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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Clockwerx hits Comics Stands!

CLOCKWERX , a new Humanoids Graphic Novel from animator Tony Salvaggio and me is out in the United States and I am very excited. You can check out this adventure we pitched as "Sherlock Holmes Drives a Mech" by checking with your local comic store or ordering from my favorite comic store, Lone Star Comics, otherwise known as MyComicShop.
Check out some previews of the amazing art from French artist Jean-Baptiste Hostache below.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Paperbacks: Doomed or Not, I'll Miss Them

Slate has an article today on whether paperbacks are doomed or not.
If that sounds hyperbolic, look at the numbers. The 2012 BookStats survey (one of the more reliable metrics of book-format sales industry-wide) revealed that 2011’s e-book net sales were double those of 2010. In the all-important “adult fiction” category, e-book revenue—for the first time ever—outpaced that of print. Amazon probably saw that coming: In 2011, they reported higher sales of e-books than paperbacks and hardcovers combined. And the trend seems destined to hold steady. The recently released 2013 BookStats report observes “an even more widespread popularity of e-books than in past years,” noting that e-book sales have grown 45 percent since 2011 and “now constitute 20% of the trade market.” Meanwhile, according to Publishers Weekly, between 2011 and 2012 the number of trade paperbacks sold fell by 8.6 percent, and total mass-market paperback sales fell by a whopping 20.5 percent.

Conventional wisdom holds that e-book sales eat into paperback sales but not those of hardcovers. So if e-book sales are growing exponentially, it seems fair to assume that paperback sales will plateau, dip, and eventually fail to justify the cost of printing them: So long, softcovers.
It's probably true; Slate's article comes down to "the data suggests paperbacks are doomed, but certain people hope not so maybe not." In my experience you should follow the data. There will be paperbacks, but they will be specialty items.

I'm part of the problem as a consumer: I tend to buy the ebook first if there is one available, then a hard copy if it's not.
But paperbacks are still important to me: I like them for plane rides when you're taking off and landing (that period when e-readers are verboten) and I will mourn the loss of old paperbacks, which are a kind of art that we will appreciate when it is gone.

Personally I collect old books-- this week I picked up a completely lost Gothic horror that I can't wait to start. It's by Anne Edwards, a major author who wrote HAUNTED SUMMER, the Byron/Polidori book. The book is called THE SURVIVORS, and I call it completely lost because I could only find it used, because there's no e-book and it's out of print. There are countless old, out of print books that are not in e-book form, and paperback may be the only way to get them.

And I'll miss the smell-- find an old paperback and smell it, and think of the book stores of your childhood, and this was how reading smelled. Not before our time, and not after. The smell of old paperbacks is a timestamp that will be lost forever and near-impossible to describe.

The main reason I love to read old books is it helps me artistically, by the way-- I can riff on things people don't remember instead of whatever is out there now, folding the conversation over. It's like having an ongoing conversation with shadows.

THE SURVIVORS
Publication Date: June 1969 A beautiful and lost girl; a man obsessed with learning the undiscovered truth about the shocking slaughter of an entire family; a high-speed journey along the razor edge of madness into the jaws of unimaginable horror.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Movie Violence Hits the Uncanny Valley in Man of Steel

I think movies are actually scarier for adults sometimes. There's been a lot of talk about the "pornographic" nature of the destruction of buildings in Man of Steel-- with some articles even trying to sum up the likely loss of life that might result from the destruction during the final battle.
And I've thought about this and here's what I've come to: adults freak out about big superhero battles a lot more than children do because adults bring context to collapsing buildings that children don't. So the effect you get is this: 

(Superman throws Zod through five blocks' worth of high-rise buildings, which all collapse.)
Dad (thoughts): Holy %$%$ there must be what, 3, 6, 9, 12 thousand people in those buildings alone, not to mention the glass WTF SUPERMAN?
Child: Wow! Superman just threw Zod through a bunch of buildings!

So maybe it's not for us. I remember that DIRTY PAIR used to leave this kind of destruction and no-one cared. In GUNDAM 0083, remember when they crashed an entire bioship?

