Tuesday, January 29, 2008

...Flames on the Side of My Face...

Nothing makes me want to run off into the woods like having to deal with my rickety old computer every day for eight hours a day as I write and draw. Somehow it just ate my entire comic page when I was about seven-eights of the way done with it. I almost ate my own thumbs in frustration.

Of course no one reading the comic knows that, since I don't let my personality appear there. I made a choice when I started to avoid an update-blurb because I've seen them done badly in the past. Right now I'm glad, since no one needs to read AGGH HATE MURDER NO UPDATE COMPUTER SUCKS when all they want is the next comic page, and professionalism is important. There are a few comics, even some of the top-tier ones on Buzzcomix, that I can't read because their "commentary tracks" are so unprofessional and intrusive.

On the other hand, there's a kind of punk appeal to getting the raw and unfiltered voice of the creator, especially when compared to the polished and interchangeable products of many print comic outlets. And sometimes I wish my comic had a blurb, if only to let me talk to my readers about some aspect of the setting I want to emphasize: "Look here, you can see the different Moochava ethnic groups." And of course, I wonder if a relevant and interesting commentary track would boost readership. But I'm glad I avoided one. First, it requires me to declare my focus with my art and writing, rather than just pointing to the "neat thing" I think everyone should appreciate. Second, it prevents me in situations like this from throwing a really sorry hissy-fit about how the computer ate my homework.

Back to fuming.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Musings <--not funny

The idea is simple--write 3,000 words a day, five days a week. Also, write and draw two comic pages every week. So far I've done a pretty good job keeping up with this schedule, though sometimes, like today, writing feels like pulling eyelashes.

I got this piece of advice years ago from someone a lot better than me--King, Bradbury, Ellison, you know, someone that if the world worked like a bad voodoo horror novel you'd rip out their heart and eat it to gain their power--that you can spot a successful writer because they keep writing even when "the muse" isn't speaking. Now for years this made me want to find one of these guys, go to their house, and hold up a couple crumpled dollar bills and offer to exchange them for where you can get a muse, seriously man, I know you know where to get them but you're just not telling, but I drove all the way from Massachusetts so you've gotta tell me, right?

But recently I've actually paid attention to their advice and it works pretty well, even if some days it's like ice-skating uphill (to paraphrase a line from Blade that still bewilders me). Still, it's tough to see those beautiful ideas smothered and nailed to the corkboard, because they never sound as good as when they're in the echo-chamber. Like: somewhere in the ideosphere there's a fucking revolutionary comic that takes place in an original universe with so many seemingly trivial yet deliciously ironic details that it casts a dazzling, clarifying light on the mundane political and epistemological absurdities of our own world while simultaneously presenting a plot so fascinating, characters so rich and warm and complex, that our reality seems like a pale and uninspired parody of it, like we're living in Hollywood world with blank red cola cans instead of Diet Coke where no matter how many hamburgers the main character eats you never quite see the Golden Arches. Like it's super-Gibson, not just name-dropping Braun and places in Micronesia you've never heard of but you know they're there, but creating something wholecloth that feels even more real than what you see outside.

Yeah, I'm sure that comic book exists, but it's not mine, not even close. And part of it's because Broken Space is a way for me to learn how to draw, so the pictures are like first-year Penny Arcade crossed with a grade schooler's spiral-notebook Vegeta sketch, but part of it's because I keep following whoever-it-was's advice: just keep working. And it works! (I can tell because if the comic was only in my head and nowhere else it wouldn't work.) I almost never sit down already inspired, and when I do get the lightning-bolt it's, like, five words. Here's the latest Oh my GodI've got to write this down right now:

"If you died here, you'd be home already."

On a church or something, I dunno. I can't exactly type that one out and send it to Weird Tales. My lightning-bolts are sadly truncated and most of them suck. But if I just sit down, most of the time after a thousand words or so the ideas start flowing, the muse shows up (hopefully depriving some successful science-fiction-writing bastard of muse juice for a few hours; go for a walk, MiƩville, I need help and I'm borrowing the good-idea-fairy), and I can actually get something done. Most of the time, after a few words, I'm in the groove, and when I reach 3,000 words I'm thinking that I'd like to write a few more.

