The Centropic Oracle Library
|The Curious Case of Alpha-7 DE-11|
|Back at the Cube Farm|
#TuesdayTalk with John-Michael
In addition to his work as a narrator for The Centropic Oracle, John-Michael is the creator of the Say Hello to Black Jack audioplay and co-host of the Nerd Fountain Podcast.
C: Welcome John Michael, Iím happy you could join me!
JM: Hey, how ya doin?
C: When did you start voice acting and podcasting?
JM: I started podcasting a while ago, back in approximately 2010 or something like that. I had designed a Magic: The Gathering set, we got together for that, but we were getting together at a local game store. And the group decided that instead of doing my fun thing that I wanted to do, they wanted to work on a podcast for the game store, so we all started reviewing games. It was Session Impressions. In general there were eight people involved with the podcast. It was a rather fun group that just got together and talked about a game and talked about another game, and did a review for a game. In very short order we had two hundred fifty reviews out there, within only a few years. But that eventually ended up breaking apart, and a friend of mine decided he didnít want to stop doing this sort of thing, so he started doing another podcast by the name of Power to the Meeple, and then that one broke down, but we picked back up with a podcast by the name of Nerd Fountain. Most of the time we were working on board game reviews, although Nerd Fountain oftentimes dealt with nerd news. More recently Iíve been working on an audio drama, which is been switching up the sorts of things that Nerd Fountain does, because I personally donít want to be spending as much time doing board game reviews, because itís such a small pond with a lot of people who are very interested, very excited to talk about games. But audio drama is something that takes so much effort, so much energy. You feel like youíve accomplished much more by the time you get done, as opposed to just sitting down, mulling over a game, and editing what you got. More recently, Iíve been picking up some small voice acting, nothing major.
C: What specifically draws you to doing something like audio drama? Especially considering youíre saying itís a lot more work. So what about it is really appealing?
JM: It is a lot more work. Iíve always been big on the creation side of things and I just enjoy the creativity behind it. But the truth of the matter is [with] my audio drama, Say Hello to Black Jack, I am specifically lifting someone elseís work at the same exact time, so itís a tremendous amount of work, but I also have the beautiful ability to steal somebody elseís ideas. The thing about Say Hello to Black Jack, back in 2013, Shuho Sato, he made his work royalty free - which means that anybody is legally allowed to use his work for any reason whatsoever. Itís one of those very unique pieces of art which allows us to go in and directly use his script. Itís surprisingly fun, but it takes an incredible amount of time. Itís also incredibly frustrating. I guess the fun part comes from having celebrated the fact that Iíve done work that Iíve actually done and sharing it with other people. But the terrible part is actually making it.
C: Would you do something like this again, or is this a ďOkay, Iíve done it, and now I know what itís like and I need to move on to something differentĒ?
JM: Oh, Iím totally going into season 2 right now. As for the future, hopefully I can keep this thing going, because I really want to get as many of -- having mapped it out, thereís something like seven seasons in total that Iím looking at, and Iíd love to get all seven down. These things should take a full year to finish. Itís just a long process, unfortunately.
C: Whatís your process for preparing a story to be read?
JM: I donít think Iím doing anything really different from any other people. I print it out, double spaced, take a look at what the heck Iím reading, read over it. I always sleep on something. I donít want to be working on something the same day because sleep is an amazing tool and sometimes you pick up the thing you were looking at and you just get something completely different from it the second time you look at it. And then I read and record and read and record. Iím terrible, actually, when it comes to recording my own voice. I make mistakes all over the place and it takes me a very long time to get a single sentence out of me sometimes. But thatís one of the nice things of working with a home studio, is it really doesnít make a difference how long it takes you to do it. Itís not like Iím in some studio with some editor whoís incredibly frustrated with me. But yeah, no, do the research, make sure Iím saying all the words right, that sort of thing.
C: Gotcha. Youíve talked a little bit about Say Hello to Black Jack. For those of us who donít follow manga or anime at all, what exactly is that story?
