Saturday, May 14, 2022

Heated Weekend

Hope you're having a good weekend! It's rather hot where I am.

The above is a video from VTuber Pippa Pipkin where she recites the classic Lovecraft story The Color Out of Space. Should you want something relaxing to listen or watch to in your spare time, it is a good use of it. She can be a bit hyper and edgy, for those concerned about such things, but she definitely knows how to get the tone of the story just right. Definitely recommend this read along, especially if you haven't read this one yet.

In other news, I've been in heavy editing one of the projects I recently mentioned. At the rate I'm going I hope to have it out by June. I can't say more than that until it's near completion, but much progress is being made to get it the best it can be. I definitely think you'll dig this one. It's going to be a good time when it's done.

Until then, the weather is getting hotter and hotter so hopefully you're in a nice cool place, enjoying the early summer heat. The year is almost half over, so savor what you've got!

Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Friday, May 6, 2022

Jackal: One of the Best Video Games Ever Made

Back in the day, video games were centered on just about anything. Simply look at the concepts of things like Q-Bert, Bubble Bobble, and Super Mario Bros., to see just how wild things could get. The way designers came up with so many different ways and systems to earn score and top the scoreboards was something else, much more than today.

On the other hand, sometimes they got ideas from more likely places to create things a bit more "realistic" and grounded. One of the more influential games of this type was Capcom's 1985 arcade classic Commando, perhaps one of the most influential of its era. This was a top down run and gun game where you play as the titular Commando as he mows down enemy waves attempting to kill him on his mission and rescue POWs along the way.

Needless to say, the simple yet addicting gameplay would lead the charge for other run and gun games to come, such as Rush 'N Attack (Green Beret), Ikari Warriors, and even the almighty Contra. The video game adaptions of such movie franchises as Rambo even took from Commando. This game's influence couldn't be ignored.

The late 1980s were really the period the Golden Age of gaming started, and titles like this were why. The arcades were the hottest places for new ideas, and their console ports at the time tended to add on to them in unique ways.

Of course, the NES was probably the system most well known for having arcade ports, but it was the one most known for having them be unique and sometimes better than the source material, graphics aside. Games like Contra, Gun.Smoke, and Double Dragon II, were far superior to the arcade editions despite simpler art styles by adding on and sharpening what made the original games work so very well. When it came to a home port, you were gambling, but sometimes it was worth it.

All that said, let us get into 1986's Jackal, also known as Top Gunner in the arcades in North America because Top Gun was a popular movie in the west. It was later released in 1988 on the NES, which is definitely its most well known version today.

Seeing the success of Commando, Konami thought how they could top it themselves. So, taking that top down formula, they instead used vehicles and gave the player a bit more movement. In doing this, they created Tokushu Butai Jackal (Special Forces Jackal) for the arcade. It was originally going to have one of those rotary joysticks to allow aim and shoot (similar to how dual stick aim works now for top down games) but wisely decided against it, instead having the player work around enemy approach instead of making everything into a bullet sponge.

The arcade version of Jackal (which is what every later edition would simply be called) was a very fun experience. Challenging, but the level design and enemy placement required the player thinking about their approach, and the unique control set up made them adopt strategy to succeed. Then there was the soundtrack, driving and high energy to simulate entering enemy territory to rescue your men. It's almost like they made the climax of The Delta Force into a game.

What makes the controls work as that there are only two buttons. One fires a fast but weak machine gun, and the other fires a slower abut strong grenade launcher. In every other version aside from the Japanese arcade original, the machine gun only fires northward meaning that lining your shots around enemy fire requires a bit more strategy, though otherwise the versions are the same. With just these two attacks, and the upgrades that can give you missile launchers, Jackal pretty much stays the same through its half-hour length.

At this point, we might as well discuss the difference between the arcade and the NES version, since the latter is basically what the game is more known for today, if it is thought of at all. 

Mainly, the field of view is bigger due to it no longer being limited to a vertical screen. Jackal has a lot of horizontal movement, after all. Also, instead of being one long continuous stage it is divided more traditionally into six stages, though the map at the end of each stage remains the same regardless. It's more of a presentation choice. Your jeep can also carry the full amount of POWs in each level which makes a bit more sense in a game about score and upgrades--you should be able to get the max amount if you play well.

Otherwise, aside from a slight expected graphics dip, the versions are not that much different. The soundtrack is also more typical of Konami's 8-bit output, meaning it was better than most of their arcade OST (sound-wise) at the time. You definitely did not feel like the NES version was a downgrade when you played this one.

What makes Jackal so good is that everything comes together perfectly. It's not a game you think about much when you aren't playing it, until you pick it up again. It's at that moment that everything comes together and you question how you had forgotten it was this good.

As an example, back in the day we didn't tend to buy a lot of games. My friends didn't and neither did my family, especially with rental shops around. For some reason, the one game, aside from the endless versions of Super Mario Bros. everyone had, everyone appeared to own was Jackal. I couldn't quite tell you why, but it was everywhere. It was a great co-op experience with friends, the controls were perfect, the music absorbing, and the incredible variety with such a simple concept such as dealing with on foot enemies, stationary cannons, bombers, and other vehicles, always made it a joy to experience. It was also the perfect length for an arcade shooter at six levels and being almost exactly half an hour in length. And, just like Contra or Sunset Riders, its difficulty is perfectly balanced, never feeling quarter-munching hard, but perfectly fair.

The one thing I couldn't tell you was why it never had a sequel, despite its popularity. It was never quite on the level of fame as the big boys or the licensed games that Konami put out, but it was certainly no bomb and had an enduring success on the NES. One might imagine what a Super Jackal might have been on the SNES, or maybe a MERCs style sequel published by Sega for the Genesis, But one was never made.

Instead it was filed away in the attic with the rest of the NES collection when kids moved on to the new 16-bit systems. Jackal was more or less forgotten by that point.

Regardless, today if one mentioned Jackal to anyone who has ever played an NES before you would certainly get words of praise following it. This is a classic and a game I wish would have more influence now, especially in the top-down action game subgenre. In other words, no dual analog for aiming and thereby turning the game into a bullet sponge fest to pump up the difficulty, but a well balanced game requiring strategy and different approaches to the many situations that the player is faced with. 

Many top down games say they are influenced by Jackal, but almost none really are in this aspect. It's one of the reasons it has never been topped in its genre, even though it could be. These old games still have plenty of life left in them!

All that said, the NES is unmistakable one of the best systems video games has ever, and will ever, produce. Nostalgia aside, it was home to many high quality experiences never again replicated either in the arcade or the home market. Jackal is one of these examples, which is what helps make it one of the best games ever made.

In these days, as AAA gaming falls further and further into the abyss and more and more people begin moving to indie and retro gaming, the NES will once again come out of storage, as will that infamous box or cartridge art of those soldiers going wild in the jeep with the gun blasting away. They will put the game in and within minutes realize just what they were missing.

I don't know what the industry's future holds, but I do know that it won't be in what they are pushing today. It will be in the simpler and more pure arcade experiences that built the industry from the ground up to begin with.

It will be with short lengths and infinite replay value, co-op games with loved ones, and pure arcade experiences based on skill, strategy, and score. The future in gaming is going to be when it reconnects with the past to make new experiences again. When it does, games like Jackal will be the blueprint they need to remember the magic they so desperately need. Simple, yet complex. Easy to get into, but hard to master. The classics had it all.

And that is what makes Jackal one of the best games ever made.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Spring Update

It's been a strange year so far. I'm sure you are very aware of it yourselves. It hasn't been much so far, but weird things are afoot and events have been particularly strange. 2022 has shown itself to be a very off-kilter so far, and we're about a third of the way through it. Who knows what is going to happen next with it?

Earlier in another post, I mentioned this year was going to be lighter on the blog, and I've more or less kept that promise. Real life is a bit of a pain these days, but gears are still grinding, ever so slowly. In many ways this has the feel of a transitional year. I don't know what's coming down the road, but it's going to be something unexpected.

Let us start with the big news that you might have already heard about. This is not particularly good. I need to properly address it here before we can discus anything else. After a rough time through the pandemic, like most other things have had, my publisher Silver Empire has closed. As a result, all rights to the books published my them since they started have returned to the original authors, including mine. They are now no longer with Silver Empire.

