Science Fiction

Seven Questions About Drive

Here’s the seventh installment of Seven Questions About: This time I interviewed Dave Kellett, the writer of the outstanding webcomic Drive, which I wrote about a couple of times on this blog, especially in the spoilerific post Drive: Pushing The Limits Of Space Opera.

Note that this time, the answers are mostly spoiler-free, but as always I strongly encourage you to start an archive binge of Drive immediately.

Here we go:

Q1: Who are you?

I’m Dave Kellett, the cartoonist behind DRIVE and SHELDON, and one of the directors of the documentary, STRIPPED.

Q2: What is Drive about?

DRIVE is a sci-fi comic opera, that takes place in humanity’s space age at the beginning of the 25th Century.

It tells the story of a second Spanish empire, a galactic empire, and its looming war with a race called “The Continuum of Makers”. Humanity has built their empire using technology stolen from the Makers — and these creatures want it back with an almost religious fervor.

In the brewing war, it’s clear that humanity will lose, and lose badly, unless they can find some advantage in battle. That hope arrives in the form of a tiny, mysterious creature who can drive a starship like no one’s ever seen. Now all humanity needs to do…is find 10,000 more pilots just like him. But no one knows where he’s from.

Q3: Why and how did Drive get started?

The story rumbled around in my head for a number of years before I started it. And at first, it was a tentative start. Not knowing how or where to bring the story into the world, it started as a “Saturday Sci-fi” feature on my other webcomic site, Sheldon.

Q4: What influences made Drive into what it is?

The two biggest influences are Frank Herbert and Douglas Adams. Herbert’s DUNE series and Adams HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE series are the mother and father of DRIVE. Serious story, fun characters.

Q5: To what degree did you plan out the entire outline beforehand, and how did your plan evolve either before or after you started publishing Drive?

The story arc is all planned out, although I intentionally leave myself wiggle room to insert fun side-adventures as I go. Originally, it was slated to be about a 7-year arc….but it might take me closer to a decade to finish.

Q6: What is the interaction between the peculiar features of your great alien races and the plot: Did you invent the aliens and look for stories to tell about them, or did you come up with plot ideas first and invented aliens to act them out?

Some were plot-driven, and some were feature-driven. The main bad-guys of the story, though — The Continuum of Makers and The Vinn — both of those existed almost before the story.

Q7: How much did you actually study historical events and structures as precedents for the Drive timeline (foundations and fate of global empires, dictators and their oppression mechanisms, military science and technology, initial contact with technologically superior societies and subsequent adaption, e.g. post-1853 Japan), and how did you develop these themes for Drive?

The Empire of DRIVE is absolutely based on the precedents of human history, and the empires and power structures that have come before. For example, the closest parallel to the Spanish “familia” who runs the human empire is probably the House of Saud, and it’s relation to global oil supplies. The Jinyiwei, who are the secret police of the story, are a direct descendant of the Ming Dynasty’s secret police. IndustriaGlobo, which is the massive manufacturer which owns/operates a huge chunk of humanity’s output, can trace its lineage to any one of a dozen huge corporations in human history.

Got any comments?

In my opinion, Dave‘s answers are short and poignant.

And if you think they are very short, I’d have to agree, but on the other hand, he send them to me in record time, so I’m inclined to grant him some slack. (David, if you are reading this, be assured that I spoke in jest; your answers were great.)

What do you think? Tell us in the comments!

Drive: Pushing The Limits Of Space Opera

Today I’m talking about the webcomic Drive, created by Dave Kellett, which is a story that’s Pushing The Limits Of Space Opera. I already mentioned Drive in several blog posts.

Space Operas are awesome!

In movies, the coolest Space Opera lately was Guardians Of The Galaxy. Facilitated by technological progress, it sported amazing visuals. The combination of Space Opera and Superhero Movie was done very well.

Guardians Of The Galaxy even profited from the fact that it came late to join a long history of Space Opera movies: Non-human characters as part of an ensemble cast are no longer something that stands out too much, which enabled the film-makers to integrate all these genetically enhanced/modified/created characters so seamlessly that they could perform any imaginable movie character function. Paradoxically, by adding a raccoon and a tree to the cast, Guardians Of The Galaxy manged to make both the Superhero and the Space Opera genre appear more human.

