The trailer is finished – and our campaign to crowdfund production of Issue 1 of our comic book series is now live!
There’s no denying it’s been a long haul – fitting in the creation of a four-minute, part-live action trailer around busy workaday lives has been a constant challenge for everyone on our team, with members living far apart: the Hampshire/Surrey border, the south coast, Nottingham and Oregon (USA) but we finally got there: and the result is even more exciting and spectacular than I could ever have imagined when we began the process!
As you’ll see from the finished trailer if you click on this link, the ‘Minding Mama’ team managed to create a small corner of future Earth in a drama studio in Surrey on a very small budget. We used polystyrene packing, old electrical equipment, as well as a prop robot. We had a brilliant Mama in Kate Davies-Speak, and the voice of Cyril the FarmBot (and our narrator) was none other than David Learner, who has played Marvin the Paranoid Android on stage and TV, and was one of our very first celebrity guests when I ran the official appreciation society back in the early 1980’s.
We’ll be running a series of interviews with the team over the duration of the campaign (which ends September 23rd), so please do check out the campaign
Neon Sky Books will also be at Reading Comic-Con on Saturday & Sunday October 13 – 14th, so please drop in and say ‘Hello!’!
… Or to go bravely to! Indie Comics are uncharted territory for this author. So why would I leave my comfort zone (long-form novels) and venture into the unknown? The answer is pretty simple: I wanted to see this particular story visualized in glorious colour. Preferably, with moving characters – animation or even (the holy grail for me) live action. But I also love art – used to dabble a little bit myself many years ago, but didn’t think I was that good and got out of the habit. Although I came to them late via back issues once I was earning, I do remember the ‘Captain Scarlet’ strips in TV21 – Mike Noble, Ron Embleton, Frank Bellamy… names familiar to many of you, I’m sure. I would stare at the pages for hours, enjoying the detail and colour. Since we (like most people then) only had a black & white TV, the printed adventures were the only way to see Spectrum and its personnel in colour. On our TV, Captain Scarlet was Captain… well, grey, Captain Blue was also grey… ) I had a Captain Scarlet annual, I remember, and I looked at it so much the front cover came off!
So… A couple of years ago, I penned a short story about a post-apocalyptic vision of Earth in which the ozone layer had been all but destroyed by decades of intense solar flare activity, forcing humanity underground. This scenario had really captured my imagination because, as I discovered some time later when revisiting my first draft, there is more than a kernel of scientific fact in the premise. It could happen. Let me explain…
In October 2016, the then-US President Barrack Obama issued a Special Executive Order requiring that the nation be prepared for ‘Space Weather Events‘. Whether this mass education of US citizens about the perils of Space Weather ever happened, I don’t know. But I do know that the release of this Executive Order seemed to be very providential – almost as if it was confirming my decision to write the story. The premise chilled me to the bone. What kind of world would any survivors of this mass-extinction scenario inhabit?
Well, actually it would be a horrible world. We already know that UV levels are higher than in the past; when I was a child (in the ’60’s and ’70’s), we could stay out and play in the sun (often without any kind of sunscreen, either because it wasn’t available or my parents didn’t think to get any/couldn’t afford it) for hours before getting sunburned. Nowadays, if you happen to forget to apply sunscreen, it doesn’t take very long at all before you begin to feel that ominous prickling warning you your skin is under attack. Imagine it magnified many times as the ozone layer thins; people, animals and plants would all suffer terribly. Even undersea creatures and plants would not be safe. Incidences of cancer (especially of the skin) would likely rise many times their numbers today. Without crops to feed livestock, humanity would also likely be deficient in the protein derived from meat, as well as green leafy vegetables.
So, I did a lot of research, and began to world-build (one of my favourite parts of the writing process – I can lose myself for days, weeks…).
