Sonder Speaks | A Conversation with Richard Dent, Author of Myopia
From the very first page, Richard Dent’s Myopia creates a world unlike ours yet eerily similar. I had the pleasure of reading the first issue of what I can confidently say will be a long-running and successful series of graphic novels. The graphic medium presents a unique storytelling experience, no matter the content, and Richard has really created something unique with Myopia; here is a futuristic world that relies on an interconnected network of contact lenses to do practically everything. The first thing that came to mind for me was Google Glass meets Skynet. This first issue is divided into two parts: In the beginning, we are introduced to both the technology, and a pair of friends named Bill and Ledge. We’re dropped into the story in medias res, so it isn’t immediately clear the details of their relationship, or their exact relationship to the technology, and this heightens the initial tension of the story. The tension builds and builds while a rapid-fire sequence of panels where Bill hacks into and initializes something in the Central Lens Network – the network that brings about the Skynet comparison. Some mysterious tragedy (I won’t reveal spoilers) occurs that kills Bill, then we flash forward 2 years and are introduced to our next important character, the hawk-wielding James Chase. We don’t learn much about him, beyond the fact that he was Bill’s apprentice, performing some sort of scientific magic with a mechanical ball. Then the end…Well, I’ll let you read it and find out.
Richard’s storytelling truly shines through here. He has built a dynamic world with this unique mechanic which functions incredibly well, adding just enough mystery and sci-fi to the world to keep the reader plunging headlong through the pages. It is a marvelously paced story, as well, keeping the reader on their toes from the first page to the last. I had to read the first few pages over again, in fact, to make sure I hadn’t missed anything; by the end, you will be left both breathless and dazzled. We are given just enough of each character to pique our interest, but this first issue isn’t bogged down with backstory and exposition. The dialogue is both crisp and spare, the panels not overloaded with too much back-and-forth. The play between the dialogue and the background written documents were very interesting as well, though the documents certainly take a momentary spike in brain power to read and understand. These do serve to give the issue reread-ability however, as I found myself going back to them again and again as I read the piece, looking at them as keys to unlocking the mystery of Myopia.
I would be remiss if I reviewed a graphic novel and didn’t speak about the art style. I must admit that I’m a little bit of an art snob when it comes to graphic novels; if a graphic novel’s art doesn’t grab me within a couple pages, I put it down. No possibility of that happening with this work. The art balances realism with a touch of the fantastic to elicit a sense of wonder while keeping the observer grounded in a definite reality. The shadows really play well in each panel, lending a noir feeling that complements the mystery and intrigue incredibly well. The art is primarily based around blue tones, which makes the emergence of red at important points through the issue all the more impactful for the contrast – then, in the final section, green is introduced as the most fantastical event of the whole issue occurs. A thoughtfulness, and attention to the artistry of this medium, which I certainly appreciated.
Overall, this debut issue is not to be missed. I am not surprised the Kickstarter was supported by the likes of Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood. If Dent continues to produce work of this caliber, he will certainly be a writer to watch.
Jeremy: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Richard: I suppose I made the conscious decision to become a writer in college, but I've always been moved by good books. They leave me with a sense of wonder, as if a feat of magic had just been performed.
J: What was your favorite childhood story?
R: One of my best friends and I used to hop on the back of trollies and ride them to the mall. One day the trolley just stopped. We thought the driver was waiting for another trolley to pass but then three men jumped off the trolley and chased us. I dove under a hedge but before my friend could make it through, one of the men grabbed her by the feet. We had a tug of war but they eventually won. I could have run and left her there, but I decided to turn myself in. We were put on the trolley and told the cops would be at the next station. We went to the back of the trolley and pretended to be terrified but as soon the trolley started moving again, we jumped out the back window and made our escape.
J: Which writers or graphic novelists have you been most influenced by/admire the most?
R: I love Alan Moore. His panels are always working double time; one story is playing out in the dialogue while another story is happening in the art. He also knows how to jump back and forth from different story lines without losing pace or confusing the reader. I'm also a big fan of Margaret Atwood mostly because she's one of the only writers who works in various mediums successfully (I think she's a very good poet AND fiction writer). But for the most part I'm influenced by individual books not the career of writers. Graphic novels/comic series that I admire: Sandman, Persepolis, Maus, The Preacher, Lucille by Ludovic Debeurme. Some favorite novels are The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, The Handmaid's Tale, A Fine Balance, and Blindness by Jose Saramago (I like a lot of his work).
J: What do you think it is that makes storytelling such a necessary form of art?
R: Stories are a way to remind humanity of our shared condition. They show us things could always be worse, or better. They inspire, entertain and teach.
For you, why is it that using a graphic medium to tell a story can be so important?
We live in a visual culture. More people are watching television rather than reading books. Graphic novels have the power to connect with these viewers and with readers; that's an exciting place to be.
J: What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned when it comes to your own writing?
R: I must enjoy what I'm writing. That's not to say I'm not going to feel frustrated and stuck and wanting to throw my laptop out the window, only that there must be a fundamental joy within the project or else it's not worth the effort.
J: What do you feel your greatest accomplishment is, as a writer?
R: That I've worked and published in various genres and I'm not scared to try something new.
J: Tell us a little about this particular piece of yours and what, specifically, you are most proud of.
R: Myopia is a kind of environmental thriller, if you can believe that. The main character is armed with a special set of lenses that make him almost invisible inside the Central Lens Network and he sets out on a mission to stop the new world order’s violation of the Magnetic Energy Agreement. The world at times can seem wildly futuristic, but it's built from a plausible science and the characters stay grounded in the human condition.
J: If you could only leave us with one word, what would it be?