The Life Finds A Way Kickstarter is LIVE! Click here or the link below to check out the campaign and grab yourself a copy of the book!
We hope you all enjoyed the sun over your Labor Day long weekend. As of this posting, the Life Finds A Way Kickstarter is sitting at 43% funded!
We’re continuing to interview creative teams for the duration of the Kickstarter and so today we’re happy to bring you Mikayla Fawcett and Gabriel Craven to talk about their submission to the anthology: The Thaw.
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?
GC: Gabriel Jude Craven
MF: Mikayla Fawcett
What’s your artistic background?
GC: I don’t really know how to answer that question. I haven’t taken any formal education in art since high school. There was never really any other art form I really wanted to do. Ever since I was young, it was comics. Comics were always the inspiration, and comics were always what I wanted to do. I have piles of sketchbooks from when I was a little kid.
MF: I just really like making things, and learning different ways to make things. My biggest skill is probably writing, but I experiment a lot in different media. As a kid, I saw comics like a way to make a film set in an imaginary world with unlimited sets, props, special effects, costuming, budget, time, and without a crew. I got extremely inspired by making-of documentaries, clearly. About eleven years ago, I learned that I actually really like working with creative people, and here we are. I don’t have much formal education in visual arts, but I do a lot of independent study.
What comics/comic creators inspired you to make comics?
GC: I have always been fond of the shapes, colour choices, and shadows in Mike Mignola’s work. More recently, and more locally to BC, I have been incredibly fond of Simon Roy’s attention to detail and sense of design.
MF: The ones that made me want to make comics, and made me want to read more traditional comics, were web comics. The biggest one, the very first one to really grab me by the heart and tell me I should try to make comics was Charby the Vampirate, which is still running to this day and which should be sought out by fans of cute things, vampires, puns, old cartoons, ensemble casts, and extremely bloody cartoon violence. When I was about 14 or 15 I was a part of the community forum, and I made a few very good friends there. We all were into making stories, and making comics. Yu+Me:Dream, by Meagan Rose Gedris, is an exceptional favourite story about two young ladies falling in love. It starts out in kind of a simple shojo comics style that evolves over time, and after a certain point, to provide minimal spoilers with strongest plugging, it shifts into a multitude of different visual media to tell its story. Watercolour, collage, photo-comic—even clay-mation type figures at one point. The visual range is awesome, and it made me excited to work with visuals as a primary mode of storytelling.
What about Life Finds a Way caught your imagination enough to submit a story?
GC: It’s a genre I already love. I’ve always been more interested in smaller stories, and small, personal moments. Whenever I got attached to a genre I would try to bring that small, almost mundane sense of scale to that genre, which lead to years of making quiet, almost cozy post apocalyptic stories. So that when the call came out, my partner and I felt quite lucky, as we already had a script ready to work with, and a story we wanted to tell.
MF: I was in a place where I was actively hunting for places to home our work, and I happened to see the call for submissions maybe 4 or 5 days before it closed, and it seemed perfect. We’ve already made soft, humanistic stories in the post-apocalyptic wasteland a thing, and we already had our first whack at this script, and I had been looking for a chance to both make it better and put it out there, hopefully bringing us more into the local comic-making community. In my case, the genre is an enduring love, but the opportunity to see our work in colour, in print, with works by other artists? It struck at exactly the right time to prompt a late-night dash to write the application.
On our theme of hope, what did you find fun about creating stories within this framework? Furthermore were there any unexpected challenges?
GC: Well, while I can enjoy reading and watching more cynical content, creating that kind of content has never felt healthy for me. So, I always feel a need to bring a lot of hope to even the most dire of settings.
MF: No unexpected challenges from the framework, but plenty of expected challenges that we put ourselves up to. I knew from the beginning that Elliot would be wearing a plaid shirt, and plaid will never be easy. We knew that the expressions and body-language on the characters would be really important, because they never actually speak their minds in legible words.
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?
MF: Visual details, and a lot of talking about the backgrounds! I think a lot of information about the world comes through in very small moments; I think without the given context of saying the story is post apocalyptic, you can still sell the idea through the use of background details—obvious ones like decimated city streets and very worn out, mismatched or patched-together clothing—and character behaviours such as the initial distrust and sort of near-ritualistic actions our duotagonists take on their first meeting.
GC: We take a somewhat behind-the-scenes approach to the worldbuilding in our short stories. We have developed a knowledge of the world, everything that lead to the apocalypse and how people have been surviving since. The story is not about the end-times, and the characters do not know much about what lead to the world being as it is now, and so the characters never discuss it, but we have the remnants everywhere. The characters don’t know, and readers might not pick it up from one story, but I think people who look through our whole body of work will be able to see these repeating images and set pieces—living spaces and corporations and their products and debris, all littering the wasteland.
What’s your favorite post-apocalypse media, and why? (Games, Movies, Books, etc.)
GC: That’s easy for me. My favourite post apocalyptic videogame is Fallout New Vegas. I like how it shows multiple sides to a conflict and a thriving society that feels only one step away from being a fully formed functional society all to itself. Favourite novel is The Postman, by David Brin, which, despite its huge scope, managed to still feel very personal.
