Saturday, January 23, 2021

Signal Boost ~ "Light Unto Another World" Kickstarter!

Find it Here!

January is usually a light month, for many reasons, but writers apparently don't slow down. While the recent Cirsova 5th Anniversary campaign is chugging along, space opera scribe Yakov Merkin has thrown is hat into the ring for a kickstarter of his own.

After just finishing his seven volume space opera series, he has decided to move into the much quicker form of light novels. Yes, it's traditionally a Japanese form, but that doesn't mean anyone else can't give their own unique spin on it. Yakov is doing just that. You can check it out here for yourself.

He decided to take inspiration from anime such as Gate to add a unique touch.

The description:

Uriel Makkis, a young soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, was on his way to base for just another week in his tank when something very unexpected happened. A portal opened, pulling him into an unfamiliar world, with no one to be found.

Never one to succumb to panic, Uriel does the only thing he can do: push forward to figure out just what has happened to him.

Almost before he knows it, he finds himself entangled in an entirely new conflict, one that runs far deeper than he realizes.

With no way home, all Uriel can do is trust in God to point him on the right path, and fight to secure not just his own survival, but that of those he has quickly come to rely on and care about.

With the help of these trusted friends, he must find out precisely what is happening on this world, and do what must be done.

Be a light unto this alien world.

Each of them will need to draw on all their skills and knowledge if they are to emerge victorious in a world whose most powerful forces appear arranged against them.

Action and excitement await!

And in this isekai adventure that is at the same time unique but which also captures the essence of what makes such stories fun, you cannot simply leave the old world behind.

It should also be mentioned that the author has already completed five volumes. Yes, he works at pulp speed, too. Back this to guarantee a good time. Once more, the campaign is here.

As for myself, well, there are a lot of things on the way, some very soon. Hopefully I can announce one of them shortly, but that is out of my hands for now. Needless to say, 2021 is going to be a busy year for the pulp revolution. Keep awake!

Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Devil in Our DNA

Tomorrow isn't destined to come, and neither are you destined to be the way you are. However, sometimes it's tough to notice that, especially when you are young.

I've never met anyone who doesn't consider their teenage years the worst part of their life. It's a miserable time after the excitement and discovery of one's youth, and before the self-reflection and clarity that adulthood offers to put that mess in perspective. It's an in-between time that, especially in the modern world, feels like the time when lies are actualized in one's personality as a tool needed to forge a way in the uncaring world. I know I've seen many learn the hard lessons the wrong way and either went all in on sin and "success" or gave up hope that this life was worth the living, all from the life lessons they were taught during that second decade of their lives.

My generation of Gen Y either blames the Boomers or the Millennials for all of this, even if they don't say it. The former for pulling the rug out from under them at the worst possible moment, and the latter for sliding into their place as the golden child generation overnight. The main thing is that they were memory-holed overnight by a culture they were told would be there for them as long as they pulled up their bootstraps. Like everything else, it turned out to be a lie. What this did was create a lost generation of boys and girls fashioned to be cogs in a machine that switched to operating by microchips at the eleventh hour. We are the last generation to have an analog childhood, and it is still what defines us to this day. This goes beyond products. It's not something that can be easily conquered, especially in an atomized, uncaring world.

However, as much as we might claim that we love our time as children and worship the products and brands we were showered in back then, the truth of the matter is that our childhood years did not define us. Gen Y fights to reclaim those years, not because they were the best years of their lives, but because they know what came after them. The faceoff with reality that was their teenage and young adult years is what made Gen Y what they are today, and what they have spent the majority of their adult lives trying to avoid. They have rejected your reality and replaced it with their own.

Think about it. Why is it always '80s and '90s brands that get nostalgic play, despite it only forming a small segment of their lives? Gen Y was between the ages of ten and twenty when the year 2000 rolled around, and yet they never acknowledge what came later unless its already attached to a brand they grew up on. That was over 20 years ago, a full two thirds of their lives have gone by since then, but it isn't what they focus on. It only focuses on a small window. Sure, part of the reason is that Post-9/11 world of art was pure garbage, but it is still a denial of a large chunk of their past.

I would submit that Gen Y retreated to their childhoods because of what they experienced after they graduated from high school was nothing but lies and wild inaccuracies, and no one would admit this or offer a sensible explanation as to how to deal with this. So an entire generation simply rejected the world and retreated into their own.

