|➸Make a Movie: Discover Artemis Eternal and join us as an official Wingman!
➸More Dailies: On days that I don't update here, you can catch me on Twitter @JSto.
May 24, 2014
Experience how a scifi writer researches astrotech!
I want to encourage readers who are anticipating the novel's release, and who are curious about the creative process behind ARTEMIS ETERNAL, to get more into the subjects I researched, so I’m taking an introductory astrotech course with you via The University of Edinburgh on Coursera. The professors are astrophysicists Andy Lawrence and Catherine Heymans.
IT IS FREE and laymen-friendly, meaning there are no prerequisites. Also, if you take the course on the serious track and pass, you receive a certificate of accomplishment.
I’ve just zoomed through the first lesson and quiz, and am having a good time browsing the forum.
Via the Science & Entertainment Exchange out of Hollywood, I had a stellar astrophysicist consult on the novel, just to make sure I didn't break physics. It was a little like having my own personal Coursera applied to the specific, strange situations I created in the story. Her notes to me were structured much like the video modules in the astrotech course. I spent time learning about heliospheric conditions, for instance, with a closer look at radiation challenges in space (SPE/GCR). I got to research and imagine a dream scenario for how we might process different wavelengths of light in space in the future, and what technology we would need in order to do so. That led to thinking about how that technology would impact culture, and civic and commercial space, as well as individual characters. So if you want to experience what scifi research is like, then join this course! Additionally, this course would be a great resource for scifi film and novel creators who are newer to astronomy.
Here's the link again. You can browse the course casually and guilt-free, and then decide how serious you would like to take it. I suggest trying "week one" and taking the quiz to see how you like the subject matter. I also posted a version of this comment on the course forum. See you there?
PS: If it's spring where you are, run a search to see if there are any star parties in your area. If you haven't been to one yet, they are rad!
Edit: I hear you, e-mailers, and have now added this addendum. If you would like to receive a notification when the novel drops, then join the Amazon alert list so that you can read the sample chapter once it's out. Twitter @JSto is also an option!
E = hc/λ
Update: I am so glad we did this! Note that if you missed out, the course will be constantly available, so you can take it at anytime, although you will not be able to earn a certificate for your work. However, if you click the option to watch for future offerings, then if the course is offered again, you can take it formally and earn a certificate as some of us did this go. Overall this is very accessible way to learn about the cosmos framed through the technology used to make discoveries, and it will enrich your experience with NASA missions, related news and scifi.
Permanent Link | RSS
April 5, 2014
An exciting documentary about the launch of the LHC and discovery of the Higgs boson? Can't wait to screen it!
Sidenote: This might mark the largest gap between posts in the history of JSDC. It's due to the final edit on the novel. I didn't have need to research particle physics (the smallest research requirement was around -10.0) but I can't get enough of particle physics. I stayed up all night to watch CERN's Higgs announcement. And all science is somehow related to scifi, even if not directly cited in plot or setting.
I did spend quite a lot of time going over radiation and other space conditions with the novel's science consultant/astrophysicist. Plus, solar wind, the CHZ and gliding around the galaxy looking for exoplanets!
Permanent Link | RSS
November 30, 2013
NO NO NO NO! Paul Walker died. He was wonderful to me:
He was completely charming and kind to crew and fans.
He was a warm scene partner and a team player.
He engaged my improvised silliness for hours and was completely open to building on it.
Union rules be damned: If there was something nearby that needed to be moved on set like a tripod, he'd dash over and move it himself, then get affectionately scolded by the producers. (Actors aren't allowed to move things - even light things - around set.)
It was over 100 degrees outside on the day in question and we were standing on a racetrack which increased the effect of the blaring sun. Yet when there were fans hovering nearby hoping to meet him, instead of heading back into our shady, air conditioned trailer, he used his breaks to stop over and have a moment with them.
On that shoot, I complained of the heat. On other shoots, other guests complained about the sometimes challenging improvised nature of the show. Paul Walker didn't complain about anything. He was not precious: He came ready and willing to contribute.
