’s counsels and maintained meditations with UngIm. But sometimes he would follow SaSan into his voyages under the various oceans or be made to assist LachSen in helping the Gelfling keep a census of their populations. His favourite times, however, ones that he looked back at mournfully as the three suns of Thra were coming together, were the journeys with the wandering GraGoh and MalVa. MalVa had always seemed the most solemn among the exiles. YiYa, in the beginnings of millennium they spent together, always asked him what it had been like to hunt and to pursue an enemy in battle such as in the first times before the Collective. It always struck YiYa, that look on MalVa’s face, as he told him with some weariness that it was a feeling that he should be thankful to never understand.

The taking of a life was hard—this was something MalVa had always tried to instill into him—and should only be done when all other possibilities were exhausted. Almost a thousand trine on Thra and YiYa had seen life take life, and observed the checks and the balances of such. Sometimes it seemed so arbitrary and cruel, but over time there was a pattern. There was always a pattern.

Far away from Gelfling ears, he’d told the others his theories. He asked them how they could come to a world built on the very principles they said they held dear: of realities of three angles encircling the perfect unity of a sphere and not be moved by its lessons. Had they not seen the skeletal structures of the Gelfling and the Landstriders as tripartite? Couldn’t they sense Aughra—as the avatar of this world’s elemental energies—with her three eyes as embodying their ideal?

So why, he asked them, why was it so hard to believe that this place that had such an intermingling of Light and Dark—in the multifaceted nature of the Crystal with its crossing lines and angles no less—had nothing to teach them about their own darkness? Couldn’t they find a way to coexist with it as the lifeforms of this world had? Was it really wise to try to suppress or purge those inclinations but instead, somehow, integrate them and learn more from it?

But the others said that YiYa, though young and bright, had much to learn and the evolution of life on Thra had even more so. But then YiYa had brought up the Gelfling and the Pod People and asked them, after spending so much time among them—for as much as they had been comfortable—and asked how such a peaceful people could evolve on a world of Light and Dark if Light and Dark contrasted as much as the urSkeks said. ZokZah warned him to be mindful of his thoughts—to be careful of straying beyond the heresy they’d all already fallen deep into—and the others remained silent. YiYa would have spoken more about this had not SoSu adjourned their meeting.

YiYa didn’t understand. Perhaps this was what Raunip—Aughra’s child—felt whenever he told her that she didn’t see everything when she looked at them. The urSkeks could hear their conversations well enough, but chose to say nothing. But YiYa, who always tried to befriend Aughra’s hostile hybrid son, now wonders if there was something to those claims that even he could not fully see.

YiYa levitates in the circle of his brethren around the Crystal as it hovers over the Lake of Fire: as it began to glow. As it begins to happen. He fights against the inclination to look at the two Gelfling. The Sifa Gyr with his tear-drop scar and the pale highborn Vapra Kel stand there and watched their leave-taking from this wonderful, fascinating place. Their hands inch together and YiYa remembers …

After that fateful meeting where he spoke out, SoSu wished to talk with him. As the other urSkeks went out to fulfill their tasks and duties, the two urSkeks had hovered across the green land around the Focal Point—or “the Castle” as the Gelfling called it—and observed the stars in the sky. YiYa recalled seeing the faint rays of the Rose Sun and the twilight of its Dying Brother as the Greater Sun had rotated away for the night. They weren’t as close this time: the Greater Sun always dominating, always there, but only barely touching the Rose—a tousle between brothers, the Gelfling told him—and the Dying Sun was still, far, far away. But because of what he and SoSu were, they could see the spheres of energy and their concentric circles of power and influence gradually, ever so gradually, rippling into each other until—inevitably—all three would cross again just as they had that fateful day almost a thousand trine ago.

SoSu asked YiYa then what he had seen. Even though his role was undefined as of yet and they all remained individuals, YiYa was still part of the collective consciousness that all eighteen made up. To an extent, he access to all their thoughts and experiences—their feelings—but as time went on, even with their strides towards calming the turbulence inside of them, YiYa did not see everything. But they did not see what he saw either. What many did not know, outside of the eighteen, was that YiYa sometimes had flashes of insight along the multifaceted angles of the Universe: the circle of himself still young and growing into lines that had not completely formed yet.

These flashes of actual prescience, like solar flares in his very being, motivated YiYa into finding out more: more about Thra and why of all places they came here. YiYa told SoSu then about the Gelfling—and to some extent the Podlings but the Gelfling in particular—and how they were growing. How they would face that time. As they themselves had long ago.

It didn’t surprise YiYa when SoSu told him that he had also seen this and more. The elder urSkek believed that they had been sent to Thra not just to purify themselves and reincorporate into the Collective, but to help another developing species manage their burgeoning abilities. The ability to dreamfast—to make a rudimentary Collective—was indicative of this crucial and potentially dangerous development should an imbalance between individuals occur. It would only be with the Crystal properly and naturally honed that the Gelfling could reach their potential. SoSu told YiYa what the urSkeks had always known: that each world was a gradation of reality and that, as far as their perceptions reached, the Crystal of Thra was the strongest and most clear version of all the world-Crystals that had ever existed: the archetype of what it was to be the Crystal: an ur-Crystal, for lack of a better word.

