Interviews

Doug Jones Interview at KC Comic Con

The man behind Saru of Star Trek: Discovery, Doug Jones, was gracious enough to talk with us for a while about his upcoming movie projects including The Shape of Water. We also talk Star Trek, how Saru and his physical movements came to be, as well as how Jones sees Discovery fitting into the whole Trek franchise. Catch the interview below and be sure to check out our dedicated Star Trek podcast series, Redshirts & Runabouts! Details below.

What is your favorite Doug Jones character? Comment below and subscribe to our YouTube Channel!

We hope you enjoyed our interview with Doug Jones! We want to thank Mr. Jones for taking the time to speak with us on the convention floor and wish him the best of luck with his future projects!

We’d also like to thank Kansas City Comic Con for hosting us last weekend. We hosted three live episode panels that can be found at the links below.

Costume Couture: Cosplay & LGBT+

Gamer Heroes: Guilty Pleasure Gaming

Screen Heroes: Ranking the Batman

Redshirts & Runabouts: Cloaking, Jumps, and Doug Jones

Live long and prosper.

Doug Jones Interview at KC Comic Con

Psycho Killers and the Women Who Love Them: Harley Quinn, Abuse, and Cosplay Pt 3


In today’s installment, we collect our thoughts and round up the final remarks in our series on fictional abuse and it’s significance for real cosplayers. Last week, we asked about the health of Harley Quinn’s relationship.

“I’d say it’s unhealthy that she used to keep going back even though Joker would do these terrible things to her, but it’s not just that she’s the victim, every now and then she’ll take a shot at him for whatever reason, and I think that it adds a lot of character to them both because at the end of the day they’re both bats**t crazy,” said James Longstaff, also known as Love That Joker. Manipulation, something Harley is no stranger to, is a reoccurring theme in domestic abuse; many abusers convince their partners to stay through promises of violence not happening again. The likelihood that violence will continue is extremely high: between 30 -40% of abusers will do so again, regardless of incarceration or counseling. Becca Payne said, “Why do we do that? Because we have hope.” Offenders also will attempt to keep their significant others close by threatening self-harm, a stunt the Joker is no stranger to.

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To many, that’s the appeal of the character: she is a normal person. She has no powers, no super origin, no scars, mental or physical ,that made her choose to become what she is (at least not prior to the New 52). Harleen was a woman who chose to become Harley Quinn to appeal to the man she loved and that real turn in her character is what makes her more relatable to many when compared to other female characters like Wonder Woman or Zatanna, people who harness the power of Gods and other worlds.

This has brought criticism so specific that it is difficult to counter due to it’s extreme nature.

In no unclear words, if you don’t have experience personally with abuse from a partner, this relationship is not something you can enjoy. Of our interviews who do have a history of abuse on some level, here are some reactions:

“And I think their relationship can be enjoyed by anyone,” said Longstaff.

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“You don’t have to be abused to enjoy observing a fictional abusive relationship that leads to rich storytelling,” said Andrew Arkham Cosplay.

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“I’d say, that’s your opinion. But they also have to realize that it’s a fictional relationship in a controlled environment. Yes, these kinds of things do happen in real life, but this isn’t real life. People are allowed to enjoy whatever they choose and others can mind their own business. The comics and characters can be appreciated by everyone, but I don’t think that people who haven’t been through the situations that the characters have can fully grasp the concept or gravity of what they’re going through,” said Anderson.

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“That just seems foolish to me? It’s not a matter of privilege,” said Harley Quinnsane.

So, if someone feels that Joker and Harley are “cute,” despite their well-documented groundings in violence and poor treatment, how can you counter that? Is someone misjudging that relationship or are these fans simply imbalanced themselves? Are they teenagers who don’t understand relationships? The answers we received were somewhere between.

Andrew Arkham Cosplay feels these readers are either misguided, or not readers at all. “The kids don’t acknowledge the abuse, they just like the visual of a not-so-normal relationship like Jack and Sally, Morticia and Gomez, and let’s face it: in the cartoon/comic world, there aren’t a lot like that besides those two. They are very misinformed on what’s truly going on between the characters and/or refuse to acknowledge the abusive undertones and are simply enamored by just the visual.” He feels this also isn’t the first time young readers have misrepresented the toxicity of a relationship and turned it into something desirable. “Twilight can also be seen as a manipulative relationship, yet it is still desired just because of one thing: it’s different.”

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Harley Quinnsane connected the romanticization of the relationship to 50 Shades of Grey, which has had a very established backlash from the BDSM community for it’s depiction of what is supposed to be a safe environment for would-be questionable activity. “It’s a complete misunderstanding. Joker is abusive. That’s it, that’s all. And Harley has her episodes too. It’s not a kink – it’s dangerous and unhealthy. But we, especially cosplayers, have to remember that these are cartoon super-villains and their relationship should be in no way mimicked or accepted in real life.”

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Shauna Lynn may have the best connection to the young audience that is usually both marketed to and worried about when it comes to making this sick relationship seem ideal. It didn’t work on her. “I feel that girls now are looking at her as an icon and thinking that her and the Joker are so cute together because of physical appearance having no knowledge of their past. I feel that some young people are a bit uneducated on them.”

“Read a Joker/Harley comic book,” said Longstaff.

All of this discussion of the abuse from Joker is currently moot in DC’s current stories. Crazy Clover Cosplay says, “Harley is her own person now and has her own comic series without the Joker! Her character found the strength to leave and that can encourage others who might be in a bad situation to leave as well. In the end though, it is all make believe and fun.” Most fans will tell you that the Joker doesn’t stay dead for long, though, and if the majority of readers do enjoy stories of Joker and Harley, they probably won’t stay divided for long, either. However, Quinn is currently shacked up and in an open relationship with an old friend.  “Well, Poison Ivy and Harley are pretty cute,” said Shauna Lynn.

While stories of abuse can be important, stories of progress, with it’s struggles, are what draw many to these grounded characters. “In a silly sort of way, seeing Harley doing her own thing in her current comic story lines, gives me a sense of hope and inspiration. Sure, she still has her own issues to sort out, like PTSD, anger, and being bats**t bonkers, but she’s getting by,” says Taka. “Harley is a sort of a bleeding heart and has a soft spot for animals and those who can’t help themselves.” Fiction is often the help that those who believe they can’t help themselves need to motivate them to do so.

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The future of the character’s status as a role model and sort of “patron saint” of women struggling with a cycle of abuse is up for debate. Her current comics solo run by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti has been lauded by many like Taka, who see her as a character getting by and making her own way from day-to-day amid slapstick adventures and has been very successful with several spin-off titles including Harley Quinn and her Gang of Harleys and Harley Quinn’s Little Black Book. But the title also shows Harley participating in acts of violence that are almost brutal in nature. She is more consistently violent in this comic than any other portrayal, including the violence towards her former partner, Joker, from whom she is estranged in the story. There is also the critique that she appears to be more unbalanced and at times “dumbed down” for comedic value. She is also featured as a player in the well-received DC Comics Bombshells title, recently applauded for openly featuring a kiss between Poison Ivy and Harley amid a large cast of female leads taking place during WWII. The Suicide Squad film is also likely to have a huge impact on the character, with rumors of future solo films or female team-ups flying in every direction. The film dials back the abuse presumably for the purpose of marketing: no one can complain about romanticizing abuse through selling cute merch if the abuse isn’t in the film. However, some still complain about the abuse even when it isn’t presented, especially fans who so strongly relate to her metamorphosis. There is a heavy focus on the male gaze pointed towards Harley, which may only contribute to further over sexualization and romanticization of the character and pairing as a whole in the future considering the success of the movie.

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With the popularity of Suicide Squad, fans will be flocking to the girl in motley. Whether fans of her classic Dini and Timm-era antics beside her Mistah J or finding inspiration through her more modern comic incarnations like the series mentioned above, it’s clear that people are drawn to her as a tragic figure, as a source of inspiration, or simply as a smart and sassy clown with the on-again, off-again gangster beau. There is just something about Harley, but maybe the joke’s on us.

Psycho Killers and the Women Who Love Them: Harley Quinn, Abuse, and Cosplay Pt 3

Psycho Killers and the Women Who Love Them: Harley Quinn, Abuse, and Cosplay Pt 2

You can find Part 1 of this series here.

In last week’s installment, we discussed Harley Quinn’s history, and her deep connection with abuse. This week, we speak to cosplayers about their connections to the character. Trigger warning: this article discusses abuse specifically.

“I do have a history with an abusive boyfriend,” cosplayer Misses J Quinn told us. “I feel very connected to Harley because of this. It is not a healthy relationship. I think no one deserves to experience an abusive relationship.” She wasn’t alone.

Cosplayer Zoe Anderson said, “It goes all the way back to living at home and watching my parents do the same thing that I would see repeated. You might say I had become desensitized or, perhaps even blind to what was considered abuse. I’d let my boyfriend smack me around, blame things on me, cheat on me, and more.” Her understanding of the connection between her and the character wasn’t obvious to her. “As I saw glimpses of her past home life and then looking in at my personal relationships I could definitely see it. The more I looked at it, the more the two seemed to blend together, and I was desperate for a way to express this.” For Anderson, that expression was cosplay. “Cosplay has definitely given me a way to healthily express myself. It is something that helps my mental well-being and it does make me feel pretty damn good all around. All you get is compliments.”

This sentiment was echoed by several cosplayers, including Becca Payne, who told us, “Cosplaying makes me feel like who I am on the inside and to me, that is healthy.” Savannah Kelly said, “I think that cosplay should be judgment free and should include everyone who is willing to put the effort into cosplaying.”

Becka Taka Cosplay tells us cosplay was important to her ability to manage her depression, and Harley Quinn was a part of it. “I was months into the worst depressive period of my life. There was a cosplay function being held in the area on my birthday and I forced myself to attend. I ran around as a princess, then later (a few drinks later) changed into a cute Harley themed dress, complete with mismatched shoes, mask and poofy pigtailed wig. I think my extreme love for her was born then. I mean how can you NOT have a good time dressed as her?”

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Taka’s story echo’s many of the elements of the 1994 Mad Love story. “I immediately felt a connection, like the world stopped for a moment when I met him. He was more than a little shy but we could talk for hours. He was damaged. He had led a hard life and it was like I came into his for a reason. Like the idiot empath I am, I felt his pain. I wanted to heal him. I foolishly thought ‘He just needs someone to love him.’ I honestly thought I was that person. The rest was a whirlwind of passion, late nights talking, him needing me, me needing to be needed… It has been said that when you look at the world(or a lover) with rose tinted glasses, that all the red flags look like just… flags. Nothing, could be closer to the truth. I was warned by friends. I was begged to stop what I was doing. But I was under his spell and it was a powerful one at that.”

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“The day we signed the lease, was almost exactly the day he changed into a monster. You see, he had gotten exactly what he wanted. He lived in a shitty room, in a shitty part of town and wanted nothing more than to get out. I was also desperate for a place to live and either intentionally, or not, I was made into his victim.”

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What followed was also similar to Harleen’s story, one of first mental and emotional control that became abuse, and then abuse that became physical. “I absolutely feel a connection to Harley because of my past. Here you have a character who is at the pinnacle of her career, beautiful, athletic(she was a gymnast) and getting the opportunity to study one of Gotham’s most notorious criminals at the Arkham Asylum. Before I met the man that brought my life to a screeching halt, I was confident, at a healthy weight, and planning a career in either Vegas or Atlanta. After he got in my head, I was driven to near madness. I completely lost sight of the well adjusted person I once was before I met my abuser, yet much like Harley, kept coming back again and again for more abuse.”

While disturbing, Taka’s history is not unusual. Of the cosplayers we interviewed, 90% said that they had some history of abuse, be it physical, emotional, or mental. Our interviews were 80% female, 20% male. These numbers have little to do with cosplay, and instead mirror national statistics. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, approximately 7 million women in the U.S. are assaulted or raped by a current or former partner each year. Love is Respect reports 43% of dating college women and 28% of men reported experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors in a relationship.

“I was a stupid teenager that fell in love for dumb reasons and let myself get caught up in that relationship because it was there and I’ve always had self-confidence issues when it comes to feeling wanted and loved,” said Crazy Clover Cosplay. “I’ll admit that I have felt a closer connection to Harley after going through what I did, though my past relationships could never hold a candle to what many others have gone through in their lives. It isn’t even close to Harley and the Joker.” So, is fiction, and by extension playing out your favorite fictional character, a danger or catharsis?

