Strange Animals 28jan2020: Pause, Breathe

Short one this week, and a few days late, as you can see. I’ll be honest, I’m struggling a little at the moment. This often happens at the beginning of the year.

The end of the year is a reset whether or not I’m ready for it, and I try to take stock of where I find myself and where I want to be, in terms of my work, but also in terms of my life. While that’s useful over a longer period, actually sitting with everything in the moment means that things come up that you don’t enjoy.

The beginning of the year is also a time of possibilities, when I’m trying out different things to see what my focus will be for the rest of the year. Which means that I’m picking things up and throwing them back, and that can feel like I’m standing still even though I know I’m not.

For example, in terms of my writing, I’ve trashed everything I wrote in the new year, and instead, I’ll be focussing on doing another draft of SAWBONES so I can send it to the artist by the end of February (I’m hoping) – which will let her decide if she wants to draw it in the first place. This means that I won’t have created anything new till then. But I’m still coming up with new ideas, and there are older ideas I haven’t done any work on, so focussing has been an issue.

In other changes, one of my oldest and closest friends, who’s also been my next-door neighbour for the last couple of years, is moving out of the country. I’m thrilled for him, but I’m definitely going to need to recalibrate my social life in 2020, because I won’t be able to coast on the convenience of coffee with a bestie anytime I want and instead … you know, got outside. Where the people are. I don’t know about you, but I’m only getting older and crankier, and meeting new people gets more difficult as I go.

As usual, I’m trying to be kind on myself without slacking off so much that the important stuff gets left by the wayside.

In fact, in preparation of the new draft of SAWBONES, I actually read my first draft back to front, and it’s better than I’d expected it to be. There are rough edges, and much rewriting to be done, but the characters and the themes mostly come through, and the key scenes work as well as I’d intended them to. As I wrote it, I’d tried to keep in mind Ram V’s advice: Every scene should do at least two things. I ended up with a first draft in which every scene managed to do at least one thing I really needed it to do, and it’s easier to rewrite scenes that do one thing than scenes that do nothing.

So anyway, there’ll be no central essay this time. I wanted to revise my Twitter thread on the lettering in Watchmen and compile it along with interesting observations from some other people, but that’ll have to wait till next time. I need some time to breathe at the moment.

1. Notes

This week saw the release of John Constantine: Hellblazer #3 from Si Spurrier, Aaron Campbell, Jordie Bellaire and myself, from DC Comics.

Also released this week was Afterlift #4, by Chip Zdarsky, Jason Loo, Paris Alleyne and me, from Comixology Originals.

2. Elsewhere

Two of my pals in comics have started their own newsletters.

Ram V’s Fly By Soul and Dan Watters’s Kind of the Point are both cool as hell, and contain observations from two of the sharpest minds in comics right now, alongside snippets from current and upcoming work (much of which I’m involved with).

If you like this newsletter, or the work I do, you’d do well to follow them. The links above will take you to the first instalment of each one, where you can subscribe if you like.

3. Recommended Typeface/Website

This is a combination recommendation. Recursive Sans and Mono is a variable font currently in its beta version. Personally, I’m much more interested in the “mono” part of this rather than the “variable”, but I have to admit that the flexibility the variable aspect offers, particularly in the switch between “Linear” and “Casual” versions, is fascinating to me.

Recursive is still in Beta, and can be downloaded from the linked website. The developers mention that they plan to release it through Google Fonts, and I’m guessing they’ll have standard release versions (not all the apps I use support variable fonts, after all – Ulysses refuses to render italics as I write this, for example).

Furthermore, the website itself is worth a visit. It’s entirely set in Recursive, and is almost fully editable – you can just click anywhere and type away in Markdown to see the typeface in action. There are also tons of interactive widgets where you can play with the variable aspects of the font in realtime, and also find out how to use Recursive in your own work.

Useful and pretty cool at the same time.

4. From the Commonplace Book

I’ve only just ordered this book, but I did so on the strength of this little excerpt. From The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks on the United States, which, to be clear, since it’s already 2020, is an SF novel by Jeffrey Lewis published in 2018 and not a work of non-fiction:

“The cultural difference between firefighters in other parts of the world and the tobi (firefighters) of Edo can be explained by the simple fact that the latter did not fight fires with water; they had no water trucks or water pumps, just a few buckets and ladders. The primary method of controlling fires at the time was to knock down houses to make a firebreak, which allowed the fire to burn itself out without spreading. Thus, the fire brigades weren’t there to fight the fire but to fight any homeowner who might – understandably – resist seeing his home demolished. A sort of protection racket arose around the firefighters. After all, it was far better if the tobi sacrificed a neighbor’s house to the firebreak rather than your own. Naturally, the Edo firemen became a tough lot – drinking, brawling, and covered in tattoos. Indeed, the distinctive tattoos that mark the Yakuza, today’s Japanese gangsters, are a relic of the Edo fire brigades.”

Filed under #fiction and #social.