For those unaware, because it has been some time since it first started, I was writing a series for Silver Empire called Gemini Man. It was my attempt to write in their superhero universe, Heroes Unleashed, which was quite a bit different from everything else I'd done before. Even still, for those who read it, you know it wasn't quite a superhero book. The first entry released almost three years ago now, and much has changed for me since then. I wrote three books in the series, with the possibility of more, but now that will have to wait.

The three books were written at different stages of my writing career, with the first being the third book I ever completed. It was written before most of Someone is Aiming for You & Other Adventures was put down, for an idea of how old it is. The second entry was written during a flurry of activity, including when my stories for the Planetary Anthologies were written, as well as my first story for StoryHack. The third one was done around the time of Brutal Dreams and my most recent flurry of short story writing, which makes it the strongest of the three. It was quite a journey, and I do have a lot attached to their development. The series gets wilder as it goes, with the third book being a personal favorite for me in having everything really click into place. It is a shame that it was never properly released for you all despite how much was put into them.

As you might have already realized, only the first book in the Gemini Man series ever came out via Silver Empire, but the first two of them were completely done. The third book, Gemini Outsider, is currently being edited, and will be returned to me when it is finished. After that, I will have three books without a home to deal with. As you can imagine, I'm not going to just sit on completed books when my readers could be enjoying them.

So here is my plan for the three.

Whenever I managed to get that third book back and edited, I will be putting up my first crowdfunding campaign for Gemini Man. Yes, all of it. It will be an omnibus release for those three books, including Gemini Warrior, Gemini Drifter, and Gemini Outsider, all in one release. I'm also going to commission a new cover specifically for this release and put it all out in a bundle for you, the readers. There will probably be paperback and hardcover options, as long as I figure out how exactly shipping works through these things by then. Of course there will be a normal ebook version for digital readers, too. Since the books are already written and edited, all this will need will be some formatting and it will be done in no time at all.

As for an estimate on when the campaign will be, I do not know. Until I receive book three back, it's all up in the air. Hopefully that will happen sooner than later.

The only entry ever officially released.

For those who wish to know more generally about the state of Heroes Unleashed you can ask any of the authors yourselves as to what they plan on doing with their works, but most are planning to re-release their books themselves. How that will be done is still being decided among each of them. This post is mainly about my plans.

Now for the elephant in the room: the future of Heroes Unleashed itself. This is something a few of us have already thought about and discussed behind the scenes. Will it be continuing without Silver Empire, or is it over?

The long and short of it is that authors can still write in the universe as they wish, and if new writers want to write in it they simply need to let the writers, including creator Morgon Newquist, know about it without stepping on anyone's toes. It is, after all, her pet project. Beyond that, it works just the same as any other series one might write in. You write the story you want to tell. Heroes Unleashed will still go on, publisher or not.

When we speak of Gemini Man's future specifically, well, that is a whole other kettle of fish. Mostly because I only had one book come out without any sequels I have no idea what the demand for the series is. The fact that I no longer have a publishing house behind me to edit, construct and design covers and interiors, and promote the books, mainly mean it's 100% up to me at this point to decide whether to continue down this road, or instead work on my own stuff that isn't tied up in the wires. To borrow a tired phrase: it's complicated.

This is why I chose to make a crowdfunding campaign around the books. If the demand is high enough, I will continue to write in the series and give it a definitive ending (though book 3 does feature a satisfying enough one should it come down to it) to please the readers. If not, well, it will go on indefinite hiatus and I will work on things my readers will hopefully have more interest in and that I can more reasonably afford to produce myself as an independent NewPub writer. Basically, the future of it will be up to the readers, as it should be.

Regardless of any of that, you will get the three written books out when I finally receive the edits back for book 3. That is coming no matter what.

Because of the above, the next series I was planning on beginning (book 1 written and in the last pass of self-editing before being handed off to the editor) will have to be pushed back in line. Starting a new series while another hangs in the air would be uncomfortable to deal with as it is, and doing it this way allows me more time to edit and get started on book 2 behind the scenes. Should this book come out this year, it won't be until near the end of 2022.

It wasn't expected to be that way, but that's life.

The next work I'm planning on putting out is the complete version of Y Signal, the first part of which you can read above on the blog for free. Believe me, if you have read it you haven't even experienced a third of the whole story. It's going to be the most bizarre thing I've ever put out, and that's saying something. It's not quite the action-fest most of my stories are, but it is off-kilter enough to make up for that with weird horror. This is a story about a '90s kid having his whole world turned upside down and learning the truth of the reality of his surroundings. As I said, the first section is up on the blog if you want to know what to expect, but it gets even stranger than that. The complete story is quite an experience.

Y Signal will also probably be my last traditionally published (as far as the NewPub definition of the term goes) book, in that it is the last one I will simply just put up on amazon when it is done and ready to go. The foreseeable future beyond that will most likely consist of crowdfunding campaigns to get it out to readers easier and help more on the back end. NewPub is always changing, and so will I have to do the same.

Beyond that my book releases will mostly consist of the new series I'm working on, plus collections of shorter stories I'm also cobbling together. It will be a good while before another standalone novel is written.

That is basically the long and short of everything!

The first part is free!

As for short stories, novellas, etc. those are still in the works. Those are the pieces I have the most fun writing. I have at least 3-4 short stories waiting for a publication to open up submissions, and a couple others in production I'm probably going to rewrite to make even better before releasing them. Aside from those, I have many others on the way. I'm making my way down the list, writing them as inspiration strikes me to write them out.

For those who know, most of my short stories, novellas, and novelettes, are usually connected to each other, sometimes in loose ways. Someone is Aiming for You & Other Adventures was the first time I did this, and it remains one of my favorite releases I've done to this day. There is something about standalone stories that can be connected to a bigger whole to get more out of them that I quite enjoy doing. Two different levels of enjoyment. That book was the first time I ever attempted doing it, and it won't be the last.

Other ones done in this mold might be fairly obvious by now. I have written three stories starring the band Three Wolves as they travel across the land stumbling into pockets of weirdness wherever they go. Each were published in StoryHack, Pulp Rock, and Sidearm & Sorcery. The official name for this series is Night Rhythms. Weirdness and music combined together with hotblooded action. There are definitely others on the way, and my goal is to make them all as off-kilter as those ones were. They've got more stories to tell.

My two stories put out in the planetary anthology series (which is going out of print, so grab them as soon as you can!) about the unnamed traveling swordsman drifting from planet to planet in an attempt to save them from death is another one I'm still working on. There are four planned, one centered on each season as a theme, climaxing in the last one being most likely around novella length. We'll see when we get there. For now, I have an unpublished one I am going to rewrite after a strike of inspiration hit me.

The top series of these and the one getting the most focus from me, is one you might have realized by now. This one involves Galactic Enforcer Ronan Renfield, an intergalactic space cop who finds himself in situations where mad science combines with the Weird as humanity rebels against reality. Renfield navigates the vast chasm of space, drifting from planet to planet and civilization to civilization where man attempts to throw away its humanity for a shot at becoming their own God and remake existence in their image. He's a no nonsense Enforcer, an anachronism in a time when progress is made through corpses and baser urges, someone who frequently finds himself over his head with nothing to aid him accept his ancient revolver, his faith, and his instincts for Justice. 

You'll be learning more about him as the stories go on as he travels the dead worlds--and what lies between them. Believe me, I've got more than a few lined up for the poor sap. He is a fun character to write and his stories are some of the weirdest I've written. So I won't be stopping them anytime soon! They're too much fun to write.

The next entry of these Galactic Enforcer stories, Dead Planet Drifter, will be in the next issue of Cirsova, coming out this summer! You can read the first entry, Golden Echoes, in StoryHack #7. More are definitely on the way. Please read and enjoy!

Out this June! Preorder now!

In other words, gears are definitely turning, just more slowly than I'd prefer. 2022 has been offbeat, to say the least. Nonetheless, there is a lot still on the way.

I had seen some comments wondering if I was going to publish my Fandom series in book form, and I'm considering it. Considering how much is pulled from other sources and is basically commentary on said sources I'm not sure how it would work out in that medium. Regardless, I will consider it. Until then, you can always get this free book I edited on Gen Y. Co-written with authors Brian Niemeier and David V Stewart, it is quite the journey into the heart of a nearly lost group of people. At the other side there is always my most popular work, The Pulp Mindset.