JM: Even if you follow manga or anime, this one is coming out of left field because it, for a very long time, wasnít even printed in English. Itís a Japanese manga that was written in 2002. Itís about the medical industry and the theme behind is thereís a new student by the name of Saito, and Saito is one of the elite for his college graduating class and heís going into becoming a doctor, and heís suddenly put into a situation where theory is no longer relevant, and now heís an actual doctor and he has to make decisions. A lot of these decisions run along ethical lines, of how weíre supposed to be treating our patients, things along those lines. And Saito is constantly butting heads with the administration, but heís just too good a person to let people be hurt because of his own negligence. Itís pretty much a medical drama. The thing about this series in general, is that on occasion I talk to people about what Iím doing and theyíre like ďOh, Iím not really into manga.Ē and Iím like, youíre missing out because that's like saying ďIím not into music.Ē Thereís just a rich complexity of stories being told in manga, and what we see on Cartoon Network is not a representation of everything thatís out there. This one, particularly, went from being a manga in Japan, went on to be a television series which was similar to our Greyís Anatomy in the United States. Itís just not the sort of thing youíd think of. My parents are both very interested, and theyíre constantly bugging me for when the next episode is coming out, and theyíre in their seventies. This isn't your grandchildís manga.
C: Whatís been your major challenge with adapting the stories - specifically something like a graphic based piece of work - into an audio based format?
JM: This is a problem of a thousand little problems, and no big problems. Nothing ever stops me and says ďHey, you can never do it.Ē Obviously Sato is strong in manga, and one of the things about manga is that there is a certain conservation of words that goes on when youíre telling a story in a drawn format. Some of the stuff is easy to fix. Thereís like, ďOh, I see somethingĒ and itís a drawn picture of a car, and itís like, ďWell, here goes in a sound effect of a carĒ. Thereís translation issues going on also, because this was written to be easily comprehended and directly comprehended. But since Iíve already chopped up and mixed a little bit of whatís going on, I donít feel I have to get the wording exactly perfect. So sometimes I end up using wording that makes more sense to me within the crux of the story that may not have occurred to the original author. A lot of times, because he just draws people, tons of people, and thatís not something thatís easy to do when youíre pulling together an audio drama. So I tend to consolidate characters when I can. You would think that because itís all drawn there would be more action going on inside the manga, but Iíve been finding sometimes itís actually happens the opposite - the audio drama ends up creating more action. If youíre taking a scene and Sato is zooming in on a teapot, he draws a still life of a teapot. To make a teapot we need to have action in an audio drama, so that teapot is whistling. And if that teapot is whistling, that means itís done and that means itís being poured into a cup and then being mixed with a spoon. And itís like this weird little example of all these things that just add up and you get a very -- a lot of stuff just happening because itís happening in the background of the story. Even though in the manga, the manga can be oftentimes very peaceful.
C: Right. How would your editing process differ say between, a short story, to an audio play, to a standard, old fashioned podcast?
JM: The podcast and short stories are edited in a way thatís very linear and straightforward. With the audio drama -- especially since at first I was working with amateurs -- I would just set up the microphone, give them their lines, and have them read a line and be like ďNah, I kinda want it more like thisĒ. And because they werenít very experienced with it, I would oftentimes have to guide them into what they needed to do for any one particular scene. But the end result was this massive amount of material that I had to sift through, and lines would be said four or five times. Oftentimes I would be Frankensteining a whole sentence together just off of a part of one sentence, another part of another sentence, another part of another sentence. And then combining it and then smoothing out the edges so you donít actually notice it in the process of listening to the recording. But they sound great in the end, but it was just an incredible amount of work. I only have five episodes out there for season one. I knew it would be a difficult project so I didnít give [myself] too many episodes in the first season, but those episodes took me nine months to eventually produce. I donít work on that full time, obviously. I work two days a week on projects like that and spend a few hours every day, but it took me a long time to eventually get the thing done.
C: Are you doing any other podcasts right now, or are you just working on Say Hello to Black Jack?
JM: I write a lot on my blog and I spend a lot of time writing. Say Hello to Black Jack, to some extent, comes out of the blue. But, man, having written in a blog for something like seven years, really helps out the writing chops and make it so I know Iím scripting this right. So I write a lot on my blog, jmgariepy.com, but also, coming down the line on local television, Iím starting a movie review show. So thatís going to be every other Thursday getting together with somebody in the studio and asking what their favourite movie is, watching the movie and then talking about it. Thatís for down the line, anyways. Iím lucky because I have myself a nice security job. So thatís how I get a vast majority of my work done. Obviously Iíve got tours to do and things to take care of, but it affords me a fair amount of time that I can double down and get a lot of this work done. If anybody wants to be as busy as me -- because I know I keep myself pretty damn busy with my projects -- look into security because itís a great job. The downside is the pay isnít good.
