Authors Chat Transcript

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Internet Chat Transcript


On Saturday, November 13, 2004, the authors of the Aria Kalsan Anthology: Mysteries of the Future met online for an Internet Book Signing Event. Visitors to the web site could purchase the book online and receive a personal, signed message from Jon W., creator of Aria Kalsan. The signed books were mailed along with one of three limited edition premiums.

That day, in the online chat room, the authors fielded questions from customers and had several discussions about the book and literature. Over forty visitors from Japan to Switzerland to the United States observed the event.

Attending throughout the day were D. Gail Bellenger (Australia/US) author of “68 AD,” Jennie Kermode (Scotland) author of the award winning “Reflections,” Matt Diepman (Holland) AK technical director, Catherine Grant (Scotland), Shannon Muirnon Muir (Los Angeles, US), Christopher Bowes (Portland, US), Kevin Larson (Philadelphia, US), Mitch Maxine (Canada), TJ Brillig (Chicago, US), and Jon W. (Cleveland, US) creator of Aria Kalsan.

Author backgrounds:
D. Gail Bellenger was born in Sydney, Australia. Her full schedule includes working as a biologist and raising a family while pursuing her passion for writing. Her recent accomplishments include publication of a western/romance serial for an online E-zine and a historical fiction novel, 68 A.D., about ancient Rome published in May 2003.

Jon’s Notes: “Gail’s story, “The Notification,”-really a novella- details the training regimen of the Kalsan. The story sets the stage for the reader’s understanding of the role of the Kalsan in the both the literal and symbolic layer of the story.”

Jennie Kermode is a freelance writer and editor who has worked extensively in the field of science fiction and fantasy. She is the author of The Orpheus Industry (ISBN 1554041759, Double Dragon books), and her short stories include Tadpole, Portrait in Oils, and the award winning Reflections.

Jon’s Notes: “Jennie’s story, “All that Glitters,” was one that was very personal to me on many levels. At first, it reminded me of the Japanese existentialist novel, “Woman In The Dunes,” by Kobo Abe. However, it really departs from the existentialist concept and explores unexpected avenues. It also captures the balance between a bleak setting, bitter irony, and a twist on a message of hope.”

Shannon Muir’s writing credits include animation scripts for Japanese company Milky Cartoon’s “Midnight Horror School” series, fiction for e-zines Sabledrake and Mocha Memoirs, plus columns dedicated to careers for non-artists in animation. She previously worked in animation production for Sony and Nickelodeon.

Jon’s notes: “As Shannon’s story, “Cover Story,” evolved, the main character went through a number of transformations. The final version has some implied and subtle innuendoes about the fate of the protagonist during the course of the story, and I think it works a lot better that way. The reader can fill in those gaps with their imagination, which only makes the plight of heroine even greater.”

Christopher Bowes lives under the stars west of Eugene, Oregon. To his credit, he has had nearly a dozen poems published and is currently writing the “Aria Kalsan Compendium.” His other future works include, “The Dark: Going Home,” “The Quid,” and “Machine in the Sky.”

Jon’s notes: “Chris has an incredible passion for writing and storytelling. He is currently authoring the Aria Kalsan Compendium, which includes a short historical allegory and many clues to the symbolism of Aria Kalsan.”

Catherine Grant lives in Scotland and is a writer and a socio-cultural anthropologist, usually found in the middle of an ancient site in Europe excavating the remains of some archaic civilization.

Jon’s notes: “I had not considered including poetry in the Anthology until Catherine first sent her ideas for her submission. Her poem “Hope” encapsulated everything that I wanted to express about this project. Not only was the poem perfect for the book, but Catherine had ideas that complimented Aria Kalsan as well. So, I began rethinking a lot of things about the book and what to include in it.

Born in Dallas, Texas, K.D. Larson lives with his wife Marie, and their children in Southern New Jersey.

Jon’s Notes: “Kevin’s story, “The End of Myth,” was not a part of the Kalsan mythos that I had planned on telling at all. His story recounts the last days on Earth and the subsequent exodus to the moon.

“I had planned on picking up the story generations later, without ever really detailing the collapse of the Earth. So, I had thought that I would pick up the Anthology after civilization was back in full swing. I thought that the stories might reference the previous time, but I hadn’t really considered chronicling that period. “The more I pondered it, the more I realized that I could not tell the “Mysteries of the Future” story without Kevin’s contribution.

“Then, I thought I might include the story at the end of the book as a reflection upon a time long past. Once I had all the story proposals together though, I knew this was the first story the readers had to encounter.

“When Kevin finally submitted his outline for the story though it could have been a novel in itself. The story was cut down to nearly a third of its original proposal. Then, in three short months, Kevin put together a story that would provide the backdrop for all of the events of Aria Kalsan.”