It was no accident they were summoned here for, as YiYa was told that night by SoSu, just as this Crystal would help repair them; they would also help the Gelfling find their way. Nothing comes from nothing, YiYa recalls now, and everything has an equivalent exchange of influence and interaction. Everything is connected. SoSu’s belief was that they would show the Gelfling and others that understood that Darkness had to be overcome or controlled for Light to prevail and be refracted through the natural angles of their being: that through this act of hard-work, discipline and humility that they would also purify themselves and ascend back to a proper balance.

But now, as YiYa floats in his place—no longer the erratic young urSkek he’d been and knowing what was at stake—he wonders if SoSu’s thoughts were merely one interpretation of their role. His brethren were proud of him however. As preparations for their guests and the ritual had occurred, and they bemusedly watched AyukAmaj indulge in his speciality and prepare his material sustenance for their guests, SoSu had told him that he had almost reached his own role. Even HakHom, the primary architect of the Focal Point and a contributor of Gelfling artistry, told him that YiYa had been building on sound foundations and that soon, back in their world, he would add another newer pattern to the complex of the urSkek Collective.

Yet YiYa kept his secret: too young to access the confidence of his elders and their specific experiences. He still saw the Light and Dark struggling. He wonders if, deep down, it would ever stop. If it ever should stop … if it ever did…

And then it happens.

SilSol. He had been … discordant somehow after talking with the Gelfling: the being that YiYa had wanted to also talk with, but decided to leave alone in order to help his brethren with the ritual despite his nagging sense of curiosity. But now it is worse. Somehow, they still hold up their star-staves: despite something … something coming. The suns are coming together. The power flowing through them now is tremendous and for the second time in his existence YiYa feels transcendent and alive and all the mysteries of the infinity open up and despite everything drilled into him, he wants to explore them all …

But SilSol, who had been so red, darkens. Raunip, that unique hybrid, antagonizes him. SilSol had never liked Raunip. In fact, despite his interest for all life on Thra, YiYa never had opportunity to even talk with Aughra that much: that honour being mostly reserved for TekTih with whom she had been closer. YiYa himself had apparently been “too annoying” and she had wanted to be the one to “ask the questions,” not him. But SilSol had been sulking for a while: lost in his sad music where he thought none of the others could find him save SaSan that always fetched him from his favourite voyages in the water. This world had changed them all, but SilSol not for the better.

YiYa can see the darkness inside SilSol squirming against something luminous. It is like there was a war raging inside of him. And that was when YiYa sees it.

That is when he finally sees it.

The others also have that Darkness. It isn’t a name or an urge anymore. It is right there—incarnate and inside of them—raging and raging to get out. And something else, something gentle and light quivers around it: like the rippling gelatinous insides of the organic beings of this world. YiYa feels it too. The surge to set out and keep going, that fascination at all costs rages—rages—against the love he had for his brethren, for the Gelfling, for the Podlings he celebrated with, for Aughra and Thra’s balance and his need to help … It is too much. That one discordant note that Sil … Sol … Sil…. Sol…

It is agony. Two halves in three-angles. How can there just be two … the darkness … dark … rk … radiance … rad … r … Words and concepts from another time, before urSkek … the Collective … Sol…. soul … the ur came first … that ascended death … and Skek … the body, the hungry, scared, creeping, living body that died … died … died …

The Crystal explodes into such Light: making them see, see, See … Then nothing … nothing … noth…

…Yi … ragged plumage, purple scales. A gnashing beak. He looks at his claws and feels a cackle deep in his throat. And … Ya … soft yellow skin with swirls on its flesh. He feels sleepy and ponderous. Yi hears the growls and trills of his brothers … they look and revel in themselves. They are free. They are all free. No voices in them. Just them.

Ya … looks around at his … befuddled brethren. Yes, they are his brothers. He blinks. It feels as though something, someone had been a dream and he has just woken up. He feels lighter. He remembers someone’s … others’ terms for the light part of a soul.

Ur … The first to awaken.

He looks at his closer brother at … at Hom … at urHom and urHom looks back: his long spindly fingers playing as though looking for a toy he lost before … sleep. And he is urYa … urYa knows he has been sleeping for a long time. But now he is awake.

UrYa looks across the Chamber at the others … and feels a part of himself still unaware. Still gloating and planning. He doesn’t understand … until he sees the others in the room. The … Gelfling and the Podling. Yes. They came by Landstrider. Noble beings: they know the balance of Nature intrinsically: implicitly. And Aughra and her wayward son…

SkekYi … yes, that is his name. And he knows many other names too. He has the power of them. More than even his brethren. Yessss … Looking at his claws and knowing how tall he is, newborn as he is, he knows how to Soulspeak, how to control the dreamfasting … the little fools trusted him once … and the connections to the Earth through the avatar and her deformed mutant offspring. They thought him a nuisance … he would destroy them. He would explore all parts of them until he grew bored. And then, then he would turn their secrets against them and show them how truly meaningless they all were … make the animals eat each other as he laughed … and laughed…

UrYa blinks, a newborn come from recent sleep, and sees Skek … Yi destroying all life on Thra … deforming the dreams of the Gelfling, poisoning all life with his twisted parody of Soulspeech, etching profanities in all sleeping minds … it is awful. And he wants to stop it, to stop him but he can’t … he can’t … he….

