INTERVIEW WITH AUSTIN WILSON
Austin Wilson writes prose and comics, and has co-hosted the Hideous Energy comic book podcast with David C. Hopkins for over five years. It is most definitely not safe for work. His short story ‘thinmanlittlebird’ was included in the ‘Mythic Indy’ anthology, and his short comic ‘Roth’ was included in the sci-fi anthology ‘Fearless Future’, edited by Marvel’s Chris Robinson. He worships Ray Bradbury and Nora Ephron. And this August, Magnetic Press will release his first full-length graphic novel RE*PRO*DUCT Volume one: SELF-APPLIED, a tale about life in a world co-populated by robots, illustrated by Logan Faerber.
Part SLACKER, part BLADE RUNNER, it’s a slice of Philip K Dick existentialism viewed through a Richard Linklater-style lens of humanity. And that’s where Austin loves to play.
How do you spend your days, and how does writing fit into your daily professional life?
I currently work at an animal hospital as an administrator, which means I order medications, vaccines, and food, but I also get to carry puppies and kittens around. It’s emotionally soothing and worth the struggle of cleaning up messes. I fit writing into my days whenever/however I can. It’s not always easy, or successful. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, so it’s an old habit, one I’ll never abandon.
You’ve written a number of short stories and comic shorts. Is RE*PRO*DUCT your first full-length graphic novel?
It’s my first published! I’ve written two other full-length graphic novels, one about a family’s struggle to navigate a single night and all the emotional roadblocks they find (some random, some placed by their own hands), and another revolving around hacking personal finances. I’m toward the beginning of another, but it’s too early in the process to mention too much.
Your stories tend to center on a skewed future, where things tend to be recognizably contemporary except for one big obvious exception that changes everything. How do you use this to explore questions in your writing?
If I’m working on a story set in a futuristic world, especially one with new technology or an aspect of our culture that has been altered, the most important question I ask over and over is “Why?” That usually helps me get started on figuring out how things may be. There were more than a few aspects of the world (ours) I forgot when building the fictional version containing robots walking around and being all emotional. I was lucky though, because story beats happened, either in plotting or re-writes, where I saw a glaring omission. I’m sure there are plenty left though.
How did RE*PRO*DUCT come along? What was the idea or inspiration?
It actually came along thanks to an idea that is hinted at in Self-Applied, small pieces here and there. I came up with an idea of the first robots ever, the development of their intelligence, and what that would mean, but rather than focusing on how it may affect all of humanity I looked at how it would impact a single person. It led to a lot of different story possibilities. And that first story is on its way at some point!
How did Logan Faerber come to the project?
I wrote a short 16 page script, which would form the majority of the story’s first part. After getting it to a place I was happy with I went looking for artists. This was a tad before the internet turned into the collaboration machine it is now, and heck, even that’s different from what it was like back then (I wrote those initial pages sometime around 2009 maybe?). I saw his art on Facebook after he’d clicked “Like” on Becky Cloonan’s page, and was instantly in love with his style. I sent him a message and asked if he’d like to do a short comic. He said yes, and we went from there!
What was collaboration like with Logan? Did you find your ideas evolving once they started taking visual shape?
Even trying your hardest to visualize a page, it becomes far easier to grasp the limits of space and size a comic is truly working with once you can actually see it. I knew Logan was capable of populating a page, in metaphorical and literal senses, so I would leave notes about who we may see in the background, or what, and his skills at bringing that to life are amazing. The short backup illustrated by Seth T. Hahne features a background character Logan put into a scene of the main story, one I loved immediately, and practically had the story land directly on my head due to that character’s design. I also worked closely with letterer/designer David C. Hopkins to help create another important aspect of the visual narrative, the lettering and pacing of the literal reading process. I learned so much from everyone I was lucky to work with here, for sure.
What more do you see in store for the characters?
So much! The other short backup illustrated by Sabrina Scott shows some other nuances of the reality I envisioned when robots are being created using human “building blocks,” one I plan on exploring much further. I have part two of Self-Applied written, along with the outlines for two other graphic novels following Carb into plenty of new problems. I have stories outlined (and some written) for every major character seen in Self-Applied, along with some who only appear briefly, like Sheena, the club-goer Carb and his friends come across in the beginning of the book. I wanted to bring a world to life where there is no uprising, where the status quo continues, and we all have to deal with what that means.