C: You have written, and do write, campaigns and random encounters for Dungeons & Dragons. Where do you find your inspiration for those kinds of stories?
JM: I donít know. Dungeons & Dragons, Iíve played Dungeons & Dragons ever since I was sixteen or fifteen. Back then I had a computer game by the name of Champions of Krynn. I was enamoured with this game, it pretty much was a Dungeons & Dragons game in computer format.
C: Text adventure?
JM: One step above the text adventures. It had CGI graphics, and it had the mechanics Dungeons & Dragons in it, for things like attacking and stuff like that. But outside of that, it was only a step above text adventures. I absolutely loved this game, and then I found out people were doing the game in real life. And they were creating stories, and Iíve always been big on stories since I was a little kid. I used to live in a world of make believe. This idea that you could get together and create a story and work collaboratively with other people. One of the unfortunate things about Dungeons & Dragons oftentimes is that you get done and you play a story and you share it with your friends and then youíre just like ďJeez, I just made this entire story up. I did a tremendous amount of work, and then I didnít share it with anybody outside of my own initial groupĒ. Thereís a feeling that youíre wasting your energy to some extent, and that you could have been sitting down and writing an actual story for a larger audience. Sometimes I have a few too many projects kicking around unfinished.
C: That seems to be normal for most creatives.
JM: I think thereís a strength to that also. I used to read a tremendous amount of stuff by Mark Rosewater, whoís the lead designer of Magic: The Gathering, and one of the things that he points out when dealing with amateur game designers is they have so many good ideas. And they try to put all of their good ideas in their first work and it just makes for a terrible piece. This happens in writing as well. Where youíre just like ďIíve got all these great ideas, I need to tell you all these good ideas.Ē You donít actually have to, you can throw so many of them away. You will have more good ideas. If you are the type of person who is going to come up ideas like that, thereís no end to amount of ideas youíre going to have. So use this in the way that a person uses a well that has more water than they could ever use. Just go through it and do not care about it, do not frustrate yourself trying to get all these ideas on the table. So thereís this beauty into throwing away ideas and being ďOh well, I canít use everything I possibly [have]Ē. Obviously, put your stuff out there, but killing yourself over not getting all your stuff out there seems like a bad idea as well.
C: I remember someone saying to me, ďHow do you come up with your ideas?Ē I donít know, they just pop up wherever, but coming up with ideas is the easy part. The hard part is actually executing them and knowing which ideas to put together.
JM: The most difficult ideas I have to deal with are things that are right on the spot, where I need X, Y, and Z, and itís a tight restriction. Then I might actually be sitting there trying to figure that one out for a little while. I havenít had a problem that I haven't been able to figure my way out of. Sometime, eventually figuring it out. The strangest, most difficult ideas that come out of ďWhat do I call this?Ē And I constantly have to deal with that problem, that sometimes hangs out for a month or two. Youíre just like ďI donít know the name for this.Ē Youíd think that being creative would be like you just come up with names off the top of your head. But itís just not the way it works. You struggle to name a thing that you came up with, itís weird.
C: Yeah, everyoneís got their challenge, I guess. And I think a lot of that is self-doubt. The more importance we place on a particular thing -- like a title. Obviously for you, thatís something you place a lot of importance on. What is it about the science fiction/fantasy genres, in general, that draws you to it as an artist, as a creative?
