You Define Your World (And Fans)

I’m starting off with Harlan Ellison here because he is the king of opinions, and I’m going to be sharing a lot of them in this piece. Some I agree with. Some I don’t. But he has found peace with his place in the world. He calls ‘em like he sees ‘em and has no problem sharing that with anybody who asks. That’s ultimately the point of this essay: know yourself. We’ll get to that point when we get to it.

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Promise.

But that last part in the video (starting at 1:30) above is particularly important, because it speaks to the duties between creator and fan. With all of the craziness going on over the past month (let alone the past… forever) about toxic fandom and what to be done about it, this is particularly important to artists of all shapes and types. What kind of duty do you owe to those who read your work?

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The Complete Season 1 of Queens of the Sapphire Sea!

After over a year of production and release, we finally have the entire first season of  my radio adventure serial, Queens of the Sapphire Sea, up online! Each episode can stand alone as you follow Belle and Madeleine Bernassi across the French Riviera in pre-WWII France, but put them together? You’ll find an high-flying action tale of romance and death-defying stunts as these two seaplane pilots take on the dregs of the Mediterranean underworld.

Episode 101 – An Air of Propriety

Episode 102 – Industrious Revolution

Episode 103 – Belle of the Ball

Episode 104 – Ex Marcs the Spot

Episode 105 – Just Deserts

Episode 106 – Ask Me No Questions…

Episode 107 – …And I’ll Suffer No Spies

The Evolution of an Idea, Part 3

We rejoin our narrative after two previous installments for this penultimate episode, in which we discuss my show, Queens of the Sapphire Sea, and how it went from nothing to something. And it only took five years!

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Fun times.

Things came to a head last summer after a reading of radio shows between myself, Tyrant Rex, and Adam Lance Garcia. These two rapscallions and I put on a small performance in Park Slope, Brooklyn, of some of our work. Wouldn’t you know? It went over really well! The fact that it was free didn’t hurt, but hey! We thought we had something. So we began brainstorming and came up with what would become Radio Room.

Now, how/where/when/why Radio Room came together could be a whole series in and of itself, but–in short–it would aspire to be a writer’s room for our various projects: Rex’s established Tales of the Halloween Team, Garcia’s anthology series Smoke Without Flame, and my own…

…whatever that might be.

I had dozens of ideas, of course, but something about Queens stuck out to me. It was adventurous, fun, and featured the kind of stylizations we were looking for. Radio Room was to be a loving homage to serials of the 40s and 50s, but with updated storytelling techniques. Romance, patter, a focus on thrills… Queens seemed to fit the bill, and when I pitched them the logline, they wanted to see more.

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Which required a whooooooole lotta work.

 

The first thing that was required was a mini-bible. Not only would this sell my partners on the idea as well as it’s potential for longevity, but it would function as a foundational piece for their own writing. I don’t recommend writing a mythology or bible for every project that you work on–there’s always the opportunity that you’ll never stop world-building–yet when you work with others, there should always be ground rules. This includes:

  • A basic overview
  • A rundown of the characters, particularly with regards to personalities
  • A pilot episode treatment
  • Springboards for future episodes
  • Other extra stuff (locales, magic, etc.) that feature heavily into your property.

That’s it! Don’t go nuts! You’ll overthink it. Your producers will change it. Your actors will finagle it. And you’ll have spent a lot of time hammering stuff into stone that could emerge organically!

This was then workshopped outside of the group. I feel that this is an important step that not enough writers get: go to someone outside of your social circle for advice. They won’t have the same kind of connection to you, personally, that might temper their opinion. It might not be nice (in fact, it shouldn’t be). It might not be fun. It will show you what’s wrong before you get too far down the rabbit hole.

Next came the recrafting of the property. This was done in a series of emails and in-person meetings, in which Tyrant, Adam, and I honed the episodes. From my work before, I knew what I was trying to say with the piece and what couldn’t be changed. At the same time, I was willing to allow the guys to shift the tone and characters so that they would find a spark that would inspire them. This was to be collaborative. I had to allow them to collaborate on this.

