Fiction Clemens Online

Wannabe Press, the online comics distributor responsible for the wonderfully insane Ichabod Jones, has taken up the task of presenting the entire Fiction Clemens graphic novel free to the public for the first time.

“There’s so much joy, such love of life and energy in this book, it positively made my heart dance.” –Comics Bulletin

Fiction Clemens was originally published in 2008 by Ape Entertainment, but the character and concept go back to the last millennium.

And I must confess, I did not invent my hero’s name…

It was around 1998 when my good friend and musical collaborator Christian Olson came running up to me, breathless, and insisted that I write a story about a character named Fiction Clemens. “The name’s yours,” he said. “Make me proud.” So I went straight home and kicked out some very weird fiction, which later essentially translated to the opening scene of issue one in which Fic walks into a bar in on a desert alien planet. Folks start talking to him in bizarre colloquialisms and all he can say in reply is, “Yup” or “Nope.” This four-page story made very little sense to anyone who read it, but Christian loved it and a few homeless artists camped out at the river even called it “the new poetry,” so I decided this Fiction guy must be destined for a thing or two.

A year later I put Fiction Clemens in my first novel, “The Adventures of the Imagination of Periphery Stowe,” as a side character, where he and his partner Dune Trixie are universe-hopping space adventurers. They’re sort of like Han Solo and Chewie to the book’s young hero, Riggs Bombay, providing him safe passage into the world of the Mind.

When I decided to tell Fiction’s origin story I originally wrote it as a screenplay. Some friends and I put together a fake trailer for the film, and started looking for storyboard artists. I found “the one” on Digital Webbing.

Joiton is a ridiculously talented artist from Argentina, who, despite knowing very little english at the time, was somehow able to translate my script perfectly into exactly the sort of visual layout I wanted. In 2004 his early pages ended up in the hands of the lovely and talented comics editor Lauren Perry (then with Silent Devil), who vowed to find Fic a home.

After putting out a call for colorists we ended up with three I couldn’t choose between, so I gave them each an issue. Alejandro (Alek) Marmontel got book 1, Veronica Gandini got book 2, and Nico Pena took book 3. Veronica has since gone on to color for Mice Templar and a variety of Marvel titles. The other guys are still out there creating some of the most brilliantly outrageous illustrations in the business. They wrapped production in about a year and Ape Entertainment published the book shortly thereafter.

To pay my artists I sold character likenesses. If you helped fund us, you got to pick a character whose looks would then be based on your very own mug. I raised half of the production money that way. Most of the characters you see in these pages have human counterparts out there in the “real” world.

Wannabe launched Fiction Clemens online today, posting the first 20 pages from the book. Another 20 go up next Monday. From then on it will be a page a week until the story’s chaotic conclusion.

Fiction Clemens has often been squeezed into the genre world as a “psychedelic sci-fi western.” It’s the story of an old west-type world resistant to progress and technology, and a cosmic conspiracy to drag the world onward regardless. It’s also a story of friendship, a messed-up karmic love triangle, and a man of few words.

If Fic sounds like your cup of tea, start reading it for free here. With each panel you can think to yourself, “I’m paying nothing, I’m stealing nothing. I must be living in the dawn of a new egalitarian age of openness and trust, of confidence and community. The future is my geoduck!”

PRAISE FOR FICTION CLEMENS

“A futuristic western meets Alice in Wonderland or perhaps OZ, and that really doesn’t do the overall insanity of the book justice…There’s nothing quite like Fiction Clemens on the market.” –Newsarama

“The comedy is laugh out loud and the characters fascinating. The story itself kicks off with a bang and hardly ever relents.” –Broken Frontier

“[Fiction Clemens] is something fresh, hilarious and entertaining, exactly the kind of quirky project the non-major comic publishers should be offering us, and the kind of story that makes reading comics worthwhile.” –CHUD.com

Another End of the Road

After 2 months and 35 cities promoting Shapes the Sunlight Takes on Asymmetrical Press’ Word Tasting Tour, I traded the rental car for hiking boots and walked 80 miles across Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness. 10 days of winding rivers, grizzly tracks, cutthroat trout, vast and wild vistas, sunsets, wildlife, and 4-leaf clovers.

