People who have heard me give a talk recently will probably recognise much of the content of this post. Sorry about that!
A week or so ago I finished the roughs for my comic about Mr Punch. The whole time that I was writing it I was thinking about little else. When I finished it I experienced a sensation that I have become very familiar with lately. Addicts call it a moment of clarity. I suppose I am an addict of a kind. The sensation is that of finding you do not, in fact, live on a tropical island with a deranged puppet and a crocodile but instead in a flat in Peckham. The dust is swirling about in drifts; the recycling is on the verge of an avalanche and your bed has become a feral nesting place. Whilst I go all over in my head, the rest of me goes nowhere. So long as I'm working on a story I honestly do not notice. When I find myself briefly awake and in my own life for a bit I wish I had a bright sword, like the chap in Shadow of the Colossus, that I could hold up and it would show me just exactly the right path so I didn't feel so lost in the world. What a useful thing that would be!
I remember that for my first and second books the American publishers insisted on a dust-jacket with a biography. The biography read, Alexis Deacon was born in 1978, he now lives in London. Thankfully they didn't mention that in 1978 I was also born in London. Since then I have been able to pad out my biography somewhatby talking about all the stories I have written or drawn. Take those away though and you're still left with, Alexis Deacon was born (in London) in 1978, he now lives in London.
Possibly one day something else will happen.
Don't bet on it though.
Here is a story that I sometimes tell myself when I am trying to justify all this lack of action:
When I was small I went on an amazing trip to the United States of America...
We lived in a big apartment building full of exciting people from top to bottom:
That's me on the right, third from the top, waving.
Although we lived around all these interesting people, very few came to visit. The only ones who called by often were the cockroaches... They were about my size so I liked them.
I wanted to make friends with them and have tea parties and such but they weren't really interested in me. They were only interested in a place called the Roach Motel that we had. I wanted to go in but they said it was for Roaches only. I wanted to know what it was like inside but none of them ever came out so I never knew...
One time I was walking home - we were still in New York but in a smaller place - when I noticed the moon between some buildings. It was big.
I walked on for a bit and then I looked around and it was still in the sky right above my head though the buildings had totally changed.
I found this disturbing... so I tried to run
But the moon followed me all the way home.
Because New York was freaky we moved to the desert. There I encountered cacti for the first time. This is how that went:
It took two days to remove the spines.
Also in the desert, I received a chocolate rabbit for Easter. At that time in my life I ate only two things
Therefore I did not know what to do with my chocolate rabbit.
I decided the only sensible thing would be to make him my best friend.
It being the desert though...
...my best friend melted.
So we left the desert. We went on a grand tour instead. We saw...
The Grand Canyon
It was the most exciting trip I have ever been on in my entire life. I was two years old. I remember none of it.
I hold this trip responsible for my addiction to stories and imagination. I felt like this is where I belonged, in super exciting things that other people told me had happened to me. It is a very small step from your aunt Joan telling you that you fell in love with a stuffed Polar Bear in New Mexico to George Lucas telling you that Darth Vader is in fact your father.
Of course lots of people suffer from the same addiction and didn't have anything like this happen to them when they were two. But it's a nice story.
I did it! Just counted the pages -233! Who knew I had it in me...
Actually, in all seriousness this is something I have wanted to achieve since my earliest childhood so this is a big deal for me. I have started so many longer stories over the years and never finished a single one. Working with the students at Anglia Ruskin has really helped me to understand what it takes to see a project through from the first moment to the last. There's nothing like having to communicate what you believe to others for making you realise what you really do think. There's only so many times you can give the same advice without acting on it yourself.
I have made a cover for the roughs and changed the title to better fit with the story as it turned out:
Now I hope I can find someone, somewhere to publish it...
I will finish the roughs for my graphic novel about Mr Punch and his new family this weekend. It is almost 200 pages long. Not sure that's a good thing but I don't see what I can leave out. It made me cry yesterday when something very horrible happened to one of my favourite characters. I think that is a good thing though! Does it have a happy ending? You will have to wait and see!
Here is the very first page... click on it to read it:
I don't often blog about other people's work because I'm usually too wrapped up in my own nonsense. However, some of you might remember that a little while ago I posted about a Punchdrunk installation/play/contemporary dance piece I had been to see. In talking about the show I was most interested in the unique narrative possibilities of that particular form.
Now, I have always thought that the computer game was a really interesting medium in narrative terms. It seldom if ever seems to play to its inherent strengths though. A favourite game of mine was Elite ... it came out a long, long time ago. The reason I liked it so much was because it gave the player a world to play in whilst imposing no scripted story at all. You went from planet to planet buying stuff and selling it on, trying to buy stuff cheap where it was plentiful and sell it at a price where it was scarce. You used your profits to improve your ship. Because the computer that Elite was played on had very little memory, galaxies couldn't be pre-designed, they had to be generated randomly within given parameters. It's called procedural generation I just found out ^-^. What does this mean in narrative terms? It means that no two players are playing the same game for one. It also means that you must provide much of the narrative yourself. I don't know if anyone else played Elite and also did this but I would use the game as a springboard for playground games, games with my toys at home or games in the sketchbook. It really felt like MY story.
I have often wished for a game that was nothing but procedurally generated environments that I would be free to explore. I felt that with the power of today's computers there was the potential for endless forests, oceans, deserts, mountains... no two alike. Such a game would be a story-maker's dream!
Viv just set me a link to this article on boing boing. The game they show, No Man's Sky, looks like EXACTLY what I had hoped someone would make. I think I could make books from a game like this! I pray they don't get cold feet and try and rein it in.
A quiet month on the blog. Sorry about that... but it is all in a good cause. I have been going flat out to try and finish my Mr Punch comic. Because the images are all roughs I am never sure how interesting they are for people to look at. Plus they have spoilers... Here is a selection from the last four chapters: Action packed and largely spoiler free. There is a boy, there is a crocodile, there is Mr Punch, there is Hell, there is a talking bush called Norma. That much I will tell you!