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I've been working for the last several months on a project called Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, and it's just (finally!) launched. Thrilling Tales is a series of (densely) illustrated and (lightly) interactive stories from the retro future that can be read in their entirety at the web site (for free!) or purchased as full color books (not for free!). There are also some free downloads like desktop wallpapers and screen savers and, for the moment, a single diversion in the site's Derange-O-Lab. That's the Pulp Sci-Fi Title-O-Tron, a random pulp science fiction title generator.

The first Thrilling Tale is Trapped in the Tower of the Brain Thieves which is itself the first part of a longer story called The Toaster With TWO BRAINS. Yep. That's what it's called, all right. There's a trailer for the project: you can find it on the front page of the Thrilling Tales site. Please do!

Thrilling Tales Book

In their web versions, the stories are enhanced with some gamelike features like an inventory - by clicking on an object's icon, you can view a scrolling window with an illustration of the object and some information about it - and large popup versions of the illustrations. You can save and restore your place in a story just as you would in a game.

Our HeroesAs you explore the story you're able to choose which protaganist to follow and at most points you're able to direct that character's actions. I call these "lightly interactive" because they're not completely nonlinear. In fact I'm still experimenting with story branching - especially in a multi-part story, which complicates matters - and that makes the form an interesting one.

The books are full color paperback books that include all the interactivity of the web versions, including the inventory. Trapped in the Tower of the Brain Thieves is a 128 page printed version of the interactive story at the web site. The printed illustrations are higher resolution images (300 pixels to the inch, or even a bit higher). My goal for the two versions of the stories is that each one should be the best possible version of the same thing - one optimised for the web, and the other optimized for print. I'm pretty pleased with the way they've each turned out.

The project is a lot like a web comic - with the content available for free on the web, or for purchase as printed books. The biggest difference is that because the stories aren't linear I can't post updates a couple of times a week. And going by Trapped in the Tower of the Brain Thieves, those updates will be months apart.

For that reason I'm planning to add linear illustrated stories with updates once or twice a week.  Thrilling Tales T-ShirtsAlthough that will delay the big updates even more, it's about the only way the site can build up its readership.

And like a web comic site I'm hoping that people will like the free content enough to support it in some way - by buying books or other merchandise. I've already got Thrilling Tales T-Shirts online and there will soon be posters and archival prints, all showing up at my Retropolis web site. And of course there are the books. I've got some plans for getting the next installment rolling through a Kickstarter promotion (with fabulous prizes!). But the whole thing is an experiment. It remains to be seen whether the Thrilling Tales can spark enough interest to pay for themselves. I sure hope they do!

Anyhow... that's what I've been up to, and what I'll contiinue to be up to for the forseeable future (and I guess that's not exactly the sort of future I usually spend my days in).  I hope you'll drop by the Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual site and if you like it, tell a dozen other people who might like it too!

It’s been a busy Spring and Summer so far; but just about all the work I’ve been doing has been on my web sites, so there hasn’t been much to upload here.  Last year I spent about nine months on a very large project – so large that even those months barely scratched the surface of it – and this year I’ve been trying to undo some of the resulting neglect of my commercial ventures.  Since although I may be a shiftless layabout, I’m not a wealthy shiftless layabout.

Late last week I got distracted from what I ought to have been doing by a program that generates height maps, for realistic 3D terrain, and I spent a few days mucking about with it.  Making terrain is a really interesting problem and this is one more tool in my tool box for solving that.  I sort of justified the time I spent with that software by writing it up in my Webomator blog.

Those terrain experiments have me thinking about a couple of new print-resolution images; not sure what will come of that yet, but I am thinking.  I solved a problem that was giving me fits in my 3D software and that makes it a lot more pleasant to goof around with it again.  So, like I said, things are sort of germinating, but I’m not sure yet where they’ll go.

I see that I’m creeping up toward 50,000 page views here.  I feel like we should have a party or something when I hit it.  Fireworks?

One of the things I’d like to add to the Web-O-Blog is an article or a whole section that’s all about print-on-demand services, specifically for artists.  I’ve got a feeling that might be a resource that you folks might like. But of course it’s a relatively big thing to put together, so it’s not there yet.

