Countdown : (

There’s one week left in my hybrid graphic novel Kickstarter. For most Kickstarter campaigns, the final week is where the highest number of pledges are collected.

As I’m only at 15% of the goal, that doesn’t leave a very high likelihood of success. But did you know that it’s still safe to show your support, even with the possibility of failure? A pledge is only a pledge; a backer’s credit card is charged if and only if the campaign is successful.

So if you were waiting, now’s the time to do it. If there was someone you planned to tell about it, now’s the time to do it. There HAVE been campaigns that went from 0 to 60 in the final week, but they are rare and it will take something special to make that happen here. I’m going to keep promoting the project until Day 35 when the campaign goes offline automatically.

A big thank you to everyone who pledged so far. Even if the project fails, I appreciate your votes of confidence.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/solonexperiment/solon-a-hybrid-graphic-novel-of-myth-and-science

The League

If Carolyn Solon joined a superhero team, it wouldn’t be a Squadron. Nor a Patrol, or Corps, or a Legion. It would be a League.

 

Did you know that the title of “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” doesn’t refer to a depth, but a horizontal distance of travel (while “under the sea”?

A league was originally the distance an average person could work in an hour. For me, that’s about three miles under decent conditions, so 60,000 miles would be an extremely deep ocean. The deepest part of the ocean we have, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, is only 6.9 miles deep.

It gets a bit more complicated, of course, as old units often do. A nautical league, which is more relevant to that particular story, is three nautical miles. That comes out to 6,076 feet, compared to a U.S. of A. mile of 5,280 feet.

 

The word “league” comes from a Roman phrase, the “leuga Gallica,” or “League of Gaul.” It was about 1.4 miles, so I guess I walk faster than a typical Roman.

It was brought to England by Vikings (well, Normans, which are very nearly the same thing).

 

Eventually, leagues became almost synonymous with stadia (see last week’s post), which eventually became something more like the mile we use today.

How you can help my Kickstarter without spending money

 

Doing any one of these ideas would increase the chances that the project reaches its funding goal.
Most of them are independent of whether you have pledged or not, so you can also do them if you’ve already pledged something.

Link to the Kickstarter project

1. Pledge $1.
Not only do all little pledges add up, but the *number* of backers is one thing that determines ranking on Kickstarter’s home page. Higher ranked projects receive more clicks and are therefore more likely to succeed. And people might be more willing to donate to a project with a large number of backers.
Note that Kickstarter won’t charge your credit card UNTIL the project succeeds, and ONLY IF it succeeds.
At the $1 pledge tier, you even get listed on my website and in the ebook as a supporter.

And hey, the ebook reward itself is only $5. That’s an amazing deal.

2. Share
If you haven’t already, you can share a link to the project (or to solonexperiment.com) on Facebook, on other social media, on your blog, or through word of mouth.

If you know of a comic store or something with a bulletin board, ask them if you can hang up this poster:
solonexperiment.com/poster.pdf

Sharing is a great free way to help out a project. It increases the chances that someone new will pledge, it increases the chances that someone will do one of these free things, and it increases my Google ranking, especially if you hyperlink to the project from your own website.

Find something to retweet at https://twitter.com/carolynsolon.
You can focus on the rewards (some of them are great deals!), or on the novelty of the format, or on the subject matter, or simply post a link to any one of my resources and let them work it out for themselves.

3. Networking
If you know someone who has a blog, publication, or social media account with followers who might be interested in this project (comics, scifi, virology, geek culture), put me in contact with them. This is mutually beneficial, because blogs need content for traffic, and Solon needs interested eyes.

I’d be happy to write a guest post or have someone do a guest post here.
Remember that the campaign ends on February 7th.

4. Ask questions
Hit up my Facebook, the comments section of my blog, the “Ask a Question” button on the Kickstarter project, or email carolyn@solonexperiment.com.

People will see the increase in activity, or they might learn something that tips them from apathetic to enthusiastic.
Remember that “Solon” isn’t just about action. It’s about geek culture, about art, and about SCIENCE!

A corollary to this is: Answer questions. If you’ve shared the project and someone wants to know more, you can help by connecting with that person or pointing them my way.

5. Connect your Facebook to Kickstarter.
https://www.kickstarter.com/friends
You’ll see a notification whenever your friends back something interesting – and your friends will see that you support “Solon.”

6. Email the Kickstarter staff.
http://www.crowdcrux.com/become-kickstarter-staff-pick/
Kickstarter staff themselves recommend that people tweet or email them about projects they love.
You can show them this: http://believeinbristol.org/blog/view/bridgeforth-design-embarks-on-innovative-graphic-novel-project/201601130931306876
or talk about what the project might mean to you.

