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Brian Coldrick
Magic Hour By Brian Coldrick

Please Welcome my Guest, Brian Coldrick…

This week, I have the pleasure of interviewing one of my favorite horror illustrators, Brian Coldrick. The first time I saw one of his illustrations I remember thinking of the old saying: “A picture is worth a thousand words”. I find myself still flipping through his images with the same satisfying chill. Enjoy the interview!

Brian Coldrick
Jigsaw Puzzle by Brian Coldrick

We’re talking today because of your art series “Behind You”, what was your inspiration for this series?

Well originally I had wanted to start a webcomic but I decided to avoid having a continuing story simply so I could change my mind about what interested me each week. The actual form of a “something” lurking behind a someone grew out of a general love of horror, in particular I had been reading a bunch of creepy pastas which themselves are quite formless and often lacking a beginning, middle and end. By only offering a snippet of a story I freed myself to start again each entry but also allowed the reader to fill in the before and after however they saw fit. Their interpretation can often be more interesting than what I might have intended!

Brian Coldrick
Neighbours by Brian Coldrick

You draw a wide range of genres. How long have you been drawing? What is your favorite genre to draw?

Like most I drew lots as a kid but then just never grew out of it. Drawing monsters and robots on the back of a copy book eventually become drawing monsters and robots for a living. I don’t have a favourite genre outside of generally the fantastical. I sometimes do storyboard work for ads and films and drawing people sitting in a room talking is never as much fun as drawing a rotting undead nightmare.

Brian Coldrick
Radio by Brian Coldrick

“Behind You” is a collection of single scenes with a caption. Are you telling a whole story in these images or just part of a story?

It can vary. Sometimes I definitely have a wider story in mind outside of the sliver that I’m showing. But often I won’t have a clear arc and will instead add in some small details that could be interpreted as part of the story without knowing what they mean myself. It’s a bit of a cheat really, I’m making a puzzle without knowing the answer. Hopefully the fun part is trying to solve it and not whether there is or isn’t an actual solution.

Brian Coldrick
Wolf Wood by Brian Coldrick

Do you feel that it’s hard to portray the story/event in a single scene?

Visually not so much, but I find that I can write long accompanying paragraphs and then have to edit them down to a sentence or two. It’s better to let the picture do the storytelling or at least do the hinting.

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Brian Coldrick
Halloween Costume Ready by Brian Coldrick

Are you involved in any other medias of Horror?

Over the years I’ve done little bits of concept design that can veer into “Monsters and Robots”. It can be very satisfying as after my part is done it’s handed off to incredibly talented sculptors and designers who turn a rough sketch into a real detailed creature.

Outside of that while I have some story ideas for short comics I haven’t yet made any of them a reality.

Brian Coldrick
Train Platform by Brian Coldrick

Who are your influences in the world of Horror?

There’s a big world of great horror out there to “borrow” ideas from. Comics by the likes of Mike Mignola and Emily Carroll and Junji Ito. I love lots of horror films from those of Jacques Turnier to Hammer to Carpenter to Cronenberg. And I’ve really enjoyed most of the new wave of horror cinema such as It Follows and The Witch and Hereditary. I’m probably not as well read as I should be in horror literature, it seems that for every book I’ve read I hear of 4 more I should read. Lots of Lovecraft and M. R. James but I need more Saki and Rampo and Robert Aickman and Ramsey Campbell and a hundred others.

There are artist like Giger and Wayne Barlowe and ZdzisĹ‚aw BeksiĹ„ski that are endlessly inspiring. For Behind You I have found folklore often a fruitful starting point. I also love reading online accounts of spooky ‘real-life’ incidents. And a quick look on the internet will always reveal a thousand horrible things to be influenced by!

Brian Coldrick
Manananggal by Brian Coldrick

Is there anything in the works you would like the Horror community to know about?

I do hope to try my hand at some actual storytelling with these short comic ideas of mine but for the moment there’s Behind You which I’m still updating every couple of weeks. There is a lovely hardcover book out from IDW which collects the first seventy odd of them, and it features a really fantastic introduction by Joe Hill. 

