A Certain Intimate Dissatisfaction

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

I’ve felt a disinterest in media lately.  It was only after some analysis that I understood how much media lacks intimacy.

Something has been itching at the back of my mind lately, a dissatisfaction with most media.  It wasn’t  hatredjust a sense of being unfulfilling.  I’m not saying the media were even bad, but I felt something was missing.  Instead of trying to scratch this itch, I leaned into it to learn it’s nature.

This sense of unease was tied to a recent interest in old alternative music radio shows, strange zines, audio ephemera, sound collages, etc.    Those things were unique, with passion for once-obscure (and still obscure) bands, remixing techniques, personal interests, and so on.  Each one was a little ball of itself.

Compared to that, many movies, television, etc. seemed so sterile.  Oh, it might be good, but the market is filled with works that look alike, everything is overhyped, and it’s impersonal.  There was a lack of connection there.  I could enjoy some crappy B-movies more than the big thing I had to see, with a few exceptions (Everything Everywhere All At Once, for instance).

This ‘itch” didn’t apply to video games, which was another clue.  I love Early Access games, being able to give feedback, and be involved in the process.  I also loved digging up strange, obscure, and unique titles to play, those visions giving form.

I understood then – I craved the intimacy of media involvement.  Of being involved in the creation and sharing it (like Early Access games, or Zines).  I missed things that were personal experiences with that sense of craftsmanship (Zines, alternate music, strange films).  With this in mind, I’m finding my interests again, often in the strangest places – of which I may write more in time.

I think our modern media, which often produces things that can be good, also creates works that are mass-marketed, polished, and targeted.  Things may be optimized, but optimization isn’t personal.  When you’re just caught within a statistics range, you know.

I suspect this is an unappreciated part of fandoms as well.  Some fandom experiences are intimate, with fanfic, art, cosplay, conventions, etc.  The flawed or over-engineered creation can bring people together, who then transcend the original work.  Fandom can add something to the experience of a media, a something I don’t think is fully appreciated by many.

So now I have a grasp of this itch, this sense of dissatisfaction.  I miss work that is connected, personal, and above all not over-engineered.  I miss media that helps me connect with people and indeed to the “bigger picture.” 

I’m not sure where this will take my tastes, or my own creative works, but it’s going to be an interesting trip.  You’ll be along for the ride and plenty of blog posts – and what’s sure to be a connecting experience.

Steven Savage

The Artist As Art

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Friends and I regularly run movies and videos for each other online, a wonderful tradition it only took a pandemic for us to devise. We recently watched The Horse’s Mouth, a film based on a well-regarded book, starring Alec Guinness as an artist who destroys as much as he creates. At first it seems to be a relatively standard comedy, but as I sat with it, I felt it was more like Spinal Tap and similar movies – a comedy that hits close to reality. The artist Guinness portrays, Gully Jimson, is a a rambling storm of pathologies, who fascinates and repells at the same time – everyone seems to have a radically different opinion of the man.

The Artist As A Loutish Rorschach Blot as you will.

As Serdar, who introduced me to the film, noted, there doesn’t seem to be a market for stories of working artists. We seem to like our films to be about people who are wild or crazy. We may often see them as offensive like Mr. Jimson, but ultimately there’s something about our culture that accepts artists as talented a-holes. In the film, Mr. Jimson at best does a month in jail for threats, but is somehow accepted despite the fact one may question if his art is worth putting up with him.

But when we step back, our lives often contain many workman like artists and creators. We just pay attention to the annoying ones, and as they consume mental space, we forget everyone not being a bipedial emotional disaster. For every musical star posturing in their psychopathic delusions, I can easily think of ten of more talent and less need for treatment. Why do we ignore this?

First, I think that this is part of the Great Man theory that has infected our culture. We want to believe in a rule-breaking Ultratalent who transcends all boundaries to create great art. Certainly encouraging that viewpoint has fueled the rise of many artists and creatives and leaders, as well as the fall that always seems to come later. We create the idea of a Great Man.

Second, we are envious even if we may not admit it. We wish we were that person, who breaks rules and is awarded fame and money and sex and places in a museum. We want to believe it, so we both encourage it in others and feed the media our demands. We create the idea that maybe we can be like that – and should be.

Third, we believe each creator is unique and thus uniquely valuable. It is true everyone is unique, but that doesn’t mean there is superior value in that uniqueness. Because we may assume some ranting business leader is somehow unique, we assume he must be special. Sometime one is merely uniquely annoying. Yet we create the idea of value.

Fourth, we are distracted by spectacle. A posturing performer, an artist leaping atop a table and yelling at a convention, a start-up king burning millions gets attention. We want to enjoy the show, and writers and moviemakers will deliver that. We’ll create an interest in showing our dreams on sreen.

