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Outland Entertainment Partners with KickCTRL

Hello folks! I know that things have been a bit quiet most of the last year, but things have been grinding along! We've been looking into ways to correct some of our past mistakes, namely, the extreme mismanagement of our crowdfunding campaigns. We KNOW we have really...

Apex Theropod Collected Edition Kickstarter

Hello everybody! We just wanted to share the news that the Apex Theropod: Deck Building Game will be launching on Kickstarter next TUESDAY. Right now, we're planning to call this the "Collected Edition." This version of the game includes a new box with all new box...

Ian Stuart Sharpe on the Jotunn War Cover Process

One of the ideas that fascinates me most as an author are the symbols we use throughout history. For example, the cover of the latest issue of the Jötunn War is a pastiche of a well known WWI poster. We have subverted the Army Air Service American Eagle and added in a...

The Santa Myth…

...And Why Pit Such a Cheery Legend Against the Horror of Zombies? by John Mayer Although this very question sounds paradoxical, the horror genre has always been at its best when it injects the shocking, the gruesome, the profane, the unknown, the ugly with the...

Storytime with Ian: Who are the Jötnar?

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”. See, that’s where the Christianity has it all wrong. All good Vikings knew the real story of how it all really began. The same way it will all end. With giants. Ginnungagap was the great emptiness before there...

Santa VS Zombies Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: Gwendolyn Nix gwen@outlandentertainment.com SANTA VS ZOMBIES, ORIGINAL GRAPHIC NOVEL, LAUNCHES ON KICKSTARTER  Adventurous world full of Christmas cheer and gore to launch April 9, 2019   TOPEKA, KANSAS (April 11, 2019)—A new...

NEW COMIC, ORC GIRL & GOBBO, RELEASES FROM OUTLAND ENTERTAINMENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: Gwendolyn Nix gwen@outlandentertainment.com NEW COMIC, ORC GIRL & GOBBO, RELEASES FROM OUTLAND ENTERTAINMENT  New Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy Comic Releases on March 29, 2019 TOPEKA, KANSAS (March 29, 2019)—Orc Girl & Gobbo, a...

Planet Comicon 2019 Booth #1925

Hello folks! As we do every year, we'll be out at our hometown show, Planet Comicon. We'll have a variety of books, games, comics, and artwork on the table for you to check out! We'll be at booth #1925. This year, special guest Chris Yarbrough will be joining us for...

NEW VIKINGVERSE GRAPHIC NOVEL, THE JÖTUNN WAR, LAUNCHES ON KICKSTARTER

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: Gwendolyn Nix gwen@outlandentertainment.com NEW VIKINGVERSE GRAPHIC NOVEL, THE JÖTUNN WAR, LAUNCHES ON KICKSTARTER The first of a four-issue graphic novel brings Norse history to life this March TOPEKA, KANSAS (March 22, 2019)— The...

Reclaiming Norse Mythology from the Nazis by Ian Stuart Sharpe

It is one of the most iconic scenes in modern cinematic history:  Indiana Jones is in a desperate race against the Nazis, a lone hero battling against the entire German war machine to prevent an ancient artefact of immense power from falling into the wrong hands. Of...
Interview with Warlock 5 Colorist Andy Poole

Interview with Warlock 5 Colorist Andy Poole

Andy Poole says that one of the reasons that attracted him about being a colorist is the satisfaction of “seeing black and white art brought to life with color, under your very hands.” In a previous interview, we have also learned he enjoys playing with conventions when it comes to coloring comics. But how did Andy face the Warlock 5 challenge?

Did you read Warlock 5 before joining this project?

I’d never even heard of Warlock 5 before joining the project, as comics were not an interest of mine up until maybe ten years ago, so a Canadian comic from the 1980’s was completely off my radar. I did get myself into gear and do some research on the series however, reading reviews and finding what books I could.

Did you discover a favorite issue?

Not a particular issue, no. The original Warlock 5 had a cliff hanger at the end of issue #3, which I won’t ruin here, but it’s a pretty good one. Unfortunately, it was never resolved in later issues, so despite the writing continuing to be good and fun, I kind of gravitated towards the artwork instead of the story. From that point of view, any issue from #4 onward is a favorite.

While the first three issues had great artwork, the later issues kick it into overdrive with some of the most incredible black and white paints and inks I’ve ever seen. A page in issue five is especially nice, with the Robot Warlock Argon’s ship moving through space in front of a rocky, crater marked planet, with bright sun and ethereal nebula behind it all. The lighting is fantastic and makes the entire scene both dark and mysterious and beautiful too.

How about a beloved character?