One of the other Skeksis turns to urYa. SkekHak … they regard each other. Hatred blooms in the reptilian being’s eyes and he lunges forward. It seems so slow, but in reality it is beyond time.

And then … urYa remembers.

Suddenly, it is fast. This concept of fast and slow is alien to them, and it comes to their minds so fleetingly compared to the totality of what others could perceive not long ago, oh so long ago … This … it happens so fast: as fast as the speed at which his former self … their former selves used to think and affect the reality around them.

UrYa knows that they were all one not too long ago. And this was the price of trying to control and separate their Darkness. SkekHak’s talons close around his throat. He looks into the hateful gaze of the being that his brother fought against forever. And he sees a horror. UrYa sees SkekHak the Machinist: a Skeksis creating a multitude of weapons, siege weapons, motley war engines and mechanistic terrors. He would dig up the bowels of Thra and pollute it with its own excavated waste. The Gelfling, not knowing their own Darkness enough yet to embrace combat for self-defence and innovation, would fall … fall to the Skeksis with SkekHak’s machines…

The claws tighten around urYa’s pulsating throat. His new-found vision is darkening again, from dream into death … All of them. All of the Skeksis will bring ruin … they were the threat. They were the threat, the potential of what the Gelfling could become. That was why … why Thra, the Crystal wanted them … To teach them, to warn them … but it didn’t have to be … be like … like…

UrYa sees his own brothers. He sees a Valley like the parts of their old world before they … the ur
Skeks had fully evolved. And urHom beside him … the builder, the Carpenter … making refined structures of beauty and repairing what the Gelfling lost for every city lost…

But is it enough? Does it make up for so much?

And with his dimming eyes, urYa understands again. They don’t know. No one here knows. But he has to show them.

Everything is connected.

Despite the passivity infusing his very being, his sweat-soaked brown hair against his smooth yellow skin, urYa knows that he can fight back. He more than knows how to defend himself. A remnant of his corona glimmers next to urHom. And he thinks he hears … something from urHom: a faint dulcet hum. And he knows that his brother understands him. UrYa saw it. He knows that SkekHak will kill him today: just as he knows that the Machinist would destroy and eventually one day build more destruction. But not now. He is too young and immature. Too lustful for killing. He would move on to as many … urRu as he could … like urHom.

Far away, he can see skekYi choking. SkekYi who doesn’t have a role yet … an infant monster … everything urYa is not. He can see him though, see what he became see him as…

SkekYi the Nihilist. SkekYi would obliterate all meaning … but he is choking, he is suffocating and he doesn’t know why. The others, his filthy brothers stand there and watch him. Wretched traitors, wretched things, he wish he could destroy them too, deform them further, and make them pay, always underestimating him…

UrYa does not underestimate the monster he used to live with. He doesn’t dare. He can only hope that the other Skeksis will be too stupid and their depravity will end. But he sees them, older, later, in finery and committing horrors and that SkekHak’s next murder leading to his flaming ruin will show them what they are in a purely crude way, will show them for what they are….

Instead, urYa closes his eyes. The darkness is soothing. He is falling asleep again, even as the nightmare across from him suffocates in its cradle. He wills his brothers to see … and he feels them understand. And the Gelfling and Podling … Because of this, they will not have to face the Machinist or Nihilist. He can do that much. Perhaps this moment will teach them as well … will pass into a legend or a small myth to warn future generations to come one day when that Great, awful awful Shattering that happened, that will happen, that is happening can be repaired and made whole …

The elders had been destroying themselves in this exile, but this would stop it. This would show them … the two Gelfling almost holding hands, male and female, Darkness and Light, there is always a third way … they always lived the third way …

They thought that the Gelfling had to learn from them, but they had just as much to learn from the Gelfling in their crucible of Light intermixed with Dark, with life … in their new home…

Everything is connected, urYa remembers, letting himself relax, letting himself die, willing his brothers—everyone—to see before, finally, he sleeps forever: his nightmare dying with him, and his dream living on.

*

The urRu gather together in the sands of the Valley. They had prevented the quake of the Crystal’s cracking from destroying the Gelfling, Podling, and their mounts. They are humming: their deep voices resonating and complementing each other’s.

One the tallest among them, urSu, closes his eyes. He remembers watching urYa stand and let SkekHak drain the life from him with his bare hands. He saw some of what the other did and knew what it meant … what it all meant.

And as the youngest had grown slack in the Skeksis’ hands, they all saw.

His lower arms scoop up the sand in front of him. There were no remains to bury: urHom incinerated silently into flame and urYa vanished with his demise. There is nothing left of them except for the wind in their lungs and their dreams. He takes the coloured sand and gently blows it into the air: wishing for the passing of urHom—urHom the Carpenter—into the next life.

