Interview with James Yee

James 01I am a long term Space Tracker.  I’ve worked at Goldstone, JPL, and I’m now at the White Sands TDRS tracking facility in New Mexico.  I’ve been tracking satellites for over 10 years now.

Besides that I’m just one big loveable furball of nerdyness. 🙂

Bragging rights

I have a wonderful wife, a precocious little girl, and a rambunctious son. I also work for NASA and I’m a first Responder.

1.       Did we ever pass each other in the halls at CSU? I didn’t attend there for college, but I hung out there a lot in the late eighties…

Nope, I didn’t get to Colorado State University until 1997.  Even then I spent more time at Marching Band and fraternity meetings than class.  (Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia)

2.       How would you explain to my daughter’s Kindergarten class what you do at NASA?

I’m like the mailman for all the spacecraft out there.  Though with kids being as tech savy as they are now a days I might have to start saying Internet provider.  I send and receive all the messages two and from most of the spacecraft we have in the solar system.  Currently I talk to the ones orbiting the earth but I used to talk to all the ones circling other planets and driving on Mars!

3.       Do you or your colleagues identify with any of the characters in The Big Bang Theory?

Yes and no.  I’ve been compared to Sheldon on occasion but at the same time the show annoys me at how they get geek culture wrong so I try not to compare people I like to it.

4.       For those who have been living under a rock for the past few years, could you explain what Kickstarter is?

Kickstarter is a rewards based crowdfunding website.  What that means is it’s a lot like Girl Scout Cookies in that the creators (the Girl Scouts in our example) sell the promise of a product (those overpriced but delicious cookies) with the goal of raising enough funds to actually produce the products and deliver them.  It’s a capital raising system that instead of going to a bank or an angel investor goes straight to the consumer.  This allows smaller or more niche projects to have a chance of being created in a way that hasn’t been done before.

That said, Kickstarter is NOT a “pre-order” system and there is very much an element of risk involved.  Some like to call backing a project as “donating” and assume they’ll get nothing out of it.  Personally I think of it as an investment which may or may not pay off.

5.       Do you have any Kickstarter favorites, past or present?

Well one of my favorites was of course Liftport Group’s Space elevator project.  The space elevator concept has always been a favorite of mine and it ended up being one of my first “live” interviews so the project ranks right at the top of my favorite’s list.

Favorites as far as good projects run the gambit from FTL which ended up being a really fun game, to Serpent’s Tongue which I’m still waiting on but it sounds like it is finally being printed.  That’s only counting projects I’ve backed, there are dozens of other projects I’ve interviewed and looked at that were great in so many ways!

6.       What’s the biggest Kickstarter success story you’ve witnessed?

That depends on what the definition of a “success” is.  If it is raising a lot of money then the big projects like Wastelands 2, Shadowrun Returns, and Double Fine Adventures are right up there.  If it is creating a product that I think will change its industry then I have to point out the Oculus Rift.  If it is about releasing a product that meets or exceeds the Kickstarter promise then I’d point out FTL.

To me though, the biggest success stories are the projects that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Kickstarter.  The project by the independent creators who are just trying to tell a great story, or share their vision with the rest of world, these projects are the true success stories of Kickstarter.  Be it the Peter Pan Manga that recently crossed its goal, or the Namesake webcomic print runs, or the four successful Stripsearch Alumni coming to start their own comics, or the small bacon fudge maker from California.  There are so many wonderful success stories that are happening every day on Kickstarter.

7.       What’s the biggest mistake one can make in running a Kickstarter campaign?

Succeeding too quickly.

Oh sure, there are tons of things you can do wrong in a Kickstarter: not running a good ground game, not putting up a budget breakdown, no video, bad video, my list of things that make a Kickstarter a bad one goes on and on, but the number one thing that can ruin a Kickstarter project is succeeding too quickly.

What I mean by that is a project can just explode, be it by getting good press or just being a great idea.  Double Fine Adventures is a fine example of this, as is Serpent’s Tongue.  Both projects far exceeded their goals and did quite well for themselves early on.  Both projects started posting “stretch” goals and both projects have far exceeded their delivery dates and with “broken promises” as some harsher critics might say.   The problem with doing well is you want to do even better so you put up stretch goals, or you feel you’ll have more budget to play with so you try to make the project better; but the trap there is that many often end up over promising on under budgeted items.  Overruns and unforeseen problems always add to costs and many a successful Kickstarter has run into financial problems after the fact because they did too well.

