Tales of the Stop author thoughts: Ian Llywelyn Brown

At the end of September, Silverstring Media released Tales of the Stop, an anthology of short stories that I edited to accompany my project Azrael’s Stop. It features stories from ten different authors [including a new story I wrote] about the various people that visited the Stop during the course of Azrael’s Stop that I couldn’t get to in the main story. 

I decided I wanted to ask each of the authors a few questions about why they decided to join me in this experimental journey. This is interview number six, a few questions with Ian Llywelyn Brown, who both wrote The Ones We Leave Behind. You can read the previous interviews as well: Wren Handman, Scott Walker, Steele Filipek, Nathan T. Dean, and Allison Friebertshauser.

Lucas: What attracted you to Azrael’s Stop that led you to writing a story for Tales?

Ian: I really enjoyed the melancholy tone of the original Azrael’s Stop, and the atmosphere that that created drew me into the story’s world. I also enjoyed the implication of a wider fantasy world full of adventures and strange magic, but that the focus cozily stayed on the Stop. I wanted to write something that slid into that melancholy world, and to get a chance to use the setting of the Stop itself to keep things focused on more intimate, emotional problems.

Lucas: Have you ever written content for pre-existing settings before? What was it like to do so now?

Ian: I haven’t! This was my first time. (Unless you count some half-finished fanfic I’m sure I must have written at some point in my life.) It was a really interesting experience for Azrael’s Stop. The main characters of the primary story do a really good job acting as secondary characters without losing any of their life, and it was fun to get to use them to highlight the issues and emotions of a new set of characters. I was surprised at how friendly the setting felt towards expansion and adding stories of new characters. In a lot of settings, partially moving the focus to a new set of characters makes a story feel like it doesn’t belong, but with Azrael’s Stop new characters seemed right at home.

Lucas: How did you choose what to write about for your story? How much was it affected by the existing Azrael’s Stop story or world?

Ian: I was enraptured, in the original story, by the idea of the regulars at the Stop, the people that drink in a bar known for death every day. I wanted to explore their lives, and at the same time I knew I didn’t want to focus directly on Ceph or the other character, that I wanted to have a different set of protagonists. The melancholy feel of the world was also a huge influence. I knew I wanted to capture that same sense of quiet desperation and despair that pervades parts of Azrael’s Stop, and also the strong sense of silent camaraderie between its customers. So out of that came a story about a pair of friends helping each other deal with the loss of a third.

Lucas: How important was Azrael’s Stop’s experimental origins to how you approached your story or the project as a whole?

Ian: I fully admit I didn’t think to experiment with the format of the story when I produced it. However, one of the things I liked about Azrael’s Stop’s experimental origins is it felt like it could support a lot of different stories. The mythology didn’t feel rigid, and the setting felt like it could be tweaked and changed and taken in new directions as necessary. The experimental nature of the piece made me feel more comfortable with using its settings and themes as a flexible framework to build off of, rather than a rigid set of constraints.

Lucas: Your story played very well with the main themes set out in Azrael’s Stop — someone unsure how to live when their loved ones have died, and getting through it thanks to strong friendship. How do you think your story differed or strengthened those ideas?

Ian: I think my story differed in that many of the characters we see in Azrael’s Stop start without a support structure, without the friends they needed to get through their troubles, and slowly built up those supports over time. Whereas I feel like in The Ones We Leave Behind Coros and Leni start the story with each other to lean on. It was less about finding the friends you need, like the main story, than it was trusting those you already had to see you through. That said, the denizens of the Stop help Leni and Coros, too, so they did find some community and support there. (And gave support back to it at the end of the story.) I just think they relied more on old friends, and the community of the Stop enabled them to do that, instead of the community of the stop forming those main friends to be relied on, like in Azrael’s Stop.


You can read Ian’s story and the others in Tales of the Stop — it, Azrael’s Stop, and the official soundtrack that accompanies it are available now for digital download. [And you can read more of my own thoughts about the project at Chuck Wendig’s blog, here.]