I guess I’ve got a fair number of things germinating, now that I think about it.  And I haven’t even mentioned my “lemon trees in Ohio” experiment, have I?

  • Listening to: Feral lawn mowers
  • Reading: Up in Honey's Room
  • Watching: 'Hex', season one

Postcard from Nova York

Sun Aug 27, 2006, 1:43 PM
    It's just been nonstop, screwball comedy hijinx day and night here in the secret laboratory, if by "nonstop etc." you mean working constantly for months at a stretch on something so huge that even months of work don't make a dent in it.

    It's my own fault, of course; last year I carried out a plan that was meant to give me lots of time to spend on a project of my own – after many years of day jobs in which I spent my time and mojo on Other People's Dreams, or possibly, on Other People's Schemes, or - most likely -on both.

    So I shuffled through the stacks of stuff in the Idea Closet and what fell on me there was one of my very favorite ideas – a comic book project called "Empire State Patrol".… It's intended for print, if a publisher likes that idea – but failing that I'm also doing some things with it that would work well online. Honestly, though, print is still the place to be, although it'll still get its own web site with previews and production updates and even a trailer, when it's ready.

    So anyway, I knew it was huge when I started but knowing that the project was huge was more or less like knowing that the ocean is wide. I mean, you get it, you realize that it's a long way to the other side, but you still don't see it on that personal level that you attain when somebody throws you in and tells you to swim across the damn thing . There are good days and there are bad days, but, you know, you just have to keep swimming.

    There's an irony here that I do appreciate. One of the things that led me out of the games business was that projects were now so huge that:

1.) very little innovation happens, due to the enormous amounts of time and money that are involved;

2.) People With Money end up making all of the decisions, including the ones pertaining to #1; and

3.) you just never see a small, committed group of people turning out something interesting any more. The cost and the time required make that almost impossible.

    So what did I do? I started working on something that I have to admit is every bit as large as a game project, but which I'm doing by myself.

   This is probably why I'm not widely recognized as a deep thinker.

    I think it's going to be neat, though!

Dark Goth & Celtic Art T-ShirtsCeltic Art & Retro-Futuristic DesignReally Neat Stuff

Vintage Graphics restored
Celtic Design T-shirtsOrganizing Against Conformity Since 1903!

Emanations from the Retrosphere

Fri Nov 11, 2005, 1:40 PM
I know this is weird, but it's turned out that leaving the Day Job has left me even less time for DA lately.

Over the past couple of months I took a good look at what I was doing with my websites, then redesigned a couple, added a couple of new ones, and started thinking about them less as a series of projects and more like the parts of one system.  That has kept my head pretty well buried in 'em for awhile but I think it was time well spent.  It'd been actual years since I made any major changes at my personal site, for one, and it's the clip art pages there that draw more traffic than anything else I've got.  Behold the power of free stuff!

But I think I'm sort of done with that, or nearly.  Some things aren't ever really finished but at the moment all the parts seem to be whirring along, doing what they're supposed to do, and hopefully the same could be said for me.

So if I have any sense at all I'll let them be for awhile and do something else.  I have some beginnings on new Retropolis scenes and I'd like to get back to that for a bit; also, I'm only partway done with patching and repainting the dining room, and it'd be nice to get that behind me, too.  Many rooms to go. Much sanding.

I'm also hoping to set up a basement workshop in the house - I haven't had enough space for that in a long time and in fact a lot of my tools and scraps and jigs and fixtures are still back in California, where I stored them over two years ago.  I'm hoping to collect them over the holdays - what I can get back out here, anyway - and during the winter I may be able to get a workshop set up again.

Anyway, I may have something new to post before much longer.  I'm just not sure what it is, yet :).

Hey! I passed 30,000 pageviews while I wasn't looking!

Dark Goth & Celtic Art T-ShirtsCeltic Art & Retro-Futuristic DesignReally Neat Stuff

Vintage Graphics restored
Celtic Design T-shirtsOrganizing Against Conformity Since 1903!

