Living in a satirical world with Seth Levens

In this episode, we hear from writer and comic book creator, Seth Levens.

Seth talks about his graphic novel Origamiac. We learn where the idea came from and how he came to create a comic book using fairly unique methods. We also learn a bit more about what drives him in his writing as a YA author, penned under Devin Smyth.
Seth tells us more about what makes him tick, the satirical look at the world that drives a lot of his writing and the way he observes the world around him. How does this influence him in his daily life and the way he sees people.
We also have a peek at what he thinks changes in culture and technology will do to the way we experience life, are we destined to look at the world through VR goggles?

You can purchase Seth’s self-published works on Amazon:

The Complete Origamiac Comics series: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08FZMWR6M/

And his YA series, the New Dakota trilogy:
The Contaminants: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07MKP4B8V
The Remnants: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NRX19BN
The Extant: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NS9Z67T

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Transcript

[00:00:00] Seth Levens: My name is Seth Levens. And I work for a major toy company as a day job. And as a avocation, I write books of all sorts, including comic books. My latest is the origamiac series and might have chance to discuss that, but I’ve also written some young adult fiction books as well. I’ve I’ve portrayed… I think of myself as a dilettante, more than a geek, just because I like to see a lot of different things. There’s so much out there that I feel like I miss stuff. I don’t know if that’s FOMO or not, but I wanna make sure that I try and get in touch with as much as I can. Cuz again, there’s so much good stuff out there and you know, that peak period of content. And so I don’t really dive deep into anything. Things that I do enjoy are the creative process. So I read a lot of books about movies being made, video games, being made. I do watch movies and I don’t play a ton of video games, but I play some, you know, I just puzzle games and things like that.

But I really enjoy hearing about people talk about how they are creative. So I guess that’s where the geek part of me comes out is that I wanna learn how people do that sort of thing. Even reality shows. I don’t really like, you know, the personality-based ones, but like, top chef the cooking shows and other ones where they do creative things.

Those are the ones that really interest me because you can see people’s minds turning and, and figuring out, oh, here’s how I do something. When you see that click, it’s really just intriguing.

[00:01:18] Paul: So how did you sort of get started in the creative process yourself, as you say, youre a writer, where, where was the first steps for you?

[00:01:26] Seth Levens: Well, the first steps were probably just, you know, if you wanna get an origin story was, you know, just reading comic books when I was young and stuff. I mainly read like loony tunes, the bugs bunny type stuff, and then Disney stuff, because my mom didn’t like violence, so I wasn’t able to read like the superhero stuff and things.

So so I kind of got my writing and also peanuts, which is, you know, the Snoopy and that sort of stuff. Charlie brown, I read those too. And so that’s where I kind of got the start and I made my own comic books when I was young and things like that. And I always enjoyed drawing. I wasn’t a great artist, but I enjoyed drawing.

So it kind of started there and then I kind of gave it up for a while. You know, once you hit school, they kind of, you know, behold another brick in the wall type thing where you just follow what’s going on with what the teacher tells you to do. And then after I got into college, I started taking creative writing courses and more English course and things like that.

And so I kind of got the bug again and started writing things that way. So a lot of the stuff that I like to do is kind of satirical and I really enjoy political humor and things, even though I don’t do a ton of explicitly political humor, but I enjoy that sort of thing. When something, I guess, irritates me or makes me mad, I kind of wanna make fun of it.

So that’s where usually the, the inspiration comes from. I enjoy trying to figure out where people are coming from and, and try to understand the story of how they got that way. Just because everyone has a story and, you know, even Vladimir Putin, who’s probably the worst person in the world right now.

He has a story of how he got that way. And unfortunately, someone didn’t turn him in the right direction at some point. So he could be a contributing member of society. Instead he wants to destroy the world. It seems like, but there’s a story there. And so that’s kind of where it comes from as far as trying to figure out that sort of thing.

And you know, most of the time, you know, you understand that they’re just the way they are and solve that sort of thing. But I enjoy trying to figure out where that stuff comes from and it makes characterization much more interesting than just kind of like action adventure sort of stuff. I think the backs stories are much more interesting than usually what’s at the forefront of a lot of stories.

[00:03:22] Paul: Sure. So, how did it come to be then that you took the decision to make the, the comic book as well? Cuz that’s obviously you said you did it as when you were younger, but it seems like a, an interesting sort of diversion to take.

[00:03:34] Seth Levens: Yeah. So again, going back to college, I, I was, I was enjoyed writing, but I thought, well, the chance of me making a living as a writer are very low.

So I got into marketing and advertising. So I thought, well, I can kind of tell stories, you know, still write. But you know, actually make some money to support myself. And so that’s kind of where that started, but then, you know, writing for someone else writing about someone else’s stuff is not that interesting over time.