Tanith. I find that the other Warlocks know their positions, powers, responsibilities and conspiracies well, but Tanith has had a lot of growth as a messenger of peace and harmony realizing that her standing as one of the Warlock 5 means performing acts that are far from savory. She’s straddling the line between her personal views and philosophy, and the corruption and violence that dealing with The Grid and the other Warlocks is pushing on her. Personal conflict is the most human story, my favorite kind of story, and she fits the bill the most.

Warlock 5 is tied to this 80’s view of a dystopian multiverse. How is it to work on such a setting?

The setting is interesting because it’s not a single setting at all, it’s like being thrust into 80’s Horror, or Urban Fantasy, Cyberpunk and I even get a Masters of the Universe vibe every now and then. These are all different worlds that rather than make the book feel convoluted, they make it work. They’re defined as individual worlds, not a mish-mash of genres. Working on that is interesting, it gives me the opportunity to join in on defining those individual worlds and genres using the colors, which is quite obvious when you see the color theory in practice.

The series has a – quite large and – faithful fanbase. Did that put any different kind of pressure onto you?

Not at all, mostly because I’ve remained blissfully ignorant of the fan base. But now I know… I did put pressures on myself though. When I saw the artwork from after issue #4 of the original run, I assumed that anyone who saw the art would pretty much instantly fall in love with it the way I did. As a Colorist I have to live up to that standard, and that is not easy at all.

The greyscale art is detailed and rendered expertly, and is something I would personally love to see the new series of books rendered as. But I’ve been brought on to modernize the story along with Cullen, Jimmy and Jeff, the writers and artist respectively, so I had to color the thing in a more modern style. I wanted to keep an eighties vibe, so I limited the color palette to suit that, but it’s still obviously a modern take.

Warlock 5 has always stricken me as having these bright colors. There seems to be something nearly violent about that approach. Do you agree with that? Or is it a misconception?

I can certainly agree. The original four issues had a very, I guess you could call it a sharp style of inks. They felt very in place with a violent story. Denis Beauvais, the artist, could reel that style in when the story required a softer touch however. I’ve tried to live up to that myself.

The original work must have cast a heavy weight, but what other influences did you have when tackling this project?

I’ve tried not to be influenced by anything but the original source material and the creative team around me. If I feel I’m capturing the atmosphere of the original, I’m happy. If the Writers, Artist, Letter, Editor, Publisher and Creative Director are happy with it, I’m happy with it.

Are there any specific scenes that stand out?

Tanith using her magic stands out the most. It’s bloody brilliant, in the literal sense. Bright blue and white glowing power, taking the form of butterflies that Jeffrey Edwards must have killed his knuckles drawing. But he pulled it off excellently! I hope that I lived up to his efforts in those scenes, because he deserves nothing but the utmost praise for pulling them off.

Is it turning out the way you’ve envisioned it?

Yes and no. You come into projects like these, with very rich and detailed artwork, with a style in mind, but the work grows and changes all on its own, and you have to flow with it. I’ve found it both to be good and difficult for me to render, and it’s fallen away from my original vision, or perhaps my need to honor the original artwork. That aside, it looks quite nice, I’m pleased with how it’s turning out and can’t wait to see the printed pages. That’s when it all comes together, the experience of reading the finished product and holding those floppies or trades in your hands.

Thanks, Andy, for leading us through the colorful multiverse of Warlock 5!

Warlock 5 Interview: Jimmy Z. Johnston

Warlock 5 Interview: Jimmy Z. Johnston

Interview with Warlock 5 Writer Jimmy Z. Johnston

We’re excited to feature Jimmy Z. Johnston, writer for the Kickstarter-funded revival of Warlock 5!

What was your first contact with Warlock 5?

I picked them up new off the shelf in the late 80s. I remember seeing the cover to issue one and thinking it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.

Why did it capture you?

100% the cover. I bought it because that cover was one of the most incredible I had seen. Issues 2-6 had fully painted covers featuring the face of each Warlock. And they stand the test of time today as being some of the most striking covers of their time.

Did you have a favorite issue?

In many ways, the first issue holds that honor. It did such a wonderful job introducing the world.

How about a beloved character?
 
I have a ton of art I did through high school, and there is one montage I have of dozens of characters I loved from various works. Argon is in that montage, if I find it I will share it.

Did these change once you picked the books up to work on the project?

When I read them years ago, I never thought about the idea of where their story might go if I was writing it. It was a few years later that I began thinking about these things in earnest. But rereading the original series now is a tough thing to do. Because it is very much a product of the time. Storytelling was different back then. In issue 3 (I think) Zania sets off a nuke in Grid City. In issue 4 they don’t even acknowledge it. There is no way a writer could do something like that today, the fans would be all over it. They did resolve that eventually in the trade, but if you only get the issues you don’t see the resolution.

As for characters, when we started writing the series, I spent a lot of my time working on the new character Lycia, so my view of the original characters didn’t change much at all.

