Inspiring Creators

Aug 072012

Back when I knew him in Toronto, Kirby Ferguson was making dirty comedy shorts and directing a segment of my sci-fi flick Infest Wisely. Five years later, he’s doing Ted talks and raising 50K+ for his next video thinkpiece series. His Everything is a Remix series is to blame for his ascension from the gutter — it’s a terrific, much needed piece of populist cultural theory. Watch it for free here! Earlier today we sat down to talk reinvention, being of service, and the benefits of obscurity.

You can download the newest episode in the No Media Kings Inspiring Creators podcast over here, subscribe to it via RSS2 or iTunes, or just click play below. Feedback welcome! I just got a new microphone, so hopefully it’s loud enough to listen to while you do the dishes.

Jul 242012

I’m involved with the new Lo-fi Sci-fi 48 Hour Film Challenge that’s happening at the end of August. In my role as Creative Director I’ve programmed four Lo-fi Sci-fi Salons in the run-up to the Challenge.

Each Salon will be hosted by a different local filmmaker who will be showing some inspiring fantastical shorts and then sharing some tips from their experience making science fiction movies. There’ll be lots of time before and after to meet & drink with other lo-fi sci-fi enthusiasts.

  • July 30: I will be chatting with Louis Savy, Programmer for SCI-FI-LONDON, over Skype. S-F-L is a big inspiration, and we’ll be watching some of the best shorts from its long-running 48 hr Film Challenge.
  • Aug. 6: Matthew Nayman (“Blind Spot“) will be talking quick and dirty visual effects
  • Aug. 13: David Fernandes (“Re-Wire“) will be sharing tips on props and sets on the cheap
  • Aug. 20: the folks behind the upcoming feature A Brand New You

They’re happening Mondays at 7pm at the Monarch (12 Clinton St., Toronto). They’re free and open to the public — you don’t have to be signed up for the Challenge.

But you totally should! It’s a great way to collaborate with new people, try something too weird and experimental for a feature, and get something small and achievable in the can. Hot tip: if you check out the first Salon you’ll get a sense of what it’s about and still have time to get the Early Bird rate ($50/team til Aug 1st).

Jul 012011

I’ve recently been inspired by the amazing long-form interview WTF podcast to revive the Inspiring Creators Series here on No Media Kings. The thing I love about Mark Maron’s style is that he is the opposite of the objective reporter — he’s a confessional, personal, self-obsessed egomaniac, and you end up loving him for it. I think when ever I was doing these interviews in the past I felt like the noble thing to do was to make it all about the person I was interviewing, when really I was most interested in having a open discussion with my peers and fellow cultural workers.

But anyway: Machine of Death. A smart and funny crowdsourced science fiction anthology self-published by a bunch of webcomic creators becomes a #1 best seller on Amazon, is publicly denounced by right wing pundit Glenn Beck and generally flies in the face of every scrap of received wisdom about publishing. Rethinking publishing is something I know a thing or two about, and what’s even better is I know these guys, so I thought it’d be a good way to try out this whole conversational approach. David was in town for TCAF and he and Ryan nicely made their way out to my place overlooking the railway in the Junction. We chatted for about an hour and a half and I cut thirty minutes out.

Machine of Death is available as a free e-book and in a print edition, and if you like it you should consider submitting a story (July 15th deadline!).

No Flash? Download the MP3 here or here.

If you dig this, you might want to subscribe to the Inspiring Creators podcast (RSS2 or itunes) or check out my other (older, more stilted) interviews with videogame maker Jon Mak, comics artist Carla Speed McNeil, or Wholphin DVD editor Brent Hoff.

Jul 172010

Two recent book trades that I felt I got the better deal of — A Dream on Two Wheels and A Book of Tongues.

Wheels is a smart and whimsical cyclist alternate reality written by Sarah A. Chrisman, who not only handmakes her books but also a selection of hats you can wear while reading them. Lovely!

Tongues is a baroque masterpiece. The worldbuilding is as dense and rich as China Miéville’s, and the cowboy sex smells of Jean Genet’s forbidden machismo. The fact that this outlaw confabulation has come from a debut novelist from Toronto and a Toronto publisher of excellent weird spec-fiction just makes me extra-excited.

May 182008

Rosemary Mosco's AlbacrossThe second round of the Artsy Games Incubator went terrific: all five of us ended up with videogames you can download and play: check out Mouse Police, Bungee Fisher, Cupcake Challenge, Albacross, and my own Baby Runs This Mofo.

It’s a good excuse to interview one of the founding sponsors of the AGI project, Jon Mak, a Toronto game designer who Newsweek dubbed a “wunderkind”. His abstract videogame Everyday Shooter came out for the PS3 and now it’s available on the PC — if you’d like a chance at winning a free copy, leave a comment in response to the MP3 interview I did with him below. In it Jon explains why Guitar Hero is fun despite being a sucky game, that he learns best through failing, how he made ES while working part-time for money thanks to context switch, & how the work gets better the more you take away.

No Flash? Get the MP3 here.