My perspective might be a bit skewed since, outside of the usual Gen Y experience, my teenage years actually were the worst years of my life. Beyond typical teenage problems, my personal life melted down long before the Gen Y dream was shattered. Personally, I believe this ended up being a better thing in the end, to learn that you can't trust family, friends, and institutions, just because of their labels. However, it was also awkward dealing with a reality that known of my peers yet knew existed and were stubborn in that they knew better. By the time they realized the truth, it was too late to do anything about it. This is what drove me to experience Gen X art a few years early while my peers were telling themselves that Friends was good actually.

Most of the indie and underground art in the the late '80s through the late '90s was made by Gen X, and it is what I began to gravitate towards. To me, it looked like they understood the truth. The world was broken in some way I didn't understand, there was something wrong with me I couldn't quite grasp, and that no one seems to notice any of this. Things were simply getting better, even as they clearly weren't.

Of course, this was the mentality for the younger generations at the time. Without any real tradition or stability gifted to them from the older generations before them, confusion and searching bordered on and threatened to become nihilism and despair. Most of Gen Y just simply jumped to the latter once they learned they were on their own.

I listened to alternative music before any of my peers did. The first album I bought was Oasis' [What's the Story] Morning Glory? in elementary school and it only went on from there. I'd always been big into rock music, but the boomer rock my parents and relatives reveled in never did it for me. Alternative was exciting and new, so I stuck close to it, especially since it was being made by those just a generation older than I was. It felt like I had someone to connect to on a deeper level.

However, I must confess that I couldn't shake one thing. As a kid, the Stray Cats had introduced me to rockabilly and their lead singer, Brian Setzer, also introduced me to swing music as a teenager, and in the process sparked a love of pre-boomer rock and pop music that still flourishes today. Part of the tradition of rock music is that it is meant to make you move: to dance. While blues was introspective and slow, rock was meant to make you throw off your cares and move. As much as I dug alternative: it didn't make you want to dance. There was something missing in this music that I couldn't shake.

Luckily, I was also a gamer. Because even though I was big into alternative and older rock, I could never quite bridge that gap. That is, until I played a game called Street Sk8er in 1998. Inside, I finally met the genre that gave me what I wanted--a music that was both alternative, and wanted you to dance. Something that attempted to bridge that gap.

If you were around during that era then you know what I'm referring to. That would be ska music, specifically the Third Wave Ska Revival that was so hated by critics.

The game included three ska songs, The Pietasters' Out All Night, a soul/ska ditty from an album I still enjoy greatly, but it's the other two that stuck with me longer. This would be the two songs from Less Than Jake called Sugar in Your Gas Tank and All My Best Friends Are Metalheads that opened my eyes to this new genre. The former was a song that mashed moshing and dancing in a song I would later learn was considered ska-punk, but the latter was a bonafide power pop ska number with punk influence that ended up being the band's most well known song, and for good reason. They scratched an itch a lot of us didn't know we had.

If you know anything about the band or the genre, then you probably know this song. It was never a proper single at the time, for a reason that will become clear later, but that didn't stop it from getting radio play and inclusion in movies and video games. In fact, All My Best Friends Are Metalheads, along with Goldfinger's Superman, it is a song that received most of its popularity from being included in video games.

In many ways it was a signal of the changes to come in the entertainment industry. Underestimate gaming at your own peril. It was the last converged industry for a reason.

Near a million and a half views on youtube, for a reason

This isn't going to be a post on the genre itself, though. I more or less already made one. My love affair with third wave ska was short-lived as the genre was soon dumped by the major labels for the mistake that was nu metal, and the majority of third wave ska bands sold out to become emo, dropped their horns and pretended they could play tired pop punk, or just quietly walked way from music altogether. The industry said this music shouldn't be played anymore, and the bands nodded along to their masters. It was another wake up call.

And this wasn't just a problem with ska. Too many bands I thought were cool, independent, and edgy, ended up being poseurs trying to sell an image. Life was meaningless, man, but that doesn't mean we can't make a few bucks out of it, or tell you that you should pointlessly care about things anyway. Before the empty humanism of social justice and New Sincerity there was the carefully crafted rocker image designed to suck money out of your ennui and defeatist view of the world. It's a shame, but they wouldn't do it if it didn't work.

However, that isn't really what happened with Less Than Jake, a band that is getting ready to celebrate its 30th year together. They existed in this era, but they represent a better part of it. If a band can be stated to "evolve" without it sounding like an excuse to trend hop, it would be LTJ. To explain, I should start from the beginning.