Mitch Maxine was born in Hamilton Canada in 1962. After reading “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak at age eleven, he began writing and has continued, in one form or another, ever since. His credits include a medieval fantasy novel called Blood on the Unicorn, and featured game reviews at

Jon’s notes: “Mitch’s story is one of the darkest in the Anthology. The subject matter is challenging and difficult at times to accept, but since it was executed and handled so skillfully, I couldn’t refuse it. The sheer desperation of the situation really moved me.

“The story takes place on a planet controlled by Baron Perot, who may recognize as symbolic figure from true life. This story was meant to be a counterpoint or foil to another story about the Baron, but that story never made it into the Anthology.

“This story, however, changed a number of times as it was being written and edited. As it evolved, I felt as if began to really take on a life of its own.”

TJ Brillig is a professional writer specializing in science fiction and fantasy.

Jon’s Notes: “The character names in TJ’s story had to change a number of times. The main character went through at least three names before Ciri was finally selected at the last minute. Even the names for the two different Ke swords went through numerous variations.”

Online Internet Chat

[Brackets denote the speaker.]

[**Jon**]: We’re chatting with the authors of the Aria Kalsan Anthology. If anyone needs his or her book signed with a special message, please do not hesitate to ask.

What is the background of Catherine Grant’s poem “Hope”?
[**Jon**]: It is interesting that Catherine wrote the poem “Hope” in 1991–long before I even thought of Aria Kalsan. Yet it was so perfect for what I had envisioned.
[Shannon Muir]: Catherine, that’s interesting about the poem. How did you come to decide to share it with Jon?
[Catherine Grant]: “Hope” was written as a result of being in Killarney, Southern Ireland, and seeing the loveliest lake polluted to death with farm effluence. It was such a pity. I lived and worked between Catalonia in Spain and Southern Ireland, and the destruction of the countryside because of greed was evident in the most unspoiled looking places
[**Jon**]: Another interesting note, was that at the last minute we decided to move Hope to the beginning of the book. Originally, it was a part of the “The Lady Kalerva,” which is the last story in the book.
[TJBrillig]: And it really does seem as if it was written to go right there.
[Shannon Muir]: Yes, it sets the tone for everything else.

Catherine Grant , how many poems will be in your upcoming Kalervan Principles book?
[Catherine Grant]: I’ve settled on seventy poems
[Mathieu Diepman]: 70 poems, that’s awesome!
[Catherine Grant]: I’ve written about 500 poems in total and quite a few of them tell their own stories of different adventures round the world

What is an allegory?
[Christopher Bowes]: I always knew metaphor wasn’t right for the words I had missed allegory for…
[**Jon**]: Allegory is very similar to metaphor, but a metaphor is not consistent like an allegory. A metaphor is just a short reference to something else. An allegory is completely parallel and continues throughout the entire work.
[Mathieu Diepman:]] Kind of things that are written in-between the lines
[**Jon**]: Right. There are two different types of allegories. First there are historical allegories. An allegory means that it is a symbolic story. For example Baron Gates is a symbol for the richest person in our world today. So on one hand you have a fictional character and then you have a real person, on which the character was based off of. Then there are humanistic allegories. Those are stories that talk about the day-to-day things we encounter. They touch upon social issues, emotions, or relationships.

How do I get the limited edition premiums?
[Shannon Muir]: Greetings
[Customer]: Hi, how do I get the book mark?
[**Jon**]: Yes, you can get the bookmark with a purchase of the book You just click the link on the right, and it will take you to the order page. You can fill out the form and select your choice there.
[Customer]: k, thanks

Shannon Muir, what was your inspiration for Cover Story?
[Shannon Muir]: This was my first published short story in book form, though I’ve done several online, plus some scripts, and a murder mystery party game. But media is at my heart. So, when doing the Cover Story piece for the book I decided an allegory about small media still finding a way to take an individual stand in the midst of big media eating it up carried power. The larger baronies eating up the smaller ones played perfectly into that and let me find a powerful character story, I think.
[Christopher Bowes]: I liked your story for that… the whole ‘clear channel’ ‘cumulous’ thing in the radio market has me worried
[Customer]: Shannon Muir–you worked in the media? Was there some time you actually took from your real life in story?
[Shannon Muir]: I have lived in Los Angeles for eight years. Mainly, I work in creative stuff versus news. But, I happened to have a long term temp job while the NBC Universal merger was going on here and watched that unfold before my eyes as Cover Story was being written.
[Shannon Muir]: I did not borrow anything directly, but I could tap into the emotions and issues.