Living these duel experiences back-to-back nourished the full spectrum of my spirit. As fortunate as I was for the chance to read to and interact with audiences of up to 300 people at a time, the process called for intense effort. Occasionally we’d do the whole set up, perform, tear down, sleep, drive, set up, perform, etc… 5 or 6 days in a row. Our audiences, full of beautiful and engaging people, kept me going, but my introversion usually got the best of me by the end of an evening. Coming down in the solitude of the forest was exactly the recharge I needed.

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Though I mostly read from Shapes, I opened every show with my poem Voice, and I had several opportunities to read my essay I Need to Take this Thing that I Love and Get Rid of it Immediately. Even at the roughest events, where I didn’t feel a lot of energy or connection, someone would approach me, often with tears in their eyes, to let me know how much these pieces moved them or to tell me who they would be sharing them with. “Can I get a link to that essay? I teach 8th grade and want to read it to my class,” are the greatest words a writer can hear. Both poem and essay will be available in my collection of short works called Nothing In Mind, coming out later this year.

One of the most rewarding parts of the tour was sharing the car and the stage with The Minimalists, Colin Wright, Shawn Mihalik, and Skye Steele—all brilliant, kind, and innovative artists from whom I learned more than a thing or two about performance, presentation, and interacting with readers. I grew in all these areas thanks to my companions and the non-stop pace of the tour. In the woods I reclaimed my stillness.

flathead-river

So what’s next? Along with Nothing In Mind‘s release, I have my hands full with a new stage play, Love Causes Cancer (co-written by Cory Fay of Holy Lands), comics pitches, a smattering of film projects, and the inklings of a new novel. This one’s about Japanese monsters. Later in the year I’ll make a full announcement about this book, which I will be live-writing online and undertaking huge life changes in order to create. My plan is to engage audiences in this project not only through its transparent and open-source nature, but through multiple avenues and opportunities for creative collaboration. I’m hoping to expand the process of novel writing into something more public and interactive than the usual isolated incarnation.

As always, stay tuned!

Jeff Medley as a Japanese demon (Oni)

Jeff Medley as a Japanese demon (Oni)

 

WordTasting Tour May/June

Starting May 1st I’ll be hitting the road again as part of Asymmetrical Press’ 32-city WordTasting tour. I’ll be sharing the stage with Brooklyn songwriter Skye Steele and fellow Asym authors, Colin Wright and Shawn Mihalik up into Canada, down the Pacific coast, and back up through the Rockies.

The events are all free. I’ll be promoting Shapes the Sunlight Takes. Colin (Considerations), Shawn (Particles), and Skye (Up from the Bitterroot) will showcase their new work. Many of the cities will include local special guests, and for part of the tour we’ll have Asymmetrical Founders Joshua Fields Millburn or Ryan Nicodemus on board with The Minimalists’ upcoming book, Essential.

Dates and Cities

May 1 — Missoula, MT (free tickets)

May 2 — Hamilton, MT (free tickets)

May 4 — Whitefish/Kalispell, MT (free tickets)

May 5 — Helena, MT (free tickets)

May 7 — Billings, MT (free tickets)

May 9 — Great Falls, MT (free tickets)

May 10 — Calgary, AB, Canada (free tickets)

May 11 — Edmonton, AB, Canada (free tickets)

May 14 — Vancouver, BC, Canada (free tickets)

May 15 — Victoria, BC, Canada (free tickets)

May 18 — Seattle, WA (free tickets)

May 20 — Olympia, WA (free tickets)

May 24 — Portland, OR (free tickets)

May 26 — Ashland, OR (free tickets)

May 29 — Reno, NV (free tickets)

May 30 — Sacramento, CA (free tickets)

June 1 — Berkeley, CA (free tickets)

June 2 — San Francisco, CA (free tickets)

June 3 — Santa Cruz, CA (free tickets)

June 5 — Los Angeles, CA (free tickets)

June 7 — San Diego, CA (free tickets)

June 9 — Phoenix, AZ (free tickets)

June 10 — Tucson, AZ (free tickets)

June 12 — Albuquerque, NM (free tickets)

June 13 — Santa Fe, NM (free tickets)

June 15 — Denver, CO (free tickets)

June 17 — Fort Collins, CO (free tickets)

June 19 — Casper, WY (free tickets)

June 20 — Provo, UT (free tickets)

June 22 — Salt Lake City, UT (free tickets)

June 23 — Boise, ID (free tickets)

June 25 — Spokane, WA (free tickets)

“Shapes” Chapter One – download, audio, video

Last week Asymmetrical Press released “Shapes the Sunlight Takes” chapter one as a blog post and free audiobook, and you can listen to it right here:

Purchase Shapes the Sunlight Takes:
Paperback ($17): Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Ebook ($7): Kindle | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play | Nook

Reviews and Press:
Missoula Independent review
Missoulian feature article

 Praise for Shapes the Sunlight Takes

“Wagner’s novel does what all good novels should do: it made me think about the way that I think…. an odd, intimate story about the messy and complicated relationship between reality and fantasy.”