JM: The thing about science fiction and fantasy is Iím not particularly drawn to it, I just end up in it. I love stories that ask a lot of questions about ďHow did this happenĒ, or ďWhatís going on,Ē or ďIf such and such, then what?Ē It doesnít have to be in science fiction or fantasy, but oftentimes science fiction and fantasy are the easiest mediums to travel through. I think one of the more annoying things to come across stories that were in -- somebody had access to science fiction and fantasy and was writing in science fiction and fantasy, and they arenít asking those basic questions. They just end up writing a story was just like ďOh, this is a story about fantastic orcs and elves and whatnotĒ. And they never ask any ďwhat ifĒ questions and itís all just by the rote action story. The thing I like about fantasy and science fiction is itís more of a playground than anything else for ideas. Some of my favourite science fiction oftentimes comes from people who never intended to be working with science fiction, they just ended up there. Kurt Vonnegut oftentimes works in the realm of science fiction and it almost seems like a complete accident that he ended up there. When he goes through Slaughterhouse 5, he has an entire race of aliens thatís taken his character and separated him from the story of being in Germany during World War II and seeing the terrible things that happen in Dresden. And looking at that character from the viewpoint from an outsider who was never on Earth, and the only way you can possibly look at the outsider from a point of view that was never on Earth is by removing him from Earth and putting him in an alien zoo and observing him from there and saying ďWhat are you? What are you human? What are you doing here? What does your life mean?Ē I find a lot of that science fiction that never attempted to actually be science fiction but ended up to be science fiction to be some of the more exciting science fiction thatís out there, because it didnít understand that it needed to be there, but yet here we are and now weíre in space. Itís the only way we could have possibly told the story that weíre telling right now, itís just thatís the way things happen. As opposed to taking the story and starting with ďWeíre in space, and you need to use the Zelopetor wrench to fix the machine before the Kilwrathians attack.Ē And itís just like, this could have just been a World War II story, thereís nothing actually new going on here. I love the creativity of it.
C: I have a piece thatís out there floating around. It is an action story, and itís set on Enceladus. A big part of the story, not the theme itself, but a big part of the story and the questions that it raises is about seeding life, Earth life, on another body in the Solar System and what are the challenges and what are the things you have to think about, and for me doing the writing, it was an exercise in ďhow do I actually do this without info dumping?Ē That was my main goal of, can I write a story that is set like this that relies heavily on science without it being nothing but an info dump, dry science report. I think I did fairly well, but itís not being well received in that thereís not a lot of character development because it does just focus on the situation. I think thereís good places for action stories and I think this still fits on the science fiction because it is drawing the question of ďwho decides what life expands?Ē In this particular case I picked corporations, right? And what does it mean to ecosystems? Thereís no character development, itís more a story about ideas and science, and then a situation- a disaster situation that happens and then they get through it. Itís really interesting that science fiction markets have moved away from the action-y kind of thing that was very much the thing in the 40ís, 50ís, 60ís. It was all about the action when you look at things like E. E. Doc Smith, or even Isaac Asimov to a large extent with I, Robot. Sure, he asked some questions, but it was really about a situation. I think that the science fiction changes-- like the markets change over time over what is to be stressed and whatís not, and it seems like weíre in a time frame right now where the questions are very much about morality.
JM: Yeah. Iíd like to think that a lot of the science fiction ultimately was about morality, but so often that question oftentimes got hidden pretty deeply in the text of what was actually going on.
C: Iím wondering too how much of that is driven by the editors and publishing houses versus the market, because when you look at something like, say, The Martian, and that exploded. And thereís very little character development throughout it. The main character, Mark Watney, he stays really himself all the way through, he doesnít descend into madness, he doesnít even seem to court madness, he uses his humour all the way through. The movie was really really really good, but I would give them both an eight. But we donít see changes in Mark, or any of the other characters.
JM: On paper, The Martian sounds like a terrible movie. It sounds like youíre going to bore the audience to death with a bunch of science and not do anything. I feel like a lot of that is just like -- thatís what the audience actually wanted after seeing all this BS of having a tonne of science fiction that didnít look at science at all in any critical capacity to get this brief glimmer of something that actually took a look at what our future could look like if we sent someone to Mars and if he got trapped. Thatís such a great breath of fresh air, and I have no idea why it has not been followed up yet. That actually seems to be the real shame of The Martian, is that Hollywood didnít go ďOh, they want science stories. They actually want people in real situations. We should make a few of them, or at least we should make some low budget stuff that actually deals with this stuff.Ē But it seems like The Martian was a fluke to them and theyíre just moving on now.
C: I donít know, because The Expanse, I personally liked the show better than the book - although I have only read the first book.
JM: I havenít actually heard about The Expanse. Okay, Iíll have to look into this.
C: I fell in love with it because they totally nailed the science. Totally nailed it, and one of my favourite things is in season two, they actually vent the atmosphere out of the interior of the ship into tanks that store compressed gas on the exterior of the ship so that if they get struck thereís no fire. It was really interesting to get those kinds of things right, and you know, what would we look like as humanity if we lived in space? What does our bone structure look like, and what does the language become? That was something that just blew me away, the world building that they did.
JM: Iím writing this down, by the way.
