Thursday, 17 October 2019

The Star Knight Ascends ~ A Review of "Reavers of the Void" by Bradford C. Walker

Find it Here!

This review has been a long time coming, and would have come sooner had my personal life not been filled with so many potholes along the way. I apologize to the author as it is not their fault. But, excuses aside, here is the review I'd been meaning to make for awhile now.

Today I am reviewing a mecha space opera adventure.

In 2018, a group of authors starting with Dragon Award Winner Brian Niemeier decided to create a new movement based on the mecha genre. Bored with the stale western military sf take on them and less than thrilled with the current state of eastern anime they wanted to carve their own path in the landscape combining the best aspects of both. The movement is still toiling to create new worlds and, like the Pulp Revolution it is related to, is slowly building a name for itself distinct from the rest of the modern fiction scene.

Using the hashtag #AGundam4Us, they set out to breathe life into this style subgenre by writing what they've wanted to see for years. Yours truly has also been inspired by this group for some short stories as his own, and I'm not alone. The enthusiasm was infectious and spread quickly.

Did they succeed? Well, three ongoing series have lit from this spark in the form of Niemeier's Combat Frame XSeed, Rawle Nyanzi's Shining Tomorrow, and the one I will be discussing today: book one of Bradford C. Walker's Star Knight Saga. All three have vastly different approaches to what a mecha series is, which s already a breath of fresh air these days, and none have fallen into the stale rut of what the East and West have become.

Case in Point: the first book of Star Knight Saga, entitled Reavers of the Void, is a completely unique concoction of which could not exist without an author that didn't immerse himself in both the best parts of Western space opera and Eastern mecha anime over the years. Imagine Doc Smith writing a combination of Panzer World Galient filtered through Leiji Matsumoto, and you might come close to what this is. Outside of western cartoon from the 1980s I'm not certain you could find much all that close to what this is like. There is a lot of influence here from many varied sources.

Star Knight Saga is a space opera set in a galaxy in the distant future ruled by Galactic Christendom of the Middle Age variety, only not quite. Humanity has conquered the stars, created kingdoms in the image of our Lord and Savior, and despite being near a thousand years in the future, utopia has never come! In fact, there are dark forces afoot.

As the description states:

In the Year of Our Lord 3001, the space pirate Red Eyes brings his pirate fleet to bear against Galactic Christendom. He aims to steal one of its greatest treasures, Countess Gabriela Robin, to fulfill his warlord ambitions. Dispatched against him is one of the Star Knights of the Solar Guard, Lord Roland, with the mission to protect the Countess at all costs. With his man Sibley and his page Creton at his side, Lord Roland faces off against the would-be warlord in the Dire March of the galaxy and begin a conflict that all the galaxy cannot ignore.

Reavers of the Void is a good old fashioned rescue story. The pirate Red Eyes, guided by a set of charismatic underlings, kidnaps Countess Gabriela, and through space fleet battles, mecha skirmishes, and laser sword battles, Lord Roland must get her back.

What the book is packed with is heroes, villains, battles, and stuff blowing up at every turn. There is constant motion to the tale in a way most modern space operas simply do not. It refuses to linger on minutiae details of the universe that more authors are interested in than audiences are. You want adventure? Here it is.

Reavers also does this in a crisp, brief length, ending long before it gets tiring or overwhelming, instead leaving the audience waiting for more. This is a modern pulp tale, something that would have been welcome in the magazines back in the day, and that is exactly what the genre needs. Mr. Walker keeps it moving, making the book engaging from page one up until the end without any needless flab.

There isn't much to discuss with the plot. It is a straightforward men's adventure with a space opera cast and aesthetic and an 80s mecha anime's direction when it comes to the action. Suffice to say if you're a red-blooded male who wants something made for you that the current cold crop at Oldpub aren't offering then this is for you. Back in the day this would have been a 200 page mass market paperback on the spinner rack at your local drug store that you would have passed around to your friends and discussed a possible movie adaption thereof. It's exciting, and fun.

It's the kind of book Oldpub can't put out today because they have no more interest in that market anymore. If they wanted more boys to read this would be the sort of thing put out for them to get them excited, if they wanted more men then this would be advertised everywhere for them. Instead you're going to have to go Newpub to get what they won't give you.

The book has a few spelling mistakes and a handful of tense changes, but for a first effort it is rock solid in plotting and in characterizations. There isn't much to go out of the way to criticize unless you just don't enjoy this sort of story. I will definitely be interested to see where the story goes from here, and I suspect everyone who reads it will be as well.

One thing about the Pulp Revolution and its offshoots such as this has proven to me is that something has been missing in mainstream fiction for awhile. Whether it be the romantic adventures, the red-blooded action, the weird horrors contrasted with normality, and the wondrous sights beyond our Earth, stories from the old world of publishing aren't interested in that so much these days. Not when there are more boring inward subjects such as "identity", modern day political preaching, and demonizaton of certain crowds to cover for their dwindling base instead. Audiences don't want what they offer, but that doesn't mean it isn't going to be crammed down their throats regardless.

A story such as Reavers of the Void isn't like that. You get thrilling escapes, crushing spaceship onslaughts, swashbuckling heroes crossing swords with despicable foes, an intriguing and exciting universe to be explored, good guys that are good and noble, and bad guys that are despicable and cunning. This is the sort of exciting tale that the adventure genre was created for, and you can currently only get in Newpub.

Not only that but stories such as this also represent what works best about weird tales. The intrusion of the unknown into the normal can only work if the writer understands the difference between them. Why should the main character fight for normality? They can only do that if normality is worth fighting for.

You can't write good weird tales unless you're normal. By that I mean unless the writer is someone who knows the difference between good and evil and understands that subverting them dilutes the impact of moral decisions and how they effect the characters they cannot write a weird tale that sings.

This is a factor I see returning to the field through Newpub, and Reavers of the Void is an example as to how important it is to see again.

Do you like you adventure fiction red hot? Then this is for you.

If you enjoy adventure stories then I also have one for you. Mine is a tale of two who find themselves thrown together in a journey of powers, swashbuckling, distant worlds, and magic, as they try to find their way back home.

Find it Here!

Thursday, 10 October 2019

The Great Poseur Deception

As has been written here more than a few times, the 21st century has been stuck reinventing the wheel on the most common of areas repeatedly as if the previous half century never existed. We seem to be stuck on a hamster wheel.

Take for instance, the current destruction of just about every hobby and subculture. Most anyone would tell you that it is because of an influx of "normies" who broke into the "community" and wish to remake it in their image. It's tragic. If we just chase out the normal people then everything will be good again and the "community" will be made pure once more. Problem solved!


A long time ago, ever since culture began, there have been subcultures. These are smaller branches that connect to the larger trunk of our culture and identity. It means we are all in this together. Everything connects, and that is the way it should be.

This term was used all the way up until the 21st century when it was slyly replaced by those in charge to being called a "community". This change matters because it has changed the scene in question from being about bonding over a certain, smaller aspect of culture that would unite to a greater whole into being a "community" of isolated obsessives. It became about being friendly and nice and going along to get along in order to escape the wider world which we cannot empathize with therefore are our enemies.

This is a radical shift, and no one ever questions why this change was made. But it is undoubtedly not the way it was meant to be.

However, what can be said is that these changes weren't made by "normies" with limited investment of the subculture in question. This is because normal people have lives and interests away from said scene. By definition they can't do what they are accused of doing. If I enjoy a game of Tetris every now and then I'm not going to go to a Tetris fan community and try to take over their moderation staff to enforce rules in my image. Why would I ever do that? That's nonsense. It's fiction. It doesn't happen.

