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The Long Game

It was always there, all along; it just looked like a series of shorter stories but it really has been one long arc, stretching (as of today) across 6437 strips in 6437 days. And another 800-1000 or so to come.

I speak, naturally, of webcomics own unstoppable machine (and my evil twin), Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary. Following the ups and downs of his quasi-merry band of (mostly well-intentioned) space sociopaths mercenaries¹ through story arc after story arc (currently, Book 18), one could have been forgiven to interpreting it like any of the sprawling SF strips of the past like Flash Gordon — the story is eternal, we’ll loop back around to those characters later, it’s an infinitely prolonged serial.

Except it’s not:

These daily installments are significant, because the current outline for the Schlock Mercenary mega-arc has the story of Tagon’s Toughs wrapping up triumphantly just two and one-half books from today. We’re about halfway through Book 18, and “The End” lands at the end of Book 20. We’re writing our way toward that point right now.

Two and a half books, and coincidentally in 2020, or 20 years from the start (thus the fudge factor in the future strip count above). And an ambitious plan to go with it:

This brings me back around to our 2018 goals. If we release three print editions this year, then the current online volume, Book 18, will end in the same calendar year as the publication of books 13, 14, and 15. Should the schedule work out well, we shall endeavor to do it again in 2019, with Book 19 ending online in the same calendar year as the print publication of books 16, 17, and 18.

You see where this is leading, right? Our ultimate goal is for the print editions of books 19 and 20, the final volumes in the twenty year (seriously, it feels weird saying that) telling of the story of Tagon’s Toughs, to be available at about the same time Book 20 wraps up on the web. Our 2018 goals are tied very closely to our goals for 2019 and 2020, and the next three years can be considered on some level as a single project which fulfills the past eighteen years of work we’ve done.

As I said, ambitious, but I have faith in Tayler’s ability to execute. More precisely, I have faith in Taylers, plural, ability to execute, as Howard’s wife Sandra² is the Dwayne The Rock Johnson of publishing and logistics. I’m pretty sure that efforts at monetizing Schlock Mercenary beyond the odd t-shirt or print-on-demand digest³ would have fallen down without her hand on the organizational tiller … and I’m pretty sure that Howard would agree.

So look for eight books — a full 40% of the 20 year run of Schlock Mercenary — to drop from The Tayler Corporation in the next two and a half, three years. Maybe start budgeting now? And if you’re of the mind that what you really want is a ~7500 page omnibus behemoth edition, start dropping hints into the nearest Tayler ear now. That sort of thing takes time, and the next couple a’ years are gonna be busy.

Spam of the day:

Girls battle for your heart: choose Yuliya or Tatyana

Hey, sketchy Russian/Ukrainian mail-order bride site? You imply I should choose between two women (gross), but you only show one (bad at math). That last part is especially insulting, considering how many world-class mathematicians Russia has produced (like, a lot).

¹ Pəˈteɪtoʊ, pəˈtɐtoʊ.

² Does this make her my evil twin-in-law, my evil sister-in-law, or my wife’s evil twin? I’m not sure how the transitive property applies here.

³ Not to mention the ability to support a family with four kids (one college tuition down and others looming), a couple vehicles, and a mortgage. There are zero small humans that depend on me for their next meal and I would have been terrified to take the leap that Tayler & Tayler did (as recounted in an SDCC session a dozen years back … damn, I used to do a lot of typing).

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