Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Pop Has Eaten Itself


I had the misfortune of watching the first episode of a new Netflix show with a friend. I didn't particularly want to watch it, but was told it was incredibly embarrassing. Not being one to enjoy such things I brushed it off. Until he told me what happens. Then I had to watch it.

The program was called Everything Sucks! and is supposed to be a Wonder Years or Freaks and Geeks of the 1990s. For those that don't know it is a look back into the height of a now dead era using the lens of that same time period to connect it to modern audiences. Only this one is being made by Millennials, so you already know what you're getting. On top of it, they show a clear lack of understanding of the time period. They set it in 1996, the year before the decade fell off a cliff, and used writers that clearly were either stoned their entire teen years or were never actually alive during the decade. Because the '90s were not like this.

Everything Sucks! is painful in every area, but above all it was the accuracy to the time period that grated on me. The series displays how serious it takes its concept within the early moments. It barely tries to connect to the audience.

First example: it was so accurate to the year 1996 that the very first song played in the very first minute of the series was not released until 1997.

And it goes downhill from there.

The 1990s were a fairly dull decade, but it was also very faddish. Trends flashed into existence in the blink of an eye and were gone just as fast. You can't have kids wearing flannel, messing around with Gak, referencing the "new Star Wars" re-releases, listening to the "new" 1995 Oasis album, and playing with slap bracelets as if they all happened at the exact same time. Because they didn't. But you can pretend they did if you're just using the 1990s as a cover for your terrible and extremely predictable hacky Current Year drama in between shallow 1990s "I clapped when I saw that!" references.

Because that's all this show is.

The series is not funny, is entirely obvious and full of tropes that were played out when the last over-hyped forgettable Netflix drama came out, and even the camera work is the same stale Arrested Development aping that won't go away already despite coming on two decades old. Oh yeah, and it was not a style used in the 1990s. It was a '00s invention. But hey, I already showed how seriously they took their own concept. Accuracy was not going to happen.

It definitely doesn't look like the era, but it doesn't sound like it either. The characters are exactly what you think they are at first glance with story arcs you can see coming from a mile away because they're the same ones Hollywood has been peddling for nearly 25 years now. There's nothing here. Nothing is new, but nothing is a throwback to what it was like to live at the time, either. If anything, this series just shows how bad entertainment has gotten since 1996. Every bad trope here was one introduced in the late '90s that has been hammered into us relentlessly since. If you meant to appeal to those who miss the way things were, then this is definitely not the way to do it.

Everything Sucks! is a belly flop of nothing meant to sucker in people who lived in the 1990s but might not actually remember them fully. Possibly it is meant as revisionism to give the audience a version of the decade that "should" have existed. But they underestimated how much Gen X and Y remember from the '90s that Millennials never could. I was half expecting to see someone wearing parachute pants while mentioning going to a 98 Degrees concert. Because it was that likely to happen. It reads like someone who just grabbed any cliche they could and threw it in a blender.


Not even close, Boomers.

This series is about as accurate as the terrible Simpsons episode based on the 1990s where Homer is in a popular grunge band at its peak at the same time he is looking at a billboard featuring the Sonic Adventure designs of Sonic the Hedgehog and Amy Rose. If you were alive at the time then you know why that scene above is wrong, and you know how little thought was spent writing it. Amazing for The Simpsons, a series that was in its height during said decade, to get this so wrong. But this seems par for the course for Baby Boomers and Millennials when it comes to the '80s and '90s.

Stranger Things worked with the 1980s setting because it was baked in to the plot. This was crucial for the series to work. It needed to be set in that era for the plot beats, style, aesthetics, and character archetypes to work, and it failed when it shied away from it (such as the 1990s tough girl character of Max that broke canon with the style) meaning that the choice of year was crucial to how the story had to work in order to stay consistent. The Duffer Brothers clearly respected the decade enough to do it justice. There is a reason Stranger Things was a hit.

Everything Sucks! couldn't even bother to learn that there were two songs released in 1996* that they could have used for a theme song that were both called Everything Sucks instead of a grunge era song used that doesn't fit at all. But the song was popular at the time, so maybe someone will remember it and clap! That's all the thought that was put into it. Even the logo looks more like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Juno than it does any actual '90s logo. Because that's the audience they're going for, and not who they pretend they're aiming at. There is no effort here to try and understand that long gone era and how it might differ from this current crap one.

They want to cash in on '90s nostalgia without doing the work to understand what people clicked with in that time. It's disrespectful to the era and those who lived in it. But it was never about connecting to those people. It was always about shallow pandering.