The reason this shift from open subcultures to closed communities was made wasn't because "normies" got in charge, but it sure would be nice for the real culprits if you and them fought over it! The reason these changes were made was because fanatics who didn't understand the subculture in question pushed themselves in charge and began rebuilding it in their image. This is the habit of the elusive poseur, evading detection for decades.

You might not have heard that word in a long time, I know I haven't, but these people are why gate-keeping used to be an important aspect of keeping a scene on the right track without usurpers building monuments in their name: sort of like codes of conduct or nepotistic domination of indie scenes via shady hiring practices. Investigating any infected scene deep enough would always reveal an influx of poseurs who detest others in the subculture and loathe past creations of the hobby and its adherents to the point of wanting to erase them from existence to construct new statues in their image. Search your feelings, you know this to be true.

For those unaware of what a poseur is, I will explain the concept for the Gen Z members in the audience with some choice definitions. Better catch them quick before they are memory-holed.

noun [ C ] disapproving (also poser)
/ˈpəʊ.zər/ US
-someone who pretends to be something they are not, or to have qualities that they do not have:
You look like a real poseur in your fancy sports car!

No one uses this term anymore, even though it had wide usage as early as a decade prior. It's not one you hear very often except to call those who use the term nasty names. One has to wonder why if you cared about the purity of your scene that you would need to make fun of such people.

The excuse is that tossing the term makes the community inclusive. After all, what kind of monster would want gate-keep good people? Everyone should be allowed in, including those who hate the subculture. Now you are beginning to understand why the term was changed from "subculture" to "community" in the first place. They don't want to be tied to tradition, they want to build their own space within yours.

They say this not because they want "normies" to be included, as normies are never attracted by their changes, but because they want to say no one else has any power over their new found "community" but them. They want other poseurs like them, not normal folk who might be drawn to the subculture for whatever reason. This is the opposite of what they say they want. Poseurs are keeping normal people out by enforcing their changes and destroying what made it appeal to others in the first place. It's loopy, but it is the truth.

How the definition of poseur relates to subcultures (from the above site):

"Thrash adherents feel that poseurs have not developed an appreciation for the true aesthetic of metal, and must therefore be accorded less prestige with the subculture."
"The concept of a jazz poseur dates back to the 1940s."
"He was said to be a vain young man who could not cast aside his affections, he appeared a "poseur"."
"Other critics were even less flattering, with terms such as poseurs and pomp-rockers put forth in various music guides."
"He could play to the audience, but he was never a phony poseur."
"He's not a poseur pretending to be a gangsta; he's the real thing."
"He praises the gigs where there were no punk-identikit poseurs in the audience."
"The pejorative term poseur is applied to those who associate with punk and adopt its stylistic attributes but are deemed not to share or understand the underlying values and philosophy."

Were you around in the late 90s you might remember the term "poseur" denigrated as "non-inclusive" or "confrontational" by the same people who ended up weaseling their way in charge then detonating the scene from the inside. It was quite the show. They needed that control, not for the subculture, but for themselves. Now that they have it, everything you enjoy has been warped and broken all for the version of "community" they have in their head.

This is what happens when obsessives are given control.

These aren't "normies", but broken narcissistic fanatics who need their brands and hobbies as a replacement for whatever empty hole they have deep inside. They're obsessives, fanatics.

This is why they fight so hard when called on what they are. They need this scene to have value, which is why they morph these areas into communities they need to run and keep pure under the guise of being inclusive. It's because they have nothing in their real lives to cling to. For whatever reason, they have nothing else outside of this. This "community" is all they have in their pathetic lives.

And this is why subcultures are currently being destroyed by groups of empty people who need their brands and hobbies more than you do. It is misplaced obsession. It's fanaticism, and it is cult behavior.

This sort of thing isn't new, either. There have been articles talking about this descent into madness for years. Here's one in particular from five years ago when this began being a real issue in the mainstream. This is what happens when fanaticism, brokenness, and religion replacement, form into a cohesive whole. The best thing for these subcultures, the poseurs, and you, would be to remove them from positions of power. It would be better for all involved for everything to be put in its proper place.

And that is why they fight so hard to destroy those they oppose and everything around them just to retain their stranglehold. This isn't the sign of someone who loves the scene they purport to love, but the behavior of one who is disordered.

This is why gate-keeping exists: to keep everything in order, guide normal people who are interested in, and to make sure the narcissists stay out of power. This is how a subculture retains its identity and grows at the same time. By letting obsessives in charge, everything has shrunk. We got fat and lazy, and cared so little for our fellow man that we let them destroy themselves by taking charge of things they had no right taking charge of, simply because we didn't want to be called mean names. It is our fault this happened.

Hopefully we have all learned that lesson going forward. Letting weak men take charge is always a mistake.

There was an interesting 12 Step Rule in the article linked above. I want to share it with you here to emphasize just what a poseur really is deep down and what they are missing. They use their misplaced fanaticism as a crutch.
1. We admitted we were powerless over fanaticism—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that Reason, a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of Reason.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. We're entirely ready to have Reason remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly invoked reason to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through inquiry, debate, conversation, curiosity and doubt to improve our conscious contact with Reason seeking for better understanding of the human tension between what we want to believe and what’s most likely to be true.
12. Having had an awakening to Reason as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to fanatics of all kinds, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

You might think it strange to replace AA's "God" with "Reason", but the fanatic already has a god they see everyday in the mirror. This is more for those around them to decipher just why these broken people have disordered themselves to begin with. Their lack of Reason comes from making themselves and their warped vision of their subculture as God. This is a spiritual sickness as much as it is a social one, and it comes from a people who lost sight of their humanity.

Caring about your fellow man also means putting them in their place when they've gone astray. And we have fallen so far off the wagon that we can barely see its slow lurch over the rolling hills into the blinding sunset. Poseurs are not the root cause of all current ills but for anything to change efforts must be started with removing them from positions of power.

Even as everything implodes around these subcultures, don't think that a fanatic will let go so willingly. Remember that a poseur's entire identity is settled around the delusion they've made called a "community" where they stand as a Jim Jones figure looking down at the small ants under their feet. They will fight until forcibly removed and not allowed back in. This means a return to gate-keeping of the sort not scene since the early twentieth century. But it must be done.

It's not going to be easy from here, but remember that "normies" are not your enemies, nor are they your allies. They are true neutral. Right now it is a battle between rock solid tradition and narcissistic destruction at either end. That is the only war worth waging here, and it will be going for a long time to come.

Fight for what you love because no one is going to do it for you.

I'm fighting for what I love by creating stories of the type you're not allowed to have anymore. Check out Gemini Warrior for a pulp inspired action adventure of strange planets, superpowers, and plain old fashioned fun! You won't find anything like this from broken down modern publishers!

Find it Here!

Thursday, 3 October 2019

The Ashes of Joe's Garage

Frank's gonna get cancelled
In the '70s rock music was beginning to get angry. Forget the peace-loving '60s (that didn't really exist), and if you believe the Laurel Canyon rumors, some of which are very suspicious and true, it's been a game of political musical chairs for a very long time. Not political? You won't get anywhere fast.

For instance, one of the reasons a band such as the Ramones was unable to break out, while those who aped them with tacked on hamfisted political slogans cashed in, was almost assuredly based around the fact that they refused to engage in proselytizing with their music. In fact, the one song they did so in still gets radioplay despite another song that sounds just like it (with better lyrics and message) is ignored. It has been a rule since the 1960s that your music had to have some kind of message to be considered worthy. Being fun wasn't enough anymore. Just look at all the undeserved hate Huey Lewis got.

