On March 6, I read a three short chapters from my in-process novel, The Rescue, at Paging Columbus. Hannah Stephenson was kind enough to provide video snippet (and to invite me in the first place), so if you didn’t make the reading, here’s your chance to catch up!
In the story, Leonora, who can hear and communicate with ghosts, runs an antique store where she builds her family from the haunted items she collects. The 7-minute video below includes two of chapters I read at Paging Columbus, each describing how one of the main ghosts died (the third chapter had a little too much background noise to hear clearly on the video). Enjoy!
Thanks again to Hannah and to the wonderful Paging Columbus audience!
Wow! I’ve been so busy this week, I’ve failed to post anything I intended this week! Well, I’ll get to it later. The important, just-can’t-wait news at the moment is that Issue #3 of The Outbreak, “Monster at the Institute,” is online!
Thank you again to everyone who has given kind words, advice, and donations so far! I’m really excited by the response. I’ll have some more stuff lined up for Free Comic Book Day (May 3), so stay tuned.
Chapter 3 of “Monster at the Institute” is the longest yet—30 panels—and it finally takes into the midst of Dr. Fenimore’s mysterious lab. What’s happening in there? And what has happened to Dr. Fenimore? Only one way to find out…
For those interested, here’s a summary of Issue #2. Eventually, I might add these to the issue webpages, but no promises.
Issue #2 Summary:
Dr. Sullivan goes down to the biology department and looks through the slit in the large metal door covering Dr. Fenimore’s laboratory. He sees Dr. Fenimore’s assistant, Ivan, walking with dissecting tools. After Dr. Sullivan’s knock, Ivan opens the door, which seems to involve many locks. Ivan tells Dr. Sullivan that Dr. Fenimore is unavailable, and before he can insist, Dr. Sullivan is overcome by a terrible smell. He also hears an inhuman howl from the laboratory. Ivan closes the door before he recovers, leaving Dr. Sullivan staring at the closed door.
So what did you think of the debut issue of The Outbreak?
This next issue is just a little longer, which I hope you’ll enjoy. In Chapter Two of “Monster at the Institute,” Dr. Sullivan gets his first glimpse into Dr. Feminore’s laboratory… It’s posted right here this very moment, so go check it out!
Although the first issue will continue to stay on the site indefinitely, I’ve included a brief summary of “Monster at the Institute,” Chapter One, below. Enjoy!
Issue #1 Summary:
Patrick Sullivan, a chemist at the Institute for Co-Existence, writes in the journal he keeps for posterity. His recent experiments to discover the origins of the lupanoids have failed, and he is feeling down about it. He mentions that several of his chemistry colleagues have not done any better, although one is collaborating with the biology department. Despite how uncomfortable the biology department makes him, he decides to approach one of the biologists, Dr. Fenimore, to discuss collaboration.
NOTE: I’ve had a few requests for a general summary of the world in which The Outbreak (and specifically “Monster at the Institute”) takes place. Hopefully, all this comes through clearly in the comic, but if you want a little more information or to read ahead, this is what you’re looking for!
While still recovering from the trauma of World War II, England endures an outbreak of ravenous, wolf-like carnivores called lupanoids. The beasts take over the countryside, dramatically altering the landscape and culture. No one seems to understand where they came from or why. All that is known for sure is that the lupanoids aren’t wolves and aren’t humans, and they appear to never have been either. Popular opinion is divided on whether they should (or can) be exterminated or whether humankind should learn to live alongside the lupanoids.
Two main groups make up either side of this debate. The Institute for Co-Existence, which is just a refurbished version of the war-time Institute for Peace, is a government-funded research institute that employs chemists, biologists, mathematicians, sociologists, and other scientists all working toward a common goal: to establish a new normal society in which humans and the lupanoids co-exist without fear. On the other hand, The Confrontation is a military-style group that eliminates lupanoids wherever the soliders find them. The Confrontation is careful, though, to tranquilize the beasts before burning them at a cremation facility offsite, since the fresh blood of a slain lupanoid would just attract more.
Although they seem to be at odds, the Institute and Confrontation work together frequently. The Confrontation regularly provides a small number of live lupanoids to the Institute for testing, and the Institute developed and supplies the tranquilizer used by the Confrontation. In addition, the Confrontation runs the transports that are required to get around, which are Army jeeps enhanced to protect against lupanoid attacks.
After surviving the Blitz and other stresses of the war, many English citizens found the lupanoid Outbreak too much to bear. Many have left the country, fleeing to America and other countries where they believe they’ll be free of the lupanoid threat. Those who remain live mostly barricaded in rooms with bricked-over windows, dependent on The Confrontation for transportation, and with little opportunity to venture outside without fear of attack.
But they make do, those who remain in England. Because that’s their duty to their country and families: to make do.
Beginning tomorrow, you can read excerpts from the journal of Dr. Patrick Sullivan, a chemist at the Institute for Co-Existence, in “Monster at the Institute.” Patrick flew in the Royal Air Force during the war, but now lives on the outskirts of London with his wife Susan and their young son, Marcus. Patrick is convinced that he can help find a way to control the Outbreak and to live in peace with the lupanoids, the way humans co-exist with other animals, but neither he nor his fellow scientists have come up with any solutions yet.