A lot of this has to do with the propping up of Nerd Culture, which is, thankfully, on the way out.

I highly recommend this entire series

Shows like the above are no longer about the original purpose of art or entertainment: to connect to your fellow man. Pop culture is now about masturbation. It is now about little more than useless trivia and empty references for a small niche group. There is no more relating to the majority of those around but about glorifying the self (and their "like-minded communities") over others. Connections to those unlike yourself are no longer important: thinking inward is. Propping yourself up is. Making sure you feel good and have high self-esteem is. It's all about the self and how everything relates to you: not how you can relate to others.

It is all about eating yourself.

But empty nostalgia over setting is the point. They have nothing else. Hollywood can't stray from the bad habits they've developed. They have no stories to tell except being wistful for a youth that was apparently just as terrible as the present they are currently living in. There is no semblance of hope to escape their prison of misery.

It reveals a very ugly view of life that is becoming more obvious with each passing flop of a drama they release. It's really no wonder why audiences are checking out of these sorts of stories and leaving Hollywood behind. No one wants to see this narcissistic group of creators talk about themselves and only themselves and their tiny worlds. Hollywood does not have much else.

This is all pop culture is now: a decrepit and fat anaconda devouring itself until there's nothing left.

Unless you weren't alive at the time, you would have to be a moron to not know what the second poster is talking about. Hollywood is banking on you being a moron.

My recent speculation that we have reached the end of pop culture is well on its way to being true. Creators have lost the urge to connect with their audience and are set with rehashing the same stale slop while trying to gussy it up by playing with the audience's longing for a time when their pop culture wasn't this unabashedly terrible. But putting lipstick on a pig doesn't change it into a beautiful woman. Hollywood thinks tricking the audience into swallowing the medicine is enough to get them to keep taking it. They don't appear to be aware that the audience is quickly seeing this for what it is, and they don't like it.

There is no attempt to correct the ship, and that's why they're going to die.

They have nothing left to add, nothing to tell or say that hasn't been said hundreds of times. They rehash the same character archetypes without any sense of knowing why they exist, and continue to mindlessly subvert their own tales into meaninglessness. Self-reflection is possible only through explicit sex, pointless offensive language, and references to a childhood that is remembered as well as a fourth grade play.

Shows like Everything Sucks! only prove how little the "important" people Hollywood have left to say. There is no acknowledgement of the different ways those who lived in that era thought or how they believed and lived: it is all filtered through (post)modern thought with a thin veneer of past paint to make their barge look like a sailboat. But there is no sailboat, and there never was one. They could have built a sailboat instead, but they refuse to, and they're never going to.

This is all they have left. Dated messages from a quarter of a century ago and references to decades long past in an attempt to squirrel money out of the few audience members who accept mediocrity out of the thought that it is either this or nothing. Hollywood think this is good enough.

The decade where pop culture died.

It's well beyond narcissism and has fallen straight into parody. It's one thing to think they're the smartest and most progressive idiots to ever live this pointless existence, but it's entirely another to think the past is so worthless that they feel the need to smear their own fecal matter all over it in order to drag it down to their pathetic level. Material like this doesn't even rise to narcissism. They're too self-obsessed with infecting the past that they don't realize that instead of making the past look worse they make themselves look stupid and the present worse. Disrespect for the past tends to blind one to preventable gaffs.

Entertainment has devolved past narcissism into pure nihilism. Narcissism is looking in the mirror and wondering how that handsome devil got to be so gorgeous. Nihilism is looking in the mirror and wondering how to make that handsome devil ugly while still desperately insisting he's handsome to anyone who will listen. Not only is it nonsensical, it is locked in the karmic wheel of stupidity without a way out. The same mistakes are repeated over and over ad infinitum. You can see this with any piece of media out now whether a remake of something old (tweaked for modern sensibilities, of course!) or a new franchise with the same "fresh" characters and subversive plot out of 2003. Pop is eating itself.

Actually, it's way past that point now. Pop has devoured its tail and is busy slurping down its own stomach. And it expects you to call it brave, progressive, forward thinking, and art, while it whores out the same tired tropes audiences were sick of in 1999. Ironic.

Well, no. (Post)Modernism is dead and has been a rotting corpse for some time now. All that's left is to say the last rites and give it a burial . . . or a bonfire. We've already walked away, so let's put the body where it belongs, and leave it in the cold ground. No one cares about navel gazing into the abyss, so leave them alone to do it. All that's left is for them to eat themselves into the void.

Then finally we might be free of pop culture's self-obsession and can build something new in its place. It's about time, don't you think?



