I’m proud to have finally gotten a book published, and hopeful that I can get it up on some other sites (like Barnes & Noble) soon along with a print version. And hopefully very soon, I can cobble together a better cover for The Affix or—if I’m lucky—convince my very talented cousin to come up with something on short notice, and get that published too. (I have a smidge more to do with final edits on that book, but really not much. Technically it’s good to go as-is.)
But some projects haven’t made it that far yet. Back in 2001, I got the idea to start a Webcomic. The art of this comic would be well beyond my skill, but I was at least able to start writing up characters and scripts. The only problem was that I kept writing more scripts, and more, and more. I’ve taken time away from it here and there, and haven’t actually touched it in some time, but this comic currently has 709 issues completely scripted out—and no artwork whatsoever.
The comic, which is a sci-fi about a merchant starship set about a thousand years in the future, plays to what I think (well, hope) is one of my better strengths when it comes to writing: developing likeable characters. A comic isn’t really all that different than a sit-com, unless you go the serious route, but I wanted something that would be funny. Also, I made a strict no-time-travel rule and have adhered to it without exception, because dang I’ve seen a lot of stupid time travel plots and it’s such a tired gimmick unless it’s integral to the overall story. And there’s no pop culture references, and no breaking the fourth wall, because screw that. (It’s all right that others do it, but personally, I’ve never been a fan of that.)
The story takes place aboard the merchant ship Halflight, situated on the Fringe which is the stellar neighborhood of Redling, about 180 light-years (about 1 year by hyperspace) away from Earth and near the edge of human space. The captain is a penny-pinching miser with a well-earned reputation for driving a hard bargain. His business partner and first mate is a womanizing yahoo who specializes in exotic (read: barely legal) cargo. The gunner and security officer is a trigger-happy former mercenary who treats her gun like a person. The pilot is ridiculously clean-cut, but as a foreigner to the Fringe he doesn’t get some of the local customs like the hyper-violent sport of paraball. The engineer, who is descended from mad geneticists, is just trying to hold things together in the absence of a suitable budget for spare parts, and undo the extensive sabotage left behind by the psychotic former cook.
There are many, many running gags, the cook being just one. Or to be more precise, the cook is just the root of one entire set of running gags.
There are aliens. Some are nicer than others, like the amiable insectoid Steego; the technologically gifted, humanoid-if-you-squint Hhurfth; and the rabidly alcoholic Daelu. Nobody likes the Rospin, which are like giant squirrel-jackals with bad tempers. There were Grays, centuries ago before the colonial era, but their steadfast refusal to stop experimenting on people to satisfy their curiosity led them to a very bad end.
There are politics, and there is crime. Worlds are actual whole planets, with multiple governments and layers of authority and continents and everything. The shipping business is highly competitive, and with piracy it can be dangerous. Slavery is illegal but practiced by those who think they can get away with it; no small number of slavers, and pirates, meet bad ends in this comic as well.
There is bickering and camaraderie alike between the crew. There are scrapes with the law. There are explosions and gunfights. There are pitched hyperspace battles. There is romance. There is greed. There are vendettas. There are diabolical plots, no small number of them launched by the protagonists. There is chili—terrible, terrible chili.
But there is no art.