Get all three in all available formats and for a bundled discount price at the Silverstring Media store or itch.ioor get them at:

Azrael’s Stop: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Tales of the Stop: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Azrael’s Stop Official Soundtrack: iTunes | CDBaby | Amazon

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Tales of the Stop author thoughts: Allison Friebertshauser

At the end of September, Silverstring Media released Tales of the Stop, an anthology of short stories that I edited to accompany my project Azrael’s Stop. It features stories from ten different authors [including a new story I wrote] about the various people that visited the Stop during the course of Azrael’s Stop that I couldn’t get to in the main story. 

I decided I wanted to ask each of the authors a few questions about why they decided to join me in this experimental journey. This is interview number five, a few questions with Allison Friebertshauser, who both wrote The Ghost of a Memory and did all the interior illustrations for the book! You can read the previous interviews as well: Wren Handman, Scott Walker, Steele Filipek, and Nathan T. Dean.

Lucas: How did you choose what to write about for your story? How much was it affected by the existing Azrael’s Stop story or world?

I saw the chance to have the ghost character of my novel Ghosts Underfoot have a conversation with another dead kid and couldn’t resist. Michael and Rye view their situation from such different perspectives, Rye clinging to what he has left and resigned to it in a way, while Michael fights it. They’re a great pair to play off of each other, and I wanted to give Rye a chance to speak.

Lucas: So your story Ghost of a Memory incorporated characters from another project you’re working on in a kind of collision of worlds. What was it like to bring your characters from one setting to another? Why did you want to write about that moment for your characters?  

Allison: I liked the idea of the Stop existing free of a single world. Since Ghosts Underfoot begins right after Michael’s death in a car accident, the Stop was the perfect place to tell Michael’s story from his own perspective, which I don’t get a chance to do in the novel. And the rebel in me wanted to tell a Stop story about someone who refuses to play by the rules.

 

Lucas: Have you ever written content for pre-existing settings before? What was it like to do so now?

Allison: Before this I’d only written in worlds that I had sole control over, and it was a very strange experience to not be the final authority of the setting I was telling a story in. The first draft was very hesitant, and I didn’t want to put the wrong words into the mouths of someone else’s characters, but eventually I just had to commit and jump in. Thankfully, you are a very kind editor.

Lucas: You also did the illustrations for the anthology. Can you talk about creating a visual piece to accompany different stories? How did you decide what to draw?

Allison: As I read each story, I kept an eye out for a visual symbol or a key moment for the character/s. For example, in the piece for “The Ghost of a Memory,” Rye doesn’t exactly get a lot of opportunities for “physical” contact, so that handshake with Michael is a small action with a lot of weight. Kind of like being given a bottle of water at a “Long Journey’s End.”


You can read Allison’s story and the others in Tales of the Stop — it, Azrael’s Stop, and the official soundtrack that accompanies it are available now for digital download. [And you can read more of my own thoughts about the project at Chuck Wendig’s blog, here.]

Get all three in all available formats and for a bundled discount price at the Silverstring Media store or itch.ioor get them at:

Azrael’s Stop: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Tales of the Stop: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Azrael’s Stop Official Soundtrack: iTunes | CDBaby | Amazon

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Tales of the Stop author thoughts: Nathan T. Dean

At the end of September, Silverstring Media released Tales of the Stop, an anthology of short stories that I edited to accompany my project Azrael’s Stop. It features stories from ten different authors [including a new story I wrote] about the various people that visited the Stop during the course of Azrael’s Stop that I couldn’t get to in the main story. 

I decided I wanted to ask each of the authors a few questions about why they decided to join me in this experimental journey. This is interview number four, a few questions with Nathan T. Dean, who wrote the interactive fiction piece Death and His Deer. You can read the previous interviews as well: Wren Handman, Scott Walker, and Steele Filipek.

Lucas: What attracted you to Azrael’s Stop that led you to writing a story for Tales?

Nathan: Initially the format, followed by the content. Which, in a way, is strange for me. Usually – and I speak on behalf of audiences in general here, whether they like it or not – it’s what the story is about that intrigues us initially. Naturally, we are aware of the format (novel, game, film), but as long as the story is fascinating we accept how it delivered to us. Azrael’s felt slightly reversed. I was intrigued initially by the format – short flash fic, soundtrack, etc – and then discovered this rich world beneath. I needed to add to that sensation of “that’s an intriguing format” and “this world has so much potential for exploration.”

Lucas: Have you ever written content for pre-existing settings before? What was it like to do so now?