  • Reading: Terry Pratchett's "Going Postal"
  • Watching: Chrystal
Well I haven't updated much here in weeks, and there's a reason for that.  Actually a bunch of reasons.  I think they're all good ones, though.

I've thrown off the yoke of my corporate masters, though as corporate masters go, they weren't so bad.  In other words, I left the Day Job - I don't have any plans for returning to game production at all.   That's a seventeen year long story, and I'd really rather do something else now.

So I am doing something else.  I've moved to a small town in northeastern Ohio - a harbor town on Lake Erie that's practically on the border with Pennsylvania.  I have a house here that's close to 100 years old and which still needs some attention, but it's such a nice, bright, big and open space that I don't mind a bit.  I'm sure I'll be working on it for, well, ever.

This is about as much like a California beach town as I could find (afford) and it's funny how like that it is, though it's on a lake, rather than an ocean, and there is that whole Winter thing, and all.  But I think there's a quality that harbor towns have which is pretty universal.  I like it.  Oh!  Cool lighthouse, too :).

And I'm just finishing up the launch of what I think is an interesting venture at

There's a sense in which this new T-shirt venture grew out of the time I've spent at DA, in which I've gotten a chance to see who likes some of the Celtic work I've done, what else they like, and what I might do about that.  So thanks! I might never have wandered over into this idea without you.

I'm still tinkering with that site and I'll have a lot to do on the marketing front; I have a print ad coming out in early August and I'll be doing this and that online for weeks, I'm sure.

Apart from Saga Shirts, I have a couple of freelance gigs and some other ideas for ways to sell my own work online, and, well, I now have the time to do that.  I'm awfully happy overall.

As far as work on DA goes, I've been pretty wrapped up in these knotwork t-shirt designs but I also have a rough beginning for another retro-futuristic piece, and I guess in any way it seems appropriate I might post some of this new work, too - though it's on the commercial side, of course.

Anyway I'm back, or at least more back than I was :).  We now return to our scheduled programming.
Leaves.   I've seen them, real ones, not silk, not plastic.  In the wild.  It got a little frosty this morning but all systems appear to be go for the seasons of liquid water and non arctic temperatures.

I've been doing some knotwork designs lately, though I haven't posted anything here yet.  It's all an experiment that's starting to show up here:… though until tonight or later I won't have had a chance to make that page look pretty yet.  Black print on demand t-shirts are pretty much the Holy Grail.

I have stuff cooking on the back burner (that's a metaphor), which I guess is always true, and I'm really looking forward to the day it gets served (which is pushing a metaphor too far).

Has anyone seen what happens if you redline your metaphors too long?

Are We There Yet?

Mon Jan 17, 2005, 1:23 PM
The Dust Has Nearly Settled

First off, apologies to those who are watching and keep seeing the same Deviations reappear as new.  This happens when Prints information gets changed, and it's changed a couple of times in the past few days.

And thanks an unnamed friend who's helping me get this sorted out.

It looks as though changes to five of the prints may have been lost in the confusion.  I'll try editing those again tonight, which does mean they'll probably show up as new again, hopefully for the last time.

You probably think I'm spamming you by now :).

Thanks to all!  I guess I owe my Watchers something genuinely new after all this.

Well, so much for that.  So far, every replacement print image I've submitted has been rejected.

I really don't know what I'm going to do about it.

As far as I can tell the problem may be that in adjusting the print images so that they will print true to the appearance of the originals, I have now made them look different from the original deviations.  Ideally, from the Quallity Assurance standpoint,  the print files should look exactly like the original deviations even if that results in prints whose color balance is wrong.

In theory I could post new deviations that all are too pale and shifted toward green,so that they would then resemble the images I submit for print.  Then you'd never see the images as they are meant to look unless you bought a print.  Honestly, I'm not sure what to do.

Why isn't the print process rejected rather than the images?   And why are we not allowed to adapt our images to that process so that they will look correct?

Something Old

Sat Jan 15, 2005, 2:40 PM
Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain!

You may be seeing some of my older Deviations reappearing as new; that's just because I'm adjusting the digital files for their Prints versions.

