Category Archives: art

kurt and exkurt

kurt inside the quantum kernel, and exkurt in the data stream.  character studies by jim yarbrough

the girl

still don’t know what her name is.  character studies by jim yarbrough.

fairy and snake

character studies by jim yarbrough.

the boy and snake

this is teh first of many studies for the graphic novel part of my story.  jim yarbrough is the artist, and the illustrations will be up to him, with me acting as art director.

here jim is exploring the characters of the boy and snake.  the boy is fond of all things military, and ends up in somewhat the role of tsar nicholas.  the two people to his right are unknowns at this point;  jim often does this.  the monk is rasputin, whose illustrious career jim is exploring to enlighten snake’s character.  the three women to his left are hangers-on, part of snake’s charm i guess.  the building in the background is inspired by the works of piranesi.  even the backgrounds will have character arcs in this story.

graphic novel notes

the rings are: the isles, the mountains, the lowlands, the wilderness, the hinterland, hell, the gamburtsevs

this is my first test of the directions i’m trying to follow about making your own graphic novel.  i’ve imported a line drawing and am adding layers for each of the rings of the quantum antarctica game.

next i have to go in and draw some more bounding areas and fill them with details, effects and so on on more layers.  i’m learning the principles, and so far the first one i have learned is that, like the silk painting serti technique, you have to have enclosed areas to put the colors in, so jim’s line drawing is going to have to mark where the color changes are, rather than the edges of objects.  i guess the lines usually do just that, but i’m going to have to go around his drawings after i scan them in, just like i do when he designs a scarf for me.


oh and i’ve been thinking about names.  quantum antarctica.  quant’artica.  q’ant.  i had some other names on the dog walk this afternoon, but they’re gone now.  must have been a lie, as my dad used to say.  wish i could remember.  they were good names.  not quantum quest.

we’ve been discussing which parts of the story to do as graphic novel.  we feel comfortable with maybe an eighth of the story illustrated as comic book pages.  most of it will be prose, just every now and then there’ll be up to 5 pages of full color insert.

i can see the finished book.  the cover is like an old worm bible, leather, embossed, worn down to the brown skin.  inside there’s marbling.  there’s a list of illustrations, and there loads of illustrations.  there’s a list of maps, and there are 46 maps at the very least.  there are maps of each level and each ring, and each town, and the trade routes, and the weather, and the heroic journeys, pirate maps and symbolic maps and flowcharts.  maybe we can switch typeface for different situations or developmental levels.  i hate stories without pictures, and i’m going to have loads of pictures in this one.  jim will do all the illustrations, i will do the maps and anything that’s better done on computer, like scanning and inking, coloring and lettering.  but especially i get to do all the maps, because jim’s never done it, and i’ve always loved drawing maps.

we can’t illustrate the whole story, but we could illustrate a thread, or two, that runs thru the story.  like the dragoncons.  like the real world events.  like the quantum lessons scattered about. that way we touch on everything with every graphic section, because everybody’s appearance and the appearance of the world, and the style we use to illustrate it, change thruout the story.  there would be other threads running thru the game that we could illustrate, and a lot of this could be covered by spot illustrations that appear at each level or ring or chapter heading and inside the level/ring/chapter wherever it needs it.

all of these threads, or pieces of the story can be really cool as a graphic novel, and so the question arises, why not do the whole thing that way?  but we’re talking about several hundred pages of written script (finished about like i did train wreck, which is first draft and might as well be notes) and several hundred pages of graphic novel, which jim doesn’t have time or energy to pencil, and i don’t have time or software to process into tiffs.  thanks gimp for not doing cmyk, me hole.

this is so much work it’s not funny.  we’d need a team to actually do this the right way.  but all there is is us, so we’ll do it our way.  the story comes first, however.  and it’s got to be a final, full outline before we can proceed to either scripting or prosing each chapter.  we’ll have figured out which ones to illustrate by then, i hope, but maybe not.  no, i’m pretty confident we’ll have it figured out.

the way this process is working is that i’m struggling along with one little aspect of it that seems to be going so slow (like rush-hour traffic in atlanta – bumper to bumper at 70 miles an hour), and it goes along and limps along, (notes on the political mind, research on graphic novels, doing character sketches) and i have to stop and do other things, and the days rush by without my doing very much at all, and then all of a sudden we go for a dog walk and i voice my frustrations, and jim comes up with a little twist that makes everything fit together in a really elegant way, and i start sputtering and flaming and pretty soon we have an entirely new understanding of how the story works, and i come home and scramble to write it all down before it’s tomorrow and a whole nother day.