So. When I was young or still now I was, I was, I’ve always enjoyed transformation. And so like literal transformers, toys, and, you know, cartoons, not the Michael bay stuff, anti Michael bay. I always enjoyed that sort of stuff. And then I like the, you know, like social engineering type things, not, you know, forcing people to do stuff, but just people creating change through policies and things like that.

So I came up with this character called Origamiac. So he’s a superhero, who’s a piece of paper. He can transform to different things because he has that ability. And that’s about his only ability. He doesn’t have any superpowers aside from not really being able to be destroyed. So that’s where the Genesis for that came from.

And that’s also just a platform for me to satirize different things. So there’s many other characters in the series that I wrote that are allowing me to bring up different. Like I said, irritations that I have that I wanna expose.

[00:04:53] Paul: Yeah. Because the story. You’re introduced to the superhero character who kind of is reluctant, but then also the, a big part of the story. Isn’t so much about them doing stuff. It’s about them looking at the world and being like, what, what is this nonsense?

[00:05:14] Seth Levens: exactly. Yes. And that’s kind of where I am. So I don’t mean it to be passive, but it’s just like, you look at the stuff and you just wonder. You know, just in real life too, you just wonder how are these things still happening?

How can’t we see the common sense of just doing something the right way. And I know, you know, as I kind of point out in the comic book, you know, there’s all these entrenched, entrenched interests who want the status quo to continue and trying to make that change happen is about the most impossible thing in the world to do these days it seems.

[00:05:42] Paul: How has the sort of reaction been to the, to the comic? Cause it’s not a, it’s not the usual way that a comic book would sort of would take things because yeah, you do kind of go in one direction and then quickly turn the character another way.

[00:05:58] Seth Levens: Yeah. I, dunno if it was intentional or not, when I first started to do that, but I was obviously you wanna set an origin, so people kind of have a grounding where it’s coming from, but then yes, launch into kind of doing social commentary and, and other humor like that.

The reaction has been muted just because I, like you said, I’m, I’m kind of the D-list as far as it goes with, you know, comic book writers. I don’t have a big social media following. I don’t have, you know, I did this independently self publish. It wasn’t something that, you know, the traditional types of comic books would want to do.

So people who have read it have enjoyed it. So I’m, I’m pleased with that. It’s it’s as you probably see, it’s a very wordy comic. It’s not the usual kind of here’s six panels and most of ’em are action. There’s just a few pieces of dialogue. Again, because I did have, you know, not necessarily a message I wanna send, cause I don’t wanna be someone who’s didactic.

Just trying to get across different perspectives and have people think about things. So it did become a bit wordy. And also I like to use wordplay as you probably figured out too. Cause a lot of the things in there, the character’s names and some of the other goofiness in there I just like the English language.

And so I tried to use as much as possible, I guess, as I mentioned, I, I like to draw, but I’m not a very good artist and, and not very consistent one either. So trying to do, and it’s, you know, More than a hundred pages of comic book. So trying to do that, I originally wrote it as what I called an UN-graphic novel.

So it basically was an enhanced screenplay. So I would have basically show, say, this is panel number one. I would say what actually is going on. And then I would list the dialogue that would go on underneath it. And so I got on a good reads review group and, you know, put it out there and people thought it was funny and stuff.

They said, this needs to have, you know, actual graphics with it, you know, cartoon, whatever it is with it. And so I connected with an artist at the local technical college. And there were five issues total that became a compilation issue. And we did the first three issues together. And then he just ghosted me.

I couldn’t contact him in any way, shape or form. So I decided, well, you know, this was right before COVID happened. And so when’s COVID happened like, well, I can’t do anything else. I might as well try and focus this project, focus on this project, getting. Further than try and emulate what he did. I started over on my own and I’d done this kind of previous on another project.

I used Google slides to create my characters. So I basically just took shapes and manipulated them and then layered them. And that’s how I came up with my characters. So looking at the novel it’s, you know, it’s probably south park level animation style and some of the humor. I guess you wanna go that route?

I’m I was looking more toward the tick, as far as it, I don’t do a lot of gross sound humor, although there is some in there. And there’s some stoner humor in there and all that stuff, but but for the most part, I tried to keep it on the, on the upper level of the humor spectrum, but yeah, so by the end of COVID, I had it done and then I just put it out there to the world and it doesn’t have a, a huge reception, but I appreciate being on shows like yours to kind of get the word.

[00:09:08] Paul: It is, it is a great, a great project. It’s I think the, the art kind of works for it in a funny way, because of it’s taking a satirical, look at the world and taken a sort of stand back approach to the world. I don’t know if it was fully drawn, fully colorized. It might be too much. Maybe. I don’t know.