Doubt it? Then peruse any "music critic" list of best albums from the 1960s. When are the likes of Buddy Holly or Eddie Cochran ever mentioned aside from being considered footnotes to what came later? There is no coincidence here.

The charade of the peace-nik 1960s persists to this day. The boomer myth has lasted far too long. However, what is rarely brought up is that by the '70s any pretense of peace and love had been cast off for doomsday visions of unbridled libertarian anarchy and a free speech wasteland of rampant sex and drug use straight out of a Keith Richards fever dream. It followed naturally from the era that birthed it.

One of the members of the Laurel Canyon scene was professional provocateur Frank Zappa, who was as abrasive as he was secretive. In 1979, the same year punk finally broke out (despite the Ramones putting out classics for three years at this point and just putting out a fourth) Zappa released an album called Joe's Garage. This was a rock opera filled with profane lyrics and various musical styles, ironically all of which have since been banished from the mainstream.

But I digress.

Roto-plookers, who were all for free speech at the time, loved this album of debauchery and railing against the man as the future of music. One of the themes is government censorship, which ended up being a crusade for Zappa mere years later and concluding with the end of places like Joe's Garage ever being built again.

You see, in 1985, about the time classic rock, blues, and rockabilly, were finally getting airplay again after years of being blocked by the mainstream, the PMRC was created in a church in Washington DC by a set of puritan boomers. They wanted a warning system for albums like they had for movies and a way to hide offensive album covers from the public eye. No, they didn't want an adult space for them--they wanted them tarred and marked. This was a way to protect the children, of course. At least, that's what we were told.

Eventually this led to tasteless looking stickers on album art saying "Parental Advisory Warning" which made those albums high sellers and sucking the air out of the room for anything that wasn't profane. Those who didn't care about explicit content such as the above musical styles were more or less out of luck. Just as MTV destroyed music-makers who (correctly) didn't care about visuals, so to did non-profane artists begin to fee the squeeze.

This is because the badge became a beacon for "rebels" that meant the album was worth listening to (even though it frequently was most definitely not) and led to a lot of otherwise subpar music getting radioplay such as pushing gangsta rap, a zombie genre that wore out its welcome 25 years ago, to take over rap and relegate the golden age to clearance sales. Funny how supposed rebels are so very easy to manipulate.

This trend has continued with modern pop in the years since. All it now is is explicit content, making that tacky badge irrelevant, and turning any wholesome or less try-hard content the minority. It is almost as if that were the point.

Needless to say, the PMRC helped to destroy music, despite those fighting it "winning" against them. The PMRC cared so much about the kids nothing exists like it now, despite music being far worse now than it was in 1979. This happened with the ACT, too. It almost makes you think.

You should. Radio won't.
But I'm going to stop derailing the point.

The PMRC was spearheaded by Tipper Gore, whose husband was voted into power twice (and almost a third time) by the majority of the music industry who supposedly suffered at her hands. The rest of the lineup was run by similar busybody soccer mom puritans, of the like that ruined the animation industry as well. They sent out a letter on their Christmas card list that summed up their entire quest perfectly:
"Rock music has become pornographic and sexually explicit, but most parents are unaware of the words their children are listening to, dancing to, doing homework to, falling asleep to. Some rock groups advocate satanic rituals, the others sing of open rebellion against parental and other authority, others sing of killing babies."
Note that music still does this now. In fact, rock music does it less than mainstream pop and rap does. The only difference is that no one listens to it, and the same political party that started this crusade against the material now openly embraces it without ever being called out on it and being voted in by those who "suffered" from them. I'm not dogging on the Democrats in particular here, but the sycophants in the industry that mindlessly vote for them. Either they're dumb, or complicit in their own industry's destruction. Neither speaks well of them.

"Porn rock" is now all that the mainstream accepts. It leaves one to wonder why this controversy was ever constructed to begin with, and if there ever really was one at all. Just like "Satanic Panic" I remain unconvinced it wasn't just a smokescreen by politicians hoping to seize an industry for their own nefarious purposes and profit. Heck, we have more censorship now than we did back then and the same people who fought against censorship openly embrace having their necks stepped on and their industries contracted. What activism has Rage Against the Machine accomplished recently n regards to their industry? Nothing. It might be paranoia, but there is a seed of truth to this.

Frank Zappa, John Denver, and Dee Snider, were the three biggest opponents of the PMRC at the time. They argued labeling of explicit material could lead to easy regulation of content and censorship of anything deemed inappropriate and appeared in hearings over it. Tipper Gore promised nothing would happen. Time had proved her a liar. They were correct about what happened, but not in the way they thought, as stated above. What ended up getting censored was rock itself.

Nonetheless, the record companies suspiciously complied to the puritans in record time, introducing the idea of labels by November of 1985. By 1990 it would be the infamous one Gen Xers and Ys would most remember. It changed overnight. The fact that this revolution happened in the span of a year without any push-back from the industry in question is highly suspicious and should be considered very disturbing.

But it's not. Is it? No one in the industry even talks about it accept in regards to victory laps over victories they never even had.

This is what was popular at the time. Not so much now, is it?
As stated, 1985 was a good year for music. There was trash like Madonna, as always, and there was explicit content, especially in the metal world, but no one aside from adults should have been buying them to begin with. Boomer parents hould have known this at the time. The Rolling Stones and others had put explicit and overt satanic messages in their music since back in the '60s. So why were boomers suddenly concerned with this now? It doesn't add up. This wasn't new.

30 years after Tipper Gore set this hoodwink off before disbanding the PMRC to become the Vice President's wife she said this, as quoted by Rolling Stone:
“In this era of social media and online access, it seems quaint to think that parents can have control over what their children see and hear,” she says. “But I think this conversation between parents and kids is as relevant today as it was back in the Eighties. Music is a universal language that crosses generations, race, religion, sex and more. Never has there been more need for communication and understanding on these issues as there is today.”
She added, “All of the artists and record companies who still use the advisory label should be applauded for helping parents and kids have these conversations about lyrics around their own values.”
That doesn't sound like someone who lost, or even changed their mind on the issue. Does it? There's only one reason she would say this. It's because she got what she wanted. She won.

Of course wannabe rebels still consider the PMRC vanquished and themselves having won victory over the "man" just like weekend warriors always do, despite the "man" not suffering anything and their peers far worse off than before. Rock music is no longer in the mainstream. Bands can never achieve the success of those who came before. But kids can still turn on the radio and hear tired sounds out of 1998 with kindergarten-level lyrics about having sex and taking drugs.

What a win.

The PMRC didn't lose. If they did then why aren't they still around fighting for victory? Just like the ACT, they got what they wanted. The music scene was censored--whole genres were excised from the mainstream and from TV and radio play. Payola is perfectly fine now that the bad music has been quarantined. The only ones left are the footstools of music execs and political hacks that mindlessly vote for the same party that destroyed their industry in a double-think about censorship that would make Orwell blush. There are no more scenes or underground successes. They're all dead and forgotten.

Joe's Garage doesn't exist anymore. It was burned down long ago. Whatever remains have blown away in the winds of the storms since. Zappa and Denver are gone. The superstars remaining won't live forever, and the mainstream will wipe them away when they do.

Rock isn't angry anymore, it's not even much in the way of debauched. Instead it is an underground phenomenon where it belongs. "Have guitar, will travel" was the motto of rock before the stadiums took it in, and it will once again be its mantra after being thrown out. You can find anything you want with the internet on your side--you don't need the false promises of Joe's Garage or the permission of hacks like the PMRC and their record company lackeys to sell you neutered and corporate approved goods. Rock still lives, and it will for a long, long time.

