The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

So… How I Got Here

Posted by BigWords on November 8, 2013

Just before I went offline, I had only just managed to pay the final people who were owed money for their work on Boahi, the beautiful, insane quarterly. In order to do that, I sold the majority of my Golden Age comic collection, all of the footage and rights to Quiet (though the main character remains mine, being taken from a short story). Those actions leaves me with a 100% history of ensuring everyone has been paid for their work, which is more than can be said for larger operators, and something that had been playing on my mind since the loss of the title. I hate the thought that someone has done work and not received credit or financial recompense for their time and abilities, especially as much of what has been going on has been about that.

Things which came directly from the death of the title were a mixed bag; the satisfaction of having brought together the best material I could get my hands on, and working with amazing people, all jumbled up in the frustration of not seeing it finally in print. Circumstances meant that I had to sit back and watch as the rights to various elements expired, and numerous key elements – the layout of photographs in particular – were latched on to for other titles by people who were involved in assisting on various elements. The look and style which I spent a ridiculous amount of time tweaking was slowly being picked apart.

Then I got involved with a title which is the reason for this – and the previous – post. First things first, though…

When I finally decided to let all this into the open – spurred on by a repulsive, venomous, and unfortunately anonymous e-mail – I had thought about going on the attack, and settling a few scores. That seems to be both a rather a churlish move, and one which contains the possibility of hurting people who don’t deserve more pain. So this is all about the path from there to here. Throughout, I’ll refute some of the accusations which have been put to me, though some are so petty and stupid that I won’t bother with them. I’m writing this account because I want to, and not for any other reason.

Being in the middle of the quarterly circling the drain wasn’t the best time to set out on something large, but it – roughly – coincides with the website picking up pace. I started the Database around the time that the contents had been finalized, and sent the first (small and to the point) pdf file to Abby (and, IIRC, a couple of other people) to see if it was worth pursuing. The reactions I got back were enough to create a blog in which the first steps towards the eventual website were taken.

There were maybe a few hundred annuals indexed in précis. No writer or artist credits, and certainly no information on comics. It was a strange document, with none of the artistic finesse which I normally attempt. Rather brutal in its’ approach to delivering the maximum amount of information across a limited amount of space. It was something I would find a new way of working in, and there were ideas which sprang from putting it together which would play out later. At this point I was also pulling apart the stupidly long version of London Tales to create a series of smaller stories, and cultivating my thoughts on something which will become evident soon enough anyways.

The quarterly wasn’t done in isolation – I pooled my people across the Database and another title to maximize the amount of material generated. The Database is creeping towards 7000 pages at the moment, and the other title… Well, that was the final straw. The other title was, if anything, the most radical departure for me since writing the first version of the Database. It was originally destined to be a story-based magazine, but I’m jumping ahead again…

Point is, things have never stopped. I like having projects running, and there was always something needing done.

Then things started to go wrong in a big way. A few drops of water can change everything… The ear infection – which I wrote about here somewhere – left me unable to continue work on writing music; the tinnitus was especially bad in extremes of low noise and high noise surroundings. It was annoying more than anything else, and drove me to distraction when I had gunk running down my neck, but after a course of yucky pills I found that my judgement of pitch and tone had been skewed. I was in the middle of adjusting the middle-section of the grand audio experiment when that hit. One more thing buried in the cemetery of dead projects.

Not that long after, I had to expend a lot of energy, money and time killing the sale of a DVD-rom, which contained material from years ago, which I wasn’t getting paid for. Had things gone differently in my interaction with those involved, I doubt I would have taken such a hard line. As happened, they told me to fuck off. I then made damn sure that they didn’t profit from their venture. There was the odd thing I had on the side (sending out short stories and the like), but most of my time was spent dealing with problems.

The engaged tone which was ever present in my left ear made focusing difficult. I was spending more hours each day pulling together documents for one thing and another, and dealing with lawyers is – at best – stressful. Dealing with lawyers when your brain is screaming to be released from your skull is a joy all of its own. Matters didn’t improve when I jolted my back. I’ve had a long time to ponder that injury, and I consider it – rightly or wrongly – to be a direct result of being so stressed, so tense, for so long. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have something on my plate, and it all finally caught up in that painful lesson.

There have been pauses in production of material, though I wouldn’t consider anything in the last decade to be an actual, honest-to-goodness break. No vacations to places, no days spent relaxing – there are some days when I considered taking off and doing something else. I know that it will probably come as a surprise to some, but the I miss the days when I was repairing, cleaning and upgrading computers from morning until night. It is so much less stressful, expensive and annoying than publishing. It was simple. Relaxing. Of course, what pushed me into that is back at the origins of this very blog, and wasn’t the easiest time either, but at least I didn’t have to deal individually with any idiots.

At some point in 2010, on the Absolute Write forum – most likely in the Cantina – I had been told to read women’s magazines. Don’t sneer at the thought. There are a lot of great writers doing serials for those titles, and there’s no shame in a guy reading great writing, whatever the intended audience. This was the push which led me to thinking seriously about the way in which narrative is presented, and the visual cues in packaging stories for readers. I set about making heavy notes on the titles I felt worked, and those which didn’t. I started collecting in a serious way, though always with one eye on doing something which didn’t have connections to my other interests.

I started scanning the pages I liked – a cool footer here, a beautiful boxed-out fact article there, and more than enough contents pages than anyone would ever need to have. Most of the titles which caught my interest were from the glorious period of 1925-1938, after the rougher story paper elements had been smoothed out, but before the slow death of style at the expense of money-saving reprints and awful, cheap art. The one thing which I was amazed at, more than the clever stories and glimpses of what was happening behind the scenes in editorials, was the covers. I’ve always been a sucker for fully-painted artwork, and in these titles I had found masters at work. Beautiful oil paintings, with depth that no photograph or line-art could hope to compete with.

From thinking “yeah, I’ll read some issues” to setting out on the path to creating a title which I could live with took almost eight months. But before I get to the magazine there’s something which I have largely avoided talking about. An omission which needs to be corrected if this is going to be as complete an account as possible.

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