of course, i stll have to go back to taking notes and figuring out what the characters look like.


on the dog walk this evening, jim and i went over the various aspects of the story that could be illustrated.

the seven dragoncons can be illustrated as a graphic novel. i can just see the hyatt flooded with people on two floors, a crowded escalator going diagonally across the page.  the fairy tale vision would work very nicely as a graphic novel.  illustrating all the dragoncons would function on its own as a summation of the action and progress.

creating and testing the game would be very easy as a graphic novel, because the scientific details escape me and have to be shortened to the rudiments to begin with, and because it’s easier to show a wireframe landscape than to describe it.  illustrating the principles of classical and relativistic (and quantum) physics is probably easier than talking about it.  especially judging by all the quantum physics books (without equations) that i’ve tried to get thru.

the seven rings of playing the game, which is essentially following the boy and girl as they play the game, as they change in their appearance and grow in their actions and responsibilities and finally face each other and let the add-ons drop away.

playing the game is a very large part of the story, about half, and as such you couldn’t illustrate all of the game.  this is where we might could illustrate learning the quantum lessons, doing the exercises that enable you to think quantum and act quantum.  it’d be a whole lot better to show this learning process than it would be to lecture about it.

the real world.  there is a lot of the real world, and it takes up the other half of the story, so you couldn’t illustrate all of it.  but there are various facets.

the public reaction goes the whole gamut from unease to rabid mob, a parody of the right wing reaction to socialism, for example.

their actions from installing spies to directing sabotage, to suppression and syrian military diplomacy.  this is a metaphor for all the uprisings against the elite now occurring in the world, and best left as indescriptive as possible, since i don’t really want to pay attention to it – it’s so unpleasant and i just get mad.

then there’s the pivotal dramatic sequence where the boy is coopted, but changes his mind after the game and is forced to watch as the girl is captured and tortured and the kernel is destroyed, but the boy fights them, rescues the girl, and seeks shelter and aid.

there are lots of realworld and game effects when the kernel is destroyed, and it goes from bad to worse, doing catastrophic things that would look really good visually, and the prose description would pale by comparison.

there’s the final realworld showdown, when we see the defeat of quantum, the cruel celebration of the victors, and find the losers in fema camps.  is irony best captured in visual or text?

and how to play it when people find themselves playing the game in their dreams, and the whole quantum thing finally reaches critical mass, where players go around creating the parallel worlds they want to live in, and they coalesce, and collapse into a new, shifted reality that doesn’t normalize a power-hungry, fear-based mindset.

as an epilog, at the final dragoncon, there’s a new baby who already thinks and acts in quantum, the first of her generation, an improved game, and a world settling in to a new reality where we are all one and love is all you need.


the character sketch

the boy is tall and lanky, unkempt and slouchy, a self-conscious wannabe geek who uses his smarts to get ahead.  in the course of the game he turns into a swashbuckler, a gengis khan, a red-haired fabio with a kirk douglas chin, and then an old bodybuilder in a khan suit.

the girl starts out as a waiflike thing half the boy’s size, pixy black hair, and grows thru a dumpy and somewhat bitchy and put-upon middle age to be a mother earth crone with a halo, leaving flowers where she steps, all that.

kurt looks like my ex the computer genius, and acts like those dysfunctional guys in project x, but once he becomes ex-kurt in the game, he is a bundle of light, a moving finger, a face in random patterns, and in the realworld he is a face in the clouds and a gust of wind and a shadow on the sun.

snake is lithe and quick and has triangular shaped head and fanged teeth, long fingernails, lots of tattoos, and shaves his greasy hair in diamonds.  he is smart, and snide, superior and snarky, and mean.  his appearance doesn’t change in essence but gets more exaggerated.  he dresses in black.  in the game, as pope, he is smarmy and perverted.

fairy is a plump little thing with frizzy hair and pimples, and she giggles and is quietly hostile when people go against what she thinks is right.  she hides her fear under a layer of saccharine optimism.  she quietly clones herself onto a good portion of the non-playing characters, who meet out information according to how players treat them, and have very long memories.


then let’s talk about art style, panel style, lettering style, coloring style.  and variation of styles, using what when and to show what?

