Useful as a Solar-Powered Flashlight

One of my biggest inspirations is my father. He was the first person to introduce me to the idea that if I wanted to tell a story all I had to do was sit down and write it. I tapped out countless pages of nonsense on his electric typewriter, futzed about on his computer back when Microsoft Word still looked like DOS prompt, and showed him any number of (now cringe-worthy) Star Trek manuscripts and fan-fics to critique.

Among many of his articles and short stories, one in particular has always stuck with me. I reprint it here with permission:

What? No Post-Apocalypse Skills?
originally published August 24, 1998
© Charlotte Business Journal. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission
Welcome to my nightmare.

Each of us has a situation that we dread we’ll be a part of – a giant earthquake, walking into a really big web full of hairy spiders, having the second phrase of your column end in a preposition – pretty terrifying stuff. I want to let you in on mine. I want to TESTIFY!

I play solitaire on the computer. Yeah, like, you don’t? Why do you think the government’s after Bill Gates? A monopoly? Oh, please. The real reason is some CEO’s special assistant burnt up the mouse chasing that red seven. Because the sales department wanted to win one more game of FreeCell before they started their obligatory cold calls. Because there are thousands of offices out there in Business Land that grind to a halt on a regular basis when the action of the Microsoft Hearts Network is hot. But I digress . . .

I play when I should be working. Just the other night, when Daddy was “upstairs writing,” my nine year old son caught me in the middle of a tenacious game of Vegas Solitaire. The PC gods were smiling. I capped off the last king. The cards wheeled in their little Pentium mambo, ending in a bright green screen asking if I wanted to “Deal Again?”

My son said, “Gee, Dad. You’re good!”

There was no pretense. He actually thought his dad was King of the Keyboard. Master of the Mouse. Sultan of Solitaire. He was proud of me.

There’s something heady that comes from the unabashed adoration of a child. It is a fleeting feeling. I know, deep down in my primordial core, that sooner or later he’ll grow up, work a computer with the same ease I manage trimming my toenails and leave me in my old age, wheezing in his binary dust. But right now, he’s proud.

But was his pride based on the two novels I have lurking on the hard drive? The three dozen short stories searching for a publisher? The wall full of advertising awards? Nope. I play no-prisoners solitaire. It gave me pause. And brought me to my nightmare.

It’s after World War Three on Earth. India has obliterated Pakistan. China, defending its borders, has taken out India and, oops – ha-ha, one little rascally Scud slipped into Taiwan. America and Russia heave a couple of MIRV’s at China and France launches at the United States because it’s a good excuse to get back at us for introducing Le Drugstore into their language.

The radiation. Nuclear winter. Those are the up-sides, along with the fact all the talk-show hosts will be vaporized in the first strike. No, the bad thing is I survived.

And have no marketable skills whatsoever.

After they drop the Big One, what is going to be in demand? Society will need professionals to help it get back on its feet. Doctors, mechanical and electrical engineers, even farmers that can get the crops perked up will be the new barons of Armageddon Industry. And I’ll be at the bottom of the post-apocalyptic pecking order, right there with politicians, radio sales people and the Spice Girls.

Think about it. The last vestiges of humanity are scrapping for survival and the best I’ve got to offer is a dynamite Mr. Haney impression and my prowess at Solitaire. I’m a damn good public address announcer, but with the NBA experiencing a 30 megaton lockout, there goes that gig. If I only had something to offer my fellow survivors, a mastery of some necessary craft…

Bloodied, but bold leader –  “This computer is our last hope to get the power back on so the old people and children won’t freeze. Suggestions?”

Me –  “Umm . . . red jack on the black queen.”

I feel a sudden urge to walk around with a sign saying, “Take the Bomb outta Bombay.” And I will. Just as soon as this column finishes printing out.

Might as well play a little Solitaire ‘til it does.

As I write this, my old home town is currently under a State of Emergency. I’m a two-day drive from my parents as the National Guard marches in to stop rioters and looters. While my family isn’t near the worst of violence, I’m left sitting here living my father’s nightmare – there is a crisis and I’m just about useless during it. And that’s nothing compared to larger racial, political and terror concerns facing the world and the nations I call home.

I’ve spent many a long night staring out towards Lake Ontario, where night and water come together as one, and try not to be crushed by the worry and the sense of powerlessness. And on the more hopeful nights, I come back to this thought: if I need an escape, so does everyone else. What I do isn’t big. It won’t shape national policy or cure disease. It won’t end systemic violence or convince people to accept the simple concept of treating each other equally. But it will give people a few minutes of escape. As long as you’re invested in that comic, you’re taking a break from reality. Sometimes a breather is all you need to shoulder the burden you carry for just a bit longer.

So today I’m going to find that escape by working – with my phone, email and messenger all immediately in my grasp and a weather eye on the news.

Stay safe, everyone.

Sonic Solicits for December

Script: Ian Flynn
Art: Tracy Yardley, Terry Austin, Gabriel Cassata & John Workman

The Super Sonic Warrior returns in “Genesis of a Hero” Part Three: The 25th anniversary celebration continues with another blast to the past! Which is also to the future, and the past, and back again! When Sonic goes to see the annual return of Little Planet, he’s surprised to find it chained to a mountain! Join us for the exciting adventures of Sonic CD! Featuring cover art by the legendary Patrick Spaziante plus a “Cosmic Eternity” variant by Mr. Sonic comics himself, Tracy Yardley!
On Sale Date: 12/28
32-page, full color comic
$3.99 U.S.