A reader joins in: Come on. Dirty Pair is an anime about bounty hunters. Gundam 0083, I don't even know what that is but it sounds like an anime too.
It is.
So that's not the same. Animated people aren't-- um.
Animated people aren't what? Waiiiiit for it...
Oh, right.
Yeah, I know. Superman is a real guy.
Okay, they're not real and neither are the buildings in Man of Steel.
Yes. I am sorry for the loss of the off-screen imaginary people.
But it seems worse. I guess because it looks so real. In cartoons it didn't look real. I can't have as much fun when it looks this real, because I know it's not real but it looks real and it makes me uncomfortable.
Yes, and I feel it too. Superhero violence has finally reached the uncanny valley. Eventually we're going to have to decide if we can view imaginary violence without the distance created by obvious artifice, or if we will demand something else. But that decision has yet to be made.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Quick Visual Tour of Fahrenheit 451

I'm a big fan of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, which is so beautifully written and even works as a futurist tract on the world we live in-- writing in 1953, Bradbury predicted giant-screen TVs, earbuds and reality TV.

There's a wonderful tour from Academic Earth on the book that gives you a quick tour of its themes and characters. It's whimsical and fun, and I recommend checking this and other books from the site out.
Created by AcademicEarth.org

Friday, June 14, 2013

Don't believe you can't: Write in as many media as you want

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because life is too short to look for split infinitives with your bare eyes.

Here’s something I hear a lot: a writer will say, “novelists don’t make good screenwriters,” or “screenwriters shouldn't try to write games,” or “comic book writers shouldn't try to write novels.”
We know these sentences are nonsense (I could choose a coarser label) because when someone who does something for a living offers you advice that happens to discourage you from joining their profession, they probably have their own and not your interests at heart. And that might not be completely conscious; a lot of people don’t realize the philosophies they hold dearest are heartily buttressed by convenience. So if you hear someone say that, nod and smile and whatever it is you want to write.

Because here’s why it’s really nonsense: different kinds of writing are different, no doubt about it. But a good writer can excel at more than one kind of writing. You might have the medium you’re best in, but if you’re a writer, you’re probably a few steps ahead in another medium than someone who has no felicity for language.

The rest is just details, rhythms, styles.   I actually thrill to the difference-- a screenplay is not a novel is not a game script.

This week I worked on a script for IDW comics, the first issue of a miniseries about a popular TV character.  Comic book scripts mostly offer challenges about space and pace: a comic book script usually runs exactly 20 or 22 pages, usually 5-7 scenes. I usually outline in Word or Excel, write comic scripts using Final Draft, the screenwriting tool, then deliver the script to the editor in Word, where we do the editing.  Another comic I wrote with Tony Salvaggio, Clockwerx from Humanoids, is coming out in hardback, and I wrote several interview responses.


  • Medium: Comic book script
  • Format: Feature Screenplay Derivative
  • Tools: Final Draft, Excel, Word


Meanwhile, I worked on a novel. Genre novels like the modern horror book I’m writing usually run 300-400 pages long. There’s no set number of chapters or pages—unlike in comics, you have to hew closer to a sense of how the story is going and when you need to turn. I outline in Excel and write in Word.


  • Medium: Prose Novel
  • Format: Long form prose
  • Tools: Word, Excel


I also host a podcast, the Castle Dracula Horror Movie Podcast. For that,  I have to write an introductory script each week and prepare my questions. I intro the show; the rest is a panel-type discussion.

  • Medium: Podcast Script
  • Format: Radio Script
  • Tools: Word


At the same time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, which I wrote the game screenplay for, got announced as part of the Xbox Live Summer of Arcade 2013. Game scripts are a different beast—I wrote those partly in Final Draft and partly in Excel.

  • Medium: Game Script
  • Format: Feature Screenplay Derivative for cutscenes, Database for incidental dialogue
  • Tools: Final Draft, Word, Excel


I’m going to spend some time blogging on each. They’re all different and they all offer challenges. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, and you shouldn’t either. If you write, you work with words. The rest is skill, and if you’re still alive, there’s wondrous time to learn.