The original work must have cast a heavy weight, but what other influences did you have?

Clive Barker is my biggest influence. He tells stories in ways that no other writer I have ever read can compare to. I do find it interesting, having read comics spanning all eras, how storytelling in comics has changed. I worked on Micronauts with Cullen Bunn, a series that originated with Marvel in the 70s. I have talked to fans who wish we were writing stories like the ones Marvel did. But the reality is that nobody could write like that today. Readers wouldn’t be interested in it. There are many readers who seek out the older stories like that, but the nostalgia factor lets them be read without worrying about the storytelling. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series is one that stands the test of time. He did such a fantastic job telling the stories he told, that they will always be relevant examples of how to tell a story.

The writing process is a collaboration between you and Cullen Bunn. How is it to collaborate with other artists? Is there too much compromise?

In spite of what Cullen says, we work really well together.

But seriously, we sit down and talk out the idea. Then we write up a page by page outline. Sometimes that could be one line “FIGHT” or it could be a paragraph with dialogue we want to make sure we use. Through this process we make sure we don’t have too many scenes we are trying to fit in. In this case it was a 60 page script, so when we finished the outline, we talked about scenes we “wanted.” Cullen really wanted the Savashtar investigating scene, so we blocked that out for him. After we do that it is usually pretty close to an even split on the workload.

When we finish our parts, I combine it into one unified script and we both go over it. This part is fun because we get to revel in the genius of our parts and rewrite the stuff the other guy did. I joke about it. Usually it involves tweaking a few things here and there, but not too terribly much.

This is not the only project you two have partnered up for. Why did you start working together?

I met Cullen in 2003. He met me in 2004. There is a story there, but this isn’t the day for that. We were both at a horror convention for writers in New York (in 2004). Found out we lived very close to each other and when we got home started talking and hanging out more. He was working on writing prose, and I had discovered an innate talent for editing. I did an edit for him on a story and he really liked what I did. That was the start of working together.

Are there any specific scenes or narrative developments you want to include in this continuation of the 80’s comic?

We are looking at this as a continuation of the series. 30 years later, these 5 are still defending reality from threats. They have changed, but the dynamics amongst them are still pretty consistent. Zania and Argon are the “bad” pair, while Tanith and Savashtar are the “good” pair, leaving Doomidor in the middle as the balance between them.

The only thing I really pushed for was doing a cover based on the original issue 1. We are technically working on the fourth run of the series. The second run was a short mini series that did a new version of the issue one cover. The third run did not, but it deviated massively from the original concept. I am glad that we got to use a version of the original cover. Jeffrey Edwards did an amazing job on it, and on every page that will be between the covers.

The five main characters are extremely different and layered. What was the biggest challenge bringing them to life?

Anytime you have an ensemble cast it takes time to develop the individuals. It is much easier to write a story with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman because you don’t need to establish who they are. You see the S, the Bat cowl, the lariat, and you instantly know who they are.

We have 5 main characters we are essentially introducing to readers. Along with a handful of new characters to the series. That takes time to develop. Being able to do a 60 page issue helps massively with the character development aspect.

Is it turning out the way you’ve envisioned it?

I am still pretty fresh in the comic world, so I am loving the process. Seeing thumbnails come in, then pencils, then inks, then colors. . . Seeing my words and scenes turned into comic pages is amazing. It is so much better than I envisioned it. I love it.

In these shaken times do you try to embed your work with some subliminal criticism or do you keep it detached from the outside world?

Oh, I am constantly putting Easter Eggs into things. Many of which go unnoticed. Cullen is always telling me not to worry about things like that because no one will notice. The secret is, I am putting them in for me. I am ok if no one else ever notices!

I am guessing though that your question is leaning more towards the current political and social climate in our country. And that is something I try and avoid. I don’t need to make enemies right now as I get started in writing. Many writers and artists are taking positions publicly about their support or lack of support for our current administration. I will leave that to them for now.

Anything you can tell us without giving out major spoilers?

We start out seeing the Warlock 5 fighting against an incursion into Grid City, but we will be showing them in their own worlds. And a portion of this first volume is going to take place on a new world in crisis. This will be creating a dilemma for them as they have to choose between helping an individual world or pulling back to Grid City and simply protecting the Grid. It goes towards the question of what are you protecting. It is all good standing guard over a forest and making sure it doesn’t succumb to a forest fire, but when you let a lumberjack in to cut down a tree. . . well, it sucks if you are that tree.

Thanks Jimmy for opening up about the future of Warlock 5! 

###

About WARLOCK 5 KICKSTARTER

Five guardians protect the multiverse against the chaos that lurks outside the boundaries of reality. There’s only one problem: they hate each other.

“The Grid.
 
