Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Collaboration and Creativity

My latest writing project is part of a shared series of Episodes for Cubicle 7 Entertainment's Rocket Age, forming a connected Serial. I am writing the third Episode. This is a watershed for me because this is the first time that I have written in a collaborative environment. Sure, any time that you are obeying the canon within an established work you could claim to be collaborating but in terms of the creative experience, the work itself is a silent partner. 

So how am I going to approach this? We hammered out some broad guidelines during a Skype group chat. Each writer takes the GM and players through an exciting and adventurous episode and then hands them off to the next writer. We have set some contextual and thematic threads to better bind the Episodes into a Serial.

I plan on taking the advice of the Destiny design team at Bungie. My Episode starts with an ambitious Goal. Now, I'm not going to tell you what it is because, well, patience is a virtue. You may however deduce my goal from my process below.

Then I set out some Pillars. I will reveal that they include Mars and Deception. My Pillars set the criteria by which I judge my effective and entertaining interpretation of the Goal.

Next I go looking for Postcards. I look for images that catch my eye and demand to be part of the Episode. They help with locations, characters, descriptive details and often help me visualize a sense of scale for the key events. Postcards are also a metric for continuity.

At the same time I am working on the Pallette, the thematic and emotional landscape that I will map to the Episode. 

Postcards and Palette are a great opportunity to look well beyond the genre conventions that are expected of a Rocket Age Episode. I started by looking at Sci-Fi Mars art and found some great stuff but it felt like generic video game art designed to encapsulate space into RAM sized levels. I don't have that limit so I want more.

I have always felt that Pulp Sci-Fi like Rocket Age is Colonial Pastiche. It describes a brave new frontier that is open for business and intrigue and the Empires of Earth will flood in to lay a claim at the heels of the brave. You could call it the Wild West writ large but it is so much more than that. It is the Great Game. It is Kim and the Soldiers Three with a healthy dose of the Jungle Book. But isn't it Burroughs' Carter and Tarzan? Well, yes it is but I can't find as many photographs of Barsoom as I can of India. So if you are unsure, Mars is Colonial India. That is where I will find my Postcards.

For my Pallette I wanted some visions of Mars to reinforce my Goal and I decided to turn to film. I want Desperation so I watched Verhoeven's Total Recall (1990). Probably not the first Mars to come to mind for Rocket Age but this is Palette not Postcard. I love this crimson Mars that is an airless prison concealing a breath of salvation. Hmmm.

My next Mars is found in Lawrence of Arabia (1962). A place where rebellion begs for heroes but at what price? The Arab rebellion against the Ottomans hits a vibe with the Caste shakeup resounding from the arrival of Humans on Mars.

My final Mars is the marriage of desperation and inevitability. Where better than Zulu (1964)? What happens when the ground you stand on becomes the front line of a war and duty forbids retreat?

How far am I through this process? Early days. I have to watch and note the films, refine my library of images and keep my colleagues up to date. If you have any suggestions or want to know more about my process, let me know.