Issue 93 Creators’ Notes

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    • #10260

      This is a thread for the creators’ notes for Issue 93!

      Usually, we like to use the SSBB wiki to give authors and artists a chance to leave commentary, notes, links, and other useful information about their stories. However, since the wiki is down, this thread is intended as a temporary holding place for those things. Once the wiki is revived, any material left here will be transferred over there.

    • #10266
      Iron Eater

      Author’s notes for “Aperitif”:

      [strong]CONTENT WARNING:[/strong] this story depicts a toxic relationship that is both physically and emotionally abusive, both of which are depicted “on-screen”, with the POV character being the abuser and not seeing anything wrong with (often frequently rationalizing or defending) his actions. There’s also body horror and cosmic dread, but those are generally a little less personal, you know?

      Once again I am telling a horror story with heavy elements of technology and modern culture in it, because unless I’m writing gothic romance this is apparently just what I do for Octobers these days? At any rate, I knew I wanted to do something based on ARGs for months before I sat down and finalized what this was going to be; like many October entries the concept changed wildly from when I first sat down with the theme list for the year (I start planning very far in advance!), but I came across some very basic imagery extraordinarily early on and held on to it more or less untouched until it came time to write. This was also slated to be a Bad End story from the beginning, which colored how I presented the characters and plot from the beginning. Any other issue and they’d just be another weird-but-cute couple doing their best to make a home together. Hence why I went for the absolute antipode of that.

      The Sacred Order of the Red God isn’t based on any ARG in particular, though the ways they distributed content were strongly inspired by personal research (such as an excellent video put out by the YouTube channel Night Mind which aggregated some data sent by viewers who’d run ARGs of their own). They are absolutely producing an absurd amount of content for the time frame involved. This might technically be doable by someone who’s independently wealthy and stuffed to the gills with passion for their project, but in SORG’s case they have what amounts to someone using extra-potent thoughtography sitting in the producer’s chair, and he wants your attention. Reggie’s a fast learner in all sorts of ways. Whether or not anyone in their videos other than him and Les actually exists is left as an exercise for the reader.

      Les is quite possibly the least likeable protagonist I’ve ever written, and this includes the assorted people-eating monsters, body part harvesters, and characters based on IRL serial killers. Good job, Les…? He cares far too much about what people think of him but never for the right reasons. That heartbreak of his is legitimate but it is by no means an excuse for anything. The details of said got heavily trimmed away in the finished version, but he’s interested in making a living off of ARGs because he’s a hopeless auteur type who believes himself above “lesser” labor, and he’s got a nasty habit of living outside his means, so with his trust fund running out he needed to get creative to maintain the lifestyle to which he was accustomed. Usually people invest in shady startups or something. Him living in the middle of the woods was partially due to this; easier to get a big-ass house and lots of privacy in some remote county with limited wow factor than in the big city! The coasts would eat him alive one way or another.

      How, exactly, Reggie might get deported if the feds caught wind of him is unclear, but it can’t be the sort of scenario that’d end well. An unspoken joke of his appearance is that he’s the sexified YA-friendly version of himself, physically, hence the tousled hair, affinity for suits, and slightly creepy features on what’s still a conventionally hot face. This is tremendously Les’s doing, to ensure Reggie is as consumable as possible (as touched upon lightly with Reggie’s “friends”); to quote my ever-stalwart beta reader, “oh my god he made the [O]nceler.” Not that the other personalities Reggie mentions are much better! Thinking about the consumable nature of media (the name is not an accident) led to all sorts of interesting thought processes this issue.

      Octobers encourage me to experiment with my art techniques, so it’s photocollage time again! I went more for something that’d match the mood and feel of the piece than any particular scene. Obscuring Reggie’s face was important, as he’s meant to look as hot as the reader can possibly imagine and maybe then some, plus the recurring image of peeling back the world to see what’s on the other side and his connection to water and stars. Also it looks cool. Sometimes you just want to draw something that looks cool! I wanted to, and so I did, and so the story has a picture. Hope you enjoyed!

