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. :)