The result was a tale of small, fragile communities struggling to grow enough crops to feed themselves; a society splintered and reliant on old technology to grow anything at all underground; a society desperate to find a way to return to the surface without dying from UV-induced cancers; a society probably deficient in vitamin D, and a society increasingly reliant on robots (specifically, FarmBots) to create new strains of food crop which could be grown on the surface. Incidentally, the precursor to my FarmBots already exist – check them out here .
After almost two years of research, world-building, finding artists who also saw the potential in this post-apocalyptic tale, developing the idea from my initial idea to create a short animated feature into a comic-book series, building a crowdfund campaign to enable us to create a live-action trailer to head up the main campaign to help fund the production of Issue One, we are on our way! On 27th August, our main campaign went live on Kickstarter, but we already have an ongoing campaign in place on Patreon, which we’ll use to help fund future issues and (who knows) maybe that animated feature I originally envisaged!
With a week to go on the first Kickstarter campaign (we used Patreon and Go Fund Me to raise funds to make the live-action trailer with Kate Davies-Speak and David Learner as Mama and Cyril) I don’t know if we’ll meet our goal this time… but it has been and continues to be an education and if we don’t make it, we won’t be the first (or the last). But we won’t stop – one way or another, ‘Minding Mama’ will see the light of day!
Our official ‘Minding Mama’ poster by Amanda Fullwood. Not ashamed to admit it brought tears to my eyes. Can I imagine it as a movie? Oh, yes…!
Eminent scientists – among them Professor Stephen Hawking, who may have a brain the size of a planet – have been warning us for some time now that the advances made by AI could turn out to be the writing on the wall for mankind. I mean, extinction. Hoist by our own petard, no less.
Now we learn that Facebook decided to shut down its very own AI program after it created its own language. It wasn’t done with malice aforethought, or because the two Negotiating Bots (apparently named Will and Alice) wanted to take over the planet… they simply found it a more efficient way to communicate than using the English they had been taught.
Will our desperate race to create better and faster ways of doing things using AI (artificial intelligence) really be our undoing, as posited by Professor Hawking and a myriad of movies such as ‘BladeRunner’ (in which a group of artificially engineered and physically superior humans called Replicants returns to Earth to demand a longer lifespan from their creator – before killing him) – or are we all basically just AIs anyway, seeded by aliens who thought it might be interesting to see what happened… Whether we are truly indigenous or not, did the life-forms who were subsumed and/or destroyed by humanity’s rise from the primordial soup have the capacity to worry about it? Or were they blissfully unaware of the ticking time bomb in their midst until it was too late? And would they have been able to do anything to stop it, even if they had realised what was going on? You can read the original article here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I’m just going to swim back into the primordial soup and pretend this isn’t happening…
Elaine Jackson, July 2017
P.S. If you’re interested in the topics raised here, you might enjoy my next project, a graphic novel titled ‘Minding Mama’, which my team and I will be crowdfunding very soon. It’s a dark tale which takes place amidst a ruined eco-system. Humanity has fled underground, leaving the surface to wither and die. Only the FarmBots can survive above ground…
Visitwww.mindingmama.org to find out how you can help bring the project to life (if you dare) and earn some unique and very cool rewards!
It’s always a thrilling and slightly scary moment when an author with a work in progress sees something online which has relevance to what they are working on. Thrilling, because it tells me that my content is current, and scary because, well, what if someone else gets there first?
That being said, I’m pretty confident that the project I’m working on, a graphic novel called ‘Minding Mama’, is not only topical but has characters readers will want to engage with. It started as a short story and might have stayed that way if I hadn’t had the blinding revelation that it would be even better in a visual medium. A film? Well, perhaps one day, if I’m very lucky. But for now, Mama, Cyril, Celia, and Bully will inhabit the pages of a comic book, brought to life by the combined talents of artists Amanda Fullwood and Dan Schaefer. and yours truly.