As it loses the influence of the mainstream rock only has the chance to get better. In fact, I would say the quality of rock music has gone up since the late 90s, and away from store shelves, and I find without much surprise that rock is back where it started, in the music halls and the garage, cleansed and purified, perhaps even ennobled, by its time among the slave-gangs of the record executives [Thank you for that, Mr. Lundwell]. You can find anything you want now.

So forget Laurel Canyon, Joe's Garage, or MTV. Rock is still alive, and it's no longer angry. It's merely alive and fun again.

And that's what's always been about being.

Modern music still has it

I may not be making music, but I am doing what I can to bring back fun fiction! Check out Gemini Warrior for an action adventure story of heroes, magic, and strange planets, the likes of which you've never seen. And there's more to come!

Find it Here!

Thursday, 26 September 2019

That Serious Business

A day in the life

How precisely can believability be stretched in fiction? When I was young I thought there was no limit, and yet as I get older I find myself brushing up against borders I didn't have before. Why that is I'm not sure, but I would still like to explore it.

As an example, I've been watching anime for a very long time, but it is only in the last few years where I've noticed a similar split has divided watchers. This has changed much over the decades when there wasn't much divide at all.

This isn't just about those who detest it. There's always been a reason to hate anime. In the 80s it was called degenerate tentacle porn, in the 90s it was hated over violence, in the 00s it was moe blobs, and now it's some weird combination of the above.

Suffice to say there are people who just see animation and instantly file it away as kid stuff or as degenerate cartoons for freaks without any in between. You aren't going to convince them that there is a middle ground, but that's just the way it is.

I'm not discussing that group. I'm referring to the split that has occurred to those who actually watch anime.

I don't rightly know if I consider myself an anime fan because I don't like everything the medium does, and I wasn't much of a fan during the late '00s to early '10s, but I have been watching since I was a kid, and different types of anime at that. According to certain moe fans I am a normie and they're the true connoisseurs watching the truly hardcore stuff. At the same time there are those who won't watch anime beyond 2000 due to the switch to computer coloring. On top of it there are those who think anime peaked in the 80s, and yet other who believe the '70s hit the mark right. I've also met those who believe the '00s were anime at its purest.

Nonetheless I don't really agree with any of these positions, but I've been trying to figure out what it is that pushed these strong opinions that didn't used to exist mere years ago. Now there are factions. Weebs have changed, but their bullheaded way of expressing opinions have not.

It's taken me a while to nail down what it is that makes the difference between modern watchers, and I think it has to do with the weeb factor. This is something that has changed over the years and many react differently to it.

What is the weeb factor? This is more difficult to sum up. Some people consider things a "weeb" artstyle, but there is no uniform anime artstyle. This isn't about aesthetics. If you wretch looking at Armored Trooper VOTOMs' artstyle, for instance, then there is nothing that will get you to watch anime even impartially. And VOTOMs' art is very close to realistic. The weeb factor isn't about artstyle.

I think it has to do with what Matt Groening called "rubberband reality" in that the band of believability stretches out for a joke and then snaps back afterwards when the story kicks in. This is not just about humor, but the stretch has to be used carefully to avoid messing with tone. I'm speaking beyond comedy now. So when I use the rubberband, I'm referring to the weeb factor. Does the band bend, or break?

The weeb factor is essentially not in regards to humor, but with general tone and consistency. Think of something you're supposed to take seriously but it instead makes you roll your eyes. That, I think, might be one dividing issue.

Does this help?
The problem a lot of people have with anime is the rubberband of weebishness is stretched in contorted ways and needlessly used. From convoluted character designs to ridiculous action, there are a few things that can pull one out of the world they're engaging in.

Some people like this sort of thing, as seen by the popularity of Shadow the Hedgehog, the Fate series, or Deadman Wonderland. Characters that do or say ridiculous things meant to be taken deadly serious without any levity. Some of the costumes or art serve no practical purpose aside from being cool, the action breaks basic physics randomly and without purpose. But I think what rubs some the wrong way is that it messes with the supposed serious tone and takes them out of it.

I think this is how something like JoJo's Bizarre Adventure or Mob Psycho 100 avoid falling into these traps by allowing some sun into the room and the insane feats on display are explained in-canon in a way that doesn't snap the viewer out of it. It isn't meant to be taken overly serious 100% of the time. Dragon Ball, the originator of most of this sort of super serious tone, is saved for the fact that it is also (or was) primarily a comedy and adventure series before it got that way later on.

But then you have to wonder why this weeb factor is so divisive? It didn't use to be. I believe it's mainly because it didn't exist to this level before.

If you watch a '70s mecha you will see some impossible feats, but nothing that momentarily breaks immersion to do something cool at the expense of logic. It all stays at the same level throughout the entire episode. So this sort of thing became more prominent later on, being really pushed into the mainstream with the Dragon Ball Z anime, until the point where it was fairly tough to get an action series without the edge by the '00s and into the early '10s.

Much of this was buoyed by the power creep problem series like Bleach or Naruto specialized in. This is where spectacle had to be piled onto spectacle at the expense of the greater world or the majority of characters. It got out of hand.

More modern shonen like My Hero Academia, World Trigger, and Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, have figured out a way to avoid these issues. They instead weigh the characters and the rules down which makes the action requiring to stay at a certain level. This has the effect of making the action more dynamic and nail-biting because you know the writer won't bend the universe to get something cool at the expense of the story's internal logic. They avoid the traps of the earlier works.

What it comes down to is what the audience's tolerance for cartoon logic in a supposedly serious narrative is. Even in modern live action movies this has changed from what it once was. Think of a movie such as Cobra where every over the top action taken is still framed in within the tight pacing and storytelling weighed down by the threat dogging the main character, then think of a modern Fast and the Furious film that repeatedly defies physics at every opportunity to make the action look cool above everything else. These are fairly different takes. The latter approach also tends to wink at the audience to let them in on the gag, thereby breaking investment for those who want to take what they're seeing seriously. One is meant to be serious but framed in its internal logic, and the other flaunts that seriousness as a choice it can waive at any moment.

Again, this isn't necessarily bad, but it does explain why some that prefer one approach cannot get into the other. They have split apart.

An example of action without breaking the rules
As for my opinion, it is clear which I prefer.

I realize the "rule of cool" has been a favorite of people for a long time, but to me it is the story that has to come first. The story sets the tone and the limitations of the characters and what can occur. You are promising the customer a specific sort of tale and then must deliver on it within the frame you present. I want the characters to preform feats in tone with the universe established. That is what makes it cool.

Those that strive to be serious and dark fall into the edgelord trap and those who want their cake of calamity and cheese without any weight are both opposite ends of the same spectrum, but are both more or less enjoyed by their own cult of fans. If that is what they like, then good for them.

But those of us in the center have been hungry for balance for a long time. It is one of the reasons the Ushio & Tora anime worked so well for me when it came out. It originated from that era when the balance of seriousness and levity was common and expected. Seeing that again and animated in what was 2015 was more than welcome and exactly what I'd been waiting for. Years later seeing this approach show up more and more is refreshing.

Nonetheless, it does help to explain why there is a divide among those who watch anime (and action movies, for that matter) today where there didn't appear to be one before. I know where my tastes lie, and you probably do too. But at one point we were more united than we are now. I can't say just when the shift happened, unless it really was slow and gradual, but it happened and this is where we are now.