*In case you were wondering, these are the two songs I meant:




But everything doesn't suck. The pulp revolution is still in full swing. Give my entry in the movement a try. It's definitely one of the most action packed works you will find.


Tuesday, 20 March 2018

2018: The Year of Anime?


I've been very hard on anime on this blog since I started here. There's a reason for that, as anyone who has followed the medium for more than a decade knows. What was once an unstoppable industry ended up sabotaging itself. Over the years it has nearly buried itself in its own hubris and poor decisions. I even wrote a post comparing anime to the popular MCU (which itself cited an article glomping on to the dying moe trend as a way to make its own fallacious point) and why they weren't actually that different. Or were. I stand by it, anime and the live action Marvel movies have much in common, and it appears like they have more in common than ever before.

But times have changed.

I'm not the only one who thinks that anymore. While 2017 was a bit of a letdown to previous years: 2015 and 2016 showed more of the spirit anime was known for at its peak. Things were improving. But after 2017 I began to feel that might have been a fluke. That quickly changed.

I don't think anything prepared me for 2018's offerings and announcement.

It might also help that this year is the 50th anniversary of Weekly Shonen Jump which lead anime companies to go all out licensing properties old and new for anime projects. It wasn't just Jump, but other classic properties and newer manga and light novel properties which are way above series from recent years. The industry might still prefer adaptions over original content, but that has been the case for a long time now. Nonetheless, they still picked good ones to use.

Keep in mind, I'm only writing this three months into the year and during what is easily the weakest season of said year. The fact that I still think highly of 2018 says a lot about what is coming.

But before I get there, let's travel the time warp. I'll be using anichart for my source. What exactly was anime like during this time decades ago?


1998



Yes, let's first go back twenty years to 1998, possibly the best and one of the most important year for modern anime fans. What exactly made it so, however? Was it just the quality of programs, or was it that the western market really was that weak?

It was both.

Action shows were dying in the west, hampered by everything from aping certain shows (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) or being hampered by political correctness (watch any TV drama from that period now) and cartoons that had fallen far from Gargoyles and Batman: the Animated Series. There was not much to look forward to at the time. While this was happening here, in Japan they were still in a 90s golden age in regards to anime and manga that extended from the '70s through the '80s.

They were still unstoppable.

What exactly did they have? Well, maybe you know the following names. This was what was produced in 1998.

Cowboy Bebop
Trigun
Outlaw Star
Cartdcaptor Sakura
Serial Experiments Lain
Master Keaton
Yu-Gi-Oh! (original)
Bubblegum Crisis 2040
His & Her Circumstances (Kare Kano)
Sorcerous Stabber Orphen
Initial D
Record of Lodoss War (TV)
Lost Universe
Silent Mobius
Fancy Lala
Gasaraki
Nazca
Weiz Kruz
Princess Nine
Night Walker
Legend of Basara
Shadow Skill
Eat Man '98


They are not all my sort of thing, but rarely do you see that much of a spread for different audiences in one year anymore. All of these were released in the west with some semblance of success, as well. This also doesn't include long running shows that were already running at the time from previous years. Nothing was out of the ordinary for the time. It's a solid list.

Of course not all was great. This was also the year of Brain Powerd, the reminder that Neon Genesis Evangelion had all but destroyed mecha anime for the foreseeable future (thankfully Big O was in the following year) and this was still a time when there were far less production companies and timeslots available. Nonetheless, what was allowed out was typically of higher quality to compete with each other.

It's no wonder many people still enjoy what was put out in 1998.

But even now you would be hard pressed to find a year where there is more than 10, never mind 20+ anime worth looking into. You were guaranteed to find something you would enjoy at least a little. This is far above a normal year these days.

Now let us jump ten years into the future where we jump into the thick of a strong downturn.



2008



Ten years removed from the last entry we have a much different climate. This is where the industry began to feel worldwide decline as they tried their hardest to combat growing piracy by catering to otaku. They did this at the cost of the normal audience and overseas customers. Obviously that tactic wasn't sustainable, but it also ended up biting them long term.

People still buy Cowboy Bebop and Trigun. Heck, they still buy Yu-Gi-Oh! of all things. You won't find anyone talking about Clannad these days unless its for nostalgia or to compare it to another visual novel adaption. And that was the biggest series of the year. There were no commercial smashes overseas in 2008.