C: I think finally Hollywood, [is] starting to see that the audience wants smarter work.
JM: If you look at the history of Hollywood it just takes them a long time to adapt to a new style or a new way of thinking just in general. The entire artist movement that happened during the 1960ís, the press of movies like Easy Rider, and moving up through The Godfather. It was just a time period where the studios realized that they were so incompetent when it came to movies that they didnít know what was good and what was bad anymore and they had to put all the power in the hands of the director just because they were too slow and they recognized that. I hope we go through another process like that again.
C: What is it about podcasting and audio formats - as opposed to other forms of expression - that really appeals to you?
JM: Itís really funny because that question is also along the line of ďSo how come you arenít doing video - are you ugly?Ē
C: Thatís not where I was going, but okay.
JM: I donít know, to be honest with you. I donít know if audio specifically appeals to me, so much as much of podcasting and audio work is easier, as opposed to doing video specifically because youíre able to toy with it - and like I was saying beforehand from doing voice acting, most of the stuff Iím doing Iím editing as Iím going along when Iím doing voice acting for something thatís straightforward and already written for me. Thatís just something that you canít physically do when youíre doing video editing, although I havenít done a tremendous amount of video editing, so maybe Iím off base on that one. I got into podcasting by sheer accident more than anything else. I always knew I had a great voice, people would always end up telling me that, itís just something that was trained to some extent because I used to be a singer back when I was in high school. I used to be in choir for years and I was always an entertainer type personality and my mother nurtured it. God bless her for bringing me around to all the dinner theatres and all the nursing homes that I went to and sang and performed when I was in high school. I nurtured a voice way back when, so the idea of me going into audio production seemed to be natural because people would honestly just be pushing me into doing this and saying ďWhy arenít you doing this?Ē But yeah, I just happen to have a decent voice for this sort of stuff and I kind of landed into it. Part of podcasting and doing audio production has just been another outlet for the sort of writing I end up doing. Both of them key off of each other. I podcast because I write, I write because I podcast. Both of them help each other out in the process.
C: I started listening to audio fiction as a means to decompress on my commute home. What I really appreciate about audio only -- mind you I also, when I was a kid, my Dad was big on radio plays. And it was really fun, and it was -- maybe itís just childhood memory that I donít want to let go of, but it does turn my brain off in a way that nothing else does. So when Iím listening to an audio work, I canít think about anything else otherwise I get completely lost and I have no idea of whatís going on and I have to back up and start over.
JM: This is one of the funny things because my dad happens to actually do an old time radio show for the local television station, which is the reason why I started getting into the local television station just in general -- but every week he puts out ten hours worth of old time radio. I grew up being sick of old time radio because Iíd heard it so often, it was always around. This is a terrible thing to be saying to a bunch of people who love the audio format, to be like ďOh, the classics. What a pain!Ē You know what I mean? It mostly happened because of, in a sense, over-exposure and it became ďthe thing my dad did.Ē But when I was working for the IRS I started picking up a lot of audio drama in the process. One side of my brain had to be working on the product at hand, which was just numbers and figures, and the other side of my brain would be bored to tears. So I would be listening to a lot of audio podcasts, especially the stuff coming out of Pendent Audio, and I absolutely loved that stuff. In a sense, it was a matter of learning to re-love audio drama that wasnít the same, baked in, 1930ís and 1940ís approach to a story where the characters were flat and two dimensional and theyíre coming off as being cheesy or campy in some way, whereas these stories were made by people who just loved to create and loved to write and finding people who were willing to donate their time to do the voice acting, and there was excellent material being made. What got me into podcasting, you can pretty much say good podcasters did because thatís most of the stuff that I worked with, Iím looking towards other people, and how they did it, and finding ways to do it myself, and seeing what works for other people, and what would work for me.
C: Other than Shuho Sato, the original author of the manga that youíre doing, what other kinds of projects would you like to explore?