Is there a solution to bring them together again? Short of each side swallowing their pride and taste to enjoy the other, probably not. For now the best bet is for creators to cater to the largest group they can, and hope for the best. Perhaps then it will become clearer in the future. Hopefully clearer than this post has been.

For now, lets go beat up some weebs. It will bring us all together.

As for me, I wrote my own story that stays with the lines. Gemini Warrior is an action story where the adventure never stops! Check it out today!

Find it Here!

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Questionable Directions

I have simple standards when it comes to the entertainment I enjoy. By that I mean my bar for general enjoyment isn't very high. I'm an easy person to please. Something that is merely entertaining is enough for me to give the thumbs up and a recommendation to doesn't require much. However, I do have a few pet peeves that prevent me from ever even giving the attempt at indulging certain stories anymore.

What I dislike the most is anything that makes the universe smaller. Any story device that clips the wings of potential from the outset is one I cannot get behind. And, unfortunately, this has happened more and more over the last decade.

There are two examples that are functionally the same thing, but both are very good at making me lose interest in your story.

The first is the usage of alternate dimensions: a story that revolves around different versions of the same world and characters from multiple different angles.

This became a very popular storytelling trope in the '00s, and I have hated it from the outset as a lazy way of putting a ceiling on your universe and relying on already established settings to tell tiny stories that can never have wider impact beyond them. They are, by design intended to be small but fool others into thinking they are not.

The best example of this is in comic books. Both Marvel and DC have made it known that they revel in alternate universes for material and have for years despite declining sales. There are endless versions of every character and setting and there have been whole plotlines and events revolving around these versions and their subtle differences with the main world. This leads to endless reboots and relaunches in new or combined universes where the writer can and will make any change he wants because its any easy way to not have to expand the universe or create new characters and situations. This is a lazy way to create "new" content.

This device keeps everything insular and yet meaningless by the end of the story. If anything changes it just doesn't matter because they can just find another version of the character to use or get a new timeline and do the same thing again. It's shadowboxing with a thin veneer of world-shaking stakes.

When you dabble in alternate timelines you are essentially saying you like the idea of the universe more than the actual universe. You want to pick and nit at it until there is nothing left on the plate but peas lined up carefully. You have no interest in exploring what you've made, but would rather turn inward and admire yourself and your creations in the mirror. You are taking a universe and shrinking it down to one set of characters and settings copypasted into eternity.

There is nothing interesting about that.

Note: I am not talking about alternate history stories. Those have value as what if stories and original takes on historical events. They are not reliant on multiple realities to make their narratives work. They have more elbow room and possibilities to them than what I am referring to above.

Alternate dimensions as a story device has a limited shelf life, yet it's been used incessantly for the last two decades to weaker and weaker results.

This story was insulting in at least three different ways.
In fact, this leads to the second related issue I have with modern storytelling, and that is time travel. Time travel of a certain type, specifically.

Yes, yes, Back to the Future is a great movie (and series) and does time travel right. It also works because it is light fare and a comedy which allows more with the concept than it would if it was 100% serious and rigid. Outside of comedy time travel rarely ever works, and that is because most time travel stories are inward looking and hyper-focused on small things and limited events.

There are also stories that begin with the character thrown into the distant past or future then must stay there for the length of the story until the problem is solved.

I'm not referring to the above, as the time travel is merely the set up and not the entire plot. These stories also don't require that you take them incredibly serious, either.

My main issue with time travel, besides the logic breaking apart if you think about it too hard, is that it has the same effect as alternate dimensions does. It has a chance of undercutting any tension or stakes in the story with an infinite supply of outs or lack of excuses for even using them.

Stories that are more interested in navel-gazing instead of exploring the world before them tells me that the writer has a limited interest in what they have created and no intention of exploring it beyond a small area or time frame. Stories that focus on the past or future of a tiny cast of characters, or endless versions of them, are not interested in the wider world of your universe, only a small section of it. This tells me that the story you want to tell is going to be insular with no wider connection outside of it.

You can tell a tale in a single location with a limited cast and still have it be part of a bigger whole, because that's life. Every action has an effect on everyone else, no matter how small or simple. Eventually it goes around.

But purposefully insular stories essentially locked to their own time and space away from the bigger universe . . . don't. By design, they can't. They are trapped and segregated to their own tiny spaces that either roll out in the wider world in a limited way or a cartoonish over-correction on reality itself (which works much better when it's a comedy so you don't have to think too hard on it) essentially saying that no one outside your minuscule cast has any effect on your wider world.

Time hopping and destroying the past recklessly has consequences on a wider world that can't do anything about it, but the cast the writer focuses on is all you see otherwise. Relegating the fate of the rest of the world to an epilogue has never quite sat right with me.

These stories don't go anywhere, and that might be the point, but it doesn't make them any less tired or overdone. It doesn't involve looking outside yourself.

There was absolutely no point to this.
Perhaps I am biased being that action adventure is my favorite genre, but the whole purpose of adventure is to explore. These stories have a very limited definition that. Being insular is not an option in an adventure story, though it can make a good starting point. But that might help to describe why I don't enjoy this modern obsession with the self so much. It is very far from where my tastes go and doesn't offer what I engage in stories for.

I'm not sure exactly why this trend became so hot. In the '80s space travel and alien worlds were big as were cyberpunk and more fantastical lands, and the '90s continued much the same if with a bit more snark and edge. All that pretty much ceased in the '00s where inward looking mopefests with no point took control of the wondrous and fantastical. Now there is no hope for better or more exciting worlds, but endless squabbles over physical traits and pining for an alternate world than the one we already live in.

But we still live in this world. We can imagine better worlds, and even hope for escape, however we don't have to do that by rejecting the reality we already have. It's not perfect but it is still all we have, and we need it as a starting position. It's hard to imagine greater heights when you've never seen the sky and your feet have never touched the ground.

Here's hoping as we enter a new decade that we finally shake off the bad trends that have been glued in since the late 90s. The paste has rotten away by now. We're more than due for something else.

As I've said, I am not the hardest person to please. I want adventure. A simple pulp tale can do it in a couple thousand words. What excuse do the rest of us have?

I don't think we have any, not anymore.

And I don't!

That's why I recently wrote Gemini Warrior, my entry in the tradition of heroes fighting impossible odds and confronting evil where they see it! If you're looking for a modern adventure story without more needless misery then you've come to the right place. I've got you covered.

Find it Here!

Thursday, 12 September 2019

The Prince Returns

I'd never been much a reader of westerns growing up. Just like with pulps I was sold an incomplete versions of what they were and what they represented about those who read and wrote them. Apparently I wasn't alone in that. Most folk I met simply never read them.

In fact, outside of Louis L'Amour and perhaps a random mention of Lonesome Dove, you will rarely hear anyone speak of them these days. You might get a gritty modern Hollywood film reboot of an old movie or a C-tier spaghetti western comic romp awash with late-90s cynicism, but not often do you get much more than that.

However, since learning about how the pulps were buried and hidden from those who might want to read them I have gone the gamut with adventure fiction. From the fantastic such as Doc Smith and Robert E. Howard to detective fiction such as Carroll John Daly and Mickey Spillane to now westerns with ol' Louis and a firebrand known as Frederick Faust, also known as Max Brand, I have tried whatever I could get my hands on. And they have more in common than you think! 

What they all had in common is their love of adventure and thrilling the reader in as tight a manner as possible. Pure entertainment with a touch of edification along the way!