But I digress. I can't pretend I'm not including this year to rub salt in the wound of an awful period, but I really, really detested what the industry became in the '00s. Regardless of taste, it was a bad time. The idustry chased many people away, contracted many art styles into one blobby mess, and ended up ruining their worldwide presence in the process. In every respect, the '00s took the momentum the '70s, '80s, and '90s (even the '60s) gave, and fumbled it so hard that the '10s have mostly been dedicated to cleaning the mess up.

Unfortunately, it also allowed an impression of the medium form based on very limited examples from a very specific time period. The image of anime as dark murder porn was replaced by one of fetishistic voyeurism. While the first was unearned, it is difficult to argue with the latter if you did not know better.

Let me first pick out the best of the year and set it aside.

Clannad: After Story
Code Geass R2
Kaiba
Gundam 00: Second Season
Toradora
Spice & Wolf
Natsume's Book of Friends
Aria: the Origination
Skip Beat!
Soul Eater
Slayers Revolution
Michiko and Hatchin
Macross Frontier
Golgo 13


You might have noticed two things. The first is that there are no big new action adventure series that aren't already based on existing franchise or turned out awful *COUGH*R2*COUGH* and the second is that what is there in the genre pales in comparison to said older entries. The list is also smaller and considerably less exciting than what has come before.

Now, while I didn't post everything in 1998, I also didn't leave out a whole lot. There were a handful of forgettable shows, but not much outright terrible. For 2008, you can see for yourself how much trash there really was. Scroll down at your own peril. It gets worse. This is also the year that gave the world Strike Witches and Linebarrel.

Of those listed above, I can't say any of them are personal favorites, though about half are quite good and worth your time. (I won't say which to avoid a potential flame war!)

The issue is that none are anything particularly great save one or two, and with such a high crap ratio it's hard to argue they are even worth seeking out. It is quite the fall from where the medium was a decade prior with so much trash and glut to clutter the landscape. Is it any wonder sales fell and many walked away?

And it had been this way for many years.

Now let's take one final look at the still-developing 2018.



2018



A strange year deserves a strange header.

Starting last year there were a lot of announcements for upcoming series that were quite surprising. Not only were there new series ordered for streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime, but many old manga were given anime adaptions for the first time, and some classic series were given revivals and new series. There was a lot announced that would surprise even the casual fan from a bit more than a decade ago.

You would have to make a double take to be certain you weren't seeing things. Are things turning around? All signs are pointing to the affirmative.

What does 2018 have? Well I'll get to that. The first thing to remember is that any of these could end up becoming trash, so I'm listing them based on pedigree of announcement or the status of the property in question. But even if some are, they still outnumber the exciting material from a decade ago. A lot of this is assumed, but I've seen so much of this before that I can usually tell beforehand if it's worth my time.

So, here it is. 2018 in a nutshell.

Pop Team Epic
Violet Evergarden
Overlord II
Golden Kamuy
Devilman Crybaby
Steins;Gate 0
Darling in the FranXX
Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card
A.I.C.O. Incarnation
Banana Fish
My Hero Academia: Season 3
Karakuri Circus
Attack on Titan: Season 3
Juushinki Pandora
Record of Grancrest War
Dororo
Captain Tsubasa
Megalo Box
Pluto
Vinland Saga
One Punch Man: Season 2
Cutie Honey Universe
Gurazeni
Double Decker!
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: New Thesis
Muhyo & Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation
Full Metal Panic: Invisible Victory
Hinomaru Zumou
Boogiepop & Others
Lupin III: Part V


Once again, I can't promise how all of that will turn out, but if even half of it is as great as it looks, 2018 will be a great year. And there's still yet more I didn't list! Some might not even release until next year, but it is still enough that they were even revealed among what is coming out. I'm not even interested in all of the above, but it's quite the interesting list. It offers a lot more to the average customer and knows what the majority of the audience comes to anime for.

The fact is that there's a reason Japan is doing this. It's fairly obvious.

You could say all of this is for nostalgia's sake, but that isn't quite right. You could see even back in 2008 that there were some nostalgia-centric series based on old franchises. That didn't stop dropping sales or people walking away. You could also say 2018 relies too heavily on adaptions, except that the anime industry has always relied on manga for its biggest successes. The fact is that the industry has never tried this hard to court the average watcher of anime since the early '00s before they turned their backs on them.

Take note of what you see here.

New series by Shoji Kawamori (Macross, Escaflowne), and Ryo Mizuno (Lodoss War, Rune Soldier), unadapted classics of their genres like Banana Fish and Karakuri Circus, and new seasons of worldwide popular hits like My Hero Academia and Attack on Titan (keep in mind, Japan didn't do seasonal anime ten years ago, never mind twenty) all show a clear focus when taken together. Then there are the straight remakes which are not as plentiful as you would think: there are only three in that list. What's more interesting is what they chose to greenlight that is new. New sequels of old properties like Full Metal Panic!, Boogiepop, Lupin, and Cardcaptor Sakura, also help send the message. Japan really wants that audience back.

