This has been quite the week, but as it's still in process, I'll save it for next time. This time, I'll lean just the facts. Well, just the facts, plus an essay I sort of tossed off the wrist towards the end of last week.
Feeding The Monster That Is Capitalism
Worldbuilding for Monsters
Making the monster beautiful(ish)
Er... remember last newsletter? I may have given the impression that WicDiv ends with issue 33. It doesn't. That's the end of its penultimate year. By my best guess, WicDiv will end around issue 45.
Just in case any of you were worrying.
Also, it was my second 37, which no-one noticed until literally just now. Man!
While I've had weeks with more stuff out (the week when I had something like seven books with my name on them will never be topped), in terms of pure actual RRP this is probably the biggest week of all time. Hail Mammon, I guess.
The Wicked + the Divine 31, which has basically reached the point of Imperial Phase where I don't really want to talk about it, and let people come to it freely. After a calmer last issue, we basically work Jamie and Matt to death with crowd scenes and ludicrous architecture.
I think this is a good one, for the usual WicDiv definitions of "good". I'll try and get the Writer Notes up on the tumblr at some point soon. Maybe over the weekend? We'll see.
Oh – for once, our deadlines mean that letters people write immediately can get in the issue. If you feel the need to say anything, do drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On a similar WicDiv note...
The second hardcover is finally out. It's been delayed to printer problems – basically we weren't happy with the foil on the cover, so we re-did the whole thing. This is meant to be a deluxe collector's edition, so it really needs to be immaculate. Hope you like them.
(There's also a special edition via FP)
Other releases? Uber Invasion 8 where we reintroduce Maria, and see what she's been up to off in Siberia since we last popped in.
I really like what Daniel's done with the Maria covers. She's one of the more unusual characters in the book, and summing that up is clearly tricky. Yes, we're looking at devastation as per Uber, but it's got to be in her mood.
And finally, Marvel are releasing an omnibus collecting Salva and my whole run on Darth Vader.
So, two issues, plus two big hardbacks equals, DO NOT BUY ALL THE STUFF I HAVE OUT THIS WEEK, YOU NEED TO PAY RENT.
From the Q&As...
Q: Hi Kieron, long time reader, third time questioner here. You've posted previously that you research, plan and essentially 'story/worldbuild' for quite some time before putting hand to keyboard. My question is, how do you know when you're ready to start writing? Are you like the Alexander Hamilton of character development wherein you're "never satisfied" or do you suck it up and write for story and passions sake?!
Okay, I’m just going to have a ramble on this one.
Well, “never satisfied” is an inescapable part of doing any art. Whatever you do, it’s never enough. So get used to that.
Research and Worldbuilding aren’t 1:1 things, it’s worth remembering. It’s also worth remembering there are many philosophies on this one, and much of what follows has exceptions.
At least in part to the Tolkien-derived fantasy sorts, there’s been a swing to “All worldbuilding is terrible. Just make it up as you go along” as a philosophy among the more credible writers. I have some time for that.
The problem with getting in love with the worldbuilding is that worldbuilding is simultaneously i) a lot of work ii) not actually writing a story iii) possibly actually causing you to write a worse story due to the amount of effort you’ll take to cram all your carefully wrought worldbuilding in, which inevitably distorts your story.
(I say “Inevitably.” That’s not true. Let’s say there’s a pressure there, and it can be seductive.)
Point ii) is the main one. Worldbuilding is, I suspect, best done with a sense of direction.
I was on a panel at NYCC a couple of years yet, with Marjorie Liu. She was talking about Monstress, and how hard it was for her to get started on it. She had so much of it, but no story. Fundamentally, she realised it was that her lead wasn’t there. She didn’t have a character. She had a middle-earth but no Frodo. You can’t do anything before you have a Frodo.
I visibly had a head-banging moment on the panel, as I realised that was the problem with the project I was then working on. I had an intricate setting I was very fond of, and a story structure to explore it, but there wasn’t a Frodo. I needed a Frodo.
(This was the project I put on the back burner when I had the idea for Spangly New Project.)
Point being, always be aware of why you’re doing it. Also be aware that with all the worldbuilding in the (er) world, you’ll set fire to some of it when writing the book. Some of the best bits of writing is when you’re exploring a setting, and the more you front load that before you really know what you want the setting to DO the more you’re doing work which you will either i) bin or ii) distract you from what your story is actually about. If you’re writing Fiction, keep your Frodo in mind.
(It’s also worth noting that while I’m implicitly talking about Fantasy/Sci-fi settings, worldbuilding is in all projects.)