But of all the names I mentioned above, Max Brand is the one least known today. This shouldn't be the case with most pulp era authors getting constant re-releases even in digital form, but Max Brand's material is mostly gotten from online archive services or torn up reprinted paperbacks from the 1960s. He is hardly the household name he probably should be, and I would say it is probably due to his genre of choice. Westerns don't get much focus these days outside of enthusiast circles.

But his obscurity is also due to his early death.

Frederick Faust died in 1944 at the age of 51. He was a war correspondent in WWII and died from shrapnel. Even at his age he had written somewhere around 500 works for the pulps, 300 of which were westerns, under different names. However, his most well known was Max Brand. Most of his work was reprinted in the 60s, but not so much after that. Despite this, his quality is well known among genre fans.

Even today he is known as one of the Big 3 in westerns with Ol' Louis and a bloke known as Zane Grey. Should you find a western section in your used bookstore you will most likely see those three names. And it is not without merit. All three are quite different from each other, but Max Brand is the one I wanted to discuss.

And from what I've read of the man, he definitely had a unique touch that others I have read in the genre do not. To emphasize this I will talk about one of his books that I have recently read entitled Valley Vultures. It's a short 200 page pulp story that ran in six parts in Western Story Magazine in 1931. Most of his work ran in magazines from time from Argosy, All-Story Weekly, or the western magazines. But this one struck me as particularly interesting.

Valley Vultures is about a place called Dexter Valley where some years ago the Dexter family owned the land and ran things quite well. They had farms, different families living all over, and a prosperous town to boot. Things were looking up!

Then one day a hand named Scorpio turned on them and with help of other individuals in the valley slaughtered the Dexter family one fateful night. Scorpio disappeared, but those responsible for the murders were never caught. Years later a mysterious man returns to town calling himself Charles Dexter (known as Prince Charlie to those in the valley) the lone surviving son from the attack, and he wants what is his. But is he who he says he is? That is but one of many mysteries surrounding what happened that terrible night.

First off the bat is to mention that we are guided through this story by Oliver Dean, a middle-aged city-dweller who is ill and out of it. He comes to the country to get some fresh air and adventure to clear his head and get the cobwebs out, and that's what he gets. Dean is a bit of a practical thinker and he ends up entangled in Charlie's plot from the get go. First we are first dragged into a mystery as to if this stranger is who he really is and question what exactly happened on that night the Dexters were killed. Then we are given hints that there might be more to this town than we first thought. 

The two mains are perfect. Charlie is a man's man: quick to action and a bit reckless, but paired with the quick-witted Dean the two manage to temper each other into forces to be reckoned with. They soon become known all over the valley. We as readers feel that is owed from what we see of them. The pair help make the story work.

As I said, it starts as a mystery of identity, before the revelation that the missing killer from back then might be alive, then it moves into a back and forth between the usurpers and Prince Charlie (If that is who he really is!) before spilling out into assassination attempts, chases, and fistfights. But what makes it all work is how defined every character is and how they interact with the other, even those who are only in a handful of scenes. You can feel the pressure turn up with every decision someone takes or quip someone makes.

Someone once said Brand's work has a touch of Shakespeare, and I personally agree. This story could be performed on a stage and minimal effort would be needed to change anything outside of the action. It is very dramatic and dynamic work. Every character has layers, every action has major consequences, and every mystery makes the world larger.

I spent the entire length of this work on the edge of my seat and turning the pages frantically to see just if our heroes would make it out and if the killers would get their due: and to see what the answers to the mysteries meant! Sure enough the end says a lot about those who soak themselves in evil and what they will do to keep their heads above water. But it was very much worth the wait, and satisfying at that.

Suffice to say this was one of the best books I've read this year.

The most fascinating part of the book to me is that it is more or less completely unknown despite its obvious quality. I have found no reviews online for this. There has never been an adaption that I've been able to track down. I can't even find blog posts mentioning it: for all I know this is the first one ever! Which is a bit ridiculous, to be honest.

For all intents and purposes Valley Vultures has been entirely forgotten, and that is a true shame. This is a book that deserves more. Much like the rest of Max Brand's output it has fallen by the wayside just as the western as a whole has and not been archived as it should outside of random archive sites. But that says little about how good his work truly is.

Perhaps the western is on the verge of making a comeback, just as the rest of adventure pulp is, and I hope it does. There are plenty of exciting adventures to tell in this land of uncertainty and chaos between law and disorder, and many still we have missed along the way. With the pulp revolution in swing anything can happen!

Just like the prince returns to reclaim his rightful place, as in the case of many stories, so must we help him to do so. Justice prevails. Everything must be put right eventually, and soon enough it will. I await that day.

Until then I'm going to go read more Max Brand books. I've got a bunch waiting for me. Thank goodness for used book stores.

If you haven't read Valley Vultures then it comes highly recommended by me. You won't find an adventure quite like this just anywhere!

If you want another sort of adventure, you can always check out Gemini Warrior! Reviews are great and feedback has been much the same. Excitement, wonder, and heroism are just a ahead!

Find it Here!

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Summer's End

Find it Here!

It's been quite the summer, and now we'rd nearing the end. Personally speaking it was a mixed bag of highs and lows with most of the highs settling in on writing and my podcast. So let me tell you exactly what I've been up to in regards to the former.

Just like most writers I have a bunch of ideas waiting in the wings, stories half-formed, and others in need of tempering with a heavy edit or two. I'm not going to share those just yet because there's nothing I dislike more than offering a promise to someone and being unable to fulfill it due to outside factors. Whatever gets done first is usually what I think has the best chance of being sold or pleasing the most people and that can change in a heartbeat. That said, there are things I will share because they will be done in the near future or might be near completion.

First, of course, is the fact that my new book, Gemini Warrior, has just come out. For those unaware, this is a superhero/adventure/fantasy mashup and has been getting great reviews and the sales have been my best so far. It's about a mismatched pair of guys who end up entangled in a scheme that gives them powers and sends them to a whole new planet! Then things get weird. This is going to be part of a series of which the second book, Gemini Drifter, has already been written and is currently in the heavy editing process. Planning on book 3, Gemini Outsider, has already begun. I've got more beyond those thought out so if you want more Gemini Man you're set!

Outside of the Gemini Man books, I've also planned out a sequel to Grey Cat Blues that I have in my back pocket. I have a soft spot for that book, and those that have read it really appear to like it, plus the fact that these are short make them fun to put together. The sequel will not star Two Tone or Aurora from the original, but will take place in the same world and might have some new wrinkles in what goes on under the surface in that alien world. However, you can expect more of the same in regards to tone, atmosphere, and the world.

That said, since my main focus will be on Gemini Man, other books of mine will be written between releases of those. I say this because I am already hip deep in another idea that I haven't been able to sit down and focus on due to too many other factors. Since it's nailed down, I can share it with you.

The other book is called Brutal Dreams and it is an old Weird Tales-style horror, and it is also at a shorter length. This is about a man who finds himself trapped in a dream where he can't escape, or shed blood, but eventually learns that not only is he not alone in there, but those that are have hatched a plot to seize a new form of immortality. They plan to do this through a legendary weapon from ages past. No, it's not Excalibur. Think different weapon and more Celtic. This is a story I really like and will definitely put out there sooner or later.

The reason I mention this is because I would like input from you, my trusted readers. Either in the comments or in the twitter poll I will put out, I want you to tell me which idea I should focus on next of the two. Do you want a sequel to Grey Cat Blues or do you want Brutal Dreams? Whichever one sounds better to you is the one I will focus on next. Give me input!

Either way both will get done, but this will help clarify things for me.

EDIT: Vote here, or comment below!