Then his lower arms scoop more sand. urSu opens his eyes and looks down at the many, many colours. UrYa would have appreciated the different varieties. The different perspectives. He had died so young and before his promise. And yet: he had shown him so much. UrSu speaks again in the flowing language of their kind. He wanted to call urYa the Philosopher, but as he speaks, he says something else.

“Here passes urYa, youngest of our brethren,” urSu says, a tear rolling down his cheek, “urYa … the Dreamer.”

The Master takes the sand to his upper hands and blows it gently into the sky: returning to Thra and to everything.

Everything is Connected: I Have Entered an Author’s Quest

So, I have a few long overdue announcements to make.

I am going to be published. First of all, I’m going to have a poem published in a book called Klarissa Dreams: a collection filled with short stories and poems inspired by and including paintings created by the artist Klarissa Koscis. All proceeds from this book will go to Cancer and Lupus charities. It is for a good cause and I am proud to be part of such a marvellous collaboration and in very good company.

Second of all, on August the 28th I am going to have a three-part Sequart article published every two weeks. I am not going to go into the specifics as to what it is, but I will say that it has to do with the subject of horror … and you may have heard me talking about at least one of the elements in it, and one creator in particular. I will say no more, but it took a lot of work: about four days and a few more to look over it. So I am definitely looking forward to releasing this.

I may also have a story out in Gil Williamson’s online magazine Mythaxis at some point in the near-future as well for its lucky number 13 issue.

So these are the three publications that I will be coming out relatively soon. But I also have another bit of news for all of you. Do you remember The Secret Project that I have been alluding to? The one that I sometimes hint on, but I never quite come out with a straight answer. Well, let me just say that I have, in fact, given you some clues as to what it is that I have been working on.

For while characters, plot and setting are all seemingly separate entities, a wise fictional being once said, “Everything is connected.”

That’s right: I am going to be participating in The Dark Crystal Author’s Quest! Basically, I am going to write a 7,500 to 10,000 typed word story (about 25-40 pages) and outline for a Prequel story to The Dark Crystal. It will take place during an era known as The Gelfling Gathering: essentially that place in time on Thra when all the events that lead up to the Prophecy and the Wall of Destiny occur. It is a time when the Skeksis and the urRu Mystics are still young and Gelfing civilization still exists as part of the Skeksis Empire … before the Empire turns on them.

And, somehow, I am going to be writing a story based on the era, in this world, based on this archetypal, mythopoeic Jim Henson movie. Of everyone entering, five of us will be chosen and given editorial feedback so that a 50,000 or more-word novel can be created (about 200 pages) and then … even though Thra has three suns, there can be only one at the Great Conjunction.

I have my work cut out for me. A past version of myself would think that I am insane. You see, I’ve mostly been writing short stories, vignettes and even poems for years now: with the occasional strange thing that may or may not be interpreted as “novel-length.” But, in addition to all of that I am also working on a short story that I will go into more detail about later and dealing with employment issues.

And this isn’t even covering the fact that Thra is a massive entirely alien world with plants that act like animals and animals that act like plants, and there are massively different environments and different kinds of Gelfling as well. In addition, there are many details that aren’t even covered by the books that are out there! So not only am I going to have to struggle with my inherent spatial difficulty with regards to geography, Thra sacred geometry and keeping track of the various creatures and characters I need to flesh out, I also have to make stuff up and make it plausible.

Let’s also not forget that Gelfling are not human: even if they are the most identifiable and relatable beings in that world.

So to say this is intimidating is an understatement. It can actually be downright terrifying. But I have been doing my homework at least to this regard. Even though I have not been novel writing like many of my peers have done and are doing, I am taking notes. I have consulted and read through The World of the Dark Crystal, Legends and the Creation Myths that exist so far. I read the novelization of the film. I’ve watched and I am going to re-watch the film. I am reading through the new definitive Encyclopedia in progress that the Jim Henson Company and Grosset & Dunlap are making for the site I linked to above.

And I am participating in the Community Forums. You should check them out at some point. The users there are very friendly and helpful too. We have conjectured a lot of things and are trying to figure out some details together. I am the urSkek “MaKir” if you are interested in looking. I also did one more thing. I started a topic called Story Sketches: a place where I hope that others will show off like me and post excerpts of their writing or samples of their writing in the world of Thra. The two vignettes I made are a diagnostic to see if I can write in the world of Thra: to make that conceptual gateway for myself using two characters that are not really in The Gelfling Gathering era.

So feel free to watch my progress, or the lack thereof, as I tackle and attempt to add my rhythm to a song of an entire world with a Crystal at its core. I have one or two more things to do first: a review and a short story, but this will continue. I plan to make a rough outline and see where I can go from there.

I am excited and terrified and I would like to take you with me as much as I can. So stay tuned: for just as there are cracks in the Dark Crystal, so too are there as many paths that I have yet to travel.

*Breathes slowly out*

All right. Let’s do this.

Toronto’s Boyfriend Tells Us To Dream: Neil Gaiman at the Danforth Music Hall

For a day that I’d been looking forward to for a very long time, there isn’t very much I have to say about it.