I've also been looking into other ways to branch out into writing more things, but that probably won't be bearing fruit for quite a while. Either way, I'm not going to be stopping writing anytime soon, God willing, so look forward to the future.

Anyway, that was the update I've been meaning to get to for awhile. Hopefully I'll have more tangible things to show you, my dear readers, in the near future. Until then, I should be getting back to work. Stories can't write themselves, after all.

Have a good week and I'll see you next time!

Friday, April 22, 2022

A Quick One ~ Five Book Giveaway!

Find it Here!

Short post today, but I wanted to guide you to this deal six authors are having for five books. Check the link here to get yourself a free book for a limited time.

The description:

SIX WRITERS are banding together to bring you a giveaway of FIVE SIGNED BOOKS. This drawing will have five winners, and each winner will receive:
  • A copy of SCATTERED, SMOTHERED, & CHUNKED, signed by John G. Hartness,
  • A copy of CODENAME: WINTERBORN, signed by Declan Finn & Allan Yoskowitz,
  • A copy of RIMWORLD: DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY, signed by J.L. Curtis,
  • A copy of IN THE PALACE OF SHADOW AND JOY, signed by D.J. Butler, and
  • A copy of NECROLOPOLIS: COLLECTION, signed by Benjamin Tyler Smith.

Holy cow, am I right?

Books will be shipped to winners from the individual authors, which means that if you win, it rain books on you in April and May, as five separate packages full of signed goodness come your way. Note that if you live outside the U.S. and shipping to where you live is prohibitive, some authors may send you ebook copies rather than physical books.

Enter here for a chance to win! Enter your email address, and you have one entry in the drawing.

Once again, you can find the giveaway here.

Hope you all are having a good April and I'll see you soon enough!

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Counting Backwards

A long time ago, hobbies were hobbies and people treated them as such. Today, they are entire "lifestyle brands" and "communities" where people go to get their entire personalities from. What that sort of view has led to is tribalism and lunch table theatrics on par with the worst of secondary education. It hasn't led to better scenes, higher quality products or ideas, or more scrupulous "fans" and customers. All that has happened is that is has given corporations more eager drones to hand them many for the brand title on their product--brand titles they swiped and subverted from the people who created them and are long gone.

We are living on the scraps of a long dead era while simultaneously spitting on those very people who created what we love so we can keep our scavenger culture alive. It's disgusting, but it does help us avoid actually moving towards a future worth living in. We instead get stuck in a cult of our own personality where everything we like reflects back on us like Narcissus finding that perfect pool for himself. At the end of the day, it always about us and what we can benefit from: not what we can learn from others or how we can grow from where we are. You can see this most clearly on social media, though I would thoroughly recommend staying well clear of that disaster if given the chance too. It really does show the worst of us.

But the issue is more than that. It is like we lost the page count on a book we're reading so we instead just randomly skip around and pretend we understand what's happening inside. No one is fooled except for ourselves, but still we do it.

One of the strangest aspects of living in Clown World is how backwards everything has gotten over the decades, to the point that many might not have even realized it. I'm certain you can find all sorts of examples just by paying attention to world events and how opinions flip and all converge in the same direction over night, but the most obvious place this exists in is in our every day lives. It's subtle, but obvious when you notice it.

Take the above image, taken from Twitter. It would have to be social media, of course. The image shows a library of books entirely assembled to teach you how to play a game. Included are no history books, no short story collections or anthologies, or anything that would have caused the game to exist in the first place, but only books centered on doing the heavy-lifting of your imagination for you so you can consume product easily and in peace.

Before I annoy a contingent of tabletop gamers over the above, I want to specify the point being made here. This isn't about buying modules or general handbooks to understand your game better. It is about what the game, and all games, have always been intended to be about from the very beginning. This also goes well with obsession of "story-based" gaming of the above users.

Games are created from distinct parts and histories that merge together to form a new set of rules for the gamers to conquer. A game is defined by its rules which the players work with in order to beat. In essence, you should only need one rulebook or instruction manual to understand how to play a game. Why would you ever need more than one unless the game is either broken, or the people who made it want to syphon more money off of you?

This dove-tails into a point I made a while back on the bird site myself:

We are reading games and playing books and no one has realized it has turned around backwards from where it started.

Without fail almost all the replies and quote-tweets of the above image were all about this being the Ideal Library and the way it should be, but few seemed to really point out how upside down a goal having such a thing should be. Libraries are for knowledge, not learning to play games. In fact, libraries as they are classically defined as such, should already be helping you learn to play these games better. Libraries are basically where games came from, after all.

What makes it bizarre is how much tabletop gaming is formed from wargaming and games like Dungeons & Dragons were explicitly made to imitate the sword and sorcery short stories back in the day. You need a library of old books to even understand the context of these games. Theoretically, all the modules and handbooks for D&D already exist: they are the very books that created said game to begin with. Everything you need came from them and it was up to you to utilize these works in your own game.

But one perusal of the above bookshelf gamers are raving over contains none of those books. It actually contains nothing in the way of anything aside from corporate product. The owner would rather read his games and keep his playstyle locked into the technical framework of whoever owns the brand now. The owner would prefer exercising the same nuts and bolts instead of exercising his imagination to learn new ways to approach the classic games he apparently loves so much and spends much of his life pouring money into.

This might not be such an issue if so many in that scene (I can't definitively say whether the OP is one of these people or not) were not so vitriolic to the idea of reading old books, including the ones their games came from. The books that inspired the very scene they model their lives around, written by old dead men, are very much worthless. Why read those when you have "experts" and "influencers" in corporate positions to sell prepackaged imagination and ideas to you instead? Why do the heavy lifting when you can pay people to do it for you?

Why would you want to read Lord Dunsany to see magical and unknown worlds full of danger and wonder when you can buy a corporate module that mechanically writes out specific scenarios out for you to follow? 

Why would you want to read Harold Lamb, the man who inspired Robert E. Howard to write Sword & Sorcery to begin with, as he imaginatively describes the heroism of crusaders, Cossacks, and strangers in the desert? How about his history books? Why bother when history has nothing to do with why your game exists in the first place? Right? 

Why would you want to read Andrew Lang's fairy books where the idea for such stories were inspired? Why bother when you can have people repackage and sell you warmed over ideas from the 1980s instead?

Isn't there more to life than that?

Why do you desire to read games instead of reading books? Why do you desire to play books instead of playing games? Why do we never question how tangled up this has become? These are questions that are never quite answered.

This isn't any different in other subcultures. There is no real reason to single out one them. This is pretty much status quo everywhere.

Comic books wish to be dragged out movie screenplays even as movie screenplays poorly imitate comic books. Meanwhile, the original audience for comics, kids, are completely ignored entirely for full grown adults still playing dolls with their youth. Who is Cyclops going to date this week?! Who cares.

Video games insult themselves as being too "video-gamey" for having elements (like HUDs, life bars, stage-based progression, lives, or even scores) because gamers think it "takes them out of it" for whatever reason. They applaud the removal of video game music for bad, indistinctive wannabe Hollywood "scores" that even Hollywood didn't use at their best. Video games should be rolling in pulp clichés--not trying to aim for their own "Citizen Kane" in a medium that doesn't support it. Their roots have been jettisoned.

At some point they all decided being destroyed and subverted was a Good Thing. Even as their industries die.

Meanwhile, everyone wants to be Hollywood, an industry that has been on a downhill slide since the 1990s, and makes less and less every year while the majority of people walk away searching for something better. For some reason we wish to imitate this dying industry anyway. Why are we trying to lead them back where they already fled from?

Aside from being backwards, putting on new hats is not creativity. It's just a gimmick. Worse--it's a gimmick that is a failure. And still we cling to it.

Would one point this out to the consumer crowd, it would be met with volatile resistance. How dare you point out failing industries and ideas or failing? Just accept that Times Change and swallow whatever the corporations give you, or leave the "community" alone to slurp corporate teat unchallenged. That is what a good fanatic would do.

Is there not more to life than that? When did slavishly following along with the crowd like lemmings off a cliff be thought of as noble? Why is having a lack of imagination considered a badge of honor? How does this put you above the people who came before you? 

The weird arrogance that comes in defense of the above subversion of healthy traditions to objective degradations never ceases to amaze. Why brag about how much less you have than those who came before? How does this improve your station or scene in any positive way? How long are we going to keep this up for as everything implodes?