A mystical nexus, a crossroads connecting all times, all realities. Along the ley lines of the Grid, the multiverse clusters. To move along the Grid is to move from one reality to the next. To harness the power of the Grid is to harness the awesome might of creation.Five touchstone realities exist at focal points along the Grid. From each of these realities, a Warlock is chosen to act as one of five Guardians.
 
Savasthar, a shapeshifting dragon-like being.
 
Doomidor, a warlord from the Dark Ages.Argon, an advanced cybernetic organism from a techno-hell.
 
Tanith, an ageless sorceress.
 
Zania, a power-mad, machine gun necromancer.
 
Together, the Warlocks protect the Grid, thereby protecting all of space and time. They are the last line of defense against the awful forces of chaos that lurk in the darkness outside the Grid.There’s only one problem.They hate each other.”
 
Originally created by Gordon Derry and Denis Beauvais, Warlock 5 was published by Barry Blair, a Canadian comic book publisher, artist and writer, known for launching Aircel Comics in the 1980s. A fierce advocate for innovation in the themes, genres, and types of illustrations, Blair helped to bring titles to life that broke the narrative and graphic boundaries at the time — including Warlock 5.
 
The new Warlock 5 Kickstarter funded this continuation of the Aircel Comics classic fantasy masterpiece. This 2017 reboot is written by CULLEN BUNN and JIMMY JOHNSTON, illustrated by JEFFREY EDWARDS with colors by ANDY POOLE, letters by ED DUKESHIRE, and designs by EDWARD LAVALLEE and SHAWN T. KING. This saga of rivalry, betrayal, magic, dragons, and killer robots is aiming for a 60-page full-color (hard cover) original graphic novel.

Alana Joli Abbott – Author Interview

Alana Joli Abbott – Author Interview

Alana Joli Abbott has recently joined Outland Entertainment‘s as Editor in chief, but you’ve probably heard her name long before this new gig. Be it for her novels, her interactive games or her award winning game writing, Alana continues to amaze us with her talent. Let’s try and find out more from Abbott herself!

Who’s Alana Joli Abbott?

Starting off with an existential question like that? This interview’s going to be a stumper! I guess I’m a writer, editor, mother, wife, martial artist, and lapsed musician. I’m passionate about stories and the way that telling stories—and consuming stories—shapes the world we live in. Being a mom has changed the way I see storytelling happening around me, because I look at what stories I’m feeding my kids, and what stories they’re taking in from the world around them. There’s so much power in the way we tell our truths and our fictions, and I try to make sure I’m always on the side of using that power for good!

 

What was the first thing you ever wrote? Was it a school assignment or something you did on your free time?

The first thing I have a concrete memory of writing was a school assignment in third grade, but it was also fan fiction. It was a short story based on a comic book that my mom had kept from when she was a kid about a group of children and their dog. (Not Peanuts or I’d remember the title!) I inserted myself into their world and wrote a story about playing baseball with them. (I didn’t play baseball. That’s where the fiction comes in.) I think there might have been a rainstorm. Not too long after that I wrote an epic episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, based on the cartoon, because I followed that devotedly, on my father’s electronic typewriter. We didn’t get a computer until the next year or two, and sometime in there I started writing a really long Star Wars piece that’s now long gone. At the time, I was sure that LucasFilm would somehow discover me and publish it in the Expanded Universe. My first “original” novel was a riff on the Indiana Jones pulp style archeologist adventures featuring an Egyptologist with powers she’d gotten from a scarab staff, which I wrote as part of a contest in the old Disney Adventures magazine. As part of a project in for my gifted and talented class, I submitted it out to publishers and learned for the first time how the submission/rejection process goes. It was a definite learning experience!

 

When the moment came, did you need someone else uttering “You are a writer.” or did you know it already?

I don’t think I ever needed that validation, but I also don’t remember a time when I wasn’t receiving it. I was very lucky to have teachers who supported me throughout elementary school, allowing me to put on a play I’d written, starring members of my class, for the grade below us. In high school I had friends who would read my short stories and trade fiction set in the world I’d created back and forth with me. I didn’t realize at the time how exceptional that was, but it definitely established in me that this was something I could do, and would always do, professionally or not.

 

From novels, to comics passing through short fiction, games, interactive novels and numerous articles, we can say you’ve tried nearly every front of the creative and factual side of writing.

Among these different experiences what striking disparities do you notice from the creative point of view? And how about the actual writing approach?

The big question is about interactivity: if other people are involved in the storytelling, you have to leave room for them to tell their own stories, despite the fact that you’re the one writing it. So with the interactive novels and roleplaying games, there’s a lot of leaving doors open and thinking about multiple options for every scenario. I don’t ever get the feeling that I know the main characters of the story very well, because the main characters are the players. The story has to be about them, and I’m just creating the window dressing. Pretty extensive dressing, but dressing nonetheless. The story is a vehicle for their adventure, not my own vision. The writing format reflects that, too, most significantly in the interactive novel apps I write, which are written in a programming language called ChoiceScript. That’s much, much different from writing in straight prose!

