I helped Jordan Card edit and put together a compilation of fan fiction called Ultimate Masters of Fan Fiction. I also have a short story in the book entitled, Why Light? which is Twilight Fan Fiction.
I’ll be reading an excerpt of the story I wrote tomorrow at 12:30 pm at MICA’s Bank Building in Baltimore, MD as part of Open Space’s Print and Multiple’s Fair V.
I’ll also have a table at the fair 12:00 - 6:00 pm this Saturday and Sunday (March 8 & 9) in which I will be selling A Lesson Is Learned prints, the Ultimate Masters of Fan Fiction Book, and other items. The book will go on sale online here in a few days.
The story was based on idea I had been thinking about for a long time.
The “Young Adult” novel Twilight by Stephanie Meyer is told in the first person from the perspective of the teenage girl (Bella Swann) who is seduced by a century old vampire (Edward Cullen). In a sense, this was a clever decision by Meyer, since it palliates the novel’s insipid prose, clumsy story-telling, and obsession with meaningless detail. (For example, between important scenes, we are treated to long lists of everything the main character did in the interim, fix her hair, find her clothes, eat cereal, drive to school, etc.) However, it also leaves the reader with the distinct impression that they know little about what actually happened. The tale is told through the distorted lens of someone who is profoundly inarticulate, unperceiving, instantly credulous, and disorganized in her thinking. Worse still, her values are deeply skewed. If Bella has any agency in the book, it is that of a victim. She is continually offering herself up on an alter to be sacrificed or devoured, not for any noble purpose, but to serve the whims and fancies of those that desire to consume her. All of this sounds wonderfully subversive and interesting except for the fact that Bella’s world view is tacitly endorsed by the author, her offensive actions continually rewarded by a shower of gifts. Though she is imminently willing, Bella never sacrifices or loses anything. Rather, her awful decisions, grant he gift after gift, so much so that book is pure wish fulfillment and could more be more accurately titled, “A Teenage Girl Gets Everything She Wants”. That is to say, it is sort of the inverse of Jane Eyre (Meyer cribs many themes from the Bronte sisters) in which a young girl, through many difficult trials and tribulations, overcomes extreme hardship to educate and refine herself into a better person so that can be happy with what she has.
To fix the extremely disgusting values Twilight presents, or at least address them in some way, I wanted to re-write the book from the perspective of Edward Cullen, the hundred year old vampire. In this re-telling, Edward is a sort of Humble Humbert figure, everything that Bella isn’t— old, sophisticated, educated, and refined. He is so perceiving that he can present himself to the credulous young girl as the very image of her desire. But of course, like Humbert, he is lying one hundred percent of the time. Bella in fact has no idea who he really is or what is going on inside his mind. Her connection to him is a total illusion. Ultimately, this ends up trapping both of them, Edward because he is in the middle of a web of lies, Bella because she has failed to ever educate herself or take control of her own life.
To test out the idea for the novel, I first wrote the tale into a short story, which is featured in the Ultimate Masters of Fan Fiction anthology. To give you some idea of what the story is like, below is an excerpt based on the famous scene in which Edward first reveals his superhuman vampire powers to Bella. If you like this idea and want me to rest of the novel, let me know via tumblr or twitter.
One lucky morning in October fixed all that. I awoke to find that, uncharacteristically for the region, it was snowing. At first the flakes meandered lazily between the bare branches of the trees to settle on the pines and the dead grass. But a few minutes later, the air was swimming with thick clumps of snow. A furious wind drove the particles in all directions, sideways and sometimes even up so that they seemed suspended in a dreamy timeless air against my windows. The sight, though it was very beautiful, saddened me because school would be cancelled. I had little idea what else to do with myself those days besides impersonate a teenager. But there wasn’t an announcement, so I went in anyway. When I arrived, the sun was streaming through the parking lot until it broke against the ugly facade of the main building. Behind that old weary heap of institutional brick was a dawn sky the color of a robin’s egg and I knew it would be a propitious day, a day of extreme unlikelihoods.