If Kickstarter decides to promote the Solon project as a staff pick, I should see a corresponding increase in hits.
7. Write a letter to your congressman.
Ok, this one probably wouldn’t work.

 

A big thank you to anyone, kin, friend, or stranger, who takes time out of their day to help make “Solon” a reality.

Dr. Solon’s Units of Measure

Last week we talked about the batman.

Carolyn Solon, as a superheroine, has the same obligation as Batman and Robin to make snappy, themed quips for every situation. Hers tend to fall into two categories: Latin phrases and units of measure.

Dr. Solon is a geek, pure and simple, so it should come as no surprise that one of her favorite hobbies is the study of unusual units of measure. In the book, she uses them as one-liners, puzzles, and most importantly, ways of changing one’s perspective to see things at a different scale.

The most important unit of measure in the book is the plethrostadion. One plethrostadion is equal to the amount of superpowered energy released from the smallest bone in the human body.
The word was created by Solon herself, from “plethron”, the amount of land the Greeks could plow in a day (about 900 sq meters, used similarly to the hectare or acre), and “stadion”, a long length, used for measuring great journeys (the unit being between 100 and 200 meters, in practice). These are related to the English words “plethora” and “stadium.” Both imply massive size.

Dr. Solon’s energy is no different. For mortal tasks, it is essentially unlimited. Her virus converts bone matter to energy using Einstein’s famous  formula of mass-energy equivalence: E=mc^2.

The $125 reward tier on the Solon Kickstarter: a huggable plethrostadia generator
The $125 reward tier on the Solon Kickstarter: a huggable plethrostadia generator

E is the energy released, in Joules. m is mass, in kilograms. c is celeritas, the speed of light (usually in meters per second), an especially interesting unit in its own right. Of course, other units work as well, but that’s not the focus of today’s post.
A stirrup bone weighs about 4×10^(-6) kg. The speed of light is 3×10^8 m/s. That gives you about 3.6×10^11 Joules of energy. 360,000,000,000 Joules.
For reference, one ton of TNT is in the neighborhood of 4×10^9 Joules, so the smallest bone in Carolyn’s body would net her as much energy as 100 TONS of TNT, which she can direct in any way (not just explosions).
Here’s a video from a quick Google search of that number:

 

Geez.

 

Carolyn brags that, although her control over energy is quite refined, she couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn (100 square femtometers).

She uses units for things other than destroying stuff, however. When setting up a computer system, she told tech support, “The length of my cable is one-fortieth of a cable-length (185m).”

Finally, her favorite swear in mixed company is “Dram it!”
As I mentioned in the last post, the dram was a component unit of measure used extensively in Europe, Northern Africa, and Asia, often meaning different things depending on where you were. It can be a unit of volume (like when it is used in liquor measurement) or a unit of mass (when used to define a batman). It is occasionally still used in modern times, even by those who are not measurement specialists, where it is 1/8 of a fluid ounce.

Now, support my dram book!
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/solonexperiment/solon-a-hybrid-graphic-novel-of-myth-and-science

Loot! Kickstarter reward details

I have a pretty diverse array of rewards lined up for SOLON’s Kickstarter.
As usual, if you pledge at a higher level, you get all the rewards for the tiers below it as well.

Let me start at the top.
At the $500 level, we have custom canvases by the Bridgeforths. Maybe I can get them to do a blog post in more detail later. (Thanks Thor and Annie for pledging at this level!)

bridgeforth design canvas 1

These have the potential to be really cool. First of all, they’re big. Brian is usually the one who makes these, and he draws them on a 24×36″ canvas. If you have one of these in your house, it is going to draw attention from across the room.

bridgeforth design canvas 2

It’s customizable (within reason). Brian will do you a detailed ink drawing with a subject of your choice. A single character works best, perhaps with a supporting detail or two. When backer surveys are sent out, you’ll have the opportunity to describe your dream poster and, if I know how the Bridgeforths work, I bet Brian and his wife Marie will put their heads together to decide exactly how to bring your vision to life in exquisite detail. If there is a character from the book you like, you can request that.

bridgeforth design canvas 3

These beautiful items retail for hundreds of dollars. I’m also throwing in FREE SHIPPING.


Next is the $200 level (Thanks, Kristine, for pledging at this level already!)
I’ll write you something if you pledge $200+. It can be anything, except I’m not going to write any smut, and I’m not going to do your homework for you. If you take my advice, you’ll ask me to write you something with a little bit of fantasy or mysticism in it, but I’m willing to try my hand at anything.
I’m promising at least 5000 words unless you want it to be shorter. I’ll write you in as a character in a fantasy adventure, I’ll write a guest post for your blog, I’ll make up some technobabble for your steampunk world. Naturally, you’ll have my permission to use the work however you see fit and it will belong exclusively to you.

