Pak Talks Comics: The scoop on Steven Sanders’ “Symbiosis”

By Greg Pak
The brilliant artist Steven Sanders recently launched a Kickstarter for a Creative Commons-licensed science fiction art book called SYMBIOSIS. I was blown away by the art and concept and thought it would be fun to pick Steven’s brain a bit about the Creative Commons aspect of the project in particular. We finished this chat mere moments ago — so here you go, hot off the presses!

Greg Pak: Can you give us the super-short, three sentence version of what SYMBIOSIS is?
Stephen Sanders: It’s a book that is part loosely squential story/part world-building bible. It centers around a world/tech style that I’m calling “1940s bio-punk.” It’s Creative Commons so that anyone can take the material and make whatever they want from it.
GP: The Creative Commons aspect fascinates me. As you know, I’ve got a CC project mysef — the “Vision Machine” graphic novel and iPad app. What inspired you to go that route?
SS: I’ll be candid, it started out as a lark. But after I started thinking about how authors frequently told me that my work makes them want to tell stories, it made total sense. I also realize that CC makes sense, period. The IP cat is pretty much out of the bag with tech how it is today, and I figure that we might as well embrace that and encourage it in a positive manner instead of squelching it.
GP: Awesome. I see you’re releasing under the non-commercial license, but you included a note on your Kickstarter assuring folks that you’ll be amenable to considering commercial requests. Do you have plans of your own to use the world you’re creating in additional stories/media?
SS: Yeah, basically anyone that isn’t a large corporation with money to blow will get a free commercial license. I know how tough small press is, and I don’t see any point in adding to the burden further. Just as long as people follow the share-alike. As far as my own stories, probably not. I enjoy world-building more than I enjoy describing how humans interact in these various worlds (I’m also just better at the former than the latter). I do have vague plans for for some supplementary books to further flesh out the world of Symbiosis, but it will still stay rooted in world-building.
GP: So how do you see people using the material? I’m guessing a lot of folks may want to write and draw stories that take place in the world and use the incredible designs you’re creating. But can they use your actual art as well?
SS: Yeah, I mean, considering the license, they could take the art, and reprint the book and give it away for free if they wanted to. But, yeah, they can use the art itself for illustrations, or I have people who are wanting to do sculpts of figures and tech from Symbiosis. One lady wanted to cosplay one of the characters in the preview art, and I’ve heard from a number of people who have plans to use open-source RPG engines like Fate Core to make their own Symbiosis tabletop RPG. Alex de Campi has already written a short story based off of a sketch I released a few weeks ago. It’s pretty exciting to see how interested people are in this thing.
GP: Tremendous. It’s also kind of beautiful given how the whole idea of sharing and remixing and whatnot via Creative Commons fits in so well with the symboitic theme of the book itself.
GP: Ha! So I’m going to have to come up with some kind of mash-up with Vision Machine and Symbiosis art, now. 😉
SS: That would be kind of amazing.
GP: So you’re literally $640 from hitting your initial goal even as we chat. Want to tease any stretch goals?
SS: Good grief. Um, yeah. This will be a big one, we’d have to hit 75K for it, but that one includes a doubling of the page count (and it was my original plan for the book before I calmed down). I’ll have to contact the printer to see about options for an additional 50 pages. I’ve got free symbiosis circle logo stickers as an early stretch, and between those I’m going to be scrambling today. I’m thinking some fold out pages and if I can make it happen fast enough, maybe a web/android/iOS game. But that would be a minor miracle to get together this quickly.
GP: Wow. Yes, a web/android/iOS game would be awesome. A puzzle game! Traveling through the environment, manipulating elements, getting to the next part of the world!
SS: Yes! One of the gentlemen I went to the Kansas City Art institute with is a rather talented programmer, and runs another crowdfunding site called Pledgie. He has an engine ready for this sort of thing, and I’ll likely run this by him soon.
Okay, amazing, right? Go check it out the Kickstarter and pledge today.