Nathan: I’ve had a pre-existing setting of mine implemented into a festival (The Oneiriad) [http://oneiriad-zero.tumblr.com], and like all writers playing in the sandbox that is the imagination I’ve written fanfiction (guilty pleasure, I’m quite proud of my Batman story; Captain Scarlet is next). The latter certainly is a warm-up exercise for the writer developing original content. It’s muscle stretching. Knowing the limits and then developing new ways of breaking them down. So when you get invited to an existing world, where you get to add not just fan-fic, but actual canon to a reality, you take what you learnt from your previous experiments and apply them. Though, I have to say, it is mildly more nervewracking, as now it is more than just play, it’s a finished product. It was just fantastic having a world like Azrael’s Stop to do that in, as it has so much potential, so many secret rooms so to speak.

Lucas: How did you choose what to write about for your story? How much was it affected by the existing Azrael’s Stop story or world?

Nathan: Death is so crucial to Azrael’s Stop, obviously. I had to give the collection Death, a physical incarnation. However knowing its lore and its mythopoeia as it stood, I couldn’t just have Azrael rock up and start changing things. So… well I won’t say more, you’ll have to read my tale. But in short, I wanted to express the emotional spectrum that is Death, seeing as that was a theme so prevalent in the original story, through the eyes of the player.

Similarly, the format. As I said before this is what initially sparked my curiosity. So I picked a format I knew that Silverstring Media understood in greater depth than me (thanks for the edits!) that also really placed you in that tavern. I wanted you to enter every room, drink the mead, speak to the characters. I mean, in how many instances do you get to explore death itself that directly? Interactive novellas is a format I want to explore more and more as I continue my writing career.

Lucas: Your story was unique in the anthology because you wrote a piece of interactive fiction. Why did you choose interactive fiction as the medium for your story? What do you think interactivity allows in writing that non-interactive stories don’t? How important was Azrael’s Stop’s experimental origins to your decision?

Nathan: Incredibly. If you are going to enter the world of someone else’s design you have to be aware of that design not just on a narratological level, but on others as well. How it was constructed. Why. This was why I wanted to explore more how interactive fiction and character interplay with one another. I wanted to place you in a specific individual, rather than what I usually find in interactive stories, where the second person is used extensively. I have no issue with “you are doing this” where the “you” of the scenario is a blank, tabula rasa for the player to inhabit – it develops an emotional connection quite effectively – but I wanted to experiment with that. I wanted to tell you what you felt, even why you felt it. I wanted to give you a history that you, as the player, had to compute. Combine that with the experimental origins of Azrael’s Stop – and the plethora of personifications within – and I think it slotted in nicely with the themes.

 


You can read [play?] Nathan’s story, Death and His Deer, and the others in Tales of the Stop — it, Azrael’s Stop, and the official soundtrack that accompanies it are available now for digital download. [And you can read more of my own thoughts about the project at Chuck Wendig’s blog, here.]

Get all three in all available formats and for a bundled discount price at the Silverstring Media store or itch.ioor get them at:

Azrael’s Stop: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Tales of the Stop: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Azrael’s Stop Official Soundtrack: iTunes | CDBaby | Amazon

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Tales of the Stop author thoughts: Steele Filipek

At the end of September, Silverstring Media released Tales of the Stop, an anthology of short stories that I edited to accompany my project Azrael’s Stop. It features stories from ten different authors [including a new story I wrote] about the various people that visited the Stop during the course of Azrael’s Stop that I couldn’t get to in the main story. 

I decided I wanted to ask each of the authors a few questions about why they decided to join me in this experimental journey. Today I present the third of these, a few questions with Steele Filipek, who wrote Long Journey’s End. You can read the first one, with Wren Handman, here, and the second, with Scott Walker, here.

Lucas: What attracted you to Azrael’s Stop that led you to writing a story for Tales?

Steele: What intrigued me the most was the communal story-building aspect, that a number of authors were working together to build up a world together. The result was a lot of different voices that all pushed in the same narrative direction; fun from a reading POV and fascinating from an editorial perspective.

Lucas: You regularly write content for pre-existing settings. What’s it like to do so, and how was Tales different?

Steele: Typically with clients, I have to please a lot of people and take a lot of perspectives into the production. This is necessary for massive implementations, of course, but here? It was nice to be freed to care about the story and only have the ever-watchful eye of Lucas Johnson to push/prod me in the right direction.

