Aug 242015
 

marcbelldoesays

Things have changed since I started No Media Kings in the year 2000. Rupert Murdoch, who inspired the name, is less of a threat to media security than the innocuous & pervasive Google and Apple. I’ve gone from writing novels, to writing for games, comics, and movies. I went from being a 20-something bachelor writing about superheroes and rocket ships to a 40-something father making a historical mystery audio drama.

I launched NMK by giving away free ebook versions Angry Young Spaceman. Pre-Kindle and iPhone, people found it baffling. But the gift economy works — it’s come back to me in a lot of ways.

So every month I’m going to be giving one of my six ebooks away!

If you want to find out when the new book’s up follow me on Twitter or even better, subscribe to the blog — so we don’t have to rely on a corporation to keep in touch.

Free in August: Angry Young Spaceman
My book about a guy who goes to another planet to teach English, based loosely on my ESL stint in Korea. Recently the talented Marc Bell drew a few pages adapting the beginning of the story, above is a detail from it.

“It’s a wonderful book. Unquestionably SF, it isn’t written in the usual science fiction voice, and that’s part of its charm. His prose is conversational, his characters and settings of the future Earth and Octavia are fascinating, and the story remains engaging from start to finish.” — Charles de Lint, Fantasy & Science Fiction

Cover art and back cover copy & more blurbs here.

Download here

Free in September: Everyone In Silico
Free in October: Flyboy Action Figure Comes With Gasmask
Free in November: An Opening Act of Unspeakable Evil
Free in December: Therefore Repent! (illustrated by Salgood Sam)
Free in January: Sword of My Mouth (illustrated by Shannon Gerard)

Apr 302015
 

plinth-web
One of the things I got up to when I was an artist-in-residence at the Art Gallery of Ontario was make a game. It’s a simple video choose-your-own-adventure set in the AGO, featuring a rather unusual tour guide.

It was a fun opportunity to work with Rachel again (who was the human spam in Ghosts With Shit Jobs) and a good excuse to poke and prod at the protective membrane that surrounds any institution. The folks at the AGO were really good humoured about it and now have even installed it in the Walker Court arcade for the next little while on its own plinth, as pictured above — possibly til the end of the year. It’s a site specific piece and it’ll only be viewable at the AGO.

But there’ll be an excellent opportunity to check it (and a number of other cool art performances) at the AGO’s First Thursday event on Thursday May 7th, tickets here! It’ll be projected large, myself and Rachel will be there and I’ll be giving a little talk about it close to the beginning of the event.

Feb 122015
 

It’s a great time to start watching Haphead, the cyberpunk webseries I wrote/created — we’ve got half the first season online now! Plus, we’re doing a watchalong of the first season this Sunday afternoon — an online collective viewing of the full 72 minutes of season one for people who have (or are willing to) chipped in a couple bucks. Plus a Twitter Q&A at the end! Details below.

Those Bittorrent-lovin’ disruptive culture types VODO are selling the full HD version for download or stream for $4.99 (or make an offer). You can also get the download or stream for the same price on VHX at over here.

Trailer here. We’re getting some pretty sweet responses like this one from Hugo-award winning author Peter Watts:

Haphead is way better than it has any right to be. Little gems of technosocial extrapolation glitter throughout Munroe’s screenplay: upscale malls with perky automated security systems, apologetically refusing entry to consumers with “mixed-income backgrounds”; insurance companies with their own paramilitary SWAT teams to go after false claimants. The plot itself— at first glance a straightforward lefty bit of capitalist-bashing— takes turns you might not expect… Star Elysia White is a real find; whether Max is mourning or raging, pondering some mystery or cracking wise, her performance is spot-on throughout.

Continue reading »

Jan 152015
 

hapheadmovieposter-blog

We’re putting the finishing touches on the first season of Haphead, an 8 episode webseries I wrote and created, and we’re going to watch all 70 minutes at the Royal Theatre a week today. It’s the whole deal — q&a with cast/crew, afterparty for everyone, and the theatre is a beautiful venue — they’re even licensed for the occasion. Our last Royal screening sold out, so we recommend ordering tickets online to avoid disappointment.