I’m throwing in free shipping again – obviously this doesn’t apply to the writing I’ve promised, but it applies to all the physical rewards you earn at the $125, $75, $50, and $30 levels.


I’m excited about the $125 level.
Carolyn Solon, the protagonist, is a microbiologist. People are always lathering up with antibacterial soap after shaking her hand. In the novel, she pioneers (or –reawakens–http://news.softpedia.com/news/A-5-Million-Years-Old-Virus-Revived-39314.shtml–) a virus in the HERV group which transmutes bone calcium into her signature fiery superpower. It is studded with little mushroomlike spikes (these are broadly called “envelope glycoproteins” by microbio nerds) and has winglike membranes on the sides.


This is the reward for the $125 level, your very own handfelted unique Phoenix virus, happily gnawing on a bone. They are made by hand from a variety of wools, so each one will be different. I’m hoping to let backers choose their favorite one, but I’m not sure how it’ll work yet.

The viruses are super huggable and squishable. I’m cuddling mine right now as I write this. As of this time, the plushies do not grant you any superpowers – maybe a stretch goal?

These take a long time to make (with appropriate loving care), so I think I can only give them out to the first 20 backers of $125+.

 


At the $75 level, BDS will make you a custom sketch to your specifications. You can send a photo of yourself to get sketched, or describe a character you’ve created, or choose someone from SOLON, or pick a meaningful memory to be sketched.

These sketches are no bigger than 8.5 x 11 and are not polished and perfect like the $500 level, but I’ve seen Brian whip these up and they turn out really good.

Alternatively available: you can request one of our concept art pieces in place of a custom sketch.


$50 – we’re starting to get into the more typical rewards. For $50 you get a SOLON T-shirt, based on the awesome logo in my profile pic. It will be slightly simpler, of course, to meet the two-color restriction.

$30 – get the book! This is what we’re all really here for (or maybe that adorable plushie).

$5 – ebook. Simple enough; you’ll get a digital copy of the physical book. Since there’s no charge per page of ebook, I can include some extra goodies in the ebook : )

$1 – Every little bit helps. Really, it does. It increases the visibility of the project, helps draw another detail, covers little expenses that can really sneak up on a guy, and combines with other $1 pledges to solve bigger problems.

Each and every person who helps bring this project to life deserves recognition. I’ll make a special section on solonexperiment.com listing every single backer, no matter the magnitude of their pledge. I won’t make you use your real name if you prefer an alternative.


That just about covers it. If you have any questions, comment or send me an email or post on the KS page
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/solonexperiment/solon-a-hybrid-graphic-novel-of-myth-and-science/comments

If you have some other reward to suggest, drop me an email!

Confidence

Confidence

Confidence is a key factor in deciding whether to invest in any project, particularly a Kickstarter project. When you back a Kickstarter, you take a number of gambles. Key among them is whether the creator(s) will deliver a quality product in a timely fashion with your money.
This is especially relevant when you are considering backing an unpublished creator – hey, that describes me! In this post, I’ll outline some of the reasons you can be confident I’ll turn your contribution into a fantastic book – SOLON.


Project

First, a recap of the project. The deliverable is a HYBRID graphic novel. The ratio of prose pages to full-page artwork spreads is about 8:1. The book is not quite as long as your typical prose novel – in my current mock up, it comes out to 300 pages, a total of 55,000 words.

Due to the nature of color publishing, the cost for a prose page is equal to the cost of an artwork page, and artwork can be freely mixed with text, so there will be smaller bonus illustrations in the margins in addition to the full-page spreads you’ve seen so far. The more the goal is exceeded, the more illustrations are possible.

We’ll have a lot less text in a panel than a typical graphic novel, since much of the dialogue and narration happens in the prose. There is a huge potential for smooth integration between the two mediums, with very short text boxes to remind you what exactly is being illustrated. I’ll talk more about that in future blog posts; here, I just want to make the case that I have planned this out thoroughly and to make sure you understand what you’ll be getting.


Logistics

Since illustrations will be placed exactly where they make the most impact, the timeline for SOLON is a lot shorter than it would be for traditional graphic novels. We’re in the neighborhood of 15-20% done with the initial draft of the artwork. In roughly two months, Bridgeforth Design Studio and I can draft and polish the remaining artwork (the digital painting process goes quite quickly with the techniques Brian has developed, and polishing is always easier when it’s done digitally).

Publication will probably be through IngramSpark or a similar service. I’ve been researching the various self-publishing services a lot recently, creating accounts and talking to representatives and ordering sample packs. I’ve also had some interest from some indie publishers, so that is also an option (though not a guarantee by any means).


 

The Creators

There are three of us working on this project: myself (Joey Collard) and the Bridgeforths at BDS (Brian and Marie).