but not tonight.

the game as a graphic novel

having just now decided to do the game as a graphic novel, while the rest of the story is in prose, i want to think about how that would work.  how to show the game.  the artwork and style will vary between the bare wireframe engine, the spartan alpha stage, the glitchy art-pass beta stage, and the final beautifully fleshed out game the players experience.  this is no problem, because both jim and i will be doing the artwork.

what does the kernel look like?  it’s a quantum object.  a superposition of possibilities for a start, so it’s probably fractured, the way an astigmatic sees the moon.  is it nut shaped?  does it look like cell division?  how could you see kurt’s presence in the kernel, does it resemble him?

when ex kurt is at home in the game, it’s in wireframe.  is he in wireframe too?  is he pixelated?

the development of the game is skewed from the beginning because of the kernel.  usually the art pass is made before alpha testing.  but in this case the art is delayed compared to the building of the game, and they have to catch up.

when the boy and girl test levels 1 and 2 they’re in block mesh without placeholders and keep changing position.

when the alpha testers go thru levels 1 and 2 the architecture is finished with placeholders, add disorientation (things like a special texture being used everywhere).  props are wireframe, the arcade games are rudimentary and need lots of tinkering and retesting by players, so sometimes they play the same thing over and over with tweaks.

when the beta testers go thru levels 1 and 2 the games have their final artwork but things are still being swapped out and adjusted, sometimes mid-scene.  the games have glitches.  they are very rushed and lots of bugs make it thru to the gold master.

the cloud levels are expansive flat areas with fog.  thumbnails of horizontal level / !n worlds can be visible in the background.

at go-live, the game is magnificent.  the kernel has been making adjustments to the final art and it’s spectacularly detailed and lifelike.  the walker and viewer (glove and glasses) give feedback that wasn’t designed but that comes from the kernel and the energies being produced by the entanglement of the millions of players that have join the game.

when the boy and girl join forces and leave the game thru a black hole, the game becomes an order of magnitude more real.  players can smell suddenly.  colors are brighter, images are sharper, sounds are more intense.  players get hungry.  sex is a blast.

when the kernel is destroyed, the game goes black and cold, and nothing moves.  it freezes over.  the girl, trapped in the game, gets so cold she lapses into a coma inside her avatar.

when the first players come back into the game thru sleep or meditation or imagination, it has a filmy, obscure quality, and sounds are muffled.  everything is fuzzy and unformed.  as more players return, the gameworld grows sharper and more substantial, until it’s more real than the game as hosted on computer, and more dreamlike, in that more skills are available and almost second-nature to learn.

when players build their own worlds on level !n, they are all different, in every different artistic style and scope, finished and neglected, created using varying levels of competence and variously stable substances.


antarctica. the boy and girl arrive in antarctica along with the testers and the live players.

ring 1.  they all arrive at once, and the background is dramatic and the effects are realistic and the avatars are way cool and mostly freshly from wardrobe.  they wonder why it’s all bare rock and fear there’s not going to be enough to go around, a nascent movement toward violence and coercion, and the boy and girl intervene to teach them about cooperative germination.  they invent a tradition to teach the best way to be mindful and together. players have very few props and few options in their personal environments, the grinds are to satisfy their basic needs.

ring 2.  taiga and tundra, meadows and birch forest.  the avatars are more in the spirit of the game, homespun and skin, fashion touches of fur and bone.  the boy and girl try to stay in the background, but players ask them questions all the time.  they have a glow about them.  the boy decides to transform the tendency to fear-based gameplay thru using it, harnessing it and transmuting it to quantum energy, so he plays pirate and teaches quantum techniques used to dominate and gain loot.  the girl decides to embrace the role of teacher, and acquires experience in all the ways to use quantum skills.  players use basic skills in innovative ways and learn advanced skills involving props.

ring 3.  gently rolling, fertile and well watered lands, shallow and fish-filled waters, rudimentary communication between isolated communities ready to be organized and connected.  the boy does this by conquering and then having to run everything, the girl does this by helping to build networks of independent centers.  players explore a few daily grinds and have to use props in multiple objectives.

ring 4.  vast plains with little arable land but an abundance of migratory wildlife and wandering tribes, at the end of which are impenetrable mountains and rumored fertile shores.   the boy foments a war between the tribes and eliminates one foe after another until he controls them all, at the expense of a way of life.  then he goes after the shoredwellers and their rich stores.  the girl builds another network of tribes and links them to ring 3’s network in the beginnings of a meta-network.  players explore lush but distant landscape with limited props, as well as limited and spartan personal environments.

