Thought it was time to share how things are going with the next book! I’ll be delivering PEACEMAKER book one in December to Angry Robot, and it will be released next year. Will let you know publication date when it’s confirmed.

I’m loving writing in this world. It’s such an eclectic mix of genres and themes. This kind of story really frees my imagination.

It’s also brought me back into focus on the graphic novel second issue which is waiting to be produced. I’m thinking of running a very small Kickstarter to cover the costs of the artwork and then making it available free. What do you say to that?

Here’s a sample of Virgin looking out over the park that Gestalt artist Emily Smith drew for me a while back. I’d love your thoughts on it! I loved it at the time but I was looking for the slightly more realistic look that Brigitte’s art gave the story.

I’m hoping Emily will eventually be free to do some work on the series.



Reviewed by Diana Pinguicha

If you have a TV, or just go to shops that sell DVDs, you have probably heard about The Walking Dead (which I’m going to shorten to TWD from now on), the AMC TV series that is an adaptation of the comic books of the same name.

Please be advised that the series contains mature content that is not suitable for people under 16. Its content is extremely graphic in both TV and comic books. There will also be spoilers to both TV and the comic books, so if you haven’t watched/read either, follow my advice: read the comics first. They’re far better than the TV adaptation.

So, let’s start on why I decided to watch the show: I love zombies. I’ve been a fan of the Resident Evil games since I was young (and they scared the crap out of me back then). Also, the series was greatly publicized in my college (Instituto Superior Técnico, in case you don’t know)—and when I say it was greatly publicized, I mean it was greatly publicized. I’d never seen a TV series being so advertised in Portugal—I mean even our lunch trays had TWD paper protections. So a mainstream TV series with zombies? How could I not watch it?

The start was pretty interesting—the main character, Rick, gets shot and when he wakes up, he’s in a deserted hospital and the zombie apocalypse has already ravaged everything around him. He does not know if his wife and kid are still alive. He doesn’t know where to go. He finds a group of survivors and after some trouble, they lead him back to camp where he finds his wife (who, by the way, thought he was dead and was having an affair with his best friend, Shane) and son. The premise is simple: survive. But what makes The Walking Dead so much better than other zombie-apocalypse works is how truly tragic and realistic everything is.

Characters in TWD don’t really suffer from the “Oh no, my sister is a zombie! I cannot kill her!” syndrome. They do what they have to do. In the first two seasons, the TV series mainly followed the comic book storyline. However, the more the TV version progresses, the further it gets from its source material. Which is, in my honest opinion, a disappointment.

The casting is mostly spot-on. That’s where I can hardly fault the people behind the TV adaptation. Same for the characterization and environments. Zombies really do look like zombies, not some watered down version of such creatures.

There’s also a character in the TV version that is not in the comic books (Daryl) and he’s actually my favorite character on the show. He’s a great addition and Norman Reedus plays him perfectly, walking a thin line between selfish bad-ass and likeable anti-hero. The writing is mostly solid and believable, as well as everyone’s performances.

Now is where I rage about on how they’re not doing the source material justice. I knew some things were way too hardcore to show on TV, but with such violent shows out there, I thought they would maybe still do them. They didn’t and it really, really saddens me.

In its comic book form, TWD is really not about zombies, but about the cruel things people are capable of once they’re threatened. It’s about how people can really become monsters that are worse than walking corpses who feast on living flesh.

They have also, IMO, changed certain characters. While I cannot fault the casting of Danai Gurira, the writing they gave her pretty much made Michonne, who is an amazing, strong character, seem like an overly-suspicious woman who has little reason to be that way. Andrea, also one of my favorite characters in the comic, is constantly making poor decisions in the TV show, and attaching herself to the first alpha male she sees. Even Lori, Rick’s wife, is somehow worse on TV—and that’s saying a lot, since I hated her in the source material. Certain things the characters do on TV don’t make much sense because they’ve decided to cut crucial aspects for TV.

For instance, Shane’s death is much better in the comic. Same for Lori’s. In the books, Shane is killed by Carl. Lori is killed by the Governor when he attacks the prison, along with her baby daughter. Michonne has a much more valid reason to hate the Governor and an even greater reason to confront him before running. These things have much more impact in their original form than they did in the adaptation.

Still, TWD is a good TV series.

My recommendation is: if you like raw, graphic, ruthless depictions of a zombie apocalypse and an in-depth look at a man’s true nature and what a person does to survive, read the comics. If you just want an hour a week of zombies and don’t mind the slightly softer version of things, watch the TV series. 

Bec Stafford talks to the creator of SAGE ESCAPE, Damien Simancowickz

sage escape newDamian, I really loved the first two eps of Sage Escape. Firstly, why cyberpunk? Is this a genre you’ve always been interested in?

Yes, always loved the genre. I grew up with Oliver Grunner blowing away evil cyborgs in Nemesis. Had a minor obsession with Bladerunner, Hardware and Akira. Marvel had some excellent cyberpunk titles in the 90s. And friends got me hooked on William Gibson’s eBooks and MP3s. If it’s a high tech future with an antihero, I’m in.    

