Enter "The Legends of Mernac" [Interview with founder Rick Merriman]
August 22, 2006 3:00 am
Meet Rick Merriman, Renderosity member Arumbus and a man with a great vision. As an artist and writer, he is founder of The Legends of Mernac. With a quick look through his Renderosity gallery, you can see glimpses of this world he created, and just how it has consumed him.
I had the unique opportunity to talk with Rick about how this vision came about, what it is, and what it will soon mean for many artists and writers all over the world.
First, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I hate talking about me – that tale is a bit boring, LOL. I am an Australian who grew up in Southeast Asia and I immigrated to the States in the early 80’s. I now live in Pompano Beach, Florida with my lovely wife and my youngest son. For most of my career I have been involved in sales, marketing and advertising of lighting products and I am currently the General Manager of Delta Light USA, the North American extension of the Belgian architectural lighting fixture manufacturer. My passions have always learned toward the arts and I have played with writing, graphic art, acting, mime, magic and I even used to do clowning and singing telegrams. These days however, most of my creative outlet has been limited to rendered art, fantasy fiction and, of course, The Mernac Project.
Well, there are three ways I can answer that depending on how much time you have! LOL.
The one line answer is:
Art inspired by prose and prose inspired by Art.
The short answer is:
Mernac is a new form of art and entertainment designed to facilitate ever growing content and audience appeal, and is expected to spread attracting contributions from hundreds, even thousands, of talented writers and artists from around the world.
The long answer is somewhat more complex. There are many answers to this question. A better question may be: "What is Mernac at a specific point in time?" The reason is that The Legends of Mernac site is designed to be an ever-evolving new form of entertainment and a new form of art. Ok, maybe not exactly a new form of art or entertainment but a combination of many existing forms and by combining those, we hope to create something that is new and unique.
Mernac will eventually have aspects of written prose (fiction), 2D art, 3D art, world building, animation, music, interactive story telling, MMORPG text gaming (in the MUD tradition), MMORPG 3D (in the EQ/WOW tradition) and eventually the ability to create 3D animation stories. The one unifying thread is the genre of fantasy, more specifically High Fantasy (Tolkien, Brooks, Bradley, Goodkind). Many of these aspects may be months or years away -- So, let’s talk about the basics right now.
At the very beginning, The Legends of Mernac will be a series of interrelated high fantasy stories that all occur in the same setting, or world. All the stories will also be illustrated by digital art. Though any art medium is welcome, the majority is expected to be 3D renderings such as those created by Poser, DAZ Studio, Bryce, Vue, 3DMAX, Maya and the like. All art must be submitted to a specific story and will be required to “match” or “fit” the story. When open to the public, Mernac will accept submission from anyone with an internet connection (who is a member). Currently, while we are in the beta testing mode only Beta-Testers are contributing art and stories. We, by the way, are still looking for some beta testers who are artists to fully test the site before it opens next month and continue testing future features, even when the site is open.
What will be created is a never-ending series of stories and art work with unlimited branches, all interconnected to other stories and art by a series of links and commonalities. Soon after the Mernac site is launched, we will add the other forms of entertainment and art, which will be contributed by our users. This will include music and/or soundtracks, game levels (text, 2D, and 3D), animations, and eventually movies (clips at first, then longer length features are the hope). All this content will be based on The Legends (stories) of Mernac.
How did you get the idea for The Legends of Mernac?
Mernac has been in the works for quite some time now. It actually evolved from a single short story I wrote, “Goldenfur” about 15 years ago. The story infected me! I found myself forever thinking of (and writing) additional stories set in the same world (Mernac) that Goldenfur was set in and images flooded my mind of what this high fantasy world looked like. This is actually what got me into digital art. I had to find some way to get these images out of my head and shown visually, so I discovered the wonderful world of renderings.
Slowly the whole concept of constructing a “world” made up of inter-related stories (or Legends as we like to call them) illustrated by art evolved. I knew that there were a ton of other artists and writers that have the same interest in high fantasy that would be interested in a project where they could show off their creativity. Then I had a “What if” moment. “What if there was a venue where various artists (writers, artists, musicians, programmers) could give their work an audience and also an opportunity to earn money for their work?”. This is what Mernac really has evolved into; a place that fosters creativity and provides a means for talented people to earn compensation and/or appreciation for their efforts. We have half a dozen ways for doing this that will be unveiled one-by-one over the next few months.