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The idea that abuse survivors could find familiarity and strength in a character like Harley Quinn is not new, and it is often the opposing response to criticism of the popularity of the character and her portrayal. Harley Quinnsane, a cosplayer and roller derby girl, says, “She brought me into the cosplaying world. She helped me find an identifier.” Shauna Lynn, the youngest of our interviews, would probably be placed in the demographic that romanticized merchandise is geared to. She said, “The main thing that appealed to me is that Harley Quinn is such a sweet girl who is over her head over someone who abuses her. I feel like I can relate to her because all people ever want is to be loved and I feel that Harley learns she needs to be strong for herself.”

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The fall of Harleen Quinzel into Harley Quinn may seem familiar to some victims. “I adore both Harley and Joker purely for the fact I feel they are the way real love is portrayed. And no I don’t mean with the physical abuse or even the mental, I mean in the sense that you take this innocent woman, a woman who was going to accomplish good things until she fell in love,” said Becca Payne. “You have all these fairy-tales and stories that push the fact that true love conquers all, that it’s the most amazing and great feeling in the world and once you have it, you have it forever. Their love isn’t the type of love you grew up reading about, they didn’t push the fact that love is your happy ending.”

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The debate between fictional violence creating real violence has been going on forever, and we aren’t about to start digging into that. We also aren’t going to get into a discussion about whether or not the Joker genuinely loves Harley; it’s an entire conversation to itself and has been handled with plenty of panels and screenshots before. What can be said is that domestic violence in fiction has been said to provide understanding about domestic abuse in everyday life.

Crazy Clover Cosplay tells us, “it gives us a look into a world that we might not ever know, but I believe that by appreciating stories that involve these kinds of things and growing to love the characters in them, we can learn greater compassion and love and appreciation for those in the real world that have experienced these things.”

Becky Taka Cosplay believes it can provide a way for others to understand abuse in relationships. “While sometimes it seems that the Joker actually cares for Harley, a true sociopath is not able to express empathy, and that fact is unfortunately very frightening because it is very real. Even if someone hasn’t experienced an abusive relationship firsthand, maybe reading or watching the situations that arise between the two characters, could serve to help raise awareness of those issues.” These characters may be garish and do ridiculous, completely unreal things; they literally dress like clowns. However, that doesn’t mean that their relationship can’t feel real, and their actions don’t mirror real life violence on a human level.

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Next week, we continue our three part series on cosplay and fictional abuse. Stay tuned.

Psycho Killers and the Women Who Love Them: Harley Quinn, Abuse, and Cosplay Pt 2

Psycho Killers and the Women Who Love Them: Harley Quinn, Abuse, and Cosplay Pt 1

Suicide Squad is the most successful August movie in history and it brought many characters unfamiliar to non-comic audiences to the front of pop culture conversation. In the wake of all the buzz, more people than ever are asking “who is Harley Quinn?” Almost anyone with a little geek knowledge can tell you she’s the Joker’s moll, but it’s a much more complicated question than that, fraught with questions of morality, violence, romanticization, sexualization, and perhaps most of all, love. We took the time out to really analyze these issues by viewing them through the lens of what turned out to be a surprisingly large section of comics audiences: Harley Quinn fans who also identified as victims of abuse.

Few characters capture the imagination of on-screen and comic audiences quite like the Joker. He is the longest-standing comic villain and has the most iterations of any of Batman’s rogue gallery, from the big screen to the small. Since the popularity of Batman: The Animated Series, fans have found pleasure in pairing the Clown Prince of Crime with a partner: Harley Quinn. Originally intended to be a one-off henchwoman, Harley was written by Paul Dini and designed by Bruce Timm in 1992. Quinn only appeared in nine episodes to her beau’s 15, but her iconic appearance, personality, and voice has lived on for over 20 years. Quinn has found herself the star of multiple spin-off comics and found further success in the New 52. For comic fans, Harley may be DC’s brightest star. For cosplayers, the Joker and Harley Quinn have found themselves to be two of the most-imitated characters in the Batverse. This success, however, isn’t without it’s critics.

The characters do not have what anyone in their right mind would call a healthy relationship. Harleen Quinzel became Harley Quinn to appease the man she loved, a love most would agree is built around Joker’s manipulation and Harley’s attraction to the psychologically extreme. In 1994’s “Mad Love”, their relationship was explored and given both a back story and a bottom line: love is not always kind, or sane. Harley was a young, capable doctor with no history of crime or mental issues prior to meeting Mr. J. Joker throws Harley out a window, and all it takes is a note attached to some flowers sent to her hospital room to take Harley from “never again” to “whenever he wants.”

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Harley’s standalone comics have seen her pairing up (read: sometimes shacking up) with other DC characters, with Poison Ivy often stepping in to fill the clown’s squeaky shoes. Ivy occasionally perpetuates her own brand of manipulation, but she is definitely more of a straight shooter, and is shown to both outwardly care for and reciprocate the feelings of Quinn. In other words, since her inception, Harley has been familiar with abuse, mental, emotional, and physical.

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That isn’t to say that Harley doesn’t do her own share of violent things to the ones she cares for. Joker may often take the prize at “most manipulative,” but Harley was a gymnast, and has shown herself to be a capable foe physically. She is also  powered up by Ivy in both the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Harley and Ivy” and during “No Man’s Land”, gaining extra strength and agility as well as an immunity to poisons. When the Joker sets her off, it isn’t the Dark Knight she is taking out her aggression on.

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So, who would find these two appealing? Apparently, a lot of DC’s audience. Harley and Joker as a pair are some of the most sought after DC collectibles, and Alex Ross’ recent work, titled “Mind If I Cut In?” depicts the couple seconds after the Caped Crusader steps in on their now-classic pose. The print goes for upwards of $900 dollars and fans seem willing to spend it. Retail stores like Hot Topic sell merchandise of both “Mad Love” and Alex Ross’ work, as well as other products that depict the particularly toxic duo’s relationship as something to be admired.

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This depiction, as well as countless works of fan art and fiction, has drawn criticism from those who feel that the relationship and it’s romanticization is a detriment to readers. Opposing remarks can be found about couples who cosplay as the grinning lovers. Detractors say that romanticizing the two is a detriment to those who have had abusive relationships, and that cosplay is idolization of a dangerous, problematic pairing. Some have went as far as to say that, if you do not have a history of abuse, you can’t enjoy them.

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Negative representations of relationships skewed to be romantic aren’t new. Romeo and Juliet have been criticized for pushing dangerous versions of love since long before New York accents and definitely prior to Paul Dini giving one to a girl dressed like a harlequin. “There is tons of violence in Shakespeare, there is nothing wrong with enjoying/appreciating it because it is  just art. Just like comics are art,” said Andrew Arkham Cosplay.

So, who are these fans? How do these people deal with the idea that their beloved couple might be a poor example for relationships? We spoke to Joker and Harley cosplayers about their interest in the characters, their history with relationships, and if, and where, the two meet. Trigger warning for anyone reading who might find discussions of abuse, both mental and physical difficult, as this is a discussion with abuse victims about their experience and the ways in which they have found to deal with their past.

Next week, we continue our series of interviews with cosplayers and dive into the world of fictional abuse and it’s significance in real world affinity for characterization. Tune in Monday for more.

Psycho Killers and the Women Who Love Them: Harley Quinn, Abuse, and Cosplay Pt 1

Project Nemesis: The Next Big Thing

I love kaiju, and have ever since I can remember. What is a kaiju you ask? Essentially, “kaiju” is a Japanese word meaning “Strange beast”….or “giant monster”.  They can be found in all manner of media but these are not be known by and large for being the most artful of cinematic or storytelling experiences, however a legion of like minded science fiction fans love them. I am not sure what the draw  is for the rest of the fandom, but for me, it is the size and scope of the issue. The resignation of protagonists that know there is no escaping the destruction to come, the futility of trying to negate the threat, as well as the absurdity of the threat, and yet there it stands, looming.

It is hard to create a serious kaiju story considering what the antagonist has to bring to the table. For one, how does such a huge threat go unnoticed, and if it is capable of avoiding notice…well, how the heck does it do that? These can be pretty hard questions that the storyteller has to answer before the story can be taken further, and considering how much surveillance  the world is under today, it is no wonder that fresh new takes on kaiju are hard to come by.

The next item that has to be addressed in any kaiju you are coming up with is how tough should it be? In a world of nuclear weapons and advanced military technology….most nations these days could theoretically wipe your standard 1950’s style kaiju off the map. So either you have to come up with some creative way of explaining why the military is hanging back or you have to overpower said antagonist to the point where the story is not as interesting to read.

Perhaps the most driving plot point behind a kaiju is its origin. Lets examine the big three…Godzilla, King Kong and Gamera. These are arguably the most well known kaiju that there are, and they each have fantastic origins, even if they border on the slightly mysterious.

Godzilla: A relic from a bygone era, awoken/mutated by modern nuclear weapons he comes surging out of the oceans to vent his rage on anything in his path.

King Kong: An intelligent, social creature isolated on a prehistoric island all alone, fighting to survive.

Gamera: The GMO of your nightmares, he was created by an advanced civilization thousands of years ago to serve as a protector from another race of deadly creatures.

Being a huge fan of the genre, I take a glance at anything new to hit the market.  Now that means I take a look – all too often I have been let down by authors whose hearts are in the right place, but they have written stories without researching what has come before…or practicing their own writing skills. So a few years ago, when I saw Project Nemesis pop up on Amazon, I let it sit there for a while. My mentality is that if it is actually a kaiju story, the momentum behind it will be as unstoppable as the creature(s) held within its media. So here I am a few years later. Project Nemesis is now a series of novels, a game and as of this summer, a comic. Now all of this aside, there are many stories out there that get loads of publicity, but I wouldn’t give them a second of my time. A very popular series of novels about vampires and werewolves being one clear example.  However, after catching a glimpse of who was involved with the comic, I knew that there really must be something to this novel I had seen.

So I went ahead and purchased the first book in what has now become a series; Project Nemesis. I can safely say that I read that one start to finish in a day and ordered the second one while taking  food break from the first.  I have since read the sequel in a day and Have ordered the remaining novels.

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Awesome alternate cover art for the novel version of Project Nemesis

These books and this kaiju are pretty damn awesome folks.

So lets talk about the novel. Firstly, at 288 pages it is not overly long or short, it’s a decent sized read. What makes the book a stand out for me though is the build up, and the growing momentum you can feel the farther you read into the book. I was really impressed by this because normally in this genre, the story falters when said larger monstrosity is not around to wreak havoc.  If you know a kaiju fan, you can ask them if they know the phrase “fast forward to the good bits” – they will probably laugh and tell you how the monster parts of all the old movies were great and the bits in between with the people were boring filler.

I can honestly say that Project Nemesis has the best kaiju filler material of anything I have seen or read. It is a monster and a story powered by strong character development. The reason that these sections of the book succeed is because of the main protagonists and normal way they think and react. Something I have gotten sick of is a single, male protagonist who is an expert at every form of martial arts and fells people left and right like some kind of action hero.  Project Nemesis threatened to start out like that, only our protagonist drives up to a cabin, opens the door, mistakes a sleeping mama bear for a bean back and then spends a rather humorous, if thrilling pages trying to get himself out of a mess. The next morning he is woken up by a knock on the door from the real bad ass who happens to not only be a woman, but a capable woman as well. I can safely say I was very proud of the author for not reducing her to a damsel in distress not once and for portraying her not as a one dimensional romantic object, but as a normal person who could hold her own.

The kaiju’s origin is what gives the novel its momentum, and adds a lot of the darkness and plot movement while  the creature is not on the pages.  Nemesis, as the monster is named, did not start out as a monster, she (and I also think its awesome the monster is a female) started as a murdered little girl.  The basic origin of said creature is that a biotech company is trying to come up with a way to grow human organs for transplants. Quite noble I’d say. However, when they add a little mystery DNA to the of the organs they are trying to clone….things get a bit out of hand. Of course, the company that is doing this really wasn’t all that noble, and they knew what they were injecting into said organ mix, however they did not tell the people who were actually growing the organs.  Our main protagonists, who happen to be a mix of law enforcement/government agency are just inspecting a disturbance and get pulled in at this point – and for a lot more than they bargained for.

Now I am not going to give away any more plot than I already have because when telling people about a thriller/horror with kaiju in it – what is the point of making a recommend when you give away all of the fun bits?