In the end, the reason we get these figures in media is we want them. Sadly, it means we miss out on the fascinating figures who may have not been drug off into rehab or melted down publicy. This is one of the reasons I adore movies and documentaries that go behind the scenes and into the less known – because often there’s far more there than a strutting rooster of a performer.

We get stories of these pathological artists as we created the delusions and the demand.

This is why, ultimately, The Horse’s Mouth fascinates me. This annoying, obsessive man (and a few others as bad as he) is a decent and passionate artist. But people worship him, or want his art, or tolerate him, believing there is something there. But is he worth it?

That’s probably the question, but except for one or two characters, Gully is surrounded by artists who’ve created their own idea of him.

Steven Savage

Creative Resources 7/9/2019

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

I haven’t posted one of these in a few months, so here’s the latest roundup of creative resources! I’ve added a few here and there, plus some game development tools.

Art Sources


  • Pixabay – A source for art that is free as well as royalty-free. There’s a lot here, and much of it is professional.
  • Unsplash – A source for photos that are free as well as royalty-free. The quality is very high.

Royalty Free

  • Canstockphoto – A great source for royalty-free art, photos, and more. Has a subscription system and a pay-more-get-more credit system.
  • Shutterstock – The classic source for royalty-free art, photos, and more. Has both monthly and specific purchases available.
  • The Noun Project – A fee or membership-based site for downloading a huge selection of royalty free icons! Once you pay for it or download it, it’s royalty-free! Useful for all sorts of projects

Book Covers


  • Go On Write – Premade covers for books – pick one that looks right and the artist will change the title and author appropriately. A great bargain, and even has series of covers at discount! Will do custom work to.


  • Paper and Sage – A reliable source of both premade and custom book covers.


  • 3D Book Cover Design – Makes 3D Mockups of book covers.
  • Canva – Book cover creator, though you will want to provide your own art if you don’t want to pay for rights to their stock photo. Also has other services.

Book Reviewers

Review Sources

  • Midwest book review – Will review books for free, but it’s a matter of choice.
  • Self Publishing Review – A classic paid review service (where a pool of reviewers is available) for books. Not always a guarantee of the best reviews of course, so you take your risks . .
  • The Indie Review – A large, constantly-updated list of indie book reviewers.

Color Tools


  • Color Tools – Plenty of useful online color tools.
  • HTML Color Codes – Useful color tools, with a focus on web-focused colors.
  • Material Palette – Useful tools for desginging palettes, finding icons, and locating specific colors

Color Schemes

  • Color At Adobe – A color theme creator that lets you create schemes, or even get one from a picture, and has a powerful interface.
  • Color Calculator – A color scheme creator that also has useful advice and guides.
  • Colormind – A color theme creator that creates schemes with simple clicking, or get one from a photo.
  • Colors at Halfpixel – A simple palette creator (with a mobile option) with intuitive controls.
  • Coolors – A useful and powerful color palette creator that’s easy to use and powerful.
  • Huesnap – A palette repository and creation tool

Contact Management

Mailing Lists

  • Mailchimp – Mailchimp may have some restrictions, but it’s the go-to for easy mailing list management, which is perfect for authors and artists. It also integrates well with other tools.


  • LinkedIn – The classic business networking site, and pretty unavoidable for most professionals.

Game Creation


  • Game Maker Studio – A powerful game creation tool, with free and paid options
  • Unity – A popular, well-supported game creation tool, not only popular, but one with many tutorials available.

Interactive Fiction – Graphics

  • Ren’py – A powerful game creation tool with an inclination to visual novels and life-sim, and capable of powerful customization.

Interactive Fiction – Text

  • Choicescript – A choice-based game system, both for fun and used commercially.
  • Twine – A web-based Interactive Fiction development tool with multiple options.


  • RPG Maker – Game creation tools – the original was RPG focused, but the company has also expanded into Visual Novels.


Generator Sites

  • Chaotic Shiniy – A diverse source of generators in a variety of styles.
  • Darkest of Nights – Fantasy-oriented generators.
  • Donjon – Generators for a variety of genres and game systems, some of which provide graphics as well!
  • Dropping-the-form – Generators for various settings.
  • DunGen – A powerful dungeon generation tool!
  • Eposic – Generators – among other imaginative efforts.
  • Fantasy Name Generators – And there are a LOT of them here. About anything you could want, and a few you didn’t know you needed.
  • Feath – Generators of various types, conveniently categorized.
  • Generator Blog – Links out to many other generators.
  • Generatorland – Lots of generators and generator tools.
  • Mithril and mages – Generators for a variety of genres.
  • Name Pistol – Band name generators.
  • RanGen – Random generators, from fantasy to helpful writing tools.
  • Serendipity – A generator site with some setting and name generators.
  • Seventh Sanctum – A gigantic collection of generators founded in 1999, with a focus on writing and RPGs.
  • Springhole.net – A site of generators and other creative tools.
  • Squid.org – Home of a complex name generator with many, many options.
  • The Force – A powerful name generator with multiple options.