We form "communities" around these things, then, not preserve what we love, but to brag about warping it from its original intent to attract onlookers who don't care about said source to begin with. And then we wonder why nothing improves.

Perhaps it can be accepted now? This doesn't work.

We've gotten ourselves all mixed up and caught in our own spiderwebs, unsure of how we got there but adamants that being stuck and unable to move is the Way It Should Be. Perhaps complacency and comfort from better times allowed this to be, but that doesn't mean it should stay that way forever. Especially when those days are long gone.

I've been floating around in independent spaces for a while now and can definitely see a strong contingent of those righting the ship that was long ago steered into icebergs. They are counting backwards to the past to find their inspiration to start with in order to move forward. They then count forwards towards a better future.

As an example, you can check out the crowdfund for author Schuyler Hernstrom's Thune's Vision, organized by Pilum Press. This is a talented author, aided by a like-minded small pub, to revisit the roots that had been abandoned for so long and create something new from it.

Mr. Hermstrom writes adventure and weird of the old kind, the sort that would have run in Weird Tales were it still around: sword and sorcery as well as horror with a fairy tale edge. These are the sort of stories OldPub and the dying industry rejected long ago. You would do well backing the project if you have not yet. Mr. Hernstrom's material is worth it!

Thune's Vision already has over 100 backers and has blown past its initial goal for funding, proving there is a burgeoning audience for these sorts of stories. Check the campaign yourself and be amazed at the progress it has already made!

Why buy yet another module to file on your shelf when you could instead exercise your imagination by reading the sort of stories that helped invent your hobby to begin with? Inspire your games with actual stories.

Pilum Press has also started another campaign for a different writer by JB Jackson entitled Shagduk, which is the first book in a new series called De re dordica.

The description is as follows:

"The year is 1977. Professor Sherwood has gone missing. Between working at the library and playing gigs in Fort Worth holes in the wall after hours, Steven and his pal Randy set out to discover why, unwittingly summoning a demon and setting into motion a chain of astonishing events that could put the entire world at risk of total destruction."

You can find the campaign for Shagduk here.

For more on Pilum Press, including their unique anthologies, you can find their site here. They are doing some good work!

There is plenty out there aiming to give you what has been missing for some time now. Counting backwards works out more often than not, especially in an age that has long forgotten what mathematics even is.

Then again, 2022 is just getting going. Who knows what else is coming down the pike? I can assure you, however, that the best stuff will be like this: from those going back to the past to bring us towards a better future. Counting backwards is the exact approach we need to be able to learn how to count forward again. Keep an eye out! Good times are on the way.

Just remember to keep counting.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Gen Y Tales of Terror!

Alex from Cirsova was recently on the Bunderdome YouTube show with comic book writer and author Mark Pellegrini discussing weird horror. One of the main subjects that came up was what it was like as the last generation growing up in an analog world. I highly suggest listening for those who did not get to experience it for themselves. It really is like night and day.

Mark had a story in the most recent issue of Cirsova and also wrote a horror novel centering on being a kid in the Gen Y generation, (For those unaware, this is the generation between Gen X and Millennials who more or less ceased existing, at least in Madison Avenue's eyes, by 1998 or so), and how different it really was. Much like my story Y Signal (more on the way!), Mark's horror stories center around Gen Y kids that very quickly find out that the world they live in isn't all they thought it was. Is that a genre now? I would definitely like to see more stories like this. It certainly brings a new wrinkle to horror by bringing it back to worse things than death.

I am very much serious in my inquiry. If you do have any more examples of this seemingly new and burgeoning subgenre, then please send them my way. I would definitely like to see more of it. This is one of those things that can only really be made from one generation in particular, and probably couldn't have been written outside of an age where technology has a stranglehold on us all. Here's hoping more of this is on the way.

Cultural Ground Zero was around a quarter of a century ago, and that world is long dead and forgotten. Keeping the flickers of that era alive and taking them forward with us is something only Gen Y is really up to the task of doing in a world that wants to subvert and destroy all that came before. A bit strange to think about, expecting Gen Y to be some sort of torch in the dark, but that appears to be the way it shook out. I believe it was author Brian Niemeier who said that Gen Y's search for their place in the modern mess of today would either be total irrelevance, an obvious cautionary tale, or they could be able to reach middle age and become the scribe generation desperately needed to preserve the past. Perhaps that is what is happening here? I certainly hope so.

Regardless, I would definitely love to see more of these sorts of stories. They are quite unique for their time and place, and who knows how long that window will be open for them.

That aside, the above show is an hour long and well worth listening to, especially if you're a member of Gen Y or enjoy horror and weird stories.

Also, Cirsova's Kickstarter for the over the top space opera Wild Stars is very close to ending! Help it reach the next stretch goal for more goodies and future surprises!

As for myself and my work, I am working on an update for you, but that might have to wait a little as things shake out. Long story short, Silver Empire, the publisher of Heroes Unleashed and Gemini Man is closing up shop. I am getting the books back to do what I want with, and I'm still mulling over my options. Stay tuned on that one. There is still much going on behind the scenes.

Anyway, thank you for reading and listening! I've got more on the way.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Internet's End

One of the recent realizations I've had is how fast things have changed in only a few years. The world we lived in even 5 years ago has been completely destroyed.

The above is an interview with internet personality Mister Metokur, a figure who got his start around 15 years ago as he goes through his entire career and how different things were back in the early days of YouTube and social media when it was still a wild west. Listen to this and be amazed at how fast things have changed in such a short time.

It's a very long interview, but very informative.  You might be surprised at how much things have seemingly disappeared overnight and has already been lost in the fog of the past. Also, if you have any prayers to spare then please send them in Jim's direction. He has been unwell for some time now and does not think he'll be around much longer.

Those days might be gone, but the memories remain, and there are still lessons to be learned from those weird days. Whatever lies ahead, no one knows, but even strange times like these can be used to build a better future.

That's all for today. Have a good weekend!

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Rise of the Weird

This has been a long road we've gone down on the journey through Fandom's past. One can clearly see just how much of their culture was created by outsiders attempting to create a clean sweep of the world for their own purposes. They are not your friends; they are not anyone's friends. All they wish to do is spread their cult into the wider world, and will use anything and anyone as a weapon to get there. This where the fabrication of "Science Fiction & Fantasy" came from. Before their arrival, they were all romantic adventures, fairy tales, and gothic horror.

But we've already been over all that. There is more to it than what was taken away. Today we shall talk about what has been preserved.

I do not want to keep harping on the Fandom subject forever, so I wanted to cap off the series with this supplemental edition. Today we will end on the history of what might be the most important magazine of the pulp era, if not objectively in the top 3. Since it has been scarcely covered in the series so far (you'll see why soon enough) I found it best to finish on a positive note by going in deep on something Fandom has been trying their best to downplay and/or subvert for nearly a century. Today we will be talking about Weird Tales (1923-1954), the Unique Magazine.

As a consequence, this episode is going to be far different than the last few. We are going to see the difference between Fanatics and Normal People. I say this, because those involved with Weird Tales could hardly be any different than the weirdos we've talked about so far. Yes, even with their idiosyncrasies, the folks who made Weird Tales what it was were relatively healthy people, or people trying to be. There are no cultists here.

I wanted to cover Weird Tales because despite the history of the pulps, the revisionism they've been soaking in for nearly a century, the Fandom cult constructing a parallel mythology around their preferred reality, and the general malaise oozing from the industry, Weird Tales is a magazine that was an anomaly in a lot of ways, even for a market as strange as the pulps. We are going to discover just how true that is today.

Today we are going to look at The Weird Tales Story by Robert Weinberg from 1977 (reprinted in 1999). This is one of the very few books on the history of the magazine (and one of the few on any of the pulps) when even Ron Goulart's otherwise great book we covered earlier completely skimmed over it. This is the final piece of the puzzle in our series, and we're going to cover it today.

I'm reading from the recently released expanded edition released in 2022, which contains articles from many other modern writers and scholars with experience in this arena including an introduction by author Adrian Cole. From all I can find it looks as if Weinberg's original text remains the same across all editions, so there will be little difference in what we go over.

