We Talk Brainstorm with Jeffrey Morris and Ira Livingston IV

Though it is a bit below the radar, there is an intriguing series from Future Dude called Brainstorm, telling the story of an out-of-control storm and the people that are both responsible for it and the ones that are trying to stop it.  We had the chance to talk with writers Jeffrey Morris and Ira Livingston IV from Future Dude about the series.  They talked with us for a bit about their Star Trek inspiration, hurricanes and aliens in Wyoming.

Graphic Policy:  This is still obviously a science fiction story, but most people think of science fiction as being either in the future or in outer space.  Can you touch on some of the differences in writing sci-fi in an uncommon setting?

Jeffrey Morris: We live in a world that is science fiction to someone in the past. From automobiles and airplanes to lightbulbs and calculators, these things began in the imaginations of people with inventive minds. Imagine seeing an iPad 20 years ago! Pure science fiction. I think the idea is that science and technology are forever connected to and incepted via dreams. The same holds true for weather manipulation and geo-engineering. At FutureDude, we are writing fiction about the potential of science and technology. Most of all we are looking at how these thing will impact humanity.

Ira Livingston IV: Working with Jeffrey, we’ve always tried to base our stories on strong characters with science and technology as a backdrop. In Brainstorm the setting is in the very near future. Everything as close to our own everyday lives as possible. Writing this way makes  it more personal, while tapping into your imagination for the background elements. It seemed like we kept pulling back to the reality and potential of the action happening in the story instead of creating something totally fantastic and impossible.

 bs003GP:  On the subject of science fiction, the story is full of what is known as hard science fiction, that is science fiction based on real science.  Did you have to do a lot of research into weather phenomena?

 IL: Yes, if you look in the credits we had the pleasure to work with Paul Douglas, AMS-Certified Meteorologist.  The other research we did, was digging into interesting facts and theories, like the ‘real’ perpetual storm in Venezuela on Lake Maracaibo.

JM: It was a real honor to have a a science advisor who worked on Twister and Jurassic Park. I have also had a personal interest in weather and severe storms since I was a child. I also studied a bit of meteorology in college. We aren’t experts, but we tried to make sure that most everything that happens in the story is reasonably plausible. The idea of dropping nukes in a hurricane really jazzed Mr. Douglas and he told us exactly what would happen—which directly influenced the story from a scientific standpoint.

GP:  So far the action is all in the United States.  Is the story going to move elsewhere and are there other weather events from other parts of the world that would be interesting to incorporate in?

 JM: To be honest, this is a story about issues from an American perspective—like gay rights and interminable American arrogance from a political and military perspective. While we hope fans around the world will enjoy the story, we also felt it was important to speak to things happening here in this horribly divided county of ours. Great near-future science fiction is often a metaphor for real human issues that we face today.

IL: We also wanted to focus on Dr. Cale Isaacs (our main character). If we had enlarged the storm worldwide, I think we would have lost the detail of his personal journey.

 GP:  Cale is the story’s protagonist, but an aspect of his consciousness is controlling the storm, and so in a way he is also kind of the story’s antagonist.  Does this provide a bit of a challenge to the story to have two sides of one person fighting against each other?

MerrittButrickIL: A little, but logically I think it was the only way to make the storm intelligent. If we had gone a different way, I think people wouldn’t buy into the story as much as they have.

JM: I agree with Ira. It’s really interesting to see Cale in a fight with his hidden demons blown up to a global scale. Additionally, I really wanted to pay homage to the character of Dr. David Marcus from Star Trek II and III. He was arrogant and self-assured to the degree that it blinded him to the potential impact of his actions. In the end, many people died (including him!). Hopefully, things will turn out better for Cale. It’s about unravelling the mystery as to why the storm is acting the way it is and then how to stop it. For that to happen, Cale must face the truth about himself.

GP:  Cale is an intriguing character, and although only four issues in, is pretty well established.  One thing which struck me was that his homosexuality is a defining aspect of his character, but that he is not a gay character just for the sake of being gay.  Can you describe how you chose to represent this character?

bs001JM: I am really glad we finally have the chance to answer this question.  As I said in the previous answer, we were influenced by the character of David Marcus. He was portrayed by a young and talented actor named Meritt Buttrick.  He was gay and lived his life in the closet. Tragically, he was one of the first people in Hollywood to die from AIDS. I wanted to use his likeness for the character (which has been well-realized by our artist Dennis Calero) and we were going to write him as straight. Then I started thinking about it… Why, would we not have him be gay like the man we used for his image?  I am really proud we made the decision. We knew it might be controversial, but we also felt it was real.  We also were aware of the story of Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming youth who was beaten to death for being openly homosexual. That, coupled with our goal to tie up the story at Devils Tower (a Wyoming landmark made famous in the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind), allowed it all to fall into place. We felt living life in the closet as the source of his anger that ultimately fueled the storm, would be extremely interesting—and perhaps even open a few minds as to how difficult it would be to live that way, regardless of the reader’s sexual orientation.

IL: Exactly! Jeffrey and I really wanted to make him real.  That being said, I personally believe we’re all the same. We are all real and deserve to have our stories told.

GP:  Is there any specific inspiration for the ‘Nado Ninjas?

IL: it’s a combination of reality television storm chasers and some of the local storm spotters we have around the upper Midwest.

JM: Exactly. A lot of those guys are nuts, but they are also courageous and a lot of fun. They are going to be integral to the story. You’ll see!

bs002GP: A female president that people vote for because she is hot?  Are you guys sure about that one?

IL: (laughing) As a country, you always hear crazy stuff around election time.  Such as, “I’d drink a beer with that guy”, or I just don’t like that individual, because he’s divorced. It amazes me how many people base such an important decision on such trivial matters.

JM: Yeah. I hate to say it, but we based that dialogue on real experience in the 2008 election. The number of people we knew, both republican and Democrat who considered voting for John McCain because they thought his running mate Sarah Palin was “hot’ was astounding. I mean it. I really heard that on the street many times. I was like holy crap, are you serious?!  So fast forward to the near future, it seemed totally possible. Just look at the anchors on Fox News. What if one of them ran for president‚ and won!