Horror & Dark Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Artist Spotlight

Artist Showcase: Vitaly Alexius

Vitaly Alexius was born in 1984, in Novokuznetsk, Siberian Russia. On April 11, 1997, fate threw him an unexpected twist by means of aerial transportation; he relocated approximately 5,555 miles to Toronto, Canada. Since 2000, he’s been tutoring students in drawing and painting, and in 2002 he learned Photoshop and has been using it ever since. He currently works as an Art Director, creating weekly episodes for the “Romantically Apocalyptic” graphic novel and traveling way too much.

You were Lightspeed’s very first cover artist, back before the artist spotlight interviews were a feature, and before Nightmare was born. What was it like contributing to the very first issue of Lightspeed? Do you often do work for brand new venues, or was this a unique circumstance?

It was all good fun. I work all sorts of venues (new ones included) because thousands find my work on Google and then contact me for the image use. I spent lots of time back in 2006 developing a mathematical probability formula for getting my art out there.

How do you feel you’ve grown as an artist since we last saw you in Lightspeed?

I’ve evolved from a freelance illustrator to an Art Director, which means I now have a sexy production office/art studio with many couches and a projector screen. Our studio also has five excellent, dedicated artists (local and international) who help me make the comic or get assigned art/design/video/sound projects whenever I have to travel to comic cons.

This month’s Nightmare cover image is entitled World of Titans. What inspired you to create the piece?

Lots of my works are inspired by places I’ve visited, as I fly to fifteen different cities each year for my Comicon tour (to meet my fans and share my latest paintings with them from myself and our studio artists).

“World of Titans” was actually motivated by my trip to Nova Scotia. Many years ago, I was invited to Animedia Festival in Nova Scotia by the awesome students of NSCC. That weekend, I went out with one of the students to a nearby park/forest. There were thousands of rushing waterfalls forming and cascading down the hills from the melting of ice and snow. Later on, we traversed to the nearby docks and I took many photos of the boats in the fog rolling from the ocean. The visual memories of that memorable trip inspired this painting.

The Titan in World of Titans was locked in Antarctic glacial ice long ago. Now that it’s free again, what do you envision it thinks of the new world it has found?

It is confronted by human technology such as mega-ships and is rather annoyed at humans for disrupting its ancient slumber.

You have a comic web series — which is now multi-media — entitled Romantically Apocalyptic (romanticallyapocalyptic.com). What was the inspiration behind the series? Did you intend to create a kind of humorous-horrific world from the beginning?

The general plot of RA (the awakening of a singularity, collapse of planetary biosphere due to over-consumption and over-production, and the self-destruction of human civilization) was planned way back in 2005, as a series of apocalyptic paintings that I’ve posted on DeviantArt.

I enjoy post-apocalyptic and humorous stories. I’ve simply combined my favorite genres into one crazy blend.

The visuals for the comic such as costumes and backgrounds are inspired by my childhood in the Soviet Union, where I used to explore abandoned places in Siberian forests. For example, the face of one of the characters from the comic is a real flight mask from a WWII Russian Air Force pilot. I currently still partake in urban exploration and my favorite place to do so is the United Kingdom: romanticallyapocalyptic.com/gallery

The style of my comic is inspired by Heavy Metal magazine: gas masks, comedy, and sexy robots. Coincidentally enough, Heavy Metal magazine published a comic in 1981 under the title of “Goodbye, Soldier!” by Juan Gimenez which featured gas-masked heroes in a post-apocalypse comedy setting. It was brought to my attention years after I’d published RA by one of my older fans who read older Heavy Metal magazine issues from before I was born.

Another inspiration for my comic is “Romanticism.” Many people assume that due to its name my graphic novel contains romance, but the truth is that it is inspired by late eighteenth century paintings, the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature. Romantic landscape art was all about terror and awe of the beauty of nature. My comic is about the terror and awe of the post-apocalyptic setting.

Tell us a little about the Captain’s mug — what makes it so special?

The mug is actually the most important item story-wise (that prevents the universe from folding in on itself) and is a main character that’s been hidden in plain sight since the beginning of the story. Latest episode and plot arc is all about her.

Who has influenced you artistically?

Craig Mullins, Ivan Aivazovsky, Shishkin, Roerich, Salvador Dali.

Finally, in the spirit of Nightmare, what scares you the most?

Human ignorance.

With the coming of the singularity (the point in which artificial intelligence will exceed human intellectual capacity and control), if artificial intelligence is initially led by selfish or corporate money-based interests, the planet is doomed. Even a harmless AI that’s been set to maximize paper clips has the potential to convert the planet into paper clips due to the “intelligence explosion” curve in which it improves upon itself in a loop of better and better paperclip production. A safe AI would have to be programmed explicitly with human values or programmed with the ability (including the goal) of inferring human values such as survival, health, friendship, social status, love, joy, aesthetic pleasure, curiosity, and etc.

Similarly, human ignorance and anti-scientific groups are slowing down the coming of the age of the singularity which has the power to end all human misery, solve world hunger, cure all diseases and to make this planet a paradise for all mankind. For example if every single human on planet Earth was given access to the internet, via, say, a watch-like device that answered all questions and gave advice on what to do in any given situation, many lives would be changed and improved, simply because it is access to information that solves problems. It is terrifying how many people already have access to the internet, but have no idea how to use it to improve the quality of their lives or how use it to solve any problems. It is terrifying how politicians want to or already restrict the internet and don’t understand or support net neutrality.

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Marina J. Lostetter

Marina Lostetter

Marina J. Lostetter’s short fiction has appeared in venues such as InterGalactic Medicine Show, Galaxy’s Edge, and Writers of the Future. Her most recent publications include a tie-in novelette for the Star Citizen game universe, which was serialized over the first four months of 2014. Originally from Oregon, Marina now lives in Arkansas with her husband, Alex. She tweets as @MarinaLostetter. Please visit her homepage at lostetter.net.