Oct 252007

sid-thumb.jpgAlthough we’ve been prepping for it for the better part of a year, Susan and I began the project in earnest a week ago today: her name is Sidney Amelia Bustos Munroe, and she weighed in at 7 pounds, 14 ounces.

It’s been going great, it’s a totally engrossing and fascinating process. Susan and I have made a bunch of things together, but Sid’s by far the best. Imagine a human being, but an implausibly adorable one, and you’ll have an idea of what she’s like. And if you’ve having trouble picturing that, check out the pictures interspersed with some of my early observations. Continue reading »

Aug 212007

cons-thumb.jpgJust coming down from the high of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival where we not only found an excited audience for our new graphic novel (we sold 90 copies in two days!) but I got to sit beside my favourite comic maker at the convention, Carla Speed McNeil — who, incidentally, I first heard about through the first TCAF when we were on a self-publishing panel together. I did a quick 20 minute interview with her and we talked about why she creates anachronistic science fiction societies, how she gets around the fact that her work is complex and hard to promote, and the development of her sin-eating aboriginal bad-boy.

Download the MP3 here.

Keep reading to hear about the other amazing cons I went to this summer, as well as some tips for enjoying them! Continue reading »

Jul 312007

Ariel Gore gets the word out thereI’ve always prided myself on the fact that the DIY publishing articles on this site have a certain lack of, shall we say, bullshit. And normally, a book called How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead would smell a little funky to me. However, Ariel Gore, Hip Mama mag creator and indie culture maven wrote this book, and like all her books (I’m particularly fond of her memoir Atlas of the Human Heart) it is excellent. As well as sharing her own considerable experience, she interviews folks like Ursula K. Le Guin, Dave Eggers, and even me, and manages to pack more wisdom and practical advice than I’ve ever seen in a book of its ilk. (It had an extremely high nods-per-minute ratio.) She even gets the folks she interviews to give “assignments” at the end, making it a writing class unto itself. Plus it’s extremely readable — I intended to skim to find something to excerpt but I found myself sucked in and reading most of it. Below is one of my favourite sections in the book. Continue reading »

Mar 042007

Expozine 2006 posterartRevolver #2, which consists of an excerpt of Salgood Sam and my upcoming graphic novel Therefore Repent!, has been nominated for the Expozine Alternative Press Award for best comic. It’s an offshoot of the awesome Montreal zine fair, one of the more successfully bilingual events I’ve been to. This is the second time they’ve done the award and, although I have fairly ambiguous feelings about prizes and competitions, I think the attention it draws to underexposed artists is definitely a Good Thing.

Case in point, a nominee in last year’s Expozine competition The Hero Book by Scott Waters.

Scott’s a pal, and the book is great, but he’s a curmudgeon. Not likely to tour, or do readings, or talk to people, he’s not exactly a media magnet. But awards like the Expozine Award give a context in which to talk about him. Or, in this case, interview him. Continue reading »

Jan 282007

recommendations-thumb.jpgMark Slutsky is an old friend and longtime collaborator — we’ve written screenplays together and he’s acted in shorts of mine — and his studio, Automatic Vaudeville, has recently released a hilarious comedy under a Creative Commons licence for free download. The Recommendations is a 55 minute mockumentary about the horrible violence bubbling just under the genteel surface of Canadian literature. A showcase for their obvious goofball humour as well as their subtler cultural savvy, it’s my favourite of the Montreal movie studio’s almost fifty productions. To watch a trailer, read a short interview with Mark, and find out how to download it, keep reading. Continue reading »

Jan 072007

Helen at her book launchOn the day I met Helen and Paul, we had just made the long train trip from Montreal to Halifax and I was trying to decide between showering and eating before my book launch — I figured it might be hard to find vegan food in a new city and I didn’t have time for both. Paul, who’d picked us up, ushered us into a cosy kitchen to meet Helen. She offered me some stew, and regretfully — both because I was hungry and because I always felt bad rejecting people’s hospitality — I told her that I was hard to feed: I was vegan.

“We’re vegan too!” Helen exclaimed.

This was a lovely introduction to the delightful paradox of Helen and Paul. Continue reading »

Dec 202006

Susan as collaged by Margaux Williamson.Susan’s birthday is today, and last night she finished off the last academic assignment for her doctorate. That’s only one of the many things she’s pulled off this year — being her husband I might be biased, but I think her 33rd year was pretty amazing.

As a biochem grad student, Susan has pretty much a full-time job at a lab where she’s been publishing papers, training students and doing real science type stuff with gels and microscopes and a labcoat of her own. Last year she started a group on campus and a zine (LadyScientist) to talk about the issue of women in science. (Interesting fact that we just discovered this week: University of Toronto has the widest wage discrepancy between male and female professors in Canada.) This year she’s been dealing with the same issues, just in a fantastic variety of ways… Continue reading »

Sep 142006

The lion one was clearly cooler.I’ve finished a first draft for our lo-fi sci-fi movie script Infest Wisely (UPDATE: Check it out!). It’s got a Voltron-inspired story structure, with seven segments that stand alone but come together to form a feature length piece. Since we’re planning to shoot it next month, I’d rather just release it than talk a bunch about it, but if you’re curious you can peek behind-the-scenes — it’s our unofficial “whiteboard” website where we’ve been amassing ideas/considerations.