If you’re not in Toronto, you’ll want to subscribe via the service of your choice at haphead.com as the first episode is going online immediately after the screening.

Haphead is the story of a girl who’s literally empowered by videogames.

Ten years from now, a new haptic peripheral makes videogames so immersive that people learn skills just by playing. Maxine makes less than minimum wage at the factory where they make them, so she decides to become an unofficial beta tester by stealing one for herself. At home, her favorite rabbit-ninja game gets a whole lot more punishing, with the haptic feedback loop beating lethal skills into her muscle memory. Which is good: she needs to level up quick once her employer discovers her on-the-job theft.

Luckily, she’s not alone. There are other hapheads out there, with a variety of game-trained abilities. But while some of them are kindreds, one of them brings death….

It’s pretty incredible seeing these projects come together, each successive iteration getting closer and closer to what we imagined. And as the poster above declares, this is not a No Media Kings production — it’s an entirely new and exciting thing. We’ll be announcing more about that at the screening!

Oct 312014
 

hoodiefencemaxine

We’re Kickstarting post-production for Haphead, my cyberpunk web series about a girl who’s literally empowered by videogames. Consider backing it and get some rewards like parkour lessons and producer credits!

Running a Kickstarter is a lot of work, but it’s work we need to do anyway — spreading the word about our new project. As always, we’re trying to balance the hype with a good deal of content.

First, the Kickstarter video starts with a teaser using the brand new footage we shot in the summer. Then we created a new reward with our talented artists, a calendar of post-apocalyptic pin-ups called Fallen Toronto.

Yesterday we posted a gallery of amazing production stills like the one above. Today we released a recruitment ad voiced by a local radio personality, “Fearless” Fred Kennedy from Edge 102.1. I’m really happy with it — it’s a parody of the “Get into the Game Industry!” ads that aim to profit from people’s dreams of getting to work in their favourite medium. Listen to it here.

Jul 312014
 

hapheadtrain

About a month ago we got the word that Haphead, our near-future videogame subculture webseries, received funding. It’s a lot of the same folks I’ve been making lo-fi sci-fi no-budget films with since 2007 — except this time we’re getting paid a living wage for it! Pretty wild. Having a budget also means we can consider renting locations (like the train car above!) as well as accelerate the process — we’ll be releasing the first 45-60min (AKA “Season 1”) in January, instead of the 3 year odyssey that Ghosts With Shit Jobs was. I also won’t be wearing as many hats (just three: executive producer/creator/writer) but I know from the awesome proof-of-concept trailer our team produced with minimal interference from me that it’s in very, very good hands.

If you want to jump on the Haphead train before our mid-August shooting begins, this is what we’re still looking for!

  • a large abandoned warehouse or factory we can rent for a day (something like this pic)
  • people with physical talents: parkour, martial arts, circus skills, skateboarding/scootering, breakdancing
  • adult background actors (AKA extras) of different ages/ethnicities (no experience needed)
  • small camper / magic van / Winnebago
  • a house with a little character
  • onset medic

If you have a lead on any of the above, please drop our producer Anthony a line at anthony@lofiscifi.com and he can give you more details.

Apr 152014
 

otherworlds
I first heard about Vodo a few years back when they were using BitTorrent as a form of alternative distribution for science fiction shorts and web series — something we did as well with our 2007 effort Infest Wisely. Currently they’re trying out a pay-what-you-want model, and they approached us to include Ghosts With Shit Jobs in their indie sci-fi Otherworlds bundle. They’ve brought together a great bunch of sci-fi shorts, experimental videogames (Tale of Tales) and speculative graphic novels (Cory Doctorow), and we get a bit of money whether you pay-what-you-want for the main tier or “unlock” our movie on the second tier. (I guess we’ll have to update our profit-reporting post after this!) Incidentally, this is the first time you can buy a DRM-free digital version of our movie since the Kickstarter.