[00:09:34] Seth Levens: Yeah. I mean, I benefited from, you know, him being an eight and a half and eight and a half by 11 inch sheet of paper. So that, you know, being rectilinear makes it much easier to, to create shapes and stuff. There’s not a lot of free flowing organic images in there. So that, that helped that way too. And yeah, I, and honestly, if I had tried to color into it, which I could have, it probably would’ve taken twice as long because I did so much masking of things to make things work that and it, it does look very simple, the drawings, but there was a lot of work that went behind it, although it.

It’s certainly not the level of say a Marvel or DC comic. I know it’s not for everybody. I would take a cult following. I would take a sub cult following whatever it is just to, to get the word out and, and get my stuff out. But I’m glad, you know, if 50 people have read it, which is probably the amount who have, I appreciate even that.

So it was fun to do with something I wanted to get out of my system because I’ve had this story speeding for a while. And even if you know, this is the most readers I get out of it, that’s still fine because I enjoy.

[00:10:32] Paul: Yeah. And that’s the main thing. Are there any plans to do anything else on the similar lines or is that kind of you you’ve got it out your system for a bit. We’ll see how it all happens.

[00:10:42] Seth Levens: Yeah, I think I mean, I think it stands alone. The five issues come full circle, so I think it can stand alone. I have a lot of other ideas that I didn’t put in that I just, you know, keep in my in my files for, you know, if it does. You know, somehow reach some level of popularity and people want more.

I would definitely do some more because I have more ideas for it. But if this is it, I think it it’s everything I wanted to get out there. But there’s always more stuff to satirize because the world just gets crazier. So I’m willing to satirize it even more. Well, I read a book recently about how humor is helping save the world in different ways through protests and things like that. So if I can be part of that changing the world, that would be wonderful.

[00:11:22] Paul: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. So, what about yourself then? I mean, you, you say earlier that you, you were reading comic books to a certain degree when you were younger, but it kind of faded off. So what how’s that journey been for you? Have you picked them up at all later on or?

[00:11:40] Seth Levens: Yeah, somewhat I comic books. I really like are the more the standalone personal ones. Now I’ve read several. So I don’t know if you’ve read dragon hoops. That was one that came out. I believe it was last year. It was about, so gene shoot, I’m not gonna remember his name. He does Superman and some other comics, but then he wrote this one about himself.

He was a teacher in Oakland, California, and he was a private school and he was kind of helping out the basketball team. And so it’s kind of the journey of that team and him kind of getting more confidence. He was at a state where he was now working in comics at the time. But he always wanted to, and you realized that these kids were achieving their dreams.

And so he should go out and try and achieve his, and he did by eventually writing for DC. And so I really like that sort of those sorts of books. Blankets is another one. Craig Thompson wrote that one. And that’s kind of another personal story for him. So I, I like the ones that are kind of more biographical if you will.

More the superhero, one ones I enjoy, but I. And then they’re certainly gaining more depth, but the ones where the artists kind of have more personal projects, I really enjoy those. Cause it kind of gets to the heart of who they are.

[00:12:50] Paul: Mm. Is that similar in the you enjoy movies and, and other books as well. Do you, do you take the same approach there?

[00:13:00] Seth Levens: Yeah, I, like I said earlier, I really enjoy hearing about artist creative processes. So just seeing people kind. Where they come from. And I certainly enjoy just reading fiction and watching, you know, action adventure movies, just like anyone. But I also, I’m not sure exactly why I enjoy it so much.

It probably just helps me as someone who likes to be creative, too. Just understand where people are coming from. And, you know, just as talking about movies, Roger Eber, the movie critic who passed away a few years ago he was one of my favorite writers and person I learned a lot from and how to kind of write in general, cuz he just brought all the ways. Through his criticism, he brought up all the ways that things could be improved. And so I kind of took those as ways to make my own writing improve to avoid cliche obviously, and things like that. And another inspiration who. He’s a Countryman of yours, I guess. George Orwell is someone that I’ve always enjoyed.

He’s and I’m sure, you know, not that that’s unique to me, but he’s always someone who I’ve enjoyed as far as the power of language politics and English languages say is something that’s very powerful to me. And understanding how, you know, governments and other areas of power, try to use language to manipulate communities and things like that.

So that’s something that I really took to, especially when I was in my college years and, you know, Formulating who you are. And just trying to understand who you are and I’m a gen Xer. So I’m just indelible in me or intrinsic to me is not trusting people. So George Orwell was always right up my alley that way too.

[00:14:33] Paul: Do you find that is interesting that you saw particularly both not trusting people. Do you find that kind of comes through, particularly in sort of your, your satire view of things because. It’s easy when you’re writing something to kind of make the world feel squishy and nice because you, you don’t want people to be alienated in it, but it, that’s not always the case in life.

[00:15:00] Seth Levens: Yeah. I would say it definitely.