The Bridgeforths have a great work ethic and an expedited strategy. When they receive a commission of this magnitude, they lock the door to their studio and buckle down on a project with no distractions, taking new commissions and visitors by appointment only. To measure their talents, simply look at their past work on their website or talk to one of their clients for corporate logos, advertising, posters, MtG card paintings, or fantasy sketches. Here is some recent work they did for my little town of Abingdon:

highlands-poster

http://www.vahighlandsfestival.org/event/signature-art-poster-signing
What about me?
This will be my first serious publication. But I’ve been through a lot of this sort of thing before. When I was a tween, I wrote and illustrated a how-to book for a hobby of mine. I sent it around to publishers, learning about query letters and editors and how to communicate complex ideas in only a page. This project is also what first taught me about marketing.

It came up again when I was in college, for I worked as a writing consultant at the University of Wisconsin (Stevens Point). I helped edit several works in a variety of genres and worked to get them ready for publication. Some of them made it into local omnibuses and such.

I’m a project guy at heart. I’ve always had something on the boiler at any given time since I was old enough to write. Not all of them were books, though – I’ve made comics, RPG adventures/rules, brand new board games, websites for my interests, little programs to assist in running games – basically anything that tells a story somehow. I’m the kind of guy who organizes things and sees them through, whether it’s D&D night or a trip to the movies or a new forum game to be played online.

I’m also the kind of guy who writes endings first. I had the ending of SOLON in mind since I first conceived the project. It’s one of the most interesting and thought-provoking parts of the story.

Though the art has a lot of work to be done, the prose is all polished and finalized, aside from any small changes to make it flow better with the art. I have rough storyboards and scripts for the art, too.  As the writer, I’ve completed my job, but as creator and project owner, I’m still working hard to bring you the best possible result…to prove at every step that your confidence in me was justified.

The Batman

Carolyn Solon loves units of measure. She believes that your way of thinking is heavily influenced by the sorts of units you use, not to mention how scientifically useful a solid understanding of units can be.
We’ll start with…
…The Batman.
Comic_Art_-_Batman_by_Jim_Lee_(2002)

Nah, not that Batman. The costumed hero was created in 1939. The unit of measure was already in widespread use in the 14th century.

Frequency of the word "batman" in books over time. Note the jump as the Batman character is introduced?
Frequency of the word “batman” in books over time. Note the jump as the Batman character is introduced?

The batman was an important unit of weight in the Ottoman Empire, from eastern Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia. It was mostly used to sell dry goods such as silk, seed, and food. The name seems to have evolved from the Arabic unit “the mann,” a unit name still used in Afghanistan.
In India under British Rule, they called it the “maund” and measured it with these cool dumbells:

One maund weight
One maund weight

Like most units of measure before the modern era, there were many different weights that defined a batman, anywhere from 2kg to 25kg. Early in its history, it was closer to about 3.0kg.

The many contentious uses of the batman are amusing. In Persia, for example, there were two batmans (batmen?): the Great Batman and the Lesser Batman. No, that doesn’t describe Christian Bale and Adam West. Instead, a Great Batman (the Batman of Churay) weighed double the Lesser Batman (the Batman of Taurus).

The batman has divisions: it contains “6 rattels, 300 derhams, 600 muscals, or 3600 dungs.”

In slightly more modern terms, a batman was equal to 6 okes, each oke being 400 drams (“Dram!” is one of Solon’s favorite swears when she is in mixed company). A unit called the dram was used in the USA as recently as the mid-twentieth century.

My favorite division of the batman? The “pood.” It’s so fun to say! 1 Tatar Batman = 1000 pood. A kilopood, if you will. The pood is further divided into 40 “funt,” which I didn’t use as a swear in the book, but perhaps I should if schools won’t ban my book for it.

The batman is itself a division of the artaba, used in Egypt where Solon bred her virus. The artaba is the equal of 9 batman.
You can view even more arcane subdivisions on Wikipedia or sizes.com.

So, as you can see, there were a lot of definitions for what constituted a batman, many of them conflicting and none of them involving capes or batarangs. To make things worse, there was even a Central Asian unit of area called the batman: one batman of area was the amount of farmland that could be seeded with enough seed mass to weigh one batman.

Too confusing? Fast forward to Turkey, 1933, where all the old values of the units were actually banned from use during a metrification process. The new value was placed at exactly 10kg metric.


logo_small

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batman_(unit)
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=0EEuAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP7#v=onepage&q=batman&f=false
http://sizes.com/units/man.htm
“Comic Art – Batman by Jim Lee (2002)” by Apparent file taken from DC Comics official website. Original file would have been placed on DC’s site for promotional purposes.. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Comic_Art_-_Batman_by_Jim_Lee_(2002).png#/media/File:Comic_Art_-_Batman_by_Jim_Lee_(2002).png
By Booradleyp (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons