Saturday, May 5, 2012

Guest Post/ Feature - The Lesser Evil by Shane W Smith

Young Ross Tillman cannot wait to get out of school and pursue his dream of owning his own ship. Struggling against what seems to be his genetic fate, Ross is determined to avoid following his father into a career in local industry. The manufacture and sale of the narcotic tubinj is the economic cornerstone of Messar, but Ross is determined to escape from its pull.

For Stanley Myres, Chancellor of the galactic Senate, the writing appears to be on the wall. His political position is becoming more tenuous by the day, as rival factions in the Senate seem poised to enact a coup de tat. In an attempt to retain control, he utilises his secret paramilitary forces and hatches a violent scheme that casts Messar into a state of civil war.

Overlord of exiled superpower Padakan House, Elam Padakan wants to create a better galaxy, with himself at its head. When the opportunity to liberate Messar from the Senate presents itself, he sees it as a chance to achieve everything he has ever striven for. There’s just one problem: he hasn’t even told his own brother what his true intentions are.

All three men are drawn into the civil war on Messar, and as their paths begin to intersect and tangle together, they come to realise that the galaxy has very different plans for all of their dreams.

The Lesser Evil is a book that examines what it means to have a dream… and what that dream can end up costing, regardless of whether it comes true.

The Lesser Evil is a black-and-white graphic novel. The designs and artwork are almost entirely derived from 3D models purchased from DAZ3D and Renderosity, and run through an image filter called India Ink.

It has been published by Zeta Comics.

Carrot or stick – what works for writing?

Years ago, in a blog long-confined to the dusty eternity of the endless and empty cattle trails of oblivion, I wrote a poetic little piece that likened me, as a struggling aspiring novelist, to a donkey chasing after a carrot that seemed permanently out of reach.

It was a very evocative and lovely little piece that I remember being quite proud of; unfortunately for you, it is gone forever, and cannot be recreated. So you have to read this instead.

All my life, as far back as memory goes, the only thing I’ve really wanted for my life was to be a writer. Other wonderful things have dropped into my lap along the way, things I wouldn’t give up for the world, such as my wonderful wife and amazing daughter… but if we’re talking lifelong goals, there’s only ever been the one.

With such a single-minded, one-track goal for my life, you would think that encouragement and positive reinforcement would be the most effective factors in success. Interestingly, I discovered that the opposite was, in fact, true.

The carrot: The ambling casual trek towards constant rejection

Growing up, I never really had to struggle for my art. At the time, I thought this was a good thing – who wants to struggle, to suffer, to endure hardship? I just wanted the success, and I thought I could have it. With the moderate (tempered) encouragement of family, and occasional enthusiastic responses from various teachers, I believed I was on the right path.

I wrote highly derivative work of my favourite franchises, and was mildly surprised (at the time) that I couldn’t get myself published. The world outside the comfort of my immediate township was a cold and mean place, and I wasn’t prepared for the blithely rote way my many hours of work was dismissed. Somewhat daunted, but equally determined, I kept on writing whenever I had the motivation.

My days at university studying creative writing felt quite challenging, as I was tasked with developing my portfolio beyond prose, and quite liberating as well. In the end, although I learned a lot, I have come to realise that my time there was neither challenging, nor liberating, and I produced some very safe, tired, self-indulgent treekillers in my time there.

At the tail end of university, I felt the stomach-churning tug as fiscal responsibility and full-time work dropped the noose around my neck and pulled tight.

Which leads to...

The stick: The path to prolificism

You know what they say: if you want something done, give it to a busy person. In a similar vein, if you really want to do something, you should leave almost no time to do it.

I went into a bit of what I can only describe as a depressed frenzy when I began full-time work. Cut off from the path I wanted to be on, punished for my procrastination, I was trapped in a fluoroscent tomb, destined for the mental and physical atrophy that comes from making mundane tasks your day’s work.

So I started working at night. And hard, too. I wanted to escape, and this was the only way I could think of. I’ve never worked faster on my creative projects, nor better. Driven by desperation, beaten down by the drudgery of the day-to-day, I suddenly realised the importance of my writing, more than ever before.

Suddenly, too, I had woes of my own that I could write about. I understood what it meant to have problems that seemed insurmountable from certain angles. My characters’ problems became my problems, and my writing finally became the allegory for life that it had always aspired to.

(Of course, these issues of mine are ‘problems’ that only privileged middle-class young white males with charmed lives can have, and do not actually conform to any legitimate definition of ‘suffering’.)

Looking for innovative solutions to existing problems, I took the drastic measure of changing my noveling ambitions to graphic noveling ambitions, and brought the story with me. Less than two years later, I had a publishing contract in my hand for my graphic novel The Lesser Evil and could see a light at the end of the tunnel.


In the end, the carrot and the stick were both beneficial to me. A nice safe writing environment for me to develop my skills and understanding of story provided a good theoretical background, and the harsh realities of a life I didn’t entirely want gave me the motivation to put it into practice and the raw materials with which to do it.

And of course, there’s a happy ending: I got my carrot.


Post a Comment