Mernac is open to art submissions from anyone that is a registered user of the www.mernac.com site (which is completely free). Submission here is a bit different than some of the art sites out there, as art is submitted to an individual story and is meant to illustrate that story. Writers alternately will submit stories (Legends) to fantasy art on the site that inspires them. The concept here is: “Art inspired by Prose and Prose inspired by Art”, and the never-ending illustrated story which that combination makes possible. Right now the site is still in the beta-testing stage, so it would be easier to submit as a beta tester, but art can be submitted in the public section of the site as well. All art must be in a Jpeg format with a maximum of 1600 X 1200 pixels and a maximum of 1 MB in size. Thumbnails of 200 X 200 pixels should also be submitted. In general we are looking for art that “fits” the fantasy genre, “fits” the world of Mernac, and most importantly “fits” the story it was submitted to. A bit challenging… but a lot of fun!
What are your goals for Mernac?
The Legends of Mernac is meant to be a highly entertaining “new” art form freely available on the internet. It features the illustrated 10,000 year history of the mythical world of Mernac. The first goal is to provide our audience with fast paced high fantasy adventures expressed in writing and awe inspiring art. After the base of writing and art is well under way, we are also planning on adding some additional features; music, sound tracks, RPG games and animated movies all based on the Legends and art found in Mernac. All this content will be contributed from artists from around the world. Our long term goal is to provide a venue where artists have the opportunity to gain some measure of success and/or financial compensation for their work. Initially, this compensation is in the way of cash prizes for the “best of” art and writing, but many other means of providing success and income to contributors are in the works. Mernac’s first, of many, art contests will be announced in August and is scheduled to begin in September. The Founders of Mernac truly believe that the success of Mernac is dependent on helping others become successful; our success is an inevitable byproduct of helping others become successful.
What about the Contests you have mentioned, what is all that about?
Well our first contest is for Art contributions and will actually be held right here on Renderosity. It will start on September 1st and last for the remainder of the month. The theme of the contest will be “Fantasy Art inspired by prose” and we will be looking for high fantasy art submissions that “fit” or illustrate the story they are submitted to. Each entry will involve a dual submission, one here in the Renderosity Contest gallery and one to a specific story seen on Mernac.com. In the Renderosity entry I am asking that the Artist cut-and-paste the paragraph or two from the story that inspired them to make the submission. No limit to how many entries each person can make and we are fine with existing work (re-posts) as long as they fit Mernac and more importantly fit the story they were submitted to.
The winner will receive $500.00. As we believe in promoting artists and writers, we have made arrangements with ImagineFX, the Fantasy/Sci Fi magazine for artists, to publish the winner and some of the finalists in an upcoming edition of their monthly magazine… a little exposure and some professional credits for the Artists! Of course, we will also make sure to mail a copy of the magazine to all the artists that are published in ImagineFX.
Yes there certainly is.
This philosophy is simple, and is based on a few truisms (or at least what I consider truisms).
1) We believe that the people who use the internet are (in general terms), the brightest and most creative people on the planet.
2) Fantasy (particularly fantasy where “magic” and “gods” or “mystical beings” are integral to the story) is currently one of the most accepted and sought after forms of art and entertainment today (think, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Harry Potter, Everquest, WOW, or even the George Lucas’ Star Wars, for that matter).
3) We believe there are thousands of people (hundreds of thousands, maybe millions) who are incredibly talented artist, writers, musicians, programmers, promoters or business people, that are stuck in day-to-day jobs (or worse). With their God-given talents, they have no business being stuck doing something that does not tap into their passion and talent. I further believe that IF there were “something” that could help those people meet their potential (and give them a way to benefit financially from it), that both those people and the “something” that helped them would both become incredibly successful. Mernac is designed (hopefully) to be that “something”. The Bottom line is, I believe that the surest path to success is to help other people become successful.
4) We believe that creative people (in general) are inherently a bit egotistical and arrogant (though we often pretend not to be ;-) ). I believe the most creative are also quite competitive as they believe that their ideas/talents (be that story, art, music, game, or business savvy) are better than most, if not all others. With this in mind, Mernac will heavily rely on competitions and contests with financial rewards to entice these creative people to show us all “their stuff”.
5) I believe in the basic “goodness” of people (of course, there are many exceptions). I believe that “good” (and/or “good” intentions) may often be temporarily dominated by “evil” (and/or “evil” intentions) but “good” eventually prevails. I expect any who read my stories will see this theme repeated time and time again. I further believe that most people (regardless of where they personally fall on the proverbial “good” to “evil” scale) at least WANT to believe in “good”. The Legends of Mernac will feed these beliefs in various entertaining ways. How we promote Mernac will also be based on those principles.
6) We believe that most people (as a whole) at least want to “do the right thing” and want to “believe in the right thing” (even if they do not always do it).… this is what the Mernac site is all about.