I noticed a little color shift in the printed output that seemed new to me, but consistent; so I've made some changes to the files to compensate for that.

But now that you're here and maybe wishing that you'd come here for a reason, let me point you at this site: &nbs… Andy Murdock has recently released Volume II of his "Lot of Robots" animation on DVD.  It's a long term project that he's publishing in bits, and it's well worth looking at.  You can see the whole film to date via Quicktime on his web site, but it's much nicer on the DVD – and on the Volume I and Volume II DVDs he includes video tutorials and 3DS Max files to illustrate many of the amazing things he's done, in a way that lets you experiment with the same techniques.  He makes me feel pretty stupid; see if he does the same for you :).

Anyhow I'm making my usual slow progress on new personal work and I don't know when the next is likely to surface – I might start posting some Scraps, though.

  • Reading: Terry Bisson's "Pirates of the Universe"
  • Watching: Matewan

Something New

Fri Dec 31, 2004, 12:04 PM
Almost not in 2004

So this is the one time of year when I usually get a couple of weeks away from the Day Job and can think about nothing, or anyhow, very little, other than doing some of my own work.  Some years, that means starting something huge and new; some years, it means finishing the huge new things that never got finished during the year.  Some years, maybe most years, it means a little of both.

This year I actually started something huge and new right before the holdays, but I was too clever for it:  I put it away till later so I could finish two large pieces I'd wanted to get done.  They're up here now, in fact.

One's a big busy enthusiastic montage of scenes and characters from my retro-futuristic cosmos; the other's a larger re-treatment of a magazine illustration I did back in October/November.  I'm very happy to have them both done before I have to go staple myself to my (other) desk again.  Hope you like them too.

And have a great New Year while you're at it!

Pax et Lux,

  • Listening to: As Long As You've Got Your Health
  • Reading: Neil Gaiman's "Smoke and Mirrors"
  • Watching: The End of Violence
Okay, I swore I was toiling away at a bunch of new things that would eventually come together into several new pictures and - importantly - I did not lie!

But on the other hand, since I was doing 3D modeling and texturing all day at work, then coming home and doing 3D modeling and texturing all night and in the bits of weekends that were left to me, I was starting to move mooorrre and moooooorrrre slowly.  So one day I got this simple, funny, little sort of idea, and it ended up turning into a whole bunch of Photoshop work and a web site design, and three and a half weeks later, it's here:… and I'm thinking that that was kind of a lot of work for a funny simple little idea, and in view of that, I'm hoping that someone gets a kick out of it.

I'm also hoping that someday the new DA page layouts will work in Netscape so that I can see Deviations and tables that.... well, if you haven't seen it, just picture something that doesn't work too well.  It could be a new form of image compression.  You never can tell.

And in the meantime at the Day Job my team has met the Mother of All Deadlines, only, of course, to reveal her large and threatening female relations, the Great-Aunt and Evil Stepmother of All Deadlines, and, you know, not much has changed.

And someone in QA finally translated the French inscription that one of my merry band put on a manhole cover in the game but THAT, as they say, is another story.
  • Listening to: Dawn of a New Day
  • Watching: Sunshine
Well it's been awhile since I updated my journal and I've worked up some fantastic excuses for that.  I'll try to share them.

But first and most importantly, the Popular Culture Analysis results from my "What Is The Weight Of The Earth?" poll.

Douglas Adams:  33%
Terry Pratchett:  24%
Lewis Carroll:  11%

Unaligned:  the rest.  But I voted for "where you put the scale" myself, since I think that's the right answer.

I know you didn't know, necessarily, that you were voting for Terry Pratchett; some of you were voting for Popular Culture Mythology, which is very nearly the same thing, while others were just concerned about elephants.  As well you should be.

Anyway it's bad news for Lewis Carroll no matter how you look at it.

I've been totally snowed under with work at the Day Job and that's not over yet; our game is scheduled to ship in mid-October and though in theory there will be no new content added after our next deadline I'm pretty sure that theory will have very little to do with it; and anyhow there are some other things to do as well.  I should be able to sit back and take a deep breath just about the time that winter shows up again.