8.       What do you do to help people with their Kickstarters?

Well the first thing I do is spread the word. I’m not the biggest name out there but then again neither are the folks who I try to help out.  Sometimes just letting folks know about a Kickstarter is a big help.

The second thing I do is I try to educate.  I have more “Tricks and Tips” type articles in the works, but mostly I point out what projects are doing right, and what projects are doing wrong. *Cough* Budget Breakdowns* Cough*  I also try to explain to newcomers what Kickstarter is all about, how it works, and how to avoid bad projects.

Finally, I like to share the story and dig beneath the Kickstarter campaign to the creators behind the campaign with my interviews.  I’ve found many creators actually have very compelling stories that help sell their projects, they just don’t know how to put them into words and get the word out.  Others just are really interesting people that have a vision they’re trying to share.  In the end they all provide a window into the world of Kickstarter creators and the backers that back them.

It is one of the sad stories that cause a community to come together and do something great.  Mechwarrior Online is a free to play Battletech fighting game allow players from across the world to shoot other players around the world in big stompy robots.  It’s a really fun game that, as a father, I don’t mind letting my kids see me play as they’re just robots.  (Or as my daughter calls them “ROBOTS!”)  Turns out, I’m not the only father who let his daughter watch as he played big stompy robots.

Sarah’s father played the game, and let her watch as he did so. The big reason she got to watch him play the game so often was because she had cancer.  Her story caught on with the community and the devs when they found out they decided to help out.  They created a specially painted Jenner in Sarah’s honor and donated the proceeds from the sales of the Jenner to the Canadian Cancer fund.

Gamers are often thought of as “kids” who don’t care about the community but I think the Sarah’s Jenner campaign is just yet another example of how wrong that mindset is.

April_Rose_by_gozerthecarpathian10.   What are Webcomic Creators?

Webcomic creators are those who create a comic and post it on the web for everyone to enjoy.  To me webcomics are actually the best way to get your work out there if you’re a comic creator.  They don’t cost anywhere near what a print run does, they can actually pay for themselves with enough work, and if you’re really dedicated and have a compelling story you can make a living with your comic without the need of a publisher.

In a lot of ways Webcomics are the “indie” of the comic world.

Chapter 2 Alt11.   What happened to your web comic? Do you think you’ll revive it?

Heh which one?  My first webcomic, Consumed, died do to personal complications with the artist.  While the artist and I are back on good terms we’ve both moved on from that story.

My second story, Innocence Lost, was an interesting series of mistakes and learning experiences.  It showed that I could do some artistic thin

gs, but in the end I’m no artist.  It introduced me into the 3D modeling/rendering hobby and most importantly, it introduced me to my future wife.

Would I ever revive Innocence Lost?  Maybe, but again I think I’ve moved beyond that story.  If I was to enter back into the realm of webcomics it would either be with my wife doing the art, or as a “picture book” more than a webcomic so I can focus on the writing more.

Orange_Girl_by_gozerthecarpathian12.   What other writing do you do? Is it fun?

So besides the blogging and the social media writing I have been known to write for Tabletop Adventures for some of their books.  I’ve also done some fan fiction for EVE Online but I’ve found I tend not to like fan fiction as I’m too much of a world builder and I like having all the control.

My biggest problem when it comes to writing is my short attention span and inherent laziness.  Because of those two things I have lots of different “irons in the fire” as it were none of which are very hot.

First off I have my “Merge” RPG setting that I’ve been working on for about a decade.  It’s been play tested by various RP groups I’ve run and while the setting in broad strokes works, it’s the details I need to work on and I’ve been too lazy and distracted to actually focus on it.  Plus, until recently I was trying to come up with a game system to put into it; but thanks to Kickstarter I might just have that solved thanks to the FATE game system.

Secondly, I have been debating on learning programming, or finding myself a programmer to work with to do a video game.  As such I have a few game docs I’ve written up and I tweak as I rework them, again though I’ve yet to devote the time and energy to really do much on this.