Lucas: How did you choose what to write about for your story? How much was it affected by the existing Azrael’s Stop story or world?

Steele: I wanted a story that could—in a short time—expand on as much of the world as possible, while dealing with the themes of mortality that came with the piece. I read a lot of the background and other content from Azrael’s Stop, of course, but also wanted to see how far I could push the physical boundaries “on the map” in such a short piece.

 

Lucas: Your story tells of a fantastical journey across the world. We obviously had to work together a bit to ensure everything fit into the setting; why did you want to explore the world in this way, and what does that kind of journey mean to you?

Steele: Part of my push was selfish, in that I wanted to see how much of an impact I could have on the world by letting my imagination run wild, but in another sense, I wanted to mirror the physical journey to the mental one. The most amazing quests are those that take place in the human mind: how we become who we are, and our place in the world. The footsteps we take are the symptom of our need to make sense of existence.

Plus, I find the juxtaposition of fantastic imagery with little old naked men to be humorous.


You can read Steele’s story, Long Journey’s End, and the others in Tales of the Stop — it, Azrael’s Stop, and the official soundtrack that accompanies it are available now for digital download. [And you can read more of my own thoughts about the project at Chuck Wendig’s blog, here.]

Get all three in all available formats and for a bundled discount price at the Silverstring Media store or itch.ioor get them at:

Azrael’s Stop: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Tales of the Stop: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Azrael’s Stop Official Soundtrack: iTunes | CDBaby | Amazon

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Tales of the Stop author thoughts: Scott Walker

At the end of September, Silverstring Media released Tales of the Stop, an anthology of short stories that I edited to accompany my project Azrael’s Stop. It features stories from ten different authors [including a new story I wrote] about the various people that visited the Stop during the course of Azrael’s Stop that I couldn’t get to in the main story. 

I decided I wanted to ask each of the authors a few questions about why they decided to join me in this experimental journey. Today I present the second of these, a few questions with Scott Walker, who wrote The Hammer and the Nail. You can read the first one, with Wren Handman, here.

Lucas: What attracted you to Azrael’s Stop that led you to writing a story for Tales?

Scott: With collaborative efforts, I personally find myself initially drawn to people: would it be fun to work with them?

Interest in a particular project is important, but secondary: would I like playing in that world? do I think I have anything interesting or original to contribute?

Lastly, I ask myself if I have the bandwidth to tackle the collaboration: would it be easy to contribute to this project?

In this case, I definitely wanted to work with you, I liked what you had created for Azrael’s Stop and Tales of The Stop, and it was obvious that how you structured your world made it super easy for an outside writer to step in and contribute a work that also naturally and organically extended the world narrative.

How could I say no?   ; )

Lucas: Have you ever written content for pre-existing settings before? What was it like to do so now?

Scott: Aside from some very short-lived fanfic as a kid and my own contributions to Runes of Gallidon, I contributed a short piece of fiction to Carrie Cutforth-Young’s serialized romantic comedy project, All Your Fates.

Though that project was outside my wheelhouse in terms of genre, I was interested in working with Carrie and in the challenge of writing something in that space. Finally, it was clear my story could slot perfectly into All Your Fates’ larger narrative arc.

Having been on the receiving end of submissions for Runes of Gallidon, I perhaps had a jump on constructing a story that would live nicely in All Your Fates and Tales of The Stop. That doesn’t mean my stories were necessarily better, but I approached them with a mindset of, “now, what would work best for that setting?” instead of perhaps, “Well, this story doesn’t really fit the setting, but I’m going to write it anyway” (or worse, “I’ll just write whatever I like and not even bother researching the setting!”).

It certainly helped that while both you and Carrie provided hard guidelines, you also welcomed a lot of creative freedom on the part of the contributors.

So both experiences were very similar, even though the worlds were, well, worlds apart. That is to say, I had a blast!

Lucas: How did you choose what to write about for your story? How much was it affected by the existing Azrael’s Stop story or world?

Scott: Again, your structure was perfectly suited for rapid idea iteration (through your prior stories you established the logic of the world and how The Stop fits in with a character’s death).