That said, I am going to do you a solid. After reading the book, I got in touch with two people who have helped breath some life into Nemesis. First is the author of the novels, Mr. Jeremy Robinson who was kind enough to answer some questions for The Grid about Project Nemesis the book and some of the side “Projects” that have sprung from it.

How did the concept for Project Nemesis come to your mind? Specifically, the creature’s origin?
The initial trigger for creating Project Nemesis came about when my editor, who knows how much I enjoy kaiju stories, asked me, “What haven’t you written a kaiju novel yet?” My response was basically, “Uhhhhhh,” and then I started working on it. The rest of it is kind of a merger of elements. I wanted the story to take place somewhere new for a kaiju, so I put it in my backyard, literally (the FC-P Crow’s Nest is located in my childhood neighborhood). I wanted the monster to stand out visually, so I included the glowing membranes and hired Matt Frank to flesh out the design I’d written in words. As for the creature’s origin, that’s one of those weird elements that comes out of the creative ether. I close my eyes and let my imagination run. I came up with a bunch of origins that didn’t work (and I don’t remember) and then the idea of having the creature be spawned, in part, from the DNA of a murdered little girl. It’s a horrible thing, but I knew it was right as soon as it entered my head. I then researched gods of vengeance, found Nemesis, and that’s when it all came together.

The pacing of the story in my humble opinion is well done, it does not go from zero to apocalypse in 2-3 chapters, there is a steady build that comprises most of the story. Was this a deliberate choice, or did it just flow out that way?
Most of my novels move at the same kind of pace. It’s something I’m well known for and have honed over the 30ish novels I wrote before Project Nemesis. Fast pacing was something I worked on for years. It’s a tricky balance to keep things fast, but also let readers get to know the characters. But I’ve been doing it long enough now that the pacing just flows. I don’t really have to think about it anymore. It’s more like instinct.

Let's just say the sequel has a "go big or go home" mentality.

Let’s just say the sequel has a “go big or go home” mentality.

Stemming off of my last question, was the origin the majority of the story because you already knew you would be writing more than one book?
I knew I wanted to write more than one story, but I had no idea how people would respond to a kaiju thriller, which didn’t

exist before Nemesis. Yes, there were a handful of Godzilla novels in the 90s, but they weren’t exactly thrillers (with that pacing you mentioned). So when I wrote Nemesis, I didn’t know it would become a five novel epic. I ended the first book in a way that could have stood on its own or lead into a sequel. To my great delight, Nemesis was a fantastic success worthy of multiple sequels, a video game and a comic book. I’ve currently writing the fifth and final Nemesis book, and am still having a blast.

So you make it perfectly obvious that you are an avid kaiju fan. What is your favorite kaiju film and why?
It’s always hard for me to pick a favorite. I have different favorites for different reasons. My top pick from childhood is Godzilla V. Megalon, with Gigan and Jet Jaguar. You can see the influence that movie had on me in Project Hyperion. As an adult, I’ve always had a soft spot for Godzilla 2000, not just because it’s a really good Godzilla flick, but also because it’s the only Toho Godzilla movie I saw in a movie theater. I’m also a really big fan of all three Gamera movies, and prefer them over most Godzilla movies, aside from the two I mentioned.

What got you started in the kaiju genre?
Like most nerdy kids growing up during the 80s in New England, I spent Saturday mornings watching a TV show called Creature Double Feature. Project Nemesis is dedicated to the show. Every Saturday (after watching Force Five, The Herculoids and Thundaar the Barbarian) I would watch whatever monster movies were playing, which more often than not, included Godzilla. I sat on the living room floor, eating Cocoa Pebbles at the coffee table and drawing Godzilla, Harryhousen monsters and my own creations. It’s probably a weird thing to say, but these memories of being creative while watching monster movies, are some of my fondest childhood memories, and kaiju were a big part of that.

Now the first novel has been translated into comic form, can you tell us a bit about that process? What was the biggest change between that and the novel?
The good news is that I wrote the comic book so the tone and voices of the characters are the same, as is the crux of the story. All of the important stuff is there. But you can’t make a six issue comic book out of a 300 page novel without cropping stuff. Most people notice that the bear scene near the beginning of the novel is missing*, but it’s still alluded to. Other than that, the comic is mostly missing details from certain scenes that had to be compressed. The history of the Crow’s Nest. The history of Truck Betty. Mostly background type stuff, and action that is good fun, but not integral to the plot. The biggest challenge was deciding what to cut. I wrote longer versions of each script and then went through them all, hacking them down to 22 pages each. It’s never easy to cut stuff (I rarely have to do it in a novel) but the end result was fantastic, so I got over it.

* Joe from The Grid here….the bear scene is hilarious and awesome, but only readers of the novel get to know why

Ok, a potential spoiler, in the first novel, what was the most fun part to write?
The most fun, well that would be just about any time Jon Hudson opens his mouth. He’s sarcastic and says what he thinks most of the time. He’s also verbally creative, so I had a great time coming up with creative insults and phrasing. And I think his voice is what keeps the book fun. Nemesis is a tragic story. It’s dark and twisted. And without Hudson, it could have been a really depressing read. But Hudson brings the fun to any situation, so I really enjoyed writing him. Answered without a spoiler!

Jeremy and I carried on a conversation as I read the sequel, and as a recommendation for anyone who reads the first book and wants to jump to the second, you may be better reading his other novel, Island 731 before continuing to Project Maigo, the direct sequel to Project Nemesis. It will not hurt you if you jump straight to the sequel, but you may have even more fun with it if you already know some of the other characters that are brought in ahead of time.

The other person that I spoke to was the ever awesome and all around artist spectacular, Mr. Matt Frank. Matt had the job of fleshing Nemesis out as a monster based on Jeremy’s descriptions. He is also the artist for all of the interiors of American Gothic Press’ Project Nemesis comic. The comic itself is a slightly shortened version of the novel, but having been able to see a few panels, I can tell you that no punches are being pulled when it comes to the horror or darkness found within the pages of the novel.

I asked Matt to sit down and pull some of his favorite pages that he did for the Project Nemesis comic and explain why he enjoyed these scenes so much. So without further adieu, Matt’s choice picks from the series:

project_nemesis__1_pg_1_by_kaijusamurai-d9av8qv

This page is a great example of collaboration. Jeremy and I went back-and-forth on this scene a few times, Originally I believe he wanted it to be the entire scene of Maigo’s murder from the book, but I suggested that we keep it short, simple, and shocking. A slow reveal of the catalyzing moment for the entire story. Jeremy then put the Nemesis mythological quote over it, and the page just sings as a result. Diego’s colors are on-point here as well.

project_nemesis__1_pg3_by_kaijusamurai-d9av8rt

Diego’s colors really bring this one together. it’s a fantastic compliment to the cool colors of the previous page, and I’m particularly proud of how my lines on panel 4 beautifully dance with Diego’s soft reds. It’s a great “DAMN” moment.

project_nemesis__5_page_4_by_kaijusamurai-da218mt

Out of all of the books this is probably my favorite splash page of Nemmy (notice how all of my favs are near-full-splashes?) I was really just having a ton of fun with her anatomy here, trying some new poses and positions throughout the book, and this one caught my eye. It’s funny how an artist can look at his old work and say “Oh, did I draw that?!”

Now, as if Matt’s inside panels weren’t enough of a treat, the real comic collectors out there can hunt down and collect alternative covers done by the legendary science fiction illustrator, Bob Eggleton. I have attached my personal favorite cover that he has done below.

ProjectNemesis bob

So for those of you who would like a summer read that breaks the mold, and also gives you something to move onto once you have finished the first novel, I recommend Project Nemesis as a stand out option. It takes the genre to places it hasn’t really strayed conformable into before, and gives fan service to everyone already familiar with what kaiju have to offer.

Project Nemesis and the three novels continuing the story, Project Maigo, Project 731, and Project Hyperion are available now, you can find them quite easily on Amazon.com. The fifth and final novel in the story, Project Legion, will be available in October. For even more kaiju thrillers from Jeremy Robinson, be sure to check out his newest kaiju thriller, Apocalypse Machine, and the upcoming new kaiju series, Unity (available in July). To stay up to date, with all of his projects, visit his website at: bewareofmonsters.com and subscribe to the newsletter. Jeremy was also kind enough to let me know that while the comics run for Project Nemesis is wrapping up, a collected trade paperback by American Gothic Press will be released sometime now and the end of September – so look out for that if you want to get the story and Matt’s amazing art as well.

For those of you who are fans of Matt Frank, you can visit his site at www.mattfrankart.com  and see some of the amazing art that he has done for other projects.

Now obviously you are going to read the books and the comic, who wouldn’t after a shout out like that!? But what we would really like to know, once you have read the books, seen the comic….is do you want to see a film version come to life?

Otherwise give us a shout and say what you enjoyed most from reading either the novel or the comic!

Project Nemesis: The Next Big Thing

Saurian: A New Breed of Dinosaur Game

It has been years since I have purchased a PC game,  eight years I think, probably six since I bought a console game. They just aren’t the sort of thing that I spend my money on. Don’t get me wrong, I have been gifted games, and I love them. But it really takes something to get me to break open my wallet.

Today’s topic though is something really special. It goes beyond the simple concept of a game. It has risen above that to an area seldom seen in this area of entertainment; it is educational. It is probably for this simple fact that I, without question, cracked open my normally sealed (and empty!) wallet to fund its Kickstarter campaign. A campaign that thus far has been wildly successful.

I am speaking about the new open world concept game, Saurian. To quote the description from its site:

Saurian is a video game focused on providing the most captivating prehistoric experience ever developed for commercial gaming: living like a true dinosaur in a dynamic open world through intense, survival based gameplay. Players will have the opportunity to take control of several different species of dinosaur in their natural environment. You will attempt to survive from hatchling to adult, managing physical needs, while avoiding predators and environmental hazards in a dynamic landscape reflecting cutting-edge knowledge of the Hell Creek ecosystem 66 million years ago.

So, I have no problem saying that this game is right up my alley. I love games that require a long play, some customization, an open world concept….and dinosaurs….I flippn’ love me some dinosaurs. But dinosaurs games themselves have been a fantastic disappoint for me up until now. It  seems that every dinosaur game is either based off the Jurassic Park franchise or decides to go down the frequently traveled dinosaur hunting route. Saurian is different though – the team behind it have done their homework and it shows in every aspect of the game.

Mr. Tom Parker who is the lead for Saurian’s research accepted my invitation to be interviewed in a Grid Daily exclusive so we can learn a little more about the game before its projected January 2017 release. Tom was quick to point out that with the stretch goals being met left and right the game is ever expanding, but he graciously answered the following questions.

How did the idea of Saurian first come about? We know why it is being made, but what were the circumstances that changed it from being an idea to an action?
Nick (project lead) came up with the concept originally and when he found no trace of such a game existed on the internet he started contemplating doing it himself. Then while acting as a forum mod and QA tester for a game called Primal Carnage, he first came in contact with me (Tom, researcher), Jake (3D artist) and Erin (tech artist). We collectively began to explore more substantial development, and as we did, we shared our idea in any place that we found like-minded people. Once Bryan (animator) joined the team, we knew we could attract programmers, and serious development started.

How did the team meet? You all seem to be well spaced from each other.
As I mentioned earlier, Nick, Jake, Erin and I all met on the online forums for another video game, Primal Carnage, which is also where the concept for this game was originally conceived. The rest of the team pretty much all found us, seeing our work online and then contacting us about potentially joining the team. The rest is history.

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The cast of playable dinosaurs from the game. Iconic species such as tyrannosaurus and triceratops, as well as lesser known species pachycephalosaurus and dakotaraptor

You have chosen some pretty famous dinosaurs as player characters, were there ever suggestions among team members to go for lesser known species?
I wouldn’t say Dakotaraptor is particularly high profile outside of the palaeo community, though we are doing our best to remedy that. Before it was announced, we were considering Acheroraptor, which is probably even less well known. Outside of that, no. Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops were always instant shoe-ins and Hell Creek was partially chosen for these two taxa.

I am curious as to how he players in your game will find prey/avoid predators etc. Is there a HUD that we have not seen yet, or are senses such as smell and better sight being shown in ways that you haven’t shown yet?
While we have not settled on exactly what the HUD will look like yet, the team is unanimous in agreement that whatever it may be, it will be very minimalist. We’ve thrown around a few neat ideas. As for smell and sight, these will be shown in ways that have not yet been revealed. We have already begun work on the scent system.

What has been the hardest part of creating Saurian, or to rephrase – the biggest chore?
I wouldn’t call any part of development a chore. I have spent a ridiculous amount of time researching seemingly dull topics such as fossil plants and fish, but it is still fun to learn about these things to me. The biggest hurdle so far has been a lack of resources and the inability to acquire the necessary amount of time from our developers to work on the game, but it looks like our Kickstarter is set to change that.

Could you let us know what in game aspect, as a group, you are most proud of accomplishing? ex: hard thing to program, the way a dinosaur moves etc.
I’m not sure about one single aspect. We’re all really happy with how the whole game is shaping up. The whole thing has really started coming together over the last few months, as you can see in our Kickstarter video. I personally am just really happy to see all the hard work we’ve put in start paying off.

Have you ever been tempted to sneak anything non-scientific into the game? What would this have been? For example, the KT event (That is the asteroid impact that triggered the extinction of non avian dinosaurs) goal which the Kickstarter is likely to unlock. Aliens vs dinosaurs etc.?
No, absolutely not. We have been tempted to sneak developer names into the scale patters of the animal models though.

With the success of your Kickstarter campaign, do you foresee sequels to Saurian? Obviously there are a number ofancient ecosystems that are fascinating – what would you dream as being the next stop off?
We are wholeheartedly focused on doing Hell Creek right now. However, if we reach our 300k stretch goal we will be adding the Two Medicine formation, an earlier Cretaceous locality. The reason we picked this one is because it is not different enough to require a complete overhaul of the game, all the major archetypes (tyrannosaurid, ceratopsid, hadrosaurid, etc.) from Hell Creek are there but it offers a different environmental setting. The Two Medicine is an upland environment, closely associated with high volcanic activity and frequent droughts, which should give a very different experience should we hit that stretch goal.

And for those of our readers who have not before heard of Saurian, there is another team member who I very much wished to speak to as he is the team member with the most unique viewpoint, as the only dinosaur in the group. The emu Gerry.

To the dinosaur in the group. Are there any plans long term for dinosaurs to retake the planet?
Gerry:  *stares* Chirp.

Now, if I have you interested, Saurian’s Kickstarter campaign is still currently going on, with about two weeks left! It would be a very worthwhile investment to donate to Saurian. The pledge rewards are all fantastic, and I would personally really love to see the game make it to consoles which is one of the stretch goals listed.

The Kickstarter has been very successful, but lets keep it going!

So there you are, a fantastic independent game on the horizon, and it looks for all the world like it will be a huge success. Will you be in line to play Saurian when it comes out? Have you already donated to the Kickstarter? Sound off in the comments below and let us know what you are most excited about regarding this game!

Saurian: A New Breed of Dinosaur Game

Manu Bennett Interview – Planet Comicon 2016

Ths year at Kansas City’s Planet Comicon, I was able to get a few minutes of Manu Bennett’s time and interview him about his acting experiences. We talk about his sint on The CW series Arrow where he played Slade Wilson (Deathstroke), his time on Spartacus, and even his newest project The Shannara Chronicles. I’d like to thank Manu Bennett for taking time during the convention to talk with me.

To learn more about Planet Comicon check out our cosplay photo galleries and recap during our Screen Heroes podcast:

Planet Comicon Photo Galleries

Screen Heroes Ep. 23: Planet Comicon Recap & Thundercats Casting

Catch the interview below and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more videos!

What’s your favorite Manu Bennett role? Comment below!

Green Room: Patrick Stewart Q&A

Green Room is a new film starring Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation, X-Men), Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later, V for Vendetta), Alia Shawkat (Three Kings, Whip It), and Anton Yelchin (Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness). The film was written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier (Septien,Hamilton).

Here’s the official synopsis of the film:

“Green Room is a brilliantly crafted and wickedly fun horror-thriller starring Patrick Stewart as a diabolical club owner who squares off against an unsuspecting but resilient young punk band.

Down on their luck punk rockers The Ain’t Rights are finishing up a long and unsuccessful tour, and are about to call it quits when they get an unexpected booking at an isolated, rundown club deep in the backwoods of Oregon.  What seems merely to be a third-rate gig escalates into something much more sinister when they witness an act of violence backstage that they weren’t meant to see.  Now trapped backstage, they must face off against the club’s depraved owner, Darcy Banker (Stewart), a man who will do anything to protect the secrets of his nefarious enterprise.  But while Darcy and his henchmen think the band will be easy to get rid of, The Ain’t Rights prove themselves much more cunning and capable than anyone expected, turning the tables on their unsuspecting captors and setting the stage for the ultimate life-or-death showdown.

Intense, emotional, and ingeniously twisted, Green Room is genre filmmaking at its best and most original. Saulnier continues to build his reputation as one of the most exciting and distinctive directors working today, with a movie that’s completely different from his previous, highly acclaimed Blue Ruin, but which is just as risk-taking and even more full of twists. The entire cast deliver first-rate performances, but Patrick Stewart gives a transforming and brilliantly devious turn as Darcy—elegant yet lethal, droll yet terrifying, Stewart makes the film simply unforgettable.”

Catch the official RED BAND trailer below followed by a Q&A with Patrick Stewart.

Green Room Q&A WITH ACTOR PATRICK STEWART

GREEN ROOM: Patrick Stewart

How did you first get involved in GREEN ROOM and what made you interested in doing it? 

A script arrived with the usual offer, plus a DVD of Jeremy’s first film Blue Ruin. I knew nothing about the story when I started to read Green Room but was at once interested, amused and touched by the situation of the punk band The Ain’t Rights.

The drama and horror that followed their rural gig was unexpected and shocking. Quickly turning pages my discomfort grew (I was alone in my rather remote house in the English countryside) and I was compelled to lay the script aside and pour a large scotch and soda. I didn’t think I could finish the script without it.

I was fascinated by the character of Darcy, so calm, so unruffled, so merciless. The next night I watched Blue Ruin and went through exactly the same experience as the previous evening. Beautiful and terrifying movie.

Was it appealing to play the villain in a movie? 

I don’t think in terms of “villain,” “hero,” and all that–but Darcy certainly wasn’t Jean-Luc Picard or Professor Xavier. I was intrigued by him and that’s enough.

Can you talk about the experience of working with Jeremy?  He is clearly rooted in genre filmmaking but also consistently works with great actors who give terrific performance in his films…what makes him an exciting filmmaker to collaborate with?   

Working with Jeremy was great. As writer he is so close to the work and he understands the genre marvelously.

How did you flesh out the character of Darcy?  Did you do research, discuss a backstory, etc.? 

I did research on the white supremacist movement in the USA and was surprised to find that its heartland is the Pacific Northwest.

Can you talk about your experience working with the other actors in the film?

I had never worked with any of these actors previously and I was immediately struck by their focus and commitment to the subject and story. Darcy is a very detached character and it worked well for me to keep my distance from the others except for Darcy’s closest “associates.” I had loved Macon Blair’s work in Blue Ruin and we became a brutal partnership.

Were there any outside performances, characters, or films that specifically influenced your work in Green Room?  

Yes, John Boorman’s brilliant movie, Deliverance. Same theme. Naive innocents as victims of people with whom you cannot reason.

Green Room Poster

Green Room is in theaters now!

Green Room: Patrick Stewart Q&A

Star Trek: Progeny Interview

We were able to talk with the creative mind behind upcoming Star Trek fan film, Star Trek: Progeny: This film looks a currently untold time during the Federation, following up on a story from The Original Series. Check out the synopsis from the official website and then our interview below.

James T. Kirk never realized how true those words would become when a casual romantic eveningchanged the history of Magna Roma the Roman Planet forever.

50 years later, his granddaughter, Livia Avitus, embarks on her own destiny among the stars, A Federation Special Agent protecting the galaxy.

progenysolo

 


The Grid:

All of us over here at the Grid love indie sci-fi and we look forward to Star Trek fan films in particular. Star Trek: Progeny is completely unique in its approach, a spin-off of The Original Series episode “Bread and Circuses” and having a strong female protagonist.

What are the effects of the character origin on the personality of Livia Avitus, the lead character?

Star Trek Progeny:

First, thank you allowing me to share some details of what Star Trek: Progeny is about on your great website. It really is a passion project for me, and the fanbase has been steadily growing since I announced the Fan Series.

Star Trek: Progeny came about one evening while I was watching the episode in question. It was one of those episodes that, for me, left me wondering, “Well what happened next?”

Kirk, Spock, and McCoy left a few devices behind. Phasers, a Tri-corder, and Communicators. Kirk also left behind something of a more personal nature with his tryst with Drusilla. To Kirk’s credit (and also the great writing of Gene L. Coon and Roddenberry) he never took advantage of Drusilla. Could his will had been stronger? Sure. But maybe Kirk was thinking to himself, “Well I’m in Rome. And when in Rome…”.

I’ve been developing the pilot script and series bible for over a year now to answer those questions that I had. Also tying them into the 50 year anniversary of Star Trek. 50 years later, what does this world of Magna Roma look like and what involvement does the Federation have?

From this comes our female protagonist, Livia Avitus, the granddaughter of Kirk and Drusilla. First, she’s a Roman, trained extensively in hand-to-hand combat and weaponry. She also has a keen mind. She’s able to see the bigger picture. A trait inherited by Captain Kirk. I think this makes her a great detective and then later, a special agent.

One choice I did make with her character is that she’s not an anti-hero, which is popular in Film and TV today. Protagonists who are battling inner demons like drugs or alcohol…etc. Carrie, from Homeland or Tony Stark from Ironman as examples.

Emotional pain from failure or losing a loved one, most definitely. As Kirk would say, that pain makes us who we are.

         trekbreadandcircuses5          

The Grid:
The casting Progeny is impressive. Cassandra Scerbo looks incredible in the trailer and I loved Rick Worthy in Battlestar Galactica: The Plan.  What’s it like getting veteran actors onboard for your project?

Star Trek Progeny:
I feel very lucky to have these actors attached. My casting director, Neely Gurman, did a fantastic job in seeking these actors out. It’s also very validating to know they were interested after reading the pilot script we sent them. Having a cast of this caliber is a great piece to have in the larger production puzzle.

Cassie Scerbo in the lead role is a major plus. An incredibly talented actor, blessed with athletic prowess and fashion model looks. What more could you ask for?

The Grid:
Three of your actors have previous Star Trek experience; Stephen Manley, Carlos Carrasco and Rick Worthy.Will these characters be reprising their roles or will they be doing something different, what can you tell us?

Cast Star Trek Progeny

Star Trek Progeny:
All of the roles are new characters except the role of Drusilla, the slave girl from The Original Series. Sadly, Lois Jewell who played her in “Bread and Circuses”, passed away in 2014, so we very are fortunate to have Francine York play the role. Stephen Manley will play a Vulcan again, but a very different character. Rick Worthy will play a Roman Police Detective. And Carlos Carrasco will play a Starship Captain. Anne Marie Howard, a newcomer to Star Trek will play Commodore Yvonne Ellison. That’s all we have attached at this point, but there are many other roles to fill also. Hopefully we can get some more Star Trek alums to fill them.    

The Grid:
I’m an avid fan of classical history.

Can you tell us about the Roman look and feel of the story? It was an interesting idea of a planet where Rome never died.
Star Trek Progeny:
In the original episode, the look was similar to Earth in 1968. It’s now 48 years later, and Magna Roma resembles Earth in 2016. There’s been some sweeping changes that have come about to be included in the Federation of Planets. No more slavery; the “Children of the Son” movement has been accepted into society. But, the planet is still Roman by nature. The government has the same structure as Ancient Rome. The Military, although now more advanced, has the same tactics, and the society is very liberal about things like drug use and prostitution. Also, televised gladiator games to the death are still a big ratings draw . Granted, not the utopian society that Gene Roddenberry created for earth, but let’s give the Magna Romans time.

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The Grid:
Interesting, what else can you tell us about what things you are considering about the plot in general? Will we be seeing the Federation on the planet or will this be a lone agent?

Star Trek Progeny:
Starfleet and the Federation are very much a part of the story. But at the heart of the series is Liv’s journey in finding her true calling as she becomes a member of Starfleet. The series is also procedural in nature with a new mission each episode.

The Grid:
You have events taking place after Star Trek Original Series, yet just before The Next Generation in the year 2316. From my understanding this was a time of long lasting peace for the Federation. When some other fan films opt for times of war for the action, Progeny as gone a different direction.

How will the time period effect the story in Star Trek: Progeny?

Star Trek Progeny:
In researching other Trek series I discovered that this time frame has never really been depicted, mainly only in novels.  Also, if you look up 2316 at the Memory Alpha site, there’s nothing there.  I was drawn to that.

