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Bill’s 12 Stories of Christmas

Beginning on December 14th and going through Christmas Day, I'll be publishing at least one new Christmas-related story to my Patreon site each day. Though my Patreon is a subscriber-supported story library, through Christmas Day these stories will be free to anyone who wants to read them.

This idea was borrowed (with his permission) from celebrated writer Paul Cornell's annual 12 Blogs of Christmas, but changed into a story-a-day thing, because why not?

If you'd like to read the daily stories, go here.

Read to your heart's content and Merry Christmas.

Some Thoughts on Westworld

Westworld, in its first episode, did a superb job of playing off of audience expectations, making us assume the robot (James Marsden) was the tourist and then that the tourist (Ed Harris, doing a riff on Yul Brynner’s gunfighter from the movie) was a robot. But that by itself was just a clever bit of stage magician’s slight of hand – impressive for a moment, but not enough of the stuff of truly engaging story.

But then, by the third episode, it’s become clear that the switch in presumed roles was deeper. Once again they turned our expectations on its head, this time on a grander scale. It turns out the robots themselves are the series protagonists. They are who we're expected to care about and do, which is entirely down to the excellent writing and execution.

So far that makes the staff of Delos the antagonists (and possibly the villains – we’ll see), leaving the tourists, whom we came in reasonably assuming to be the protagonists, as little more than stage dressing. Maybe this will change as the series winds along, but so far the tourists hardly matter, other than as a justification for having the park, and a series, at all.

Oddly enough, this jibes with reality. If you’ve ever been a resident of a tourist town, or worked behind the scenes at a theme park, like Disneyworld, or a major recurring event, like San Diego Comicon, you’d know that the tourists (those who pay for everything) are tolerated as necessary nuisances at best, and more often despised. They are the meat that needs to be processed efficiently through the machine, in order for the machine to continue to exist. One thing they aren’t is loved and appreciated.

Westworld the series isn’t Westworld the movie, which was Michael Cricton’s first big pass at a high-tech theme park gone horribly wrong (which would be improved – if not perfected – later in his Jurassic Park). In both movie Westworld and Jurassic Park we’re still expected to identify with and root for the poor tourists, against the exhibits gone out of control.

Instead, Westworld the series, is Adventureland, the movie, writ large and gaudy. We are led only to care about the workers – the robots in this case – who have to deal with the pesky guests. We care not a whit about the guests, since they are merely the items to be efficiently processed but otherwise ignored as unimportant to the story being told, and we both resent and fear the bosses, who we suspect don’t really have the workers’ interests at heart.

Of course we get to actually meet some of these guardedness-inducing bosses. So far we see the park’s top director (Anthony Hopkins) who is a bit of a Walt Disney type, with the grand vision that he is incapable of fully revealing to his underlings, because they aren’t gifted enough to understand. In his one big move so far he scraps a hellishly-expensive fully-ready new storyline (a “build”) at the last moment, because it lacks his true vision. It wasn’t lofty enough according to his indecipherable ideals. One can’t help but wonder where he was during the early stages of this unacceptable build, to pull the plug earlier, when doing so would be more affordable and not leave the staff scrambling at the last minute to come up with something by the deadline, which is nearly passed. Will this costly disengagement come back to bite him with the board?

Then we’ve also met the number two man (Jeffry Wright) who seems to have his own secret agenda, which might involve exploring the possibilities of true sentience among the downtrodden workers.

Then we have some more generic type characters who show up in any ensemble cast: the practical troubleshooter, who serves as a bit of a Cassandra here, vaguely giving warnings whose sole purpose are to go unheeded, and an even more generic scold (played by Shannon Woodward) who so far seems better than the thin material she’s given to work with.

In the first three episodes they’ve set this stage perfectly. But now I wonder what they plan to do with it. Truth be told, by the end of the third episode, I couldn’t help but wish they’d get on with it. So far they’ve only (expertly I admit) hinted at the larger story. Approximately a third of the way through the season, I'm engaged and on board, but ready for them to leave off with the artful slight of hand and show us they really do have a story in mind.

Five Questions I Never Want to Answer Again

So then, this bright and energetic young lad comes up to me at a convention and asks if I will take a few questions for his podcast. Says I, "Of course I'd be delighted to answer a select number of questions, provided they aren't the same five questions I'm asked for every podcast. If so, just take the answers from those times and we're good."

"No," says he, "these are all new questions."

So I agree, but with the warning that he's now under an obligation to bring the best stuff. He sets up his equipment and proceeds to ask me the same five questions I've answered a hundred times before, but in a really excited BAM POW voice.

"Why are you yelling at me?" says I, to which he responds that I made him promise to really bring the good stuff and this voice is his good stuff.

If you would like to ask me a few questions for your podcast, I would be happy to, with one or two arrogant and yet snotty conditions. First, you cannot ask one of the five questions I've listed below. Second, please, please, please, do a modicum of homework. There are many previous interviews that probably cover the information you seek. Go there first. Then, if you still have something you'd like to know that I didn't address, ask away.

And the five tired old questions are:

  1. Which character from Fables is your favorite?
  2. How did you get the idea for Fables?
  3. Did you help write the Wolf Among Us video game?
  4. Any plans to bring _________ back into print?
  5. Any advice for people trying to break into comics?

And just to prove I've answered them before, here are the answers again, but in short, short form.

  1. I have no favorite character.
  2. The idea built up over time from many sources, inspirations, and incidents of thoughtful pondering.
  3. Yes and no. I gave the writers at Telltale Games some direction, but not much. All glory to them.
  4. No. If that ever changes, I'll let you know.
  5. Don't break into comics. In fact, nothing needs to get broken. If you want to do comics, do comics. There is no one to stop you but yourself. That said, there is a very good chance yourself will indeed stop you from doing comics. It's hard work and easy to give up.

We're Building This Site, But While We Do...

I'd like to direct your attention to my Patreon Site, which is where I've placed a veritable boatload of short stories, serialized novels in progress, art images, and other fancy stuff, all for your enjoyment.

There Will Be Ink

So then, as you can see, one of the features over at my Patreon site will soon be this ongoing (meaning a new page every once in a while) comic story called Markanan the Mage. If you've explored around a bit and seen something called The Forest Book in our comics section, you might have deduced we're going to be running a new comic story here too, and you'd be right. Someday. In the meantime, do please go to Bill's Patreon and see what's what.

An Old Fables Commercial


Yeah we actually did one way back when, and I still had a copy of it lying around in my files. Click on that much too big link up there to see it.