Then there is the recent slate of movies. Japan for the longest time has not really done much in the way of anime movies, but what they recently announced speaks volumes as to their hopes. Mazinger Z. Dragon Ball. My Hero Academia. City Hunter. If there is a bigger hint at their target being the worldwide market and the average fan I have never seen it. This is too obvious.

What 2018 says to me is that Japan is trying, and somehow succeeding, in getting its groove back. I never would have expected this a decade ago. Should the year live up to its promise I will be beyond delighted but until then I can only speak to intent. And that intent says a lot.

While Hollywood revels in remakes that miss the point, Japan hasn't lost the plot. They have carefully chosen what they know sells in their homeland and overseas and have made sure to put the right people behind those works to give the customers what they want. The public wants action, adventure, romance, and excitement. They want the out-there animation, direction, and plots classic anime was known for. Its not just that they want the old things back--they want the spirit the old things had. That is why this list is not as heavy on remakes as, say, Hollywood. They have a better idea of their audience. There is plenty new coming out, and plenty with the spark the old had back in the day.

I'm not clamoring for a Trigun remake (or sequel) and I hope one is never made. But that doesn't mean I don't want those involved in that series to go on and make new works with that same spark they made it with. I don't think I'm alone either. All I want are good stories.

Japan looks to be course correcting itself and regaining its footing. Here's hoping they maintain it. While 2017 was a bit of a step back, 2018 is a great leap forward.

I can hardly wait to see how the year turns out. I only wonder how 2019 will look as a result.




And if you like excitement and action in strange worlds, you will probably enjoy my most recent book.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Rev it Up!: A Quick History of the Pulp Revolution

You can find this book here.

*NOTE: This post exists for two reasons. The first is for those newcomers who might have missed just where this whole thing came from, and the second is for those of us who need a refresher. I claim no credit for, or leadership in, the Pulp Revolution.*

If there is one thing the last decade has shown, it is that most people are unsatisfied with the way things are. Entertainment, especially, no longer entertains but instead caters to niche fringe groups that are desperate to shed their roots and destroy their origins for the offhand chance an Important Person will acknowledge them. There is not one industry not currently suffering from this problem now, and it was little better years ago.

But what if the problems stemming from today are actually symptoms of a much older sickness? What if you can trace it back using the words of those who deliberately tried to tear down good things in order to build worse ones? What if they succeeded and no one around you wanted to admit it?

Wouldn't you want to do something?

Well, the Pulp Revolution is about that first and foremost. It is about doing. It is about reclaiming things lost deliberately and calling attention to a legacy in danger of being forgotten. It is about going backwards and building again.

That is what the PulpRev is.

But where did it start?


Beginnings

In a dusty little saloon called Tabletop Gaming there was this movement called the OSR. For those puzzled by acronyms, it stands for Old School Revival/Renaissance. It stands for exactly what it says it does. Judging from my description of the Pulp Revolution, you might know where this is going.

I'm going to include wikipedia's definition to shoulder the blame should I get any of this wrong and to make sure I don't miss anything, but it does line up more or less with what it is:

"The OSR was made possible by Wizards of the Coasts' release of their Open Gaming License in 2000, which allowed the free and unapproved use of large amounts of creative and rules mechanic material related to the Dungeons & Dragons game. 
"Broadly, OSR games encourage a tonal fidelity to Dungeons & Dragons as it was played in the first decade of the game's existence—less emphasis on linear adventure plots and overarching metaplots and a greater emphasis on player agency. Frequently they are built around older rules systems made available by the OGL. As such, the OSR label includes most Dungeons & Dragons retro-clones; most OSR games are variants of either the 1974 original Dungeons & Dragons rules (OD&D)—such as Swords & Wizardry—or the 1981 Basic and Expert sets of Dungeons and Dragons (known as B/X, or Moldvay/Cook, after those sets' primary authors)—such as Labyrinth Lord, Basic Fantasy RPG, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess."
It was a movement meant to bring the hobby back to its roots as many had seen their favorite pastime devolve and melt into a puddle of grey goo. If anyone has ever played 4th edition (or *cough*3rd*cough*) then they know where the sentiment came from.

So it only stands to reason that in this climate that someone would take it a step further. If the game that changed so much can in itself be warped so far out of its original shape and intent . . . what about the literature that inspired it in the first place?