So, and I don’t wanna make it sound like I’m just some person who just, you know, hides in the basement and, you know, is. You know, conspiracy theory. But you know, it’s, my generation was the one that came after, you know, and I’m being very American-centric here. I’m sorry. But, you know, we came after the baby boomer generation, which was the one that was supposed to change the world and became who their parents were and, you know, very corporatized and, you know, and going after the money rather than, you know, making things better necessarily, at least in America.

And so when those things didn’t happen, you’re like, oh, should I trust these power structures that were supposed to make things better? And now they’re becoming the same things. Again, this goes back to Orwell, I guess, where, you know, an animal farm, you know, the two legs, good, four legs bad. And then the pigs just became the same as the humans and stuff.

So but that was the same thing where just the satire comes out because it’s. Yeah. You say you’re these things, but I know you’re not, and here I’m gonna show you that you’re not. So yes, it definitely influence influences how I write things and, and just, I, I would say it’s a healthy skepticism, not a cynicism at this point, and I hope it doesn’t devolve in the cynicism.

I hope it’s still always something where you’re just trying to make things better through the sattire and the humor

[00:16:13] Paul: Do you find the more you write the more. The more I guess you kind of look at people in a different way, especially if you’re trying to look at the world in a certain way for your writing.

Do you find that sometimes when, like, I dunno if you’re interacting with people, you’re seeing things on the news, you are looking at it in a different way, because you are thinking this is more here than what you are giving away and you’re kind of picking apart the little bits.

[00:16:44] Seth Levens: Yes, absolutely. I, I, you know, getting back to, you know, I mentioned Vladimir Putin and everyone has a story.

As I’ve aged, I’ve recognized. I mean, when you, in our day and age, you get exposed to so many people that it’s natural to stereotype, you know, not just in like a racist or some sort of that way, just like I need to catalog people cuz there’s so many people I interact with that I need to kind of, for my own sake and, and mental health say, you’re this you’re that you’re this.

But when you take the time to recognize, Hey, all these people have different stories and that they’re coming from somewhere and you don’t know the whole thing. That’s where I think, again, I have that healthy skepticism, but again, don’t wanna be as cynical about it because I understand that even though you’re acting a way that I may not, like there’s a reason you’re acting that way.

And if we can just connect on some other level and find that community, then I think that we can make the world, or at least our connection better. Versus just saying, you know, casting someone aside and saying, well, that person doesn’t like me. They don’t think the way I do. They don’t look the way they do that sort of thing.

I want to avoid that and just try and accept people for who they are versus again, trying to, to catalog them, which again is hard. But I, with maturity, I think I’ve gotten better at it and try to do better every day.

[00:17:58] Paul: Is that something you’ve experienced on the other side of things? Cause as you say, you read comics when you were younger, you kind of phased out of them and even just sort of being.

Writing this comic book and also writing why novels there there’s a lot of things that come with stereotypes with them. Is that something that you’ve had to battle through?

[00:18:17] Seth Levens: Yes, absolutely. I mean, I, I am in the most privileged state, a human being can be, I’m a straight white American male. I wasn’t born to money.

That’s about the only privilege I didn’t have. So I understand that, you know, realize that. All the advantages have given, given to me, and I need to use those for good because I want to help other people. So when I write, I try to write in a more inclusive way, because I wanna make sure that people feel like they’re approaching this as someone who gets them versus just someone who just writing from a single point of view and doesn’t understand different, different people’s perspective.

So it’s something that I try to think about. It’s natural to just write who you are, which, you know, they tell all writers to do, but you also need to expand it so that other people feel like they can, can approach it versus just, oh, that’s just some white dude, writing about his experiences versus someone who’s trying to connect with people through their art.

[00:19:15] Paul: I’m curious, cause of my interaction with sort of YA Novels has, hasn’t been massive. What is the market like there? What is the, the impression that people have on them? Because I always, when people talk about them in a wider sense, I always get the feeling that people don’t look at them at the same way as they look at other novels, which I think is completely unfair. But I’m just curious how it, it feels for someone sort of who’s within it.

[00:19:44] Seth Levens: Yeah. And, and, you know, speaking of that, I, I, same thing, I feel the same way about women’s fiction. I, why they call women’s fiction. I enjoy the so called women’s fiction. I don’t think they should make it a separate thing. I think YA novels, just to me, I think they, they explore different topics. My favorite genre, is speculative fiction, I think a lot of YA novels, at least in the science fiction realm cover those sorts of things. And explore them in ways that not necessarily adult fiction would, I think adult fiction tends to be come from writing classes.

And so it’s a bunch of people who have kind of the same are taught the same way. And so they kind of right the same way, certainly are people who get outside of that and are very good writers. But I think Y a fiction just gives a broader, broader spectrum of perspectives and stories than you would get in say, adult addiction.

