Tag Archives: axelrod

It’s An HNoR

iPOS6 I write for my own enjoyment (though I do have a target audience in mind when I write most of my stories) but there are a handful of people I hope to earn the Head Nod of Respect from one day. These are people who aren’t celebrities by any means (though some have audiences far larger than mine). They are creators whose work I have known for some time and whose work I in turn respect and enjoy. I won’t list those people (that would feel like I was begging for attention), but I will list some people who I believe have earned it from me.

You need to check out the stuff these people produce. I’ve sung their praises before, but you can’t say too many good things about a person.

JC Hutchins – He’s one of the reasons I got into podcasting my own fiction. He consistently tells amazing stories in interesting ways. He also likes to try new things and isn’t afraid to set those things aside when they don’t work.
Paul Cooley – One of the smartest horror writers I know. If you like a good scare, you need to be reading his work.
Terry Mixon – I’ve just started reading Terry’s work. Not everything he’s written is my cup of tea, but he knows his ish when it comes to writing.
Christiana Ellis – One of the funniest and most gentle spirits in the world of podcasting. She’s put so much amazing stuff out into the world I just can’t begin to list it.
Mike Plested – He started a podcast on getting published and then worked his butt off to get it done. If you like good YA or heck, just good fiction period, you need to check out his stuff.
Tee Morris – One of the father’s of podcast fiction; Tee has a biting sense of humor, amazing taste in beer, and constantly surprises me with the variety of fiction he tackles.
Jared Axelrod – Seriously one of the most multi-talented artists I know. I can’t say enough good things about what he’s done for me as a creator (whether he realizes it or not).
Philippa Ballantine – Another early presence in the podcast arena, Pip has gone on to be quite the success with her husband and writing partner Tee and on her own.
Skinner Co. – I’m a podcast junky and I know how hard it is to put good work out there on a regular basis. These three people do that and then some. They’ve built a tremendous community and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.
Jake Bible – Seriously one of the most thoughtful and hardest working writers I personally know. He’s living proof that horror writers can be sweet, kind, and not at all what you would expect.
Starla Hutchton – A savvy business person, a great writer, and a sharp designer; Starla is a whole lot of talent in one package.

I hope to give more head nods down the line. Please feel free to give your own in the comments and provide links!

Interview With Jared Axelrod (Three Questions)

(This is part  “Three Questions With Xxxx”. If you’re interested in taking part click here and fill out the form.)

Headshot I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Jared for a few years through his works and having met him at Balticon. He’s easily one of the most multi-talented people I know. Costumer, puppeteer, writer, visual artist, journalist, model, and voice actor cover just a few of his roles.

CCAcoversmall 1) You are a multi-talented creator. You’ve created podcasts, short fiction, awesome costume pieces, and graphic novels. It seems like you’ve woven all of those things together to form the narrative around and behind the character of Comrade Cockroach, a retired Russian super villain. What drove you to tell his story?

Neil Gaiman. Honestly.

Y’see, DC Comics hired Gaiman to write “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” the “last” Batman story. The idea was it was going to be similar to Alan Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” “last” Superman story. Just as Moore focused on Superman’s capability to inspire, Gaiman was tasked with finding the essence of Batman. While Gaiman’s story is beautiful in so many ways, he can’t quite nail the dismount. The essence of Batman, according to Gaiman, is that he doesn’t give up.

Which to my mind is ridiculous. OF COURSE he doesn’t give up. He’s had, what, one defeat? Two? (the death of the 2nd Robin and that time Bane broke his back, for those following along at home) Compare that to the countless victories he’s had. Why would he give up, if all he’s known is success?

(I get what Gaiman was aiming for, that appeal of Batman is not in his success, but in his struggles, but that’s not really what’s presented in the story.)

Which, contrarian that I am, sent me thinking about the kind of person for who the statement “they never give up” WOULD mean something. Obviously, it would be a supervillian, for whom failure is a way of life. And from that rude clay, Comrade Cockroach was born.

ccmucolorsmall 2) One of the pieces of advice I often hear is “write what you know”. I think that advice, as it’s commonly understood, is more than just a little ridiculous. As a creator, you strike me as the kind of person who, if they don’t know something, will do whatever it takes to find it out in order to tell the story. What skills and knowledge did you acquire in order to bring this character to life?

Very little that I didn’t have already, I’m sorry to say. Comrade Cockroach has always been a love-letter to all the pop-culture elements I love. He crawls on walls like Spider-Man and heals from any wound like Wolverine. He costume purposely evokes a Luchadore outfit. He’s Russian, like so many Captain America villains of my youth. Comrade Cockroach is all of these things because I love all of these things. Any research involved happened long before I thought him up.

Take the Russian element, for example. I’m of Russian descent myself—my ancestors, Mensheviks, every last one of them, left for America once it became clear they were on the losing side. Part of me is curious, I suppose, about what they missed by coming over here to lead far better lives then they ever would have had they stayed. The USSR under Stalin was this weird sort of history gift that keeps on giving; it’s fascism, make no mistake, but it’s fascism that grew up with the Nazis, so it’s desperate not to make the same mistakes. So you have things like giving medals to mothers for raising their children, and encouraging literacy, and the beautiful hubris of the space program, but also the gulags and airbrushing people out of photographs, and the immense corruption. Trying to make a better world and going about it in the worst possible way. All of that, all of the kaleidoscope of conflicting ideals, that is irresistible to me.