ring 5.  mountains and fiercely disputed valley kingdoms offer mineral wealth but little food, and the boy struggles to control jealous and bellicose subjects and makes raids on the outskirts of ring 6.  the girl fails in her attempts to break thru the suburban stupor of the inhabitants, and has to settle for teaching the tactics of resistance to refugees from ring 6.  players explore a limited variation of personal environments and ‘mass-produced’ props, as well as alternatives to the daily grind.

ring 6.  a mega-city, with a vast port, endless industrial areas, massive skyscrapers, huge slums, dirty and crowded and expensive, loud and irritating, brazen and sleazy.  the boy owns vast corporations and vies to become the most powerful player ever.  the girl has a breakdown trying to rescue so many pitiful creatures by herself.  players explore all varieties of city life from homeless sewer dweller to penthouse ceo.  there is no end of zone configurations, daily grinds, textures and props in this ring.

ring 7.  the incomplete wireframe architecture of the gamburtsev mountains, a natural amphitheater in which the boy and girl act out their final drama visible to all players everywhere.  they explode and implode and leave a black hole in the middle of the ring, connecting it to level !, which kurt then explains is the new exit of the level.


what’s this got to do with a graphic novel besides describing the background and not even the basic activities?

in the first ring we watch how people come ashore, we learn how little prepared they are for an influx of people, we see the boy and girl discuss the problem, we see the people panic, we see the boy and girl step in and explain, we see the girl teach, we see the boy consider the problem of fear and violence.  we see the boy and girl have an accident and watch the girl die and reincarnate back in the water before the first ring.  she swims ashore and looks for him, then gets swept away in a storm.

in the second ring the boy is a swashbuckling pirate, so we see raiding and fighting and killing and capturing and amassing booty.  we see the girl learning all she can about expressing quantum skills so others can learn them.  she writes a manual, she consults wise npcs.  we see them meet in the middle.  he attacks her ship and she dies, landing in the water in the beginning of the first ring.  she summons help and speeds to the second ring, where she asks pointed questions about the spirit of the game.

in the third ring, the boy is head of a flotilla of privateers, and raids rich towns, so we see chases and close-up mayhem in quaint old fashioned port cities and market towns.  the girl runs around to all the hamlets and points out the benefits of organizing a network.  they meet in the middle when he ambushes her party, she yells at him, and he kills her because he feels like it.  she incarnates on the leaky boat and flies for awhile until she falters and lands back in the third ring, but he’s already gone.

in the fourth ring, he hunts the mighty beasts, he conquers band after band of roving tribes, he subdues the rich shores, governing the whole region from horseback. she exposes and runs off developers and poachers and runs a whole ecosystem of wildlife being despoiled by overuse and pollution.

in the fifth ring, he runs a mob operation and gradually corners all the services and organizes a criminal underworld that works in the sixth ring.  the girl rides in a beat up car, works as a waitress, bangs her head against the wall trying to talk sense to the zonbies in this ring, struggles to pass on her message to the few who will listen.  she thinks maybe the boy’s methods might be better and questions love as a motivator.

in the sixth ring, we watch the boy run an empire in an expensive suit, witnessing ruthless displays of power and uncaring of the consequences or harm to others.  we watch the girl struggle and fail to make headway against the numbing conditions and incessant messages that run counter to the spirit of the game.  we see the boy and girl have a big fight, and watch the boy kill her in real anger.  the girl incarnates high above the first ring and flies straight back to confront the boy; they decide to spare the sixth ring, and create a way into the seventh ring.

in the seventh ring, it’s just the boy and girl in the wireframe architecture of the gamburtsev mountains.  the boy and girl are huge compared to the mountains.  they argue, then they fight, using their quantum powers.  they can be seen by everyone in the game – the ring hovers in the air above all the players, and can be seen in the clouds in the real world.  they see each other as they have become in the game – overblown, overwrought, too serious, real assholes in the name of their principles and zealots in their defense of what they want quantum to mean.  they realize the fighting is silly and put it aside for more tender feelings.  they embrace and experience a cosmic and sexual union that lasts for eternity and during which they become an explosion of light that contracts into a black hole.  kurt feels obliged to appear as the biblical god to reassure the players and reveal the level’s new exit.