Finally I have at least one feature length script that I even registered at the Writer’s guild for all the good it did me.  I wrote that way back in 1999 to see if I could actually finish a project.  Turns out if I set myself a deadline and some rewards/penalties I actually CAN finish things.  They may not be any good but they can be “done.”  That said I have far more half written, outlined, or “worked on in my head” stories than I care to admit.

They’re all fun and interesting in their own way, in the end though it’s my fault nothing has ever come of any of them.

For_Sparta_by_gozerthecarpathian13.   Your wife is an incredible artist! Does she do book covers?

Why yes, my wife does do book covers and is always open to commissions.  In fact she’s even done an album cover and oddly enough a line of guitar amps.  She also does prints for those who don’t want something custom.

Darkness-Within By Sharyn Yee

Darkness-Within By Sharyn Yee

His Sorceress by Sharyn Yee

His Sorceress by Sharyn Yee

Is It Safe? By Sharyn Yee Stay tuned for her interview soon!

Is It Safe? By Sharyn Yee Stay tuned for her interview soon!

14.   What’s your favorite artistic subject? Have you ever taken a deep space image (NASA has tons of free images) and manipulated it?

Personally I LOVE spaceships, space stations, and pretty much everything space.  I’ve used some NASA images as backgrounds in some of my bridge scenes and the like.  Lately I’ve been doing modeling but not rendering which means I never get to the pretty pictures phase as I’m doing all the “move the dots to make ships” phase.

15.   What is your favorite electronic or digital drawing tool?

That I’ve actually used?  That would be the mouse.  There are lots of interesting products out there that I’d love to try out but nothing I’ve actually bought or ever needed.  My Logitech gaming mouse is currently all I need as I’m not that advanced.

16.   What is your favorite non-electronic drawing tool?

Camel Hair paint brushes.  They were my favorite paint brushes for painting miniatures.

17.   Do either you or your wife have any space elevator art?

Nope, I model the start of an image but never finished it.

18.   How did you get involved with Liftport?

During the Kickstarter campaign I interviewed Michael about the project.  It was my first “real time” interview and we ended up talking quite a bit around the interview which is how I got sucked into his orbit.  Ever since then he’s talked to me now and then about Liftport, space and Kickstarter in General.   As it stands now I’m mostly a “concerned observer” and backer of the the campaign.

19.   What would it take for you to relocate your family to the moon?

A job.  Seriously if I could go work on the moon and the family could come with we’d probably be there in a heartbeat.

20.   Who shot first, Han or Greedo?

I disagree with the premise of the question.  “Shot First” implies there were multiple shots.  As Han was the only one to fire, and it only took one, there wasn’t a “first shot” there was just “a shot.”

Bonus Question: Why do you go by the name Gozer the Carpathian? 

 There are actually two answers to this, one is “in character” the other is “out of character.”

In character:   Gozer the Carpathian was spawned by a wild one night stand between demi beings, Gozer the Gozerian and Vigo the Carpathian.  Afterwards Gozer the Carpathian was created and left behind by his parents.  Being a multi-dimensional being he traveled the multiverse, discovering who and what he was, and deciding he liked being a businessman.  He soon decided to trade throughout the multiverse providing goods to folks that weren’t available in their home dimensions.

Unfortunately, the transdimensional police don’t take too kindly to this perfectly legitimate trade.  They seem to think it “throws off the balance” and is a form of “smuggling.”  So inflexible.  After a particularly forceful brush with the TDPD Gozer felt he should, collect himself and take a break from the trade game.  So he found himself a nice quiet corner of the multiverse to relax in.  That corner just happened to be a part of my brain.  I’ve been stuck with him ever since.

OOC:  I was about 13 when I first logged onto a BBS for the first time.  They asked for my handle and because it was 3 AM and I had watched Ghostbusters the previous night I kinda goofed up on the name.   It’s stuck and ever since I’ve been running around with it.  🙂

About AmyBeth Inverness

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice.
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3 Responses to Interview with James Yee

  1. Pingback: Interview with Sharyn Yee | AmyBeth Inverness

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