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The man…er…sloth himself!

Let us know where we can find more of your work!

Behind You pops up on Tumblr here: thehairsonthebackofyourneck.tumblr.com

There’s also a patreon page here: patreon.com/behindyou

My general blog is here: briancoldrick.tumblr.com

And my website is here: briancoldrick.com

As well as that there’s the usual twitter/facebook/instagram:

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twitter.com/slothhoffman

facebook.com/briancoldrickartist

instagram.com/slothhoffman

Thank you to my Guest…

A big thank you to Brian Coldrick for his time and samples of his art! I encourage readers to head over to his pages and check out his work. Even if you’re not a big fan of horror, there is something for everyone.


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Gaming

Interview with Creative Director Michael Highland: Let’s! Revolution! @ PAX

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Another game I had the chance to play at PAX East was, Let’s! Revolution!, a Minesweeper-inspired roguelite puzzle game by animation (and now game) studio, BUCK. I talk more about the game itself in another post. Here, I wanted to highlight the conversation I had with Michael Highland, the Creative Director for Let’s! Revolution! and his journey through video game development.


How did you become involved in video game development?

I studied digital media design in college; this was before there were many programs dedicated to game development. After graduating, I self-published a mobile game called Hipster City Cycle with friends. Over the next few years, I slowly got more freelance work as a game designer, and eventually landed a full-time role at thatgamecompany working on the follow-up to their 2012 GOTY Journey. I worked my way up there and was eventually the Lead Designer on Sky: Children of the Light. Working at thatgamecompany opened a lot of doors professionally. I eventually wound up at BUCK, where I saw the opportunity to help establish a new game studio within a very vibrant existing creative culture.

What has been the most challenging aspect of the development process?

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Each studio has its own unique issues based on the people involved. There are commonalities like the need to fight feature creep and building consensus around ideas early in the process when all you have is an abstract grey box prototype to react to. At BUCK the biggest challenge has been channeling the abundance of creative energy and talent into a shippable product. There’s a ton of enthusiasm for games within the company, and without clear product-centric goals (who is the target audience, what platform are we releasing on, what’s the marketing strategy), projects have the tendency to spiral out of scope. Another challenge has been building credibility with publishers. BUCK has an amazing pedigree for animation and design, maybe the best in the world, but when we initially pitched ideas to publishers, they all said the same thing: looks great, but until you’ve shipped a game, you’re too high-risk. That’s what led to us self-publishing Let’s! Revolution! Now that we have a well-reviewed game out in the wild, I feel confident we’ll have more luck with publishers. 

BUCK primarily has its roots in animation, what led the decision to start branching into video game development?

It started with a general excitement about the medium and a desire among the staff to work on a game. Leadership at BUCK is all about providing the staff with exciting creative opportunities, and getting to work on a game, is, for some, a creative dream come true. And putting BUCK content out in the world is a point of pride and a boost to morale. From a business perspective, the fact we can staff out game projects with the top animation and design talent in the world is a huge advantage. We’re already starting to see new opportunities for the service side of the business based on the success of Let’s! Revolution! 

The art, unsurprisingly, is delightful. What were some of the priorities during the character design process and how did those influence the final hero designs?

Our Art Director Emily Suvanvej really led the charge on the look of the game. There are obvious influences like Studio Ghibli, Moebius, and Steven Universe. My shared goal with Emily was to make something together that reflected the diversity of the team’s artistic and lived experiences. The artists put so much love into the character designs and animation, it really shows. 

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Some of the primary game mechanics take inspiration from Minesweeper, what was the process like to create your own interpretation of those classic mechanics?

This article goes into depth on this topic. The TLDR is that we took a very iterative approach, at each stage trying to identify what was working about the prototype and lean into that. The initial game concept came together relatively quickly in part because our goal for this project was just to finish a game. We just focused on what was good and kept building on it. I wouldn’t say the final game is “perfect” – but we wound up with a much bigger and higher quality experience than I expected by not letting perfectionism get in the way of making good better. 