Jennie Kermode, what are some of the issues raised in your story?
[Jennie Kermode]: ‘All that Glitters’ is about the ways in which space can be finite, both physically and personally. It focuses on one man’s search for redemption on a world which the rest of the universe has left behind.
[**Jon**]: I think that is a great point. One thing I would add is that I see space as that which connects us and not what separates us.
[Jennie Kermode]: I think that the discovery of methane on Mars and some of what Cassini has been learning about Titan make this sort of subject all the more relevant today. Whilst we’ve often fantasized about it, we’ve very rarely asked, from a practical and economic perspective, what if there _is_ life on other planets?
[**Jon**]: Jennie, how do you see that evidence coming into your story?
[Jennie Kermode]: The ‘Aria Kalsan Anthology’ doesn’t postulate the discovery of any intelligent alien life, but it deals with similar issues: to white, the universe is crowded. We’ve tended to think of space as something into which we can expand infinitely, leaving our mistakes behind. Of course, people are often reminded that we used to say the same thing about the sea.
[Shannon Muir]: Good comparison, Jennie.
[Christopher Bowes]: Giant squids?
[Jennie Kermode]: Sooner or later, we have to face up to the fact that space and resources are limited. It’s how we handle _that_ which really determines our long term survival potential.
[**Jon**]: That is really one of the main points of the book. 60 years ago, we thought we could just keep taking and taking more…without any end to the resources.
[Jennie Kermode]: In ‘All the Glitters’, the action takes place on a world whose valuable resources have all been used up. Even if we should discover endless worlds to exploit, there are going to be times when we have very little, and the way we react to that – co-operation, competition, self versus community, etc. – is critical.
[Shannon Muir]: Aria Kalsan’s premise is that the Earth has become so uninhabitable people have moved into space thinking they can start over easily
[Jennie Kermode]: The people in ‘All that Glitters’ have no long term plan – from generation to generation, they are just getting by. Naturally, this mirrors the plight of many on Earth today. We have reflexes which enable us to deal with this. Part of the process involves the suppression of hope. The introduction of hope to such a community – in this case, the existence of the Aria Kalsan – can be devastating.
[Christopher Bowes]: I agree with Jennie about the current situation- barely anyone plans for the future
[**Jon**]: Yes, we are very reactive, which causes us to have dramatic solutions for dramatic problems
[Shannon Muir]: People are considered to be looking ahead if they think about personal retirement. For a while there was a strong push about thinking for future generations, but that seems to not be so in the forefront now, at least not in the US
[Catherine Grant]: Many people do not plan for the future because they don’t really see much hope
[Customer]: Shannon Muir. I think that is everywhere
[Christopher Bowes]: I’ve seen a lot of the ‘lack of planning’ in my occupation, and a lot of greed
[TJBrillig]: The current political and economic climate makes it difficult for people to look too far into the future. So many people have had what they thought of as a sound foundation torn out from under them in recent years.

Catherine Grant, what else have you done besides writing?
Catherine Grant]: I used to work in the media and worked for a television company in Spain for a while doing documentaries, research, writing and presenting.
[Shannon Muir]: Wow, very cool, Catherine.
[**Jon**]: and you just returned from a documentary, correct?
[Catherine Grant]: I liked the research and writing but I was very shy at first in front of the camera, it always feels a bit dead
[Shannon Muir]: Catherine, that’s why I do everything behind the camera. Whether myself or acting, I got too shy in front of it. Now being a college radio DJ was ok cause no one had to see me

Jennie, what was your inspiration for your story?
[Jennie Kermode]: I think there’s a perception amongst the public that stories just happen, spontaneously, as a result of brilliant ideas, and that authors are the lucky people who get to have such ideas. But writing is a craft. Writing is about taking smaller ideas and developing them. I find ‘inspiration’ a difficult word in that context.
[Shannon Muir]: Jennie, it most certainly is a craft. When I use inspiration in this context, it is more a why did you choose the specific concept you did? What in the world struck a chord and said I need to translate this to the AK universe?
[Jennie Kermode]: Well, I’m a freelance writer and editor, living in Glasgow. I have a novel, ‘The Orpheus Industry’, out there, and I’ve written a lot of short stories, but much of my time is taken up with feature writing.