By contrast, with my fiction I almost always start from the characters and then figure out what’s going on with them. The characters propel that story forward, so I get to know them very well, and it’s the motivations of my own characters who drive the plot.

Articles, of course, have completely different rules, and usually start from the research, even in (sometimes especially in) the short blog posts I do. If the data or history doesn’t support the article I thought I was going to write, I have to figure out a different angle. I call this kind of work analysis-synthesis writing: take apart the information from other sources and then put it together in a new and different way that’s interesting to my audience.

 

Do you have a favorite project? Why that one in particular?

There’s always some project I’m super excited about, and I’m proud of a lot of the work that I’ve done, but the story I’ve written that’s closest to my heart is “Nomi’s Wish,” which was very loosely based on two true events: one, a trip my sister and I took to the Isle of Man (where neither of us fell into the Chasms), and two, a wish that was given to me by Naomi Lewis, this amazing writer and translator of fairy tales who I worked with when I was an in-house editor in Detroit. Over a phone conversation, she told me she sometimes gave young people she liked a wish, and she gave me one. (I used it, and it came true, though whether that’s to the credit of the wish, I can’t say!)

My second favorite might be “Don’t Let Go,” which was published in the now-out-of-print Ransom: The Anthology. I’d always wanted to tackle the Tam Lin story, and I ended up liking my version quite a bit. It might be part of a larger world in which this sort of fairy thing happens more frequently, but none of those stories have been finished yet.

 

You’ve recently release Choice of the Pirate”, your third interactive novel game for Choice of Games. How did you decide to enter this gamified format of novel?

I was approached by the publisher for Choice of Games, because he knew me, through friends, as a game writer and a fiction writer; having both backgrounds is incredibly helpful for writing interactive novels! On the one hand, the prose has to be really strong; on the other hand, there has to be a lot of room for the player to experience the story the way they want to, which means the story can’t dominate over the player’s choices. The juxtaposition of both skill sets sounded like a lot of fun, and it has been! I don’t mind telling you it’s also the most challenging kind of writing that I do (and probably the format of that the fewest people are familiar with!). But when I phrase it, “Oh, yes, I had an app come out this year,” people get very excited thinking I’m a video game designer. I suppose that technically I am, but it’s very different from what people expect from video games as well! It’s really this niche format that’s wonderful to play with and work in, and I hope that a lot of people keep getting excited about it.

 

This methodology resembles a lot the “Choose your own Adventure” books. Were you a fan of these growing up?

I read so many of them! I think a lot of us who work in gaming came from that background. There was one I remember very specifically about finding a hidden utopia—maybe Shangri-La?—where you couldn’t find the city except by paging through the book. There was no in-story route to get there, and it was only by sheer persistence that I got to it. It was both rewarding and kind of a cheat! But it stuck with me.

 

One might say your fiction work delves mostly on fantasy and sci-fi backgrounds. Do you agree with that?

Oh gosh, yes. I wrote Showdown at Willow Creek for Choice of Games as a non-fantastical interactive novel and didn’t realize how much I relied on fantastical elements to move me through a story and to help design my worlds! A friend of mine who playtested Choice of the Pirate said, on first run-through, “Why does my pirate have magic?” And I said, “Because magic is awesome. Now play.” Storytelling doesn’t need magic or futuristic science to work, but isn’t it more fun if it’s there?

 

Is there a reason why you’re more drawn towards these genres?

I read pretty exhaustively in science fiction and fantasy and always have, and most of my favorite stories (books or films) have either an SFF element or an SFF atmosphere. I realized a few years back that one of my favorite childhood books, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope technically isn’t SFF; it’s historical, and the faeire court involved in the tale isn’t technically magical, just a dispossessed group of humans. But it’s a Tam Lin story, which gives it the flavor of fantasy, even if it technically doesn’t fit. My other very favorite books that have always stuck with me are A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle and Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith. I think that’s a pretty good window on how my worldview on storytelling got shaped.

 

You’ve done quite an extensive research in Mythology. How did you first enter this world?

Don’t all kids get into Egyptology at some point? That was the entry point for me, and then in high school the drama club at some point assigned Greek gods and goddesses to all the usual suspects. But it wasn’t until college that I realized this was actually a field of study that was valued in an academic sphere. My creative writing prof, Mark Vecchio, taught a course called “Mythic Imagination” that I waited far too long to take. The impact of that course on my outlook and writing cannot be overstated. After I graduated, I went first as a student and then later as a teaching assistant on Mark’s study tours (which he still offers as OCaptain Tours), and through those I studied Arthurian/British, Irish, and Greek mythology in the actual locations where those stories were birthed. Once you start seeing stories in the landscape, you don’t stop. I now live within 20 or so miles of Sleeping Giant mountain and Tuxis Island, both of which have giant legends from the local Quinnipiac people (often much filtered through the Puritan worldview that recorded them). Like many places in England, my area of New England is a land of giants, and though I don’t entirely know the significance of that, it feels significant, deep into the earth around me.