So i think the benefit of adult fiction and, and where people are with it is that they see stories that are again, more approachable. They’re not, you recognize that. They’re trying to tell a story and get from a, to B versus trying to be, you know, a quote unquote writer where you seem like, you know, you’re gonna win a Nobel prize for literature versus just trying to entertain people and also make them think at the same time.

And that’s what I try to do. I wanna make it so that people. Are in a position where they enjoy what’s happening, but also have some, you know, new ideas about the way the world is and the way it could be.

[00:21:08] Paul: Yeah. It sounds like you, you’re trying to find a way to not constrict yourself. You want to be able to have freedom of ideas without people going.

Yeah. But you shouldn’t be doing that even just the way that you’ve done your comic book, a lot of people would, would turn around and say, yeah, that’s not how you make a comic book, but why not?

[00:21:29] Seth Levens: Yes, right. I dunno if it’s that make mentality or what, but yes, I, I don’t, I haven’t followed the traditional way to do it.

And that’s probably why I’m, I’m not as successful as I’d like to be, or I don’t know. I don’t know where I’d be necessarily. If I went a more traditional route, I have done that where I’ve tried to seek out agents and, you know, go directly to publishing houses with different things. And my first YA series did get published by a very, very tiny publishing house that then went bankrupt subsequently.

So it wasn’t on the market very long before. I’d self published that too. So yeah, I, I just tried to tell the stories that I enjoy, cuz why else would I want to do it? And if people, other people enjoy them, that’s great. If they don’t like I said, I like to get them outta my system because just sitting on them, you know, doesn’t, doesn’t do me a lot of good.

I wanna get the ideas out then. And I learn about myself and, and it’s exciting because once you start writing, you kind of know where you’re going. Some people do, some people just go at it without an outline or anything to go on there. They’re very successful that way. I need a little bit of a structure, some skeleton of it, but then, you know, You discover new things.

You’re like, oh, that’s really cool. You do that sort of thing. Now it could make it frustrating. Cuz you might have to rewrite something cuz like, well, or for this makes sense I can do this again, but that’s fine because again, that’s part of the creative processes makes it fun and frustrating at times.

But again, that’s why I do it because I wanna just explore new ideas. So yeah, it’s not a traditional way to go. I probably wouldn’t recommend someone who wants to find New York times best seller list. But if you just enjoy and wanna express yourself, it’s working for me.

[00:23:02] Paul: Yeah, cause obviously it, it would be great if like a big publisher came to you and said like, we’re gonna back, you’re gonna do this, but would it also almost be too constricted then?

Because they would have an expectation of, you need to do it this way and we need to, we need to have this amount done at this time. Would it be too constrictive to the process for.

[00:23:24] Seth Levens: Yes. Oh yeah, I would, I, I, well too constrictive. I mean, I guess it would depend on what they would say. So if, if, if it was enough of success where they said, Hey, you have free reign, then yes.

That’s the ultimate goal, right? To be able to make money doing what you love and, and do it, how you want to. And it, but again, if they start to say, Hey, you know, this is going over the line then that’d be something where I’d pull back and like, well, is it worth what I’m doing to not be who I am? And if it is then I’m probably not an artist anymore.

I’m just a hack, which I don’t want to be. So I would say that again, it would depend on what they would say, but I, if I, if I can’t express myself some way, how I want to, if, if they say, Hey, change something a little bit and I can still express what I’m doing, then that’s fine. But if it’s like, it’s going completely different direction, then no, I’m not gonna do that.

When I first started out. So just so everyone knows I’m a copywriter during the day, as far as working as far as making, you know, paying the bills. And so when I first started out work for insurance company, which I do not recommend, if you wanna be a writer, cuz it’s just writing the most dreadful things to try and convince people, to buy stuff, telling them, Hey, your kid’s gonna die.

So spend $10,000 on, on life insurance policy on them, which is not fun to do, but. Through that I was able to see all the kind of quirks and, and weird things that corporation is doing. And, you know, it definitely helped build my satirical bent on, on looking at all the goofy things that companies do and the euphemistic ways they say things and, and try to get at that and, and kind of in the origamiac series, the, the Nemesis works at a corporation or runs a corporation.

So a lot of the stuff that goes on there was influenced by me working in a, in a corporation myself. So definitely has, has inspired a lot of the things that go into some of my work. I forget who said it now? Garrison Keeler, sorry. Garrison Keeler said everything’s material. So. As long as it’s happening to you, try and use it to make a story out of it.

You’ve earned this material because you’ve lived through it. So being able to express it, especially if it’s something that you, you can’t, you can’t solve in your day, in your real life. So being able solve it through some fictional character is, is a, is a fun second way to do it.

[00:25:37] Paul: Yeah. It seems fitting that your, your, your superhero is almost sort of going through the motions of like, trying to find a job and going through different forms and being like, okay, this is for me, but this is for me. But then also this is still a bit weird. It, it, cause does seem kind of fitting that this is the way that your character’s gone

[00:25:56] Seth Levens: right? Yeah. It’s, it’s definitely, you know, I wouldn’t say he’s an exact analog to me, but there’s a lot of parts of him that are me where.