The band formed in 1992 as a power pop trio with punk leanings (you can hear it in the song Big from their first album, which was the first one they ever wrote) but soon discovered the underground scene and the then-burgeoning ska music. They quickly brought on a sax and trombone player, got a new bassist, and were ready to go. And it should be mentioned, outside of their saxophone player who left and was replaced in 1996, and other additional horn players that came and left outside the original two, this was the same lineup they held for about 25 years. For any band, never mind a genre like ska, that is an impressive feat. Suffice to say, they believe in what they are doing.

While Operation Ivy was the first band to successfully combine 1980s punk with ska music, and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones with metal and rock, Less Than Jake was a puree blend of power pop, punk, and ska, where they could go through all three, or only one, in a song, and have it sound just like only they could. They never really broke from this sound, despite clearly being egged on to do it.

After putting out some early EPs and 7'' records in the early '90s, they finally managed to scrape together enough support to put out a debut album. This is where they managed to solidify their sound, and they did it just before the genre exploded from the underground. In 1995, Pezcore came out, which is an album that grabbed them a lot of attention, including a record deal.

It doesn't mean they were polished or the best musicians since "punk" means you can't really be, but even early on you can hear they had good pop songwriting chops. A lot of hard work would eventually get them to success. Starting as a fledgling independent band, they were even told by punk "industry" clowns that they shouldn't quit their day jobs.

Suffice to say, they've outlived most of those hacks by now.

An example of their early work

But their hard work did yield success. LTJ would go on to release 1996's Losing Streak, still considered one of the defining albums of ska-punk, before finally mastering their power pop ska blend with 1998's Hello Rockview and yielding the biggest songs of their career. 1997 also saw them have a song on the Good Burger soundtrack called We're All Dudes, sung by the movie's star, Kel Mitchel. For all intents and purposes, they had made it. Remember, this was just before the recording industry killed itself. Less Than Jake got in under the wire.

But I don't think the lyrics the band attaches to their fast-paced and bouncy songs is really given near enough credit for their success. Written by drummer Vinnie, they aren't quite what you would expect from a power pop, punk, or ska, band. In fact, they feel more like general musings on life as a Gen Xer at the time they were written.

Take the above example in Time and a Half/Econolodged, which are two different songs the band later mashed together for live shows and in the edit I made above. These are two of their earliest songs, written in the early '90s, and this is what they say:

Time and a Half/Econolodged

It was a cold December on 2nd Ave and 6th Street (and 6th Street!)
Too cold to think about anybody passing me (passing me!)
When I overheard "I'm gonna tell you straight from the shoulder . . . (shoulder!)

"Boy . . . You better get running!"

On the corner of 2nd and 6th and out of time,
With a cough, feeling lost, and a bottle of cheap wine,
Just then I realized that I can't seem to understand,
When I saw that guy heading for the dopeman.

It's just the same old story on the same old street,
And it's just another worn down, worn out casualty,
On 2nd Ave and 6th Street.

On the corner of 2nd and 6th and feeling down (down!)
When I overheard "I'm gonna take a gun and take you out" (take you out!)
Just then I realized that I can't seem to understand (understand!)
How anyone can take the life of another man!

It's just the same old story on the same old street,
And it's just another worn down, worn out casualty,
On 2nd Ave and 6th Street.

Let's get it up,
My life spent round the clock,
Got me running on a treadmill with no time to stop,
And competition puts a price on time,
When I see the people who've been left behind,
Step on the people who've been left behind,
Competition puts a price on time.

Man, I'm all I've got, 
Like it or not, 
I'm all I've got (I'm just Econolodged!)
Man, I'm all I've got,
Like it or not, 
I'm all I've got (I'm just Econolodged!)
Man, I'm all I've got,
Like it or not,

I'm all I've got.

Suffice to say, I have been listening to this band for over 20 years and this, one of their earliest songs, is still one of my favorites. It captures a time and place, a feeling, and a mood, that could only have come from when it was written . . . even if what it was written about still exists today. Atomization and the cost of material success has lead to the imploding city in the first half of the song, working "Time and a Half" to get this state while being "Econolodged" in life with nowhere else to go because material success and individuality are the only escapes, both of which lead to the same place. Hard to believe they were barely in their twenties when that was written.