On the other hand is my short fiction. I'm not stopping those since they are a breath of fresh air in between longer works. I still have some stories I'm waiting to hear back on, including two that are still awaiting release, but as of now I can say that my story Black Dog Bend will be part of StoryHack #5. This one is about a bass player lost in the woods who stumbles into a time loop. Then things get strange. 

Let me just say StoryHack is the best magazine out there that focuses on action adventure stories regardless of aesthetic or political correctness. Every story they put out is a stick of dynamite in the dusty mine that is modern publishing. Aside from Cirsova it is the only other magazine I own every issue of physically, and share eagerly with everyone I can. It's that good.

At the same time I have, as usual, a bunch of stories waiting in the wings to be edited and a few more I want to write to fill out potential short story collections in the future. One story in particular I have written that is a bit long and a bit weird that I'm hoping isn't too long and weird for the magazines to take a serious look at. It's one I am very proud of, but I still need one more hard editing pass on it. Fingers crossed for that one.

Speaking of short story collections, I'm working on one as we speak! My Superhero Vs. Magic stories have been around the block a bit, including one that was supposed to be published several times but plans fell through, and I've decided to bind them all together for a collection. There are seven total out of the four that have seen the light of day and the one in limbo, all of which take place in the same world of superpowers, magic, and possible Armageddon, as good guys, criminals, and cultists, do battle in Summerside: the worst city in the world.

I've been in touch with my editor about it and I'm hoping to finish my hard edit on it this month before handing it off. If it wasn't for real life it would already be done, but that's just the way it is. Either way, it's going to happen, so be ready!

I've also had a false start more than once on another series I want to start, this one with heavy sword and planet and sword and sorcery influence, but as of now I've been instead honing myself on those with short stories in the style. You should hopefully see those coming next year. Some of them are even already awaiting release! If you want to see how I handle the style, my story, Inside the Demon's Eye, in StoryHack #3 should give you a hint.

So that's what is happening here between the wasteland and sky. I'm not planning on stopping anytime soon, mostly because I can't and because I like writing too much, but that I'm letting you know just how much you have to look forward to in the future.

This train isn't stopping anytime soon.

Until then, keep your eyes peeled. You never know what might happen next. Summer might be over, but there are always more seasons ahead!

If you haven't checked out Gemini Warrior then what's stopping you? Two young men find themselves trapped in another world with brand new powers and no way out. Adventure, wonder, and heroism are just a click away!

Find it Here!

Thursday, 29 August 2019

The Comedy of the Situation

One thing most don't know about me is that I am a fan of sitcoms. This tends to surprise everyone who learns this since the form has a stigma as being completely worthless and lowly in the grand scheme of better television out there. Over the years sitcoms have been deconstructed, spat on, left for dead, and openly mocked, even as the televised landscape has degraded even further.

Now 'm not even certain anyone remembers them. But that's not the point.

So how can one like such a trashy thing as a sitcom? Well, I'll tell you, and maybe it will offer an additional perspective on why someone might enjoy this form that lasted half a century despite being hated more than pulp magazines, metal music, and violent video games combined. No, they weren't hated by the same people, but by those who considered themselves edgy or counter-cultural: they detested the medium. That's no exaggeration. They were that disliked. Most of the reason you hate sitcoms is because you were told to by television itself.

The reason I like sitcoms is because they are the only form of comedy on television that doesn't pretend to be high art, because it promises fluffy entertainment and delivers, and because it is the pure distillation of comedy in as tight a package as can be offered by the medium. In other words, there's a reason the form lasted so long besides the old canard of audiences being stupid spread by those who replaced them with worse shows.

Above all, sitcoms in their original intent were meant to attract the entire family from little Billy to Mom and Dad, and the family dog. They brought the family together.

Green Acres
They were made to unite and bring people together. This s why the "safe and soft comedy" insult thrown their way has never made any sense. Situation comedies were made to relate to everyone in the family at once which necessarily means it can't have explicit raunchy comedy or controversial topics. It's not a mystery why they did this, nor is it a limitation. They contain family friendly "light" writing to broaden appeal to the widest possible audience. They were made that way by design.

And yes, I am aware that sometimes they were not filmed before a live studio audience and had laugh tracks superimposed over them. I am also aware that many find the multi-camera format (which makes the show look like a stage-play) outdated. I understand the criticisms.

I am aware that sitcoms are not perfect, as are most of us who enjoy them. We know. Despite this they were successful for a reason and were the programs of choice on television for many years before the subversives declared them outdated and out of touch.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

So let us discuss when they lost their way. It was a long journey to tear down this genre from its family roots in exchange for lonely urbanites and split demographics, but it was a very successful one despite the failure. To this day the major networks consider lower ratings, smaller cultural impact, and divisive social messages their bread and butter. It was a long fall But at what point did it become like it is now?

The Andy Griffith Show
The most obvious reason for the death of the sitcom and family programming was the Rural Purge. Just like how ACT ended up killing the animation industry in the west the subversive nature of the Rural Purge was the first blow in attempting to shape a narrative that ended up fracturing audiences, demographics, and eventually the televised landscape itself. It was more sabotage by those who supposedly knew better, but clearly didn't.

For those who don't know, the title of the movement says it all. The Rural Purge was a move by rich city-dwelling television executives to create propaganda about the city and how great it is to attract more young people and get their advertising bucks. It didn't even roll out slowly like ACT or the PMRC did. It happened overnight.

In the early '70s all the highest rated shows were cancelled because of their setting and family friendly nature, in order to cobble together the image the networks preferred. It was deliberately aimed at deconstructing the past, degrading older viewers, and courting a higher quality of audience. They were going to shape the future.

And it was an abject failure.

Here is the supposed summary of why it was done via wikipedia:
"By the late 1960s, … many viewers, especially young ones, were rejecting [rural-themed] shows as irrelevant to modern times. Mayberry's total isolation from contemporary problems was part of its appeal, but more than a decade of media coverage of the civil rights movement had brought about a change in the popular image of the small Southern town. Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., was set on a U.S. Marine base between 1964 and 1969, but neither Gomer nor any of his fellow marines ever mentioned the war in Vietnam. CBS executives, afraid of losing the lucrative youth demographic, purged their schedule of hit shows that were drawing huge but older-skewing audiences."
But if this was true then why did ratings only decrease from the '70s on? Why were the highest rated shows (NOT critically acclaimed, the highest rated) up until the '00s still family centered shows? Why, when this project led to lack of success, did the networks never in 50 years ever have an Urban Purge?

This is the question nobody asks. Over 50 years and not a single book on the topic has ever been written. No articles online, either. Just like the ACT we lost something else due to busybodies and no one questions the reasons for it.

And now it's gone. Again.

Petticoat Junction
All those edgy sitcoms such as All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show you hear about as revolutionary never had the ratings of Green Acres or Petticoat Junction even at their best. And yet which ones do you hear about incessantly to this day? You never even see them in reruns because they don't get ratings now. There has never been a sitcom as popular as they were before the subversives took over, and that is simply reality.

But time marches on, perspectives get skewed, and the truth is lost. Even then, however, there was light shining in the cracks of this situation. Family shows stayed alive through it all.

My generation might have been the first since the rejection of those rural roots to actually get some of what the form was originally meant for. We were also the last.

I, like everyone in Generation Y, grew up with a sitcom block known as TGIF. In many ways this block both emphasizes the appeal of the form and shows why it eventually ended up dying by the next decade. It ran from 1989 to 2000, the twilight years of the sitcom and through Disney buying the network and tinkering with the project. In many ways it is the forebear for what is happening in the entertainment world now.