Theo EllsworthCapacity, The Understanding Monster

“With an attention to feelings and language that I’m inclined to describe as enviable…. Wagner remembers what it’s like to be a teenage lesbian and does the dirty work of reminding the rest of us.”

– Molly Laich; Missoula Independent (full review)

Wagner reads from Shapes:

Shapes the Sunlight Takes Reading – Chapter 0

Shapes the Sunlight Takes – Derwin and Mirielle

SHAPES THE SUNLIGHT TAKES: coming this winter

shapescover

Cover Design by Colin Wright

In 2011 I wrote four short stories that had absolutely nothing to do with one another.

  1. An alcoholic man who turns into a woman after a certain combination of drinks
  2. A 15-year-old girl’s creepy crush on a senior girl
  3. A boy who imagines the circumstances behind his own conception
  4. A group of old people plotting to break out of their retirement home

Even after a few revisions these stories felt incomplete (I’ve never really gotten the hang of the short story), but I liked them enough to keep tinkering away. A few months later I ended up taking a character from #2 and making her the protagonist of #3. I took the guy from #1 and located him in the retirement home from #4. Before long I was imagining all these stories taking place in the same town, at roughly the same time. Meanwhile, a larger plot line was slowly taking shape in my mind, and these four stories turned into chapters that would become the building blocks of a new book.

Three years later, Shapes the Sunlight Takes is finished and due to launch through Asymmetrical Press on January 20th, 2015. Much of the book’s first draft was written while traveling throughout Europe in the fall of 2012, and I wrote the last sentence in the summer of 2013 while living in the Flathead. Since then it’s been a lot of rewriting, editing, and tearing my hair out. The book draws a great deal from my own high school experience. In many ways it’s probably my most personal work of fiction so far, which might explain why I’m so damn nervous for anyone to read it.

“Nine million different shapes for the sunlight to take. Nine million different ways that light slows itself down to experience time.” 

From the publisher’s website:

“Lexie, a fifteen-year-old outcast, believes she can see the future.

When her best friend’s dropout brother Derwin rides back into town, Lexie has a vision that he and her senior crush, Mirielle, are destined to have a child who will grow up to save the world. Even though Mirielle and Derwin hate each other, Lexie believes it’s her job to bring them together if only for one night.

As she navigates between fantasy and reality, Lexie struggles to make sense of her visions, seeking answers from the old folks at a high-tech retirement home, a clique of self-proclaimed eco-terrorists, and a story her ex-girlfriend once told her about a grotesque tongue that seduces souls at the world’s end.

Lexie’s conflict between her desire for Mirielle and the belief that she must give her up drives her at last to a furious and bizarre climax: a dramatic nursing home jailbreak, the retoxication of a transvestite alcoholic, a confrontation with a bear, and a final showdown between Lexie’s imagination and the destiny of the universe.

Shapes the Sunlight Takes is about the relationships we make with our past and future selves, and the way our passions and delusions shape who we are and how we engage with the people around us. A story of anxiety, paranoia, coming of age, and finding perspective in a culture of self-deception.

Release date, excerpts, and other info to be announced soon.

And yeah, I’m pretty flippin’ excited.

Mystery Mark

Mystery Mark is a cartoon exorcism. The story of a man who wants a new face and a new life. Clay, a man being stalked by the star of his favorite childhood television show, desperately wants to surgically alter his terrified facial expression, believing that a physical fix will help him deal with his emotional problems. All he wants is to escape his anxiety and settle into a normal life, but there’s a voice in his head who has different plans…

 

In 2013, I cornered Theo at his table at the Made Fair and told him that if he went into his studio, found 10 or 15 old drawings that he liked but that didn’t have a home, I’ll build a story out of whatever he gave me. He seemed keen on the idea and said he’d see what he could dig up. Meanwhile, Viscosity and I were busy trying to figure out how to develop an expanded version of our previous year’s show, Thisillusionment. Our ambitions turned out to be too big to pull off in just one year, but we still wanted a production for 2014. Our designer Scott Morris was getting fired up about masks and puppetry, which seemed to have huge crossover potential with Theo’s work. I thought maybe we could assassinate a couple birds with just one rock.

