We took some time out with the creative artists from this issue of Waylines. Through their own words, find out the story behind their stories.

KC   Ball

1. How did you come up with “Stop Me If You've Heard This One”? What stages did you go through in the process of getting the idea down?

This story was one of six I wrote during Clarion West. The final draft that appears here in Waylines is much changed since that first version, written almost three years ago. I've never understood some writers who say they never rewrite. I jigger with my stories until everything fits into place, like one of those steel-balls-in-the-depressions games I used to play as a kid. And it was an experiment. I wanted to try a short story told in three discernible points-of-view and - because I believe a sense of humor is one of the marks of a thinking being - I wanted to address the notion of what an alien might find funny. I'm pleased with the result.
2. How did you maintain the balance of humor and the more serious themes of the story? Do you find that humor is as difficult to write as is often suggested?

I've always been drawn to jokes. They're one of humanity's most enduring forms of story-telling. And I'm fascinated by the way in which jokes travel and change according to the culture in which they're told. As far as maintaining balance, The problem I've always had is repressing my humorous natures so that it doesn't take over a story. Still, writing funny can be a challenge. The trick, I think, is pushing a straight situation until it becomes absurd.

3. What are you working on at the moment? Where can our readers find more K.C. Ball?

I have four other stories that will be out soon or may have just appeared when this issue of Waylines is published. "Drawn to the Glow" appeared February 28, 2012, as the two-thousandth story at Every Day Fiction. "This Little Piggy", a SF riff on one of my favorite jokes, will appear in the Spring 2013 issue of Big Pulp, the online magazine; "A Quiet Little Town in Northern Minnesota" is set for the July/August 2013 issue of Analog, and "Kindred Souls", a horror story with an older protagonist (one of the things I'd like to see more of in SF) is included in A Quiet Shelter There, an anthology that will be out later this year from Hadley Rille Books. And my story collection, Snapshots From A Black Hole & Other Oddities, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as my publisher, Hydra House Books.

What I'm working on? I'm excited about "Sweetwater Notion and the Hallelujah Kid", a steampunkish novella I just sent out for the first time. I also have three stories almost finished, "Thumbing It", a horror story set in the sixties, "Froggie Went A'Courtin'", environmental SF in the Pacific Northwest, and "Amid a Crowd of Stars", a hard SF piece based on the notion of human inter-connectedness. And I have about 35,000 words written toward an alternate history novel, Shadow Man.


Eric Del Carlo

1. How did you come up with “The Air That I Breath.” What stages did you go through in the process of getting the idea down?

First I have to admit to the genesis of the title, which I lifted from the classic song by The Hollies. I was this close to calling it "All I Need Is the Air That I Breathe" but thankfully caught myself. Environmental degradation, which figures heavily into this story, is a go-to theme for me. Like many others, I believe we, as inhabitants of this planet, are at or past the tipping point when our biosphere is going to strike back at us. I got chased out of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, which when placed in historical context will probably be viewed as the beginning of Earth's violent climate change. For this story I simply took a basic premise and gave it a twist: what if we didn't try to alter or save our environment, but were instead forced to change ourselves as a species simply to survive. Everything followed from there. I saw that the best way to give that premise its richest poignancy was to tell the tale from the viewpoint of the last generation of unaltered humans. So I conjured up the only human cop in a ravaged San Francisco and sent him off into the story. By then the story was moving under its own power.

2. The themes in the story are quite bold. How did you handle the perceived sense of the other, and do you feel that Sussman and Lubrano can find some way to empathize more strongly in the future?

Again this was a matter of turning the familiar on its head, something that is maybe more common in fantasy literature than SF. Humans in this world would be the grotesque ones. They would seem clumsy and vulnerable, and worst of all, they would bear the blame of what had been done to the planet. The new altered generation of humans, referred to in the story as "Newts" (that's a simplification of "New Terrans," which I honestly didn't come up with until after I'd coined the term Newt; also the beings look reptilian), seem to regard the original humans not so much as monsters, but as anomalies, ones that will soon die out. They're more pitied and ignored than hated. The "pre-ev" human cop Lubrano certainly seems more horrified by the Newt rookie officer Sussman than vice versa. I think age also figures into that: the young being more open and receptive, the older closed off and embittered. That added to the tension between the two characters. Yet Lubrano grudgingly comes around to some sort of accord with Sussman by the story's end. Will that seriously change anything? Probably not. The pre-evs are, after all, doomed. But it provides a warm, genuinely human moment between the two characters. I always write for an emotional effect. I like to tell the big story from a small intimate viewpoint. Lubrano and Sussman's interspecies interactions gave me that opportunity.

3. What are you working on at the moment? Where can our readers find more Eric Del Carlo?

Right now I am doing some short story work, which was my first love in this business. It's hard to justify the effort/payoff of short fiction, but I again don't much care. I love creating something small from scratch, running it to its end, then discarding it. It's why I found The Twilight Zone more inspiring than Star Trek as a kid. The Zone began again each week, nothing to build on, you're right back at creative Pass Go. I also just got the contract for a novel my father and I wrote together, which will remain one of the treasured experiences of my life. The book, a heartfelt urban fantasy, is titled The Golden Gate Is Empty, and White Cat Publishing will be putting it out. Anybody can contact me through my website at ericdelcarlo.com or find my author's page on Facebook. I love to hear from readers. My site also has links to much of my published work.