As for the additional material in the book, there are plenty of visual examples of covers and interior art. The fresh pieces by the new writers mostly center upon short biographies of important authors published in Weird Tales, as well as a chapter written by Morgan Holmes on sword and sorcery in the magazine and how it moved towards sword and planet. There is also an end piece on what happened to the Weird Tales brand name since the original magazine ended for good in 1954. I highly recommend reading all of that material as it is very good information supplied on a history in danger of being forgotten. Given that this is one of the most important magazines of the 20th century (Black Mask and Argosy being just as important) it should be discussed far more than it has been--especially by supposed scholars of the "field" they supposedly love so much.

Without further ado, let us go into the history of Weird Tales. For that we have to go back a very long time into the past.

It should be added that this book is important as it is one of the few written while the writers and artists were still around to talk about it. Mr. Weinberg admits he has favorites (Howard, Lovecraft, and Hamilton, chief of them) yet allows the writers and artists to do their own speaking for themselves. In other words, this work is straight from the horse's mouth.

As an example:

"This book was made possible through the assistance of many people. Foremost among them was Leo Margulies, without whose aid this work could never have been written. Each contributor who shared his memories helped make this work a bit more complete. E. Hoffman Price and Margaret Brundage, both of whom answered innumerable questions about their association with Weird Tales as well as the actual magazine itself, have to be singled out for their invaluable assistance. 
"Many others contributed important information. They included Glenn Lord, Celia La Spina, Vincent Napoli, Tom Cockcroft, Sam Moskowitz, and J. Grant Thiessen."

You might recognize some of those names. That someone was smart enough to interview them while they were still alive is rather important for a history. This also means that there won't be another work that can do what this one does.

"The most famous writer of weird fiction in the English language was the literary grandfather of Weird Tales. J.C. Henneberger, the creator and thus father of the fantasy magazine, explained Edgar Allan Poe's importance in the following:"

Keep in mind that this was written in the 1970s when Fandom terms had finally been forced on the rest of us. You will see a lot of terms never used when Weird Tales was actually being published being used throughout this book. At this point revisionism had already taken hold. It does not change the core story, however. That said, let us get back to Mr. Henneberger's quote.

"As a lad of of 16, I attended a military academy in Virginia. The English department was headed by one Captain Stevens, a hunchback who was a rather chauvinistic chap in that he favored Southern writers. One entire semester was devoted to Poe! You can imagine how immersed I became in him!"

Mr. Henneberger's youth was then spent trying to create new avenues and places where the stories he enjoyed could flourish and prosper. It was rather difficult then, especially since the pulp magazine was such a new thing, but eventually he reached his goal. And how grateful we are that he did! It took a lot to keep the magazine running for over 30 years.

In 1922 he started up Rural Publications with J.M. Lansinger, and immediately got to work on two magazines. The first was a detective magazine, the second was Weird Tales. The latter was the passion project, one that he refused to abandon.

As he says:

"Before the advent of Weird Tales, I had talked with such nationally known writers as Hamlin Garland, Emerson Hough, and Ben Hecht then residing in Chicago. I discovered that all of them expressed a desire to submit for publication a story of the unconventional type but hesitated to do so for fear of rejection. Pressed for details they acknowledged that such a delving into the realms of fantasy, the bizarre, and the outré could possibly be frowned upon by publishers of the conventional....

"When everything is properly weighed, I must confess that the main motive in establishing Weird Tales was to give the writer free rein to express his innermost feelings in a manner befitting great literature."

Though this probably a bit embellished, it is true that such a weird magazine had little chance of succeeding unless they really dressed to impress. There hadn't been much like it aside from the ill-fated Thrill Book which came out some years earlier and died within a handful of issues. They essentially had to build a market for themselves.

To succeed, he enlisted the services of Edwin Baird, a well known writer in Chicago. Baird, in turn, had two people help him. They were Farnsworth Wright, a music critic, and prolific writer and author Otis Adelbert Kline.

Mr. Baird was an "idea man" as the book describes, and once the magazine got off the ground, he lost inspiration in editing it. This shows in the early days of Weird Tales not really establishing much of an identity outside of ghost and monster stories and the occasional curveball. Despite this, it wasn't a complete washout.

Mr. Baird was only there for around a year, leaving in 1924. Due to reorganizing and selling off his other magazines, he left with the detective magazine and Mr. Henneberger put Farnsworth Wright on as the new editor. Mr. Wright would then stay with Weird Tales for 16 years, from 1924 to 1940. This would be the move that would save the magazine.

Farnsworth Wright is written about a lot in this book, and for good reason. He is much of the reason for Weird Tales' success and his editing skill is practically unmatched. He's also quite a character, as we'll soon see.

"Farnsworth Wright (1888-1940) was born in California. He was educated at the University of Nevada and the University of Washington. When the United States entered World War I, he went to France as a private in the infantry. He served as a French interpreter in the American Expeditionary Forces for a year. In 1919, Wright had a mild case of sleeping sickness. Two years later,  it returned in the form of Parkinson's disease. The condition worsened throughout the rest of Wright's life. By the end of the 1920s, the shaking caused by the disease was so bad that Wright could not sign his name."

That's right, throughout his entire tenure at Weird Tales, Mr. Wright had a disease that only worsened and ate at him further. Despite that, he never stopped doing what he did to the best of his ability. Even though it would eventually take his life, he fought it for nearly two decades. That is something to be said about a man who frequently dealt with the fantastical on a daily basis.

Mr. Wright married in 1929 and had a son a year later. In 1940 he left Weird Tales due to his health, even having an operation to try to help with the growing pain. But it did not help much, and he died in June of that year. He had quite the life, but we will get to that.

First let us see what he was like as an editor.

"Wright was a canny editor. Rarely did a good story get past him, even from an unknown author. Weird Tales featured more stories from authors who were only published with one tale than any other science fiction or fantasy magazine. Wright got stories from everywhere and everyone. [...] Wright once stated that of 100 manuscripts submitted, approximately two were bought."

There is one thing you might have noticed from everything written here so far, and it is a very important thing to note. Have you grasped it? It is quite amazing, especially considering everything we went through with the rest of the Fandom series.

The entire motivation behind everyone involved in Weird Tales was purely for monetary and artistic reasons--not social engineering. There was no materialist cultism at play here. There is no sinister motive behind Weird Tales, nothing evil or antisocial. It was purely about creating a unique magazine for an audience to buy: to offer something truly fresh. That is it, and it is reflected with everyone written about so far, including the undeservingly ignored Otis Adelbert Kline who played a large part in the success of the magazine, and gets little credit for it.

Mr. Kline also wrote this piece for the magazine nearly 100 years ago entitled "Why Weird Tales?" which was only revealed to be him many years after the fact. The entire thing is free online in the original magazine print. This piece is fairly illuminating.

It says:

"Up to the day the first issue of WEIRD TALES was placed on the stands, stories of the sort you read between these covers each month were taboo in the publishing world. Each magazine had its fixed policy. Some catered to mixed classes of readers, most specialized on certain types of stories, but all agreed in excluding the genuinely weird stories. The greatest weird story and one of the greatest short stories ever written, “The Murders of [sic] the Rue Morgue,” would not have stood the ghost of a show in any modern editorial office previous to the launching of WEIRD TALES. Had Edgar Allan Poe produced that masterpiece in this generation he would have searched in vain for a publisher before the advent of this magazine.

"And so every issue of this magazine fulfills its mission, printing the kind of stories you like to read—stories which you have no opportunity of reading in other periodicals because of their orthodox editorial policies.

"We make no pretension of publishing, or even trying to publish a magazine that will please everybody. What we have done, and will continue to do, is to gather around us an ever-increasing body of readers who appreciate the weird, the bizarre, the unusual—who recognize true art in fiction.

"The writing of the common run of stories today has, unfortunately for American literature, taken on the character of an exact science. Such stories are entirely mechanical, conforming to fixed rules. A good analogy might be found in the music of the electric piano. It is technically perfect, mechanically true, but lacking in expression. As is the case with any art when mechanics are permitted to dominate, the soul of the story is crushed—suffocated beneath a weight of technique. True art—the expression of the soul—is lacking.

"The types of stories we have published, and will continue to publish may be placed under two classifications. The first of these is the story of psychic phenomena or the occult story. These stories are written from three viewpoints: The viewpoint of the spiritualist who believes that such phenomena are produced by spirits of the departed, the scientist, who believes they are either the result of fraud, or may be explained by known, little known, or perhaps unknown phases of natural law, and the neutral investigator, who simply records the facts, lets them speak for themselves, and bolds no brief for either side.