 

Moving to another very relevant theme nowadays, diversity in writing is one of your battles. How do you feel about the efforts that have been made in this area these past few years?

It’s so nice to have someone give me credit for that, when really I feel on the periphery of the people doing the really important work! I care very deeply about representation in fiction, because, for one, it’s boring to read the same old stories about the same old characters retold with different hair colors or different towns but the same basic tropes. (Of course, after having just talked about how much I love Tam Lin retellings, I probably contradict myself a bit!) I don’t think there’s anything wrong with loving stories that fit into the traditional pattern. I love a lot of farmboy-becomes-hero stories. But I think there are so many other possibilities out there for stories that don’t share the same basic assumptions about the world as that farmboy destined for greatness. And that’s just from my own selfish perspective. It’s so much more important to value representation for readers who don’t see themselves reflected on the covers of novels. I was very lucky to come of age when Alanna: The First Adventure was on the bookshelves of my library’s budding YA section. I think I cut my hair to look like the character on the book jacket, and while I didn’t have copper hair or purple eyes, I saw my name (differently spelled) and a face that could have been mine right on the jacket of my favorite book. That’s an experience that a lot of kids don’t have, especially given how miserable the stats are when it comes to children’s books featuring protagonists of color right on the cover. And this is all just tip of the iceberg stuff. I can’t recommend enough good articles on this topic, so I’ll link to just a few.

 

That said, I’m a white female writer and I know I come from a position of privilege. As much as I try to be inclusive and critical of colonialist viewpoints in my fiction, I am sure I mess up. I remember when I was working on Cowboys and Aliens 2 and one of the commenter called me out on using the word “yella” to mean coward, thinking it was a slur against the Asian railroad workers. Having grown up with Western movies, it never even occurred to me that someone could read it that way! I did some research and found out that the term came from a different root—but sometimes, that’s not what’s relevant. The way that people perceive what’s written is what they bring to the story, and it’s important not to create a situation where readers feel alienated by a story they love. I just keep trying to fail better the next time.

 

Do you think we’ve achieved any real progress? Would you say more in terms of gender or race equality?

I want to believe that there’s been progress, but I think that the news lately would tell me that it’s a tough hope to hold onto. And just in games and SFF there’s been this backlash, especially over the Internet, against inclusivity. I want to believe that the reason the backlash is occurring is because there has been progress made that some of the Old Guard don’t like. But the fact that it’s there means that the struggle has to continue, and we’ve all got to keep fighting the good fight so that those undertold stories can reach a wider audience.

 

And how about the backstage: do you agree that the works we get are a reflection of the lack of diversity of the actual writers?

I think less the writers than on the in house side, honestly. There are many, many excellent writers from all walks of life: race, gender, class, sexuality. One of the big problems, as Daniel José Older has written about (in one of my links above) is that the gatekeepers of writing tend to lack diversity. I know that Lee & Low books and Simmons College have a scholarship for further study in children’s literature for “students from diverse backgrounds.” To carry the metaphor, it’s not just the people backstage, but also the people producing the show. I’m not pointing fingers here, because there are a lot of reasons this situation is what it is (and I certainly want to keep my own job!), but I think if we really want diverse books, we have to have diverse agents, editors, publishers, filmmakers, directors, showrunners, Broadway creators… the list goes on and on.

Then I get all bogged down in it and think, let’s just tell each other some stories! I want to hear them all.

Thank you, Alana, for sharing a little bit of your world with us!

SG

 

P.S.: Check out all the other interviews with illustrators, writers, game-designers and other authors!

Shotguns & Sorcery RPG: Robert Schwalb’s Journey

Shotguns & Sorcery RPG: Robert Schwalb’s Journey

Matt Forbeck already enlightened us on his latest interview, but we also wanted to hear directly from the other man of the RPG game: Robert Schwalb.

Forbeck & Schwalb have worked closely to finish the first of the S&S RPG manuscript. With around 180,000 words and a little over 300 pages long it seems it’ll be one of the biggest game books of the year.

Let’s find out what they’ve exactly been up to while working for the upcoming Roleplaying Game based on Forbeck’s IP Shotguns & Sorcery.

 

How was it to integrate the Cypher System™ seamlessly with the S&S setting?