Research is a different beast. Research is abstractly infinite. For a modern period, there’s more resources than any individual would be ever familiar with. Worse, there’s as much takes on it as evidence. You research any singular event in (say) World War II and you’ll have all these historians takes on it, plus whatever commentators outside it and so on. Whichever Truth you go with, some people will think it’s untrue.
(It’s different for hard facts, of course, but even then you’ll find that historically speaking, many facts are less hard than you’d hope.)
There is a school of writing which basically argues you should do no research and look up facts as and when you need them. I have some sympathy with it, and any writing will involve that. Hell, even something as ludicrously over-worked as THREE involved me looking up a bunch of stuff, not least as I forgot it. Also, Professor Hodkinson going “Er… no” a lot.
It’s also worth noting that excess research has many of the perils of excess worldbuilding. The more you know about a period, the more likely you are to be tempted to include it, for no reason at all, or hang your stories off things which someone simply won’t know or care about. I fall into this one a lot, I suspect, but I do try to mitigate it.
However, the “no research, just write” philosophy does cause its own problems, as exemplified by Mitchell and Webb.
If you’ve done no research and just look for facts you have no idea of anything, you can end up with the above. If you’ve got no idea what the questions you should be asking, you’re fucked.
(It’s also worth noting that the ability to edit the truth is also necessary in any complicated story. What is a fact worth defending? If you’re writing a military or spy book, or anything with a complicated chain of command, I guarantee that many dozens more people would be involved in any given decision. Almost everyone narrows that down, as to render a story vaguely comprehensible. Look at Uber, where we basically get a handful of high ranking people on each side. Everyone does that.)
My research is normally driven towards a single goal - getting a feel for a setting and finding my story. Often I have a core suspicion of what my story will be as I start (in fact, it can be hard to angle your research without it) but there’s a freedom to change that based on what you discover. In the case of the 455 special, I suspected I’d do a story about one of the two latter day sacks of Rome, but I didn’t know which. My research was, to some degree, about “auditioning” whether the gothic or the vandal sack would express what I was trying to express better.
(There is also the negative research - as in, finding that the story idea simply can’t be made to fit the period at all.)
When you’ve got the idea of what the story *is* would be the point I would suggest starting writing. The 1920s special has been problematic, for reasons I’ll probably go into in the issue notes, as while I had it conceptually nailed down to start with, the specific execution was elusive. I read enough until that clicked into space, and then I could abstractly start writing it (using research to fill the gaps).
Really, the deadline is the greatest motivator. Research and Worldbuilding is also a form of procrastination. “Oh, I need to write something now. I better give it a shot” is as basic as it gets.
The other thing you ask about - planning stories - is a sufficiently different topic to save for another time, I think.
Er... yeah. I clearly did ramble.
I also finished the 6 month army-painting challenge with this miniature.
Miniatures being less miniature every year, obviously.
I'll probably write something up about this, but I did some notes about this big fella here.
This Boston Review Review got under my skin, specifically...
For Gaitskill, telling the story of one’s suffering is not an occasion for insight—it is a cause for suspicion, a crude attempt to transform endurance into resolution. Most people cannot live in the senseless and unhappy tangle of life; they need their experiences to reaffirm their sense of self, their dignity, their purpose for living. Yet every triumphal act of narration denies the painful condition of existence shared by all human beings, which is that we will all, eventually, die. Our victories over suffering are temporary at best, a trick to forestall our inevitable confrontation with meaninglessness. To pretend otherwise is a profound act of self-deception.
...this bit, which speaks to the callow triumphialism that frustrates me, not least in my own work.
At the London Super Comic Con I did my first ever writer portfolio sessions, which went okay. However, it did remind me of CB's comic he wrote about some of his experiences while being talent scout for Marvel.
Jamie showed me this article about Maps in Fantasy. Burned out on Fantasy as a teen, I used to be profoundly anti maps. I am now pro maps. Go maps!
Ifanboy had me on to talk about the current state of affairs – Star Wars, WicDiv, Spangly New Project – but it was really an excuse to talk Warhammer shit for 15 minutes at the start.
Work? Mainly finishing off stuff. I cleared my deck of a bunch of scripts, and set myself up for what's next – which is primarily doing some deep plotting on my projects. The second Star Wars arc, WicDiv's final year, Uber final year and actually writing the 1920s special. On a lighter note, we've finalised what we're doing with the extra WicDiv special at Christmas, in terms of the talent that's joining us.
Which certainly looks enigmatic and interesting, wink-wink, etc.