Perfect Strangers
TGIF began with an ABC executive named Jim Janicek back in the '80s. He remembered sitting around with his family watching The Wonderful World of Disney as a child and wanted to create a block like that for families again. Because there really weren't any. He worked through 1988 gaining support for his idea and eventually it led to TGIF ("Thank Goodness It's Funny") a play on the old saying of Thank God It's Friday.

Before then there really were no Friday blocks for television, and most shows left on that night were afterthoughts. But Janicek believed there was a family audience who just wanted to watch something together without having to compromise their ideals and beliefs for raunchier fair and just wanted to relax after a long week. Because believe it or not, that's what TV shows used to be for: unwinding.

It turns out that he was right. That audience was there waiting for just this moment. They'd probably been waiting since the Rural Purge, but nobody asked them what they wanted.

There were popular family shows before TGIF, such as Benson, Growing Pains, Diff'rent Strokes, Family Ties, Mr. Belvedere, Alf, and such, but they were all floating around without any sort of link to keep them grounded and were tossed in amidst adult fare. This was the first time they had all been brought to one concentrated space and allowed the audience to settle in for the long haul. And it was a huge success.

Depending on your age you might not remember this time period or know exactly why the block got popular when it did. I can tell you that the very first lineup is the perfect example as to why it was a hit with families.

When TGIF started it began with Full House, a show that has been on television in reruns for nearly 30 years, Family Matters, the one with Steve Urkel, Perfect Strangers, a show about a mismatched pair of cousins living in the city, and Just the Ten of Us, a spin off of Growing Pains about a large family. This first season was the base of the block and it would soon morph into an even bigger success as the '90s came in.

By 1993 the block solidified into what I think is the most well known and emphatic success of its original concept. Anchored by Family Matters, the modern day Brady Bunch update Step By Step, the distillation of youthful Gen Y with Boy Meets World, and hip urban comedy with Hanging with Mr. Cooper, it managed to hit every demographic and audience member you could think of, and this block lineup lasted until late 1996 when they began to fuss with it.

Nonetheless TGIF remained a Friday staple in the '90s.

During these years it was something to be able to talk with my parents, friends, acquaintances, church attendees, and grandparents and other family members about the same block even if just in passing. Everyone watched at least something from it and it made for some fun conversation pieces. It was a small thing, but it was still a connection to share.

In other words, the block did exactly what it had set out to do. It was a definite success by its own terms.

Family Matters
However, it was also at this point that the block began to lose its way. Starting with the addition of the Clueless TV series and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, the block began to aim away from general audiences towards fads. This was in the '90s when the "Extreme teen" demographic was being relentlessly pursued and where the quirky individual triumphed over the family. TGIF tried a bunch of one off shows about hip teens as genies and angels as well as bringing over shows from other blocks that were flailing. They did anything other than put out more shows for the entire family.

By 2000 and the end of the block there was really nothing left of what made TGIF popular to begin with. Its cancellation was inevitable, especially considering the arising trends in the sitcom world.

For those unaware, in the late '90s a sitcom named Friends came out. At the same time reality TV hit big with a show named Survivor and the two ended up being the idols of the networks for years. In many ways they still are. What they did was choke the air out of the television landscape so that everything either became a reality show (or game show for a bit) or became a Friends clone with the same setup and pandering approach. What they successfully did was kill network television in the long run, and the family sitcom dead.

Friends was the epitome of the original subversive ideal of those who initiated the Rural Purge decades before. It's a show entirely about selfish young urbanites obsessed with sex and money aimed at a young audience who cared more about soap opera drama that propagandized for city life and the "new" over the old. Some people say Seinfeld was this, but it wasn't: Seinfeld was a parody of city life that never once endorsed it but regularly skewered the urban world and made fun of such a selfish and shallow existence. Friends endorsed the destruction, wholly, unironically, and unashamedly, and it ended up destroying the entire form.

Because it was so popular, every sitcom began to abandon families, kids, the elderly, and adults, for the gold ring of disposable adolescent money. They're still pandering to the same audience now. The television landscape in the late '90s on is a wasteland due to this.

Step By Step
After Friends salted the earth, sitcoms began their descent to irrelevance. The execs from back in the day achieved their goal and had no idea where to go next and it shows. Just think: what was the last traditional sitcom that you can think of after Friends went off the air?

There isn't any, is there? No, sitcoms were abandoned after their use had run out.

Then Arrested Development arrived with the now beyond tired single camera setup and the networks have been chasing that dragon of imaginary success ever since. Remember, Arrested Development was never a hit, and yet everyone has still tried to copy it incessantly for nearly two decades. Why would you deliberately chase something that never hit on with larger audiences when that is supposed to be your job? This is how much the medium had lost its way.

And reruns appear to bear this out. Friends reruns have never done that great compared to everything else. In comparison Full House, of all shows, has never been off the air since it started running in 1987. There is an audience gap here that has never fully been addressed.

Now, am I arguing sitcoms are on the level of high art that have been usurped by pretenders looking for its glorious crown? Hardly. What I'm arguing is that it's another medium that was usurped and replaced by those who wanted to use it as a weapon, and then destroyed.

I'm not going to pretend sitcoms have ever been a popular subject: I'm one of the few people I know that like them, for example. But they existed for a reason, until that reason was taken away. Now like so many other forms it has been left in tatters and worse for wear.

The Final Blow
ABC attempted to bring back TGIF multiple times in the years since but it has never stuck. The family audience left and fractured as shows became made for hyper focused demographics and even more channels popped up to fill in the void. Not to mention that in the age of streaming blocks are a dying breed when no one has to watch what everyone else is.

At the same time, post-2000 sitcoms are now entirely about what the subversives wanted in being hyper-political and "true to life" by ejecting escapism for social messaging and being divisive instead of trying to unite. Their quest for relevance has made them irrelevant. As I said there have been no post-Friends sitcoms that have reached success, and there never will be.

At least, not out from Hollywood.

But that doesn't mean we can't try. Just as those in the writing world have attempted to fill the void, so too can those who want to see a return of more pro-social family oriented programming do their part. With the decline of the old guard there are going to be people looking for replacements, and TV shows are going to eventually need it after backing themselves into a corner. Sooner of later someone will figure out how to crowdfund a decent family sitcom.

It's just a matter of time.

Reminder: This has never been off the air once in over 30 years.
Until then I suppose I can share with you that sitcoms are silly, lighthearted, and frothy, and that is why they worked. There is nothing wrong with that. You can find no shortage of old advertisements up to the '90s for the networks that all focused on people coming home from a hard day at work desperate to laugh and feel better for a few moments before they had to wake up and do it again. They were made this way for those people and they did their job.

There are whole subcultures on the internet devoted to the medium and many of them are normal people who enjoy having a good time after having a tough day. You can find no shortage of those into sitcoms. This is how they managed to last so long despite the ire of "serious" critics and the attempt at subversion. The most talked about ones aren't even the ones you might figure. Hint: the family sitcoms still get the bulk of discussion even today.

So the next time you catch a rerun of Family Matters and roll your eyes, just stop for a second and realize that the goofy, frothy, silliness you're watching brightened someone's day for at least half an hour. It has its purpose, and it succeeded at it. At one time that was the goal of all entertainment.

And that is enough for me.

Boy Meets World 

Speaking of, I have a new book out built on fun-first principles. Readers appear to agree with me as the reviews keep coming in positive! Do you want to see a story of heroes, planet-hopping, and magic? Then Gemini Warrior is for you.

Check it out here!