I’m sitting at this crossroads of creativity, listening to “Nature Sounds” while I write and trying to take a big-picture approach to my ambition. This also leads me to want to use Socratic thinking to ask myself what I want to create and why.
I’ve been struggling, and I think there’s value in showing that struggle to others. Not only as a post-mortem for how far you’ve come, but to show that these challenges are a normal part of the creative process and that many of us have to overcome them to grow.
I have a long-running canon in my head now of what Space Trouble is. It started as an RPG. RPGs are a passion, I love the character/story-driven nature of FATE (especially Strands), and I know it’s something I know I can do (I once wrote a 400+ page total conversion for Star Wars into Rifts). But then I get to looking at the Market, and I know there are several, top quality, sci-fi RPGS out there that use FATE, and I ask myself if MY thing even needs to exist. Is there a point to it all? Do I have something unique, novel, or edgy I want to say with my ideas and stories?
I have become more of a “reader” and am letting myself be influenced by classic sci-fi stories more and more. There will, inevitability, be a point where I go back to my Goodreads and look at all I’ve read and list what I feel was poignant enough to borrow from each of them to bring into the ethos of what Space Trouble is. This isn’t stealing, or homage, as much as (in most cases) I hadn’t known to think this way. How do you describe a concept until you’ve seen it with your eyes?
I daydream, a lot. And as such I think about that first, boring, essay I wrote about what Space Trouble is. About how humanity got to the point you are then playing the game. The game is a sweeping hard-boiled science/fantasy epic. But then I let personal, world-building, stories like Coyote, Harlequin’s Moon, Red Mars, and Revelations Space get to me. It’s in times like this I start to ask myself if Space Trouble should be a novel, or an RPG. Or maybe it should be both. While I am self destructive at times and put road-blocks in my own way, I am not giving up on this. I know it should be… SOMETHING.
For some reason I am someone who wants an outlet and stable foundation. While I daydream about things like Space Trouble, I then worry where I’ll put it. I want the chapters to be fairly open, I want to have an SRD I put on the website. I want it to be easy to be consumed so that those who I respect can give me praise and criticism alike. I have a v2.0 (hopefully to be v3.0) of the website I’m working on. This will let me share chapters and short stories from the Novel or the RPG. But as I write these words I think a part of me knows better. I am using this as an excuse to keep me from pounding out even more words-to-keyboard and making Space Trouble into a thing. It is probably poignant that I start writing: I can worry where I am going to put it at a later date.
Then there’s the vacuum. No, not the cold, unfeeling, vacuum of SPACE!, but the stifling fart-chamber of being trapped in a room with only your own ideas. I smuggle in new inspiration in the fictions I read and the shows I watch, but there are certain, fundamental pillars and beats to the framework/story of Space Trouble that I question. In these times I need others who have a similar passion and/or can see the potential in this thing and want to be a sounding board. Sometimes you get to a point where you need a support network. Folks that are invested in your success and will kick your ass and remind you to keep moving the ball down the field. I have a couple folks in mind, but they are busy living their own lives with their own struggles. We can’t commit to meeting regularly to hash things out. This is also not like previous creative-relationships I’ve had where a friend commits to co-creating a thing and then life gets in their way and shits on our project. No, this would still be in the realms of I’m doing 90% of the actual creating, but I’ve now surrounded myself with folks who are story/world-building minded, who love sci-fi and what this thing could grow into being. “Adviser” is a good word. I will still have executive/veto power but these folks co-generate while they also show me gaping holes in my processes I might not have seen.
There’s also my concern that while I know I can write a 400+ page RPG book from a technical standpoint. I am not sure I have the chops as a writer to make it something other than a play-book. That is, if it turns out this mutant-child of passion and ambition really wants to be a novel and not an RPG then, can I do that? Do I have the skill/talent to pull that off? I have some scenes in my head, I have some plot-points on a time-line of events I know need to happen, but the challenge is in how to give them gravitas and make them something that is worthy to be read. I have some resources, mostly, the writing communities on Reddit come to mind. I may ask them some questions about how you turn Plot into Story and see where that gets me.
So let’s summarise:
- Space Trouble should be a thing.
- I need to sit down and decide what ingredients belong in this pot.
- I need to not get hung up on having a home for it before it’s done.
- I need a few folks I can trust with my ugly child who will help me raise it.
- I need to figure out how to develop a novel AND and RPG at the same time or decide if it is to be one or the other.
- If this is going to be a novel, I need to figure out how to structure the plot-points into a story.
In other creative endeavours, I continue to hone my talents as an Illustrator and will be drawing more Space Trouble themed art. I have been seeing more and more artists, towards the end of a project, wrangle all the art together and make something of an art-book. I could certainly do something similar, with topo-maps and star charts, animal dissection and vehicle designs.
AmberDawn Games, which is still lacking a proper “About” page, was meant to be a co-op where writers, artists, world-builders, and creators could come together to lift one another up. To work together, give creative feed-back and in many cases give actual, physical, support by combining their craft to create an environment of art and design.
At the very least I need to think about the other thing I may have mentioned once, “AmberDawn Agents”. Folks who want to be involved in the playtesting and feedback of the thing. Folks who want to get the chapters early, read them, and give constructive criticism. Maybe this the the very sort of thing a Patreon would be good for. I don’t want it to be douchey, so I’d keep the barrier-to-entry low. Got $2? Here’s another chapter. I don’t know, I’m stream of consciousness spit-balling now, and there some value to this as well.
So there I have it. I haven’t written anything on these subjects in some time, but I find that rather than let these ideas bounce around like beetles in a tin-can, I sometimes need to write them down to make them quantifiable, and real, and manageable. I have been thinking about this space (the blog) more often, and have considered writing small essays about plot, and character creation, and world-building. I am a creator and a story-teller, I don’t consider myself a writer. I think to show my experience and also as a self-reflective exercise, it may be healthy to deconstruct my knowledge and see if it distills into something that is easily disseminated.