He was passionate about cars and accordingly chose the shoot activity. We cut quite a lot of technical talk (among other things, as you do) from the edit. He knew his stuff and spoke the insider language of the specialists who handled the cars.
I've said it before: Of all the publicly known and celebrated people who I've worked with, he was my favorite guest. It was a surprise: At the time of booking I didn't want to do the shoot. But if I hadn't, I would have missed out on knowing a lovely person.
And today all of the possibilities branching from his life force were suddenly blinked out of existence: A cruel and tragic cutting come way too soon.
Paul's relief organization: ROWW (Reach Out Worldwide) | Video of him working in Haiti
Comments (2) (Last Comment: 6/17/14 6:35 AM) | Permanent Link | RSS
This is an image of the developmental and line edit that an author receives. On the left is the manuscript hardcopy in black and white. Those two stacks are only 1/4 of the novel. On the right, on screen, is the digital version. The right margin is full of the proverbial red pen.
Also included is a four page report wherein the editor analyzes any broader issues.
I have a different approach to screenwriting: I always write in a professional screenwriting group headed by an editor, workshopping about 20 pages each week. I have the editor, the group and external beta readers go over the full manuscript down the line once the drafts have been cycled through the workshop a few times. During a workshop I hear the work read aloud, we discuss the work while I take notes and then I collect their annotated copies to use while revising. I prefer that method, but it doesn't transfer to novel well. And it also doesn't transfer to traveling.
With the novel, I write and revise on my own over and over again until I'm too close to the story to do any further good and desperately missing my screenwriting group. Then the editor has a go. Then I have a go. Then the editor has a go. Then I have a go… . What you see above is the first round of notes on the new prologue and the second round of notes on the rest of the manuscript. Once I notice that the feedback has arrived (usually in the evening because I'm a late riser), I rush to wherever I'm printing from, download all of the feedback, print the hardcopy and proceed straight to a cafe. Receiving notes is a little like Christmas morning due to the anticipation and joy of the process. …And then suddenly it's not at all like Christmas morning because, instead of lazing about, I'm standing at the foot of a mountain I must hike.
Last time it was a mountain. This time it's a hill. Soon it will be flat, even ground and I'll be done!
Latte in hand, I spread out over a cafe table and read through all of the margin feedback looking closely at the comments that address content concerns. Copy edits (spelling mistakes, line cuts) are an easier fix and less important up front than content editing, which may require rewrites. I read the analytical report twice and annotate how to address the notes, noting any questions that I have. Then I go to wherever home is and put my remaining latte in the fridge so that I can run and do a training circuit. Afterward, I eat, resume my latte, get on the Internet and catch up with news and friends. From the news I move into researching anything that I need in the revisions or that has to do with problem solving (for instance tonight I spent about an hour on the effects of water and gear in space and across different terrestrial environments). I let the notes sink in for at least four hours.
Around midnight - for some reason it's always midnight - I go back to the notes and begin the latest pass on the first chapter. I revise one chapter a night, depending on how deep the notes go. The deeper the notes, the longer the time.
There is always a moment when you first open the package and the wall of redness looks daunting, but once you've been through the process, the feeling quickly dissipates because training kicks in and you chip away the red step-by-step with each micro-revision. The true challenge is figuring out if and when there are notes that may be ignored. Most of the time the red ink 'tis but a
scratch suggestion. The author must decide and forever live with the choice.
If you're new here: I'm finishing a forthcoming scifi novel and sometimes I write about that. Other times I dye my hair purple. It's all related. The baristas at Starbucks informed me that the editor's annotations were interesting and that I should put it on my blog. They've turned out to be good at casually focus grouping book cover mock ups, so here we are. I don't write about the writing process often, mostly because John August, John Scalzi and other writers already have those resources available, so I would direct you to those sites for more information. When I was a student, I read all of Wordplay. (Those writers now contribute to John August's blog.)