Talking about unusual shorts, McSweeney’s has put out a “DVD magazine of unseen films”, Wholphin, and were nice enough to trade it for my DVDzine Novel Amusements. I did a phone interview with the editor Brent Hoff where we discuss subtitling foreign sitcoms, trailblazing with distributors, cepholopods, films about beards, not wasting people’s time, and the world’s most illegal game of volleyball — press play to hear it.

No Flash? Get the MP3 here.

Aug 172006

T-Rex looking totally awesome.Ryan North does a daily webcomic which features the same six panels with three talkative dinosaurs and a tiny woman about to be crushed. 70,000 people a day check out Dinosaur Comics, for good reason — it’s hilarious and inventive and occasionally thought-provoking, which is a lot to wring out of T-Rex clipart and MS Paint.

I was on a panel with him at Ad Astra and discovered he lived in Toronto, too, and so we got together last month to chat about being an adult who still wears pajamas, funding free comics with t-shirt sales, the positive sum game of webcomic linking, his programming side-projects, and his beautifully designed new book Your Whole Family is Made Out of Meat.

No Flash? Get the MP3 here.

Jun 212006

cele-bration time!One of the gems I received in response to my offer to trade books was a thin volume named The Giant Squid in… Holiday Hijinx. It preyed on my love of underwater creatures, the antiquated absurd, and needlessly cruel narrators. I’d enjoyed the Ask the Giant Squid columns online for their uppercrust tone and sharp-beaked attacks on monkeymen, but it wasn’t until I read them collected that I began to appreciate the characterization and narrative tentacles twined through. I interviewed the writers(s) via the interweb mail service, mostly with Dave Nelson, about their “3-pronged writing attack” and publishing experience.
Continue reading »

Mar 182006

lockpick-thumb.jpgJoey Comeau’s Lockpick Pornography isn’t just a title tease: it puts out plenty of sleaze and theft in a smart and funny queer adventure story. The narrator puts his foot through a television, pulls together a genderfucked super hero team and launches a figurative and literal attack on the straight man’s world. Starting life as an online novel, it’s become a beautifully designed physical object courtesy of Vancouver’s Loose Teeth Press. Joey is launching it with a reading with Derek McCormack at Toronto’s This Ain’t The Rosedale Library Bookstore (481-A Church St) on Tuesday, March 21, 7 p.m. Free.

I asked him a few questions over email about the book.

Continue reading »

Feb 282006

quantal-thumb.jpgIt’s a rare time that I like an art show so much that I’ll buy a catalogue — I find the writing in them does nothing for me. They’re as bad as artist’s statements, usually, which (along with the obligatory reading for authors) I consider to be a cultural convention that is deeply broken. But despite the fact that A Beginner’s Guide to Quantal Strife is a catalogue for a show that I hadn’t even seen yet, I read it cover to cover. It’s a thought-provoking and breezy read.

Sally McKay, past editor of arts magazine Lola and an artist herself, is responsible for bringing together Quantal Strife. I know her and two of the three artists personally but I was still left with lots of questions as to how she managed to pull this off.
Continue reading »

Jan 112006

missy-thumb.jpgI met Missy Kulik at an indie media conference where I was doing a DIY Books seminar. I picked up a couple of her comics and we’ve kept in touch ever since. Her first book, Personal Charm, was self-published in June: or as the copyright page more originally puts it, “First Pressing June 2005.” We chatted by email about her book, which has its roots in ten years of zine making.
Continue reading »

Dec 292005

The World is a Heartbreaker cover artSherwin Tjia is a Montreal artist who makes everything from Scrabble-tile lapel pins to schoolgirl comics to mini-CDs inviting us to listen to his friends masturbate. His latest book of poetry, The World is a Heartbreaker, is a collection of three liners: “i don’t want to say/ payback, but you know it’s/ pretty much payback”. It renewed my faith in the power and relevance of poetry the way that the best song lyrics do. I asked him a few questions over e-mail about the book’s development.

Continue reading »

Oct 132005

Ninj designed the best zine logo ever.Almost ten years ago, at the Imperial Pub at Dundas and Yonge, Jeff told me about his plans for a new zine. Quite different than Yip, his humor zine, it would be about exploring off-limits places. I was concerned about having such a narrow focus for a whole zine. I suggested he give it a broader theme, relegating the exploring to a column or subsection. “You could call it Sneak,” I said, brainstorming other sections for scams and other naughtiness.

Out of spite, Jeff (AKA Ninjalicious) published twenty-five issues of Infiltration, a zine about going places you weren’t supposed to go. And next week, his definitive book on the subject — Access All Areas: A User’s Guide to the Art of Urban Exploration — is being launched in Toronto, to the dismay of lazy security guards everywhere.
Continue reading »