What is the role of science fiction in shaping the future?
[Jennie Kermode]: Do you think that this absence of an imaginative facility with regard to what looks like a dismal future is creating a new appetite for science fiction?
[Christopher Bowes]: Yeah… but… does the lack of planning, or the lack of caring for a plan contribute as well?
[Jennie Kermode]: If so, are we creating science fiction principally as escapism, or do you feel that we can usefully address current issues?
[Shannon Muir]: A new or a renewed, would be my look at that?
[**Jon**]: Well I can answer the question on escapism. In my own work that I am very aware of, is art as an escape.
[Jennie Kermode]: Aye. Science fiction severed a similar purpose during the pulp boom of the ‘forties, for instance.
[Shannon Muir]: I think to a degree science fiction always has embraced current issues. The question is how strongly and how much in the public eye. Jennie, exactly what I was thinking of.
[Christopher Bowes]: the nuclear scare, for instance
[TJBrillig]: I think it can be both escapism and a forum for perspectives.
[**Jon**]: One thing I tried to do with the project is to provide some sort of answer. It is not enough just to question anymore. We need to provide answers to discuss as well.
[TJBrillig]: Sci-fi has often been able to address social issues other genres could not touch.
[Christopher Bowes]: — scared about homeland security becoming the next ‘blacklist’
[Jennie Kermode]: Do you think that the presence of a fantastic element in fiction makes people feel more comfortable with it when it addresses difficult issues?
[Christopher Bowes]: maybe romance…
[**Jon**]: I think fiction and allegory for that matter makes it accessible.
[Shannon Muir]: Jennie — definitely. It provides enough distance to look at something safely.
[TJBrillig]: Exactly, Jon.
[Jennie Kermode]: I think it’s dangerous to assume that any ‘answers’ we may provide can offer absolute solutions. As you say, we can put forward ideas for discussion.
[TJBrillig]: It’s a step removed because it is not set in a world they necessarily see as real.
[**Jon**]: Right, that is another area that I try to steer away from. No one is telling anyone how to live their life, but on the other hand, we need to begin to open up that discussion to find solutions.

Gail Bellenger, what are your upcoming projects?
[Gail Bellenger]: I have recently obtained a literary agent, and she’s looking at several other of my MSS, and I’ve started on an Aria Kalsan novel expanding from my novella
[**Jon**]: Have you started the new story yet, or is just a concept now Gail?
[Gail Bellenger]: I’ve actually started it, but haven’t gotten too far yet
[Gail Bellenger]: My story centers around how and why a 19 year old girl might want to join the Kalsan. My character, Marnette, will begin to test her newly attained strengths, but feel conflicted by her ‘old’ life

Gail Bellenger, what is your story, “The Notification,” about?
[Gail Bellenger]: I’m Gail Bellenger and my story is The Notification. My inspiration was how a young lady might come to the realization that she could join an elite group like the Kalsan. And what it would mean to her spiritually and physically. I think we all want to reach for and exceed our perceived limits. The Kalsan can allow someone to achieve things she could only imagine before…benefitting humanity, becoming all she can. Of course, the tradeoff is that you’ll be leaving behind the life you knew. That’s probably the biggest challenge. We all have preconceived notions about who we are and what else there is to life. But if given the chance to use those ‘hidden’ abilities to help and reach a perfect state, wouldn’t we all? Balance, as we know, is the driving force behind the Kalsan, and the universe.

Gail Bellenger, what did you base the Kalsan upon?
[**Jon**]: One interesting side note, Gail added a lot to the actual workings of the Kalsan. The original story that I wrote was 400 pages long. Then I cut that story down to 50 pages. And then I submitted an outline and summary to all of the authors to base their story off of. The portion in that summary on the Kalsan was very sketchy and brief. I had already fleshed out those ideas in my head, but I did not present those to anyone for the Anthology.
[**Jon**]: Gail’s ideas were pretty different from my own, but she really added a lot to the day to day routine of the Kalsan and how their inner workings actually functioned. Gail can you mention a little about how you based your ideas off of those brief paragraphs about the Kalsan and how your story changed?
[Gail Bellenger]: Sure. I enjoy writing about people and how real people might react. When I read the intro theme paragraphs, I started to think about what a 19 year old girl might be thinking about when she tested for the Alliance. Since there’s environmental degradation of the Earth (not too far from the truth), I used that also. Being a biologist/env scientist, I’m intimately aware of how delicate our universe is. People are people, even in the future, but there is hope.
[**Jon**]: Gail, you have some daughters yourself, I believe, how much of your experience came into this story?
[Gail Bellenger]: Yes, I have three daughters. My characters come a lot from them…and me. Strong women/girls, but with a sensitive and emotional side.
[**Jon**]: Can you give one example of something from your story that you took from your family life Was anything literally taken from your experience?
[Gail Bellenger]: Jon, I used the conflicts between the women during training from real life
[KD Larson]: What did you use as inspiration for the Kalsan infrastructure?
[Gail Bellenger]: KD, I just used Jon’s words and my imagination
[KD Larson]: Well, I think that what you developed and brought to the book was wonderful
[Gail Bellenger]: All you need to do is watch people interact

Shannon Muir comments on the collaboration of Aria Kalsan.
[Shannon Muir]: While Gail’s typing, Jon, let me say I think that is a compliment that you allowed others of us to help shape your universe.
[**Jon**]: Thanks, Shannon. The main basis for AK is that it is a global project. It is not just my vision or a singular vision for that matter. Really, though, Aria Kalsan isn’t possible without you and the other contributors.