A few months later Scott and I met up with Theo at Charlie B’s in Missoula. Theo had already made up his mind to work with us, but instead of using old drawings, he wanted to start from scratch–make this a true collaboration. None of us had the first clue what our story would be about. All we knew at the time was that Theo would create illustrations, I would write a narrative around them, and then Scott would build its world in three dimensions.

Theo brought the first drawings with him that day at the bar. He handed each of us a manilla envelope with a “?” written on the outside. “It’s a mystery mark,” I said. With that flippant remark our title was born, before anyone had the first clue what it would mean.

Over the next several weeks Theo and I bounced ideas back and forth with words and images until characters and their stories started crawling into the light. The process was subconscious and weirdly organic. Theo kept drawing pages as I worked our concepts into a small novel and a script. As Scott started to dream up inventive stage, mask, and puppet designs, director Rebecca Schaffer and dramaturge Kate Morris dove into conceptual development, and a first phase installation started coming together.

 

The installation: A looping theatrical installation incorporated the main characters and themes from the story–with actors, masks, and puppets–and featured an original score by long-time Missoula band, “Cash For Junkers.” Kickstarter funding supported printing costs, along with design, build, rehearsal space rental and other production costs including set pieces, costumes, masks, puppets, and props.

The Mystery Mark Installation opened during the Missoula Fringe Festival in August, 2014. Since then it has taken shape as a short film by Kier Atherton and an excerpt from the book (the Midlife Dragon) was turned into an animation by Hugh Bickley.

Book one is available through Theo’s Etsy page.

MM-Cover2a

Smashing Laptops 2nd Edition

SmashingLaptops-frontcover_secondEd

Well, it’s a pretty exciting day for this little author. The release into the wild of my first novel published by people who are not me! The second edition of Smashing Laptops, now available through Asymmetrical Press, comes with a brand new face, some shiny new editing, and even a little extra content (yes, there’s a new last chapter) is up on Amazon and getting ready for wider distribution. The cost has dropped, the clouds have parted… I’m reminded again of how much I love Missoula, leaving and coming back, the thrill of the road and the comfort of home.

Pick up the book on Amazon in print or kindle versions.

You can read free chapters at smashinglaptops.joshwagner.org.

Also, I thought I’d re-share this great little teaser John Nilles put together a couple years ago when the book first came out.

If you can’t watch it here for some reason, Check it out on Vimeo.

This Thing I Love

I recently had the honor of contributing to Asymmetrical Press’s new essay compilation, Advice to My 18-Year-Old-Self, now available on Amazon. Mine is the one with the obnoxious title: “I Need to Take This Thing that I Love and Get Rid of it Immediately.”

Read the essay online.

advicetomy18yearoldself_coverBOOK DESCRIPTION
Ever wish you could travel back in time and give advice to your 18-year-old self? Well, these 12 writers did just that. Sort of. ADVICE TO MY 18-YEAR-OLD SELF is a collection of 12 letters from a dozen different writers, ages 20 to 58, who give advice to their younger adulthood-approaching selves.

Contributions from: James Gummer, Colin Wright, Joshua Fields Millburn, Ryan Nicodemus, Robert Isaac Brown, Colin Wright, Robyn Devine, Shawn Mihalik, Chase Night, Josh Wagner, Meg Wolfe, Samuel Engelen, and Markus Almond.

Turn the Corner, Sun

I guess we sprang forward. More sun, more light, more time, more openness. Less brooding, less hibernation, less silence, less fear.

Here comes the summer; I can see you tilting at the poles. The rest of 2014 promises a lot and demands just as much. Here’s what’s on the way: Two new Theatre projects, Smashing Laptops gets new distribution and a new face, a new novel slated for next fall, and a brand new comic series with Steve Saunders and artist Anthony Gregori in the works.

Details on all of these developments coming very soon!