The Origins of SteamDuck (Part I)

MCMWednesday, February 18, 2009

This won't be nearly as studious as you're expecting (and honestly, you shouldn't be expecting studious from me anyway).

Many moons ago, I was knee-deep in revising the last few episodes of RollBots, and was feeling a bit depressed. It was partly the story, but also the process... at that point, it had been over three years since I first thought up Spin and Flip City, and probably a good 2.9 years since I had plotted out the events of episodes 125/126, and here I was only JUST getting around to finishing them. It's a frustrating pace, to say the least (especially when compared to my usual career, web development, where a good idea can turn into a working beta within a weekend).

So I said to Craig (line producer and general lunatic) that I was feeling down, and he said to me... well, he said something too perverse to write here. But from that perversion came the germ of an idea... a talking duck, living in the 1880s, who comes across a talking fish. Yes! That's genius! It has no literary merit or substance or anything resembling seriousness! Thematically, a breath of fresh air. And procedurally, much easier to do.

So I sat down at the computer (misleading: I'm never NOT sitting down at the computer) and started to write random words on the page about a duck named Archimedes and his fish-friend. It was absurd ("social networking fish") and it was fairly bloody (the fish dies, as do others)... but by the end of two hours, it was done! I'd written something, and it was done! I called it Archimedes' Fish, and found a nice olden-times font for the title.

I stupidly decided to open Illustrator, drew pics as best I could (it's a picture book for adults. stop laughing), and wrapped it all in a PDF. I typed up a quick explanatory email and sent it off to Craig for feedback. Ten minutes later, he replied:

"Please stop writing to me."

And then I knew I was on to something! I tweaked the text a few more times and then put the whole thing up on my site for downloading. A few days later, I'd amassed over 5,000 downloads, 50 emails of praise, and close to 200 angry-letters-bordering-on-death-threats from all over the world!

I have to say, after writing happy stuff like The Pig and the Box with its general goodliness, it was nice to finally produce something gnarly and evil. And what's more, it only took me a week from idea to completion, which felt SO good after 3 years of RollBotting. One day, when physical books are obsolete, I will release books the same night I write them, just for kicks. If you have no expectation of literary artistry, you can do anything in any amount of time!

To date, Archimedes' Fish is one of my most popular books (if you count hate mail and fan mail as one), and has spawned a series in which I aim to alienate all potential readers with vicious murder and idiocy.

I think I'll cover The Dark Red Lacquer of the Heart in another post, because this one is already far too long. I bet you can't wait!

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