4 AM. No wimps.
Comments (2) | Permanent Link | RSS
Guide to Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy is my favorite author and as such I'm reading through all of his work. It's an evolving process that I'm taking care with. You can visit my recommended reading order with notes on Goodreads anytime, and the notes will transfer to JSDC as well once I'm further along.
This is of course on the side of everything else. We're editing my forthcoming novel now, for instance, and are in the home stretch on the editorial leg of publishing production. I'll be pleased when I can start referring to the work by its title, which will happen soon. All of that in addition to reorganizing the approach to ARTEMIS ETERNAL. Whew!
Suggested reading order as of today (I've read through the bolded portion):
- The Road (Pulitzer Prize)
- No Country for Old Men (watch the movie afterward)
- The Sunset Limited: A Novel in Dramatic Form
- Outer Dark (suggested secondary reading prior to this title: Of Mice and Men)
- The Counselor: A Screenplay (excerpt available via The New Yorker)
- Wake for Susan / A Drowning Incident (Two short stories via the University of Tennesse's archives)
- All the Pretty Horses (The Border Trilogy #1)
- The Crossing (The Border Trilogy #2)
- Cities of the Plain (The Border Trilogy #3)
- The Stonemason: A Play in Five Acts
- The Gardener's Son: A Screenplay
- Child of God
- The Orchard Keeper
- Blood Meridian, or the Evening of Redness in the West (widely considered his best novel)
If you're a casual reader who is unlikely to read more than three of his books, at this point I'd suggest you do: The Road, No Country for Old Men and Blood Meridian in that order.
Permanent Link | RSS
NASA Mars Haiku Contest
When creative writing meets science!
Blood skies, golden gash—
Into Marineris deep
our sun penetrates!
Did you write one?
Permanent Link | RSS
Photostack: Magenta Fog
I have material coming soon about the novel and the process (design, writing, editing, etc.) alongside Artemis Eternal (although story-wise they are not related). Right now I'm working with the novel's editor on the beginning, which required some new writing and is therefore more time consuming than typical revisions. So all of the above and more will post the same time the novel becomes available. Always a rush.
These last couple days Greg Martin and I collaborated on the cover and it's nearly finished. I'm confident that you will dig it something fierce!
In the meantime, I call my whipped-up collages "photostacks." As requested in mass via Twitter, here's a photostack that shows the violet hair.
Context: To celebrate this. I did this.
Permanent Link | RSS
From Titus Andronicus, which is probably the last of Shakespeare's plays I'd recommend, this clever exchange. (Aaron's lover is Demetrius' and Chiron's mother.)
Demetrius: Villain, what hast thou done?
Aaron: That which thou canst not undo.
Chiron: Thou hast undone our mother.
Aaron: Villain, I have done thy mother.
Permanent Link | RSS
Now on Goodreads!
Tonight I'm finally editing my author profile.
The last books I read were A Memory of Light and Animal Farm. Currently I'm reading Siddhartha and re-reading The Eye of the World. Next up, the '50s translation of Doctor Zhivago. I've also just finished reading the screenplays for Zero Dark Thirty and Moonrise Kingdom.
I will probably lose the next few hours to checking off my favorite novels.
If you're a Goodreads user, let's connect!
Update: Damnit! Amazon just bought Goodreads. So much for that.
Permanent Link | RSS
This video is, like, alien geoids tongue mating into humanoid faces that vomit magma while Bjork is the center of the terrestrial universe.
The director is a strong force in this work. Overall Mutual Core is an example of two clear points of view in successful, seamless collaboration. A success that's fitting, required really, given the theme of the song.
Permanent Link | RSS
Wingmen Are Swift!
A M I L L E N N I A L P R O P O S A L
(free Kindle apps for your computer, phone, everything)
When I log on for the first time each day, I'm hoping to find something interesting. Quality media that captures my imagination. Bold news stories or community movements. Bursts of activity in our project web spaces. Essentially: Signs of life.
Typically, it's business as usual.