JM: I donít know actually, I havenít actually thought too far down the road of what kind of other projects when it comes to other audio work I want to work on. Mostly because Say Hello to Black Jack is so time consuming and itís demands are so high. I really want to get back to working on a general nerd type podcast. My friend and I, when we were working on Nerd Fountain, we were trying to split time between doing board games and talking about, not necessarily video game news, but the sort of news thatís tangential to video game news and the sort of news thatís tangential to a lot of whatís coming down the road when it comes to robotics and stuff like that. I just found all this stuff really interesting, from the point of view of a pure ameteur who really doesnít know what heís talking about, of just digging through the material and and just being like ďWow, look at all this crazy stuff that people are working onĒ. Like, what is Crisper? Which, if your audience doesnít know, weíre literally talking about DNA hacking, and there are scientists who are actively working on that right now and theyíre very excited about what theyíre able to do with mice and rats. Iíd love to get back to that format and just drop the board games out of it. I mean, board games are fun and great. Unfortunately you get trapped in this format when you start talking about board games of trying to review the thing and saying whether itís good or bad. The easiest way to look at a product and be like ďIs this movie good or bad?Ē Well, did you enjoy yourself when watching it? Then who cares? Thatís the most important thing. If you walked away from the book and you feel like youíve learned something or thereís more of a conversation, a little bit of the book is inside you, then ultimately that mustíve been a good book, but stop being so critical about the book in the process. Be critical about the individual ideas that were in the book, of course, and break things down and have a better understanding of whatís going on. But to say something is good or bad, and leave it at thumbs up/thumbs down, is too drastic a response to me.
C: When Larissa and I first started talking about creating Centropic Oracle, the question came up: Will we ever do reviews? And both of us were pretty, nah. Because we donít want to do the breaking down of things. Now, when weíre going through slush, of course we give people the feedback on why we didnít like it. And each reader gives some feedback, depending on how far along the process you go. And I think thatís enough. If someone has published it, then someone liked it enough to publish it, which it means it has something of value. So coming in the future, with Centropic Oracle, is a segment that weíll be calling Book Club. That is going to be aimed more at discussing the ideas that are put forward in a book - or in a story, rather. Talking about the ideas that come from it and kind of expanding. Not saying ďOh, the dialogue was weakĒ, or ďthe dialogue was really strongĒ, or anything like that, itís more of the ďI really like the questions that was raised here, and that made me think thisĒ. You know, those kinds of discussions is what our Book Club is going to be focussed on, because like you, I think our society has really come to be based around breaking down the storytellerís mechanics, as opposed to actually looking at the story and the value and the message thatís in that story, which is why we tell stories as a society.
JM: This is one of the interesting things because, as we tell stories, so many of them have so many good things that come out of them, but that at the same exact time, thereís so much bad that comes out of a story. In order to push a story to be in one direction, you have to have done something wrong in the process. So for example, I love reading Michael Crichton, even though I know his characters are flat, two dimensional, unrealistic, and I have zero interest in their relationships and their concepts and how they work together, but when you read something along the lines of Swarm, you are so interested in the sorts of things that Crichton is interested in, of the science of tiny robots, microscopic robots, and how they would work together as a communal intelligence, that it makes it so the story works even though it doesnít. Thereís something really rich there to talk about, about the ethical problems of having robots which have now become something you cannot see, and theyíve become collective intelligences themselves.
C: Yeah, like Brave New World, Aldous Huxley. Honestly, it was terribly written and I donít think it would be published nowadays, but what was interesting about it were the ideas that he brought forward in it.
JM: I think part of the thing with Brave New World is the whole point is that the characters are supposed to be uninteresting Thatís what makes the story so strong. All these doped up people on sonoma, theyíre vapid, theyíre terrible, this is the sort of place that weíre actually going to. Itís a great wake-up call to how our society is moving forward. I donít even think the main character is supposed to be the wild man in that story, heís not particularly compelling.
