This week sees a new departure, at least, the opening up of a new region in These fantastic Worlds.
I’m keen to invoke the spirits of Weird Tales of the 1930s, Analog in the ’50s, Marvel’s Epic in the ’70s — they offered wild landscapes that ranged from Robert E. Howard’s ancient Hyperboria, to ERB’s Mars. I loved Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone of the ’60s, Vincent Price’s radio show Price of Fear, the X-files, I sought out old comics and paperback books, rifled through second hand shops for arcane copies of Wonder and Amazing and Astonishing, and lapped up the latest Harlan Ellison short, or Ray Bradbury tale, discovered Poul Anderson, Ben Bova, Michael Moorcock, oh and later, Star Trek, Alien, Matrix, the Silver Surfer, and more. At the time I didn’t make a distinction between the new stuff and the re-publications of old Conan Doyle, H. G. Wells or Abraham Merritt, C. E. Moore, or Rider Haggard, or Algernon Blackwood or H P Lovecraft . Their worlds swilled and collided around in my head. I used to draw and and draw, write ridiculous stories, hand-make little magazines for my friends at school.
But life took me in other directions, and it’s taken a long time to come back to my heartland, a universe of ideas with no barriers, endless imagination reaching out for worlds beyond the dead hand of the day-to day.
Micro-fiction and Podcasts
So far I’ve enjoyed writing at the weekends, and have just started chapter 2 of the second book in an SF and Fantasy trilogy. Also, a couple of short novels, and 13 short stories. But this activity is strictly regimented, just an hour and a half early on Saturday and Sunday. I tend to make the blog during little spaces of time in the week.
But work has overwhelmed me in the last few months, so I’ve turned to micro-fiction as a way of keeping the blog interesting, but also exercising those storytelling muscles, improving them, fine-tuning. There’ll still be articles on writers, artists, movies and more (er, yes, guitars too, those Roger Dean covers of the 70s continue to urge me on), but for the next few months I’ll focus more heavily on writing, and offer the stories in a variety of formats.
The process starts with a black and white ink illustration, which inspires a story, followed fairly swiftly by their release through Wattpad, this blog and a new, short SF and Fantasy podcast, These Fantasic Worlds. I’m aiming for one a week, starting with 10, to see how it goes.
To make it work I’ve had to be brutal with the time, optimizing a workflow to keep it all moving during a busy week, with tons of other commitments (work, family, life etc).
Stage 1: Make it!
- Quick pencil sketch, then refine the form lines and fill in with black strokes, painted areas for deep shadows and finish off with white ink. (Inspirations are Gustav Dore, Virgil Finlay, Roy G. Krenkel, Jeffrey Catherine Jones, Bernie Wrightson Smith, Frazetta, and Bernie Wrightson. If I could draw half, a quarter, as well…) I can an usually make this while listening or watching something else.
- Use the image as the springboard for a 1000 word story.
- Write it in one hour.
- Several rewrites, especially if it’s shown to others who notice all the plot holes and lack of consistency…
- Make sure it reads well, aloud.
Stage 2: Customize
- Scan the image at 600 dpi in greyscale.
- Tidy up in Photoshop, insert copyright and other meta data.
- Save it in tif, jpg and png versions (three main sizes of 300 dpi/150dpi and 72 dpi).
- Create a cover with the illustration, for Wattpad, using a self-made template in Photoshop.
Stage 3: Prepare for Distribution
- Create a new post in WordPress, using the audio template.
- Add image as feature.
- Add the story with a short intro.
- Add SEO, categories and tags.
- Use metadata already created and finalise the draft story
- Upload text and cover to Wattpad.
Stage 4: Create the Podcast
- Record story in a soft part of the room (no harsh reflections) using a studio USB mike, directly into the iPad or iPhone
- Basic check on levels, and edits on starts and endings.
- Export to Dropbox
- Use previously created Logic Pro template with music, intro and exit voices on multiple tracks
- Open Logic Pro project, insert the story file, add simple effects, balance the stereo.
- Mixdown to mp3.
- Open in Studio Studio and make a final Dynamic Range Compression using custom settings. Add podcast metadata, including image, copyright, categories etc.
- Upload final mp3 to WordPress. Check the player can read the file.
Stage 5: Disseminate
- Publish the Wattpad story.
- Publish the blog post
- Track the release of the podcast (picked up by Feedburner from wordpress).
It took some hunting down to assemble this but, at last it’s all in place, so I can focus on the stories.
For the illustration
- 0.1, 0.3 and 0.5 black pigment ink pens (Letraset and Edding).
- White Rotring ink.
- A4 Bristol board (Frisk), trimmed to A5 with a scalpel.
- HB, 2B and 4B pencils (Derwent and Staedtler).
- Staedtler eraser (the best! and vital!).
For the Story
- Alfons Schmidt’s Notebooks for Mac, iPad mini and iPhone. Essential for drafting on one device, editing on another, and make final corrections on the bus or tube on the phone. Modern life eh?
- Cappuccino. The ultimate focusing mechanism.
- Or red wine, if it’s late at night (more likely)
For the Podcast
- iPhone, iPad mini, computer, Dropbox
- recording software (tried several but Twisted Wave is great)
- multi-track production (Logic Pro, completely over the top, but I use it for music)
- microphone (an Apogee USB direct mike) and mike stand.
- I needed an additional voice to provide some texture, so in stepped an essential part of this kit, Frances, my life partner and a brilliant actor in her spare time.
It all starts here
This took an amazing amount of account opening, upgrading or refining: Feedburner, Twisted Wave, Wattpad, Photobucket, WordPress, iTunes and various false starts on recording software, but now, everything’s ready to go. I’ve tested all the technical stuff, so the focus is on the storytelling.
Once 10 have been released there’ll be Pinterest Boards and an app too, so the new stories on These Fantastic Worlds will appear in all sorts of new places.
The first podcast will release on this site later this week, to begin the iTunes process (which involves some painful approvals) but it will go live on other services, such as Stitcher, Podcast411, and various podcast directories.
I hope you enjoy them, I’d be grateful for feedback, as ever.
Here are some of the first stories:
Here are some other related posts:
- Virgil Finlay: Master of Dark Fantasy Illustration
- Algernon Blackwood: Master of Supernatural Fiction
- H. P. Lovecraft: From Weird to Modern Gothic
- Top 10 Science Fiction Movies!
- Modern Artists: Roy G. Krenkel
Here’s a Pinterest Board with some of the inspirations in this post.