There’s plenty to say about 2018.
From a political standpoint, sociological standpoint, technological standpoint, cultural standpoint… Lots and lots happened. And most of it was covered by people better suited than me. I’m kind of out of the whole analysis game these days. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I don’t think I have much in the way of meaningful contribution to the ongoing, constant, mostly noisy conversation going on around any of it. This goes double for anything taking place online.
So I guess my first thought heading into 2019 is one about my relationship with writing.
It’s hard to sit down to write the first piece of a new year and realize not only that it’s been a month since your last piece, but that your last piece meandered all over the place conceptually, just like the one before it, and the one before that. In 2018, and 2017, and 2016, I really didn’t have a point in my blogging. Most of my heart, time, and attention went into Marlowe Kana. I tried to keep up with the pace of today’s author/blogger whatever, and I just don’t have it in me.
I used to have no trouble whatsoever sitting down and hammering out pages of text about whatever topic you could imagine. That habit has changed. Not the one where I WANT to — I find myself tempted often to do hot takes and thinkpieces on whatever insanity is taking place day to day, only for the sun to set and then rise again without having typed a word. Sometimes this is because I suspect that, by tomorrow, things will either change or people will quit caring about it (or both). Did Grover say “fuck?” Is Facebook more eviler than yesterday, or just the same evil and we just know more about it? Is this dystopia or do we have further to go? What company will piss away your private information today? Why haven’t you (or I) lost trust in those companies that have? What even is trust in 2019?
I don’t fucking know anymore. I don’t even trust myself to try writing about any of it. Daily hottakes are done for me. Thinkpieces as well. I. Just. Can’t. And so, the habit of being what I used to understand “a blogger” is gone. I don’t have the rhythm, and I certainly don’t have the interest. But I do have the desire to write more this year on this site. And if I’m discounting hottakes and thinkpieces, that pretty much leaves writing about things I’ve learned some things about — mostly writing fiction, but also cigars and pro wrestling — and then there’s my feelings.
I’m just telling you now, my blog is going to suck in 2019 if you’re not into learning about cyberpunk, writing fiction, cigars, pro wrestling, or my feelings. Or Akira, which is my second thought about 2019.
In 2019, I seek to rediscover Akira purely from a fan perspective.
My relationship with the film Akira is long and storied. If you aren’t familiar with the long stories, that’s fine, I can summarize: From 1991 until now, I have collected cels, backgrounds, and other production art used in the making of the film Akira. From 2009 until 2016, I toured around the country and the world showing this art for free, because I loved the film so much and felt that fans who wanted to see the building blocks should be able to do so freely.
Unrelated but related, in 2011, I found myself in the hospital after a breakdown, and in 2012 my marriage ended after discovering some things I never imagined could happen, and in 2013 I lost my house, my business, and virtually everything I owned except the art, some pieces of which I had to sell to eat and pay rent. Throughout all of those years, Art of Akira was what kept me energized and sane, and provided major highlights during some dark times — until the money ran out.
In 2014, I got back on my feet and was able to do a few Akira shows, in 2015 I paid off almost all of my debt and did a few more, in 2016 I did some screenwriting and started writing Marlowe Kana as a way to continue my passion of writing without making my life or myself the subject of it all, and did one Akira show. and in 2017, I published 3 books, produced a soundtrack, and took a break from Akira related anything. 2018 was the 30th anniversary of the film, and I did exactly nothing for it.
It’s 2019, the year Akira takes place. And boy, do I have a lot of feelings swirling in me just thinking about it.
As a fan, it’s exciting to actually live the year I’ve seen in the opening title sequence of a movie I’ve watched thousands of times, actually come to fruition. When I was 12 years old seeing the film for the first time, I couldn’t conceptualize being 42, much less how 2019 really would be. And now, here I am, in the year that Akira takes place, turning 42 years old — the age that is the answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything… It’s kinda a geeky singularity.
I feel that something Akira related should happen in 2019. And being the guy responsible for Art of Akira for so long, I feel like I have the capacity to do something pretty special.
But then, there’s the memories. And the cost associated. And the pure drain on my system trying to tour the globe again. I have talked with a few friends about the situation, sometimes with tears streaking down my face — it’s that big a deal to me. I want to do something for 2019, something meaningful that contributes to the community and helps tell the story of Akira to any and all who want to share in it. But I also just don’t have it in me anymore, financially, spiritually, or emotionally to relive some of the most deeply affecting years of my life.
And so I’m not going to. I’m going to do something different.
I’ve partnered with my good friend Neil Leslie, who is a very high-end Akira collector. Together, we’re reestablishing The Art of Akira as an online archive of all of the art we own, along with any and all contributions from the cel collecting community who would like to contribute scans and photos of their pieces.