What made you create a female lead character, and is she based on anyone?

Originally, I had a male protagonist. But it worked better with a female. Maybe because the hero was teamed with Grim, a masculine mechanoid. Sage’s appearance is loosely based off a teenage girl I once worked with. She was fun to banter with and we’d occasionally have Friday night beers. She’s where Sage’s spiky black hair and leg tattoo came from. As for Sage’s personality, that’s all hers. She lets me know what she wants to say.     

I’m a fan of the Aeon Flux series, so really love the way you similarly position your strong, sassy lead in a dangerous, dystopian future setting, giving her challenges and keeping us guessing. Who are your favourite cyberpunk characters and worlds, and why?

Sooo many to choose from! Here’s three of the coolest. The cyborg, Death’s Head 2 is at the top of the list (from the UK comic book series). Death’s Head and his sexy replicant partner, Tuck, faced it all: cyber viruses, evil scientists, plus demonic villains who combined cybernetics with magic. Open the comic and you’d be slingshot around the universe and through time. And even though Death’s Head looked monstrous, his go-get-‘em attitude and heightened intelligence made him charismatic. The metallic artwork’s outstanding. Ghost Rider 2099 started off strong (it seemed to be heavily influenced by William Gibson’s novels). The hero, Zero, is a
deceased cybersurfer who’s been resurrected in a synthetic body. He can switch appearance between his original human form, and the robotic Ghost Rider. Zero’s a fun hero because he knows the street and takes you through a twisted word of tech, and villainy. He also has a cool leather jacket and motorbike. And like Death’s Head 2, the story’s world is visually rich with futuristic detail.
The first Aliens graphic novel by Dark Horse (black & white edition) is a knockout. Set ten years after the film, Hicks is now a drunk, alienated by other soldiers. Newt has been locked up and pumped full of drugs. And both the Church and military are secretly obsessed with the alien species. Hicks breaks Newt out and smuggles her onboard a ship full of synthetic soldiers, bound for the alien home world. Tough heroes, androids indistinguishable from real humans, explosive action and space ships–pure gold.   

Can you tell us about your illustration and design process? Do you begin with sketches, which you then animate; or, is it all done digitally?

It begins with old school pencil and paper. I then scan the panels, and ink and colour them in Photoshop – all by hand with a Wacom tablet and pen. The episodes get edited in Final Cut Pro.

How far in advance do you write each ep? Do you plot storylines in advance, or write as you go?

The entire Sage series was plotted before we started the first episode, with scripts completed for three comic book issues.

sage escape 2How long does each ep take to produce, from start to finish? Can you step us through a brief description of your process?

Haha, it depends on everyone’s schedules. So the time varies. But here’s the process: I complete the graphic novel pages, then do a rough visual edit of the episode for Benjamin Black, our audio producer. We record the voice actors one at a time. Then over the next week, Ben lays down ambience, sound effects and music. Ben and I bounce back versions of the episode to each other as we try different things. Then, when we think it works, we run it past the team, and make improvements.

Who are what are you influences, artistically? Is there anything you read, watch, or listen to to get yourself in the zone for each new piece?

I’ve been building a Sage production bible for over then years. So I surround my office with Sage production art. As for influences, I often have random comics open. Sage:Escape is pretty intuitive. I know something works when it feels right.  Music’s a different story. I’ll put on specific artists with strong beats and chorus lines, like Trip Sinister and MC Kean. For action scenes, I crank Machine Head and Chamberland.  If I need to snap into work mode, I play Fear Factory’s post-apocalyptic albums. Fear Factory’s Obsolete and The Industrialist are cyberpunk themed concept albums. Genius (if you’re into metal!).

You come from a film background, and have worked on features and music videos; and you’ve also developed work for other producers. How satisfying is it to work on this solo project, and in a completely different medium?

It’s great. The ‘solo’ project now has a team with graphic designers, web developers, VFX artists and musicians. So I still have plenty of meetings and brainstorming sessions. We review and tweak content before it goes out. In previous projects, I’ve contributed the writing and visual design, so in that respect, it’s familiar territory.

How much research do you undertake when writing each story? Is it important to know something about biotechnology, or combat, for instance, in order to write Sage; or, do you give yourself free rein to invent concepts and terminology as you go?

There’s a fair bit of homework with Sage. I like to immerse myself in real world images that relate to different parts of the story. Some research is fun, like studying how a to physically flip a person. Some is disturbing, like researching mass graves for Sage’s backstory. And there’s also beauty, analysing colour schemes and materials for the main cast. As for the futuristic technology and terminology, that’s left to the imagination. Sage’s cybernetic brain and nervous system are key parts of the plot. They’re story concepts as opposed to anything that relates to the real world.

Thanks for talking to us and good luck with Sage. We hope to see much more of her in the very near future!



davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 





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