Sean  Eads

1. How did you come up with “The Seer?” What stages did you go through in the process of getting the idea down?

Basically, the central premise just popped into my head one day. "What if there was a guy who was part of a society where everyone had visions of a glorious future, and he had to hide the fact he saw only visions of death and destruction." The hardest part of the process was deciding on the character's age. It felt like he should be a teen dealing with all kinds of insecurities and not wanting to disappoint his father. I'd been reading some classic science fiction stories like "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" around the time I wrote "The Seer," and I think some of that story's ideas about 'scape-goat'-ism and a society built on false pretenses influenced my own tale when it came to creating the idea of the "traitors" out in the desert. 
2. The themes of betrayal and control run deep in The Seer. Do you tend to consciously choose the themes of the stories you write, or do they become more apparent in revisions?

It's a bit of both. I think I'm a very formal writer in a lot of ways, one who thinks a lot about theme, symbolism and allusion even while working on a first draft. I have a Master's degree in literature and very early on in my academic career I gravitated toward the technique of "close reading" championed by the New Critics in the early- to mid-20th century, in which one seeks to discover how a work of literature has its own internal cohesiveness and unity. One of the pleasures of rewriting, for me, is to close read my own draft after I've separated myself from it for awhile, and look for the unintentional things that nevertheless seem to be giving meaning to the story--perhaps the accidental and unconscious repetition of an image, for instance. As I discover them, they help me direct or redirect the flow of the story in multiple rewrites. In the case of "The Seer," I had the theme of betrayal from the beginning, and once I decided the narrator was going to be an adolescent I knew I'd filter the theme through a few difficult "father figure" relationships--his real father, the Huntmaster, and the leader of the "traitors." 

3. What are you working on at the moment? Where can our readers find more Sean Eads?

People looking at my other recent or forthcoming fiction credits are going to think I've got some kind of zombie fetish. I just published a story in Shock Totem called "To 'Bie or Not to 'Bie," which I think attempts something different with the zombie concept. And I'm triple-dipping with an upcoming story called "The Revenge of Oscar Wilde." This is an alternative history tale in which Oscar Wilde finds a new reason to live when he has to battle a zombie outbreak during the 1900 Paris Olympics. "The Revenge of Oscar Wilde" is slated to come out in a TBA issue of Stupefying Stories. In the meanwhile, it was also picked up for an exciting anthology from Prime Books called Shambling Through History, which releases this summer. The story will also appear in Wilde Stories 2014, from Lethe Press--the same good people who published The Survivors. I've got a couple of novel manuscripts floating about to agents and small publishers, and I'm currently rewriting a manuscript that is basically a supernatural sequel to Huckleberry Finn. It occurred to me how much credence the characters in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn put in the supernatural--witchcraft, divination, bodily possession--and I thought it would be great to revisit their world under the assumption that all of those beliefs were completely accurate. So the novel takes place 10 years after Huck "lit out for the Territories," only to discover the Territories are full of various sinister creatures. Now trained as a warrior, Huck has to protect a little runaway slave boy whose innate magical ability holds the key to ending slavery forever. The novel is completely ridiculous and a blast to write.


Spencer Friend
1. What was the inspiration behind The Gate, the story behind the story?

The story was conceived by Matt and it started out as more of a trailer to be used on his showreel as a director. But as we got further into the process of development and thinking about pre-production, we realized that there was an original story to be made that sat in the sci-fi genre: we could start to build intrigue around a government investigation as to what had taken place with strange human mutations. Therefore becoming more of a thriller. We actually intended to shoot it over just a few days but realized that we could have a plot based around our lead forensic scientist and the events that unfold by adding more to the shooting schedule.
2. As the producer, was it difficult getting all the resources together for the project?

Yes, very! Short films are an investment in time and money not just for the production company and director, but even more so for the fantastic crews, equipment hire companies and everyone else that helps us realize our vision. A short like this should cost two to three hundred thousand dollars to shoot, but because of the generosity of freelancers we use regularly we managed to do it on a smaller budget. That can be hard from a production point of view to organize so that everyone is locked down for the schedules, when they are basically doing us a favor. We were delayed a few times by full paying projects taking away key crew members but got there eventually.

3. We've heard that The Gate has been picked up to be made into a feature film. Is there anything you can tell us about that process and how the production is going now?

Yes indeed. Matt and I are working with Wayfare’s Sarah Shepherd and Ben Browning to develop the script that is being written by Mitchell Akselrad. It’s not an easy process developing the feature length script but I’m very optimistic that we are crafting something special.