"The second classification might be termed “Highly Imaginative Stories.” These are stories of advancement in the sciences and the arts to which the generation of the writer who creates them has not attained. All writers of such stories are prophets, and in the years to come, many of their prophecies will come true.

"There are a few people who sniff at such stories. They delude themselves with the statement that they are too practical to read such stuff. We cannot, nor do we aim to please such readers. A man for whom this generation has found no equal in his particular field of investigation, none other than the illustrious Huxley, wrote a suitable answer for them long ago. He said: “Those who refuse to go beyond fact rarely get as far as fact.”

"Writers of highly imaginative fiction have, in times past, drawn back the veil of centuries, allowing their readers to look at the wonders of the present. True, these visions were often distorted, as by a mirror with a curved surface, but just as truly were they actual reflections of the present. It is the mission of WEIRD TALES to find present day writers who have this faculty, that our readers may glimpse the future—may be vouchsafed visions of the wonders that are to come.

"Looking back over the vast sea of literature that has been produced since man began to record his thoughts, we find two types predominating—two types that have lived up to the present and will live on into the future: The weird story and the highly imaginative story. The greatest writers of history have been at their best when producing such stories; Homer, Shakespeare, Milton, Dante, Irving, Hawthorne, Poe, Verne, Dickens, Maeterlinck, Doyle, Wells, and scores of other lesser lights. Their weird and highly imaginative stories will live forever.

"Shakespeare gave forceful expression to the creed of writers of the weird and highly imaginative, when he wrote the oft-quoted saying: “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

"The writer of the highly imaginative story intuitively knows of the existence of these things, and endeavors to search them out. He has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. He is at once, the scientist, the philosopher, and the poet. He evolves fancies from known facts, and new and startling facts are in turn evolved from the fancies. For him, in truth, as for no others less gifted “Stone walls do not a prison make.” His ship of imagination will carry him the four thousand miles to the center of the earth, “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the, Sea,” on a journey to another planet millions of miles distant, or on a trip through the Universe, measured only in millions of light years, with equal facility. Material obstacles cannot stay his progress. He laughs at those two bogies which have plagued mankind from lime immemorial, time and space. Things without beginning and without end, which man is vainly trying to measure. Things that have neither length, breadth nor thickness, yet to which men would ascribe definite limits.

"To the imaginative writer, the upper reaches of the ether, the outer limits of the galactic ring, the great void that gaps beyond, and the infinity of Universes that may, for all we know, lie still further on, are as accessible as his own garden. He flies to them in the ship of his imagination in less time than it takes a bee to flit from one flower to another on the same spike of a delphinium.

"Some of the stories now being published in WEIRD TALES will live forever. Men, in the progressive ages to come, will wonder how it was possible that writers of the crude and uncivilized age known as the twentieth century could have had foreknowledge of the things that will have, by that time, come to pass. They will marvel, as they marvel even now, at the writings of Poe and Verne.

"It has always been the human desire to experience new emotions and sensations without actual danger. A tale of horror is told for its own sake, and becomes an end in itself. It is appreciated most by those who are secure from peril.

"Using the term in a wide sense, horror stories probably began with the magnificent story of the Writing on the Wall at Belshazzar’s Feast. Following this were the Book of Job, the legends of the Deluge and the Tower of Babel, and Saul’s Visit to the Woman of Endor. Byron once said the latter was the best ghost story ever written.

"The ancient Hebrews used the element of fear in their writings to spur their heroes to superhuman power or to instill a moral truth. The sun stands still in the heavens that Joshua may prevail over his enemies.

"The beginning of the English novel during the the middle of the eighteenth century brought to light Fielding, Smollett, Sterne and several others. Since this time terror has never ceased to be used as a motive in fiction. This period marked the end of the Gothic Romance whose primary appeal was to women readers. Situations fraught with terror are frequent in Jane Eyre. The Brontes, however, never used the supernatural element to increase tension. Theirs are the terrors of actual life. Wilkie Collins wove elaborate plots of hair-raising events. Bram Stoker, Richard Marsh and Sax Rohmer do likewise. Conan Doyle realized that darkness and loneliness place us at the mercy of terror and he worked artfully on our fear of the unknown. The works of Rider Haggard combine strangeness, wonder, mystery and horror, as do those of Verne, Hitchens, Blackwood, Conrad, and others.

"Charles Brockden Brown was the first American novelist to introduce supernatural occurrences and then trace them to natural causes. Like Mrs. Radcliffe, he was at the mercy of a conscience which forbade him to introduce spectres which he himself did not believe. Brown was deeply interested in morbid psychology and he took delight in tracing the working of the brain ip times of emotional distress. His best works are Edgar Huntly, Wieland and Ormond.

"The group of “Strange Stories by a Nervous Gentleman” in Tales of a Traveler, prove that Washington Irving was well versed in ghostly lore. He was wont to summon ghosts and spirits at will but could not refrain from receiving them in a jocose, irreverent mood. However, in the Story of the German Student he strikes a note of real horror.

"Hawthorne was not a man of morose and gloomy temper. An irresistible impulse drove him toward the sombre and gloomy. In his Notebook he says: “I used to think that I could imagine all the passions, all the feelings and states of the heart and mind, but how little did I know! Indeed, we are but shadows, we are not endowed with real life, but all that seems most real about us is but the thinnest shadow of a dream—till the heart be touched.”

"The weird story of The Hollow of the Three Hills, the gloomy legend of Ethan Brand and the ghostly White Old Maid are typical of Hawthorne’s mastery of the bizarre. His introduction of witches into The Scarlet Letter, and of mesmerism into The Blithedale Romance show that he was preoccupied with the terrors of magic and of the invisible world.

"Hawthorne was concerned with mournful reflections, not frightful events. The mystery of death, not its terror, fascinated him. He never startled you with physical horror save possibly in The House of the Seven Gables. In the chapter, Judge Jaffery Pyncheon, Hawthorne, with grim and bitter irony, mocks and taunts the dead body of the judge until the ghostly pageantry of the dead Pyncheons—including at last Judge Jaffery himself with the fatal crimson stain on his neckcloth—fades away with the coming of daylight.

"Edgar Allan Poe was penetrating the trackless regions of terror while Hawthorne was toying with spectral forms and “dark ideas.” Where Hawthorne would have shrunk back, repelled and disgusted, Poe, wildly exhilarated by the anticipation of a new and excruciating thrill, forced his way onward. Both Poe and Hawthorne were fascinated by the thought of death. The hemlock and cypress overshadowed Poe night and day and he describes death accompanied by its direst physical and mental agonies. Hawthorne wrote with finished perfection, unerringly choosing the right word; Poe experimented with language, painfully acquiring a studied form of expression which was remarkably effective at times. In his Masque of the Red Death we are forcibly impressed with the skilful arrangement of words, the alternation of long and short sentences, the use of repetition, and the deliberate choice of epithets.

"But enough of Poe. His works are immortal and stand today as the most widely read of any American author. The publishers of WEIRD TALES hope they will be instrumental in discovering or uncovering some American writer who will leave to posterity what Poe and Hawthorne have bequeathed to the present generation. Perhaps in the last year we have been instrumental in furnishing an outlet to writers whose works would not find a ready market in the usual channels.

"The reception accorded us has been cordial and we feel that we will survive. We dislike to predict the future of the horror story. We believe its powers are not yet exhausted. The advance of science proves this. It will lead us into unexplored labyrinths of terror and the human desire to experience new emotions will always be with us.

"Dr. Frank Crane says: “What I write is my tombstone.” And again—“As for me, let my bones and flesh be burned, and the ashes dropped in the moving waters, and if my name shall live at all, let it be found among Books, the only garden of forget-me-nots, the only human device for perpetuating this personality.”

"So WEIRD TALES has, from its inception, and will in the future, endeavor to find and publish those stories that will make their writers immortal. It will play its humble but necessary part in perpetuating those personalities that are worthy to be crowned as immortals.

You can read more from the transcriber, Terence E. Hanley, here on his site. He writes extensively about Weird Tales and others from that era. Definitely check his work out for yourself. He has uncovered a lot of good information.