7) I believe that Mernac will eventually be a goldmine and financially very profitable. I believe that after providing my family with a comfortable living (and a way for others who contribute to or promote Mernac to provide their families with a comfortable living) that the bulk of any profits should be used to fund and help talented people create their art, or businesses (any of the arts or any kind of business). Yes, you heard me right; once successful, the bulk of the profits of Mernac (and the companies that will follow it) will be dispersed to help others (whether they have heard of Mernac or not) become successful --especially if those business plans or art are also designed to help other talented people.
So in a nutshell, the philosophy behind Mernac is a belief that there are many people in the world with the same primary belief as I have. That despite race, religion, creed, sex or any other mitigation; people are basically good and that by helping others, you yourself become successful. No, it is not an original idea… not even a new idea… but I finally “got it”. Mernac is the result. This is what I believe -- I hope your readers do (or will) as well.
How’s that for some heavy topics for an interview! hehe. But seriously, the philosophy behind Mernac is the driving force of what this site and entertainment form will become.
You mention that you are looking for more beta testers. Have you had many working on this so far? Are there certain areas/skills you are looking for or need now? And for future functionality?
We have a nice core of active beta testers but could definitely use some more. Our best beta testers do far more than just someone testing if this or that works properly. The best ones tell us what they like, don’t like, what they would like to see from their chosen discipline’s perspective (artist, writer, programmer, etc). To us, our beta testers are our brain trust! They, more than anyone, will help shape what Mernac evolves into. We are particularly looking for beta testers that are artists who are willing to spend a little time testing certain functionality AND also are willing to upload their art to be used as the initial base content for the Mernac site.
The Beta testers will always be the ones to first experience and test the future functionality we have planned. This includes; music to accompany the stories and art, gaming based on the Legends of Mernac, and eventually being able to make 3D based movies. There are even further reaching goals where the beta tester’s input will be critical… Mernac is not only meant to be a fantasy Genre. There will eventually be Sci Fi worlds, mystery worlds, horror worlds, romance worlds and so on. There are other long term goals for The Mernac Project where we will need beta testers such as, “Finding your soul” through creativity and art… but that is probably best left for a future interview.
I certainly hope so. It will depend largely on communities such as the one here at Renderosity. If, after the site opens, they embrace the concept and are willing to contribute their creativity to it… well it may just progress at light speed.
When did you start writing, and is the short story "Goldenfur" available anywhere?
I have written for as long as I can remember. It is a big part of who I am. I think the first “real” fiction short story I wrote was when I was about 12 or 13 when I lived in Indonesia. I have never really promoted my fiction writing and most of my professional credits are non fiction and mostly deal with lighting – or the sales and promotion of lighting products.
Goldenfur was printed in an anthology of my short stories about 15 years ago – but there were almost no copies printed so I think it would be hard to find. The best bet to read it is on the Legends of Mernac site where I have serialized and added to the story. You would find Goldenfur under The Sap Wars era which occurred during the third millennia. Unfortunately, unless you are a beta tester you will not have access to this until September 1st when the site is fully open to the public.
When did you first get the ball rolling, and who has shared your vision from the start?
The “ball” wiggled around in my head for 15 years, maybe more, trying to find the best way to be expressed. I always wanted Mernac to be something that many talented people could work on and I had a terrible problem finding a way to express all the different interest/ideas I had in the same venue. It finally hit me smack in the face about a year ago, I call if my “What if” moment. I remember it clearly, and expect I always will. It was during a show on VH1 called “Filthy Rich Billionaires” (hopefully a good omen ;-) ). In a matter of few minutes the whole concept seemed to “download” into my mind – enough to fill hundreds of pages! Then I had it! I knew what to do!
Nick, if you are wondering about what the “What if” idea is? - you’ll have to wait until September 1st. It is going to be posted once (though I expect it will be copied and pasted many times) somewhere on the internet (not on Mernac)… then I expect many things about The Mernac Project will become clear and I think it will get quite a bit of attention.
My wife Heather is the only one that I have completely shared my vision with and she has been wonderful over the last year helping me get ready to present it on September 1st. I must say, however, that a number of our site’s beta testers have come VERY close to guessing the full extent of what we will do. I can say this, the whole concept is based on promoting creativity through contests and people helping people. Beyond that you will have to wait until September 1st to find out “what if” it is really a good idea ;-)
Rick Merriman, the founder of The Legends of Mernac, is an Australian writer and artist now living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He is an avid fantasy fan who sometimes gets lost in his creations but still finds time to spend with his16 nubile virgin brides, two Hell Hounds, and his pet Dragon, Skippie.
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Nick's Notes is a Renderosity Front Page column with Managing Editor, Nick C. Sorbin, providing reviews, interviews, and general commentary.
August 21, 2006