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The Mid-Year Reset, 2024

Diagram of four eras that IOF stories live in.

Every year it happens enough that I can count on, and plan, a post discussing my lessons learned from the prior year, and changes and redirections going forward. There are definitely some changes that need to happen now, to ensure the longevity of Illustrator Of Fantasies as a creative adventure, and for the mission I've set for myself.

First of all, the mission. IOF does have a mission! I've just not been very good about highlighting it when I can, though I've certainly tried to do so in my work. It's on the About page, but I'll restate it here as the official statement of what it is I'm trying to do here. Illustrator Of Fantasies tells stories that center black, queer identities through fantasy and science fiction. I think I've been really good about sticking to that mission, it's so simple. It just requires me to create work that centers around a very narrow experience and perspective.

To that end, I've created four leading stories, each hitting a different era in fantasy storytelling: modern or contemporary (Blackbirds), historic (Hedge Kingdom), future (Dragoon), and high fantasy (Black Mercury). An ambitious plan, for sure, and I'm nothing if not ambitious. I won't say I was too ambitious because I don't believe that, nor agree in any case. I simply thought I had planned better. When I looked at the stories I was dreaming up, they all felt right. Then came the execution.

Since about July of 2023, I had been struggling to do anything other than school and work. Creating my works under Illustrator Of Fantasies was supposed to be easy, and supposed to be my break from all of that. The problem is that I never let myself have or enjoy that time and instead everything became just plain stress! At the worst of this, I put Hedge Kingdom, Dragoon, and Black Mercury on hold until after I graduated and freed up time from my schedule to put back into them. When I came back to them at the start of the year, I was refreshed, renewed, but not quite ready to return. At the time I plotted these stories out, I think I was a different person beset by the stresses I was going through and in need of a release of ideas. Upon my return, these stories made no sense to me and had no direction.

I had hoped that when I looked at what I had made, I could pick back up and find my place again. Instead, I came back to a game I had long since put down and could not figure out which quest I needed to pick up and move the story forward with. I had no script! I wrote one for each book and gave myself an anchor and a direction. But that wasn't enough. At least two of these stories I loved and wanted to live in forever. The other two I couldn't find my mooring and just ruminated on what was happening in my writing.

I've been feeling it for a couple weeks now that something was going to get dropped. And I knew which one it was. I didn't want to say it out loud because I was hoping I could salvage it as it was. But as I lay in bed this morning, ruminating again, I knew something needed to change. So here's where we are, all that journeying to get to this point: I needed to go back to my mission and why I was doing this.

IOF exists for me to explore my own creative abilities and storytelling, while living in the realms of fantasy and science fiction. That's it. I just want to tell fantasy stories. To that end, I looked at four fantasy eras that have always held my attention: modern, historic, future, and mythic. Let's take these elements as the theses of my stories. Do the stories I have now fit in those spaces? Not neatly, by the way my brain tells it. Not even completely. What I have has a throughline, but the eras themselves aren't fully defined, the characters have no real motivation other than just what I threw at them, the worlds don't make sense, I'm only really excited by two of them anyway, and the last one only really exists as a loose concept around an angle I wanted to try. To say nothing of what my drawing style has become!

I'm here to say I'm starting over. From the beginning, with everything. Here's the plan:

  1. I'll define the four worlds and their eras more discretely. Each of these four worlds will have a single, specific story to them.

  2. Yes, we're keeping four stories. In fact, it'll be all the same characters from the current stories. Some background stuff will change, and maybe their titles, but that's about it.

  3. Redevelop the scripts as well as the visual style to keep a more consistent look for all

  4. Pacing is everything. I'm only in a race with myself.

  5. Strategic development, always! Start with a script and layouts, but before that, a common thread

  6. All these stories have to be my favorite. I have to be excited to tell each and every one of them, not simply be excited to draw something. Both together, I think.

My next few streams, I want to live in creating the visual style for these stories, and defining their era. While doing that, I'll be scripting and laying out the common thread that starts with our main characters, and weaves through all the major story beats that I was to explore in the original four titles. I want to spend a little more time in development overall so I can create the best stories I can while seeing to my mission, the reason I'm doing this at all.

To recap, everything's changing this month. All titles are suspended until further notice. You can still check out what I have, I'm not taking anything down until the new stories are ready to go up. Stay tuned to this space, as well as Twitch streams where I'll discuss and actively work through my redevelopment plans.


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