I actually see these times similar to a Cold War scenario. Very political. Tensions between the Klingons and the Federation are better, but still raw. It will be many years before the first Klingon is allowed into Starfleet.

In the middle of all this is a planet poised to become a great galactic power and the Federation is first in to influence them, to the dismay of the Klingons.

Personally, in screenwriting, I find the threat of war creates more tension than being in an actual war. Star Trek has a few instances of this. As an example: Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country and in The Original Series episode  “A Taste of Armageddon.”

Star Trek Progeny Scene

The Grid:
When you describe it like that, this time period sounds like some real fertile ground for story telling.

It looks like Progeny has some experience behind the camera as well; having a writer, composer, and casting director already.

How are things going in getting others to work behind the camera on Progeny? Any ideas on who will be directing it?

Star Trek Progeny:
I am sort of a one man band when it comes to producing it. I will write, direct and edit the first episode. I work for NBCUniversal and for the last 19 years have  been in different post-production capacities, as Editor, Graphics Designer, Sound Design and Mixing. In the last few years, I’ve also been working in After Effects. Before I came to NBCUniversal, I also directed quite a bit.

But, I can’t do it alone and I’m very fortunate to be in the Los Angeles area. There’s so many Film and TV pros here. What’s amazing is the fact that simply saying “Star Trek” to anyone in production returns an immediate “Yes”. I’ve also received numerous emails from film/tv students at USC, UCLA, and many others, willing to volunteer their time.   

The Grid:
I love that Star Trek still has such a strong pull from people in the L.A. and people are so willing to work on the project. As far the technical side of things, what do you have planned for special effects? Will we be seeing ground side action or any space scenes?

Star Trek Progeny:
A mixture of both. I’m trying to keep the VFX to a minimum so I can keep the costs down. There won’t be epic space battles, but there will be a number of scenes with a Starship.

Having the first episode take place on Magna Roma also helps keep the costs low. Los Angeles in its present day look will serve as the backdrop.

The Grid:
How about costume and props? Will you be making your own or reproducing what has already been seen on Star Trek?

Star Trek Progeny:
Again a mixture of both. The Starfleet uniform designs will be from the first scene in the movie Generations. I believe those uniforms were still used in 2316. The Romans will look present day. Government officials will be an updated look of Merik’s and Marcus’ costume in “Bread and Circuses”.

There’s so many Starfleet props already on the market that I see no need to manufacture new ones. But, (and I’ve received flak for this already) the gun used in the first teaser is a new prop designed to be a Roman gun. A hybrid of a modern day glock 9mm and a phaser.

And then there’s SFX makeup to think about too.     

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The Grid:
CBS has recently given Axanar a cease and desist while allowing many other fan productions to go on.

The Star Trek fan community loves the idea of fan films and as a fellow fan film maker, what are your thoughts on this?

Star Trek Progeny:
First of all, when the lawsuit came out, my first thought was that Progeny was dead in the water.

After a few days, I decided to stick it out and I contacted our cast about it. I told them to check with their agents/managers to see if they should withdraw from the project. So far, my cast is intact with the exception of Gates McFadden, who would have played the new role of Commodore Ellison.  She decided not to continue with the production and I clearly understand her decision.

Secondly, I’m not surprised that something like this has happened. I’m not picking a side. What I mean is that the behind-the-scenes history of Star Trek has always been plagued with controversy and legal actions. It’s such a contradiction in itself. Such a beautiful universe created by Gene Roddenberry yet so much ugliness that has taken place just to make that universe. 

The Grid:
We’re glad you guys decided to stick to your guns and continue with Progeny. Do you plan on making use of various crowd funding to help the fans support Star Trek: Progeny and when do you think we’ll see the first episode?

Star Trek Progeny:
We’re hoping to do an Indiegogo campaign in February. If we get all necessary funds, a 9-10 day shooting schedule is tentatively set for April, with a premier of the first episode by May.

Along with crowdfunding I’m really trying to get a number of things donated to the project.

Camera gear, locations, drivers with trucks, all of this helps keep the costs down while not hurting the production values.

I’ve also seen people willing to donate Sky Miles.

The Grid:
Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring film makers out there just trying to get things started and off the ground? What are some of the lessons you’ve learned?

Star Trek Progeny
Fan films bring a large fan base but also a ton of scrutiny. Be ready for that. Tell the story you want to tell and keep focused on your vision.

The Grid:
Excellent advice, thank you very much for the interview. We’ll be looking forward to seeing it.

Star Trek: Progeny:
Thank you and thanks for your work in keeping Star Trek alive through your website.

There you have it, our interview with the upcoming fan film, Star Trek: Progeny. What do you think about the project? Is this a topic\theme you are looking forward to? Comment with your thoughts.

For more information on Star Trek: Progeny, check out their official website here.

Star Trek: Progeny Interview

Sam The Spaceman – Interview

I was able to speak with Alex Russek, Director and Producer of the indie film Sam The Spaceman, available on Vimeo now. The film and its trailer can be found at this Link. Sci-fi Has always been a difficult genre to do for indie films but I was really impressed with this one. It was a enticing sci-fi romp that isn’t afraid to have some fun. Sam The Spaceman has an excellent soundtrack with some pretty well done special effects. The plot is a relatable adventure story that fits well in the post-recession world. I’d recommend Sam The Spaceman to anyone who likes indie sci-fi.

 


Sam The Spaceman: Interview with Alex Russek

Interviewer: First off I’d like to say I enjoyed Sam The Spaceman. It was the kinda fun that other sci-fi wont even try. Where a lot of indie sci-fi attempt to go for realism you guys pulled out all the stops and went full sci-fi. I loved it.

Alex: “Thank you! So glad you enjoyed the film! Sam Sapirstein and I have been making movies together since we were 8 years old and the final product is a seamless extension of our shorts as children. When you’re a kid playing characters and blowing up your action figures, you are not concerned if it looks real to anyone else; it’s all about having a personal experience and we wanted to keep this feeling of unfettered imagination intact. It is definitely something that’s lacking in a lot of films today. Since special FX have the ability to look so real now, filmmakers seem to feel obligated to use them as such. But as sci-fi fans we all love Terry Gilliam films and Star Trek and many other things that no longer pass the reality eye test, but still employ such complex ingenuity in how they were created that it’s still fun to watch and admire.

Hologram Sam

Interviewer: Now that you mention it, I was thinking of some of Gilliam’s films in the back of my head as I watched Sam The Spaceman, it never really clicked for me on a conscious level LOL. For me one of the most noticeable things was the awesome and catchy sci-fi 80s music theme. It really stood out among other indie films. What was involved in making it?

Alex: “For the score we had the great pleasure of working with Josh Oxford, an analog synth mastermind who learned his craft from David Borden one of the earliest synthesizer pioneers who had an enormously influential group called Mother Mallard which was also founded by Bob Moog, creator of the Moog synthesizer. Josh used an almost entirely analog synth setup and used many of the same instruments present in John Carpenter and Vangelis scores. His work is my personal favorite part of the movie as it does the most to cement the feeling we were going for. I’ve attached a picture of his setup for you to check out.”

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Interviewer: Cool, I’ve seen videos of people using that and wonder how it was all done, boggles my mind just looking at it. Another thing that added to the excellent vibe was the special effects. How was this done and what were some of the influences you used for inspiration?

Alex: “The FX were a big challenge, especially because Sam and I were literally doing every job on the film. I work in post-production as an editor and know Adobe After Effects but I knew it would be the hardest part of the movie to pull off. I spent a lot of time studying 70s and 80s low budget sci-fi films like Message from Space and Battle Beyond the Stars as well as reading books like Blade Runner: The Inside Story by Don Shay and Special Effects: The History and Technique by Richard Rickitt. The rest was a lot of trial and error photographing our model spaceships and hours and hours spent alone compositing in After Effects and generating matte paintings in Photoshop. I basically used 100% old techniques and methodologies of how to construct layered shots, except where they had to use an optical printer and cell animation, I had After Effects.”

Sam Battle

Interviewer: The effort in those special effects where a nice touch but I couldn’t help to notice the Eagle Transporter from Space 1999, this really felt right with the 80s sci-fi pulp you had set up in the film; it made me smile to see that again. Was this a show that inspired you? What are some other sci-fi shows that you all were fans of?

Alex: “Haha yes! Space 1999 is definitely something Sam and I enjoy but we have a lot of favorites. Star Trek: [The Next Generation] and [Deep Space Nine] are both high on the list as is Babylon 5. I also love anime and count Space Adventure Cobra and Armitage III: Poly Matrix as big visual influences on the film. People are always surprised that we don’t watch Dr. Who but we actually have never seen it! No disrespect to Dr. Who, just haven’t gotten around to it yet.”

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Interviewer: Truth be told I was reminded of some 80s British sci-fi while watching it. Dr. Who and the short lived Hitchhiker’s Guide TV show, must’ve been the Gilliam connection. Plot wise though, I really liked how the story book-ended itself with the protagonist’s opening monologue at the beginning and closing of the film. It drove home themes of alienation and longing for adventure.  I could really relate to these. So how did this become theme for the film?

Alex: “The idea for this film came about because of our real-life circumstances. We both graduated college in 2008 right at the height of the recession and it was very difficult to get jobs. I was working for an industrial video company being paid a sub-human wage and Sam was working part-time writing reviews of obscure science equipment and living in his parent’s basement. I had also written several scripts for others to direct, only to see their attempts scuttled because of ego, inexperience or, quite honestly, stupidity. Needless to say we were both feeling alienated and disappointed with our circumstances and were longing for an adventures of our own. Once we discovered The Building we knew we had to make a film about it and our life situations naturally worked their way into the plot and subtext. I’m also pleased to report that Sam and I are in much better circumstances these days and the catharsis of creating this film has a lot to do with it.”

Interviewer: “The architecture was interesting as well. I’ve always felt grand stoic architecture really parallels 80s and 70s sci-fi. How did the shooting locations come to be used in the film? Was it difficult to film there and get the shots you needed?”

Dome Scene

Alex: “The Building location was discovered, truth be told, in the exact same way it was depicted in the film. Sam was driving around Westchester stoned at night and saw it from the highway lit up like a sci-fi beacon of awesomeness! The first time he took me there he blasted Devo’s “Corporate Anthem” as we drove up the winding driveway and the massive shape came into view. It really left an impact and it was this “Ah Ha” moment for both of us. However we never got proper permission to film there. I had experience in college trying to shoot student films at office buildings and it was always impossible, so I honestly never even tried to ask whoever the heck owns it haha. We cased the place Oceans 11 style and found out all the best times when the building was empty. It was hilarious. We knew all the security positions, the schedule of the exterior lighting systems and so on. And either we never got caught, or no one much cared what we were up to. It used to be the headquarters for a food conglomerate but had since been spit up into individual suites which the place was never designed to be, so the use of the semi-public space inside was up for grabs and we took it.”

Interviewer: “Ha ha ha, that’s awesome. Some gorilla filming just adds to it all LOL. I’ll tell you though, I liked the space craft used for this, just something about it that was real retro. It looked like they were actual models, not CG effects. Did you guys make them for this? How where they designed?”

Alex: “All of the spaceships were models built by Sam and I. We used a variety of techniques, some were combinations of toys and models we assembled and repainted, some were made from found household objects and old camera equipment, and others were designed from scratch. Although we used computers to do our compositing and light animation effects, it was very important to use models for our spaceships. No one uses model spaceships anymore!!!! And they are one of the greatest things about sci-fi!!!! #BringBackModelSpaceships”Sam Gif

Interviewer: “Man, modeling is a dying craft that I miss so much, glad you found room for that. I love me some space ship models! Now that you guys have this film completed what other ideas do you have for future films? Anything else you have brewing for us?”

Alex: “Sam and I are working on a few upcoming projects most notably a sci-fi feature with all puppets like The Dark Crystal. I am a huge fan of puppetry. Check out this puppet music video I directed (Team Spirit – Surrender)! I’m also working on a screenplay for a friend of mine, Ethan Berger, to direct. He is a very talented music video and commercial director as well.”

Interviewer: “Lastly what advice would you give for people making a low budget sci-fi film? Any lessons learned you’d pass on to your past self?”

Alex: “I’m certainly not the first person to say this but don’t wait for permission to make your film. Too many people spend their lives knocking on the studio’s door and some even make entire careers out of it without getting very much to the screen. Know that the technology is now affordable enough that knowledge, taste, and self-discipline are all that’s required to make your film.”