Script: Ian Flynn and Aleah Baker
Art: Adam Bryce Thomas, Jim Amash, Matt Herms & Jack Morelli

The quirky trio of detectives return in “The Case of the Pirate Princess” Part Three: Say it ain’t so – have the Chaotix gone full pirate?! Tensions run high as loyalties are tested and pasts are explored. And as the crew reaches their destination, will it be treasure they find – or something more sinister? Featuring cover art by Sonic comics extraordinaire Tracy Yardley and a “One for All” variant by super-talent Jennifer Hernandez!
On Sale Date: 12/14
32-page, full color comic
$3.99 U.S.

Script: Ian Flynn, Bill Freiberger, Sam Sandak Freiberger
Art: Steven Butler, Jennifer Hernandez, Ryan Jampole, Diana Skelly, Rick Bryant, Matt Herms & Jack Morelli
Cover: Tracy Yardley, Rick Bryant & Matt Herms

BOOM SHAKA-LAKA! Brace yourself for the SONIC BOOM! The hit multimedia Sonic experience comes to you in the action-packed, laugh-a-minute comic book series! Sonic and his friends Tails, Amy, Knuckles and Sticks find themselves caught up in more zany adventures! Dr. Eggman has a problem – how can the evil doctor betray the trust of the villagers when they don’t trust him to begin with? The mad mechanic pulls out all the stops to woo the wary would-be victims, but he gets more than he counted for when Sonic and his pals decide to become his staff! Then it’s off to the races as Dr. Eggman goads Sonic into competing in a go-kart race! Sonic puts the pedal to the metal in this thrilling volume of Sonic Boom™! SONIC BOOM™ Vol. 2: BOOM SHAKA-LAKA collects SONIC BOOM™ #5-7 and #11 plus bonus features!
6 5/8 x 10 3/16”
104 pp, Full Color
Direct Market On-Sale Date: 12/14

Why I Write

This past Fan Expo I had the good fortune of meeting lots of incredible fans. Some came specifically to see me while others did a double-take when passing the table and being happily surprised to find me there. But there was a particular duo that stopped by that put my life into perspective.

First though, a bit of context: I grew up engrossed in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, so it’s a point of personal pride to have become a fixture of it. After ten years I’ve typed my way to being the most prolific writer for the franchise. That right there is a spiffy feather in my cap. Then there are the fans that have come to enjoy my take on the series, some of them passionately, which is even better. It’s not just me enjoying my work, but others are enjoying it too.

But that can’t match the father and son pair at Fan Expo. They introduced themselves at a panel I was on about writing for young readers and followed up with me at my table later. The son had grown up with reading and speech disabilities, so getting him to read anything was difficult. But when he picked up my run on the Sonic books, something clicked. They entertained and inspired him to push on with his therapy. The young man I met at Fan Expo was well-spoken, represented himself superbly, and I wouldn’t have known he’d had endured any struggle without hearing his story.

Their story isn’t the first of its kind I’ve heard. Usually once per show I’ll have a family come by and talk about how my writing got their child to read, even catching them up with their peers. It never gets old, or any less humbling. That weekend there was someone who met their personal hero, and I had the overwhelming privilege of being that hero.

So yeah – ten years of writing my childhood favorite is a joy. Ten years of making fellow Sonic fans happy is even more delightful. But five minutes of meeting someone’s life you helped change for the better? That’s unquantifiably amazing. So everyone who has been helped or touched by my work – thank you. You make it all worth it. You give me worth.

Sonic Comics for November – Round Two!

You gotta love the double month of comics!

Script: Ian Flynn
Art: Tracy Yardley, Terry Austin, John Workman, Gabriel Cassata
Cover: Patrick Spaziante
Variant Cover: Jamal Peppers, Jim Amash, Matt Herms

The SUPER DUPER DUO of SONIC and TAILS unite in “Genesis of a Hero” Part Two: The 25th Anniversary celebration of Sonic the Hedgehog continues in this retro-action adventure! Sonic has chased Dr. Eggman clear across Westside Island, and now into the skies! Can Sonic and Tails survive a head-on assault of the Wing Fortress? And what sinister secrets lurk beyond the clouds? Featuring cover art by veteran Sonic comic artist Patrick “Spaz” Spaziante and a “High Flying Variant” by jammin’ Jamal Peppers!
On Sale Date: 11/30
32-page, full color comic
$3.99 U.S.

Script: Aleah Baker & Ian Flynn
Art: Adam Bryce Thomas, Jim Amash, Jack Morelli, Matt Herms
Cover: Tracy Yardley, Jim Amash, Ben Hunzeker
Variant Cover: T. Rex

ENTER the DEPTHS of DANGER in “The Case of the Pirate Princess” Part Two: The Chaotix have tracked down the princess of Meropis and the pirates that kidnapped her – but now they’re prisoners as well! And Vector’s daring plan to escape… is to join them?! It’s mysteries and revelations galore as the Chaotix hit the high seas! Featuring cover art by Sonic comics veteran Tracy Yardley and a “Shinobi” variant by monster-talent T-Rex!

Script: Ian Flynn
Art: Tyson Hesse, Jamal Peppers, Evan Stanley, Terry Austin, John Workman, Gabriel Cassata
Cover: Patrick Spaziante

BIG CHANGES are coming for SONIC in “CONTROL” When night falls, things get a little hairy! The corrupting energies of Dark Gaia have infected our heroic hedgehog, transforming him into the fearsome Werehog! With his newfound rage and strength unchecked, it’s up to his old buddies Mighty and Ray to tame the savage beast! The adventures never end in this all-new thrilling installment in the Sonic graphic novel series! SONIC THE HEDGEHOG VOL. 4: CONTROL collects SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #264-267