Learn more tomorrow…
Today’s the day, everyone! OK, it probably means more to me than to you. I mean, it’s not like this comic is going anywhere, for a while at least. It will be here for you to check back in on or for other people to discover later.
But for me this is the successful climax of over a year of work. These stories that make up The Outbreak, including the story in “Monster at the Institute,” began as short stories that I wrote to take a break from my novel. I thought there was a slim chance I’d ever get “Monster” and the other stories in a literary journal (which does take some of the pressure off, allowing me to write a little more freely than I might otherwise). But then my husband mentioned that they might make good comics…
And so, through a connection to the Naked Wordshop, I joined Sunday Comix and floated down into the rabbit hole that is the Columbus comics community. And lord, did I have a lot to learn! Just a few examples:
Although “Monster at the Institute” wasn’t intended to be the first-launched story for The Outbreak, I was lucky enough to convince Michael Neno to draw it for me, and you guys are seriously going to love the results. Michael has a great throw-back style, reminiscent of the best 1950s comic art, which fits this story so beautifully. (In fact, if you’re really interested in that other comic knowledge I’ve gained, check out his digital book Creating Old School Comics: the Tips, Tools and Tricks You Need for Pre-Digital Cartooning for only $5!) I think Michael probably worked on this story once a day for more than a year straight, and the artwork reflects that attention to detail and hard work.
Once Michael delivered the completed artwork, I realized how drastically I’d underestimated the work that still needed to be done to get my website and the actual digital comic built! I worked crazy super hard on it for… I don’t even know how long. It felt like another year, but it was probably three weeks or something. Then I sent it out to my super-special “soft open” guinea pigs to click around and let me know what didn’t work. Then I incorporated all THEIR comments, and here we are. Finally. On launch day. Whew!!
The guinea pigs to whom I owe heaps of gratitude are: Valerie Acton, Matt Betts, Viven Barlow, Travis Horseman, Canada Keck, Kathy Matthews, William Minozzi (my husband), and Glenn Shaheen. They all offered advice on navigation, caught typos, helped with rewrites, and gave me technical feedback. Thank you all so much!
“Monster at the Institute” is six issues long, and I’ll post one a week over the next six weeks on Thursdays. To get reminders and other news about The Outbreak, subscribe to this blog (the button’s up top, but if you use Chrome, you have to do it however you usually subscribe to blogs)! Michael Neno and I are already working on the next story, but you’ll only get updates by checking here.
And now, without further ado, please enjoy the debut issue of The Outbreak, “Monster at the Institute.”
Despite an intriguing concept and an interesting final quarter, The Island of Dr. Moreau fails to really engage the reader. The first three quarters of the book are filled with rambling info-dumps, detailed plot lines, and character introductions that aren’t really necessary to the story. The narrator, Prendick, spends a long time building up to the reveal of what’s happening on the island. If he were dropping clues and piecing together the puzzle himself, the reader would be right there along with him. But instead, he simply narrates odd things that happen around him without seeming to be able to come to any conclusions. It’s up to Dr. Moreau himself to explain everything in a lengthy monologue, and only after Prendick has seen it first-hand.
Even listening to this monologue, Prendick asks the wrong questions. He seems to be so caught up in the impropriety of the island that he can’t bring himself to think deeper about any of it. Moreau makes a point of saying that he doesn’t use any humans in his experiments, but how is that possible? How do you combine a bat and a dog and come up with something that walks on two legs and can speak English? And if the Hyena-Swine is a cross between those two animals, then what, exactly, are the Leopard-Man and Ape-Man created from? Since Prendick never asks about it or suspects Moreau was lying, it seems like a rather large plot hole.
The world view that underlies Prendick’s narration hurts the book as well. He clearly has an ideal of a white, heterosexual, educated Englishman as the pinnacle of civilized life. There are many subtle examples of this bias throughout the narrative, but the most egregious (to me) was his comment that the female Beast Folk seemed to be more aware of their grotesqueness and to feel shame about it, dressing themselves up more with pretty fabrics. Retch.
If you can make it through the problems in the first three quarters of the book, though, you’ll be rewarded with the ending. After a pretty dramatic action scene (relatively), the tenor of the island changes. Prendick’s priggishness, snobbery, and self-righteousness finally start to affect his safety, and he’s forced to either change his behavior or face a dangerous, lonely life. He mostly chooses the latter. These final 4 months on the island are skimmed over for the most part, but it is only then that Prendick actually begins to change a bit. The most introspective Prendick ever gets is when he returns to England and finds himself utterly traumatized by the events of the island. After being so caught up in propriety and civilized behavior for so long, Prendick finds he can’t quite blend back into society.
Maybe Wells chose Prendick as his narrator specifically to show how ridiculous his attitude is and how ill-equipped it leaves him to deal with anything more difficult than a London train delay. If so, I think this would have come through more clearly if the story were told in third-person rather than Prendick’s rather shallow first-person narration. But the fact that the unnamed narrator of The War of the Worlds had some of these same hang-ups gives me pause. At any rate, it makes both narrators difficult to sympathize with.
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