 

Most of all, I had to shift the property into something that worked via audio. Don’t make the mistake in thinking that your great idea can transfer media without work. There’s a reason why most video games-turned-films are terrible, and why most films-turned-video games are also just as bad. Interactive media has a whole different rule set than traditional media. Ignore these at your risk! If you don’t understand the strengths and weaknesses of your chosen platform, you’re doomed to failure from the start.

Auditory storytelling is the oldest form of art, and it is a mixture of both passive and active media. It is passive in that the audience listens to a linear story that is told to them. It is active because the audience must construct the world inside their minds and envision what is being told to them. That means you have to give the audience juuuuuuuuust enough to set the picture, but allow their mind to fill in the blanks.

For Queens, I had to do more spelling out than I’d like to do. A lot of subtlety that I had planned on was made more overt (again). Belle and the newly-renamed Madeleine had to play much more grandiose, much more like cartoon characters: the audience had to understand everything from their vocal range, since facial expressions and body language don’t translate to the airwaves. At the same time, I had to pull back the villains even more. They couldn’t become too outlandish, or else the entire piece would seem like a send-up.

The only problem was that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it until I dove in, head-first.

I’d written small bits for radio and audio comedy before and full television scripts, video games, and screenplays, but this was something entirely. My co-producers liked my pilot treatment but wanted to see it on the page. This was a gamble: I would have to produce 30-pages of material in the hopes that it would impress, but with the chance that it’d be terrible and I’d have to start all over again.

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I know, I know.

So, how did it all turn out? That’s for tomorrow’s installment, the first in Radio Room’s series on Show Notes. Tune in then!

 

New Fiction and Old

We’re taking a short break from our regularly scheduled programming to bring you new fiction by yours truly: a science fiction piece found in Esoterica, entitled “Under Ultra-Violet Light.” The ruins of Miami, UV tattoos, and a struggle to maintain one’s sense of morality when confronted with the evil of one’s heroes. Plus, there’s a whole slew of other great stories, writers, poetry, art, and music… all for the low, low price of “pay what you want!”

https://gumroad.com/l/esoterica_volume5_ink

And just in case you missed it, here’s the link to the last piece I had published in Esoterica, “Self-Herding, in Deference.” The editor called it “elephantpunk,” and I won’t disagree: set in the far, far future, discover how matriarchal pachyderms solve their differences in life, science, and social standing.

https://gumroad.com/l/esoterica_vol4_behaviour

Announcing Radio Room

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I can finally announce that Radio Room–the audio drama project that I’ve been co-producing with Adam L. Garcia and Tyrant Rex–will be airing on 94.3 FM WBMB this upcoming Spring!

The skinny: each Thursday at 8 PM, we’ll be broadcasting a new episode of one of shows. First up is Tyrant Rex’s amazing “Tales of the Halloween Team,” a sit-com about supernatural-powered superheroes solving crimes in our fair city. Silly, gross, horrifying, and hilarious: everything you could want in a great show! Check out our Facebook page for more information on my adventure serial (“Queens of the Sapphire Sea”) and Garcia’s steampunk anthology (“Smoke without Flame”).

Most important with regards to this website, I’ll be updating our adventures, trials, and tribulations here! You’ll hear all about the tears, fears, chills, and spills of our adventure bringing this to the air.

We’re launching our first episode on February 25th, but don’t worry: if you miss one, you’ll be able to catch up at either WBMB’s own site (wbmbbiz.com) or on our own (soon to launch!). It’s gonna be an exciting spring, so stay tuned for more info!

Gone Home: Complicity and Subconscious Agency

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Spoilers ahead. Thou hath been warned.

There’s a lot to talk about in Gone Home, The Fullbright Company’s award-winning “story exploration video game.” The subversion of horror that it presents, the “is it really a game” argument, LGBT issues that it brings up, or any of the controversies surrounding it. But this is a transmedia blog, and so what I’m interested in is how the title makes use of multiple media platforms to make the player complicit in how the narrative unfolds.

Sorry for being long-winded on this one, but we’re talking about art, so I get to act all hi-falutin’.

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