Valkyrie: This time it’s hiding in the most terrifying place of all.

I wrote everything after this paragraph, microwaved a burrito, and realized that the post had no title. I then spent more time than is probably healthy struggling to come up with one before checking the blog for guidance. The last post about Transitional Voices referenced Aliens in the title, and this is the next blog post about Transitional Voices and Alien 3 comes after Aliens so there’s the title.

Since my last blog post, development of Transitional Voices chapter four has lurched from Park into a gear somewhere between Drive and Neutral. I’m playing with a new development method for the chapter and while it looks very promising I’ve been focused on indulging my spaceship modeling habit to the exclusion of the script. The script at this point is developed enough that I’ve been able to revise the list of required 3d assets and I’ve been working on the more cognitively harmonious bits of that list instead of, say… the script itself.

Writing while sober has never been easy – I’ve managed to work around it and through it in the past; in the past my income has been more assured and less of an 800 pound guerrilla looming over every waking moment. Writing is and always has been work. Modeling spaceships, on the other hand, is less work and more Zen meditation. Actually it’s less meditation more avoidant trance wherein everything but the model ceases to exist but this is a STATUS REPORT so I’ll try to stay focused on the RESULTS and the BENEFITS of said trance state.

Bottom line after a bunch of edits I did just enough plot work to generate a CG to-build list while clocking something like 120 hours of Steam games in two weeks because it turns out work does not exist during The Holidays and it’s easier to stretch out this run-on sentence about spending time on building the things on the to-build list than it is to say write the script or draw the comic and it’s more positive to focus on that than having survived a couple of weeks without work only to be burned by a client who seemed to think “Merry Christmas!” was valid tender for all debts public and private. FIX COMIC OCD bled into STEAM ACHIEVEMENTS ARE MORE REWARDING THAN ENDLESS WORK IN A VACUUM bled into NO WAIT BUILDING SPACESHIPS IS WHERE THE FUN IS and shit I still need to earn a living and while man I wish I was good enough at the things I like doing to earn a living doing them is an ongoing concern the fact of the matter is that I can make more money doing things I’m fine with than I ever have drawing and the best part is I don’t have to deal with things that feel like world-dominating wellbeing-destroying slabs of hell in the process – things like cons and marketing.

I haven’t drawn ATC since September. I have, however, modeled or finished modeling five spaceships as of this writing. I have one more to do, and it’s an extensive edit and conversion as opposed to a creation – turning the Castores into its sister ship the Pollux. That will be more than just a palette swap, and that’s where my head was the last time I consciously trained it in the direction of story plotting. I’ve diverged a bit since then, modeling the “sequel” to the Cheops and an escort fighter, which I mentioned on twitter a few times and will detail below. I’d say go look at the tweets but twitter and facebook commit unspeakable horrors to jpegs and WordPress doesn’t so if you’re here for pics keep scrolling.

The general idea of the above paragraphs is that ATC is still in active development even though there hasn’t been a new page since November and I haven’t drawn one since September. The specific idea is that there’s no way in hell this production style could possibly sustain weekly updates and here’s why. That’s not going to stop me from trying, though. I’m working on 3d assets I won’t need until the middle of the next chapter so I don’t have to model them in the middle of the next chapter so I’ll have more time to work on the other elements of the scene the assets will appear in. I’ve managed to bring down asset development time through a combination of practice and tweaks to the production style and cheating – I need more exteriors than interiors and I know roughly how much of each exterior I’m going to need and from what angles so I’m focusing on those bits. I do occasionally diverge into cockpits and interiors and the holy grail of unobtrusive complexity landing gear but by and large I know what I need and I’ve learned – roughly – how much is good enough when it comes to vehicles so it’s no surprise that creating and tweaking those is currently where the fun is.

Case in point, the Valkyrie:

Valkyrie test render 05

You will notice that it is both Forty and Orange. That’s a thing. These are test renders.

Man, it’s nice to see those shots scaled instead of robo-cropped and compressed into garbage by social media.

The Valkyrie was inspired by the Saab Draken. The story will benefit from an escort fighter, and Friday night the requirement was all I had to work with – I was even blanker than usual and needed some inspiration and dimly remembered the wikipedia entry – a google image search lead to a site with some more information and sexier photos, and a model review site provided some other reference angles. The airframe is a small one-man aerospace fighter, lighter and more advanced than the Banshee and able to descend from and return to orbit – the rings near the nose and tail are RCS points and that ain’t no RM-6. The fighter will likely be fulfilling the same role as the Bodkin at the bottom of Air -44- – it’s basically bling, a role that doesn’t require tight close-ups or cockpit detail. I spent roughly one and a half work sessions on each, and in the case of the Valkyrie I’ve managed to produce a pretty realistic-looking vehicle. I can do the complicated bits – the cockpit, the landing gear – if I ever need them, though I shouldn’t – not for this book, anyway.

While Swedish cuisine is well traveled, I’ll chalk the Valkyrie’s appearance up to convergent evolution. The airframe likely followed a similar development cycle despite having very different operational requirements.

I decided to call it the Valkyrie for a few reasons – I’ve been hanging out in Kittyhawk‘s chatroom, the name is appropriate to the plot, especially in the context of ATC’s loose interpretation of Norse mythology, and – IMPORTANTLY! – it sets the stage for some obvious Wagner humor at a later date.

Of course with the script still in development the scene the Valkyrie has been built for may yet be cut, or may expand or mutate into something else entirely. While this is unlikely it’s not out of the realm of possibility – space as envisioned when I started development of Transitional Voices wasn’t as sparse as it’s turned out to be, and there are a few purpose-built ships at various stages of completion in the Ghost Fleet. Though the Ghost Fleet is a bunch of hazy ill-defined learning work that pre-dates the era of surgically purpose-built hardware. Every so often I flip through the models and conclude that it would be less effort to build a new hull than it would be to finish one of the abandoned ships. My taste, capabilities and general art direction have changed over the years – less Construx, more Revell.

Speaking of surgical, the next chapter starts in the Sabrosa sick bay and I should probably model that at some point. It’s not the only interior the chapter needs but it is the one with the shortest list of considerations – it doesn’t have to snap into an existing network of compartments, which is good in that I can make it as big as I want but isn’t good in that I’ll also have to build the corridor outside the compartment, which isn’t a thing I’ll have to do with the pending compartments of the Daedalus.

Since ATC is between chapters and I’m burning more time and energy than usual squirting an eyedropper at the bonfire of infinite debt than I am developing the script or the things that go with it, this could be it for the month. Updates are going to be sporadic until the script is finished and the chapter is back in production – at this point I have no idea when that will be. I’m thinking “March” at the earliest as that’s the latest I can start production if I want to post weekly and complete the book in 2015. That assumes I’ll get my income problems straightened out or at least cauterized within the next several weeks. I don’t know how likely that is, and I’m thinking it’s a good idea to not elaborate on that here. Bottom line, there’s a bunch of stuff that has to be done for the next chapter before I can start producing pages again and that stuff is being done. Piecemeal.