Is there anything else you would like to plug or that you think is important for people to know about Let’s! Revolution! or other upcoming projects?

The music and sound design for the game is stellar. We worked with a creative audio company called Antfood and they knocked it out of the park. The audio got an honorable mention from IGF, which I think is extra impressive because most of the other games were audio-centric titles with some unusual hook to the sound design. For the OST, Antfood reworked all of the music from the game into a continuous flow, like a concept album. It’s so good. I love working with them.

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Gaming

Interview with Game Dev Julian Creutz: Quest Master @ PAX

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As mentioned in previous posts, I had the opportunity to demo a pre-early access version of the game Quest Master alongside the Lead Developer, Julian Creutz. Quest Master is a Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Maker inspired dungeon crawling and building video game. While the other post covers the game itself, this one covers the inspiration and vision for the game as told by Julian.


How did you become involved in video game development?

I’ve been a huge gamer, and especially a Zelda fan, ever since I was a little child when my dad put a GameBoy Advance with “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past” into my hands. Sometime during elementary school I started dabbling with game development using visual tools like Scratch and GameMaker. I quickly got into making Zelda fan games and had dreamt of the day when I would make my own Zelda game one day. Over the years I’ve honed my game development and programming skills, resulting in where I am today.

What has been the most challenging aspect of the development process?

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Developing Quest Master is essentially like making two games at once – the making and the playing part. Both of these game elements have to be equally as polished to form a cohesive one.

The most difficult thing by far about the game’s development has been to make the maker mode experience intuitive for first-time users and people who know nothing about Zelda-like games, but at the same time powerful and complex enough to allow creating anything you could dream of.

One good example is the gameplay feature to link certain parts to others, like linking a pressure plate to opening a door. We’ve been through countless iterations affecting both the visual, gameplay and user experience aspects of it – I hope that the one we are using right now is the final one!

Quest Master takes a lot of inspiration from classic dungeon-crawlers like the Legend of Zelda franchise. What about these games was so enchanting to you and how does Quest Master try to capture that enchantment?

As described earlier, I’m like the biggest Zelda fan, which I’m sure shows. My gripe with many Zelda-likes on the market is that none perfectly capture the feel of the classic entries… there’s always something missing.

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I confidently believe that Quest Master differs from that greatly. We are trying to make Quest Master feel like an in-house 2D Zelda like Nintendo used to make, just from an indie team like ours. Many people crave the classic 2D entries, just like I do.

What emotions do you hope the player will experience while playing Quest Master? What design choices were made to assist in that desired atmosphere?

A big aspect of Quest Master is its local multiplayer. The game is deliberately designed to work flawlessly with that, and makers can create specialized puzzles in the game that require all players to work together for example. The result is both rewarding, funny, and sometimes infuriating altogether, for example when one of your buddies throws you into a hole.

As a community dungeon maker, what features are you most excited to see implemented in player-made dungeon crawls?

I’ve already been hugely amazed by the creations of the existing Quest Master demo. With all the new features the game will launch into Early Access with, I bet this will be tenfold. I myself always enjoy the brain busting puzzles people come up with. Other things I also like a lot are the unintended mechanics the players find, which dynamically emerge from the many, many gameplay systems working together.

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What’s it been like working with Apogee, an indie publisher who goes back to the early 1990’s and has a long legacy of terrific game releases?

I’ve only had very few interactions with game publishers in the past, and Quest Master is my first large scale commercial game project. There’s preconceived notions floating around everywhere on the internet about how evil game publishers are and how much better you would be off self-publishing your game. Contrary to that, working with Apogee has been nothing short of supportive and family-like. They are very invested in the project, and they have many Zelda fans on the team also helps a lot. They are supercharging the potential of Quest Master and without them the game would not be where it is today.

Is there anything else you would like to plug or that you think is important for people to know about Quest Master or other upcoming projects?