Graphic Tools

  • Art Rage – A painting-oriented digital art program supporting many operating systems, tools, and formats.
  • Clip Studio – A comics, painting, and illustration tool with many options and features
  • Mediabang – A comic and painting application that’s free and multiplatform!
  • Paintstorm – A low-cost digital painting program with many advanced features.

Graphic Tools – Free

  • Gimp – Aka The GNU Image Manipulation Program. A free, open source graphic tool that will take care of almost all of your graphic needs (barring a few limits like CYMK conversion and the like).
  • Krita – A free graphic tool focused on professional workflows.
  • Made With Mischief – A quick, free sketching and brainstorming tool.
  • Sketchbook – A free sketching program.

Graphic Tools – Painting

  • BlackInk – A painting program, focusing on stylistic work as opposed to realistic


  • Pixemlator – A low-cost alternative to Photoshop for Mac, with lots of compatibility options

Helpful Tools

Relaxing Backgrounds

  • 4 Ever Transit Authority – Ride the bus through randomly generated art deco cities. A great program to run in the background or on your TV or monitor to relax you while you create.
  • Anomolies – A relaxing background display/artgame that creates surreal spacescapes, often with strange nebulas and sites that resembe anything from devices to lights to disturbing lifeforms.
  • Becalm – A relaxing journey via sailboat through surreal worlds with a relaxing soundtrack and audio. Can be run for a few minutes or in a loop and you can switch between multiple settings.
  • Panoramical – Available on Itch.io And Steam. Panoramical is an audio/visual remixer where you can tweak settings in multiple environments, turning them into audio/visual displays. Find your favorite setting, leave it on, and relax.
  • Station To Station – A simulated train ride through imaginary environments. Run it in the background or through your television while you create to help relax you



  • Adobe Portfolio – The popular porftolio site – that comes with many Adobe subscriptions.
  • Artstation – Multimedia-focused portfolio and blog platform
  • Format – A portfolio site with store services as well.

RPG Resources

Random Charts

  • Chartopia – A site with a huge and expanding amount of charts for RPGs, easily sortable and classified.



  • ACX – Amazon’s self-publishing audio platform
  • Audible – Another amazon audiobook publishing platform
  • Findaway – A wide-ranging audiobook distribution service.


  • Drive Thru Cards – Self-publishing for card games, both physical and downloads.


  • Itch.io – Itch.io doesn’t just do games – it also allows for people to publish books, and is very open-minded.
  • Kobo Writing Life – Distribute your eBook via Kobo
  • Nook Press – Distribute your eBook via Nook


  • Draft2Digital – A service that distributes to multiple eBook platforms.
  • Smashwords – A wide-ranging ebook distribution service.

Physical And Ebook

  • Ingram Spark – Ingram’s eBook and physical book publishing platform. Wide reach, but may require some setup fees and has some limitations.
  • KDP – Amazon’s full-service print and Kindle publishing service. Warning, the eBook distribution is only through Amazon.
  • Lulu.com – A print and eBook creation and distribution service.


  • Drive Thru RPG – Self-publishing for RPGs, both downloadable and in print. Also supports related merch like calendars.

Video Games

  • Itch.io – Itch.io is a supportive, indie-oriented game store site. It also has a lot of self-published resources for game development, as well as supporting books of all kind.

Website Creation


  • Squarespace – The popular website creator with many options.
  • Weebly – Easy and simple to use website, blogs, and stores.
  • Wix – A simple And effective website source, though paid options are reccomended.
  • WordPress.com – The classic site, with free and paid options. Obviously blog-focused.

Writing Research


  • Old Maps Online – A way to find and view old maps of the world. Great for research and imagining.

Writing Tools

Ebook Creation

  • Calibre – A free ebook creation tool.
  • Jutoh – Not only converts your book to various ebook formats, it’s a powerful enough tool that you could even write books in it.

Word Processing

  • LibreOffice – A full, free, open source office suite. Beyond the free price, it’s fantastic ad using ODT format and creating PDFs.

Word Tools

  • Describing Words – Ideas for how to describe a given word.
  • Dictionary.com – The classic online dictionary.
  • Related Words – Helps find words similar to or related to one you’re using.
  • Rhyme Zone – A tool to help you find rhyming words.
  • Thesaurus.Com – The classic online thesaurus, with plenty of useful options and displays
  • Wordsworth – A tool to see if words you’re using fit the time period you’re writing


  • Scriviner – A writing tool that combines note taking, tracking, and writing into one application.

Writing Checking

  • Grammarly – A pricey but powerful service and software for checking grammar, spelling, and even plagarism if you need. There are free, limited options.
  • Hemmingway – A grammar checking tool with both web and desktop versions.
  • Pro Writing Aid – A subscription-based writing checker service/tool.

Steven Savage