    • #10279
      Togi Kayako

      || Author’s Notes for “Yours Until My Heart Dies”

      About 14k words of (trans)M/various (F, M, NB)

      Content warnings: major character (un)death, some potential issues of consent — I’ve left the extent of that intentionally ambiguous, but it’s not zero. If manipulation and loss of bodily control are bad for you, please take a pass on this one.

      Sexual content: size kink, pegging, facefucking, trans guy front hole fucking, and a little bit of pain, praise kink, and come marking

      Author rambling (may spoil a few bits):
      Finally got to steal some song lyrics for a title, from Allie X’s “Downtown”. The demo version, called “Offering” has a slight variation on the chorus that I like even better: Take this offering/Yours until my heart dies. I almost kept the working title, but “Not So Little Death” was a bit too goofy for the tone I wanted. Third potential title shout out goes to my husband, who on getting editor status on one draft renamed it “MORE LIKE VIGOR MORTIS AM I RIGHT????”

      In keeping with the Halloween mood, the bones of this thing came from ALL over the place, starting with a half-finished draft of mine from two years ago that had a more menacing version of the Deathless Lord (based on World of Warcraft’s Lich King) and a less prepared version of Aevan (with no name OR gender, the poor bastard).

      When I started rewriting it, I remembered a version of Koschei the Deathless that I had read as a kid and promptly went over that like some kind of horrible fiction magpie. Koztya is meant to be a diminutive of Koschei and Aevan is a variant of Ivan. Marya is a direct steal, the name of both one of Ivan’s sister AND his wife in one version (the wife does get a last name to distinguish her). There are three birds in the story, two of which get nods here: Raven became Rook, and Orell (minus one L) means eagle. There’s a related story or variant where the Deathless’ heart is outside his body (inspiration for a D&D lich’s phylactery, I believe), which I also stole.

      I’m not sure how I feel about this one — it’s a bit outside of my usual wheelhouse for sure! — but I hope it’s an enjoyable read for the spooky season. I’ve gotten different takes from everyone who read it and I’m very excited to see how more folks interpret it!

    • #10280

      I was tapped to do the cover this issue, which… Was unexpected. I am honored and thrilled by the opportunity, and also shaking out of my skin.

      So first order of business, suits. Obviously.

      This piece actually flexed my range quite a bit, I did a lot of stuff that I do not normally do. The process of making it was entirely new to me, I was completely flying blind. I took a lot of time and great care to try and match what I saw in my head.

      I’ve never done a period piece before, and I wasn’t sure of what to do for that– on one hand, Gothic literature, I was fantasizing about Edgar Allan Poe for the entire sketching phase. BUT, the theme is referencing HP Lovecraft, which Is Not Poe’s time period. So which do I look at?
      I eventually went with something closer to Lovecraft’s time. Doing the research and looking at old photos was fun! Did you know they had color photography in the 1930s??? I didn’t! TIL. But the monochrome/sepia effect made my brain much happier, so that’s what I went with. I looked at a lot of old Hollywood glamour shots, and that was a good time, too. I just love looking at people.

      I fell in love with my own butch. >_>;;; I get attached to every character I design, but… Something about her…

      Unfortunately, there is nothing spooky about this image at all. I apologize.

    • #10281
      The Burning King

      Notes for “Carcinus”

      Cw: Incest, dubcon/noncon, implied PIV penetration for a trans character, implied codependent relationship

      The moment the August issue dropped, I was already working on this. I was practically possessed with the need to tell the story of a brother who goes to space on a mission which goes terribly wrong and Comes Back Wrong. Friends and those who squint hard enough can see the fandom inspiration for this one. Or maybe not. IDK how many codependent, bordering on inappropriate brothers do you know?

      I reviewed the rules closely and decided that sure, I can push the 10-image rule a bit while being able to tell a whole story. The result is 9 “screenshots” from a faux movie.