C: The characters themselves, I was like ďMeh, whatever.Ē But I just found that the actual mechanics -- this was basically a non fiction essay converted into fiction. But what was interesting is that he was the first one to raise the idea of things like removing sex from procreation, and what does that do to society? You walk away from that book, and as horribly written as it is, it still leaves you thinking about the questions and the things that heís raised. How do you appreciate beauty if you never see ugliness? How can you have joy if you donít know pain? All of those concepts that he really wasnít subtle about, but he put them all together in a really strong way that you can tell that heís done a lot of thinking about this. But what was interesting is that we look at-- and thatís again going back to the evolution of fiction over the last fifty, sixty, seventy years, because it really has changed a great deal. Fiction in the hundred years prior didnít really change all that much. You look at something like Alexandre Dumas and what was written by Charles Dickens nearly a hundred years later, thereís not a lot of difference. And then you look at something that was written in the 1950ís or even look at Heinlein and what he was writing in the 60ís, and sure, he was predicting a lot of things, and thereís some themes that were really interesting, like Farmer in the Sky, thatís one of my favourites -- he predicts microwaves -- but that concept of terraforming and turning a moon into a habitable place as this young man, as heís growing up, the focus of the story is really about the relationship between him and his father and his coming of age, but itís still just a fairly simple coming of age story. Thereís no new insights into human evolution, or societal evolution. But what is really driving modern fiction - or at least the stuff Iím reading, I donít know - itís all about the larger, societal changes that are going to come, as opposed to technological changes. Hmm. I donít know how we got onto this topic, but anyway--
JM: Me neither. On a separate side note, something I actually was realizing and forgot to mention - you were asking me ďwhat projects would you like to be doingĒ, and I ignored the project that Iím in my head working on slowly. Not too far from me thereís an anthropology museum that specifically works with Native American culture and artifacts and whatnot, and Iím already very into games, and so I thought it was actually kind of interesting to explore indigenous games of North America and just make a podcast about that. At first it was supposed to be a six episode podcast, it was 10 minutes per episode - letís talk about lacrosse and what is lacrosse and what does it do and whatnot. And as the further and further I dig into this subject the longer and more out of control itís getting. Iím finding myself reading multiple books on multiple different subjects to actually get a good grasp of all the games that I could talk about for indigenous games. But Iíll eventually end up pulling that stuff forward. Stuff like running and lacrosse and then odder games that people wouldnít recognize the names of, shinney, which is a lot closer to hockey, and shell games and stuff like that. And the questions of, how do games get made, and why do we use them, and what are the stories that the indigenous people of America came up with these games, and more modern stories of whatís going on.
C: Well thatís cool. Sounds like an interesting project. Do you have any advice for people who are wanting to enter the world of audio performance - whether is radio drama, voice acting, or podcasting.
JM: The best advice I know of is to just start working on stuff. I know that the similar advice to when you first tell a writer to start doing something, is just to accept the fact that your first work is going to be terrible. Thatís kind of supposed to be the plan. You need experience, and the only thing that could possibly give you experience is doing the thing itself. So pick up a microphone, learn how to podcast, grab somebody, start doing the work, tell people about it, but then later on down the road, change brand, do something else and keep pivoting and moving and making the new thing until youíre eventually comfortable that your work is at a level that you like it at. Thereís nothing that beats experience. Thatís the most important thing.
C: Itís all about the 10,000 hours.
JM: Itís all about the 10,000 hours. And that numberís touted around quite a bit, but itís true. Thatís not a magic number. But youíve gotta do it. You canít just keep thinking about a project and never doing that thing that you wanted to do, youíve got to actually do it. And then youíve got to stop doing it. At some point in time youíve got to say ďI canít perfect the thing Iím doing, I canít make it any better without getting into some sort of minutiae where Iím no longer being productive. I have to take this, set it aside, pick up something else and do that instead.Ē Outside of that, gee, I donít know, because I know thereís all kinds of different ways to approach this, but I do know what itís like to go inside the office and just sit down and write and I know how valuable that is. I also know thatís an incredible part of my production - is the fact that I sit down and I blog and I spend a tremendous amount of time writing. That organizes my thoughts and that gives me an understanding of story and flow and narrative in a way that a lot of audio work wouldnít be as obvious, because audio can often times just be an extension of the way we talk and the way we use dialogue. But it doesnít actually present story sometimes, without an outside influence of something written down. And I do think that itís important to actually be a writer as well as to be creative in my podcasts in a more jocular way. I think both sides are very important. They help each other.
C: I think very few forms of art are not complementary with others. Final question: what is your earliest memory of sharing a story you either created or performed?
