1. For the poor souls not already reading, please give a brief synopsis of your comic.
Carpe Chaos is a science-fiction webcomic about five alien races who learn to travel between stars. It focuses on the ways their cultures collide and how they work to solve their problems together. Each story stands on its own, but because our stories follow their histories over several thousand years you can get a really wide perspective on their societies and personalities if you read through the archives. Our most recent series, Transmissions is about a besieged Porg colony with what seems like an unending stream of problems, and their sometimes humorously incompetent furry attackers.
2. What materials and/or software do you use?
I write in mediawiki using firefox. I feel like formatting and such is mostly a distraction to writing well, so whatever gets words down and saved in a place where my coworkers can access them is a good enough tool for me. Our artists mostly use Photoshop, but some time goes into Illustrator or other painting programs. I provide art feedback in Photoshop, and we all use Waccom tablets.
3. Are there any books, movies, toys, artists, or authors that have inspired or continue to inspire your comic?
I try to draw from as many sources as I can. I feel like it's the mixing of lots of different inspirations that make something feel really fresh and new. Transmissions is a sort of over the top cross between a classic action movie like Die Hard, and lighthearted military scifi ala Stargate SG-1. The world itself is shaped by the incredibly expansive fictional worlds that you often see in video games, like Warcraft, or the breadth of a story world like Star Wars. I'm a big fan of Douglas Adams, Orson Scott Card, and Warren Ellis. I'd like to think that I strive to write the strengths of each, even though I suspect my writing comes across sounding nothing like them.
4. Are any of your characters based on real people in your life?
Yes, plenty. About half the stories I write have characters that started as someone I know and grew out. It's a particularly useful technique for writing less significant characters. You want all your characters, even Red Shirts to be believable and interesting people, and making up the quirks, speech patterns, and personalities for everyone in your stories is a lot of work. It's much easier to just say "This character is going to be an alien version of my college roommate", and whenever that alien speaks, you just say "What would my college roommate have said here?" You can save yourself a lot of time building characters that way, and unless they know your college roommate, nobody ever notices. :) Aside from those direct personality copies, I'd say 90% of our stories come out of real interactions we have in our lives, either with people, whole cultures, or on the internet. Those living stories are what make the best fiction I think. Or at least the most believable fiction. It also ensures that we invest our own passion and interest into the stories, which, in my opinion, is an important part of good writing.
5. Are there any actors you know you would want to play or voice certain characters in a movie of your comic?
There are no humans in our stories, and I'm not familiar enough with voice actors to pick who I'd want to voice a Carpe Chaos CG movie. So no clue. :)
6. What songs would you like in a soundtrack of your comic?
It depends a lot on which short story or series you're talking about. We try to write really diverse stories; scifi is our setting, not our genre. With a poetic piece like Moments of Elation, you'd need some Enya, or something instrumental I guess. Jailing Fortune would need a lot of fast drum beats and some kind of rock/techno medleys. Rising Up needs a bunch of primal war music, and maybe RainyMood.com playing in the background constantly.
7. What is your overall goal for your comic?
Pure liquid awesome. We've got a lot of goals, and many dovetail into each other. First, we want to make quality comics, if we're not doing anything worth reading, then we're not really doing much of anything. Second, we'd like to change the way people see and write scifi and comics. There's a lot of tired tropes in scifi and comics alike, and we want to break out of that norm and push our work to be uncomfortably familiar and shockingly honest about the human condition, but also crisply original and creative. That's sort of what scifi is about in it's core, dealing with the consistency of our human nature in the face of our constantly shifting creativity and technology. And finally, we have some philosophical goals, we'd like to encourage the study of science and engineering, and all the education that goes along with that. As well as stimulating greater access to information (read: the internet) in the developing world. And to explore how the diversity and value of spiritual expression even in a world so constantly shaped by technology.
8. How has managing a comic impacted your life?
It has made it a lot busier. lol. Seriously though, Carpe Chaos has been something of a graduate education for me. I've learned so many practical and philosophical skills from running this comic. From starting and running a business, managing a team of artists, to self-discipline keeping up with my writing goals, becoming a better writer. Even something I never thought I would be good at, convincing people to buy something. I've gone from being terrible at selling stuff to actually being pretty good at from working comic tables at conventions. Running a project like this, or any kind of small business, has become the number one skill I look for in someone I'm going to hire, because I know from experience that it is hands down the most difficult and effective way to become better at whatever you want to do.
9. What do you do to advertise your work?
We used to run Facebook ads, and we tried promoting our comic heavily and comic cons and online, but none of that had dramatically lasting impact on our readership. I think we expected those tools to be over night ways to get followers. Now I think it just takes a lot of time. People don't love your comic right away, they grow to love it. And the people who love it slowly share it with their friends when it comes up. We still occasionally do interviews or reviews on comic sites, and I tweet about my comic work on my twitter account. And Project Wonderful is good to us. The heavy promotion we did early on definitely got us on a lot of people's radar, but at this point I think we just need to be in cruise mode for a while. Let word spread. Oh, and one time we protested the Westboro Baptist Church. Google "god hates porgs" if you want to know more about that. :)
10. Web comics can be very time consuming and sometimes expensive to keep up. Often there is little reward in regards to money and sometimes public attention. Why do you do it?
Most importantly, we love doing it. When we started, we had the misperception that you could make a good bit of money on the internet doing things like this. Truth is, if you work really hard, and you're lucky, you can make a living. I don't really see anybody getting rich doing it though.
11. Got any other projects we should know about?
Carpe Chaos is the only comic I'm working on right now, but my day job is a Game Designer on Firefall. You can check it out at www.FirefallTheGame.com. It's a project I'm pretty excited about, and I think it's a lot of fun. The fiction's actually got a lot of common themes with Carpe Chaos, so if you like one, you might like the other.
12. What advice would you give to aspiring creators?
I think it really comes down to three things. Talent, Hard Work, and Luck. You need all three to succeed, and even if you have all three you might not succeed. :) But if you're really passionate, you can't not try. As with most awesome things, you really have to practice, practice practicing, and get help practicing. Hopefully that and some lucky genetics will provide you with the talent you need. After that the hardest part is sitting down and doing all the work you need to do to finish what you're dreaming about. I think we've created 600 pages of comics by now, and that's been a monumental task. It feels so amazing to be able to say that, 600 pages is a lot! How many 600 page books have you read? How many 600 page books have you even opened? I feel pretty accomplished just knowing that I'm among the few people who actually have sat down and finished a book's worth of fiction. That good feeling is SO worth it, but the only way you can get there is to start with page 1, and then do page 2, and then page 3. It's easy to quit when you've only done 10 pages. But somewhere around 270, it really starts paying off. :) So once you've put in the hard work, you just kinda gotta throw your work to the wind and see where it lands. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of hard work involved in promoting your creation, but no matter how hard you try, sometimes it's just not the right time, or you miss just the right person you needed to connect with. Either way, you've gotta do it because you love doing it. If you do, then it doesn't really matter, because you can look at your 600 pages and say "I wrote this story for myself, and that makes it worth it."
Thanks so much Eric! I love how Carpe Chaos can be so relatable even though there are no human characters!
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