A New Generation - Generation One  

Posted by Brock Booher

I first met Steve Stewart at Orson Scott Cards Literary Boot Camp in August of 2009. He struck me as a creative giant. (He is literally like seven feet tall and over 300 pounds.) Over the past few years we have kept up via emails and Facebook cheering on each other's successes, and picking each other up after failures.
Steve recently announced an exciting Kickstarter project called Generation One, a comic book series. He is the lead writer. And so, without any more exaggerated fanfare or silly metaphorical comparisons, I give you an interview with the talented Steve Stewart.
Give the readers a short overview of the project and the necessary websites.
Generation One is a 3-issue limited comic book series that follows the adventures of Picus, the first child born on Mars. In 2051 AD, when a war between the United States and China plunges two peaceful Martian colonies into a miniature cold war, it's up to the first generation of children born on Mars to restore peace to their planet and set a positive example for Earth.
Dr. Robert Zubrin, author of "The Case for Mars" and President of The Mars Society said this about the project: "Someday Mars will have its own Laura Ingalls Wilder to tell the tale of growing up on the new frontier. But with 'Generation One: Children of Mars,' we can experience some of that story now. It's going to be great."
You can find us on Facebook (facebook.com/MarsGenOne), Twitter (twitter.com/MarsGenOne), and Kickstarter (kck.st/13Ke9Rh).
Describe in one sentence what you hope to accomplish with the project.
Our goal is to create a piece of smart, accessible entertainment that encourages young people to think big about humanity's future in space.
Who is your target audience?
Anyone who loves a good story! Age 10 or 100, it doesn't matter. If you're interested in space or science or just have a curious nature, chances are Gen One is for you.
Why Mars? Do you have some sort of obsession with the Red Planet?
Why did humanity come to dominate the globe? Our nature demands we survive, explore, spread out, and further our knowledge as a species. Mars is the next logical step, the first stair in a long climb to the stars. One day, something will happen to Earth, whether in ten years (unlikely) or ten million (very likely). We must, must, must not have all our "eggs in one basket." If we want to survive, we have to think big. We have to strap on our pioneer hats and get to work.
I noticed several members of your team have the same last name. If you are related, what is the relation?
Our artist, Tim Stewart, is my brother. He's been drawing pictures based on my stories since we were kids, and I guess we just never stopped. Lynna Stewart, one of our designers, is my incredible, multi-talented, rock-awesome wife who always supports me in my mad creative endeavors. Writers and artists dream of marrying a girl like her.
If you are related, how does it affect the project? Does that help you understand the relationships that might exist with your characters?
I think being related brings its own advantages and challenges to the table. Frankly, it's a little easier to yell at each other and get heated when things are tough. But on the other hand, there's a bond underneath it all that is stronger than any professional relationship. I think the family dynamic creates a frank, passionate work environment, and our common experiences make it a lot easier to communicate what it is we want from one another. (I dare you to play me in Taboo or Charades when I have one of my brothers on my side.)
Which of the characters is your favorite and why?
That's a tough one, but I might have to go with July. She's an Earth girl who didn't want to come to Mars, was dragged along against her will, and finds herself in the middle of a huge mess with both of humanity's planets depending on her choices. Picus is our main character, but in many ways, July is the catalyst. And being from Earth, she's someone we can relate to. We understand her loneliness, her longing for fresh air and grass and oceans. Through her, we see Mars with fresh eyes--and we learn to appreciate what we have right now, here on Earth.
You mentioned that the story allows Generation One to avoid the same mistakes that we have made on Earth. What types of mistakes?
War. Racism. Allowing differing world views to undermine our common decency as human beings. Wastefulness. Entitled laziness. Cowardice. The list goes on and on, but Gen One is chiefly concerned with war, how it might be avoided, how we might rise above it.
What makes you think that human nature will change on Mars?