I saw Isabella in the lot. She was looking at a student’s minivan as it wobbled on the snow. She was not directly in the fish-tailing vehicle’s path. She was protected between the aisle made by her own truck and another big Detroit-era Ford, so that if anything, the little Japanese car would have ricocheted off the bumpers in front of her. But unlike the other students in the lot, she froze helplessly instead of backing off to a safe distance. I hesitated for a moment, wondering if, in the past few days, I hadn’t already lavished enough attention on her. But I was standing so nearby it was easy to rush over, tug her by the arm and push the sliding van in another direction. When the other students giggled at the unnecessary rescue, I thought I had over-played my hand. But then I looked back at Isabella. She was swooning. In fact, she had fallen and appeared enraptured with fright but also amazement. It was the first time I had ever seen her express any real, animated emotion, besides her usual hunched affected sullenness. Her large brown eyes were fixated on my hand, which had put a dent in the plastic grill of the van. I realized her misapprehension immediately. She thought she was witness to a miracle, a show of prodigious inhuman strength.
New book by CAConrad — Philip Seymour Hoffman (were you high when you said this?) — coming out tomorrow from WORMS Press! Will be available in limited hard copies and free PDF at http://rmobrien.info
BALTIMORE, MD, March 2014 -
Open Space is pleased to announce the Fifth Annual Publications and Multiples Fair on March 8 and 9, 2014. This annual event is a celebration and survey of artist publications, prints, and objects produced in multiple. This year’s fair promises a wide variety of publications and objects by over 80 independent publishers, galleries and artists from Baltimore and beyond. The fair is free and open to the public.
MAIN EVENT: PMF VOpen Space’s Fifth Annual Publications and Multiples Fair
D Center, 16 West North Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21218
March 8th and 9th, 12pm - 6pm Saturday and Sunday
RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/411116449033216/Featured Vendors:
Penny Prince, from the upcoming game SCALE, riding a giant kitty cat(not a derpy tiger).
Time Picnickers is finished! You can read all 36 pages starting here.
As is evident from the early pages, I had no idea how to draw comics when I began. Now, I still have no idea, but can do it a lot faster. Above are a few pages from the series with which I feel satisfied.
My feelings toward the work as a whole are ambivalent. There was a strong temptation to go back and re-draw some of the earlier pages. But for now, I think I’m going to leave it up with all of its flaws intact. After all, one of the most satisfying thing about reading webcomics for me is watching someone who had no idea what they were doing when they began refine their method and progress stylistically.
The subtitle, by the way, (“Where is fancy bread? In the heart of in the head?”) is a pun based on a childhood misinterpretation of a line in Shakespeare. When Bassanio comes to court Portia in The Merchant of Venice, she commands a song be played which begins, “Tell me where is fancy bred? / Or in the heart or in the head?” That is to say, what breeds affection, emotion or thought? But of course, I first encountered the line not in Shakespeare, but quoted by Willy Wonka in his eponymous chocolate factory. And so as a kid I imagined a sort of delicious “fancy bread” whose very apprehension was caught between heart and head. This idea, seems connected somehow to my process with Time Picnickers as I attempted to coax what I wanted to happen out of my head and on to the page, but was often frustrated by my lack of practice and skill.
Thanks to all who read the comic, and gave me feedback and support as I went along with it! There will be many more comics and other projects up online soon, so stay tuned!
SCALE is funded! So far, we’ve raised over 100K so the game will also come out for the Virtual Reality Device the Oculus Rift, thus making my official adult occupation “Writer for Virtual Reality Games” as predicted by many of my daydreams when I could not sleep during nap-time in kindergarten; except in those scenarios I carried a laser gun, dressed in tall Han Solo-style boots, and was waaaay more jacked.
If we can raise another 25K, I will also get to draw an entire graphic novella to give to everyone! It would probably look something like this sample page I drew yesterday; except there would be a whole bunch more pages with different pictures on them that say different things making up a great story!
A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible – CHRISTMAS DISASTER SPECIAL work-in-progress animated GIF – prints for sale at Topatoco!
Read the finished comic (published January 1, 2005).
I wonder what I wrote back!
A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible – CAROLINE’S DOPPELGANGER – prints for sale! http://topatoco.com/alil
This episode from 2006 remains one of my favorites. This morning I was digging around and found these rough drafts, which show the layout evolving. I also found some notes I wrote to Dale at the time.