Once more, it is a shame that Mr. Kline's work is not available in better condition or distribution. He certainly deserves the attention so many others from era command. Despite being a writer and also heavily involved in publishing, he had no Fanatic tendencies about him. He simply loved creating that much.

As for Farnsworth Wright, he was also fairly far from being a Fanatic. In fact, he was quite the interesting character. Mr. Weinberg talks about how he met with Mr. Wright and Mr. Kline and the two of them would go dining and even call themselves the "Varnished Vultures" as they would joke around eating dinner together. He did not have much in the way of pretention about him or his job, and that is rather different from the rest of the Fanatics.

He even helped a fledgling writer named Robert S. Carr get his career off the ground--a writer that was not a Weird writer or even submitting to Weird Tales at all. Eventually Carr got a Hollywood contract for his work and became friends with many involved in Weird Tales.

"An editor, they say, is a would-be writer whose frustration is expressed by grinning fiendishly as he stuffs a rejection slip into a return envelope. That's the most popular tradition, and like most widespread theories, it's way off the beam, simply because a man so warped by resentment could not maintain the open mind needed for his duties. But if that thesis were only partially justified, Farnsworth would have been an outstanding exception. In helping Bob Carr make his first step from what was, and still is, a magazine of limited circulation, he was depriving himself of a contributor who had been a drawing card from the start. [...] He was even ill and overworked, for in addition to his editorial duties, he was a music critic for a Chicago paper."

As far as the world of writing goes, Mr. Wright was fairly Chestertonian about it. This does not feel like a man full of himself.

"Our opening definition of an editor may have been an unfair implication: to wit, that Farnsworth nobly avoided the effects of frustration. This is not the case. I read one of his published slick paper stories, done years before he took charge of Weird Tales. There were others, though I remember only that one, which, incidentally, he did not give me time to finish. He showed it to me for only one reason: the yarn contained a pun in French, and he was proud of that! And he dismissed his writing by saying that he soon realized that while he could sell fiction, he could not produce sufficient quantities to make a living."

While it would have been interesting to see what a man like Mr. Wright would have done as a pulp writer, he definitely knew talent when he saw it. He always chose the story over the name author, which is why he even rejected stories by Lovecraft, Smith, and Howard, while they were alive and in their prime (and they made it known how they hated him for it!). He was always looking for the tale before the writer. 

This is how he avoided cliques, and instead acquired a stable of writers that were the best of the best, because they had to be in order to get in. There is a very big difference between how he worked and how the rest of the industry soon became. They wanted their friends in; he wanted the best work in to satiate the audience.

Mr. Wright loved words, loved puns, and just loved the craft of writing as a whole. This is what allowed him to be the editor that he was.

"I repeat, Farnsworth loved words: the relish with which he would recite George Sterling's "Wine of Wizardry" is the most certain clue to his lavish appreciation of my first novelette. Prose, to him, needed rhythm, sonorous phrases; it needed balance and imagery, for he had the heart of a poet. And I was not surprised, the other day, when Marjorie Wright mentioned a collection of his verses. He had never thought enough of them to have them published. More than that, he had always been opposed to publishing them."

This definitely explains a lot about why the quality of Weird Tales was always so high as a whole. He knew exactly the sort of story that would speak to people.

"Farnsworth's sense of humor covered the entire field, and with his knowledge of French, Spanish, German, and I think, Italian, as well as Latin, that field was wide. No matter what you dredged from a quip, you did not have to supply blueprints to get a hearty laugh from Farnsworth. There was nothing too subtle, nor anything too bawdy; in a flash, he would switch from jeux d'espirit, as delicate as Hungarian Somlyoi, to a barrack-room jest as rugged as Demerara rum. To say that the man was no pride is the ultimate understatement."

This speaks of a man who knows the common man very well, and knows how to connect with different people of different places.

And, in case the above quote might give the impression that he had a dirty mind, Mr. Weinberg is quick to defend Mr. Wright.

"I never knew a man whose mind was farther from the gutter; it was rather that, like Rabelais, a jest was a jest, no matter where you found it, and an unusual rhyme was music, regardless of the context. He reserved these flights of fancy for stag gatherings; in mixed crowds, he was scrupulously proper in his humor. He soared to the heights, he plumbed the depths of English and other languages, and kept his mind clean--nor was his a sheltered existence. Unlike many of his contributors, he had met and known many people and many types and many places. And each fed that agile fancy."

This was very obviously written in a different time about a very different world.

Most of the chapter on Farnsworth Wright is spent by Mr. Weinberg giving the clearest picture of his long gone friend as he can, and I would say he succeeded terrifically. One might say he was dealing with kid gloves talking about his old chum, but Mr. Wright had been gone nearly 40 years by the publication of this work and there were certainly few left alive to give an accurate account of him. It wasn't as if others were beating down the doors to write books on the subject.

What this shows is just what a unique individual Farnsworth Wright was, and I am thankful he wrote it. This work really gives us a window into the incredible success and influence that Weird Tales would eventually have. There was no magazine like Weird Tales, and there was no one else like Farnsworth Wright.

This is emphasized when Mr. Wright allowed Mr. Weinberg to read manuscripts for the magazine. You see advice that has since become standard outside of the writer's workshop set for those who want the best stories they can get.

"Another half dozen manuscripts, and I sat up with a whoop! Farnsworth had been right. The vitality, that indefinable something which makes a phrase live, makes a paragraph glow, makes an entire story sparkle, had put me on my feet. He chuckled, and he did not glance over the dead ones. He knew that I had learned a lesson: that a writer deserves exactly as much attention as his manuscripts compel, and not one bit more. And he went on to say, "It's really not necessary to read each dud to the horrible ending. If they don't come to life within the first two pages, they'll remain zombies to the finish."

This is the beating heart of pulp writing, and good writing as a whole.

"You may think that Farnsworth was radical in his methods of reading manuscripts, and cynical in his disposal of authors and their work. this was not the case. He was merely honest and realistic, refusing to waste his time on causes which according to his experience and logic were lost from the start. In the time saved by this realism, he went to great trouble to analyze "living" stories whose mechanical details were wrong, and to suggest revisions to make them acceptable. This was, he confessed, a thankless task on the whole, one which often brought him a letter packed with indignation and fury; but once in a while, the author cooperated."

As a writer myself I can tell you that I do prefer Mr. Wright's approach. If a story should be scrapped, I'd rather just hear it instead of trying to save a corpse from drowning. Editors are, in fact, attempting to make your story the best it can be. Why argue with them, unless they have no idea what they are doing in the first place. Mr. Wright, as can be seen, clearly knew what he was doing. Why argue with the best of the best?

There are a few other stories of Mr. Wright's editing prowess, such as when he first discovered CL Moore and took the day off to celebrate this great discovery. This is clearly a man who lived for the passion of what he did.

From Mr. Weinberg's explanation, they all appeared to have quite a lot of fun playing with language and discussing literary subjects over the years. From all description, Mr. Wright appeared to be rather jovial in his love of the arts.

"Farnsworth, however, was no solemn mentor; scholarly, talented, with a musical background as least as full and rich as his literary and linguistic background, he was never on the lecturer's platform. We, the group, met as equals; each contributed a specialty, and expanded in the appreciation of the others."

A professional, but a good and loyal friend. It was almost like he fell into the completely wrong industry!

The author also includes a letter written by Mr. Wright's wife who describes even more about the man. Suffice to say, there was a lot to him. How he became one of the most influential editors of the 20th century is clear in how much of a character he was. Compared to others of his age, and those to come, he was a man with a vision and a love for the arts. There was no a drop of cultist blood in him--something we certainly take for granted today.

His father died when he was four, yet he still had strong memories of him removing a sliver from his finger. He took care of his mother as best as he could. Mr. Wright was dedicated both to his family and to his friends. He received quite a few blows in life, but never lost his focus or his ambitions to do all that he could. He never lost his sense of wonder and zest for life, despite the disease that would ultimately take his life at a relatively young age.

Only in his early 50s, Farnsworth Wright's crippling Parkinson's Disease he had since 1921 had grown so bad that in the 1930s, he could hardly stand or walk without severe agony. By 1940 it had gotten so bad that he resigned from the magazine and endeavored on a surgery that was not so successful. He died not long later in June, as mentioned earlier. 