But they only improved from there was they went on, and the times changed. Even Gen X kids had to grow up eventually. Though that doesn't mean the song isn't true, because it is. But life is about more than the bad side, and LTJ realized that as they grew. There are things to be thankful for.

While it has been said the rest of the guys were the heart of the band, Vinnie was definitely the brains. Their catchy hooks bring you in the door, but their lyrics keep you there. Part of the point of rock music, which was inherited by blues, is that it is a way to blow off steam and recharge your batteries. Gen-Xers in the early '90s were still trying to understand the world melting down around them, which is how they managed to connect so easily with the younger generation who just didn't get it yet. Unfortunately, they lost that appeal when they started proposing solutions that were somehow worse than the broken things they were complaining about.

I noticed a disturbing trend in success in regards to Gen X music, and it has made me pessimistic on a lot of it looking back. Most Gen X music centered on "the world is bad" then eventually translated into being "if we fix the world we will be happy" as a conclusion. This meant bands even popular with Gen Xers never quite hit mainstream acceptance. For example, The Replacements, whose front-man, the Catholic Paul Westerberg, eventually posited what was wrong with the world was him . . . and the mainstream just doesn't take to that message very well.

Less Than Jake, being honest, soon found this road as well, and it might have led to their downfall, at least as far as mainstream or "industry" cool kid acceptance goes. Unlike most Gen X bands that are still going, they only managed to improve.

While their early work was about trying to navigate a broken world, as early as their second album, Losing Streak, they began to question themselves as well. The very first lyric in the very first song is "I think I know it all," which turns into a song about living life on automatic and assuming things purely because it is easy, before the narrator wonders if he thinks he knows it all because he's trained himself to believe he has the answers. Later in the album comes the earlier mentioned Sugar in Your Gas Tank about how you can't fix the world if you can't fix yourself. The band was changing rather fast, and it only stands to reason that so would their sound. Losing Streak was their final ska-punk album before the band finally reinjected power pop into their sound.

With Hello Rockview they hit the peak of their powers. Every song is full of hooks, and they have shifted their sound to be more of a power pop/ska blend with some punk flair to keep it spiky and spicy. As a result, every track is memorable and easily distinguishable just from the opening bars. It is still their best album to this day, because you could tell they knew exactly what they wanted to achieve.

Lyrically, however, it is a breakthrough for Vinnie. He is someone who now fully understands much of what is wrong with the world is that we have an inner beast, a demon, that prevents us from fully changing everything for the better. The album is a loose concept album (with the songs out of order because you can't put the depressing or slower songs at the front) based on his life at the time. Heck, the album title comes from a childhood friend being then recently sent to Rockview Penitentiary. It's the meta-story surrounding the lyrics that make them even more interesting.

Hello Rockview is about someone who grows up in his small town and thinks that is what is holding him back from the greater things in life. If he could get away from the bad people and things, everything would just work out. He then goes out into the world and meets people all over with similar and worse problems than him, and comes to an understanding that everyone has their own devils they are battling. He would do better to go home and fix his own life instead of running from it and pretending the solution is to turn away from the way the world is. The conclusion to this journey is essentially the song linked near the top of the post with All My Best Friends Are Metalheads, their most popular song to date.

In case you need the lyrics, here they are:

Do you think its strange, 
That there's a way,
Of how you looked, and how you act, and how you think,
Pretend they're not the same as you.

Do you know about her strength in convictions,
Or how she puts all her faith in religion?
Did we take the time to really discover,
How little we know about each other?

Keep us from saying anything,
Can't separate from everything,
And all this really means is,
You're one in a crowd,
And you're paranoid with every sound,
You're not the friend you won't miss anyhow.

Yes, that was released in 1998. It reads like a message needed more in 2021 than it did back then, but the band had a way of writing lyrics that didn't feel like preaching but in trying to connect their ideas to the listener. Just like art is supposed to do. As a consequence, this is still one of my favorite songs of all time, and I'm not certain it will become anything else as time goes on. It has their catchiest hooks and their most striking lyrics. If the major labels didn't hate ska at the time it might have even been the hit single it should have been. But, no, it was up to video games to do that instead.

It only stands to reason that with this album that had hit the peak of their powers. They finally perfected both the sound and the lyrics they were trying to go for since they started. Clearly it was only uphill from this point forward.