In other words, I knew the shape of my story (someone wanders into the Stop right before they die), even if I didn’t immediately know all the specifics (who, when, how, etc.).

As a result, the world greatly affected what I wrote, but I didn’t have to worry much at all about the other stories, even though I had read them.

For comparison, imagine being Chuck Wendig, who just had his first Star Wars novel published. Even after scraping away the Expanded Universe content from the core canon, Disney still left Chuck with a lot of material to wade through. Imagine having to climb that mountain of canonical content before you even start writing your own story!

Both All Your Fates and Azrael’s Stop were the complete opposite. You might call them settings with a light world building touch. There’s more than enough to hang your writer’s hat on, but not enough to slow you down.

I brainstormed a bit and fairly quickly had an idea for an audio script in which an old man is unknowingly poisoned by a mute boy while the man has a drink at the Stop. The old man’s dialogue showed just what a nasty little worm he was, and the story had a reveal at the end where the man — and the reader — learned the boy’s parents were killed by the man a few years earlier. The boy and the Stop’s crow stare down silently as the man breaths his last breath. His death was justifiable, but it’s still a tragic little scene.

I used a few creative cheats and wrote a script that only required a single voice actor but which allowed for “interaction” between the old man and Ceph and the boy. I planned on voicing the old man and keeping production super simple.

However, even with that simple approach, I didn’t really have the time to put together a decent audio, and you had some great feedback on the “rules” of The Stop and how it all worked that required a slight tweak to the ending. Those factors led me to shelving the idea for an audio piece and going with a short story. But during that transition, I also began having other ideas about how the story could play out.

The mute boy got dropped, and the protagonist shifted from an unsympathetic character to a more relatable person. Someone who, at the end of his life, acknowledges his regrets and seeks peace, if not redemption, for his misdeeds. What better place for that to happen than The Stop, right?

And I had just reread the Conan story, “The Red Nails,” which is a great little tale about two groups of humans battling each other within a city (one group keeps track of how many they have killed by putting nails in a wall).

During an early draft on the new story, I wrote a scene where my protagonist pulls a nail from his pocket while he waits for his drink at The Stop. As he plays with the nail, the reader comes to understand it represents a part of the man’s past. That little inspiration (thank you, Writing Muse!) ended up giving me the title for my story: “The Hammer and The Nail.”

I think we had one round of edits on the new story to ensure it was still consistent with The Stop’s canonical world, and the final version was put to bed.

Lucas: As you’ve mentioned, we discussed a few different story ideas before you wrote the final piece that ended up in the anthology. How do you balance your vision or idea as an author–and what you want to explore in the piece–versus working with an editor or fitting the story into a larger context? More generally perhaps, since you’ve worked with Shared Worlds a lot, can you talk about the collaborative writing process?

Scott: Perhaps I was just lucky, because both you and Carrie allowed me to explore what I wanted, even as you requested edits. I agreed with all of your feedback, and I welcomed your suggestions. My stories were much better as a result.

And let’s be honest. If you’re working with an editor, that’s a form of collaboration. You gave me some great feedback that didn’t lay out specifically how to change my story, but your general feedback ended up prompting a completely new (and better) one. My story evolved as a result of our interaction, which began with your invitation to contribute to Tales of The Stop and ended with your final feedback.

At its best, working with an editor is a wonderful, collaborative experience, which is exactly how it felt to contribute to Azrael’s Stop.


Tales was a great experience in collaborative storytelling, and I was very glad to have Scott’s experience and willingness to work together as part of it.

You can read his story, The Hammer and the Nail, and the others in Tales of the Stop — it, Azrael’s Stop, and the official soundtrack that accompanies it are available now for digital download. [And you can read more of my own thoughts about the project at Chuck Wendig’s blog, here.]

Get all three in all available formats and for a bundled discount price at the Silverstring Media store or itch.ioor get them at:

Azrael’s Stop: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Tales of the Stop: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Azrael’s Stop Official Soundtrack: iTunes | CDBaby | Amazon

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Tales of the Stop author thoughts: Wren Handman

At the end of September, Silverstring Media released Tales of the Stop, an anthology of short stories that I edited to accompany my project Azrael’s Stop. It features stories from ten different authors [including a new story I wrote] about the various people that visited the Stop during the course of Azrael’s Stop that I couldn’t get to in the main story. 