The day before I’d packed everything I would need: my ticket, The Ocean at the End of the Lane and its proof of Indigo purchase, my first edition of American Gods–the book that started it all for me–and then the following day I packed my less-than-often used digital camera: just in case. After a shower that same day and dressing up in my World’s Ender’s T-Shirt and carrying my leather jacket I got a ride to the subway and then eventually got off at Broadview to head towards the Danforth Music Hall.

I didn’t plan to be second in line. I came by the Hall and noticed that it was still closed. So I went for some food and came back and started talking with someone there. We became the beginning of the line: even though we all had reserved seats.

Eventually at 6 pm we were allowed into the Hall. A very nice Indigo staff member working for the event marked the place in my Ocean book where it was going to be signed and personalized and then she wrote down my question for him on another piece of paper. I asked a really convoluted and boring question along the lines of: “Was there an interview or an article where you actually stated that you wrote an origin story for the Beldam?” Actually, I just called her “the Other Mother” for good measure because it was easier for the person writing it: even though I knew my question wouldn’t be chosen anyway.

You wouldn’t have figured I’d have asked a Coraline question, huh? 😉

I was directed to my seat and after I went to the restroom I came back and settled in. I realized that two of my friends were actually at the event. I’d come to terms with the fact that I would be going by myself but I suspected I’d know at least a few people there. One of them was someone I helped at the Global Game Jam, while the other was a really lovely person from our stints as this year’s Toronto Comics Arts Festival volunteers.

The event started a half an hour or so later due to the bad traffic of downtown Toronto and the TTC. I was still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I was going to be seeing him soon. Someone won some front-row seats because they had access to their twitter. And then after some introductions from Mark Askwith of Prisoners of Gravity who would go on to choose the questions we submitted for the Q&A and actually referred to our guest as “Toronto’s boyfriend”–and who better to have a one-night stand with the scattered secrets and mystical places in this city that keeps rebuilding and losing itself  … he came on stage.

There was this roar of applause and shouts. In the spotlight, his wild crazy hair seemed white. In fact, as he kept talking, I could almost see him much older than fifty with a cravat under his chin and the collar of his dark suit.  The light played with the shadows of his cheekbones and the hollows of his eyes, but it was him. It was totally him.

He started things off by reading a bit of Ocean: which he did with such expression and fluid emotion. What I mean is that he basically flowed from one nuance and tone to another according to each sentence that he came to. His voice, from the microphone and the lilt of it, filled the room of so many people who were so incredibly silent: just to listen to this man, this one man, read from this book.

And then he was done and the questions that were written outside by the Indigo staff representatives came to the fore. If the storytelling hadn’t already brought me to a very different place, then the Q&A did. After talking about wanting snakes for hair–just for the company–and which female characters of his he loved (Delirium, Hunter, Yvaine, the Hempstocks and even Ursula Monkton of all beings: who was “fun to write”) and a whole lot of things that I know I have forgotten or won’t come to mind until later tomorrow when I wake up, someone asked him what he thought of Peter Capaldi as the twelfth Doctor and it was then–at that point–that I wasn’t just watching a hub of geekdom geeking out.

I was there. I was a part of the cheering. I was in the middle of it.

He even told us a story I’d never heard before: of the last event which made him no longer be a journalist anymore. He explained to us that the paper he was working for wanted to do a series on “the evils of Dungeons & Dragons.” And, according to him, it was the last request they ever asked of him because he quit not long after. In addition to this, he told us that there were two Hempstocks in his other books: Stardust and The Graveyard Book. After this, he proceeded to tell us, in just how many “greats,” that these two women were related to and descended from the Hempstocks in Ocean, these “great great great great great great great great great …” he went on, “great great-grand nieces.”

After this, he did another reading: this time from his upcoming children’s novel Fortunately, the Milk. I wish he had read to me as a child, but this was more than good enough as well and definitely something that you parents out there should totally get and read to your children. It was that good.

Then came the signing. He decided that instead of being called up row by row that each row would be chosen by lottery. I was in row ‘S.’

Row ‘S’ didn’t get called until a little past 1 in the morning.

He himself had those who were pregnant or sick or disabled come up below the stage and signed their books first: which was a really decent thing to do. There was wine-tasting outside that I didn’t get in on because I am not much of a drinker. The rows of seats had little space between them and I constantly had to get up to let them through or go into some weird contortionist stance. We also hadn’t been allowed to bring food or drink in and, for something this long, these elements were crucial. This rule was relaxed as the Hall’s bar and store closed down for the night and we were allowed to go out and get some food: which is what I inevitably did and it made all the difference in the world.

And he just kept signing. He kept signing. Sometimes he hugged someone and I could see him talking, but mostly he just kept signing. Then at one point he had to take a break. What I didn’t know, then, was that he had injured his finger–a fingernail was apparently coming off–and he went to walk, probably go to the washroom, and get a band-aid. And he came back.

And he kept signing.