The project is not quite in its infancy, but not quite ready to walk yet. We are working out the details now. We hope to launch very soon, starting with scans we’ve already taken of pieces in our collection, and producing pieces that dive into the film, or individual scenes, or the cultural impact, hopefully weekly.
This project won’t end in 2019, it will continue on until we’ve succeeded in archiving the entire collection (or as much of it as possible). And we will need help, lots of it. What that help will be, and how those interested can contribute, I don’t quite know yet. I will absolutely make sure to let anyone interested know when it’s time. But for now, just know: 2019 will see the return of the Art of Akira Exhibit, online, for free, for life.
I think this will be the healthiest, best way for me to continue my mission to preserve the art that created the finest animated film ever made, without destroying my wallet, my sanity, or my schedule for the next thing:
In 2019, I will publish Volumes 4, 5, and 6 of Marlowe Kana.
God bless my Patreon supporters. You guys are amazingly patient and supportive. I have spent the past 7 months since launching my Patreon paying my rent while writing my novel series because of you, and the schedule has slipped well past the intended deadline of
January April June October December 31.
But book 4 is in my editor’s hands, and has received LOTS of positive feedback from the beta reading team that has read it. This is the 2nd major draft. The first, I can be honest, is terrible. Maybe not quite as terrible as the first draft of book 1, but… Yeah. I completely abandoned every lesson I learned while writing it. And I want to go into that a little here, because it’s interesting (at least to me) how quickly one can lose sight of what they’ve learned.
In 2016, I produced the first draft of Marlowe Kana Volume 1. I shared it with some friends whom I trusted to be honest. They were. They said it sucked.
Not because it wasn’t what they want, or outside the bounds of their chosen genres, but because there was no structure. There was no plot progression. There was no character development. It was wish fulfillment, Mary Sue, And-then-ism throughout. It had clever turns of phrase and a few cool ideas, but by and large, it was the byproduct of an author who spent 15 years writing funny embellished stories about himself trying to write dystopian science fiction, probably one of the hardest genres to not suck at.
I totally sucked at it, and they were good enough friends to tell me how and why. I was assigned reading. I was given videos to watch. I was coached and assisted by some astoundingly talented writers and an editor who had very little patience for those who didn’t put in the effort, and I put in the effort. The result was a completely paved over story that had real structure. There were acts. There was plot progression. The characters had body and an arc. There was consequence to action. The storytelling was fluid.
I don’t mind saying that Book 1 is a good book.
I followed the same path for Book 2 and Book 3, and I am confident in saying, they get better as they go along — and they’re GOOD. I will also say outright that Book 3 of Marlowe Kana is the best book I’ve ever published in my career, and I’m VERY proud of all 3 so far.
So what went wrong with 4? Simply: I thought I was better than the process.
Marlowe Kana is intended to be 9 volumes, and at the end, it will be collected into one book called Marlowe Kana. The 9 individual volumes will still be on the market, but the book will exist as one collected novel. So naturally, it breaks down as a 3 act novel, with each of those acts consisting of 3 acts themselves. When I wrote all this out, I had all the “big points” covered. What was going to happen, and when, and where, were all lined up, and then I started writing. And writing. And writing. And in the midst of writing book 2 and book 3, I took some turns and followed some paths that resulted in a MUCH BETTER storyline than the one I had planned.
When I started on book 4, I didn’t follow the process nearly as strictly. This is for a few reasons: first, I quit my day job to write, and second, I got tempted by the prospect of an animated series based on the books. I got super distracted. I broke one of my big rules: Anyone can take Marlowe Kana and adapt it to a new form. Musicians can make a soundtrack (and have, and are). Voice talent can make an audiobook. Artists can draw a graphic novel. But I am the only one who can write these books, and if anything else is going to exist beyond them, I need to do my job.
I got pulled into the process of pitching something that ultimately never landed, and it threw me off course. This is nobody’s fault but mine. I don’t have regrets – after all, some AMAZING art by Meghan Hetrick and Casey Edwards came out of it, and you’ll get to see that when the Art of Marlowe Kana comes out this year. But I did neglect my writing timeline, and I had all these Patreon folks supporting me… I felt like, in the absence of a show (which people could reasonably understand that the writing was delayed for), and since the book was supposed to be out in spring, I had to spring HARD to get it done and keep people from being disappointed.
The result was, as I said, not very good. It wasn’t SHIT, but it wasn’t very good. I didn’t do the work I needed to do and it showed. Thankfully, only a very few people have read that version, but those who did are the exact same ones who gave me those real-friend moments of putting their arm around me and saying “Let’s talk for a minute…”
I’m a lucky man. I have amazing friends and amazingly talented people in my corner, and those who are supporting my efforts to write full time are patient and understanding and care enough about the work to keep me going while I figure all this out. And one of the key things I figured out is that my job is to write these books, first and foremost. I may have talents in other areas, but I MUST write these books, following the process, no matter how arduous or how much I think I have it in my head.