Comrade Cockroach is not so much a reason to research, but rather, a release valve for all the research I’ve got pent up inside.

CScover3small3) Most people, when they write stories, chose to tell the hero’s tale. With the good Comrade, we’re getting a decidedly non-heroic story. What were the challenges for you in that?

I guess it all depends on your definition of heroism, doesn’t it? Comrade Cockroach does think of himself as heroic, and he carries himself that way because of it.

What makes him fun is that sense of purpose, of heroism, is put in the service of goals that are usually petty, sometimes monstrous. Cockroach believes that the ends justify the means, but he is also guilty of over-inflating his ends. His primary goal is to destroy the American superhero the Bold Eagle, and in his mind, this is an epic quest, the kind you write operas about. Nevermind the regime that gave him this order is no longer around, and the current government wants nothing to do with him. Nevermind that the Bold Eagle who patrols the streets now is literally a different man than the one Cockroach was ordered to kill. And even if those things weren’t true, it would still be murder with the flimsiest of motives.

The nice thing about Cockroach is that he’s not a crazy person. He does regret the things he has done. And this regret, I believe, is the key to the character. He knows he’s done bad things, and he doesn’t even have the salve of success to tell him that he was right to do them.

Cockroach is a tortured everyman in the vein of —if I’m allowed to be so lofty—Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman. He has a job he’s not sure he believes in, for a goal that seems more uncertain by the day. But he doesn’t know how to do anything else. For all his power, he doesn’t have the strength to be anybody other than what he is. Because then everything he’s sacrificed up into this point would truly be for naught.

What’s weird is that all of these elements of who Comrade Cockroach is have come together from various small, short pieces. None of them have everything that is Cockroach in them, but all have contributed a piece. One of the fascinating things to me about this character has been watching him evolve as each layer of story has been put upon him.

But to get back to your question, because of the world he lives in, Cockroach must always lose. So the challenge with his stories is to make the plot come to a triumphant conclusion, but at a horrible cost to Cockroach personally. It’s not by accident that THE COCKROACH STRIKES ends with Comrade Cockroach figuring out what was going on, but at the cost of one of his few friends and his own sense of identity.

Comrade Cockroach must always lose. But he never gives up.


You can find Jared at http://www.jaredaxelrod.com/
Follow him on Twitter at PlanetX

Balticon Recap

I had the privilege of attending Balticon 44, a science fiction/fantasy writer’s convention in Baltimore, MD, on Memorial Day weekend. This was my second outing and I’ll continue to attend annually as scheduling and finances allow. Why’s that?

Well it seems to be the place to go for writers who also podcast. The first year I went I got to meet very nearly all of the podcasting authors whose works I appreciate. There are a number of excellent panels every year on everything from sound production to writing and the sheer number of live readings and live shows scheduled is staggering. There just isn’t enough time over the weekend to do everything.

That’s not the main reason I go though. It has become something of a family reunion for me. Now don’t mistake me, I don’t know a tenth of the people I see as well as I’d like and I don’t want to cheapen the notion of friendship or family, but really that’s the way it feels to me. Whether meeting someone in person for the first time or reconnecting with someone I saw last year, there was an instant bond. Part of that is assisted by mutual passions and of course most of us keep in touch through the magic of Twitter. So it’s “instant” only in the same sense that folks like Scott Sigler are an “overnight” success.

In any event, sociology aside, the people are the major reason I go. Sadly I have yet to spend any real time talking to Chris Lester either year. I also missed some excellent panels and readings. Rather than focusing on missed opportunities though, I’d rather touch on the highlights.

I got to meet and share drinks with some awesome producers and fans (in some case the same folks). Sharing mojitos with Paul Cooley, Laura Frechette, Dave Sobkowiak, and Kate Sherrod was EPIC!

I had taken a wingman with me in the form and shape of co-producer Shawn Murphy aka SidFaiwu, but when he was off doing his own thing I had the good fortune of meeting Mike Plested in person and spending a lot of time talking to him. Mike’s a great guy. He put up with my digs at Canada and took a number of the pics you’ll see on Flickr of the event. He also interviewed Zach Ricks and I about Flying Island Press and our launch of Flagship.

I took some of my homebrew and shared it with Thomas Gideon and John Williams. They’re PASSIONATE home brewers in their own rights and we hope to have a home brew panel at next year’s Balticon.

I also met, hugged, and exchanged a word or two with Dan Sawyer. He and I have traded plenty of emails and blog comments. I’m also a big fan of his writing style and appreciate the wealth of knowledge he has on audio and a number of other topics. If you’re a new media person then you should REALLY check out the ANMAP Foundation that he’s set up with some other creatives.

There were plenty of larger form geek social gatherings (not an oxymoron) like the Geek Prom (with awesome food thanks to Viv!), room parties galore, and a concert or three. I got to see Book launches by Patrick McLean, PG Holyfield, and Nathan Lowell. I got to buy Tumbler, a most excellent YA sci-fi novel by Brand Gamblin. Jared Axelrod launched Fables of the Flying City (unaffiliated with the Flying Island).

There was just too much going on to get it all in or even to mention it all in one blog post. At least not without boring you to tears. I wasn’t on any panels this year (though if you listen to Mur Lafferty’s live I Should Be Writing, I think you’ll hear me towards the end). Perhaps next year I’ll be on one or two. In any case I hope that if you haven’t been to one and any of this sounds cool to you that you’ll go next year and good Lord willing I’ll be there!