MF: I have a few favourites! In addition to everything Gabriel mentioned… The first to spring to mind is a Canadian animated treasure, Rock and Rule, though I don’t know how well it counts. Additionally, Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards is set so far into the future after a nuclear apocalypse that magic has come back and it’s all elves and goblins until George Carlin’s evil brother brings back Nazi propaganda and uses it for war purposes. I love it, but I am a monster and it is notoriously hard to watch. I really enjoyed Metro 2033—both the game which is super fun, and the book which has some funky strangeness to it. Nausicca of the Valley of the Wind is a classic and the first in my list to actually be an easy recommendation. Octavia Butler’s Speech Sounds is an absolutely stunning piece of short fiction, and has none of the incredible drawbacks of any of the other content I have listed so far. It is gorgeously written, evocative, tragic and thought-provoking. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is an excellent and deeply upsetting but beautiful novel and is well-worth the read as well, if you enjoy extremely dense, poetic language and are comfortable settling into a sort of post-apocalyptic language-fugue for a few solid hours. I enjoyed the heck out of Six-String Samurai when I watched it, sort of an extremely funky over-the-top martial-arts homage featuring a sword-wielding Buddy Holly lookalike on a journey to go become the new King of Lost Vegas. The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price is great, and needs little introduction. I haven’t mentioned the Mad Max movies because I dug right past them on my way down this rabbit hole, but the first one’s solid, Road Warrior is an iconic classic that has defined the genre aesthetics for years, Thunderdome is underrated, and Fury Road is a masterpiece that rebooted the genre aesthetics all over again. Gorgeous.
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?
GC: The story we set out to make couldn’t exist without those tropes. The knowledge of those genre conventions is the backbone of the tension in our story, and what made us want to say it. The risk that any second could erupt in violence, that violence is expected when two strangers meet in the wasteland, and the fact that readers have seen it happen dozens of times before, is something that both made us want to tell this story, and something that makes the story work.
MF: Women in chains, sadistic physical and sexual violence, fascism, military gear, bizarrely homogenous populations represented in the world—all things we see a lot of but which can still be used effectively by the right storytellers.
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?
GC: For me it was based in the difficulty in having a real conversation with someone. It was specifically inspired by how when you are at a gathering that goes very late, that’s when the very personal and interesting conversations start happening.
MF: The unknown of other people. When you meet someone you have to trust that they don’t mean you any harm, but you’re also supposed to be careful. When I see someone, and we make eye contact, I can’t help but acknowledge them and implicitly agree that for the moment, we are sharing this space. There’s a tension in that, and setting the exploration of that feeling into a far less human-populated world, where you might be surprised and even afraid to see another human, seems natural.
Do you think you could survive a week in the wild with a knife, a poncho, and a fishing hook?
MF: I think I could survive, but not well, and definitely not comfortably.
GC: I feel like I could do a week. Only because that’s how long I think I could survive on salal and huckleberries. If it was the right season.
Where do you look to find hope for humanity’s future?
MF: Nature. And history. I find a lot of comfort in seeing how things have changed in the past. I think there’s a lot to learn, perspective-wise from looking at history. I get a lot of hope from looking at the sciences. The earth and everything on it and the cosmos are incredible and uplifting. If I ever feel super hopeless I start reading about plants or space or current advancements in something or other. Talking with kids and passionate wonderful folks is always great too; besides making you feel good it also sort of solidifies your conviction to work for a better world and do the best with what you’ve got.
GC: My own overly optimistic comic books. I think I turn to science fiction a fair bit. The reason I like post-apocalyptic fiction is not necessarily because of optimism so much as this sort of nihilistic, we’re all in this together, look, someone’s still doing it. Scifi’s there for hope in humanity’s future, and post apocalyptic fiction’s there for tenacity in the face of whatever awful future we set ourselves up with.
Do you have any projects you’d like to plug?
MF: Our entry in this anthology is set in the same world and includes two main characters from The Here After Now, which is a longer series or collection of short stories and can be read at thehereafternow.ca. Also, we’re working on building a website to host our other works, which consist of several short stories and a number of single-pagers in a number of different worlds. We’re putting the finishing touches on a collection of short zombie comedy comics, called Final Restoration. In Final Restoration, we follow blue-collar restoration workers through their daily grind in a world where when the zombie outbreak happened, it didn’t result in enduring apocalypse, but just, kinda became a part of what we have to deal with now. Our distant-future stories are all under the title Earthling Stories. The first one to come out from that will be called Sports Bar, and it’s about two deep-space travelers originally from Earth hanging out in a sports bar and watching giant robots fight. Our not-so-distant-future scifi comedy strip, The Odd Jobs of Pallet Jack, is about a robot who gets laid off when legislation is passed that requires employers to confer human-standard workers’ rights on robots of sufficiently human-like intelligence. We’ve also been slowly accumulating single-page entries in a comedy set in a dark, bleak, violent fantasy world, following a cheerful and optimistic black knight named Sigismondo, who is very much out to make a name for himself.
We’re calling ourselves Cannery Rat Comics, and can be found at canneryratcomics.ca. It’s currently under construction, but I’m trying to get it up and running soon.