It was a whole lot of fun to be honest! As my fourth RPG adaptation of fiction to game material, the process was really comfortable and made easier having Matt just an email a way to answer all my finicky questions. Plus, Cypher is a flexible game engine and can handle a wide range of stories, so that was a benefit.

 

Was it an organic process?

To some extent, yes. The novels have a some strong world-building elements, but they are short, so we inferred a lot about the world from the books and Matt filled in a lot of the blanks. As far as adapting the game system, we didn’t have to make many significant changes. Cypher uses a universal mechanic for dealing with narrative complications, regardless of what those complications are.

 

Was it more difficult to adapt an already existing IP into the rules of the RPG universe or is it the same as when you start a game from scratch?

I wouldn’t say it’s more difficult. Rather, it’s a different kind of difficult. Building a game from the ground up presents its own challenges—you have to nail down the kinds of stories you want to tell, the stakes involved, and build the system to meet the story’s needs or build the story to match the game system as in the case of original creations bolted on to an existing game system. With fiction adaptation, the author creates a world without thought given to game balance or telling stories outside the story involving the protagonists. So the challenge really is to look at the world around the protagonists and find stories and characters that could exist within the same story and then building the game for them.

System work is also tricky since the objective is to match the mechanics to the narrative. For example, the novels show a wide range of magical effects, from enchanted bullets to nets of blue magical energy that catch falling people to astral projection. The characters in the book don’t “grow” into these things. Rather, they just have them. While Cypher does not place an emphasis on growing one’s individual power, it does feature a system of Tier advancement and from those tiers, characters gain additional benefits and options. It was a bit difficult pinning certain effects found in the story to particular tiers and/or character building blocks such as focus and descriptor, but it wasn’t an insurmountable difficulty.

 

What exactly was your job on this specific part of this big venture?

It was my job to put the Cypher System through its paces, bending and adapting the core rules to fit the needs of the game and to create new mechanical content to help players and GMs express the story in play. Sometimes, I took existing mechanical content from the Cypher System rulebook and embedded them in new story wrappers. Others, I rebuilt certain rules to make them more suitable for Shotguns & Sorcery. And I also spent a great deal of time creating new content for the game, such as new horrible creature, descriptors, cyphers, and more.

 

What was the biggest challenge or even obstacle you found?

Shotguns & Sorcery places a considerable amount of importance on race and the tensions of disparate peoples forced to live together under the tyrannical reign of the Dragon Emperor. As the Cypher System doesn’t sweat race/ancestry/people/whatever too much—though there are guidelines in the Cypher System Rulebook—I had to find a way to make the race choice important within the system’s framework. After four or five attempts, I finally settled on extracting a few game elements granted by type and presenting them in a second adjectival choice point called race. This approach allows race a greater impact on how characters take shape and helps differentiate characters who share the same type.

 

Did the results so far assume the form you wanted?

Oh yes! I’m quite happy with how the game turned out and I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing it in its final form.

 

What is it that you’re most looking forward to show the audience as soon as the RPG is available?

Fans of the novels are going to find out so much more information in this game and Matt added a lot of detail to Dragon City, which really brings the place to life. I’m just excited to get this game in the hands of the customers so they can start playing!

 

Can you give us any scoop on a favorite character, magic, cypher…?

So many things! But let’s talk about magic. Spells operate as benefits gained from your Type choice. You can access spells from one of two types, the Wizard or, if you want to be a dabbler, the Freelance. Now, anyone can pick up additional spells too by selecting a magical focus such as Conjures Monsters or Commands the Dead. And then there are cyphers. We introduce a subcategory of cyphers called Words, which are spells in written form. They can be written on pages in books, on scrolls, etched onto tablets, or painted on the walls of an ancient, ruined building. Magic is fully integrated into the game, so it’s pretty easy for most characters to have a bit of mojo.

 

People are already wondering about GM advice you could give them. What’s the one recommendation you would share?

Make Dragon City your own. While we go into detail about the city, there’s plenty of room to add your own creations and characters. Don’t feel locked into the story told in the novels. This is your city now and you can do with it whatever you like!

 

Thank you, Robert! We are very excited to be part of the 1st third party game licensed with newCypher System™ from Monte Cook Games.

S.G.

Shotguns & Sorcery RPG: Robert Schwalb’s Journey

Shotguns & Sorcery RPG: Matt Forbeck’s Journey

A lot has changed since the last time we spoke. Matt Forbeck has worked closely with Robert Schwalb to finish the first draft of the S&S RPG manuscript. With around 180,000 words and a little over 300 pages long it seems it’ll be one of the biggest game books of the year.

Let’s find out what they’ve exactly been up to while working for the upcoming Roleplaying Game based on Forbeck’s IP Shotguns & Sorcery.

 

Matt, could you explain to us how it is to transform a universe you made famous in novel format into an RPG?