JM: The earliest story I have is back when I was in the second grade, I wrote a story about how I went to my next door neighbourís house, by the name of Dawn, and we had sausages. And thatís the entire story as far as I remember it, except I drew a picture of sausages and a picture of her face that was happy and a picture of my face that was happy and that was it. And then my mom was so pleased because -- I had definitely come down before anybody was awake, had nothing else to do, and just picked up a pen and paper and just started writing -- that I had written something completely on my own without any prompting that she passed that around to so many people to show it off and I felt really good about it. The thing about me doing a lot with writing has a lot to do with my motherís support and how much she loved to see me go about and do the stuff that I was doing. I was in School Ties as an extra. Hollywood was coming over here and I had signed up to be an extra and they had a tremendous amount of extras and we had a dance scene inside a dance hall, and that was great, and there was about a hundred people who showed up to do this, and then the next day there was fifty people who showed up to do this, and the next day was twenty-five. It was slowly dwindling down. I was sticking around, so I was semi-important, but I wasnít as important as my mom, who was constantly hobnobbing -- not intentionally, she wasnít trying to get on the inside track or anything like that -- but she was talking to the person who was head of extras, and talking to other people on set, and tying Matt Damonís tie because he didnít know how to tie a tie, and she was kind of like a den mother on the set for the small amount of time that we were there. That sort of thing, where she was always just a part of what I was doing and it meant a lot to me. I donít think as a teenager and as a child, I didnít see how much it meant as I do now that she saw this and appreciated it, that she was a part of it, even if she was just in the background doing stuff.
C: Right. That does seem to be a common thread. Itís either one parent or the other - usually mom - with most creatives, that the ones that stick to it, the ones that really go far, either one or both parents was hugely supportive of that interest and really actively encouraged it.
JM: I was really focussed on the acting and singing thing, and because she knew I was getting into acting, that she was like ďThis kid needs to know how to dance,Ē so she brought me over to a dance studio that my sisters used to go to, I started dancing and I -- when I went to college, I went to college for dance, that was my major -- and most of that comes from the fact that she not only would bring me into the studio, but then when people would be like ďYou shouldnít be teaching a boy how to dance, itís fine for one year, but get him out of it.Ē that she would defend me and be like ďNo, this is actually really good. Heís having a good time. What right do you have to tell him heís doing something that he shouldnít be doing when heís entertaining? Thatís the whole point.Ē
C: How do you think that shaped you? Did you know that then, when you were a kid, that your mom was out there, advocating and standing up to people who were saying ďDonít do it because it doesnít follow the gender rolesĒ?
JM: I heard it and I absorbed it, and I think thatís as much as I can say about it. I donít know if I actually dwelled on it at the time. I knew that I had her in my corner and stuff like that. But I donít think, as an adult, you really understand what that means until you actually see other relationships and other families and how they operate and other people and how they respond to each other. The way my mom operated, the way my mom defended my decisions to do what I was doing and the way she backed me up and drove me all these places and would make friends with the people who were in charge of my high school musicals and stuff like that. That seemed normal to me back then. Nowadays I look back at that and Iím like, she was really out there kicking ass. She had a job. She didnít have to be at all these locations. She wallpapers for a living. She still does. Sheís seventy five, and sheís still hanging wallpaper. Itís crazy. Sheís a spitfire, and I really appreciate her. I know when I wrote my first quote-unquote ďreal storyĒ, which was based on real life, where we dragged a Christmas tree into our house one Christmas and it turned out there was a chipmunk hibernating inside and he was running around our house for a good three hours. We couldnít get rid of this guy. And I wrote a story for class about Chippy the Chipmunk and how he was sleeping in a tree and how he got dragged into the house and pretty much just retold that as fiction. I know when I wrote my first poem when I was in college and I was really switching gears from dance, because, I mean, I loved dance, but dance was ultimately doing a lot of other peopleís ideas and choreographing was really hard to get your hands on, and I really started getting into writing in a more serious way. But I wrote my first poem and sent it to Ma and she was sending it everywhere and showing everybody. I canít say that I wouldn't have been a writer or a creator if it wasnít for my mother. I donít know. Thereís a very good chance that I would have been just as into the fields that Iím into right now, but Iíd be damned if she didnít help. She gave a lot of support in this. A lot of time she doesnít understand or appreciate the sort of writing Iím doing. Iím working on some horror short just to write horror, Iím not even particularly into horror, but Iím like, ďI need to experiment to learn about writingĒ. My momís like, ďGive it to meĒ, Iím like, ďYou donít -- you hate this stuffĒ and sheís like, ďI wanna read it anyways.Ē And thatís really important to have somebody in your corner doing that.
C: Yes, yes it is. Absolutely it is. Thank you very much for chatting with me today John-Michael, itís been a pleasure.
You have been listening to The Centropic Oracleís interview with narrator John-Michael Gariepy. You can visit his blog at jmgariepy.com, or follow him on Twitter: @JM_Gariepy.
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