This post is a part of a series of articles about Cloudscape’s Life Finds A Way anthology. Visit the landing page for more information on the project.
What’s your name?
LW: Lisa Wolinsky, or The Alchemist on my limited social media.
MM: Melissa McGee, or The Druid out here on the internet.
What’s your artistic background?
LW: I don’t have much of a formal art background, though I’ve certainly done my share of academic and technical writing. I’ve always been a dedicated art hobbyist and enjoy a variety of art forms including writing, stitching and drawing.
MM: I’ve always had a strong interest in art, dabbling in many visual mediums but always coming back to illustration. While I have been known to use traditional media such as graphite, ink, and watercolour I’ve been working digitally for the last three years or so. As far as an education is concerned, I opted to study sciences rather than art post secondary, and so am largely self-taught all around.
What comics/comic creators inspired you to make comics?
LW: The earliest book I remember reading on my own was a dog-eared copy of the Calvin and Hobbes book “Weirdos from Another Planet”. From collections of newspaper comics that I read and reread as a child to the hundred or so webcomics I keep up with today, I like to think that I’ve taken a bit of inspiration from all sorts of people and works.
MM: There are so many inspiring creators out there, and I’ve been a long time fan of some of the more mainstream comics, but it really would have to be The Beyond Anthology that first shook up my idea of what comics could be and who could tell what sort of stories with them. After that I dove into the world of more indie comics and webcomics voraciously and have never looked back!
What about Life Finds a Way caught your imagination enough to submit a story?
LW: We have actually been developing the characters and setting we’re using in this story for a while now, and when we saw the call for pitches we immediately felt that their experiences would be a perfect fit for the themes of the anthology. Then it was just a matter of picking which aspects of their lives to highlight for this particular format.
MM: The post-apocalyptic genre is one that has always spoken to me, but very often treads over the same sort of bleak ground. Looking beyond that was already something we have been working on as a team, as Lisa mentioned, and so to find a call that was specifically for stories with a hopeful cast really had me chomping at the bit right away. While it can definitely be interesting and exciting to explore the drama and grit of the post-apocalypse, without something brighter to look forward to those stories can really lose meaning. I think now more than ever, we could really use stories that look for hope beyond the crisis.
On our theme of hope, what did you find fun about creating stories within this framework? Furthermore were there any unexpected challenges?
LW: When we had the idea to focus our story around the idea of educating the characters (and readers) about Passover, I had a lot of fun tying positive aspects of the holiday into the plot itself. One of the central ideas in the Passover ceremony is learning about the four sons who each learn about about the holiday differently, and how you should go about teaching them; it was an interesting challenge to make the four ‘sons’ in the story clearly embody each of those and still fit within the page count.
Incidentally, the fact that the kid in the story is named after Elias the prophet was a complete coincidence 😛
MM: While I was immediately interested when I saw the call for submissions, I had no idea where we would go with it. But when Lisa suggested going with the spiritual theme I was excited to explore that further in both the art and symbolism as well as the story. It called for a bit of research on my end, as she is much more familiar with the source material than I, but that was definitely really fun and interesting. As far as unexpected challenges go, it was definitely a bit of a handful at first balancing the Passover ceremony, the setting, and the number of characters all in such a short page count and keeping everything coherent and engaging, but I think we managed it well!
Part of the fun of Post-Apocalypse is the worldbuilding, how do you deal with the limitations of the short story format with that in mind?
LW: I personally like to throw everything at a wall and see what sticks. We’ll go deep into worldbuilding to really flesh out characters and settings for a piece, and then pare it back to the necessary details required for a reader to understand and enjoy whatever slice of story is going to be shared. Not only does this give me the fun of design, but I hope gives the places and characters a bit more depth and interest than if they were created entirely within the confines of the short story.
MM: That really does sum it up well! Art wise, once we had fully fleshed our world, I tried to make sure that the narrative we were working on would organically take us through enough scenes to allow the reader to really get a taste of the setting without it feeling forced or rushed, or else relying on too much narration. I didn’t want to lose out on those flavourful scenes of the state of the world our characters were living in just because they were experiencing a moment of peace.
What’s your favorite post-apocalypse media, and why? (Games, Movies, Books, etc.)
LW: I definitely go through more comics and video games than any other form of media, so I’m always going to favour those. Regardless of format, my favourite post-apocalypse stories are the ones that you didn’t realize at the beginning were post-apocalyptic, and only through slow revelation and inference do you realize that something terrible happened in the past to get the setting to the place it is today. I like the mystery of it, and the dark aspects to be more of an undertone to an otherwise cheerful story.
MM: I’m definitely a books and movies sort of person, for my part. I’m equally attracted to the iconic visuals found throughout the genre, and the endlessly conflicting shades of grey found as characters try to navigate some truly tangled situations brought about by things beyond their control. But that said, I do always like that little uplift of hope to be present, ideally in the ending.
Clichés, our editors outlined some that we did not want in our stories in our narrative guide. What elements about post-apocalypse media do you think are over-done?
LW: While I do enjoy the aesthetic, I’m personally a bit tired of the idea that people living post-apocalypse all seem to immediately and permanently switch to ‘dismal grunge’ as the default attitude and fashion. I think people would rebuild (or develop new) positive culture faster than these stories would have you believe.
MM: While it might make for action packed stories and flashy visuals, I think that the ultraviolence seen in a lot of the genre is decidedly overemphasized. There are so many other places story-driving conflict can come from, and I do like to think that while certainly there would be pockets of violence that for the most part people just want to find a way to get on with their lives and not hurt anyone.
Post-apocalyptic fiction can often be a reflection of anxieties that occur in contemporary society, does your piece reflect any societal anxiety that you can identify?
LW: We set our story in the ruins of a destroyed downtown Toronto, using real streets and locations as the backdrop. It is our attempt at a plausible ‘what if’ scenario where war and disease devastate our current-day reality, and how it could look a few decades following those events.
Do you think you could survive a week in the wild with a knife, a poncho, and a fishing hook?
LW: While I like to think I could, I also don’t have a lot of camping experience and wouldn’t be terribly surprised if I disappointed myself.
MM: I feel pretty confident that I could manage a week alright, although much longer than that might look a bit dicey. Being Canadian, I definitely must make the caveat that this is ‘seasonally dependant’ of course. I can’t see our winters being quite as forgiving as our warmer seasons.
Where do you look to find hope for humanity’s future?
LW: I think you can find hope all around. It’s easy to see the future as bleak with the current political and environmental realities worldwide, but I think individually, people are trying their best, and it’s not the first time humanity has survived disasters of its own making. If bad times come, people will endure, and good times are bound to return in one form or another.
MM: I look to nature the most. While fragile in so many respects and under so many threats, nature is incredibly resilient and adaptable, and there is a lot that we can learn from that, as well as take heart in. By the same token, seeing the results that have come from people taking action, whether the rebound in birds of prey after a pesticide ban or the return of salmon to once abandoned rivers after dams are breached is a bright reminder that it’s not too late, so long as people use their compassion and ingenuity to act. The worst thing we can do is hear all of the dire news of the times and decide “it’s too late”.
Do you have any projects you’d like to plug?
LW: We have a website, alchemist-and-druid.com, where we post new illustrations and teasers for upcoming anthologies we’ll have work featured in. We have a comic in the works for the next anthology coming from Hellcat Press, as well as some plans for Halloween. Follow our social media if you’re interested in what we’re up to next!