then on level !, after the kernel blows up, we see the girl trapped and freezing.  then we see kurt helping, loosening the damage, rebuilding connections, giving the girl a way to continue her quest.  we see the girl greeting players as they awaken to a new manifestation of gameplay, showing them new skills, forging new links inside them.  we see players creating experimental objects.

on level !n, we see players creating worlds out of cloud and willpower, using their skills to manifest a unique reality.  we see myriad worlds coming into being, and a million games being played on them.  we see these worlds interacting with the real world, and manifesting in the real world.

we see a changing real world, with fear-based systems breaking and fading, pixellating and rusting away in real life.


okay, it’s the end of the day, and i’m going to trail off here.


it’s going to end up being part graphic novel.  jim is in the middle of deciding to illustrate the story.  i have to do all the preliminary drawings, because i can see what it needs to look at, and he’ll do all the real drawings, because he can draw shit right of his head, and i can’t.

what needs illustrating?  a lot of the game concepts, a lot of the quantum concepts, a lot of the idea of being inside a computer game, the landforms of antarctica, maps (because you wouldn’t believe how popular maps, especially pirate maps are.  the majority of the hits on this site are for pirate maps).

a cover painting.  a handdrawn map.  chapter heading illustrations, a series of climax and turningpoint illustrations, and the physics concepts all need illustrations.

it might be interesting to illustrate the gameworld as a graphic novel.  we can cut in and out of graphic novel and prose.  there’s no way a story of this complexity could be an entire graphic novel, because you couldn’t reduce the endless prose to simple captions.

but action and a bit of dialog is easy in graphic form.  so the game could be illustrated.  and at first, when the boy and girl go thru levels 1 and 2 it could just be empty halls and placeholder textures, and then when the alpha and beta testers go thru the same levels it could be more and more developed.  and this way i don’t have to explain so much, i can show it instead, which will make things so much easier.

what would be the point of illustrating the realworld action?  showing the quantum effects (the shit that happens) would be useful. illustrating the crowds at dragoncon would be a trip.  how about showing battles between classical realists and quantum relativists?  i think there’s no point trying to illustrate reality, because the reality i’m writing is a fictional reality, and i want the reader to provide the images for that.  but i think quantum effects should be illustrated (except how would you illustrate a quantum weapon?).  this is going to take some thinking.

but i just ordered several books on creating graphic novels from the local library, and will be posting notes from them as well.  so we’ll see.

so we’ve got a romantic comedy and a revolutionary saga and a fairy tale and an everything-to-all-people videogame, a mystery / spy thriller, a popular physics course, and now a graphic novel.  is there anything else i can throw in here?

the thing is that all these things seem to be appropriate to what i’m doing.  they all ended up in this blog because of my interest in all these different things anyway, and it’s inside my mind that i’m creating a work out of all these ingredients, so it makes sense that it would make sense to do this, in a roundabout way.

the only thing i haven’t really been able to fit in yet is the idea that the corporations are really a bunch of evil vampire space aliens and that we’re their slaves / energy sources.  it seems a little extraneous.  on the other hand, i didn’t think i’d be able to fit the pirate idea in, and it turns out to be made for the boy to wear as his persona.

so we’ll see.

i only know that the bar for science fiction and fantasy illustration is high.  when you have the likes of boris and julie doing work that outshines the work of fine artists, how can we hope to compete?  i’ll find a sample to post.

boris and julie rule the fantasy artworld – i’m a fan

we can’t do this level of illustration, but isn’t it beautiful?  what i need to do is to find a visual style that isn’t too far from the current standard for fantasy illustration, and is more classical than trendy (anime, steampunk), but that is quantum in its essence.  but let me figure out what a quantum costume would be, and what a quantum character would look like.  will pixelation or meshes be a part of the look?  will there be visible circuitry?  will there be a cartoonish look or a fairytale look?  never mind will we use woodcut or etching or pen and pencil or full color or watercolor or egg tempera or encaustic?

so now i’m art director for the game as well as the graphic novel.  whoopee.

so when we go back to dragoncon this year, we’ll be spending a lot of time in the game room, and a lot of time in comic book alley talking to artists, never mind all the time attending panels in the various tracks i’m going to be researching, and taking loads of pictures of the environment for my own art that i hope to exhibit in dragoncon one day.  a lot to do, and well worth the money.