The Story of Protector

Protector is an idea that can’t be pinned down to any one brain. Simon took the first step when he made a project about godlike aliens assisting in a post-apocalypse archaeological dig. I asked Simon questions about the world, which started a conversation that also included the speculative shaman-king C.M. Kosemen. Between us, we started evolving a story. Aliens dig up an ancient human war-cyborg. No! The “aliens” are actually post-humans, and some normal humans want to be freed from post-human tyranny! These slaves worship the cyborg…and…better yet, it was one of these slaves who stumbled across that ancient war-machine and awakened it with her blood.

Simon sketched that scene out, and it floated around on the internet until Artyom Trakhanov got a hold of it and blasted it into the next dimension. I doubt anything would have come of Protector without Artyom’s portentus woodprint-like chunks of black and white. There’s this image of “the slave girl” (we didn’t know her name at that point) riding on this awful cyborg cyclops as it claws its way out of the ruins of the old world…we knew we had to finish this story.

Simon and I spent six years on and off working on it. I was trying to get a novel (any novel!) published at the time, and I was reading a lot of books on writing. So I’d come back with these tools to test out on our story. Why can’t the protagonist get what they want? What change will the protagonist have to make within themselves in order to achieve their goals? What should happen at the 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 marks? How can we treat our characters with compassion? How can our story help people?

Telling a story usually means juggling a whole bunch of things at once. There’s character and plot and also all these fiddly details. How long does it take to get from point A to point B? We said the moon was full in these scene, so what shape should it be in that scene? What do the geese look like? But now we had three people working on these questions, and the answers flowed like water.

Things started getting serious. Simon pitched the idea to Image and was told (or so he says), “sure, dude!” We got Jason Wordie involved, and suddenly Simon’s naturalistic forms and Artyom’s brutal shadows got all these delicate gradations of sunset colors. It was amazing. We would pass this ball back and forth and with each volley it got bigger and more splendid. It didn’t feel like work at all. It felt like watching something take root and bloom.

And now Protector will be a thing in the world, and what a lovely thing it is. I couldn’t be prouder of my first collaborative project, and I can’t wait for the next one.

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