4. What are you currently working on?

Another short film called The Fields directed by Duncan Guymer, a couple of early stage feature ideas and a bunch of TV commercials. The Fields is another sci-fi thriller, which is a nod to Bladerunner and The Island. Its already getting a lot of attention and we haven’t even finished picture. I am of course looking for more projects to develop by budding writer/directors.


Patrick Jean
1. What was the inspiration behind Pixels, the story behind the story?

Originally Pixels was supposed to be a music video, then a friend convinced me it would have a better life in festivals and stuff if it was made under the form of a short film. He was damn right!

2. What was your goal with the piece?

My goal was: 1) to have fun, 2) to use my 3D and coding skills on a personal project and 3) to become a director instead of a CG artist.

3. Why do you want to tell visual stories? Why did you become a filmmaker?

I've always been attracted to visual story telling like Michel Gondry's stuff or Spike Jonze. I also like to incorporate my own techniques (like this pixels technique used), trying to create something that has never been seen before.
4. We heard that Happy Madison Productions has teamed up with you to develop Pixels into a feature film. Is there anything you can tell us about how that came about or how it is going?

Well, I am still attached to direct the film. Tim Dowling wrote the last version of the script (Just Go With It, and also writer of the amazing short Georges Lucas in Love) and Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses) was hired on the project as a consultant, thanks to his knowledge of hardcore 8-bit gamers which he acquired when making the famous documentary “The King of Kong“.

5. What are you currently working on?

I have a feature film project in France called Omni Visibilis. I'm also working on the Pixels feature with Sony Pictures. And on a short film that should be out next month. Also, I'm directing commercials for Iconoclast, a production company in France and in the US.


Matt Westrup
1. What was the inspiration behind The Gate, the story behind the story?

At the time that I started developing the idea I hadn’t seen any movies that presented creatures or monsters in a way that felt very realistic. Sci-fi or ‘monster’ movies were always very theatrical in their presentation and I wanted to make a film that came at the genre from another angle. To present a fictional creature realistically on the screen would need a real world foundation to help sell the reality. I had seen a news item about the increase in the amount of pharmaceutical products being purchased on line and thought that might provide a good start point.
2. How long did it take to make The Gate? Are there any juicy production tales you'd like to talk about?

It took about 4 years but I was fitting the project in around paid work for most of that time and it was a slow start whilst I developed the script. The shoot took 4 days so the bulk of the rest of the time was taken up with creating the CGI which is, by definition, extremely labour intensive. The extremely low budget meant that we couldn’t always afford the perfect location (for example, the office scenes) so much of the post time was taken up creating invisible effects such as set extensions and painting out unwanted fixtures and fittings just to get back to a point that looked as if we had shot in a more desirable location. I also took on a lot of duties that are ordinarily delegated to various departments; again due to budgetary constraints and because everyone was working for free it was logistically very tough to get the crews diaries to tally up whilst they worked on the project around their own day jobs. I’ve directed commercials that have gone smoother!

3. We've heard that The Gate has been picked up to be made into a feature film. Is there anything you can tell about that process and how the production is going now? Will it be much different to the short?

The short was essentially a proof of concept and has a very particular format as a result. I want the feature length version to maintain the successful foundation of the short and then have additional layers, more specifically a more character led approach in terms of protagonists and antagonists but also the arcs of the human creatures too. We have a very bright writer on board too who we are working with to realize the long form version.

4. What are you currently working on?

The feature is taking up a lot of my time at the moment but I have kernels of many other ideas too albeit at various stages of fruition. There is one idea that is further along than the others and I am looking to develop that into film two. I am also looking at scripts for commercials in the meantime which is fun because for me they are like making mini movies.


John Williams
1. What was the inspiration behind Paraphernalia, the story behind the story? What was your goal with the piece?

Firstly, the story was inspired by a friend of mine (but not a child) who needed dialysis treatment four hours a day 3-4 times a week. She described the situation with the machine in her life as a sort of 'love hate relationship', she hated being so restricted by needing the machine but also appreciated that without such technology, she would not have been alive. This became the story I wanted to tell, but my approach was to not be so literal, so using a child and playing with the idea of personifying the dialysis machine into a robot became an exciting idea to convey the same heart of the story.
2. We see that you have directed a number of music videos. Was making Paraphernalia any different than that process?

Paraphernalia was a good shoot to be on, we had enough time (which is never the case when shooting music video's) and we shot the interior stuff actually at Elijah's home and his mum who is an awesome cook, did the food for us. Also with the shooting style I didn't want to go too stylized like with music video's, I needed it to feel more real and natural so the lighting set-ups were a lot simpler.

3. What has influenced you most, as a filmmaker? (this could be a particular life event, other films, other filmmakers, etc)

Music is probably the biggest influence for my work. When I find a piece of music that moves or motivates me then I start trying to find the story that supports it. Also the first movie I ever saw was E.T. (and I think that says a lot about my influences).

4. What are you currently working on?

Despite having a number or projects in development things have been a bit quiet this year so I'm currently looking for new opportunities. Finally, my site is where you can see just a few of my completed projects as well as two that are yet to be created: www.cargocollective.com/abstractjohn