I decided I wanted to ask each of the authors a few questions about why they decided to join me in this experimental journey. Today I present the first of these, a few questions with Wren Handman, who wrote This, At Least, Is My Story.

Lucas: What attracted you to Azrael’s Stop that led you to writing a story for Tales?

Wren: Writing fiction is an incredibly solitary activity, but I think one of the things that inspires many writers (certainly something that inspires me) is reading or watching something really amazing and thinking, ‘I want to be part of that; I want to DO that.’ Usually we can only achieve that in a very metaphorical sense. We can write our own TV show because we love watching TV; we can write our own book because we adore reading. But getting to dive into someone else’s world, to play in the fantastical boundaries of another person’s imagination, is a really exciting extension of that drive that’s pushing us all.

Lucas: Have you ever written content for pre-existing settings before? What was it like to do so now?

Wren: This is my first experience writing fiction in a pre-existing setting. I have done work on a very collaborative TV show whose world mostly existed before I got there, so it isn’t the first time I’ve worked with clay that’s already been fired, so to speak.

I think the biggest challenge with a project like this is the terror of not living up to what came before! You have this incredible thing to work with, and you don’t want to twist it out of shape; but you also want to bring new colours and dimensions to it, so it’s a tricky line to walk.

Lucas: How did you choose what to write about for your story? How much was it affected by the existing Azrael’s Stop story or world?

Wren: I really wanted to do something that was unique, and that the other writers involved in the project wouldn’t already have thought of. So when I read the setting package that you had given me, I was sort of looking for the blank space — the stories that were hinted at but not quite told, the shadows behind the words. I wanted it to be very much a product of what was there, but not obvious.

Lucas: Your story uses really interesting POV and stylistic writing. Why did you choose to write it like that?

Wren: One of the most exciting things about Azrael’s Stop, to me, is it’s experimental storytelling. It isn’t just about ‘here’s some fiction, there you go.’ It weaves together music, fiction, Twitter stories; it plays with form and length. So I knew that I would be able to do something here that maybe wouldn’t be allowed in a more traditional setting, and that got me really excited. To be honest the form came quite quickly from the idea of the Void, of that erasure. What would the world be like if we lost our sense of time, our ability to distinguish the ‘now’ from the ‘then’? That was a fascinating question to me, and I couldn’t wait to try it out.


 

And I’m glad she did; This, At Least, Is My Story is one of the more innovative in the anthology and early on gave me a lot of confidence that I was putting together something really cool.

You can read it and the others in Tales of the Stop — it, Azrael’s Stop, and the official soundtrack that accompanies it are available now for digital download. [And you can read more of my own thoughts about the project at Chuck Wendig’s blog, here.]

Get all three in all available formats and for a bundled discount price at the Silverstring Media store or itch.ioor get them at:

Azrael’s Stop: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Tales of the Stop: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Azrael’s Stop Official Soundtrack: iTunes | CDBaby | Amazon

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The Inconsistency of Firefly’s Themes

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a series of tweets about Firefly that people seemed to like, so I thought I’d turn them into a brief blog post.

So let’s talk about some of the themes of Firefly and how one of its messages seems to be incomplete and inconsistent.

The Firefly story upholds this idea of freedom as the moral absolute, framing it as freedom against an oppressive government — Mal fights against forced unification and then, when he fails to stop it, does whatever he can to maintain his own freedom by flying out of the Alliance’s reach. But, Firefly is also framed as a civil war story, in which the Browncoats are stand-ins for the Confederates wanting to “maintain their freedom” (which we all know isn’t what the Civil War was really about, but the Firefly world doesn’t have slavery in the same way).

So the show is making this problematic comparison, and then erasing the problem. The result of which is that the show just sterilizes the Civil War and seems to glorify Confederates.

But it IS showing us that the Alliance government is actually hugely oppressive and problematic. This is government without oversight. Not to mention the implied influence that Big Corporations (Blue Sun) have over the government, too. And this really does speak to the problems with some government in our world. See: police brutality, corporate interests, the Koch brothers…

So “freedom” from those things certainly looks like it makes sense and is worth fighting for (see: modern day protests, etc.). If you ignore the problematic Confederate comparison, it seems like Mal is a hero wanting the right things.