It’s fantastic fun. The world of Shotguns & Sorcery actually started out as an RPG setting in my head, although the world first got to see it in fiction, so it’s a real thrill to watch it develop into a full-blown RPG.

 

Was it an organic process?

As organic as anything can be that comes from people typing at each other. For me, it felt very natural. I started out as an RPG developer over two decades ago, so working on another RPG again felt like coming home.

 

What exactly was your job on this specific part of this big venture?

I wrote the background for the book and supplied all of the details about the world. My pal Rob Schwalb did all the heavy lifting with the rules, while Outland’s CEO Jeremy Mohler is creating all the art.

 

What was the biggest challenge or even obstacle you found?

It’s been a while since I wrote the Shotguns & Sorcery stories, so I actually had to back through and read them, taking notes as I went. This gave me all sorts of ideas for new material for the setting, but it’s kind of odd to study something you once wrote.

 

Did you have to compromise a lot? Did you feel like the S&S characters and universe had to change a lot to fit the RPG model?

Not much at all. As I mentioned, I originally developed Shotguns & Sorcery as an RPG setting, so bringing it back to its roots left it fairly well intact.

 

Did the results so far assume the form you wanted?

So far, I’ve been thrilled with every part of it. I can’t wait to see the finished book. There’s nothing quite like holding a book like that in your hands.

 

What is it that you’re most looking forward to show the audience as soon as the RPG is available?

Jeremy’s artwork. It’s really going to breathe new dimensions of life into the world and draw players right into it.

 

Can you give us any scoop on a favorite character, magic, cypher…?

I really like what Rob did with the cyphers overall. That’s something new to Shotguns & Sorcery, and he made it fit well.

 

Any future plans regarding this I.P.?

After re-reading all the books, I have ideas for lots more Shotguns & Sorcery stories. I don’t know when I’m going to get to writing them, but hopefully soon.

 

Thank you, Matt! We can’t wait to delve even further into the Shotguns & Sorcery‘s Universe!

Stay tuned for Robert Schwalb’s interview comming to you on April 27th!

S.G.

Steven Dudley – Nightfell Producer

Steven Dudley – Nightfell Producer

Down to earth, but with a flare for fantasy, Steven Dudley explains how he got himself producer of a fantasy webcomic.

How did you find yourself producing Nightfell?

I was approached by my friend Jeremy MohlerHe’d asked roughly a year before the Nightfell project began if I was interested.

 

Did you always envision it as a webcomic?

Not always.  Jeremy told me the project would be presented as such early on.

 

There’s a whole debate around comics becoming digital. Do you think webcomics are the gateway for this new digital world?

Yes.  Everything is going digital.  With that said, I don’t believe web comics will ever phase out hardcopy, but, will act as an extension – a compliment.

 

Do you find yourself more driven towards a specific genre(s)? Which one(s)?

Yes, I lean towards fantasy. 

Why?

I was the typical kid who was awestruck by the Hobbit.  I do like other genres though, but, yes, fantasy is my favorite.  I’d also started playing D&D early on and so many good memories from that.

 

Was it always your intention to work in this creative field?

No.  I never thought I’d be a part of a project in this way.  Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised since I have so many very talented artist friends.  I feel lucky.

 

What was the first book you ever read (or was read to you)?

A book about bigfoot.

And comics: which were your favorite ones?

Spiderman and Batman.  I’d also read the Savage Sword of Conan from time to time.

 

Nowadays, what can we find you reading?

Books regarding the nature of reality and primitive living skills.

 

Are you a person of idols?

If you mean “do I idolize people”…. Nope.  But, I admire great art and people can be great works of art if they choose to be.

 

Who were your childhood heroes?

My dad, my grandpa and my uncle.

And today? Who do you look up to?

I can’t say I look up to people.  I can only say there are a few I highly respect.

 

What was the first thing you ever wrote?

A short story about a mech warrior.  I’d written it for a programmer friend of mine who was getting some of his code placed in a magazine back in the 80’s.  The short story was published with it as an introduction.  Was an exciting event for me since I was only a kid.

 

What kind of games do you play? Board or Computer games?

I play both.  Not big into first person shooters though I’ve played many.  I’m looking more for computer games that create randomly generated worlds and can be delivered from private, dedicated servers.  I’m bored with the way marketing has dictated how computer games are created.

As far as board games go, I own many and like various kinds, though War of the Ring and Battlestar Galactica are a couple that have me hook-line-and-sinker.

 

So… can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward in the short run?

NightfellIt’s the only project I’m involved with at the moment and I think it’s an absolutely great story.  The world needs Nightfell.

 

Thanks Steven for telling us about your story!

S.G

P.S.: If you enjoyed reading this interview take a look at the other ones we have from illustrators to writers, passing through game-designers and authors.