Alien Supply Drop

Interviewer: “Thank you very much for this interview Alex. I thought Sam The Spaceman was an ambitious breath of fresh air with a kickin’ 80s pulp sci-fi track. The people here at The Grid will be looking forward to seeing your future work.”

Be sure to check out Sam The Spaceman on Vimeo now! Have you seen it yet? Comment below with your thoughts on the project.

 

Sam The Spaceman – Interview

Batman Beyond: The Series

BATMAN BEYOND: The Series is a fan-made, non profit, live action, film project funded by fans, family, and friends,that will be broken down into an eight episode web series.  We got to sit down with the minds behind the series, Nathan Lyles and  Rick Niedt, to discuss the fan filmed webisodes.  

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Derreck: Why did you pick Batman Beyond, the future?

Nate: It was a blend of Batman and science fiction. Sci-fi is one of my favorite genres.  When the show first came out, I was kind of skeptical because it wasn’t really Batman, but after watching the show, it reminded me of some of my favorite sci-fi like Fifth Element and Blade Runner. So this particular Batman blew my mind and I wondered what it would look like live action.  I got so excited.  This series is the result of the very script that I completed all the way through.  So I would say to myself, ‘well, how am I going to get the budget? I’d have to take out some of the fights to dumb down the script a little bit, but I don’t want to do that for this.’ The fights are staying and we’ll figure that out later.

It’s not really an origin story, just something to remind you of the show and all the love that goes into it. We skipped a lot of that origins stuff.  Once we got the budget and the script, we got really lucky and ran into a lot of people that wanted to help.  When I visited California last year, I was doing a work transfer at Walgreens, and one of the guys working on the project now, he said he got laid off.  I started talking about Batman Beyond and how next year I wanted to start a live action Batman Beyond series, and he got really excited about it, wanted to work on it and told me not to worry about paying him, he’d do it for the love.  I went home and finished my script and then moved out to California.

It’s all about putting Batman and sci-fi together; that’s the reason I did it.

Derreck: Your series is going to be live-action.  How close are you planning for it to be to the original show? Are you doing your own thing or are you going to try and follow some of the stories they put in place?

Nate:  The story takes place a year after the series ended, so we kind of found a balance between that.  And, Rick, that was one of the things he kept in check as the Story Editor.  Once you get the characters down, they still have the same attitudes, they’re still recognizable to the fans, but, you know, you adjust for age.  Terry’s not in high school anymore, he’s doing his own thing, he’s balancing being Batman with everything else.  It’s very similar to the cartoon, but the story itself is new and refreshing.

Rick: I think there’s a really nice balance there, though, because Nate was able to pull off making it seem like a natural extension.  This is where the show left off and we picked up but still having, you know, the characters sound like the characters.  The fans of the old show are going to recognize them on this show too.  And then he was also able to, like you said, add the new slightly darker, more adult element to bring in some new fans who maybe weren’t watching the show but are hardcore Batman fans, or even Beyond fans who came in more from the comic book rather than from watching the show.

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Derreck: This is a fan project, which is a really big deal. How did you go about funding a project like this?  It’s no small task, so how are you guys able to pull this off? You have so many people involved, how are you able to do that?

Nate: Well, Rick, you wanna take that?

Rick: Yeah. You need me to write another check?  That’s what we were trying to imply earlier.  To really do this right, we had a substantial inflow of cash from me, but we also did have a number of significant volunteer efforts, both in terms of acting resources and locations and equipment and crew members and the VFX specialists.  So many things that were just volunteered to us or at least deeply discounted to make our budget stretch a little bit more has made all the difference.  You know, the technology itself, even within the last few years, has exponentially increased in its ability to do great effects that we feel are going to take the neo-Gotham stuff over the top.  Joel and Nate are working together on the visual effects, and we think that will pick up a lot of (what’s lost) because we don’t have the multi-million dollar budget of a big studio.

Nate:  I didn’t write it thinking it was going to have a lot of special effects and action sequences that would take up a lot of the budget.  The story is where it all started.  Every member of the crew who has read the script is 100% behind it and I like to think it’s because of the story.   If it wasn’t for the script, they probably wouldn’t be volunteering their time, equipment, things like that.  I was looking into getting a green screen room, and the actor that plays Curare’, she said her school has that and she volunteered her school’s space, so that saved a lot of the budget.  And Joel took care of a lot of the visual effects. I didn’t have to pay a lot for that.  The things that I couldn’t really get around were the locations, so that took a lot of the budget.  Most of it, though, is people volunteering to be a part of something great, just to have their names be attached to the project, which really helped get us through the budget that we had.  The guy playing Batman, he had a demo reel of him flipping around, doing a lot of Parkour.  When he came around, I said, “I know you’re an actor and able to do stunts.  Would you like to play Batman?” And he said, “Hell yeah.”  So he’s playing Batman, doing all of the fight scenes, when we were going to hire a stunt guy, and then we got him!  He’s just another example of people volunteering their services. I feel blessed.

Rae: In all fairness, if you asked me to play Batman, I, too, would say, “Hell yeah.”

Derreck: Let’s talk a little more about some of the characters. You’re going to have Bruce Wayne in it, the old, old Bruce Wayne.  How much is he going to be featured in it? Are you going to keep the balance that the cartoon had or are you going to step him back a bit?

Nate: No, he’s our second lead, so he’s in it quite a bit.  The series takes place in one week, so a lot is happening.  Terry, of course, consults with Bruce, so now that he’s Batman, he feels he has to listen to the original Batman.

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Derreck: So all the episodes take place over the course of a week?

Nate: Yeah.

Derreck: That’s a lot of characters to fit in during that time frame. Is everyone going to have a little spot or are there a lot of cameos?

Nate: It’s a bit of both.  There will be some cameos.  There’s the main story and then a love story going on in the background.  And we were also trying to get in as much of the fan favorite stuff as we could without cutting anybody short.

Rick: Nate’s very careful with how much he reveals about plot.  So your question has caused him to dance around.  You’ve all seen the type of thing where some behind the scenes force is generating a little more heat for the hero.  Suffice it to say, it’s one of those types of things.

Rae: So aside from Terry and Bruce, who were you most excited about adapting?

Rick: I’d have to say the guy who plays King from the Royal Flush Gang. No, just kidding.  That’s me, actually.  That’s my 90 seconds of fame cameo. Curare’, for me anyway, is one of my favorite villains, I think her look is great.  Nate probably doesn’t want me to mention too many.  I mentioned her because I know she’s already got a teaser out on the site.

Derreck: I know you don’t want to give a lot away, so maybe this is not a good question, but are we going to see multiple villains throughout this? Or is it more of one big bad that takes him multiple days to take down?

Nate: There’s multiple villains.  I got a question over Facebook asking me if I’m going to over saturate the story with a ton of villains.  Quite a few of the characters are just sprinkled in there.  I wish I could put more in there, but I don’t think we have the time.

Rick: In addition to getting a significant amount of the rogues’ gallery into the show, he’s also managed to bring in a lot of characters from Terry’s personal life.  You can’t have Batman Beyond without Nelson Nash, right?  You have to get him in there.  The jerky big man on campus who teased you from high school.  And Maxine Gibson, Terry’s best friend and computer expert, had to be in there.  He’s sprinkled in there everyone you’re expecting to see.  He did a really good job with that.

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Derreck: Since you have so many characters, and you said a lot of them volunteered, what has the routine been like, getting production done? Everyone’s on set for a few weeks? Are you bringing people in as needed? What are you doing?

Rick: Kidnapping and coercion.

Nate:  The scheduling has been the most difficult part about getting this done.  Everyone has to be available the same time, the same hours.  That’s what’s taken up the most time.

Derreck: So now that everything is all said and done, how much time was taken since the first camera clicked?

Nate: It’s probably been about six months now, between filming and editing.

Rae: Did this project turn into what you expected it to be? Was it larger?

Nate: It was definitely bigger than what I expected.  I moved out here from the east coast, I didn’t know anybody.  I didn’t know exactly where I was going to take it, or how it was going to evolve. I originally thought I was going to have to use my own budget, so it was going to be small.  No matter what it was going to happen, but it might have taken longer.   If it was going to take 3 years, I was going to make it happen.

Rick: Nate’s a very ambitious guy. You know, when I got ahold of the first version of the script, I was thinking to myself, “Wow. This is a big project.” But I think we intelligently controlled the number of scenes and locations enough that it was manageable.  When you do this kind of a thing, you can have the seedy side of Gotham and not have a huge high-tech operation in every single scene.  I was still thinking, budget-wise, “how are we going to pull this off? This many moving parts?” I think it’s been amazing.  The creativity of how to get around some of those types of problems, most of which has come from Nate, or his crew (other guys like Dimitri and Joel) was impressive.  Some of the cast members have been helping out as additional crew.  I’m not there every day, like Nate is, but even on the days I was there, watching them interact and pull together, saying, “You know, we’re doing something pretty large scale  here, but we have to do it fast and on budget, so let’s get it done.”

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Rae: Were your families surprised when you said, “I’m going to make a live-action Batman series,” or were they behind you?

Nate: Well, my family has supported me.  This is very different, though.  I moved to California to make a Batman movie.  I was like, “That’s what I’m doing.” They just said, “Ah, you’re good.” My friends and coworkers and everybody else, they were all very supportive.  A lot of people were reaching out, offering help to put some fires out, everybody was very excited about it, especially my mom.

Rick: My wife has long known that I am a comic book nut and we have a 4-year-old son, who, despite all my best efforts, is a Superman guy, not a Batman guy (but I’m still working on him.) So… when I told her this, she was like, “Oh, really? That’s nice.”  It was just one more thing she knew I was wasting valuable money and time on.  I’m kidding.  She’s totally supportive.  I think Nate alluded to it earlier, but the reason we even met up was because I’ve been focused on writing some screenplays recently.  One of the things I tried was a featue length Batman Beyond. And just surfing around, I stumbled upon Nate’s project and said, “Oh, we’ve got to hook up.” And that’s really how it went from there.

Derreck: So you’ve got the 8 episodes, they’re nearing completion, so what are your plans for it at that point? Are you going to make anymore? Are you waiting to see what the support is after the fact? What’s your plan?

Nate: We’d like to get some attention from the Warner Brothers or D.C. executives. Ideally, I’d like to make a film or have a Netflix series, like Daredevil. But on the lower level, I don’t know if you guys are familiar with Mortal Kombat, but Mortal Kombat has a few series online now, along the same lines as us.  I just want to keep taking this to the next level, and if all else fails, if I’m lucky to do anything else, then that would be great.  I don’t want it to stop here.  I think there’s a lot more that can be done by bringing Batman and sci-fi together.

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Derreck: What are some things you’re most excited to tell people about?

Rick: Just to reiterate what Nate said, we have the second kickstarter campaign, so anything we can squeeze into the quality of this project will be great.  We greatly appreciate any help from the fans.  What I want to express is that I think the unique combination of Nate and I has sort of brought out something that the Batman Beyond fans have been waiting for.  You know, DC hasn’t done it.  There have been a  couple teases where we thought they were going to do it, but if they are, they’re not going to do it any time soon.  And life is just too short. So we basically took it upon ourselves to just make it.  And we’re hoping that we’ve done it with enough quality and enough excitement that it’s not just a reward for Batman Beyond fans, but we’re also going to make some new fans.

Derreck: It sounds awesome.  I’m a huge supporter of that.  As a Trekkie, fan films are huge and to see that in the Batman world, is great.

Rae: Thank you so much for spending your night with us.

If you’d like to pledge to the Batman Beyond: The Series kickstarter, you can go here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/naturnal/batman-beyond-the-series-dvd-pre-order

You can follow all of the Batman Beyond: The Series updates at the following sites: 
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/batmanbeyondtheseries
Instagram – https://instagram.com/batmanbeyondtheseries
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/batmanbeyond…
Twitter – https://www.twitter.com/BatmanBeyondTS

Batman Beyond: The Series

Q&A with Jim Butcher

A few weeks ago, I contacted Jim Butcher’s assistant in the hopes of getting to interview Jim ahead of the release of his latest book, The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass.  Much to my surprise, his assistant got back to me and we scheduled the interview.  He’s one of my favorite authors, so I was incredibly excited to have a chance to interview him.

Sadly, the day before the interview was scheduled to happen Jim’s dog, Frostbite Doomreaver McBane Butcher, passed away after a long battle with cancer.  As you might expect, the interview was canceled.