Eventually various rows were called up and I started humming a song under my breath–Scissor Sisters’ “I Can’t Decide” which I suddenly remembered right out of the blue and it made me start to feel happy along with the food I had from before–and I prepared. I saw that representatives were using peoples’ cameras to take pictures of those people and our friend the author. I kept coming closer in that line, out of the lobby, into the auditorium again, near the stairs, thanking one of the really tired volunteer representatives there, going up the stairs and slowly realizing that he and I were no longer separated by writing, or a screen, or row of seats and stage, or stairs, or even … people after a while …

To be honest, as I came closer to him I wasn’t thinking about the fact that this was the man whose book radically influenced my writing style as it is now. I wasn’t thinking about how I wrote my Master’s Thesis on his work alongside Alan Moore and Herodotus, or the many books I’d read of his, or the sightings of him with Amanda Palmer, or any of that. I just kept focused on what I came there to do.

He was looking down at the books–my books–that one of the representatives handed him. He was signing them. A part of me couldn’t believe that he was actually there. Like this was all some kind of illusion. I was also, in the back of my mind, hoping that I would not miss the last subway car on the Bloor-Danforth line back from Broadview to Bloor Station. And he was sitting right in front of me.

I more recited what I wanted to say in a brief oratory manner than anything in the way of conversation. I told him that my friends and my Message Board told me to say hello to him. And then I told him the other most important thing: “I’m really glad that I finally got to meet you.”

I think at this point he looked up, or so my pictures–that a representative was really good enough to take–seemed to indicate. I actually made eye-contact. He thanked me and he said that he hadn’t been on the Board in a while or around there. I’m not sure what he meant, but I had nothing to really add to that. But he told me, saying my name, to tell everyone hello from him and that he sends his regards.

As I was leaving and he went back to his singing, I turned around and said one more thing. I told him, “Dream well.”

I think he actually said, “Thank you, Matthew,” and the representatives around him seemed to smile and laugh at what I said. In retrospect, it is rather redundant to tell the Prince of Stories, in his own words, to “dream well.” But I couldn’t resist. I had to have something else to write about.

Then I rushed out of the Music Hall, down the sidewalk, across the street, into Broadview Station, where the train was taking five minutes to get there, and I got out–got to Bloor before 1:30, and had to run to the other side side upstairs to get the Northbound train … for it to go out of service at Eglinton and take a shuttle bus home to where my Dad was waiting for me at Finch.

Much later, I realized that the personalization in my Ocean book read, “Dream, Matthew.” He’d said the same thing for one of my other friends and I suspect for many more. I didn’t really care, however: just that he took that time to do it despite the exhaustion and the long hours and the many more hours to come even as I am writing this. I also saw something else. The representative that took my picture actually took more than one. And suddenly, I just felt so … tired. I came and did what I had to do, what I had been looking forward to for so long, on perhaps what is going to be his last Signing Tour ever and now all that would be waiting for me is a host of responsibilities until Fan Expo when I can meet up with my friend Angela O’Hara.

I sat on that Shuttle bus going past the old place on Eglinton where my friends used to live and I thought about all the times I’d ridden this bus–this shuttle–at this time and how I was here by myself and just how strong I had been today. These past two days I had overridden my own anxiety. I continued on. Even before I came to the Music Hall, when I was still at home, I looked at myself in the mirror and I realized that I felt … beautiful again.

And all the annoyance and irritation and panic was totally worth this day. Because this day, that happened a day or so ago, I got to meet Neil Gaiman for the first and last time. And whatever else happens, I will still continue to dream.

Participant in One Marathon, A Spectator at Another

Originally this weekend I was going to participate in the 12-Hour Comic Book Marathon at the Comics Lounge and Gallery. I didn’t end up writing anything or collaborating with any artists there. If my experience at the Global Game Jam taught me anything it was that most people there probably already knew each other and either way they would have come in some pre-made teams: those that needed them anyway.

As I’ve said before, I am not much of a graphic artist.

Really, I didn’t want to potentially take up someone’s space on the possibility that I couldn’t find a partner and–to be perfectly honest–I didn’t want to be the odd one out: feeling painfully self-conscious.

Later on, I found out that there were still a few writers and artists who cancelled or were actually still looking for a partner, but by then it was too late. However, it was just as well that I decided not to do it because my brain is full with all the work I’ve been doing and I had never actually been to the Lounge before. I would most likely have gotten lost trying to find it.

Essentially: I wanted to get there, get a feel for the space, meet some of the people there, talk a bit with them, maybe make some connections so that I could participate in a later event, or–really–just get to know people who have similar interests to my own.

I still felt bad, though, that I hadn’t participated as I intended and looked forward to doing. Keiran Templeton–who I saw in her tiara as she held court over an assortment of writers and artists–not only organized the entire event, she also had time to go face book and ask if there were any people that wanted to work with others, and she even told me by email that she would keep my name on a list to let me know about next time.

As it was, I made it up to myself by punching some of my procrastination out and starting to really script out my own collaboration with Angela O’Hara: you know, the comic I keep saying that I am working on. In my defence, I have been working on it on and off with little tidbits of notes here and there: much like every other long-standing story I’ve been dealing with. In fact, for The Project I actually made a rough outline of everything that I want to happen in our first issue.