Yes, you’re just trying to make sense of the world. And these things are really strange, but this is how the world operates. So I’m gonna try and navigate my way through it. So again, part of the, part of the narrative is that, you know, he gets transformed into a sheet of paper, doesn’t know what to do about it.

So his only goal is to become a human again. And the evil nemesis runs his corporation, supposedly has a serum that can get him back to being human. So he tries to get a job there. And so some of the, again, the humor comes from him trying to navigate his way through getting a job there and going through all the training and things like that.

Again, a, a fun way for me to bring out the humor of all the goofy things that I’ve endured working as kind of a, a drone at a corporation.

[00:26:45] Paul: Yeah. Cause I think a lot of people would’ve had the same feelings of, I can do great things. If only someone will put me in the position that I can do it in. I, I think so many people out there will be thinking in their day jobs. I could be doing so much more than this .

[00:27:03] Seth Levens: Absolutely. Yes. I think that’s and you know, fortunately for me, I have an outlet for being able to do that. So I I’m able to do my day job and then still kind of have time to, to do this sort of. A lot of people I know are in just dead end jobs where they’re working 10 hour days, and they’re just worn out and they just, all they have are their dreams and there’s no way for them to express them.

So I just feel bad that they, they can’t do that, but you know, the ones who can keep trying, cause some days something’s gonna break for you and hopefully become the success you wanna be.

[00:27:34] Paul: Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned video games earlier. I’m curious, how, how has your, your journey with video games been? Is that something that’s stuck with you all your life or is that a late thing?

[00:27:45] Seth Levens: Not, I, again, I I’m more of the puzzle game, so, you know, I, I came up when Tetris was big. So that was something that I, I played a lot when I was younger. The video games, so about 10, I don’t know, 15 years ago I took a 3d animation class because I was just in love with the look of video games, the playability wasn’t something I was always great at.

So, but the look of it was something I really loved. I got into the 3d landscaping and things like that, as far as, you know, creating the backgrounds and, and environments for video games. So that was something I really enjoyed doing as far as the video games themselves though, I’m not a huge player of them.

Again, aside from like puzzle games, just kind of keep my brain going. I do follow some of the, the, which is a strange thing to say, but some of the movie in or video game inspired movies it’s strange how all this media is kind of becoming one. And who knows with you know, Facebook’s metaverse coming on.

All this stuff just seems to be coming into a singularity where I don’t know if it’s gonna become ready player one, where we all live in this virtual world for, you know, 24 hours a day or what’s gonna happen. But it’s, it’s the speculative fiction is gonna become reality soon enough. It seems like. And that’s the thing about speculative fiction is that you need to have some toe in current real so that people can make that bridge to what’s coming next.

So, and that can be hard for people when, you know, if you’re way out there. No one’s gonna have any, any connection to it. So you always have to make it a little bit in touch with what’s going on here. The same thing was when you know, the Trump administration was going and you with Boris Johnson, same thing.

They were so over the top that it’s hard to Ize that, I mean the onion, I I’m sure they were running out of headlines because like we can’t top the absurdity of what’s going on in reality anymore. So it was, it was very tough to try it, try and extend beyond what’s going on. So, yeah, as, as far as, as the future of, of science fiction and, and humor who knows what’s gonna happen but it’s definitely a challenge.

[00:29:44] Paul: yeah, it did. It did become sort of a bit of a running joke where people were like, right. Is this a headline from the onion or is this a headline from reality? Cause we can’t quite tell.

[00:29:54] Seth Levens: Yes. And that’s, that’s not a good space to be in

[00:29:57] Paul: no, no, not at all. But it’s interesting there that you talk about Video games kind of become just part of relaxing video games have become part of a lot of people’s lives, comic books. You know, you were able to make a comic book from a product that was never designed really for it. Do you think we’re coming into this new era now where people can kind of move away from this idea of geek culture being separate?

[00:30:27] Seth Levens: Yeah, I absolutely do. I think, I think it’s, it’s. Using the phrase geek culture is probably gonna be an anacronysm soon enough because all of us are gonna be need to, in order to deal with, you know, the real world, be able to understand all the things that are going on.

And it is hard just because, you know, there’s so many subcultures that get called, you know, geek and things like that. But again, it’s just what you like. And so I know geek used to be a pejorative term and now it’s one that I think people embrace, which is great. And it’s something that I think people should embrace because when you get geeked out on something, that just means you’re an enthusiast, you’re a huge fan.