But since I live one town over from where Jim lives, it’s a pretty safe bet that whenever he has a new book coming out that there will be some kind of book signing event somewhere in the area.  Sure enough there was.  And for an hour ahead of actually signing the books, Jim answered all kinds of questions that we in the audience threw at him.

Here is my transcript of the Q&A session from that event:


Jim ButcherLet’s get a few things out of the way first.  Yes, I am working on the next Dresden book.  It’s due to be turned in this Christmas and should be out somewhere around next spring.

Q: When you are writing books, do you keep character bibles for yourself or for the publisher?

A: I do keep them for myself every time I’m making up new characters and so on.  I make up a little dossier entry on the character, of who they are,  Sometimes I draw a picture of them, but because I can’t draw…they don’t look like that.  I’m not sure where the Dresden Files one is right now.  Probably in a box somewhere.  Mostly I use the Dresden File wikipedia these days, because the fans, you guys, are so much more on the ball than I am with this stuff.  Now, bear in mind that I’ve seen so many slightly different versions of the Dresden Files over the course of writing the books, whereas you’ve only seen the final version.  So it’s much easier for you to remember, “Oh yeah, that character had purple eyes”, even though in my head they had been yellow.  I’ll look at the book and think, “Oh, I must have changed the eye color and didn’t really think about that.  Well, it was 4:30 in the morning when I was doing those edits.”

So now mostly I just go to the fan wiki.  Fans are so much better at keeping track of that than I am, and the fans are the ones that want to say, “Look, you missed this detail, you got it wrong.”  I guess you’re right, I did.   But now people like that build wikis, so “No I didn’t, because I cheated.”

Skin Game, by Jim Butcher

Skin Game, Book 15 in The Dresden Files

Q: Harry Dresden started out as a really humdrum, normal, not big danger character, and now he’s a much bigger threat.  Is he going to continue to progress on to confronting bigger entities?

A: My intention with Harry Dresden was never to make him the big fish in the small pond.  He was always the medium sized fish that had to be smart and fast if he wanted to come out on top.  So everything that I’ve given him that makes him cooler, only serves that purpose.  Because he’s going to be continually going up against things that he has no business going up against.  Storm Front Harry Dresden would never have survived Skin Game.  I mean, he just wouldn’t come out of it in one pieces.

I’m kind of reminded about at the end of Changes, when I killed him…ahem spoilers…and my publisher called and was freaking out on me, going, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, you killed him, you killed him!”  And I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, I know!  Now we get to do the cool stuff!!”  So look for the series to go increasingly off the rails in terms of how bombastic some of the bad guys are going to be.  We’re going to have a lot of fun from here on out.  Especially since my special effects budget has gone up a lot.  Which is cool because it doesn’t cost me anything to do that.  It costs me just as much to burn down Chicago as it does to not burn down Chicago.

Q: Why Chicago?

A: Because my writing teacher wouldn’t let me set it in Kansas City, which is where it was originally set.  She said, “You’re walking close enough to Laurel Hamilton’s toes that you can’t set your books in the same state.  Just pick a different city.  Not Kansas City.”  And…ok, Chicago.

Q: You swore to never to two series at the same time again.  Why are you doing it again?

A: The answer is alimony.

Q: Is there ever going to be a Dresden movie or a (no offense) better TV series than the last one?

A: What I’m hoping for is that we get a Netflix series.  It is being shopped around in Hollywood, so we’ll have to see what winds up happening.  It’s Hollywood.  Hollywood is all talk, man.  Nothing is real until the check has cleared.  Just to give you the check, that’s not reality yet.  Once the check clears, now it’s real.  So we’ll see if anything happens.

Q: When are we going to see Ramirez again?  And will he ever get his own short story?

A: In the Shadowed Souls anthology that I just got done editing.  I’ve been an editor this year.  Which was a really interesting experience.  I’ve never edited anything before.  At one point I read a story and fired off a critique to the author, and then I stopped and realized, “I just told Nora Roberts to cut 10 pages from her short story…She’s like the pro-est pro that ever pro’d a pro and I just said ‘drop 10 pages’.”

In that anthology there’s a short story called Cold Case.  It’s Molly’s first job as the Winter Lady, and Mab sends her off on her first mission, and you get to see what her job is.  And Ramirez teams up with her against a Cult of the Sleeper in a town in Alaska.  There’s a town called Unalaska, Alaska.  Really.  There’s really a town called Unalaska, Alaska.  It’s where Deadliest Catch is based out of.  So they go find a bunch of Deadliest Catch fisherman who have started worshipping Cthulu basically.  But that’s a fun story, and that’s where you’ll next see Ramirez pop up again, and he’ll show up in Peace Talks.

Peace Talks, I really should have subtitled that one ‘Blue on Blue’ or something like that, because basically I’ve set up a situation where I can do all these theoretical fights.  “Who would win if these two went at each other?  Let’s see!”  We’ll see what happens.

Q: One of the forum posts I really enjoyed on your website was the one where you answered a question about The Archive and said “I’m going to tell you this because it’s never going to show up in the books.  How much of that kinds of material do you have, and are you interested, or would you be interested in maybe putting together some kind of Legendarium for the world of Harry Dresden?

A: There is a TON of that material.  There is so much of it.  Because I’m constantly thinking of stories that could happen in the Dresden Files universe.  “Oh yeah, that could happen.  This is totally happening…how am I ever going to connect Harry Dresden to that.  There’s no way in hell he’s ever going to be in the Grand Canyon doing something.”  So as far as a Legendarium goes, I don’t think I will, because I want to have the option to do spinoffs.  And if there’s no mystery, there’s no spinoffs, for when I’m done with Harry’s story.  I’ve got a couple of different characters that it would be really cool to do spinoffs of.  I don’t want to end my options on that.

Q: Question about Lord Raith.  In Blood Rites, Lara bests him in the fight, but in the White Knight he’s still up, walking and talking, with her controlling him.  How does that work?  Is he a ventriloquist dummy?

A: He appears to be in charge, but he isn’t, because Lara can do terrible things to him if he doesn’t play along, and that’s his option now.  So he has to play along with Lara and wear the target on his chest while she runs things from behind the scenes.  Everyone else in the White Court, it doesn’t take them very long to figure out this is what’s going on.  But that’s the play that they have going on, everyone has to pretend that Lord Raith is the one in charge even though they know better.  Until it comes time to unseat Lara, and they’ll have to take Raith out of his position in order to get Lara out of hers.  Lara, at the same time, she’s got to ferociously protect his position.  It gets very byzantine in the White Court.  They’ve basically got a figurehead emperor, and a pile of ministers with the real power.  Lara happens to be on top of that pile of ministers at the moment.

Q: At a Con you attended recently, you mentioned that the reason Mab owes favors to some unsavory characters is due to debts she accrued when the Winter Fey first assumed the duty of manning the Wall.  Can you tell us who was manning the Wall before?

A: I can.  And I won’t.

Regarding that favor, it was a situation where Mab needed to be in two places at once and couldn’t.  So Anduriel loaned her Nicodemus to step into one of the places she couldn’t be.  Man has since learned better than that and now she has somebody that will step in for her when she needs to be in two places at once.  Which is why the Leanansidhe has got so much power and generally shows up whenever Mab isn’t there.  If you’ll notice in the books, the Leanansidhe and Mab very rarely show up in the same place at the same time.  That’s because Leanansidhe is covering things that Mab should be doing, while Mab is wasting her time on Harry Dresden.  And vice versa.

Q: At the beginning of the series, there’s only a very vague, amorphous big bad.  As the series has progressed it’s gotten more complicated and more convoluted.  How much of this were you planning all the way back when you started writing?

A: All of it.  I kind of had a good idea of what the big bad was, and what it looked like, and where it all lined up.  We’ve still go the really excited things in front of us.  We’ve got giants and apocalii (which I judge to be the plural of apocalypse).  Kaiju and gods.  Plus we’re going to have a dragon vs. wizard fight.  Because…you knew that was coming.

Q: The Gate seems like something that, if it didn’t start with a consciousness, would develop it over time.  Is that the case?

A: It probably is, but the consciousness of an inanimate object like that is mostly like that of a mountain.  “I AM HERE.”  And it’s just increasingly aware of its here-ness.  The Gate actually exists very differently than what Harry saw, but that’s how Harry has to interpret it because it’s far out in the Nevernever.  Your mind has to put things into terms it can understand or you go squirrely.  Harry’s got a very good mind for reducing things to simple ideas.  Which most of the Senior Council would say with a roll of their eyes.

Q: Even though you write all these characters, have you ever had one that refused to do what you wanted it to?

A: No, because those people work for me.  There are times when the characters don’t seem to be going as easily in a direction I want them to go.  Often I will have to stop and take a look at what I’m doing since maybe the story has squirreled off in the wrong direction.  Which is sometimes the case and I’ll have to rewrite.  Often what I will do is I’ll go back and I’ll play Time Lord and go back and retool the character’s past to give them a good motivation to do what I want them to do.

Murphy was continually too much in the way in Fool Moon, for example.  She kept trying to participate in what was going on and not in the adversarial way I needed her to, because she was essentially a minor villain in Fool Moon.  It was not working out at all until I went back and tinkered with her backstory and Murphy has a paralyzing fear of big dogs.  That was changing her opinions and put enough brakes on her that I could get her to slow down enough to let other people get killed instead of her.

But it also means that she wasn’t too sure about Mouse the first time she met him.  She’s OK with him later on, because he’s a big dog that she doesn’t have to be afraid of, she trusts him despite that fear.  But that’s all under-the-table stuff that I can’t write about because Murphy is not going to go up to Dresden and say, “I’m terrified of big dogs.”  Because Dresden would make fun of her for being short and it’s not going to happen.

Q: Who is your favorite character in The Last Airbender series?

A: I think Zuko was the most convincing in showing a character turn 180 degrees.  The personal redemption arc for Zuko was pretty cool.  When he got to the point that he realized, “oh wait a minute, I’ve been struggling all along for my honor.  I thought that having my father’s respect would give it to me, but no, I need to have my respect for it to work.  And that means I need to do the right thing and I’m going to turn against my father, the most powerful man in the world, and help the Avatar fight him.”  And that was kind of the turn of the tide of the series in many ways.  So Zuko was kind of my favorite.

Although my favorite characters are almost always villains.  So Azula was really my favorite character of the entire thing.  Because Azula was just crazy.  She was such a good example of a psychopathic villain that was still human.  You could tell there was something broken about her, right from the very beginning.  And yet she kind of carried on and you almost feel for her, every once in a while.  At some point she’s standing there saying, “My mother called me a monster…he was right of course.  But it still hurt to hear her say it.”

There was some really brilliant writing in Avatar.

Sokka was a lot of fun, and at the end of the day, Sokka took out Sparky-Sparky Boom-Man, who was one of the scariest guys in the series to show up.  Which I thought was just awesome.  I am a fan of Avatar, I like Avatar a bit.

Next time I have a dog, I’m going to have a little white dog and name him Appa.  I’m going to train him with hand signals so whenever I want him to do something I’ll say, “Appa, yip yip.”  And whatever the hand signal is will be what he does, but all I’ll ever say is “Appa, yip yip”.  And then I could do a cosplay where I could be grown up Aang, and shave all of the hair off of the dog’s head except for a big arrow on the little dog’s head.  And dye that blue.  Cause that would be awesome.

I’m a nerd.

Q: You’ve written ancient Rome and urban fantasy.  What was the motivation for the Cinder Spires?

A: I was sounding out several different ideas.  I wrote out the first 20%-25% of four different novels and showed them to my beta readers and said, “which one strikes you?”  And as I showed them to them one at a time it was pretty clear that the steampunk idea was really hitting bells with the readers.  So I thought, ok, I’m gonna work with the steampunk.  It really all started as an exercise in trying to figure out why they needed to wear goggles.  Someone was always like, “just write a steampunk story,” and I’m like, “I can’t, because there has to be a real reason to wear goggles all the time.”  So, ok, stop and figure out why they need to wear goggles.

By the time I was done answering that question, I had a universe.

So I know why they have to wear goggles all the time, but they don’t necessarily know all the reasons it’s necessary.  They know the consequences if they don’t, but they don’t understand why those consequences exist yet.  And it’s all coming, later in the series.

Q: Will you ever visit Alera again?

A: I don’t have any definite plans to go back yet because I have so many stories that I want to tell, and I’m going to have to live to 128 to get them all written.  And I keep coming up with new ones, which doesn’t help.  So come on, all you bio-med people out there, biological immortality, get working on it.