But then the music industry imploded. 1998 was bad year for a lot of things. Ska was no longer allowed to be played on radio, autotune and sanded off guitars began to overtake rock music, and the slew of mergers killed many bands' careers overnight. Less Than Jake was almost one of these bands, though apparently they instead took their next album, Borders & Boundaries, to the independents themselves instead of having it put out by a record company that didn't seem to care about what they were doing. This might have proven a good idea, because Borders & Boundaries was not a good album so it being independent did not end up hurting their careers.

I know there are LTJ fans who love this album now, but the disappointment at the time existed for a very good reason coming after Hello Rockview. It's not even close to as good, and I think even those who like the album would admit that. There are a few problems which can be laid out with one main issue: It was an attempt at a glossy power pop album by a band still trying to play rough punk.

There is almost no ska on the album, and what is there is minimal. The album borders on being overproduced with screeching, smooth guitars dominating everything not unlike a major label rock song from the era. The songwriting is jerky, without the ska to bounce off of the band doesn't quite know how to stick a landing without throwing awkward distortion over it. The hooks are buried and muted because most of the songs are too fast and loose to be power pop and too smooth and produced to be punk. The album is a jumbled mix of pieces that do not fit together. It's an identity crisis put to wax, or disc.

And the lyrics, unfortunately, are also a step back. Actually, I can't even say they are a step back, because that would imply they receded to being as good as Losing Streak or even Pezcore. Those lyrics were about things that mattered to the person who wrote them. It isn't that Borders & Boundaries' lyrics are badly written, but that they aren't really about anything. The best songs on the album (Look What Happened, Magnetic North, Gainesville Rock City, and Faction) are about things Vinnie had already written about before, and feel like a step back emotionally and come very close to cliché. There is nothing on the level of a Short on Ideas/One Last Cigarette, Shindo, Lockdown, or Help Save the Youth of America from Exploding. Neither is there anything as fun and loose as We're All Dudes, Five State Drive, Liquor Store, or Johnny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts. The album is just a misstep in every way that counts.

However, something strange then happened. The pop punk explosion occurred in the early '00s, led by Blink 182 and Green Day, and several bands that were signed to majors in the '90s suddenly got a second chance at the plate. Less Than Jake was one of them, and they signed up to a new label. This started a new era in their career. As usual, it didn't quite go the way you would think.

Less Than Jake's history after this point is bizarre, to say the least. The band's sound was definitely pushed to sound more commercial, but they instead leaned harder on their power pop side than ever before. While the industry wanted pop punk and emo, LTJ didn't really deliver it to them. Instead they finally buckled down and pushed their sound forward and finally reached what they were struggling to reach a few years before in 2000 with Borders & Boundaries.

As a result, they finally became the power pop band they essentially wanted to be way back in 1992. They also did this amidst a cultural low and an industry crash. Their works during this era, Anthem, B is for B-Sides, In with the Out Crowd, and the Absolution for Idiots & Addicts EP showed a band trying to push forward into new territory despite an industry attempting to push them the other way. It was an awkward time to be following the band because you could feel the tension in everything they put out, but like a good band should they used it to put fire into their songs.

For instance, B is for B-Sides exists because Anthem had more tracks than what ended up on the album, some of which were far better than ended up on said album. Why? Because they were ska. Did you forget that record labels hated ska, at this point? The label cut the horns out of radio singles, and even an entire sax part of the one ska song they were actually allowed to release as a single. On In with the Out Crowd, the producer made them slow the songs down and added a pop punk gloss on the production along with a song co-written with Blink 182's Mark Hoppus. As a result, a band that was clearly moving forward was also being held hostage by its own label. Remember when labels were supposed to help bands reach their potential? That era was over by the mid-00s.

Much of how the band felt during this period was expressed on the song We, the Uninspired from their Absolution for Idiots & Addicts EP.

Hey, Miss 'Die A Little'
Cuts and bruises will always heal
But you still pick your poisons
When you dream of alcohol and pills
Hey, Miss 'Die A Little'
How do you expect yourself to live?

Punch me awake, we're the uninspired
There'll be no white flags over the heads
Of the sick and tired
This world is for the living not the dead
But we're still the uninspired

Hey Mr. 'Always Wonder'
Why's the inside of your head so filled?
Lest you can't see your future
Through all the walls that you've ever built
Hey Mr. 'Always Wonder'
How do you expect yourself to live?