Like now, but I had to write this thing, and now I have to go watch a hockey game. And this time I'll remember a damn notebook, in case any of those useless lightning-bolts show up.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In The Future You're Old

The Venture Brothers is the funniest thing in the universe. You've probably seen the mathematical demonstration of this proof; I won't repeat it here.

But really, it is an extraordinary show, and not just because it's funny. It's as sad, at times, as it is hilarious, at least to those of us who grew up on the gee-whiz science and adventure of stories produced between the end of World War 2 and the rise of New Wave science fiction. Those stories--Heinlein's juvenile adventures, Johnny Quest--seem as bittersweet now as some romantic 18th century ballad or a late Roman pastoral, because we know what really happened, don't we? When we were kids (even if we weren't twelve in 1955), we read those stories and wondered what the future would hold for us, but there was one prediction that few visionaries made: in the future, kid, you're going to be old.

And the impact of that dreary truth is partially the result of our current culture of youth, but the fact was always there: if you were twelve in 1955 you'd be on a fixed income in "the future," right? The Venture Brothers, as funny as it is, also has that frightening edge: all these kids around us are dreaming about a future that will have forgotten them by the time they get there; there's no place in "the future" for Rusty Venture, because we didn't get the future we were expecting.

I don't know how long that truth will hold. It seems possible that every generation will get to the future and realize that nothing has changed except now they're old and no one cares about them. But the longer I write, the more I think that that some phenomena (in both science fiction and literature) only come once, and once they're past, stories about them become historical curiosities, rather than living concepts within the genre. Maybe this generation will stay "with it" and progressive, and when we get old we'll have to come up with new stories about the existential ennui about never being able to become irrelevant and unhip like our parents.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Volume 1. Chapter 1. Line 1.

It strikes me as weird and suspicious that Garrison Keillor sounds a lot like Nick Cave.

Okay, an odd way to start a blog, especially one that's supposed to be dedicated to my writing and my comic, but it's relevant to what I do. I have a comic, as you can see, and I've written one complete novel and several complete short stories that no one wants, and this blog will focus on that, but it will also focus on one of my sources of inspiration: those things that we forget as the world changes.

I love text adventures, old radio dramas, fax machine hoaxes, dirigibles, bulletin board systems, and those old satellite dishes that you'd have to point at the right place in the universe in order to pick up Japanese talk shows or whatever. Mostly because I feel a little bad for them. I feel bad that my friends only know that The Shadow is in reality Lamont Cranston, wealthy young man-about-town, because of a throwaway gag in Family Guy, and I'm sad that we're not still groping to communicate with one-another with faxes and ham radios and hijacked phone lines. I feel this way even though I know we're living in an age of informational and creative richness never before rivaled.

As technology advances--the closest thing we have to an unmitigated good in this horrible and vacillating world, and if you disagree please walk to my house and say so--we not only adopt new technologies and ways of doing things more quickly, we abandon them too. The telegraph had a century to decline into general obsolescence; Betamax had a few years. As we live and change we watch the industrial vulgarities of the last generation become quaint and beautiful--I look at the mills (quote Blake, I dare you) of Easthampton, two towns over, converted into chic restaurants and artists' lofts, and wonder how ugly those scenic Norman castles that inspired so many fantasy writers must have looked going up. And as we change and grow, whole mediums wither and die, and sometimes it's fair and sometimes, well, I miss radio dramas.

So that's what I worry about, and if you're reading this that's what you'll get a lot of: not just my thoughts on writing, drawing, and trying to cobble together a creative career for myself, but my thoughts on how things turned out. When I was young I wondered (as every kid wonders, I guess) "Why am I here, and not someone else in my place?" This blog will occasionally ask something similar: why is...Google Blogger, let's say...here, and not something else? Sometimes these questions will even have answers--why the QWERTY keyboard? More likely, though, there won't be answers, just a vague sense of bewilderment that I hope to turn into a career some day.