The key of course was actually beginning to flesh it out. I’m beginning to realize that in industry terms, I work entirely too slow on comics scripts. Even from my limited understanding I can see that they take time and a lot of concentration. But the day before the Marathon, I decided to get into the spirit of it and expand on the very first part: to actually take one segment and go wild with some descriptions and leave room to artistic interpretation in others.

And that Friday before the Marathon, I sent something to Angela via inline text and–if it’s not perfect–it is at least something to start from and a good subject for us to discuss. I look forward to talking with her about it when we find the time and see what she will make of it.

So I had this little bit of positive energy to tide me over as I finally did leave to find the Comics Gallery and Lounge I’d been hearing about for so long. The journey was ironic for me. It seems like so long ago that I used to live on the Bloor-Danforth line: specifically close to Woodbine Station. Even before that, when I was at York, I always found that energy to take various transit to get to find my away to College and Clinton: where the Lounge actually is. It’s only now that I’m in Thornhill–in York Region–again that I decided to go somewhere cool that I’d been putting off for so long.

When I found myself outside the shop, I paced around a bit: suddenly really feeling the nervousness. It was strange: being back downtown on the streets again after basically huddling away in Thornhill. And here I was outside a place with people who obviously loved comics and other Geekery and I was hesitating. It would be helpful to mention that I’ve developed some very crippling social anxiety over the years. It probably has roots to older sources, but after so long dealing with Grad School and being by myself a lot I kind of really retreated into myself. It also doesn’t help that I was shy to begin with and … it’s hard for me to put myself out there.

I also was thinking to myself: what if I go in there and no one likes me? I know: it’s a pretty irrational series of thoughts and I have gotten better at dealing with them. I knew that if I needed to, I could leave at any time I wanted and–it being a Lounge–I brought some work to do as well. My plan was to stay there for the party that was going to happen after 11 pm–when the Marathon was officially over–talk with some people and then leave.

So I walked up the stairs and everyone was friendly. I had to get used to, well, being in a new place and around people I didn’t know but I browsed around the shop and entertained myself looking at comics. There was a very comfortable black couch–most of the inner room was set up with benches so people could work–and I sat down to write. I actually started to feel a lot more comfortable writing and having something to do.

It was strange at first. I’d seen a lot of the people around me on Facebook or the Internet when I was finding out more about the Lounge, but actually being around them in person was just different and cool. It turns out some people were late for the Marathon anyway and, really, they just seemed to have a whole lot of fun doing what they did, browsing comics, and just socializing. I didn’t talk with as many people as I wanted to, but my cousin Shane Kirshenblatt–who made such awesome comics as Dorothy Gale: Journey to Oz–and his wife Sari came in and we talked for a while about comfortable things like comics and writing and creation and all that fun stuff.

Coincidentally, I wrote my first Conference paper partially on Shane’s Oz comic and he inspired me through a conversation to write my first ever science-fiction story in ages: one that didn’t win the Friends of the Merrill Short Story Contest granted, but I am still proud of it to this day. He actually talked with me about looking at a script of his to see what I could do with it: something that really intrigues me.

I even briefly talked with Keiran as she was managing her Empire of comics creators and there was a dog or two, and some cheering, and various geeky discussions. I ended up having a really good conversation that night with Debra Jane Shelly. I had seen her before, like many of the other denizens of the Lounge, on their Blog and Facebook. She really stuck out at me the first I saw her and I knew before I ever talked with her that she was a hard-core comics geek. But it is one thing to know that intellectually, but experience it first-hand in a conversation was entirely different and enjoyable. I barely got a word in edge-wise, but I enjoyed listening to what she had to say and I learned a few things.

For instance: I never thought about the first-impression that people got of Watchmen when it came out in the 1980s. As Debra pondered this, I remember thinking that it was true: it was during this time period that meta-narrative and pastiching were being implemented into comics narrative along with a certain more blatant kind of adult irony.

When you think about the comics that came before, during the heyday of the Comics Code–of comics industry self-censorship–and then you look at something like Watchmen you can definitely imagine a kind of “culture shock” for some readers. But, as Debra put it, we will never really know that feeling ourselves: you know, aside from reading about it through secondary sources. It’s like those accounts you hear about from famous writers and comics creators about growing up with the old Pre-Code Horror Comics: with EC Comics’ Tales from the Crypt, Creepshow, and all of that really fun and twisted stuff. But even though we can read a lot of those twistedly ironic and morbid goodies now, the spirit of Zeitgeist of the times where they were written are not really as accessible to us or perceived the same as someone who was there.

I think it was good to talk with someone who knew as much–if not more–about comics: someone who had read some really good and memorable works. It was sort of humbling, to be honest: to know that wasn’t the only one as insane about this stuff as I sometimes delude myself into thinking. There was a whole room of them. :). I did talk with some more people and then I took my leave as it was about that time. Debra actually made me pose for a picture where I am holding Alan Moore’s Nemo: Heart of Ice: a book I actually got there. As for the reason that she took it, if one is needed, she told me that she likes to take pictures of people having found their favourite books: or something to that effect.