It should not be emphasized how much Farnsworth Wright was instrumental to Weird Tales' success and much of the art that was to come in the century ahead. 

He aided in breaking out HP Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, CL Moore, Frank Belknap Long, E. Hoffman Price, Mary Elizabeth Councilman, Arthur J. Burks, H. Warner Munn, Nictzin Dyalhis, August Derleth, GG Pendarves, Edmond Hamilton, Donald Wandrei, Bassett Morgan, H Bedford Jones, Hugh B. Cave, Carl Jacobi, Robert Bloch, Henry Kuttner, Thomas Kelley, and Manly Wade Wellman, and kept writers such as Greye La Spina and Henry Whitehead published despite the lack of markets for their sort of stories. He also published other pulp writers such as Ray Cummings, Murray Leinster, Seabury Quinn, CM Eddy, JU Giesy, Otis Adelbert Kline, Frank Owen, Abraham Merritt, Gaston Leroux, David H Keller, Ralph Milne Farley, Jack Williamson, and P Schuyler Miller. On top of this, he started the commercial careers of influential artists such as Margaret Brundage, Virgil Finlay, and Hannes Bok, among many others.

One can not exaggerate how good of an editor he was, and how much credit he deserves for making the greatest magazine that he could possibly make. Weird Tales became what it did in large part to Farnsworth Wright.

That said, nothing lasts forever, and Mr. Wright's retirement and subsequent death (along with several of the above authors) meant things would have to change going forward. It did, but not so much by choice as by necessity of the shrinking market.

You see, pulps peaked in the 1930s in popularity and sales, but the 1940s was a downhill slide and contraction of the market (especially post-WWII) exacerbated by changing technology and new forms of media consumption such as television and comic books taking a chunk out of the market. Most of Weird Tales' decisions going forward were more about staying alive in trying times. The Golden Age was over.

And they got the best person they could for the job. The third and final editor of Weird Tales was actually Farnsworth Wright's assistant editor (and the only one who could succeed him), Dorothy McIlwraith. She ably dealt with changing market trends and kept Weird Tales afloat for over a decade and into the 1950s when there simply wasn't any market left at all. She deserves credit for that, even if she didn't keep the magazine as consistent as she did.

The elephant in the room is that she was more of a craft-focused editor than Mr. Wright, and was not as ingenious or creative as him, but few were. Instead, she focused on building a strong framework for the magazine to keep it afloat.

"Dorothy McIlwraith was a capable pulp editor who was not adverse to spending money to get quality material. the only trouble was that Weird Tales was the lesser of the two magazines she edited. Short Stories was the money-maker and the bigger name. Most of the budget went to its upkeep."

She might not have had the passion Mr. Wright had, but then again there appeared to be less writers with that passion, too. Many of the writers from the peak era had either died, retired, or moved on to higher paying markets. She could only run what she was submitted, and she was simply being submitted to less than Farnsworth Wright was. It feels a lot more like she was squeezing blood from a penny, though she did get quite a lot of blood out of such a small coin.

"Also, the war hit both pulps hard. Ms. McIlwraith did the best she could with Weird Tales but the best days of the magazine were past. In 1943, the page count dropped to 112 pages. In May 1944, another drop brought the page count down to 96 pages. In September 1947, the price was raised quietly from 15¢ to 20¢ an issue. In May 1949, the increase in price went to 25¢. All during this time, the quality of the magazine dropped. Dorothy McIlwraith got the best material she could. The one problem was that the authors who had made Weird Tales great were gone--either dead or moved up to better-paying pulps. 
"In September 1953, the magazine went to digest size in a last effort to keep alive. The hope was a short-lived one. Its last issue was dated September 1954. In all, it ran for 279 issues."

I have heard tell at how many blamed Ms. McIlwraith for destroying Weird Tales, but that is simply not the case. She did not publish sword and sorcery, they claim . . . when most tapered off on the genre after Howard's death. She published no serials and instead much shorter stories . . . when they had limited space do to economic factors. It simply wasn't the 1930s anymore, and she could not roll back the clock.

It should really be emphasized that by this point their stable was either gone or dead and that they had no budget or much in the way of opportunity to build a new one. Not to mention, there was competition now from other mediums.

Despite all this, these final years were not a disaster. Weird Tales still outlived many of the other pulps, including those such as Unknown which slipped fast into obscurity while the original Unique Magazine trucked onward.

Many old writers who were not dead or retired did return to the magazine. On top of it there were many names that climbed on board while she was editor. Some names include Manly Banister, Anthony Boucher, Ray Bradbury, Joseph Payne Brennan, Fredric Brown, Stanton A Coblentz, Frank Gruber, Allison V Harding, Malcolm Jameson, Theodore Sturgeon, Harold Lawlor, Algernon Blackwood, HR Wakefield, Fritz Leiber Jr., Emil Petaja, and Margaret St Clair.

Some of the older authors such as Robert Bloch and Manly Wade Wellman even contributed more under McIlwraith than they did under Wright. In Wellman's case he put out the John Thunstone stories, reportedly a series she helped him conceive, which were some of the magazine's most popular. It was hardly a dry well of creativity during these times. There were just less of them than there was in the Golden Age.

Those above names are heavy hitters, no matter who you are. With this stable, as well as many one-off contributors, like always, Dorothy McIlwraith managed to keep Weird Tales alive when the competition died off around it.

While the magazine was less successful as it went, it did manage to keep enough thrills in its pages to keep the flame alive. Nonetheless, steam did eventually run out of the industry at the same moment the magazine was winding down.

"Death came in September 1954. Dorothy McIlwraith had done her best to keep Weird Tales going under a limited budget and under policies not always in the best interest of the magazine. But a general lack of interest in weird fiction and too much competition finally did Weird Tales in. 
"The magazine was finished but not so the fiction. Hundreds of stories from Weird Tales have been reprinted from it, beginning with anthologies edited in the 1920s through books being assembled today. It still remains the single most important source of modern weird fiction ever published. As long as a single story is reprinted, the fiction of Weird Tales will live on."

Ms. McIlwraith, oddly enough, retired from her editing post from Short Stories (which itself died not even five years later) and left the company after Weird Tales folded. She worked one more decade in New York publishing before she left the industry to a farmhouse in Ontario, Canada in 1964. She died in 1976 at 84 years old.

Its legacy would go on regardless, in the book itself is even an entire chapter devoted to sharing memories for those who were involved in the magazine. The covers and interior art, as well as The Eyrie (the reader's letter section) merited entire chapters, too. The influence of Weird Tales really was something else. What's more, is that it was not led by Fandom but by normal readers. Its success and lingering afterwards came from writers who deliberately aimed for your average Joe, the lover of weird stories. This is how the influence spread so far and wide and touched so much. There is precious little else from that era as effective as it was.

Most of this success came from the passion displayed in its pages by professional creators. Writers, editors, and artists, all made it what it was.

"Farnsworth Wright had many jobs other than editor of Weird Tales. He also served as art editor, blurb writer, and general make-up man for the magazine. While Bill Sprenger was in charge of finances, Wright did all the rest of the work. Wright possessed all of the right characteristics for a blurb writer, He had a boundless enthusiasm for the stories he published and delighted in telling them, either to friends of in print. He wrote his blurbs with an infectious excitement that spurred on even the most jaded reader to investigate further."

That is where we should leave this series off, I think.

While there is much to complain about in regards to where the industry went post-1940, the important point is to remember what worked from that Golden Age when the pulps were at their peak of quality and popularity.

While Fandom might have done tremendous damage to the arts over the 20th century in their quest to create Utopia, there are still avenues to real artists, writers, and general creators to forge their own path for everyone else. Truth finds a way.

The magazines might be over, but much else is, too. Those days are gone, and they're not coming back. Much more lies ahead for the rest of us.

Today, in the 21st century, the old publishing industry headed by Fandom cultists is on the way out. We have new roads ahead of us whether it be in the eBook world or in crowdfunding. There are exciting times ahead, making the future as uncertain as ever. The things that led Weird Tales to its death are not obstacles anymore.

So while those old days fall away, we still have the good times; we still have the greats preserved and ready for rediscovery. We have a path forward, connecting to the past to bring us to the future. Fandom is dead, its power sapped, and crumbling away. But art continues on anyway, despite them. It always does, doesn't it?

And so, must we.