interview

RR08: Cloaks, Jumps, and Doug Jones

RR08: Cloaks, Jumps, and Doug Jones
Redshirts & Runabouts

 
 
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We’ve got a special interview with Doug Jones, the man behind Saru as well as many other incredible creatures and characters! The interview comes from Kansas City Comic Con and Doug Jones was gracious enough to talk with us on the convention floor about his upcoming projects and his thoughts on Star Trek: Discovery!

Then, it’s back to the show as we break down and discuss “Into the Forest I Go”, the mid-season finale for Star Trek: Discovery.

Join our three-man crew for a journey that will span decades, every episode, every series, every movie, and every possible timeline no matter how small.

Don’t forget to subscribe to Redshirts & Runabouts! The links to iTunes, Blog Talk Radio, and Google Play are below!

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Redshirts & Runabouts Podcast Credits

Hosts
Greg Bosko
Derreck Mayer
Jeremy Monken

Executive Producer
Derreck Mayer

Editor
Jeremy Monken

Music
Flying Killer Robots

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RR08: Cloaks, Jumps, and Doug Jones

GH28 – Serenity Forge Interview

This week we have a very cool interview with the CEO and Founder of Serenity Forge, Z himself. We talk with him about his passion for video games, what brought him into the gaming world, and his developer and publishing company, Serenity Forge. Serenity Forge has developed some really fun and unique titles including The Kind’s Bird, Pixel Galaxy, and Loving Life. Plus, Serenity Forge has published other titles and even collaborated on development and publishing on others.

We also talk a little news, including some bad news for Amazon Prime members, the first US-based Switch bundle, and the possibility of the Xbox One X finally being available for pre-order.

00:57 – Amazon and the Pre-Order Discount

06:10 – Splatoon Switch Bundle and new Joy-Cons

10:15 – Xbox One X Pre-Orders Maybe Soon?

11:20 – Z from Serenity Forge

44:20 – Closing Thoughts and Contest Details

Don’t forget to subscribe and review us on iTunes for a chance to win a free video game!

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Podcast Credits

Hosts
Jon Czerwinski
Derreck Mayer

Special Guest
Zhenghua “Z” Yang

Executive Producer
Derreck Mayer

Editor
Derreck Mayer

Music
Flying Killer Robots

Google Play Subscription Link
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GH28 – Serenity Forge Interview

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.

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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.

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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.

Cat Tanchaco - Make-Up Artist

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