Space Opera Webcomics are eve more awesome

I have no considered opinion what the latest, greatest Space Opera is on TV, in novels, or in printed comics, but I do have an opinion about webcomics:

Since Space Operas as stories are awesome, and webcomics as a storytelling medium are awesome, it come to no surprise that Space Opera Webcomics are super awesome.

Ever since the great webcomic Space Trawler by Christopher Baldwin (which will be the topic of another blog post here, some day in the future) came to its brutal conclusion, which was most fulfilling, if also very sad, there can no longer be any question that the webcomic Drive, created by Dave Kellett, is the current apex of Space Opera in webcomics.

What do I mean with: Pushing The Limits Of Space Opera? The possibilities to enlarge the size and scope of space operas in a numerical sense are endless: Adding more planets (or even galaxies), more races, more weapons, more magic, greater time spans; you name it, someone has done it. And this approach isn’t necessarily bad, as evidenced by a couple of great works which do this, for example one of my favorite webcomics, Schlock Mercenary. (Just to be clear, Schlock Mercenary does a lot of other cool things as well.)

Also, science fiction stories or space operas that do not push the limit as described in this post can still be totally awesome: Space Mullet (see also these posts), Trekker (see also those posts), Opportunities (see also those other posts), and Space Junk Arlia are fine examples.

Drive: Beware The SPOILERS!

Now I will have to back up this bold claim with hard facts, but to do so requires countless SPOILERS, so I encourage you to check up on Drive first.

It’s about 200 pages in, so reading it all will take some time, but it will be totally worth it: You will you avoid SPOILERS, and it will also be one of the best stories you have read in a long time.

Now, if you have read Drive, or are not afraid of SPOILERS anyway, you can proceed.

Drive: The Promises

Drive is very upfront and open with its promises to the reader:

  • By the end of the prologue, at page three, we know the main premise of the world-building, namely the Ring Drive and the Second Spanish Empire build from it. Tone and style are already being established.
  • About two dozen pages later, we know the main characters, but one, and also much more about the world-building, and most of the premise for the story. We have also seen a couple of amazing backmatter pages from the Enciclopedia Xenobiologia.
  • When the last addition to the main ensemble cast is introduced, it takes little more than a dozen pages till it is revealed that Orla keeps some secrets from the rest of the crew.
  • When the Filipods are introduced, it is made clear that they are poets whose loquaciousness can bore people to death, but also super awesome scientists and engineers.
  • Further into the story, we are presented with a map of the galactic powers that tells us about every place we will ever encounter.
  • When their home planet is cracked in half, the Filipods, because of their unique evolutionary development, are kept alive, and not thrown into the air like every Tesskan who lives on the same planet.
  • We also see, quite early on, an organisational chart that hints at a super-secret unit called Jinyiwei, headed by the Puno Gris.

Drive: The Surprises

But despite being so upfront, and never playing hide-and-seek or smoke-and-mirrors, Drive manages to surprise the reader, again and again, and on so many different levels:

There are many, many more. Which one are your favorites? Tell us in the comments!

Drive: The Big Payoffs

What makes Drive truly extraordinary is how the different surprising developments interact with each other and form a fabric of world-building that has few equals with regard to complexity, creativity, cohesion and clarity.

There is no hokus-pokus, mumbo-jumbo, yadda-yadda bullsh*t going on; everything in this story is mind-blowing exactly because it all makes sense, it all comes together.

Here are the examples for payoffs that fulfill the promises, surprise the reader, pull story elements together, and also intrigue us by promising even more fantastic story developments:

Just to make it clear, there are a couple more important developments that could be listed here as well, time and space permitting. This is a blog post, and not an epic!

Drive: The Future

The best thing about Drive is that we are just a little into the second act now, which means that the best is still to come. I’m really excited about the future of Drive and so should you; go check it out!

Now, what do you think? Please tell us in the comments!