Today, however, HOO-RAH! Patriots are out in full force!
A few days ago I released an article titled A MILLENNIAL PROPOSAL.
My original intention in testing the Amazon KDP program was to see if it was possible to publish screenplay. Unfortunately it is not: The formatting does not work. At this time it would work as an app, but those cost too much to produce and promote. It wouldn't be worth going that route right now.
Usually when I write, I write first and think about publishing afterward. I generally work with the understanding that writing "for" something begins to compromise the work.
A MILLENNIAL PROPOSAL was no exception. Upon finishing, I realized the essay was highly unlikely to be published by literary or news outlets, which are competitive to begin with. The essay is suited best to presentation without comment, probably through a newspaper platform.
Given the argument involved, I realized that it was unlikely that appropriate op-ed sections would publish such a thing. I mean, think about it: These guys sit around pontificating about the economy every day and then - BOOM! - I swoop in and solve the whole thing out of nowhere.
Once again, I knew I was on my own. I thought about what the nextgen version of literary political pamphlets might be and decided to try the essay as a single for Kindle via Amazon. Of course I am never fully on my own, because of you Wingmen. Evidence:
A couple days later…
"Not all will like her ideas, but they should be seriously considered. This book is going viral in my circle of Millenial friends."
I don't know which of you wrote the reviews populating the page. All I can say is that you are true patriots doing the US of A an important service.
"As a millennial myself, I found plenty of interesting and useful advice on how to make a place for myself in this world."
Via A MILLENNIAL PROPOSAL, together you and I are working to save our country. Thanks for reading. With your techie digital political pamphlets and in-universe reviews, you all are Swiftians from the future!
"I cannot believe what this book is proposing! Any parents out there should be aware! If you see your child reading this stop them!"
Perfection. Don't forget to sign up for Boomify beta!
Permanent Link | RSS
Artemis on NBC
Congratulations to our digital designer Greg Martin whose work was surfed on the telly, and to all Wingman whose support (and faces!) appeared on screen today. It is not at all crazy to me that when we launched we had nothing but big ideas, blank space and a lack of infrastructure and now? BOOM! Significant amounts of tangible success and progress, all while staying true to our ethos, which is unprecedented. I knew we could do this. The first Wingmen knew we could do this. I prepped hard with strong support from colleagues, you took a leap with me and together we've continued to push forward despite the incredible obstacles that mar the media landscape. It's worth noting, and you should all be proud. Go team! No wimps!
And thanks to anchor-personality Angie Goff & her crew for digging into what we're all about. If you're new here, click "begin", load the map and add your fire to ours! This movie does not happen unless you make it official and become a Wingman. And hey, right now you can take advantage of the limited edition BAM!♥ new Wingman opportunity just below!
Comments (4) | Permanent Link | RSS
Concept Art Preview
>>> Click here to preview! <<<
(As you probably suspect, the preview page design was crafted by Greg.)
Comments (3) | Permanent Link | RSS
In context of moving beyond what teen and young adult women are marketed, and discovering depth...
A list of well-written and made, interesting, semi-recent films that happen to feature leading female characters who further the narrative:
The Virgin Suicides
Pride & Prejudice
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Rachel Getting Married
Estimate the production costs for each of these wonderful, well-made movies and combine them: The total is far less than the cost of just one Transformers or Sex and the City flick. :-D
Enjoy! And if this is of interest or concern to you, do quickly become an ARTEMIS ETERNAL Wingman, especially if you love sci-fi/fantasy.
And I insist that you read this exceptional piece of film criticism by NYT critic Manohla Dargis. Remember, the camera has a point of view and that view is the responsibility of the director.
Update: For those writing me to say they've seen all of the above, more titles: Maria Full of Grace, I Capture the Castle, Bend it Like Beckham. If you liked Spirited Away, look into all of director Hayao Miyazaki's other wonders, such as Ponyo, Princess Mononoke and Howl's Moving Castle.