March 8, 2006
The main feature of the page composition is the large panel showing the view across the courtyard to the opposite window, where lurks caroline’s vague likeness. I identified this as the most exciting and spooky moment of the comic, most deserving of resources to achieve its effect. Reading the script, it was the moment that gave me chills. The strangeness which has been slowly building suddenly gives way to an outright scariness.
The comic opens with a normal enough scene (a), except that the wife refers to her daughter as “Caroline’s doppelganger,” which is obviously weird. Until the psychiatrist begins to address CD, there’s a nice opportunity for a silent sequence (b), (c), (d). Originally I was going to show him walking through the house, which could develop a sense of unease in the house, but the psych is not supposed to be uneasy; he’s a grown-up and the house holds no mystery for him. Better to get right to CD and let the unease develop through her. In this draft, I used the second panel to show the psych’s face, as he steals another moment of rest before heeding his wife. This might be a good chance to show his feeling about CD, e.g. ambivalence. (c) shows the psych in silhouette, cracking open the door to CD’s room, and (d) is a reverse shot, the first image of CD, a scared looking shadow.
A generous-sized panel shows the psych and CD together in (e), as well as providing a chance to elaborate on CD’s room. Here, the first couple lines of their dialogue are exchanged (“aww, sweetheart!…”; “it makes me think I’m not real”). (f), though badly drawn, it supposed to be the psych’s sympathetic, paternal face looking down at his daughter’s doppelganger, saying “you’re so much more to us than just the ghostly double of our long-gone daughter!” This line deserves emphasis because it’s an important plot element.
The next panel, (g), delivers the next two lines of dialogue, and the panels continue to grow. The comic began with small panels, a pattern broken by (e), which could do so without arousing suspicion because it’s got the task of establishing the main location of the story, as well as containing two characters interacting, and lots of dialogue. Plus, the more generous panel size contributes to the reader’s feeling that we’ve arrived (as opposed to the earlier panels, which were about moving). However, (f) and (g) continue to grow, a bit surprisingly… I’m going to try to emphasize this, maybe putting a bit more detail into each one, so the reader feels like he’s being drawn closer and closer, almost uncomfortably.
Then, (h) strikes like the soundtrack hit we’ve been waiting for. This panel should probably be askew, like a tear. (h) is about the gap between the two windows, and likewise it creates a gap between the two parts of the comic, both compositionally and in the sense that it complicates everything that happens afterwards.
The rest of the draft is poorly paced, but basically we’ve got (i), (j) and (k) dealing with CD and the psych’s subsequent dialogue, including when he shines the light across the way. I’m not really sure how to handle this gesture, and welcome suggestions. It feels a little bit less useful than it should be… almost is volunteering to be cut. It could make the comic a bit tighter. I know it allows CD to say she saw a flash, but in a sense even that is a reiteration of the fact that she thinks she sees Caroline in the opposite window. Anyway, in (l) and (m), the mother arrives and puts CD to bed again.
(n) shows the psych, back out in the hallway, speaking to no one (his voice is low and CD can’t hear) the last line, about how Caroline’s eyes were brighter. Originally I’d imagined him saying this to CD as he leaves her room, but that’s a bit redundant; his wife has just made a shocking and hurtful statement delivered as a reassurance. Speaking to himself, his wife already back in bed and CD in her room, it becomes more about his own painful reflection. I think that helps, because throughout the story, he and his wife are so inexplicably cruel and off-key when trying to comfort CD… There must be some way to develop their feelings about her.
The psych seems like a guy who is trying to feel okay about what he has left. He’s suffered loss and he’s looking for a way to deal with his memories. He really has not arrived at a graceful acceptance: his interactions with CD refer constantly to Caroline, in fact depending on them, and the nature of CD’s existence is uncertain.
I’m not really sure about the mother. She’s less giving, more secretive…
Sorry for the comments about the script at this somewhat late stage. I feel like I should have raised those questions during the week you were working on this one, but it’s hard for me to think it out fully until I’m drawing it. I guess it’s always evolving. Anyway, I really think this is one of your best scripts, and has the potential to lead into a host of fascinating situations.
March 13, 2006
New SCALE gameplay clip! Shrink your prison to pocket size! Only four days left on our Kickstarter! Physical GIFs!