I could at some point, there are a couple of places I could go back to if I wanted to.  But nothing on the drawing board right now.

Q: Did I create the spiritual daughter as a companion to Bob, and Is Dresden going to have to have a father-with-a-shotgun talk with Bob?

A: That’s a fair question.  The answer to that is no, I wanted to show what Bob was like when he got started before he had generations and generations to figure out how things work.  But yeah, the shotgun talk is inevitable at some point.  Dresden is definitely keeping Bonnie away from Bob, because he fears Bob will be a terrible influence.  And he’s right.

Q: Will Dresden be featured in any of the spinoff stories?

A: Very possibly.  I like the character a lot.  Although I think he will be very different in the spinoff stories, because when you’re not seated inside his point of view you don’t see how scary he is to everyone around him.  He is creepy.  For one thing, he’s huge and dark and scarred, and never makes eye contact with anybody.  He doesn’t talk a lot, but when he does he usually says something that is reasonably incisive or makes fun of someone.  It would be a little eerie hanging around him if you weren’t close enough to see behind the mask that he wears.  He would be a totally different person showing up in a place like that.  Although it would be fun to do a series of short stories showing people seeing Dresden from the outside.  Maybe I’ll do that in the future sometime.

Q: What are your steampunk influences?

A: Probably Rudyard Kipling and Jules Verne.  League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Horatio Hornblower.  I don’t really think this book is steampunk at all.  I think it is Steam Opera.  But my editor says I’m not allowed to create a new genre whenever I want.  So, ok, it’s steampunk…*sigh*…but I think it’s Steam Opera myself.  Because it has that kind of Space Opera scale to it in many ways.

Q: Will we get more history of Harry’s mom and grandfather?

A: Yes, in the next book.

Q: Why does Harry keep wearing a hat on the book covers, when in the text of the book Harry keeps talking about how he hates hats?

A: That didn’t really start until Book 8 or 9 or something like that, is when I started making that comment.  It was because on Book 7 the Art Department decided that the perfect way to say “Wizard P.I.” was to have the guy with a wizard staff and a P.I. fedora.  That it would be the perfect psychological shorthand for “Wizard P.I.”  So they directed Chris McGrath to “make it like this.”  And Chris, who is a professional artist said, “I will make it like that,” and did so, and fulfilled his commission.

And I didn’t like it.  So I got all passive aggressive about it, and started making fun of hats in the books.

So when the new book came out, the steampunk book, Grimm is one of those characters that would never be caught dead without his hat.  So of course they draw him with no hat.

Q: How many books have you planned for this new series?

A: I’ve planned 3 books to start it out with.  I planned a 9 book arc, with cutouts at 3 and 6 in case it didn’t sell.  If you guys don’t like it, you don’t buy it, that’s how it works.  Hopefully we’ll do 9, hopefully people will enjoy it enough that it’ll go to 9 books.  I want it to go that far.  Because it’ll take that long to do the whole story and explore the back history of this world and show you all these different things i have in mind for this place that came from “why do we wear goggles?”

It’s sometimes frustrating because, as a writer, you build all this stuff and you don’t get to use it all.  It’s so frustrating.  Which is why sometimes I blow a gasket and mention something on the forums about The Archive or something like that.  Or Murphy’s dog fear.

Q: Would you ever consider doing a collaborative effort with another author?

A: No.  Because I would not wish to inflict myself upon anyone that I respect as a professional.  I am high strung and way too controlling.  It works well for me when I’m sitting along in a room, because no one else has to put up with it.  But if I’m sitting there working with somebody else I’m pretty sure we’re going to start throwing our phones at each other.  I am doing a couple of things, I’m doing a short story in Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International anthology, because I want to know about the janitor at MHI.  If you’re the janitor at a company that professionally hunts down monsters that routinely chew up cities and stuff like that, I figure you’ve got a job.  So I wanted to write a story about that.

Other than that, if other authors wanted to do a Dresden Files thing, I could maybe do something like that at some point.

My stomach hurts just thinking about it.

Q: Will you ever do a crossover between your universes?

A: It would be kind of cool.  I’m not sure if it sounds cool or cheesy.  Harry’s the wizard, Tavi is the thief…I’m not sure if that would be cool or cheesy.  Though really that’s been my entire career.

Q: Are there limitations to how magic works in the Dresden Files?

A: Yes, there’s always limitations.  But the people in that world don’t necessarily know where those limitations are.  And as you get closer and closer to them, the likelihood of bad things happening gets worse and worse.  It’s why you don’t see a lot of wizards flying around on brooms, in the Harry Dresden universe.  If you’re experimenting with a flying broom, you get to make one mistake.  And then you don’t have a flying broom or a living wizard anymore, due to the high speed crash.  But you can get other things that are slightly safer than a flying broom.    A flying carpet does make a little bit more sense than a flying broom, because at least you don’t fall off it quite as easy.

There are always limits to things that can happen, but you have to find someone that’s willing to test those limits.  Without getting killed. You can always test the limits, it’s the ‘not get killed’ part that’s difficult.  You can ask Marie Curie about that one.

Q: Whenever Harry’s had a relationship it hasn’t worked out.  Is there something big coming?

A: When you say ‘something big’, do you mean that in a positive sense, or…?  Yeah there’s something big coming….poor Murphy…

Q: James Marsters does a wonderful job as the reader for the audiobooks for the Dresden Files.  Is he going to continue as the reader until the end of the series?

A: I do not want the publisher to change the reader from Marsters, because he is great.  The problem is that he is the highest paid actor in Hollywood.  Literally.  He makes more money than anyone else in Hollywood.  James has a very savvy business manager.  The point is, James is only doing the series out of a love for the series and his fans at this point.  Because we can’t possibly pay him what his time is worth.  So it’s up to him.

Q: As a very successful author, why do you still live in Independence, Missouri?

A: I asked the very same question of a martial arts instructor when I was a teenager.  This was the kind of guy that could catch arrows out of the air, the CIA had asked him to come train them and he told them to go fly a kite, just a world class martial artist.  I asked my teacher, who worked for him, “why does he live in Independence, of all places?”  The guy looked back at me and said, “because he wants to.”  And that’s kind of my answer as well.

Q: How much input do I have in the Harry Dresden RPG?

A: I gave them a series of notes on things they could not have known because they weren’t in the books, but are features of the story world.  Then I told them, “but you can’t reveal any of that, but you need to know it in order to build the world correctly.”

Then I went through and I nixed a bunch of things that they had put together, that they had effectively added up 2 and 2, and came up with 4, and I erased the 4 and said, “no no no, because this 4 is going to be a story later. So you can’t lay this out here for everybody.”  I believe very strongly in building a story world where you could predict what was coming next if you had 1 more fact.  And a lot of times people have made the intuitive leap and predicted what I’m going to be doing with something anyways.  Somebody who is a reader has come up and told me essentially everything that’s going to happen, every major event, that’s going to happen for the rest of the story.  It’s all scattered out amongst the collective, but the collective knows what’s going to happen.  I feel that’s a very good level to be at, as far as writing the story goes.  That people can look at this imaginary place, and the rules works well enough that you can say “Oh, this is coming!”  Which is really rewarding for me.    

Q: Do you get ideas that change your story?  When someone asks you a question or something like that?

A: Oh yeah, that’s happened.  Somebody else will come up and say, “Is this going to happen?”  And I’ll be like, “No, that’s not going to happen…but…that’s better than what I had…that’s a really cool idea.  Can I make that work?”  That’s happened a couple of times for smaller things on the side.

Q: Have you been approached to do anything more with comics or Marvel?

A: No, which is good.  Comics/Marvel doesn’t pay very much.  I don’t get a royalty, I get a flat fee and then I go away.  And everything has to be approved by a committee, and then if you want to change anything, it all has to be approved by a committee again.

I have been approached by others.  At one point Wizards of the Coast wanted me to do the Dragonlance reboot.  This was when 4E was just coming out.  And I thought this was a really cool idea.  So I re-read the first 3 books in Dragonlance, and came up with a plan for a story, of how the entire story universe would change if Flint had caught Hasselhoff trying to steal his dagger in the very first chapter.  Because then, Tanis gets wounded by an goblin so they’ve got to take an extra 45 minutes taking care of Tanis before they can go into town and help Goldmoon.  And that changes the entire story, everything, based on the fact that Flint goes, “Ah hah!  You weasel, you can’t take my knife!”

I took Raistline, and it was going to be Raistline as portrayed by Dr. House.  And it was going to start there, because really, that’s how Raistline should have been portrayed.  As Dr. House.

So I was very excited, and I had all the plans together, and then I went to Wizards of the Coast and I said, “Tracy and Margaret know about this and are cool about it, right?”  Wizards of the Coast started giving me these weasel answers  and I was like, “Oh, ok.  They don’t know, and you haven’t run this by them, and the only reason I’m a writer is because Margaret Weis came in to my high school and gave a talk about writing.  And that’s the only reason I thought “well maybe I should write a novel” when I was 19.  So I kind of went, no I don’t want to do this.

And then they had the disaster that was 4th Edition come crashing down on them and I think everyone behind the idea lost their jobs anyhow.  Really, 4th Edition was a disaster for those guys.  I’m sorry, it’s much nerdier than I really should be going on at this point.

Q: Of all of your published works, are there any that stand out to you as the best or worst?

A: To me, Storm Front is the one I wrote when I knew the least about how to tell a good story.  And really that’s just a fact.  Ghost Story was a book that I was trying to do something very different for Harry Dresden, because Harry is the guy who kicks down the door and saves the day.  When he can’t kick down the door and save the day, who is he?  That was sort of what Ghost Story was about, and I’m not sure I pulled it off as well as I wanted to.  But I knew it was going to be a very very difficult book to write, and it was.

As far as the best work I’ve done, was probably Changes, because everyone wanted to kill me.  And I’m happy with that.  And then Dead Beat, because undead T-Rex.  I don’t know how I’m going to top an undead T-Rex, maybe I should have saved that for later on.    

Q: How did you originally build Harry’s world?  Did you start with the magic system or the world around him?

A: I started with the premise that I needed to prove to my writing teacher that she was wrong about what she was trying to teach me.  That was where I started.  I decided to prove it to her by doing everything she told me to do, and put my characters together in this exaggerated way, and using story outlines and chapter outlines, and to do all these little worksheets that she had, and character sketches and profiles.  After I did all of that she was going to see exactly what horrible cookie-cutter pack of crap emerged from that artificial stilted process.

So I wrote Storm Front.

After that, I started with Harry.  I put him together as a frankenstein of Merlin and Sherlock Holmes and Spencer and Gandalf.  Just borrowing traits, basically ripping off their arms and sewing it onto another body.  And after that, well he’s a wizard, the next thing to figure out about the world was the magic.  Because that’s how he’s going to relate to the world.  So I went out and raided the local bookstore, it was a Border’s at the time, raided their metaphysics section.  It was all books about people that incorporate magic into their religious practices.  I took everything that I thought would have a good effect or would be fun to work with later and left a bunch of the rest of it behind.

So first it was Harry, then it was the magic, and then everything else.

The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut's Windlass, by Jim Butcher

The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass

Q: Your costumes were great at DragonCon.  How long did it take anyone to figure out who you as a group were cosplaying as?

A: Well, nobody could figure out who we were cosplaying at DragonCon because we were cosplaying people from Cinder Spires.  Which nobody had read.  It was the most hipster cosplay ever.  “I’m dressed as Captain Grimm from Cinder Spires.  You’ve probably never read it…”  Although, to be fair, I cheated on that costume, because I wrote Captain Grimm’s costume as a costume that I already owned.  It was in my closet.  I wanted to cosplay convincingly as somebody from one of my books, and I didn’t have anyone else that I could do that with.  So it was Grimm.

Q: What authors do you look forward to reading, when they release a new book?

A: Brandon Sanderson, he’s like the Terminator or something.  I don’t know what it is.  I’m going to get on a plane tomorrow, get to the airport, new Brandon Sanderson book.  Take off, land in Cincinnati, and there’s another book!  That’s what I feel like he does.

Brian McClellan is probably getting added to the list really soon, since I’m really enjoying is Powdermage books.

Larry Correia, John Ringo, I always pick up those guys.  David Weber.

Naomi Novik, I love the Temeraire novels.  Give me those, give them to me faster.  What do you mean this is the last one?

This completes the Q&A transcript with Jim Butcher. What did you think? Are you looking forward to the The Cinder Spiders: The Aeronautics’s Windlass? Comment below with your thoughts.

Q&A with Jim Butcher