Punch me awake, we're the uninspired
There'll be no white flags over the heads
Of the sick and tired
Maybe it's the standing still that kills
What's alive inside us?
This world is for the living not the dead
But we're still the uninspired

March me in with the rank and file
Bury me in deep denial
I'll sit here and gladly smile
With the rest of the uninspired

Punch me awake, we're the uninspired
There'll be no white flags over the heads
Of the sick and tired
Maybe its the standing still that kills
What's alive inside us?
This world is for the living not the dead
But we're still the uninspired
We're the uninspired.

This era, as mentioned later by members, nearly killed the band. You can very clearly understand why that is. Sonically they were finding themselves, but the record label pushed against them the whole way and nearly knocked them off course.

However, one member that wasn't burdened by this was the lyricist. Vinnie, after stumbling a bit with Borders & Boundaries retreading of old subjects in familiar ways, made that next step in this era. He moved on from wondering about the state of the world then to himself into trying to help the younger generation to avoid the mistakes he made. As you can tell by the above lyrics, he was attempting to use his own experiences as a way to move past where he was stuck.

This is most prevalent in their biggest actual single and the song that kept Anthem on the billboard charts for a long time even when nothing else on it sounded like them. The Science of Selling Yourself Short is rare in that it was a ska song released in the '00s that was a hit and not smothered by the record company or radio. It literally proved them wrong about everything: audiences liked and wanted ska and that the only stigma that existed came from the industry itself. Essentially it proved what we knew: the labels had no idea what they were doing.

It was also the perfect song to show just how far the band had come, and show how much potential they still had. Vinnie used his misspent youth as a warning sign to the younger generation, and as a way to realize important things about himself.

If you've heard a second song by this band, it was probably this one. For good reason.

The Science of Selling Yourself Short

I've come to my senses,
That I've become senseless,
I could give you lessons on how to ruin your friendships,
Every last conviction, I smoked them all away,
I drank my frustrations down the drain, out of the way.

So I sit and wait and wonder,
"Does anyone else feel like me?"
Someone so tired of their routines 
And disappearing self-esteems.

I'll sing along,
Yeah, with every emergency,
Just sing along,
I'm the king of catastrophies,
I'm so far gone,
That deep down inside I think it's fine by me,
That I'm my own worst enemy.

I could be an expert on co-dependency,
I could write the best book on underage tragedy,
I've been spending my time at the local liquor store,
I've been sleeping nightly on my best friend's kitchen floor.

So I sit and wait and wonder,
"Does anyone else feel like me?"
I'm so over-dosed on apathy and burnt out on sympathy.

I'll sing along,
Yeah, with every emergency,
Just sing along,
I'm the king of catastrophies,
I'm so far gone,
That deep down inside I think it's fine by me,
That I'm my own worst enemy.

Let the meaning slip away,
Lost my faith in another day,
Self-deprecation seems okay,
I never thought I'd make it anyway.

I'll sing along,
Yeah, with every emergency,
Just sing along,
I'm the king of catastrophies,
I'm so far gone,
That deep down inside I think it's fine by me,
That I'm my own worst enemy.

I'm my own worst enemy.

During this period Vinnie had been making great strides in his lyrics, but most of his focus appeared to be on the question of what actually is wrong with him on a fundamental level. Is there a devil in your DNA that causes you to do bad, or do you have personal responsibility? Even if you do believe in self-improvement, why do we always end up at square one when we least expect it? Is there something inside we are missing?

Many of his lyrics include searching for truth or finding your way in a broken world, but he still has yet to find solutions, most of which he readily expresses in the songs. Since this is a period where most rock lyrics summed up to being "Bush bad, God bad", it is refreshing that someone maintained a clear picture of what really mattered.

They never fell to the embarrassing lows of Goldfinger or the sellout cashing in of NoFX in the '00s, but instead wanted to find the truth. They didn't take the easy out so many did by demonizing someone else to find an easy explanation for their problems. In fact, I can't think of a single Less Than Jake song that is a rant against anything other than your own mistakes, everything they write about is for something.

Needless to say, once the band's major label contract ran out, so did they in 2006. As The Hives said, the industry was basically already dead by that point in time, anyway. They had nothing left to offer bands anymore that they couldn't get on their own. Less Than Jake were actually almost dead from their experience there.