That would be the pulps, and that is where things get interesting.

There is a bit of a cosmic jest here. The pulps were what inspired D&D in the first place. It was the love of the stories and the wonder of imagining yourself in an adventure in those worlds. Pulp worlds were exciting, invigorating, and creative. Who wouldn't want to play games based on that? That is what makes this turnabout funny. Now it was a revival of said gaming that was inspiring a return to pulps, the original inspiration.

Gary Gygax, the man behind the game, created a list of books. These were the books he recommend players read to get ideas for games just as they inspired him in the first place. It was not just a suggested reading list, but one based on the type of stories the game was meant to be based on. These were the books that inspired one of the biggest games and with the heaviest influence in pop culture of the later half of the 20th century. In other words, these books were important.

And no one was talking about them.

That's where we begin.


Revving Up

The catalyst to the Pulp Revolution arising specifically were several things from different places.

First, a gamer named Jeffro Johnson began a series of posts on the Castalia House blog detailing his read-through of the entirety of the Appendix N list.

If you want an idea of Jeffro's passion, I highly suggest following the Appendix N tab on the Castalia House blog and reading what you find. If he isn't talking about going the Full Mr. Peanut, he's talking about something nobody else is. And that was very important for a lot of those in the PulpRev.

These articles led discussions both out in the open and behind doors, and left some of us contemplating on our own direction. It wasn't just on the works themselves, but on the entire era in question. Many began digging and searching for answers.

At one point genre fiction was without boundaries. They could be anything from science fiction to fantasy to horror to sailor stories to even being about trains and still retain an energy and love of mystery and wonder that simply no longer existed. Anyone who looked into this was taken aback by the revelation.

Where did all that go? Why had we fallen so far away from where we started, and why were the roots dug up and replaced with weeds that have long since choked out anything fresh?

This is the drive of PulpRev.

Jeffro's work was one of the starting places for this movement. Personally, I am very thankful for it. However, Jeffro also mentions other places the Pulp Revolution came from. It was not just based on his work.

"But there are many significant actors involved here, all of whom worked together to make the Pulp Revolution happen:

  • *There is Larry Correia, who not only ignored what his writing teachers told him… but who also pulled off one of the greatest pranks in science fiction history. He got a lot of people talking about something that wasn’t immediately obvious
  • *There is Edgar Rice Burroughs, who single-handedly set the tone for fantasy, science fiction, pulp, comic books, role-playing games, and Star Wars.
  • *There is Gary Gygax, who created a time capsule that preserved that vision in the face of an industry and gatekeeping establishment that was hellbent on seeing it extinguished.
  • *There is John C. Wright, who never got the memo that Appendix N style fantasy was out of style.
  • *There is Alex Kimball, who offered to pay semi-pro rates for people that wanted to bring back more of it to the short fiction scene.
  • *There is Daddy Warpig, who observed that something was happening and called it what it was before anyone could grasp its significance.

"That’s quite a list!"

I will try to talk a little about a few of the above shortly.

Of course, pulp fiction has never fully gone away. But that isn't without lack of trying. It has been used as little more than an insult or a cheesy aesthetic for those who hated them. It has been used as an insult by those who never bothered to read the original works. Pulp became a synonym for trash, and nothing else. The Tarantino movie didn't help. The tradition of genre fiction actually goes back through the pulps and the penny dreadfuls all the way to at least Poe. By ignoring the pulps you are cutting the line of tradition and thumbing your nose at it. Those who trash it have no idea what they are actually doing.

Pulp fiction was what written entertainment mainly was before the 1950s. But they are not what you were told they were. There were different genres mixing together, stories were built to satisfy the reader first, there were crazy genres based on things like railroads, and this is where the origin of most every modern entertainment you enjoy came from... without the edges sanded off. This is where George Lucas swiped from to create Star Wars--every single piece of it--and a lot of the old stuff is better than what he put out. This is where the modern fantasy, horror, and science fiction story kept its links to the past while still striking out in new directions without fracturing links to each other in the process. This is where ALL tabletop and video games get their roots from: name a game, and it has its feet firmly planted in Pulp Town. Comic books are direct descendants of the pulps. Television shows like Star Trek and the Twilight Zone? Yes, them too. Anime and manga had direct ties to the Pulp tradition, even running translated pulp stories in the very first issues of Weekly Shonen Jump--the most popular entertainment magazine in Japan. Foreign comics like bande dessinĂ©e as a whole get their inspiration from the same place. Pulp was a worldwide thing, not regional. Every piece of entertainment you enjoy comes from the pulps: all of that great material you love that no longer exists and has been deliberately destroyed over the years comes from these things.