It occurred to me–or I remembered–as I smiled at the camera that I rarely ever smile when I’m in public: especially in Toronto. Sometimes the exhaustion, and anger, and sadness ingrains itself in you so bone-deep that it’s difficult to even smile for real. I thought about just how sad that fact really was.

In any case, I said some goodbyes and then I left to find the streetcar back to Bathurst Station. I missed the car, so I decided: “Screw it! I’m going to walk the fucker!” So I walked by myself all the way from Clinton and College to Bathurst Station. I hadn’t walked that long or been in this area in ages. And as I did so, with my travel bag on my shoulder and my black winter coat covering me I felt more alive than I have in a really long time.

Coincidentally, it took me 16 minutes and there was no other streetcar during that entire time.

I know when I wake up tomorrow, or later, I’m going to be very embarrassed by some of the sentimentality and haphazard writing I’ve left here. It’s no new thing, to be fair. Actually, I’m surprised I wrote so much about–well–doing so little: by my standards anyway. However, I really felt the need to write this out while it is still fresh.

I am definitely going to check out the Lounge again. Here is the Toronto Comics Lounge and Gallery Blog in case you are interested and you didn’t see it on my Blogroll section. Thank you for reading this and, next time, I do plan to make something.

Excelsior, ladies and gentlemen.

A World Coming Together, A Possible Paradigm Forming, and Other Stories That Find Themselves On Their Way

This is Red-One. She is the protagonist of the comics collaboration that Angela O’Hara and myself are undertaking. One day, to inspire herself, Angela decided to create this digital art piece. It is a conceptual drawing of Red-One at about seventeen years old or so, and she is definitely quite beautiful.

So, I did end up naming the characters that we are working on. That might seem strange given that it is supposed to be a silent comic, or a comic without words, but it is a point of reference for us to work from and it adds more character and background to work with too: to bring across onto the page through facial expression, body language, and action.

We have also decided on a structure for the comic. It will be about twenty-four pages and it will have panels. There is just too much, even with the basic story structure that I’ve already made, to dedicate a page each to a different action. Panels will actually give us more room by giving us more pages to work with in expressing the narrative. Like I said, I do have a basic story outline finished and I am going to attempt to do at some point is take a scene from what I wrote, expand on it a bit, give it to Angela and experiment with panels and the page layout.

Panels and page layouts are diabolical in that they both seem to be the same thing, but they’re different. For instance, you can make one panel and then have to decide what goes on in that panel, whereas the page layout is actually how more than one panel–or lack thereof if you want to get experimental about it–is arranged as an overall pattern on paper or screen.

I have attempted with previous works to include panel breakdowns and detailed layout structure for each page into script form–this without an artist partner–and I have to say that it is challenging at best. Luckily in this case, I can hopefully communicate the essentials of what I want to see to Angela, talk through it, see a few versions, and come up with a happy medium. Angela has also been working on a few more conceptual drawings and eventually things will be coming together.

So there is that.

Another thing I have been doing lately is that I am looking into published other works while this collaboration continues. That is to say, I am going to now actively–again–send out stories to electronic and material magazines in order to get more things published. I have a few candidates and a few ideas with regards to what I am going to send. I think I’ll go into that a little now.

I’ve had at least three Lovecraftian story ideas that I have been building on in a purely note-written or scribbled way for a little while now. When I’ve finished one or more, I might send some to Innsmouth Free Press, or Weird Tales (which right now is closed to Fiction Submissions, oh well). I love the fact that Lovecraft is not only public-domain, but there is so much potential to his ideas. His stories are mainly “congeries” (he loves that word, among others)–or connections–of seminal ideas: of things that have informed so many other works long since his time.

Lovecraft’s mythos is not the only thing I am focusing on however. I’m also contemplating sending a science-fiction story of mine to Strange Horizons. There is also a story of mine that I meant to finish long ago, set in Toronto, which I may send to Broken Pencil’s Death Match Contest or directly to the magazine itself.

In addition, I have a few stories I’ve already finished that I realize may be tapping into a niche that is emerging or has been emergent for quite some time now. The niche, paradigm, or Zeitgeist (the “Spirit of the Times”) I’m thinking of is the 1980s-and onward geek nostalgia that is becoming more prevalent every day as well as the usage of allusions and literary references to video games and comics. I have actually been experimenting with this for a long time and I have been polishing off what I have.

I guess the danger is whether what I relate to in this regard will become obsolete sooner than I can do anything with, or even in the future. I mean, will years from now someone know what Google is if it is referenced into a story or will it be some small obscure technical footnote somewhere? Or is our society changing so much with regards to technology that Google and other programs, and even video games will become part of a historical documentation: if only an electronic one? I’m pretty sure cultural shifts celebrating “retro” elements come in cycles, but you can never really predict these things. Sometimes, you just have to go with it.

As for me, the reason I am making strange stories like these–tapping into this–is because I can relate it and it interests me. I can’t tell the future (which is probably for the best) but I’m doing my best to express the forces that have influenced me in the way they have influenced me: if that makes any sense.

So these are my goals along with a few others. I hope to be able to Blog more about these other developments and also be able to keep up with the challenges that I have set myself.