Mitch Maxine, what was your inspiration?
[Mitch Maxine]: If you read the story, and dont worry if you didnt…you will notice that I do like to explore the darker side of humanity.
[Gail Bellenger]: Mitch, I like your writing style
[Mitch Maxine]: Thanks Gail.
[Mitch Maxine]: Really this is where the inspiration came from…a chance to explore some of the darker parts of the various factions.
[Gail Bellenger]: So, Mitch, what makes you want to delve into the darker side?
[Mitch Maxine]: I think that it may be that I am sometimes at odds with that darker side myself… as many of us are…or is it just me?? I like the idea of the anti-hero.
[TJBrillig]: No. Not just you, Mitch.
[Mitch Maxine]: –Willing to do what is required, including like in that darker perspective, if the greater good is served
[Shannon Muir]: I think the anti-hero makes for challenging writing.
[Mitch Maxine]: I find the anti-hero the most interesting to write and to read about. I find them the most multi-dimensional

TJ Brillig comments on the name changes in her story.
[Christopher Bowes]: What were the original names for Ciri?
[TJBrillig]: Kamagi was always Kamagi.
[TJBrillig]: Ciri was Rayna.
[TJBrillig]: Yeah. But honestly, I think it worked out for the best. I like the name Ciri.
[**Jon**]: Which was too close to Rayla in Shannon Muirnon’s story
[TJBrillig]: Ah. That was the name it was too close to.
[TJBrillig]: LOL. Your Rayla, btw, Shannon Muir, is the reason Ciri has the name she does.
[TJBrillig]: Ciri’s original name was Rayna.
[Shannon Muir]: I beat you to the punch then?
[**Jon**]: Yes, I dont think Shannon Muirnon ever knew that
[Shannon Muir]: OK, then here’s my secret. Rayla’s name was taken from a comic series proposal I abandoned.
[TJBrillig]: Almost have forgotten she was ever anything but Ciri.
[**Jon**]: And then she went to Vayna, but that was still close to Tenka and some of the others in the book
[Christopher Bowes]: I think Ciri was good
[Christopher Bowes]: kinda mystical-
[Christopher Bowes]: I think I had an ‘Ashante’ turn into a ‘frannie’ and Jamari was Jane
[Christopher Bowes]: I think I sent one file titled, ‘Captain Jane and Phillipes intergalactic adventure,’ though I’m not sure if that’s right
[TJBrillig]: Was looking for my baby name books when I lost my connection.
[TJBrillig]: Can’t remember what Rayna meant…
[Christopher Bowes]: I imagine a warrior sneaking not in shadows, but sunlight with that name
[TJBrillig]: *There they are. In the pile right next to me*

A customer comments on the art.
[Customer]: I like the art
[TJBrillig]: The art on the cover?
[**Jon**]: There are some illustrations throughout the book. Each of those images is symbolic too. The cover has a lot of symbolism, and I hope you will enjoy all of it as well
[Customer]: Yes, there is a lot. Thank you.

Mitch Maxine, what are the differences in writing for various genres?
[**Jon**]: Mitch, you have written a lot of other genres.
[Mitch Maxine]: Mostly in medieval fantasy – that is my first love. Odd that you should mention that…the interaction is very much the same… The same things drive us all, and that is a constant in the way I write. My fantasy novels explore that darker side as well, and yet the characters always strive for a sense of righteousness in the face of their darker actions and perspectives–much as the moguls did in the story. Aside from plot and setting the differences they’re remarkably few and far between.

How many stories are there in the Anthology?
[**Jon**]: There are 15 different authors and perhaps 18 short stories. Kevin’s story is the first part of the book.
[Shannon Muir]: Plus there’s a couple poems and some illustrations
[Christopher Bowes]: and we have a better batting average than most new CD’s
[Customer] How long is each story?
[Christopher Bowes]: longest is 80 pages
[Christopher Bowes]: average is 15 pages
[Christopher Bowes]: good ‘one sitting’ stories
[Shannon Muir]: Mine is one of the shortest at 9.
[KD Larson]: one of the best too
[Christopher Bowes]: and there are shorties like, ‘generations’
[Customer] That’s about a dollar a story—not too bad

Who is on the cover?
[**Jon**]: That woman is one of the Kalsan.
[Customer]: Why is she standing on one leg like that?
[TJBrillig]: For balance. She is in balance with herself and her surroundings.
[**Jon**]: Also, that is a yoga stance and is known as the “Crane,” which has many added layers of symbolism too.
[Customer]: Cool retro outfit

Is the book very technical?
[Customer]: Is the book very technical–like Asimov?
[Christopher Bowes]: Not too technical. More philosophical
[Customer]: What about life on earth?
[Christopher Bowes]: Quote the Kalsan… nevermore

[Shannon Muir]: OK, Jon, what I’m interested to know because I haven’t broken it down yet… roughly speaking, what proportion of the writers did humanistic allegories and what percentage historical, in your opinion?
[**Jon**]: Most of the stories are humanistic and that was the focus for this volume. McKenzie’s story “Pearls Before Swine” is based on a true historical story.
[Gail Bellenger]: IMO, the Kalsan is about humanism, not technology.
[**Jon**]: Yes, that’s a great point Gail. The point of this is not to say where our technology will be in the future, but where our humanity will be–how will we develop as people.
[Shannon Muir]: That was my sense also, when I identified with it.