These things were important. Pulp was the entertainment world.

And no one was talking about it. When those in the Pulp Revolution started talking, they also started thinking about it more and more. Then they began digging, and they didn't like what they found.

This goes back far

Another reason the Pulp Revolution happened is, and this will be controversial: the Sad and Rabid Puppies movements and both their successes and failures.

Now, please don't clog up the comments about either of these. I was there for both and I was paying attention. A third hand report you heard from a biased geek news website is not going to sway me on this. I've already been called a liar for reporting on what my two lying eyes have seen before.

Here's the short version, and the true one. Larry Correia started Sad Puppies because he wanted to prove that World Con was a clique. It was just for fun, but the clique exploded with rage. He was correct, and he succeeded in showing it if only by their reaction. It went on for two more successful years, the third year being run by author Brad Torgersen. It then ran its course.

Vox Day started Rabid Puppies because he saw an opportunity to strike back at that petty crowd and hit them where it hurt. Also, to have fun. He wanted to destroy any illusion that their club meant anything except for their tiny, shrinking, and dying base. Space Raptor Butt Invasion is now a Hugo Nominated work. He succeeded.

That's all there is to either movement. Their goals had been met, and both Larry and Vox shook the dust from their feet and moved on.

But there were fall-outs to these campaigns. Vox Day walked away having accomplished his task, but Sad Puppies continued on in gutted form a little longer as a recommended reading list and faded away. There was also some infighting that ended up splintering any remaining interest most had in it. For all intents and purposes, it's dead and it's done.

But it did leave its mark on those paying attention.

Some history on Sad Puppies

Why so many people supported them in the first place is reflected in what was nominated by the small clique, oblivious to the outside world, and what was actually selling to normal people. A lot of people were disillusioned with how goopy and empty genre fiction was becoming and wanted to find better than what the big publishers like Tor were putting out. That was when a lot had a sinking realization.

There was no real alternative.

The big publishers were putting out sleeping pills as books, and finding anything in the independent world was nearly impossible. There was a hunger there, but nothing to satiate the stomach. Unless you liked subversion, you just weren't being offered much aside from table scraps.

But that was a big motivator in why the Pulp Revolution took off.

The third reason it happened, and this is going to sound strange, was the recent cultural shift over the last three years.

As I've said, entertainment is in a bad place. For a long time many of us just sat on the sideline twiddling our thumbs and hoping for things to get better. Surely someone would waken from their slumber and wonder why nothing was getting better, realize they had fallen far from where they started, and work to get back on track.

But it never happened.

Video games were getting streamlined to oblivion as loudmouth political wanks began bullying customers. Genres were wiped out. Good developers were destroyed. Game journalists were getting by on nothing but the fact that they knew the right people. And we all just sat by and hoped it would get better. It only got worse.

Comics were getting more and more insular and up their own rear. They no longer courted new audiences, and when they did it was for an audience that didn't exist instead of the one that walked away. Comic shops were closed as Marvel continued to allow their employees to mock customers online and over-ship books to said stores. We just expected it would work itself out. It hasn't.

Movies recently just had their worst Summer box office since the 9/11 tragedy. They remake and subvert old properties constantly and end up making inferior products that critics (suspiciously) love while audiences clearly do not. Their "stars" are self-important and full of themselves, and as recently uncovered are almost all involved in covering up gross sins. Television is in exactly the same boat. But many still think it'll turn around. It isn't going to.

All of these have led to fan and customer movements that range from GamerGate to ComicsGate to the recent kerfuffle and justified backlash over Star Wars: The Last Jedi. What do all three have in common? They were all gas-lit to try to deflect the argument and hide behind strawmen. Anyone who has seen all three of these and still pretends there is no pattern is beyond saving at this point.

Then there is the literary industry.

Oh boy.

Books are not immune to any of the above. For this, I'm going to hand it over to author Brian Niemeier:


And with the book industry is where we find our first break in the storm clouds. While the big publishers are failing like every other industry, the indie market actually has the biggest chance it has ever had, and it was only really being realized a little as a few years ago.

These major factors converging were what lead to the Pulp Revolution. This is where it comes from.


Cruisin'

You had things like Appendix N discussions, blogs focused on pulps, writers creating new stories, and even new magazines based on standards the old ones had. I can't say they were all tied directly to the Pulp Revolution in their origins specifically, but they did show up at the table at the right time. They were all very much sharing the same goal.