      The Object has been orbiting Earth for several years, always at a distance. And now China is sending a reconnaissance team to investigate, Operation Hevenly Ship. Part of the team is Dr. Jia Zhihao. His brother, Jia Qiuheng, is rightfully worried about the mission. They know nothing about The Object, what it is made of, why it’s entered Earth’s orbit. If Zhihao can even come back. And then Zhihao does Come Back, just like he promised. Not in the way Qiuheng expects.

      I spent quite some time reading up on taikonauts and how the China Space Station is – hilariously – equipped with the first working microwave in space and has larger quarters than the International Space Station. Zhihao is a scientist first before he trained to be an astronaut for this mission but his death benefits have been aligned to that of the military. Zhihao is also implied to have graduated from Peking University’s School of Earth and Space Sciences.

      Qiuheng is, on the other hand, a civilian. He’s the older brother who had to grow up fast after their parents died. It’s implied that their parents passed away after Zhihao got into Peking University. He’s been devoted to supporting Zhihao’s education and career. Qiuheng’s life practically revolves around his baby brother so losing Zhihao devastates him. Qiuheng is also trans but that does not really affect the story except where I am being self indulgent.

      To be honest I drafted out the whole story first before I even came up with the characters, which was a change up to how I normally do things. I had a specific story I wanted to tell. I did not expect to fall in love with these characters. There’s a No Aliens Involved story kicking around in my brain, which is worse because then it’s just two normal humans being problematic.

      Carcinus is a reference to the Cancer constellation, and to the kind of deep sea creature I eventually settled on. I knew that I did not want to do something with tentacles because 1) that’s too much in my comfort zone and 2) the deep sea is full of weird stuff. I ended up being inspired by spider crabs and hermit crabs — yes, Zhihao has become a shell for a crab. Did you know that hermit crabs have really large and long penises?? I am disappointed I did not get to draw that. :'(

      Someone asked me, is Zhihao still driving the bus? And the answer is also yes. He’s now got a friend with him!

      Thank you for “watching” my extremely self indulgent space crab incest movie. This was truly my labor of love, dare I say my masterpiece. I learned so much while doing this – how to compose scenes, how to switch my brain from “this is a comic” to “this is a movie” framing, and how to build a workflow that was fast efficient and impactful. Big shoutout to gradient maps that did all the heavy lifting! And a huge heartfelt thank you to my friends who helped me check if the composition made sense, if the horror was terror, and if my naming was sensible.

    • #10282

      Author notes for Second Coming

      I’ll start off by slapping on a content warning for body horror in a sexual (and dare I say romantic?) context, and a brief instance of animal death (NOT in a sexual or romantic context). Also, as our illustrious Editor put it, Bugs But Not Too Many Bugs. If that’s not for you, tread carefully! If it is, happy Halloween! (There’s every possibility that you’ll actually read the dang thing and be like “okay normie”. But the intent is there, so caveat lector.)

      This is maybe less the “colour out of space” side of the Lovecraft theme and more the…”it’s the turn of the century and some characters mention university” side, but I hope it still manages to provide some eldritch thrills! Hopefully you don’t need to know anything about any of these to enjoy my story, but I’d be remiss not to shout out to E. F. Benson, M. R. James, and E. M. Forster, pretty much in that order. I probably owe something to a bunch of other dead guys with the Initial Initial Lastname formula (gone full S. P. Itkitten for this one, I guess) but those are the big three. If there are any James fans reading this, then the basic concept for Leo was like ‘what if a James protagonist learned to chill out and have fun?’: I restrained myself from actually saying that he works at King’s College, but … he totally works at King’s College. If there are any Forster fans reading this, then Chrissy was partly informed by a very Forsterian kind of Unpromising Youth. If there are any E. F. Benson fans reading this, then please make yourself known because I want to be best friends immediately. Thanks, gents: you were all a million times better at writing than me, but I had a go. More recent influences include The Wicker Man and its folk horror brethren, Dario Argento’s Phenomena and that one bit in the film version of Annihilation — you’ll know the bit I mean. All good clean halloween fun!

