A solid half-year late the UVG hardcovers are finally reaching their backers. This has been an incredible project for me. Hard, yet fulfilling. Grueling, yet often fun. Exhausting, but also somehow inspiring.
I drew the first pieces of art and wrote the first versions of the texts that went on to form the UVG in early 2017. By August 2018 the core of the book was written. By April 2019 we had a successful kickstarter and an edited manuscript. By June 2019 most of the hard layout was done and I knuckled down to start coloring all the art. That was quite a bit of work, to be honest!
Then, quite unexpectedly, my father died in August of 2019. Dealing with the funeral and the aftermath was almost certainly the hardest thing I had ever done.
I tried to throw myself into both finishing the book and my planned Korean course that September. It was a mistake. Between lessons and homework, the course demanded easily eight hours of my day, five days a week. Until mid October 2019, when I finally finished coloring the last pieces of art for the UVG, my days were a blur. Wake up at seven, color one piece, go to class, come home, color a bit more, fall asleep, color some more art, do home work, go to sleep at midnight.
It all felt a bit much, but perhaps I needed it at the time. When I saw the piles of homework to prepare for the midterms, right after I finished the last coloring on the UVG, I knew I was done. I couldn’t keep up the pace anymore.
I skiped the classes and promptly fell ill as all the stress came cascading down on my head. After a week, still ill, I decided I wasn’t going back. This was too much.
I still tried to maintain a schedule of private classes while finishing the last parts of the UVG. The referee screen, the postcards, the other details, but my progress had slowed to a crawl.
Whether I admitted it to myself or not, I was circling the drain of complete burnout by November 2019. I wanted to take a holiday there and then, but one thing after another still required my attention. Redoing a .pdf, tweaking a contract, other work.
Over the new year my wife and I went on a week-long holiday and that helped. It helped me realize that I had depleted pretty much all my energy reserves. I couldn’t even handle day-to-day tasks in Korea anymore, much less new projects with Exalted Funeral. I went ahead and disappointed Matt by pulling back from any creative direction work. I’d been keen to get a whole line of products up and running, but there was just no time or headspace left.
I ditched my private Korean lessons and focused on getting some urgent administrative tasks dealt with, before heading to Europe for a bit of rest and recalibration. Even as I was sorting things out, the coronavirus pandemic began spooling up.
I watched with a kind of dull horror as the Daegu outbreak spread in Korea and country after country blocked flights from Korea. Fortunately, I made it to Europe … just in time to see the outbreak repeat itself in Italy and all my plans for a sabbatical go up in a cloud of virus-loaded droplets. Within a week of the start of my sabbatical, I was self-isolating within my family home, watching in something akin to terror as one European government after another failed to take the pandemic seriously.
Even as the books arrived at the Exalted Funeral warehouse, the pandemic continued to ramp up and lockdowns continued to spread. Days, weeks, months ticked by. Later and later we were.
Still, there was one good thing: everything was out of my hands now. All the books and merchandise and extra materials were printed and on their way to Matt. My part was done. Meanwhile, Slovenia locked down. First the borders were shut. Then the county borders, too. The world contracted to the family house and garden and nearby river and forests and hills. The airplanes disappeared from the skies. The cars disappeared from the roads. Birdsong reclaimed the silent world. Friends and acquaintances disappeared from the horizon, made unreachable by the distancing measures.
All was still.
In April it had been eight years and three countries since I had left my homeland for the second time in my life, and this chance to simply be myself, to simply speak my own language, to not be a migrant or traveler, to not be apart from the world (though apart in isolation), was a wonderful tonic.
I marvelled at the landscapes and the flowers and the flighty deer in the fore-dawn mists as I never had. I had seen these sights yet been blind to them before. Now I watched again.
Was it even burnout?
I can’t tell for sure. I guess, looking back, it might have been. Or its very edge. I had had the distinct feeling that I was skating round and round the edge of a deep well, leaning further and further over that lip, closer so closer to falling in. I’d felt that if I was carrying a teacup, then my cup was very very full, so full I could barely keep its tea from spilling, so full nothing more could be added without spilling.
By late April 2020, eight hard months late in the teeth of pandemic, the UVG books—my UVG books—were going out. Were meeting their new owners. And I was able to feel joy when I saw that.
When I reopened their pages and saw their layout I was able to think to myself, “you know, this isn’t half bad. I did put in quite a lot of thought and effort. There were reasons to my madness.”
Do I think it’s perfect? No, of course not.
But I am quite proud of what I’ve made. Yes, after many months, I do feel some small flicker of pride.
Thank you to everyone who made the UVG possible. My wife who encouraged me to try. The patreons who watched and encouraged its growth. Exalted Funeral who helped turn it into a kickstarter. The backers who made the kickstarter a success. The Moonrats who made the text more excellent. Saker Tarsos who built a digital companion. The typohunters who made sure to hunt down every literary gremlin. Anna of Doubleproficiency who jumped in to help by the time I was too tired to do the final pieces. Everyone who bought and shared and read and enjoyed it. Everyone who shared warm words and kind excitement and useful critique as it took shape. And finally, everyone who was patient and understanding these last six, eight, nine months that I barely remember through the blur of work and life and death and events.
This has been hard.
But it has been good.
And the UVG is complete*.
—Luka, May, 2020, During Quarantine
*Well, aside from making a digital SRD, a third-party license, translation rights, the metal yoga video, and other things like the ZOA supplement, and the Flying Head thing, and Red Sky Dead City, and the Gölemkraftwagen supplement. But, hey, no rush on those, right?
Oh, right, and of course … if you’re wondering what in blazes all this is … it’s a roleplaying book. We ran a kickstarter for it last year with Exalted Funeral. Now it’s available. You can also back future works and games and books of mine over at the stratometaship.