The Otherworlds bundle is available for the next two weeks.

Mar 152014
 

Factory_Interior-Press-Kit.resized

We started making Ghosts With Shit Jobs in 2009, released it in 2012 and screened it in 25 cities thanks to a Kickstarter campaign through 2012-13. We’ve learned a ton and recently applied what we know now to a proof-of-concept trailer for a new project — it’s called Haphead, and features the infinitely stretching electronics factory pictured above. And bunny-ninja fights.

But before we move on we thought we’d talk frankly about the numbers behind our lo-fi sci-fi feature.

We attracted attention to the project by being up front about our original $4000 production costs, and now we want to do a final accounting in the hope that it’s useful and/or interesting to other indie filmmakers. There’s a certain amount of pressure to not talk about this stuff when it’s not super-impressive — that somehow it hurts our credibility — but we think it’s useful to show people what very minor success looks like.

Ghosts With Shit Jobs cost $20,180.97 to create and promote and earned a gross of $39,317.18 $40,917.18. Continue reading »

Mar 072014
 

Ten years from now, videogames are so immersive that teenagers learn lethal skills just by playing. They’re called hapheads.

The folks I made Ghosts With Shit Jobs with made this trailer I adapted from a book-length story I’m working on. Don’t know if we can honestly call what we do lo-fi sci-fi anymore — with fight scenes and full-on special effects, it’s way more in the mold of traditional action sci-fi. I’m thinking what’ll set it apart is the characterization of the father & daughter (my emotional entry into the story, thinking about my relationship with my daughter in 10 years) and the subcultural mileau that’ll emerge. This trailer a proof-of-concept thing meant to rally the interest we need to get it made — so if you’d like to see it, share it.

Feb 042014
 

I’ve been getting together with folks I made Ghosts With Shit Jobs with to make a trailer for our next project, Haphead — starts shooting on Sunday, get in touch if you’d like to help out. We’re going to be working with the same actress who starred in “Just Ella” — a short I wrote/directed for the Lo-fi Sci-fi 48 Hour Film Challenge. It screened at Toronto After Dark (my favourite Toronto film fest) a few months back, and now you can watch it here.

“Just Ella” posits a future overrun by gibbering monstrosities. Ella takes refuge in a “the Ossington Safehouse, a collectively-run space dedicated to human sovereignty.” But despite doing the assigned tasks on the chore list, the Safehouse isn’t safe — the terrors outside are nothing compared to those within.

Contains perhaps the first cinematic example of autocomplete used for a dramatic reveal.

Credits here.

Oct 082013
 

Magi's Rendering screenshot

Quite flattered and surprised to announce that I’ll be the artist-in-residence at one of North America’s largest museum galleries, the AGO. During February and March they’re providing a studio, a stipend and institutional support to make art — in my case, game art — and engage the public. What the public engagement will look like is still in the planning stages but I’ll be posting more about it as event details firm up.

In related news, I took part in a hackathon and made this art game in about six hours with the guys at Verold. The Magi’s Rendering is my first 3D game, and you can play it now in most recent browsers. Credits and design notes below. Continue reading »

Sep 052013
 

At a time of year when everyone’s talking TIFF, we thought we’d talk BIFF. For us, getting into the Beijing International Film Festival was a bigger deal, what with Ghosts With Shit Jobs being about a future where China’s the first world and North America’s the third world.

Co-director Tate Young interviewed BIFF-goers earlier this year on what they thought about the premise of our flick, and got lots of great city shots to boot, in this 6.5 minute mini-doc.

It’s now four years since we began this project and it’s been quite a trip — literally and figuratively. Since its London, England premiere last year we’ve toured with the movie to nearly 20 cities across the world. Figured it merits its own commemorative tour t-shirt, which you can buy at cost for the next week (mens | ladies). It’s got all the cities on the back!