Early Access is just the beginning! Quest Master will be hugely expanded upon during its Early Access phase, with many more themes, dungeon parts and entire new gameplay features coming in short intervals and a rapid update schedule. There are always new things around the corner. For example, things like the singleplayer story campaign and the overworld maker will be most likely not be part of the initial Early Access release, but we will make sure to build anticipation by introducing bits and pieces into the world of Quest Master to build up to that.

I hope you are looking forward to it as much as I am!

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Interviews

An interview with creator of Kaidankai, Linda Gould

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I was fortunate enough to interview Linda Gould about her beautifully eerie podcast, Kaidankai. I hope that you all enjoy getting to know her and her creepy work as much as I did.

Your recent collection is called Unpleasantville, a collection of stories from a singularly creepy town. What inspired this project?

Linda Gould

One of the only poems I related to when in high school was Spoon River Anthology (SPA). For those who don’t know it, SPA, it is a collection of poems about life in a small town as told by the ghosts of the residents in that town. The poems were based on real people, and the anthology burst the bubble on the idea that country life was idyllic. I loved its irreverence and was captivated by the idea that ghost stories, which I always loved, could be literary, taught in high school AP English classes! For the Kaidankai, I asked listeners and contributors to pick their favorite poem and read it for me. Then, I did a special presentation of their readings for the podcast. Many people had never heard of SPA and were so happy to find it. So many people, way more than I expected, sent in their readings, and they were just awesome. 
That made me wonder what a modern version would look like. Since the Kaidankai audience and contributors are all around the world, I couldn’t pick one place without excluding someone, so I made up a name and a few landmarks that anyone, anywhere could relate to and sent it out to see what would happen. 

Unpleasantville is a shared world, with many writers telling their own stories. What was it like, working with so many writers in this shared space?

Well, that describes the Kaidankai podcast in general. People from Asian countries, Australia, North America and throughout Europe contribute. Sometimes, before I reject a story, I have to read it a couple of times to make sure that it isn’t just a different storytelling technique that I don’t understand or relate to. I force myself to explain to myself why a story isn’t a good fit. I’m not sure that I would take that approach if all the stories came from Western writers.

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Of course, Unpleasantville is only part of your overall show, Kaidankai. What can you tell us about the show? Where did the name, Kaidankai, come from? 

First, I have to tell you how much I love this podcast. The podcast started August 1st 2021 and was initially going to last only for 100 days in order to tell 100 stories. I live in Japan and in the last several centuries, people would go on pilgrimages to famous shrines during the month of August. Pilgrims from all over Japan would meet, and to pass the time, they would tell ghost stories, just like we do in the west around campfires. In Japan, they lit candles, 100, and as each ghost story was told, a candle was blown out. So, as the night progressed, as the candles were blown out one-by-one, it got darker and the stories became scarier. Imagine being in a deep forest or at a pilgrims inn inside a deep, dark forest. Imagine all the creaks, howls, screeches and mysterious sounds that surround you as the candles become fewer and fewer and how those sounds get closer and closer. It raises the hair on the back of your neck and gives you chills. And THAT was the purpose of kaidankai–to cool people off during Japan’s crazy hot and humid summers while entertaining people at the same time. 

That is the basic outline of the Japanese storytelling tradition called kaidankai. Some might have heard of it as hyakumonogatarikaidankai because I think there was an anime made around it. A lot of the Japanese scary woodblock prints come from the stories told at that time, and the tradition of telling ghost stories in August holds true to this day, although in a different iteration. And the podcast was meant to be just another iteration of that. I was going to upload one podcast a day for 100 days, then start deleting them one-by-one after about a month. BUT, when it was supposed to end, people wrote me and said how much they would miss it, that they didn’t want it to end. So, I changed it to a weekly podcast. A few people asked to have their stories removed as originally planned, but most are still in the archives.

Most of your episodes are quite short, averaging from eight to twenty episodes. Was it an intentional choice to focus on such short form horror, or just a coincidence? 