However, after losing the war, Mal just tries to run away from the oppressive government. This isn’t a great solution to the problem, and governmentless small-town libertarianism is not a better alternative: we see crime-lord-run planets, oppressive sheriffs, folks who can’t get the medical attention they need, witch-hunters… And our protagonists just choose to live outside it all.

Mal’s better world is NOT better for those without power, for those without the means to escape (like Mal). There’s no social equality here.

Because ultimately, we do need government — just, government free from corporate influence, with more transparency and oversight, etc. We need government that is just and helps the oppressed.

Neither the Alliance Core nor the wild Rim are good ways for the world to work — and while the show does demonstrate that, it doesn’t give a better solution. Until, perhaps, the movie, when we get a real protest/attempt to tear down the establishment, none of the characters are actually trying to make the world a better place, or even represent the desire to make the world a better place. Even in the movie, they end up wanting to tear down the establishment, but no replacement is offered.

None of the characters represent a better choice, an alternative other than stating that the current situation is Not Good.

Despite its attempts to convince us otherwise, Firefly’s universe is one without hope for something better.


 

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Lucas J.W. Johnson’s Azrael’s Stop and Tales of the Stop, along with the Azrael’s Stop Official Soundtrack, are all available now for digital download!

Get all three in all available formats and for a bundled discount price at the Silverstring Media store or itch.ioor get them at:

Azrael’s Stop: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Tales of the Stop: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Azrael’s Stop Official Soundtrack: iTunes | CDBaby | Amazon

Musings, Writing , , ,

The culmination of a project

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When I first got out of school and was starting to develop Silverstring Media, I started a writing project called Azrael’s Stop. It started off as this big experimental thing on Twitter, using a bunch of different types of media, and it had a lot of problems. Over the five years since I started it, it’s had things that just didn’t work, gone through several incarnations, been on hiatus, all the things you might expect from a struggling project.

But I kept coming back to it. I never wanted to give up on it entirely, because despite all its issues, there was a core to it that I really liked. I’ve always been proud of the story and the writing, and those who have read it have often seemed to really connect to it. I wanted to see it through.

While it’s gone through many iterations, one idea I had really stuck in my mind for a while, and that was to open up the story to other writers, to invite others into my world. To let other people tell their own stories in Azrael’s Stop.

See, a big part of the theme of Azrael’s Stop is the telling of stories. Azrael’s Stop is about dealing with death, and this is usually done by people sharing stories with each other, whether telling their own story to make peace with their life before passing on, or sharing stories of friends who have passed.

I have always believed that storytelling is one of the greatest things we have, as humans. Stories have great power to create empathy, to elicit emotion, to show us what it’s like to be in other people’s circumstances, to help us through trauma or to greater understandings of ourselves. Media and culture hold tremendous power to shape thought and conversation. Art makes us think, challenges us, helps us.

Azrael’s Stop is about death, but mostly it’s about this, it’s about stories. Nael says, “No myth is just a myth. No song is just a song. No story just a story. Telling it gives it meaning. Hearing it gives it meaning. Gives it power. There is truth in even the most blatant fiction. You find the meaning you need.”

I’m incredibly proud of the story I tell in Azrael’s Stop, but I wanted other people to tell their stories too.

On September 24th, Silverstring Media is publishing the sequel to Azrael’s Stop, an anthology of ten new stories from ten different authors called Tales of the Stop. I am extremely proud of every single one.

We’ve also released a second edition of Azrael’s Stop this month. Azrael’s Stop, Tales of the Stop, and the Azrael’s Stop Official Soundtrack are all available for purchase or preorder as digital downloads from http://silverstringmedia.com/store as well as the following places:

Azrael’s Stop: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Tales of the Stop: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Azrael’s Stop Official Soundtrack: iTunes | CDBaby | Amazon

Or get all three in all available formats and for a bundled discount price at the Silverstring Media store or itch.io.

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Christmas Letter 2013

Dear friends and family,

Well, it’s been another crazy year. As you all know, it started in January. You’d think we’d be used to that by now. It does seem to happen every year. Regardless, we rallied pretty quickly, just in time for February to arrive without any sort of notice. The nerve of some people, you know? At least it didn’t stay for as long as the others.

March came in like a lion. Well, with a lion. Scared the bejeezus out of us. We managed to distract her with a laser pointer, though — turns out they really are just big cats.