As an aside, you should enjoy TIFF while it lasts — it ends in 2019 after cultural funding disappears completely. BIFF buys all the red carpets at an auction afterwards.

May 132013
 

I was lucky enough to be on the narrative jury this year for the Independent Games Festival. One of my favourite games was Kentucky Route Zero, a lovely point-and-click adventure with an anachronistic story that dips into magical realism and Flannery O’Connor. Like the writing, the art and cinematography is evocative and assured, and indeed took the Excellence In Visual Art award (up against strong competition from my Guilded Youth collaborator, Matt Hammill).

I stayed with KRZ co-creator Jake Elliott on a recent trip to Chicago and, inspired by a Let’s Play-themed screening/performance event I took part in there, we ended up doing a Let’s Play-style interview (video heremp3 audio-only file here). It’s pretty long and in-depth as we do play through most of Act I, but I imagine some fans will get into the slow-paced conversation amidst the chirping of the crickets. But if you’re just mildly game-curious, scrub through it — you’ll get a sense of the artistic sophistication and some of the creative concerns. If you’re suitably intrigued, you can go buy it here.

May 062013
 

wonderland

Do you know the Latin phrase “solvitur ambulando”? Used by the wandering scholars of medieval Europe, it means “walking solves it”. It’s always been true for me, as someone for whom walking is both wonderfully meditative and creatively inspiring. I started thinking about using this sentiment in a game context, and came up with an idea that coder Callum Hay and sound designer/composer Adam Axbey were both into, too. We realized a proof-of-concept this past weekend at the Toronto Game Jam.

Wonderland: A Solvitur Ambulando Mystery is an app for the iPhone. You listen to an audio story set in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood in 1915 — the projectionist of the Wonderland, one of the city’s first movie theatres, makes a grim discovery in the aisle one morning. You can listen to the beginning of the superbly produced and acted clip after the jump. Continue reading »

Apr 022013
 

451-700
Today is the launch of KTR 451, a game I developed for the Toronto Public Library. Drawing on the themes and characters in Fahrenheit 451 (the TPL’s One Book this year), it’s a simple alternate reality game — part scavenger hunt, part audio drama — and people in Toronto can play it by calling the phone number above. There’s three missions, one per week, until a live event on April 22nd.

Naturally, this was a huge thrill for me on a number of levels. Continue reading »

Mar 062013
 

Pipe Trouble is an arcade-style game like many of the “pipe-connecting” genre — except you’re connecting natural gas pipelines in Alberta. Build too close to farms and livestock and risk incurring an eco-saboteur’s explosive wrath. Build too far around and your boss gets upset that you’re wasting money. It’s a serious game that attempts to model the tensions in the region while providing engaging gameplay, with a score by members of Fucked Up (who I think should be credited as Fracked Up, given the issue we’re addressing).

Play the free trial here in your browser. A percentage of the $1.99 full version for iPad and Android goes to the David Suzuki Foundation.

Update: Due to the Sun’s sloppy journalism, there’s been a bit of a media furor, but unfortunately in a “taxpayer dollars paid for this?!” vein rather than about the more important environmental or industry issues the game addresses. We’ve issued a press release in response.

My thoughts on it below. Continue reading »

Jan 142013
 

Put your trillion dollar coins away! Ghosts With Shit Jobs is available to rent for as little as $4.99. Our lo-fi sci-fi mockumentary about the slums of Toronto in 2040 is now in wide digital release at the links below.

To help support this we’re offering to do 20 videochat Q&As between now and when the Debt Ceiling falls in. To enter, sign up over here and plan a GHOSTS screening party of five or more people in January and February. Then, if you’re one of the lucky 20, one of our lo-fi faces will be beamed via sci-fi into your very home!

iTunes / Amazon (US only) / Xbox / PSN Vudu

Trailer / First 20 minutes

For people looking for DRM-free options, we recommend buying the DVD and then ripping it.

(And sure, Cloud City is a bit of an ethically dubious place. But it’s not like Lando would sell us out or anything, that dude is solid!)