A little of both. Some people have sent in longer stories and, if I like them, I’ll read them on the podcast. But, I really wanted to stick with the short story format because I wanted to keep the feeling of people just sitting around a campfire or in a candlelit room telling their ghost stories. If anyone talks too long at a campfire, people get restless and tune out. And, I think if people are listening in the car or while cooking dinner, they want something that they can complete.

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Your podcast has over 150 episodes. This is an impressive amount of spooky work. What can you tell us about creating that many episodes? 

Well, like anything, the more you do it, the better it gets, lol. If you listen to the early episodes, they are definitely not as good as the later ones, mainly because the mic got a lot better. My readings have also improved, because a few of the earlier episodes had a professional reader, Michael Rhys, so I could learn from listening to him. Other people have read some of the stories, too (not just the Spoon River Anthology project) and it is really nice to have a diversity of voices, I think, but others have told me not to have different readers because the sound quality varies and it dilutes the branding of the show. I’m not really sure what to think of that. I mean, definitely, the sound quality varies, but unless the sound is just awful, in which case I wouldn’t upload it, I like the authenticity of it. 
It’s a surprising amount of work, especially at first. You need to research the best way to do an intro and outdo (I didn’t), the best equipment to make quality sound (I didn’t) and how to promote it (I didn’t). I’m amazed when I look at how I just barreled into this with very little planning that people kept listening. But that attests to the need to have good stories, which is the most important thing. 

Many horror podcasts drop off soon after creation. What’s helped you keep at this so long? I’ve been so lucky that writers from around the world have trusted me with their work. I can’t accept all the submissions, but I do read them all (like I said, sometimes more than once). At several times during the podcast, I’ve mentioned how much I love the diversity found in the stories featured on the Kaidankai, and that is 100% true. I love that there are ghost and vampire and monster stories, that some are cute and some or gruesome, that they include folktales and horror from around the world, and that they are presented as poems and prose. You never know what you will get when you tune into the Kaidankai, just like you don’t know what you will get when you sit around a campfire telling stories. For some people, maybe they don’t like that one day will be horror and the next day an atmospheric poem about a haunted forest. But I do, and the Kaidankai seems to be filling a niche for others, too. So, as long as people want to share their stories and listeners for those stories, I plan to keep it going.

After your Unpleasantville collection, what’s next for Kaidankai? 

My dream is to have artists listen to a story and feel inspired to create something based on that story. I’m working on a YouTube channel right now that would feature a few of my favorite stories from the archive. I hope to have it up in time for October and Halloween. It might have to have the logo run through the whole reading like most YouTube videos have, but my dream would be to have an artwork of some sort  as the visual element that relates to a particular story instead of the general logo. There are so many amazing artists in the horror/ghost/supernatural genre, just like there are so many writers. It would be great to be able to showcase a visual element to the stories, too.

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Aside from your podcast, are there any other projects you’re working on? 

There is White Enso, which is an online journal that features artwork of any kind that is inspired by Japan. WE’ve had quilts, poetry, photography, short stories, etc. And I’m always trying to write and finish my collection of short stories. I call myself an on-again-off-again writer because I’ll work so intensely for a few months on my writing, then will get involved in something else and not write a word for a year.

Is there anything you wish I would have asked you about, that I didn’t think to?

If there is one thing I would want people to come away with when they listen to the podcast it is the universal appeal of ghost and supernatural stories. People from all over the world write such stories, and there are similarities as well as differences in how they are told. People who have a poetic mind can write the most beautiful, atmospheric stories about ghosts or monsters, and on the other end of the spectrum is someone who writes slasher stories. But there is something in all of us that embraces the mysterious, and when you tune in to listen to the Kaidankai stories, they aren’t really going to scare you, they aren’t for the most part, horror, but they will entertain you and remind you that the mysterious can connect us no matter where we are in the world.

Where can we find you online? 

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This link will take you to the stories, the podcast links and how to submit.

https://www.whiteenso.com/kaidankai-ghost-stories.html

(If you liked this post, you can check out another interview I did here.)

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