Update #2: More films to be listed here at will: Melancholia, Moonrise Kingdom, Another Earth, Zero Dark Thirty, Top of the Lake (filmic mini-series)
*Promotional film stills are copyright their respective production companies
Comments (5) | Permanent Link | RSS
Concept Art Development
The beginning of art collaboration is always bare and basic, especially in a new collaboration. Here we go with early Artemis Eternal sketches from our artist Christopher Shy. These are all development on solely one piece of art.
Firming up a concept via pencil sketch allows for us to ensure we're on the same page before we advance into detail. The point is to avoid wasting time backtracking on a work that has already seen days of painting. If you're a director, this behavior will save you money and make it easier for top-tier artists to work with you. It will also keep your talent from hating you and making infographics about how much you suck at feedback and workflow. Designers will especially thank you for this.
I'm not sure what you see when you look at these lines. For my part, I can imagine the final and potential for the emotion each might bring and how it plays into the context of the film's story and aspects that will aid me in developing the production aesthetic, as well as conveying more of the story to you at this stage. Depending on how visual and imaginative you are or experienced with development, you might begin to get some emotion from basic sketches. Of course they might look like extremely early work to you and very bare, which they are: One reason why sketches aren't usually aired and especially not out of context of a finished work. Of course we're making an exception here. No benefit of hindsight for you this time!
The last sketch probably evokes something familiar to you, likely because it's contextual to your previous experience with genre art and film advertising in that it recalls "montage" comic and anime covers.
We scrapped all of these.
Also discarded are the ones not pictured. None of this is a waste, however: the feedback about what was working and what was not moves us forward. Chris began to splash color into his next round of sketches while exploring a new take on blocking and composition. The following are still very early sketches, but more advanced in developing palette and a sense of mood.
We scrapped all of these.
Also discarded are the ones not pictured. None of this is a waste, however: the feedback about what was working and what was not moves us forward. We're working on the final piece now.
Each stop on the Artemis Eternal production map is unbelievably complex. Sometimes noticeably so due to the work involved (often times involving new experiences). Sometimes, however, the complexity is not noticeable because it's workflow I've done for years and I don't comment on what comes second nature. Most of my work within the art department falls under the automatic category. However, for those who will benefit from detail, here is the workflow on concept art:
- luck out at SDCC and bump into an artist whose work seems ideal (saved time on research)
- meet-and-greet with Chris, discover it's a fit
- estimate costs for art
- further budget research
- create budget
- pre-order style fundraising
- fundraising met (Wingmen Francis, Ben, Sean, M.Sto!)
- materials sent to Chris (reference images, relevant scripting, short description of what I'm looking for in the piece, relevant notes from the Bible of the world)
- series of pencil sketches delivered
- feedback and discussion, Chris has a feeling about a different take
- series of color sketches delivered
- feedback and discussion, brainstorming, Chris suggests a different composition, I fill in the idea with details from the world
- color sketch
- approval to move forward on new direction: we both like it
- more defined color painting on final piece
- more-defined color painting of final piece
- more-detailed feedback
…And so on until all notes have been addressed and the final piece is finished and delivered. This is essentially how concepting and building costume, props, set design, web design etc. flows, with different nuances depending on the leg of the project.
Greg and I usually work a little faster since we've been collaborating for a while now.
Paced and incremental success is something I embraced years ago: As opposed to the instant gratification of the Internet and blogging, deeper, long-form storytelling and specifically filmmaking in general is a long endeavor. Pace works for us because we don't have a steady staff and overhead bureaucracy budget (thus I do more myself and delegate less throughout dev and preparation). Incremental successes allow for us to grow steadily and for me to get to know you, the core community, in a manageable and meaningful way. I also have more time to familiarize production talent with Artemis, which is useful in recruiting on a project that isn't the biggest payday in town.
For ambitious, youthful filmmakers working at visual, genre narrative without corporate backing: Make peace with pace. Although, I'm certainly happy as the pace quickens. Production will zoom by once it arrives. Plan well.
Comments (1) | Permanent Link | RSS