Dave Robison is a passionate Literary and Vocal Alchemist (and unrepentant nerd) whose creative ADHD prompts him to pursue a wide range of projects. He’s narrated dozens of stories for audio fiction podcasts, brainstormed hundreds of story ideas with some of the stellar luminaries of the literary firmament, designed board games, and created software platforms. If it celebrates the storyteller’s craft in some way, shape, or form, Dave has either done it, is doing it, or will do it.
Dave, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Let’s talk Archivos! You have built an impressive brand and community, complete with a podcast and a story-building application. Where did the idea for Archivos originate?
Two factors contributed to the genesis of Archivos. The first was my discovery of a very cool online tool called the Visual Thesaurus that presents synonyms as a kind of constellation around a root word. Seeing words as an interactive “network of association” was very compelling and I realized that the same concept could be applied to the elements of a story.
The second factor is harder to nail down, but it was after the first year or so of hosting the Roundtable Podcast. Brainstorming stories highlights the interconnectivity of ALL the elements of a story. It really is an alchemy of diverse elements and I was frustrated that there wasn’t a way to actually SEE the structures of those elements as they come together.
I created Archivos so storytellers could see their stories the way they think about their stories… not as an isolated collection of words, but as a dynamic interaction between people, places, and events.
Over the past year, Archivos has hit some astounding milestones including attending the Nebula Awards, presenting at Balticon, and sponsoring Gen Con 2018. Did you expect the response you have received from the writing and gaming communities? How have they been pivotal in your continued growth?
The opportunity to engage with the creative community at these landmark events is genuinely inspiring. Nothing compares to the incredible dialogs and idea exchanges that occur at these things. Each one has been instrumental in shaping not only the Archivos feature set, but also my personal awareness of the storytelling community and its passions.
One of the biggest challenges to developing an idea as big and diverse as Archivos is figuring out where to start. Perfection is the enemy of ‘done’ and if we waited until the app was EVERYTHING we wanted it to be, we wouldn’t release until 2020. Plus, you really don’t know the value of your creations until they are in the hands of the people for whom you created them.
Feedback from our users and the community in general highlighted the areas we needed to focus on. For example, our original intent was to focus on the public presentation of the story settings people build in Archivos, but input from our subscribers redirected those efforts toward in the actual creation and editing of those settings. As a result, creating stories in the app is much more elegant and efficient.
We have dozens of ideas for features to make Archivos the go-to resource for storytellers, but we will always defer to the needs and desires of our subscribers to drive that development.
Formally The Roundtable Podcast, the newly named Archivos Podcasts offer both Archivos Brainstorms and Archivos Insights. What is the difference between these two offerings? How does a writer or storyteller become a guest on the show?
When I was first developing the podcast, I wanted to combine practical insights into the writer’s craft with the creative inspiration of a live brainstorm. So the “Insights” segment is a targeted deep-dive into the Guest Host’s creative process. How do they develop a story, what is their process for creating characters, what are their priorities when editing a first draft… that sort of thing.
THEN, we get to actually see their process in action when we bring on a writer to pitch a story idea in the “Brainstorm” episode. With four creative ink-slingers all focusing their unique creative mojo on a single idea, the result is both illuminating and inspiring. It’s astonishing how engaging it is to listen to someone ELSE’s brainstorm. You can’t help but be drawn in… if listeners aren’t shouting at their car stereos “But you’re overlooking this critical plot point that would make the whole thing more awesome!” then we haven’t done our job.
Unfortunately, the podcast is on hiatus for the time being. I’m dealing with some significant family health issues and my creative bandwidth has dwindled dramatically. But fear not… brainstorming is one of my Top Five Favorite Things To Do Of All Time, so we’ll be back!
Do you have a favorite episode among the 100+ that you enjoy revisiting or frequently recommend to listeners?
I actually started looking through the podcast’s canon to try and answer that question and, with very few exceptions, I can honestly recommend ANY episode as a great entry point into the podcast.
Here’s the thing… there is actual magic going on with these episodes. I never know what’s going to happen and yet we somehow manage to achieve our standard of “transforming conceptual straw into Literary Gold” nearly every episode. There have been times when I’m prepping for a recording when I feel tired and disconnected and just not into it… but as soon as I hit the record button and the conversation starts, I’m energized and totally engaged. For me, there is nothing more invigorating than conversations with creative people.
There have been a few Guest Hosts that stand out, of course (and you’ll know them by the frequency they appear in the feed). Cat Rambo (SFWA President) and Jeanne Cavelos (founder of the Odyssey Writers Workshop) have always brought marvelous insights to the conversation. Alasdair Stuart and Michael R. Underwood are both good friends and brilliant storytellers, so they frequently make the scene. And then there were OMG Fanboi moments for me, like when we had Ed Greenwood or Janet and Chris Morris on the show. THOSE were incredible conversations (once I got my squee under control).
Don’t make me choose, Joshua! 😉
As mentioned earlier, Archivos also invites writers to become an Archivos Storyteller with their story development tool. Please give us the details on the application and the different ways it might be used.
Archivos is essentially a visual wiki, allowing storytellers to document the people, places, and events of their stories. But the real value of the framework is the ability to define relationships and connections between those story elements. It’s that network of association between elements that reveals the true structure and flow of a story and Archivos let’s storytellers actually see and explore that connective structure through three interactive displays: The Story Web (basic relationships/connections), The Living Map (geographic connections/overlays), and the Timeline (events/backstory/etc.).
Writers can use Archivos to help develop new stories or as a story bible for longer series. They can also promote their stories by creating a public Archivos setting to entice readers. Plus the collaboration features are perfect for building shared world stories or allowing beta readers to privately explore a story before it gets released into the world.
Game Masters running an RPG campaign can use Archivos as a chronicle for their players’ adventures, either for their own use or making the setting available exclusively for their players. Those deep world histories can now be documented and shared with the players, which saves hours of time that could be spent gaming and allows the GM to link past events to current adventures, affirming the continuity of the game world.
Educators can use Archivos to increase student engagement. Classical literature or historical eras can all be documented in Archivos and then shared with students allowing to explore the curriculum in a whole new way. Future development of the app includes a curriculum library for teachers to share their Archivos settings with their peers, pre and post tests to affirm learning, and more.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned through the development of this application, it’s that EVERYTHING is a story. Family histories, corporate legacies, governmental policies… the tapestry of human experience is an epic tale, and Archivos is a fabulous way to illuminate all of it.
What can we expect from you in 2019? Anything else you would like to add?
We will continue to develop the feature set of Archivos, including the ability to embed the displays in other sites (so authors can post the story web of their tale in their own website), user customization of story elements (you want a “Creature” story element? You got it!), A Media Gallery allowing storytellers to link audio, video, and text files to their story elements… so much stuff we want to share!
Personally, you can listen for more narrations from me for the Escape Artists (http://escapeartists.net/) podcast series, including Pseudopod, Podcastle, Escape Pod, and Cast of Wonders. I just finished Kickstarting an RPG Zine dedicated to exploring Urban RPG settings to be released in May (and hopefully with more to come), and I have a Patreon were I’m releasing content from my game/story world (The Shattered Worlds). I’m also hoping to put the finishing touches on a board game I developed (called Manifest) and making it available to interested gamers through The Game Crafter (https://www.thegamecrafter.com/).
And that’s just the foreseeable future… who KNOWS what projects might develop (and that’s kinda the exciting part, isn’t it?). 😉
It has been a pleasure, Dave! Please tell us where fans can find you online.