Christopher Bowes, what else have you done besides writing?
[**Jon**]: Chris works in healthcare, on the third shift, right?
[Christopher Bowes]: Evening shift. I think that’s third shift
[Christopher Bowes]: I had decided to quit writing before I ‘bumped’ into AK. Well… on vacation.
[Christopher Bowes]: <— must write at night

Christopher Bowes, what was your inspiration for your story?
[Christopher Bowes]: When I first read the call for submission, I thought, ‘Mad Max in space…’ scavengers and the like.
[Christopher Bowes]: that mixed with two characters a freind had told me two write about a year previously- Jane and Philippe -and it went from there

Kevin, what are your thoughts on allegory and your story “The End of Myth”?
[**Jon**]: Kevin, what are your thoughts on allegory?
[KD Larson]: I’m KD Larson and my contribution is titled The End of Myth, and of all the stories in the book it might be the least allegorical of the lot because it is based more on a historical perspective then the others. I think that it has many references that can be perceived as allegorical but the overall story line is based more on a history of events then the others.
[KD Larson]: From my own perspective, it was a story that I felt was the easiest to relate to from our current condition and one that the reader could bring the most too from their own perspective.
[**Jon**]: If I could just add , that yet in an allegorical context, it takes on a new meaning. And in that sense it is just as relevant and allegorical as all of the other stories.
[KD Larson]: That was very important to me in the way that I constructed the story as I wanted the reader to feel a part of events, not just as an observer.

Is the character of Gates a villain?
[**Jon**]: Is he a villain though?
[Christopher Bowes]: Well… not so much as some of the others
[KD Larson]: As a dedicated PC user I would say that there was a small amount of satisfaction there but it was really an unintentional choice
[Christopher Bowes]: lol
[**Jon**]: To me though, the character of Gates is not such a clear cut ‘bad guy’
[**Jon**]: He’s clearly driven, but does that make him a bad guy or evil?
[KD Larson]: He’s not and that is a great point to be made…there are no really bad guys or gals, at least not yet
[Gail Bellenger]: It’s all a matter of degree, isn’t it?
[Shannon Muir]: Yes, there is a difference between antagonist and villain. Which would Gates fall under?
[Christopher Bowes]: some of his choices- the way he states them appear to be motivated from selfishness
[KD Larson]: yeah, it’s all about perception and context
[**Jon**]: What about Martha Stewart?
[KD Larson]: well you have to remember that he has an agenda that goes beyond our survival
[Christopher Bowes]: I wouldn’t call him dahmer and tie him to s stake, however
[**Jon**]: I doubt she could save the world, like Gates could, but people say the same of her.
[KD Larson]: do they have window treatments at Danbury correctional?
[**Jon**]: I bet they do now
[TJBrillig]: It comes down to money and power and people expecting others to use the power they have gained one way or another for the greater good, doesn’t it?
[KD Larson]: LOL
[KD Larson]: Yes but what should not be lost in that is the fact that in the end, all of that power and money and influence only got them into a more desperate and difficult situation

KD Larson, did you find that working with a historical framework trapped you in storytelling in any way, or did you still have a lot of freedom?
[KD Larson]: No, actually I really enjoy it from a the development side of things as it allows me to construct a framework fairly quickly