It won't. The fact that I'm writing about a potential war on Mars just 20 years into our time there is proof of that. But I'm also convinced that human beings are capable of changing what parts of their nature they prize and act on. That's a matter of changing/reapplying culture and tradition, and there's no "fresh start" quite like moving to a new planet.
I watched a documentary once about a troupe of baboons whose big, dominant, violent males had been killed off by disease, leaving the women and younger males in charge. The result was a complete shift in the culture of that troupe. When big males came in from other troupes and tried to bully and dominate, the newly remade troupe pulled together and, frankly, beat the crap out of them. They refused to stand for the old way. They "leveled up" and formed a more peaceful baboon society. If they can do it, can't we?
If we can't solve our problems on Earth, what makes you think we would be able to solve them on Mars?
We started on Earth with absolutely zero idea what we were doing. Literally none. The Mars colonists would have a lot more to go on as they formed their new society. Science, Earth history, mathematics, ethics, art, culture, the works. Knowledge really is power, and the transfer of knowledge from one person to the next is why we have gotten to the place we're at now, contemplating sending human beings to a new planet! (How exciting is that?!) I think that mechanism—the mechanism of learning and teaching—is cause for hope.
What type of technology are you using to produce the artwork?
Tim uses a Yiynova MSP19U Tablet Monitor and Manga Studio EX 4. He also models certain complex objects (vehicles, buildings, etc.) in 3D rendering software, and uses those computer-generated models as reference while drawing the comic; he frequently takes reference photos for character anatomy as well. Once all that preliminary work is done, he does digital pencils, inks, coloring, and a few effects in Adobe Photoshop. Each page can take him 10-25 hours.
Once Tim is done with the art, he passes it along to Lynna who does the word balloons, lettering, and layout in Adobe InDesign. Josh is frequently involved in the design process as well. It's a crazy intensive process.
You reached your first goal on Kickstarter in about a day. What is your next stretch goal?
It actually took us almost three days (the story grows in the telling, as it should!), but that's still incredibly fast. The euphoria and stress of seeing the numbers climb like that is a little difficult to describe. It was one of the most intense experiences of my life, bar none.
Our next stretch goal is at 30k, and holy crap, I am beyond excited to write this Halloween Bonus issue.
You mentioned a Halloween issue, what do you have in mind for Halloween with Generation One?
Life on Mars won't be all fun and games. The colonists will be living on a largely unexplored, alien planet that "wants" them dead. Looking out the windows and realizing you're alone, millions of miles from Earth, that you can't breathe the air, that no one could come to help you if you needed it—that's inherently scary, and we wanted to touch on that a little bit.
There's also this old lady who lives alone in the oldest capsule on the outskirts of the base. She almost never comes out, and the rumors about her have reached ghost story proportions with the colonists' kids. The Halloween Issue is her story, an exploration of fear and sacrifice on The Red Planet.
I'm not hyperbolizing one bit when I say this is the story I'm most excited to write.
If this succeeds in this beginning phase (and I'm sure it will), whats next? Are you looking to continue it as a regular web comic?
We'll see what happens. Tim and I have always wanted to work in comics, so whether we move on to write for established comic book publishers or try to court distributors for Gen One, it's an exciting time for us. Fingers crossed on all fronts!
Which members of your team would be willing to risk life and limb to go live on Mars? Why?
Not me, that's for sure. I'm too much of an Earth boy, but that doesn't mean there aren't hundreds of thousands (maybe millions!) of people suited to be colonists. I'm just not stable enough to be that kind of pioneer. I can see Rusty doing it, though. ;)
Anything else to add?
I think that pretty well covers it. We'd love it if everyone would swing by the Kickstarter (kck.st/13Ke9Rh) and watch the project video. We put a lot of time and effort into it, and it does a better job of explaining Gen One than I ever could in an interview. If you find yourself inspired by what we're doing, please pledge and share with your friends. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this, Brock, and thank you everyone for your time and interest. Now let's go make a comic. :)

