Kieron Gillen's workblog




Just finished did a final draft on the script I wrote last week, and got it off to Charity. I'm pleased with it. In fact, I've got the nagging suspicion that it could be the best executed piece of comics work I've yet written. The PHONOGRAM scripts are more ambitious, but that alone makes them almost inevitably less well executed.

We'll see.

It's for the Variance anthology which I've plugged a couple of times here, and - with any luck - should be one of two pieces I'll have included. The first is the long-coming final HIT with Wilson Hall on art, which is space-operatic evolutionary compressed sci-fi about the entire history of time and the death of the universe, in five pages, with no words.

This script, prosaically entitled "Something's Wrong", deals with a similar end-of-the-world scenario, but from a ground-level perspective.

And, to the horror of the Minister Drill-cock! fans, it's a love-story. A love story in the shadow of Armageddon, but a love story nevertheless.

It's a genre I've coined an "Apocalypse Romance". This is the ultimate expression of the classic Me-and-you-versus-the-world - me-and-you-versus-the-end-of-the-world, if you will. It's where a couple finds what exactly their love means in the face of adversity, in this case the end of everything, ever. And this sort of desperate, futile, human love is something that resonates strongly with me. I came to life in the eighties, with CND stickers on walls around me, with people scanning the skies for rocket trails and when finding mushrooms in fields our immediate thoughts were of the hiroshima variety. Life was futile.

And in situations where life is ultimately futile, it becomes precious. If you have one last second left, what would you do?

I know what I would. Or rather, I know what I hope I would, my own small defiance.

So it's a romance, in every sense of the world. It's why my "When the Wind Blows" reference is something of a lie - that humanised Nuclear Holocaust by tying it to two very small and human figures. This short turns it into the montagues and capulets combined, the force to tear love apart and make it as nothing. So it's a lie.

But I think where it works it's a very true lie, and it's a lie I believe which makes it a kind of truth.

It's been a hard script to write. Not technically - that's PHONOGRAM, which made me butt walls in frustration. But emotionally, I was drained after hammering out the first draft in four hours or so. It would have been very easy to write it as pure hack work, and fall into the basic fiction-formed male-female relationships.

But that would have made me vomit. And anyone who I'd have wanted to touch would have been equally as disgusted with it.

So I needed a couple who were both in totally in love, yet not totally revolting. In fact, more so - they needed to be immediately sympathetic. You need to immediately want the pair to be together, to be happy, just to make the looming disaster work. And personally - and this ended up being what I think is the solution - it had to be credible. I had to recognise these couples, from somewhere. Because I think that love at its best is totally inspiring and I had to, somehow, capture that.

So I had to make two people I love, then slowly try to kill them.

Tell you one thing: The second I finished the first draft I leaned back, got my pen and scrawled a single line in my ever-present pocket-notebook. It was a piece of dogma for my own personal writing church:

"I will never write a woman who needs to be rescued".

I'm male, and I'm sick of purely passive female characters, who act merely as a prop for their male leads, a symbol of their hetrosexuality - their weaknesses acting purely to show the hero's strengths. I have no idea how a woman must feel, but - y'know - I'm not having any part in this social indoctrination.

The important part of the phrase is the "needs". Clearly, I may end up with a female character in shit and people want to try and come and help her. But I refuse to write anyone who just sits there waiting for the white night. Even if they can't get out themselves, they're thinking along those lines. I won't write women as victims. Which may be unrealistic, as there are women who *are* victims, but - y'know - fuck it. There's more than enough people concentrating on femininity as servitude, and I want no truck with it.

This thinking is pretty obvious throughout all of "Somethings' Wrong". They break established gender roles all over the place, but without - I hope - losing their attractiveness. And, to me, they feel more real, which is kind of the point of the exercise.

Anyway, come May and if you're willing to lay cash on the table, you'll be able to find out if it's true or whether I'm talking utter shit again.

Variance Press is Travis G. Johnson's brainchild. It's some pretty smart thinking. Cafepress have their print on demand services running at a fairly efficient rate now. While the costs for perfect bound books are a little high, I think, for prose, for sequential art with generally lower page-counts it's actually highly comparable with traditional printing. A publisher uploads the PDF, sets a profit margin which they take on top of the standard Cafepress rates and then sits back - or rather, advertises the arse off the book. When an order arrives, Cafepress take care of the printing, mailing and accounts. In other words, no up front costs other than whatever you choose to spend putting together the PDF and no dealing with the nasty brute economics of supply and demand.

Nosing through cafepress some people are using it for comics distribition, but all I can currently find is relatively small comics rather than something approximating a trade. Is anyone else doing it, or are Variance first? If so, you can expect copyists extremely quickly. It's a very smart system for small press people. With Travis' plan to actively push these at people, it's a system that entirely bypasses the direct-market system. Assuming quality, there's no reason it can't work.

More news as and when it comes. At the least, I'll link to the work samples from various people as they start to appear on the Variance site.




Kieron Gillen's Workblog, foo'.