And again, when you’re excited about something that draws other people to you. And so I think that’s what, what is exciting about it. But again, I think with, with geek culture, I think there’s so much out there that. That people are gravitating toward that. I think it’s weird because you know, there’s bifurcation when, you know, things became much more subculture and I think it’s kind of turning back again.

We’re becoming one huge giant culture. Again, especially Facebook wants us to, if they can get their metaverse going where we’re all just in there all the time. But yeah, there’s not a lot of touchstones people have anymore where everyone understands something. So if you say a catchphrase, I might not catch it because there’s so much out there that I didn’t get it.

But I think again, as things kind of consolidate again, perhaps maybe it’ll become more where we are more unified culture, which. It’s good in some ways, but bad than others, people are in danger being left behind just because there’s so much now. I mean, just look at what Disney’s doing with like star wars and stuff like that.

I mean, there’s so many star wars sub brands, if you will, that are coming out in order to stay tuned to all those, you have to devote almost all your life to, and this is probably their goal to watching Disney plus. And so anyone, any sort of thing like that you either have to be all in or all out, or you’re not really considered one of the fans, I suppose.

So yeah, I think that is a danger that people can be left behind. But again, that also offers opportunity for people to find some new things. If they do feel like, Hey, I missed out on whatever it is, I can kind of catch the next wave and be part of that. So again, with anything there’s good sides and bad sides, hopefully there’s more good than bad though.

[00:32:42] Paul: Yeah. Hopefully, although, you know, you look at social media, you have to worry sometimes.

[00:32:48] Seth Levens: Oh, oh my goodness. Yes. That’s , there’s so much to dislike about social media. I mean, yes. Again, there’s good and bad, but yeah, I agree. The bad seems to be way outweighing the good. It’s it’s weird because I think of the next generation, I think, oh, they must be.

So self-aware just because they have all these opportunities to connect. Cause when I was growing up, you know, there was no internet and things like that. There was no electronic media to connect with people. So, you know, you would write notes in class and send ’em to someone that you liked or something like that.

Now you can send a text or a pic or whatever it is and you can connect with someone. It might help me a lot more when I was in school, but you know, , I probably wouldn’t be the writer that I am either. Now, if, if I had done that. But but yeah, it’s, it’s. It’s strange to, to know that those, you know, the, the coming generations have access to all this stuff and all this information, and yet they still feel disconnected. It’s just, it’s just one of the ironies of, of the, the coming world that we’re facing.

[00:33:44] Paul: Yeah. You, you tweaked a, a thought in my head there that we’re, we’re more connected than ever before, but in a completely different way, are we at a risk of. Like you made the comment there about, you know, maybe you wouldn’t have become the writer that you are. Are we at the risk of things like that kind of falling to the wayside that, you know, the art of writing could be dying?

[00:34:09] Seth Levens: Yes. Like, you know, I’m worried that, you know, we’re gonna back to barbershop polls, or we just have like emojis that signal what’s going on versus actually people dealing to write things and think deep thoughts.

And, you know, that’s, again, going back to Orwell, which, you know, I’m a big fan of, you know, that was the whole purpose of news speak is to reduce the language to the point where you can’t think so, or you can only think what you’re told and then you just get in line with that sort of thing.

So as we, again, reduce the amount of thinking, people have to put into what they’re doing through their communications. I think that is something I fear that people are gonna be very surface level. Rather than able to think deeply and, and question things. And again, that’s the healthy skepticism that I like to maintain versus someone who just kind of goes along with what they’re told.

Language is something that I really geek out about. It’s, you know, it’s my day job. It’s my night job, if you will. It’s something that I, I really enjoy. As far as just thinking of new thoughts, thinking of new ways to say things. Again, as my job, as a copywriter, I have to write, you know, probably a thousand headlines a year. So it’s always trying to say something similar in a new way.

So it’s, it’s always on my mind, that sort of thing. So in essence, I’m always working, but it’s always working to the good for my mind because I’m always trying to think of different ways to say things and, you know, the, just living our lives right now, like I said, everything’s material. So just being exposed to all the craziness that’s going on It’s not always good.

It’s most of it’s not good, but I do kind of geek out on, on the craziness and ways that I can kind of, again, satirize it because there’s a wealth of material out there and a lot of people need to be taken down. And so with all the targets and some of them are easy targets, some are hard targets, but all of them deserve to be targeted because they’re putting in our world in a, in a bad space.

Again, America, I, I don’t know, American exceptionalism. We always talk about over here. The exceptional part about us is that we’re just not in stuff with the rest of the world. I don’t know why we think that we have some sort of right to tell the rest of the world what to do because we are not in good spot ourselves.

So hopefully we can correct that we have the best intentions I swear, but we’re just not living right now.

[00:36:23] Paul: it is interesting, your point of view because you, everything you do kind of. Seems to be about picking things apart, whether it’s the creative process or making your work better by understanding people and language more. It’s an interesting perspective. It must also be really frustrating.

