Last Outpost

My military science fiction novelette, “Hashtag WhiteBitch” (#WhiteBitch), has made it into the table of contents for the Last Outpost anthology by Bascomb James of Pushpin Books.

Because a large chunk of my stories, even those that come in the form of over-the-top RPG-Starship-Troopers-the-movie style tales, are ultimately about climate change, this one revolves around a freshwater war on a Canadian glacier. There are soldiers. There are loads of drones and robots.

And there is a truckload of footage beaming out from the warzone.

This is future war, seen live on home TV.

lastoutpost

One of the heroes from the story (because I like to draw headers for my story posts). This is a rough pencil sketch overlaid in Photoshop colour.

Anyway, hope you check out the anthology when it arrives.

The Laugh Contagious

I’m really delighted to announce that my clown doctor horror story, “The Laugh Contagious,” has been chosen for the first volume of the Let Us In trio of anthologies by Time Alone Press.

You can check out the list of authors here.

Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the list to check out the incredible cover art by Sergio Diaz. It is truly stunning and I can’t wait to have it on my shelf.

My story “On Darwin Tides” is a finalist in the 2016 Climate Fiction Short Story Contest

Really proud and pleased that my story On Darwin Tides  has been selected as one of the twelve finalists in the 2016 Climate Fiction Short Story Contest run by Arizona State University. The grand prize winner will be announced in September when the anthology containing all of the winning works is made available.

I entered the contest because I am passionate about the environment and about the need for climate change action and because I believe that the field of near-future science fiction has an important role to play in depicting the future as it might be, good or bad, that the global community might hopefully be inspired to steer this worldship of ours toward something that is sustainable, healthy and equitable for all. I also entered the contest because it was being judged by one of my all time science fiction heroes, Kim Stanley Robinson, and by experts in the sustainability, conservation, geology, climate modeling, climate politics, human geography, and environmental history fields. That such luminaries could judge my work accurate (and boy did I research the heck out of my chosen topic) and well-written enough to honour in this way makes me happier than you can imagine.

New Story up at The Worcester Journal – Photo of a Tiger

The Worcester Journal has just published its summer edition of short stories, reviews, memoirs and cultural insights and I am proud to say that my flash fiction piece Photo of a Tiger has been included in the lineup.

This story was written well before the recent, untimely death of the silverback gorilla, Harambe, at the Cincinnati Zoo; however the very public and controversial passing of that endangered animal did once again bring to the forefront of public discourse the role zoos play in the preservation of endangered species, which is the central theme of my story.

At what point does a species preserved in a zoo environment become so generationally imprinted upon man and so accustomed to captive life and divested of the learned behaviours essential for wilderness survival that it ceases to be a wild animal at all?

At what point does such an animal cease to be of value for species survival and, instead, become merely a component of the human entertainment industry?  

I don’t necessarily dislike zoos. They serve as a means to connect the human heart to the plight of the nature, that those who care might want to save it. And they preserve those species that can be brought back from the brink, that they might one day repopulate the wild places set aside for them. Where zoos become problematic is when they become living museums of otherwise extinct animals; when they serve as little more than storage bays for species whose wilderness has long been turned to crop and plantation and buried beneath the waters of hydroelectric dams with no intention of it ever being returned to its natural state. When this happens, zoos become sad and morbid places and the animals pacing the cages within, with no memory of their culture and what it is to hunt and run free, little more than shameful reminders of what man has stolen from the Earth.

The latter, I fear, will be the ultimate plight of the tiger.

Angry … Cows?

A friend challenged me to an exercise in creative concept art – draw some Angry Birds (yes, as in the game). But make them cows. Angry cows.

To meet the brief, I took a look at the original Angry Birds characters. The main thing you’ll notice about these characters is how very simple each design is, in terms of outline (most are based on a circle) and basic body features. The other thing you will notice is how unique each character is and, therefore, how easy each is to distinguish from the other characters, even in tiny, screen form. Angry Birds characters differ markedly in one or more of the following:

  • size – from the tiny Blue Bird to the Chubby White Bird and Big Red Bird.
  • shape – many of the characters are based on a round body model, but some are egg-shaped or even triangular, with differing tail or crest configurations that make them recognisable even in silhouette form.
  • colour – aside from Red Bird and Big Red Bird, all of the characters are swiftly recognisable by their colours, which is essential on a tiny game screen.
  • personalities – even though most of the birds are, as advertised, angry to be sure, there are also ones that look worried and determined and even a bit crazy.

The following character sheet was my take on the brief:

angrycows-angrybirds-colour

Here, I have gone with different colours, shapes (while most are modeled on the circle, a couple have been modeled on the inverted triangle and on the trapezium), sizes and outlines in order to make each character distinct. I have also varied the personalities, from the angry red bull and crazy orange bull to the suspicious yellow pineapple-esque cow, sad blue Ankole-Watusi and sleepy Highland Cow.

Note – for extra cowish brownie points, I also looked up breeds of cow, searching for unique types that I could include as characters. The first two cows are Highland Cattle – these have wide horns and amazing, long fringes that make for interesting character opportunities. The central, blue cow is modeled on the Ankole-Watusi (these are incredible looking cattle – definitely worth Googling). The black and white cow is based on the Holstein-Friesian – the classic, spotted dairy cow. The pineapple cow … was not based on a real cow breed (sorry about that).

Below are the characters in silhouette.

Walt Disney animation (particularly in the early days – Donald, Goofy, Mickey Mouse etc.) designed their characters based around the principle that they should be unique enough to be easily recognisable in silhouette form. Thus, you can recognise Mickey by his ears (the distinct shape that is, even now, the Disney logo), Goofy by his teeth and hat and stance and Pluto by his narrow ears and whip tail and the bump on his head (as distinct from the shapes of other canine characters). The same holds true for character design (especially casts of characters) today.

angrycows-shapes

Note – the twin cows (the green one and the black-and-white) have the same silhouette. If I drew these again, I would place the bangle on the opposite foot of one to make them unique in silhouette.

Enjoy.

If you want to catch more of my art, please check out my Flickr portfolio.

If you like my stuff and would like to hire me on a freelance basis for concept or commercial or book cover or book interior art, please check out my contact page.