      Confession: I did have a wobbly moment where I was like “is it obvious that this is a period piece, or will people just think these guys are weird and British?” Hence the mention of a telegram right up top haha. I wasn’t alive at the beginning of the 20th century so apologies for any obvious foul-ups in that arena: usually I’d be like “Neither were you, dear reader, so it doesn’t matter” but the veil is thinnest at this time of year … Ghosts, @ me if I’m wrong about anything — except for the deeply unlikely amount of time Chrissy spends in his undershirt because that is ~ artistic license ~. He’s an athlete! As for everything else… I did a year of Anglo-Saxon at uni so I know precisely as little as it’s possible to know while still technically knowing anything. Apologies to any scholars if the one place I dare to get specific, the pronunciation, is totally off base but, hey, Chrissy knows even less about it than me. In case anybody’s interested, the reason a doctoral student could struggle to read the inscription is because it’s not Old English but Gaulish, which is even older and as far as I know we genuinely still can’t really read. Leo doesn’t get into it because he’s scared of being boring; I don’t get into it because I’m scared of being boring — and of my old lecturers somehow knowing I’m out here getting things wrong and tracking me down with intent to kill.

      Anyway, huge thanks to everybody who helped me along the way with this one, and to everybody who gives it a read! It was super fun (kind of a dream come true, actually) to write so if people enjoy it I’ll be over the moon <3

      Oh, and which Cole Porter song? Period accurate answer: Let’s Misbehave makes the most sense for a vague 1929ish setting. Stupid, not-necessarily-canonical joke answer: You’re the Top. Thematically appropriate answer: I’ve Got You Under My Skin :)

    • #10283

      Notes for ‘Animated’

      I’ve never really drawn supernatural or monster things (IDK why), so this was a fun to work on to broaden my own horizons. The prompt in the sign-up was “That is not dead which can eternal lie … but is it sexy?” and I took that literally — how can I draw something that undead AND sexy?!

      I went with a Frankenstein-inspired scene, but instead of the scientist working on the monster, the monster is working on the scientist. If there was dialogue/story, there would probably be low whispers of “you’re always touching me, why can’t I do the same?” or “isn’t this why you created me?” (etc.). I’m convinced that those cord/wires will be used for various indecent purposes later on.

      The strangest (?) part of production was that I had to take a photo of my own foot (propped up against a garbage bin, haha) and pasted it around ‘there’ (in the illustration) for reference. Evidence was promptly deleted after it served its purpose.

    • #10286

      Notes for “Rite of Hospitality”

      I’ve been on a hot streak this year contributing-wise, and the story I had ready to go is, um, too long for a non-December issue. Which left me with a streak of contributions BROKEN by this month, which just didn’t feel right. So I…I would say “whipped this up”, but looking back at the replay in Procreate, it appears I spent something like 17 hours on this piece??? Most of that time was spent messing with the lighting and the shadows. I’ve never tried to do such detailed and important lighting before, really!

      I was in fact so pleased with how this turned out that I made a censored version, where the slip is a little more full-coverage, so I can put it in my portfolio and show off to people in a ~professional setting~. I worked hard, I’m going to make everyone look at this!!!

    • #10287

      Artist notes for “Invocation for the Lustful”: I am so excited to get to put this into the universe. Our unnamed human is nonbinary, and I like to think they fell in lust with this creature/deity, consenting to a being so incomprehensibly immense it does not even think in those terms. I struggled a lot with trying to represent this abstract amorphous creature, but I think I’m satisfied with the final design– shifting, writhing, and with eyes and eyes and eyes only for their lover.

      I’m still getting used to Clip Studio Paint but wow does it have some amazing brushes and textures. This is definitely one of my favorite pieces I’ve submitted, because I don’t get a chance to write many pretty words, andI’m definitely going to have to do more like these.

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