April brought some strange weather with it. Showers, sure, but mostly consisting of glitter and kittens. We set up big pads and stuff to save the kittens when they fell — luckily terminal velocity for cats isn’t enough to kill them. We still haven’t gotten the glitter out of everything, though. It gets in the craziest places.

May’s flowers were ferocious. I almost lost a finger! Never seen such bloodthirsty little buggers before. I swear they’re putting something in the water these days. Or maybe it was glitter. Anyway, we lost a few kittens, sadly. On the other hand, there haven’t been nearly as many bugs this year. Silver lining, I guess?

Speaking of silver linings, in June we were attacked by pirates insisting that we lived over an ancient buried stash of Mexican silver. I have no idea how they got their ship up beside our house, we’re not that close to the beach. Sheer willpower, perhaps. Anyway, the lion helped get rid of them.

In July we took our new floating pirate ship for a holiday to Olympia. Those Greek gods sure know how to party, let me tell you. Dionysus brought out this special nectar he’d been saving for a special occasion (apparently flying pirate ships qualify) and boy did that shake things up. I can see why they warn mortals against drinking the drink of the gods. Wooey. We spent several nights with Apollo, Ganymedes, and Hermes, that’s all I’ll say.

That’s actually all I can remember, honestly. August and September are kind of a blur. Nectar, man.

October proved a little more stressful. Work got really busy towards the end of the year. Not a day went by that I wasn’t dealing with crazy clients who wanted me to assassinate competitors, torture rivals, or defer payments. I had to dodge ninjas twice! It would’ve helped if we still had that March lion, but I think she must have been left on Olympus. I hope she’s ok.

November was calmer. We holed up in a cave in the woods, barricaded with electric fencing and a dragon. It was very peaceful. I’m not sure I still have a job, though. I haven’t asked.

And now it’s December and Christmas time, our favourite time of year, when all the little elves come out to frolic in the snow and cast their spells of enforced peace and harmony like magical little pixie dystopian dictators. I did see a few get eaten by the flowers that had survived the cold. Tis the season!

Hope all of you are well. I guess this Christmas letter thing is becoming a bit of a tradition. And watch out for creepy tentacled things bringing in the new year!

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Game of Thrones and Storytelling

A disclaimer: I have read only the first novel in the Song of Ice and Fire series, and have watched the show to the current episode. Spoilers for the show follow.

In Season One of Game of Thrones, and by extension the first novel, I was — as anyone would be — “cheering for” Ned Stark. I think I even knew that he was going to die while I did it. But in Ned we had a character we could really root for, someone we could identify with and empathise with when things went to shit, but still hold out some hope that something would go right.

In season two, that character was probably Tyrion. We liked him; we liked to watch him succeed despite his troubles, felt for him when things didn’t go his way. We might cheer for other characters, be upset when they were killed or shat upon… but I’m starting to notice that I almost don’t care any more. Especially so with the Red Wedding. I was far more upset that Catelyn was killed than Rob — I was pretty sure he was doomed, and his storyline was less than compelling — but even she had lost a lot of my love in this last season.

What’s happened is that Game of Thrones has stopped being a story for me. A story needs to be something I can really engage with, something that invokes empathy. It used to be a bit of a Hero’s Journey for some of the characters. Now everyone just goes along until they die.

Game of Thrones has become a history.

Which is to say, it’s extremely interesting. I like the narrative. There are certainly characters I want to see succeed (Arya, Gendry, Dani, Sansa). But I’ve become jaded to the storyline. I’ve become less invested.

chuckgot

I watched the first season before I read the first book. I liked how that worked out for me, because it meant I could relive the good storylines while getting more detailed lore about the world; it didn’t feel like the show had spoiled it for me.

I’ll almost certainly keep watching the show. I do want to see where it goes and to some extent I still feel invested it in. But I don’t think I’ll ever finish the books. I just don’t care to invest 800 pages times 5+ novels in history. Game of Thrones has fallen into the same trap for me as The Lord of the Rings. It’s just…not a good story. It’s a description of events that happened.

I need some up with my down. I need some triumph. I need people I want to spend hours of my life with, and an emotional payoff for that investment. Otherwise — I dunno — I think you’re doing it wrong. 

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