This would be the part that I would mention people directly, but I don't want to forget anyone or say the wrong thing. Let's just say that if you can look around for PulpRev in any search engine you will find someone in it. It encompasses more than a small group, and is always letting in those who want to contribute. No one can co-opt it because the movement exists only to revive the old and link it to the present to move toward the future. Removing any one step in this process causes it to fail.

The Pulp Revolution goes beyond a small handful. Yes, you too can be PulpRev.

However, I will link to one podcast in particular, hosted by Geek Gab. This is an episode with Jeffro Johnson, Science Fiction writer John C. Wright, and rant-master extraordinaire Razorfist on pulp. This is a good encapsulation of the sort of thing the movement tries to strive for. Listen to their excitement and enthusiasm and tell me there is nothing to this thing.



At this point it is important to mention that the Pulp Revolution is not related to any other pulp movement, including New Pulp. Those movements exist to carry on a style of story for a specific audience and has a niche focus. The PulpRev exists to revive, re-energize, and kick in doors to the wider world. It is not a peaceful movement, and it is not complacent.

The revolution first started as more of a revival focused on reading and discussing old pulps and relishing how good the stories are and cursing the fact that they were buried for so long. It was peaceful at the time.

It is no longer.

In 2016 many people began to write. Some were inspired by the new magazines that sprung up, some by simply reading an old pulp story that had been buried, and others by discussions and realizations that the competition was so weak that there was nothing left to lose. Pulp or death.

That's just it, though. There is nothing left to lose. Entertainment is dying. Art is dying. The past has been discarded, the present is a toilet bowl, and the future is as uncertain as ever. You can either wallow and cry, or you can get up and slay the wizard before you. Guess which one PulpRev has chosen?

So start creating.

Let's finish this off with a quote from Jeffro himself.

"Pulp Revolution is not a group you associate with. It’s something you do. It’s reading old books and discussing them. It’s blogging and podcasting. It’s continuing the conversations that spring up on social media. It’s writing new pulps and putting them up on Amazon. 
"It’s not anyone’s place to tell anyone else they’re pulp revolutioning wrong. There is no gatekeeper. This whole thing is happening because there are no gatekeepers! And unlike the Sad Puppies, there is no one that can imperiously tell anyone, “hey… we built that.” Nobody built it. It just happened. When people find out the truth about the pulps and start reading them for themselves, they are overcome with a desire to create. Games. Stories. Criticism. It’s awesome. Nobody orchestrates this."

The solution is simple: Revolution! Go back to what was lost and pick up from the torn threads. It will take some time, but it isn't impossible.

It is inevitable as long as you're willing to fight.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

March Update!

I hope you're ready for an update.

One of my regrets of last year is that I didn't release enough material despite how much I actually wrote. A had a handful of short stories release and one book, all of which I received positive reaction from. I am not disappointed in anything put out, merely that it wasn't enough.

But this year will be different. I'm planning to get out the gate sooner than I did in 2017.

For a preview, I'm working on several different projects (some of which are not mine to announce) and am aiming to have several released before the end of the year. 2018 is going to be a bigger year for me and this blog. I can't reveal much yet, but I can promise it'll be worth the wait.

For now, however, I do have something to announce.

On March 27th I will be releasing my next work, Knives in the Night, a short story. It will be available for a dollar on amazon. But, that is on amazon. It will be available for free if you sign up for my mailing list. And it will be made available earlier, as well.

I told you I'm starting this year out stronger.

Here is the cover art by the great Kukuruyo:


Want to know what it's about? Read on!

This story takes place in my Hero Magic universe which is the same as previous stories of mine. This is a world of heroes and villains, but also one of hidden darker forces that lie under the surface. Knives in the Night is the story of a vigilante dealing with just such a problem. If you enjoyed Someone Is Aiming for You and Lucky Spider's Last Stand then this is for you.

Knives in the Night stars Walker, a man with the power to appear invisible. He hunts the night for someone important to him that disappeared a long time ago. He stalks the night evading the authorities and those who would do him harm. But this night is different. In the middle of his mission he stumbles across a situation where sinister forces are at play. The sudden appearance of villains, inexplicable magic, and a mysterious woman, all arrive at the same time to disturb his task. Now he has a new problem.

Will he be able to survive the night, or is he doomed to dwell in the dark? In a world of superpowers, there are still things that go bump in the night.

You can pick up Knives in the Night for a dollar when it comes out at the end of the month. Or you can sign up for the mailing list (that pop-up exists for a reason!) and get it a bit earlier, and for free. Either way, I hope you decide to give it a read.

This series is definitely going in interesting directions.



And until it releases you can always read my last book.