In the meantime I've only been able to do a small amount of my own work – more than you can tell, since what I'm doing is building things that I will use in some new pictures when all the bits are built.  I had hoped to have a set of characters done by the end of winter, and that lasted into the spring, and recently I've been texturing an environment that I modeled back around the holidays when I should have been doing something else. But I can tell that I'll need one more new character to suit the thing I'm working on, and one of these days I've got to do that monorail, and… well, it's just like that.

So there's not much new to see here.  But wait!  Since you are here, you might as well visit these two projects that I admire and enjoy:

Brian Taylor's "Rustboy" at
And Andy Murdock's "Lots of Robots" at

…each one of them has animation clips, "making of" info, and online diaries about the projects and honestly, after you've seen them you won't even remember who I am any more.  So I won't have to bother with giving you those excuses I mentioned because, honestly, I'm a little miffed about the whole thing.
  • Listening to: Down Sunnyside Lane
  • Reading: New York's Forgotten Substations
  • Watching: In The Cut
BWS, at home in the Retropolis Rocket WorksSo I'm soon going to complete the process of moving in at Deviant Art; the boxes are all in the right rooms, and loads of stuff is already unpacked, and there are only a few large bits of furniture that I still want to move three or four times till I've got everything all set.  Oh, and I found the cat.  He was with the towels.

I showed up on your doorstep about a week ago, all because this place offered me something I've really wanted for ages:  a way to produce very high quality archival prints from my digital images.  I have an existing venue for selling merchandise and I've been really happy with it, but the one thing that I'd wanted from the beginning was those archival prints.  So when I'd run a test through Deviantprints and saw the results I started moving all my existing work-for-print over here.

I'd had a look around, and I knew that this site is essentially a community site; I'd seen the journals, the forums, and the commentary and so - while I was heaving those boxes of bytes through the doorway - I said to myself, "Hey, self!  You're going to need to check all this out.  There's a lot more going on in here than printing."  And I meant to take my advice just as soon as I'd found the cat.

But as it happened, you all found me first.  That's all due to the happy accident of me blundering into a Daily Deviation without really having much idea of what that meant.  Though I sure figured it out, believe me.  And I really have appreciated all the welcomes and praise and the hundreds of new names and faces that I've needed to keep straight - it's been amazing.  The things that have worried me most have been that I'd fail to respond enough to any of you, which would seem rude of me, or that I'd lose track of some of the really interesting work that everyone else is doing.  I'm sure trying to keep my bearings.  Please don't forget that I'm awfully new here, and still struggle a bit with what comment showed up where and what's threaded and what's not and where, after all, the cat got to again, because I just unpacked the towels and there's no sign of him anymore.

And I've got to say that one of the things that amazes me at this site is the large number of young artists who have their own pages and their own body of work, and who can connect with other people all over the globe to talk about that work - or anything else.  I can't imagine what it would have been like when I was your age if I'd had an inroad into this sort of community of likeminded people.  I hope you appreciate how great and new a thing that is!

On the other hand, I am pretty pleased to find the occasional person who makes me feel less like an old geezer, even if I am one.  Especially if I am one.

So expect the following, if you're Watching:  I'll be adding a few more designs for a couple of days, and following that I'm going to try to figure out how best to integrate these prints into my online venture.  Then I'll try to implement that, and though from time to time I think I may post some work in progress, there may be a long wait between large, really interesting pieces.  That's because - though you've seen a bunch of them show up over the past week - I really spend a very long time on them!

And as things quiet down a bit I'll be able to backtrack your own work, if I haven't, and get a more thorough look through the things I've found already.  I'm looking forward to that.

So thanks to all!  And if I start calling everybody "Steve", it's just because I've met so many of you in such a short time that I can't contain any more names.  I don't mean anything by it.
This was quite a pleasant surprise with my morning coffee.  I'm not sure how long it'll take me to sift through the feedback and respond, but before I take off to the Day Job I wanted to at least give you a big collective "Thank You" for the very warm welcome.  Thanks!

I'll be adding some more work in the evenings till I get caught up, so I hope you continue to like it :).