Matt Diepman joins the chat.
[**Jon**]: Joining us is Mathieu Diepman the technical director for AK
[Mathieu Diepman:]] Hello
[Shannon Muir]: Cool
[**Jon**]: Some of you met him earlier, but he hasn’t had a chance to say much.
[Gail Bellenger]: Hi Mathieu
[KD Larson]: Hi Mathieu
[**Jon**]: Matt is currently working on some of other parts of the AK brand.
[Gail Bellenger]: Cool, like what, Matt?
[Shannon Muir]: Yeah, eager to see where we come in as one part of the larger framework.
[**Jon**]: We have an upcoming videogame for AK that will branch the audience into a completely different market than the Anthology
[**Jon**]: Matt actually does development for Microsoft products in Europe.
[Mathieu Diepman:] Some of you may know there’s an Aria Kalsan game coming up
[Mitch Maxine]: what is the premise of the game?
[Mathieu Diepman:] Jon and I have primarily been working on that
[Gail Bellenger]: That’s great. Action figures, too…lol
[Shannon Muir]: Too early to talk platforms or anything I suspect.
[**Jon**]: The whole point of the game is about Balance.
[Mathieu Diepman:] Right
[Christopher Bowes]: Does that also blend the beta RPG?
[**Jon**]: Yes, that will also tie into that game as well.
[**Jon**]: The Kalsan represent all sorts of things,
[Mathieu Diepman:] The objective of the game is to seamlessly integrate with the book
[**Jon**]: The Kalsan are the galaxy’s best diplomats, merchants, and warriors. The game will focus on blending strategy to use those options for different solutions.
[Mathieu Diepman:] so people can actually ‘experience’ the Aria Kalsan anthology
[**Jon**]: It will also have a historical tie in, so as contemporary events are happening in our world, they will be happening in the game.
[Gail Bellenger]: That really sounds fascinating…any idea on release date yet?
[**Jon**:]Beta testing will begin in the spring.
[Mathieu Diepman:] People will be able to create and develop their own characters
[Mathieu Diepman:] perhaps the game can be a source of inspiration for new stories
[Shannon Muir]: given the background I’ve seen on that, could be very interesting
[TJBrillig]: Cool.
[**Jon**]: All of the parts of the project will feed off each other. It wont be a slimmed downed version for this and another something for that.
[KD Larson]: I can’t wait to see it
[Mathieu Diepman:] So far we defined 3 phases, each of which adds extra functionality
[Mathieu Diepman:] Phase one is basically where you can build up a base
[Christopher Bowes]: I might…
[Mathieu Diepman:] phase 2 will let you build a force, either military, mercantile, diplomatic etc
[Mathieu Diepman:] phase 3 will actually let you go out there and travel the galaxy in an unlimited mapping system
[**Jon**]: One thing to add to that point is that the depletion of resources is a main part of the game.
[Mathieu Diepman:] right, you will have to scavenge
[**Jon**]: It is one thing to read about your resources being consumed, but then it is another thing to actually watch them go before your eyes

Matt Diepman, have you thought about doing a fake news ticker for AK?
[**Jon**]: Yes, we have talked about a RSS feed–an XML format for distributing news headlines on the Web, also known as syndication.
[Mathieu Diepman:] It doesn’t have to be fake either
[**Jon**]: Right. It would be a stream of news events that would be happening in the AK universe. Other web sites could link to the news feed and display the news on their pages too. People could get the latest “news” from the AK storyline.
[Christopher Bowes]: I didn’t think about that… thought allegories would be good
[Mathieu Diepman:] I was thinking of keeping a list of contributors that are authorized to post news ‘n stuff. Perhaps even Barony homepages or something
[**Jon**]: but it is even more appropriate considering the allegory of AK. This allegory parallels our world exactly, so anything happening now, would symbolically happen to AK.

Are there plans for any films or art projects?
[**Jon**]: We have a short film in the works based upon McKenzie’s ‘Pearls Before Swine.’ The film will travel the independent circuit and will be released on the web site next year this time.
[**Jon**]: Casting for the film will begin in March.
[Customer]: very cool
[**Jon**]: If that was not enough, there is also a traveling art exhibition.
[Gail Bellenger]: Where will the art exhibits be? Local art shows/craft shows?
[**Jon**]: Each of these different parts of the project, which I call ‘Modes’, is for different audiences but the meaning and the message is always the same.
[**Jon**]: The art exhibition will travel the US. It will go to some commercial galleries, but mostly universities. We already have some great art from Japan, China, Spain, and the US. There will be abstract painting along with illustrations like Norman Rockwell or the Far Side. Again the allegory, and the message will tie it all together. Some of the art will use satire and be funny.
[KD Larson]: A bit eclectic I should think
[**Jon**]: Some will use wit and irony and be political.
[TJBrillig]: You’ve been very good at tying everything together, Jon.
[Shannon Muir]: Indeed.
[Customer]: incredibly so!
[TJBrillig]: I assume a list of the universities where the work will be displayed will be available on the website?
[KD Larson]: Amen
[TJBrillig]: So if there is one near us…. =D
[**Jon**]: Yes, and I will lecture at those places to support the book and the exhibition.

Shannon Muir, what was your inspiration?
[Shannon Muir]: My name is Shannon Muirnon Muir, and my story COVER STORY talks about the conflict between big media and small media in a humanistic allegory.
[Shannon Muir]: And in this case, through the Kalsan, how small media fights back.
[Shannon Muir]: Having worked and lived in LA for 8 years in the entertainment industry (though more creative than news) this subject was close to my heart,
[Shannon Muir]: and I saw the perfect framework for it in the large and small baronies.
[KD Larson]: What did you do in LA?
[Shannon Muir]: I’ve also had an interest in all female societies, such as the one in Bradley’s DARKOVER novels, or Christy Marx’s THE SISTERHOOD OF STEEL, and this was my chance to do a story in one.
[Shannon Muir]: Currently I’m a production coordinator on an animated preschool series, but I’ve done a lot.
[Shannon Muir]: Last year I wrote for an animated series out of Japan, plus was production coordinator on series like INVADER ZIM and EXTREME GHOSTBUSTERS (also animation).
[Shannon Muir]: Anyway, I can take specific questions or turn it over to the next writer.
[Christopher Bowes]: do you feel like a secret agent, now?
[Customer]: Good stuff
[Shannon Muir]: Do I, Chris? Funny.