The Ugly Territory of Racism  

Posted by Brock Booher

Racism is ugly and wrong. This may seem inherently obvious to most people, but I have sadly discovered that the obvious isn’t always so obviously understood, and common sense is not so common.

Recently a young man in a university dormitory had an altercation with another student over misuse of the common area. John (not his real name) was awakened in the middle of the night by loud noises in the common kitchen next door, an area that was off limits after eleven pm. Annoyed by the late-night revelers, he got out of bed and stormed to the kitchen. He scolded the rule breakers for being in the kitchen after hours and pointed to the sign that stated the hourly restrictions. One of the noise offenders, we’ll call him Bill, got angry and defiant. Bill told John to get lost. They could do whatever they wanted because John wasn’t a Resident Assistant. John shook his head and disengaged, returning to his dorm room in hopes of getting back to sleep. Bill followed, and pounded on John’s door taunting him to come out and settle things man-to-man. John put in his earbuds and ignored him.

Two days later Bill saw John sitting alone at breakfast and approached him. Instead of an apology, Bill threatened John and told him that if he ever did anything like that again his parents might have to come get him and take him home, and they might not recognize his face. John again ignored the threats, but he didn’t remain passive.

John complained to the university authorities. They called him in for an interview. When John walked into the office, they noticed that his skin color and features were different than most of the students on campus. Instead of discussing how to keep John safe, they lectured him on cultural differences. Instead of discussing the behavior of the threatening student, they told John to be more aware that he was different and should be more tolerant.

Racism begins the moment we stop treating a person as an individual and begin treating them as part of a group. The individual loses their identity and becomes an impersonal member of a crowd, culture, or race. This shift in focus then allows us to demonize them, make them less than human, and rationalize our own bad behavior as acceptable. It keeps us from basing our judgment on their behavior. Sadly, this way of thinking is common practice.

It takes a great deal of introspection to break ourselves of this habit. If we want to stop our own racist behavior, we must start at the moment we begin to classify someone as part of a group. We must not pigeonhole the individual and lump them together with any particular tribe so that we feel justified in then treating them differently. We must strive to maintain the individuality of each person we meet. If we succeed at that, we succeed in judging each person on their individual merits and their individual behavior. We no longer see black, white, brown, yellow, or anything in between. We see a person, another human being.

Strangely enough, if you succeed at maintaining the individuality of the person, you can then recognize their differences without passing judgment. You begin to see their individual features, their individual personality, and their individual humanity. You will be able to pick them out of a crowd, because you recognize their differences.

With the polar opposite ways the media handled the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case and the recent beating of the white thirteen-year old on the bus, understanding, and stopping, racism has become more difficult. In the Trayvon Martin case, the media doctored the 9/11 calls to make George Zimmerman sound racist. The media referred to Zimmerman as “White Hispanic” in an effort to polarize and foment hate and improve their ratings. Yet, when three black boys beat the thirteen-year old white student, several media outlets blurred the victim so that his race could not be determined. The bus driver, worried about getting in trouble, stood by and watched it happen.

I was running on the treadmill the first time I saw the attack on the thirteen-year old student. I couldn’t tell the race of the victim. I didn’t care about the race of the perpetrators. My reaction was visceral. I got angry. I ran faster. I could taste metal in my mouth. I just wanted to stop it. My reaction was based on their behavior.

What difference does the race of the perpetrators or the victim make? If it makes a difference to you, then you have ceased to think of them as individuals and begun to classify them as part of a group – the first step to racism. The punks beating up the boy on the bus were wrong and needed to be stopped. If you cared about the race of the attackers on the bus, or the race of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, then you have allowed racism to cloud your judgment. You have stopped judging people on their individual behavior and started to judge them based on their race – the definition of racism.

So, are you still wondering about the race of the threatened young man in the university dorm incident or the threatening student? I’m not going to tell you, because it doesn’t matter. One student threatened another with violence, and the first reaction by the university was inappropriate – period. Fortunately, the university did the right thing and called in the threatening student for counseling. They punished him based on his behavior. John, the threatened student, was satisfied that justice was done, and that he would be safe from harm, but he still wonders how his skin color, or culture, had anything to do with the incident.

It is human nature for us to classify, categorize, and separate things, and people, into groups. It helps us keep track of an increasingly complex world. But the moment we stop making judgments based on individual behavior and allow that impulse to taint our judgment, elevate our own social status at the expense of another, or rationalize the mistreatment of another human being because they belong to another group, then we have damaged our own countenance, and we begin drifting into the ugly territory of racism.