We Talk About Negative Space with Ryan K. Lindsay
Although relatively new to the medium of comics, Ryan K. Lindsay has already made his mark with writing credits in series such as Oxymoron, Ghost Town and Headspace. He joined us to talk about his new series called Negative Space which features a writer living in a future that has gone a little wrong.
Graphic Policy: Getting writer’s block when trying to write a suicide note is one of the most inventive ideas that I have heard in a while. Where did the idea come from?
Ryan K. Lindsay: Everyone loves the high concept pitch and I’m just really glad it didn’t stem from a real life incident.
In reality, it was just this moment that flashed to me, no context, no real information, just this tragic gag. But I couldn’t let it go so I started peeling back the layers of it, why was he suicidal? How was he going to push through this? Whenever I break story I always just fill a page asking myself questions, y’know? Why does this matter? Who would benefit most from this? And while doing that, the larger story revealed itself and I fell in love with it.
GP: One of the concepts which drives this story is that writers are thrown a bit to the whims of others, with an organization that modifies the experiences of writers so that they might write specific material. Although this is futuristic, is it a reflection of anything in our own modern society?
RKL: To me, the closest draw for this is social media. The way it affects us, the way it draws us in, the addictive nature of it. There’s something evil about the way we pour ourselves into the world and I know sometimes I look at Facebook or twitter and I just have nothing to say on that day. I’m tired, or I should be writing something else, or I’m just empty. And whenever that happens, I feel weird because I’m a writer, I should always have words, so that feeling is frustrating and weird and ultimately so very goddamn stupid. But our feelings are what they are and it isn’t about right or wrong, it’s about the severity of those feelings.
GP: You are a writer writing about a a writer. What do you have to do to make sure that the story doesn’t therefore become too meta- and aware of itself?
RKL: Thankfully, the lead character is nothing like me. He’s depressed, and suicidal, and yet also strongly heroic. I’m none of those things. So I wasn’t writing myself into the tale. But I’m certain I’m no doubt funnelling some demons into Guy. All writers do that and I can only hope it’s subtle. I don’t usually dig overtly meta stuff, it’s too easy to be cutesy, or lazy, and I can only hope we are neither in this book.
GP: The monster which is seen on the cover and later in the book is Lovecraftian in design, which makes for a strange mix of influences from different genres. Do you think that futuristic books use too much inspiration from science-fiction and not enough from other sources?
RKL: I think flicks like LOOPER and books like SAGA show us that anything can be done however the hell we like in science fiction. It’s kind of why I love writing sci fi, you can make your own rules. So long as they hold internal logic, and you don’t then break them, it’s all good. In our book here we have Guy living a very simple and modernly mundane lifestyle. Then we have Kindred which is all blues, and video screens, and they feel decades apart. For me, we have that disparity in modern culture right now. I facetime my family when I’m out of town, whereas a mate of mine only got a cell phone in the past year, and it’s one of those dirty burners you expect to see snapped in half and tossed in the gutter after one illicit phone call.
We see police in almost sci fi looking riot gear facing up to down trodden protesters who have clearly had enough. I’m sharing documents with my class via Google Drive [accessible from their laptops, portable devices, and even from home] whereas I started my teaching career flashing transparencies via an overhead projector. Technology especially, but also aesthetics change constantly, and it’s rarely rolled out in a uniform and equitable manner.
Whenever I start building the world of a story with an artist [and especially when it’s someone of Owen Gieni’s calibre] I try to nail down the tone. How can Kindred really feel so ubiquitously and omnipresently oppressive, and how can Guy embody depression. When it came to designing the Evorah, they are primal creatures from the deep so we wanted to reflect that abyss of feeling in them, and Owen nailed it.
GP: Although the characters live in a high-tech world, Guy uses a pen and paper to do his writing, which is a bit of an anachronism even in our own world. Do you think that technology aids creativity or hinders it?
RKL: I love technology. I wrote a script once on my phone while walking my neighbourhood streets from midnight to 4am each night because it was the only way to get my baby daughter to stay asleep. I’ll often have a side project script I keep on my iPad so I can tinker with it wherever/whenever I can or want. But I also know I need paper to truly break a story. I need to get a pencil, get messy, scribble stuff out. I find I can’t break story as effectively on technology. Those apps with the sticky notes for building idea webs or something, pfft, man, those are for the birds. I need a big whiteboard, or sheets of paper laid out. I need physical scope.
In the end, your creative process will be your own. I teach kids that all the time, find what works and then do what works. I think the internet is our greatest ally, while also being our biggest tumour. I think typing up our scripts and dropboxing them is a godsend, but the ability to type a tweet and hit send before thinking about it will be our downfall. I think technology, like anything, needs to be used in moderation and always with considered thought.
GP: What do you do to counter your own writer’s block?
RKL: Do something else. And it sounds obvious but I know I but heads with that blinking cursor from time to time and I forget my own advice but then I finally yield and go read a comic, or watch a TV show, and as soon as I try to get comfortable, something clicks in my head, and I’m back at the desk. I also find those writer cliches of showers and running and mowing the lawn really work. There’s brain science behind it.
I also found whenever one of my kids would wake, y’see I write in the office from 8pm – 1am most nights, and if a kid wakes I’m on duty. So I hate it when I hear them, because it’s dragging me away from my precious words but then I always find while settling them, I get an idea for the next scene, or dialogue starts clicking, and I just concentrate on remembering it all and dragging it back to the page and then I’m happy I got the break from the desk.
GP: Can you give us a bit of an idea where the series is heading?
RKL: Down, man, ha, all the way. Issue #2 gives us more scope and detail from that splash reveal at the end of #1. It pushes Guy into this new weird truth he’s found. #3 tests his resolve, and #4 bring sit all home in dark dark ways. I like writing endings to my stories and everything builds to this very last page. It all matters.