[00:36:41] Seth Levens: It can be. Yeah. I mean, when you’re yeah, I, part of it’s personal being a perfectionist, so you always wanna say things as well. And then you, you look back on things like, oh, I wish I could done that a little different, or I would’ve said that a little different or something like that.

And then other, other layers is just like, And I’m sure you’re this way too. You just see the logic of something and you don’t understand why other people can’t get that logic. It’s just like, alright, I’ve laid out this whole argument for you. All you have to do is connect a to B and we’re there and yet it doesn’t happen.

And so that’s the frustrating part is that, and the, the, the most frustrating part is the bad faith. So, you know, a lot of people. Again, understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it yet. They pretend that, oh, I, I didn’t mean any harm and I do this kind of, I satirize this in, in the book too, about there’s a section in there.

I’m sure you read about the presidential debate and how the the candidates are arguing. And the one candidate is always doing slippery slope type things, or again, bad faith arguments. Just to win the debate. And the other person is very much someone who is forthright and, you know, wants the best for the world and try, you know, the most good for the most people most of the time.

And she just gets, gets destroyed by these guys, cuz all they’re about is winning. And I think that’s the problem in this world right now is just about keeping score versus trying to do best for the most people.

[00:38:01] Paul: Yeah. Yeah. I I get unreasonably annoyed are people who refuse to do something because their only argument is. ‘Yeah, but what if?’ It really annoys me

[00:38:16] Seth Levens: exactly, right? Yes. It’s, it’s just the, the, the whole moving the goal post where it’s just like, all right. Yeah. I can see the truth or the logic in your argument. But what if, like you said, what if this happens and then you’re just like, Then we’ll deal with that, but let’s try and do something good right now.

A little good is better than no. Good. So let’s do the little good at least like, like I said before, there are always good things and bad things I see a lot of, and again, Hey, this is again my untrusting part where it’s just like anything good. You’re always wondering what’s the, what’s the downside that I’m not seeing, but yeah, I do see a lot of good things and I try to follow people and organizations that are trying to do good things.

Just so I can keep my head up. And I’m sure or I’m, I’m not sure, but you’ve probably seen Ted lasso, which is a nice feel, good comedy. It’s not real deep, but I mean, it’s, it’s all about trying to be kind to other people and looking for the best in people. And that’s kind of the attitude that I want to try and take forward is that trying to be kind to people is much more important than trying to win.

And that’s what I want to do. And I hope the culture can find that in them to do that sort of. And again, maybe it’s because I’m American. I see all the crap that we’re doing, not only at home, but around the world that frustrates me and, and makes me concerned about the future. But I also see a lot of people when the bad things happen, rise up and are trying to do the right things.

So I’m hoping eventually, you know, they talk about the long arc of justice. Hopefully that arc is getting shorter and shorter and eventually we’ll see the justice happen. And you know, same with the culture. I hope that we continue to. Find more ways to connect. You know, we have this connected world and like we discussed earlier, it doesn’t seem like it’s doing people the most good that it can, and hopefully we’ll find ways that it can.

And, and it’s not gonna come at the price of, of, of, you know, corporations trying to do things to make profit of it instead, trying to help people profit from them personally. So we’re more exposed to media than ever. And the way to get, you know, the, the viral, the viral article or the viral list, whatever it is is to be shocking.

And so are they putting out more crazy things just because they wanna get noticed, I know a ton of American politicians do it just so they can get noticed and I’m sure other people around the world are doing it. So yeah. As is the world as bad as we think. Hopefully not, and probably not, but, but there’s a lot of people who are trying to make it seem that way to profit off it.

And hopefully there’s enough people who can bend the other direction so that we can make more good in the world.

[00:40:44] Paul: What do you think is it that art, that culture, that comic books, that writing, that books in general… Movies, what is it that you think they, they can do for people? Like the individual person, what is it, the power that they can bring to people to raise them up?

[00:41:01] Seth Levens: What I think, I think that, that art can do in general and, you know, speaking those different media is that they can show the different perspectives that haven’t been shown. I know that’s happening a lot more than it used to, and I hope it continues to happen.

I hope there’s. Black people, brown people, women, LGBTQ people who are able to get their voices out there. Cuz I enjoy reading that cuz again, I grew up, you know, straight white male. I just basically, and that’s a lot of the things I read and you know, that was all that was out there too. So I’m not saying that you know, I was just focused on that again, when I went to school, those were the authors we read as part of, you know, the, the regular curriculum.

And so the fact that all these other ones are exposed or are able to expose their views, I think is wonderful. And I hope that continues. And you know, if straight, straight white males can just be pushed to the side, both politically artistically every way for a while, I think that’d be great for the world.

And then let’s let every other, other people talk or have their voices heard for a while and see where the world goes. Cause their leadership hasn’t been the best so far.

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