Shannon Muir, what is the allegory for your character Rayla?
[Shannon Muir]: Rayla is the symbol that illustrates the larger allegorical struggle. She is small media, Evant is large media. Brought down to character terms.

Chris Bowes, what are your plans for the Compendium?
[Christopher Bowes]: The allegorical story follows the life of a media mogul/baron’s daughter and her kidnapping
[**Jon**]: So your story has a historical basis in addition to illustrating some of the other symbols in the AK universe–like the different planets or baronies
[Christopher Bowes]: The Compendium opens with an allegory that follows the daughter of a media mogul-baron from her pampered life into the life of a subversive entity
[Christopher Bowes]: from the opening story, the compendium goes on to list the history and lives of 75+ barons, and the lives of their people
[**Jon**]: On one hand it like the decoder ring for the symbolism, but it also uses that knowledge in the story
[Christopher Bowes]: It is written encyclopedia style, with a hint of a sarcastic voice- the good is bad, and the bad is sometimes good
[KD Larson]: It’s all about perception and context
[Christopher Bowes]: the planets-stations shall then fill in the rest of the populations situation, and help tie the barons together and show the continued destruction of the galactic environment

TJ Brillig comments on the Internet chat and the role of women in today’s societies.
[TJBrillig]: I’ve been interested in learning the different perceptions and notions each of us have brought to the collective work.
[TJBrillig]: The different perceptions of what the allegory means to each of us.
[Gail Bellenger]: I agree, TJ, everyone perceives events differently
[TJBrillig]: Sitting here listening to everyone in this session,
[Christopher Bowes]: I thought the anthology flowed together very well- I just regret that I didn’t get the last two done
[TJBrillig]: one thing I’ve noticed that none of us have touched on is the role of women in today’s societies
[Shannon Muir]: TJ, that’s an excellent point!
[TJBrillig]: and even in the anthology, many of our stories, such as my own CIRI’S CHOICE touched on this issue.
[Christopher Bowes]: yea… lot’s of the characters were women, as well
[TJBrillig]: But, in the world of AK, it is the women who are the strength and the driving force behind the positive changes everyone is striving to develop.
[**Jon**]: It is a question I get asked a lot in interviews.
[Shannon Muir]: Usually it’s women who design the all-women or women focused societies, like some I mentioned, so it’s interesting we have both genders writing about it.
[Gail Bellenger]: IMO, women are a necessary part of Balance, but in this ear, we are sometimes overlooked
[**Jon**]: Well not all of the Kalsan are good natured, but that is the focus of the Kalsan–to create balance
[TJBrillig]: Given the role of women in AK, it is not surprising so many characters were women.
[Christopher Bowes]: true
[TJBrillig]: No. They are not all good-natured and it would be unrealistic to expect them to be.
[Shannon Muir]: Some of them, like what Rayla became, have reason not to be.
[KD Larson]: Gates’ original name was Rebecca when I first started to write the story
[Shannon Muir]: Which happened to be about a female victimized reporter who joined an all female society.
[**Jon**]: Is it the same character Shannon Muir or is it just the name?
[Shannon Muir]: But I was never happy with the development so I shelved it, then AK came along.
[Shannon Muir]: Mainly the name, and the job. But I couldn’t make the old one work, and never thought I’d revisit it. AK was where it was meant to go.
[TJBrillig]: There seem to be lots of stories among the contributors like that today. How something started before AK ended up being perfect for this anthology.
[Shannon Muir]: That development was done in 1994 or 95.

Author wraps ups and goodbyes:
[**Jon**]: I thank you all of for coming today.

[KD Larson]: Thanks to you and to everyone, it’s been a blast and I look forward to more in the future

[Shannon Muir]: Thanks again, everyone. It has been great to share about how we all came to find our own niches in this creative universe. I look forward to more, and thanks Jon for hosting.

[Gail Bellenger]: Thank you and have a wonderful day. This was a great venue to chat and I had a good time meeting everyone.

[Mathieu Diepman:] different chat interface next time

[**Jon**]: Ok, again I thank everyone for coming. I see we still have a few people observing it the gallery.

[**Jon**]: Hopefully we can do this again soon.

[Gail Bellenger]: To the observers: glad you could come

[**Jon**]: Thanks all.

[Shannon Muir]: Yes, glad you’re watching!

[KD Larson]: Thanks

Welcome , Galactic Date: Tuesday, May 26, 2020