I’ll be appearing at Lazlar Lyricon 3 in Stoke-on-Trent on 9-11th June – organised by ZZ9, the only official ‘Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ appreciation society, so why not come along? You can book here. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide, of course, had its own share of robots – perhaps the most famous being Marvin, the Paranoid Android. Created by the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, Marvin was a prototype ‘genuine people personality’ (“You can tell, can’t you?” he asks morosely of human Arthur Dent). Douglas Adams, always a man ahead of his time until his life was cut tragically short, foresaw the advent of robots with emotions and the ability to think for themselves.
Whilst The Guardian’s article talks more about the impact that a robot workforce will have on our lives in practical terms – massive job losses for human workers, an event most recently and chillingly referenced in Channel 4’s drama ‘Humans’ – being just the tip of the iceberg, the idea that robots may one day be able to think for themselves is fast approaching. Known as the singularity, when luminaries like Professor Stephen Hawking are warning us of the potential dangers, it is more than slightly worrying that no-one seems to be taking much notice. So whilst ‘Minding Mama’ is, first and foremost, storytelling with the intention to entertain, it does pose the question – do we really know what we’re doing, and how will we cope if it all goes pear-shaped?
The setting for ‘Minding Mama’ might be post-apocalyptic, but for me, the fascination lies in telling it from my character’s point of view. Mama goes on a journey of self-discovery which will challenge everything she thought she ever knew about herself and where she came from. I just hope her story never becomes a reality.
‘Keep writing!’ Sound advice from creative industry ‘old-timers’ (by that, I don’t mean those authors are older than me, but that they’ve been writing long enough to know how it all works – and sometimes, why it doesn’t). Finish one project, and move onto the next, practice makes perfect (I hope) and all that… luckily I’m never short of ideas!
With ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ published and the last of the rewards about to go out, I’ve found my thoughts turning to my next project. Another book? Well, yes, but not in quite the same format, this time.
Do you like it? It’s the lovely and rather intriguing logo created by emerging concept artist Amanda Fullwood (The Flock, Chasing Shadows, Word Bohemia) for my next project, ‘Minding Mama’ – a science-fiction tale set in a future where mankind is forced to live underground in order to avoid exposure to lethal levels of UV radiation. Why is planet Earth in such dire straits? You can find out on www.mindingmama.org – but since it will be a little while before the crowdfunding project goes live, I wanted to get the word out to all my ‘regulars’ – and to ask you all to tell anyone you know who might be interested in an opportunity to be in at the start of a new graphic novel – with some beautiful and unique comic art rewards!
Producing a graphic novel is a new challenge for me – but I have a very experienced hand at the helm, in the form of the talented Oregon-based Dan Schaefer, who will provide the artwork for the graphic novel, and who will also be in charge of the story-boarding for the animated feature (did I mention that yet? Oh, I just did…) which will be my next challenge. Those of you who know about comic books and story boards will doubtless know Dan’s work as a concept artist (Grimm; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and artist (Peter Parker: Spider-Man). I couldn’t believe my luck when Dan applied to the project; and having already seen his rough drafts of the first few pages and his early concept work for the AI characters in the story, I am really excited to be working with him.
As mentioned earlier, I’m also delighted to be working with Amanda Fullwood – a graduate of Nottingham Trent University, Amanda’s enthusiasm for the science-fiction and horror genres and her work as a production designer and concept artist were evident at our first meeting in London in March 2016. By the time myself and Sue Turner of video production company ElephantInScarlet waved goodbye to Amanda and headed for our respective trains, I knew I had to have her on board as lead concept artist. I can’t wait to share Amanda’s visualisations for ‘Minding Mama’ on our crowdfunding site! That’s still a WiP at the moment, but you can check out more of Amanda’s work on her film and visual art journal .
So, if you (or someone you know) would like to own an original piece of Dan Schaefer art, in addition to many other unique goodies, please do visit www.mindingmama.org and sign up for notifications – the rewards are going to be something really special! You can also contact me direct if you have any queries. We’re not into spamming, so we’ll only email you when we have news.