And that’s what I’ve done. I completely rewrote Volume 4, and the new draft is so so so much better. I think ultimately, people would be far more disappointed in the first Book 4, than they are waiting for this version.
Is it GOOD? I don’t know. That’s for you to decide. There’s still work to do, as my editor is finishing final edits this week and I need to go through and clean up the copy and fix all the errors and such. But I can tell you that I am as proud of this book as I am of the other 3, and as I sit here typing this, I think that Book 4 is the best in the series so far.
It didn’t help that I hurt my back during the rewrite, which leads me to another thought:
I’m probably not going to get “back in shape” in 2019, not like I was. And that’s a GOOD thing.
I probably won’t ever be in the shape I was in during Crossfit in 2013-2015. (or, during Crossfit before that, or football before that, or any other time in my life). And that’s fine by me. That whole time was fueled by fury, and I literally slept in my gym some nights because I was literally homeless. I don’t want to ever be in that situation again, so I’ll probably never be in that shape again. Plus, I fucking love food and cigars and scotch. I don’t really care about how many pullups I can do faster than some other dude. I just don’t.
I gained about 50 lbs from 2015 until now. I lost almost 30 lbs from Sept 1 until October 30 of 2018, and was feeling fantastic, and then I herniated a disc on a really heavy deadlift. Since that time, through Thanksgiving and Christmas eating, I’ve gained back 5 lbs. This is attributable to eating smarter, even if I indulge, and DDP Yoga, which I love and recommend to everyone ever.
The days of mega-heavy deadlifting and squatting and bench pressing are probably over for good. I just don’t care. Who am I impressing? I don’t make money from my body. I don’t play football anymore. I don’t compete in crossfit competitions. I don’t hang out with people for whom my “Fran” time matters. So what, exactly, is the point of putting 500+ lbs on a bar and moving it with my back and legs ever again, when I can be in exactly as good of shape doing lighter weights more times, more safely, and not ending up in a back brace because I’m A FUCKING FORTY TWO YEAR OLD SCIENCE FICTION WRITER AND WHO CARES WHAT I SQUAT.
I was the last one who did. And now I don’t. The freedom from the prison that was impressing my younger self is amazing, even if it hurt breaking free from it. And I think that surmises the rest of what I think for 2019:
In 2019, the focus for me is going to be on my work, my girlfriend, my dogs, my cats, and my home.
It has been for a few years now. That’s why I haven’t been blogging regularly, and that’s why I don’t read anything on Facebook and I flat out refuse to use Twitter. That’s why my Instagram is pretty boring. I don’t feel the need to get charged up and angry over jihad-du-jour. I don’t need the clicks. I don’t need the likes. I don’t need the favs. I don’t even really need huge book sales and promotion, although that would be nice. I make enough money from book sales and my patreon to cover the rent — that’s a HUGE accomplishment. I take on small web jobs to cover the rest.
Following the wrong path and chasing an animated show based on Marlowe Kana caused some stress in my home. I had to be talked down a few times by my girlfriend and best friend, Meghan, who is a saint and I adore her. Thinking about touring Akira art again caused stress in my household. Hurting my back caused stress in my household. Worrying about my blog and what to write and how to market my books and all the rest… You get the point.
In 2019, I plan to get up, write on my books, scan some Akira art, write (or maybe even video!) a bit about Akira, contribute to the production of the Marlowe Kana Soundtracks and Audiobooks, and otherwise just do the things that make me happy, healthy, and sane. I will be blogging about these things. I will be proud of these things, and I will share these things with you. I hope you’ll enjoy them, and maybe even share them with others.
Mostly, I think 2019 will be a year of deep consideration, objective analysis, and positivity — because it has to be.
2018, objectively, sucked. Politically, emotionally, physically, financially, and in other areas, for A LOT OF PEOPLE. And yet, somehow, I still managed to survive quitting my job, hurting my back, being broke, and getting distracted by shiny things.
This is a good sign that, with focus and proper prioritization, 2019 can be pretty fucking fantastic. It is, after all, the year several of my favorite movies takes place, and is an exciting time to live in from a cyberpunk perspective. I plan to immerse myself deeply in this concept — not embrace the dystopian bullshit like social networks, in-home surveillance devices masquerading as assistants, indulging in political mind-washing, and other things. But from the abstract, observing and considering the time we live in and its impact on us, both through the lens of a 1988 movie about 2019, and through a novel series I’m writing taking place in 2096 and looking back at the real-life events of 2019.
I’m going to be considering the year I am actively living in this year, via two of my greatest passions on earth: Akira and Marlowe Kana. I hope to compare what is going on this year to the predictions made in Akira, and analyze what is going on this year through the future-forecasting I do in Marlowe Kana. And I look forward to sharing all of what I discover with you.