However, they quickly rebounded with a unique idea. How about a series of shows where they play all their albums front to back? They can even perform it in their hometown. So, they did. Over a week in 2006 they played a series of concerts playing the entirety of Pezcore, Losing Streak, Hello Rockview, Borders & Boundaries, Anthem, and In with the Out Crowd, as well as rare songs and fan requests for encores. They ended up playing over 100 songs and reigniting the passion they had for playing music. They remembered why they were doing this to begin with. The band followed this up with a new album that came out in 2008, their first true independent album since 1995.

Unfortunately, the resulting album, GNV FLA (named after Gainesville, Florida) has a very common problem that holds it back from standing up with their best work.

You see, when bands went from the majors back to the indies in the late '90s and '00s, they all suffered from a similar issue. The band would try to "go back to basics" and throw out everything they had learned at the majors, thereby creating an album that feels forced and more artificial than the ones the bands put out on said major labels. Think about any band you know that did this and realize that their first album after leaving the majors is never your favorite one. This is always the reason why. It's never a natural progression, or even a holding pattern. It's always an inorganic regression.

Less Than Jake didn't escape this curse. They attempted to make a ska-punk album not fully aware that they were no longer a ska-punk band, and hadn't been since 1998 or so, which makes the resulting album feel very by-the-numbers and standard. Vinnie later said the same in how it is his least favorite LTJ album because it doesn't really sound organic or natural. The problems, however, are all sonically, lyrically they are as strong as ever and some of the songs still stand out quite well. It's also not a bad album, unlike many similar albums from other bands. It's just not much better than okay.

Lyrically, Vinny attempts to go back to the past in a different way. The album is called GNV FLA, and that's what the lyrics are mainly about. People who live and grew up in Gainesville and where they are now and what they're doing. He also spares a song for the plight of Detroit, wondering just how it could get so bad. The album essentially about the lives of normal people going about their day. But the lyrical highlight comes in what might be his best set of lyrics so far.

One thing the band always excelled at was that the closing track was always a barnburner. Every album they put out, the closing track is among the strongest they've written, by far. Even on a weaker album like this, the power pop anthem Devil in My DNA still stands tall. Essentially nailing everything he had been trying to express since he started as the Gen X kid trying to make his way in this world, the song sums up everything he's learned since then quite aptly.

When is common sense too much to ask?
And then when did consequences get left in the past?
Is it just bad habits or a typical script?
Is it all big plans then a hit and a miss?
Can I say my influence comes by design?
Or is science and cigarettes my compromise?
I don't know but I'm blaming everyone else,
Just as long as I never put the blame on myself.

Cause I know, I've wasted way too many times,
Living way too many lies,
How can this be my fault? 
I'm always right!

There's a devil in my DNA,
Programmed parts from all the start,
Or is there no one else to blame?
For my tangled up gears and my turnstile jobs,
Fact is, I'm just a living sum of all my parts!

When do instructions come with a catch?
And when is self-destruction just proven as a fact?
Is it just blind faith or the family name?
Is it all by chance or completely ingrained?
Can I say it's an imbalance of the chemical kind?
Or is my environment my only disguise?
I don't know but I'm blaming everyone else,
Just as long as I never put the blame on myself.

Cause I know, I've wasted way too many times,
Living way too many lies,
How can this be my fault? 
I'm always right!

There's a devil in my DNA,
Programmed parts from all the start,
Or is there no one else to blame?
For my tangled up gears and my turnstile jobs,
Fact is I'm just a living sum of all my parts!

Cause I know, I've wasted way too many times,
Living way too many lies,
How can this be my fault? 
I'm always right!

There's a devil in my DNA,
Programmed parts from all the start,
Or is there no one else to blame?
For my tangled up gears and my turnstile jobs,
Fact is I'm just a living sum of all my parts!

There's a devil in my DNA,
Programmed parts from all the start,
Or is there no one else to blame?
For my tangled up gears and my turnstile jobs,
Every one of my fears and for my fatal flaws,
Everything that I've battled and haven't I chased,
Cause you know there's a devil in my DNA.

As far as nailing yourself and what causes you to do the wrong thing, it doesn't get a whole lot more accurate than this, though there is a realization to come beyond it. We'll get there next.

Now this is when it gets interesting again. Most of the band's activity after this was relegated to live shows. It took 5 years for them to put out another album, the longest gap they had between albums up to that point. They put out some EPs, but most of it is fairly tossed off material. Then in 2013, Less Than Jake dropped their eighth album, the appropriately titled See the Light. It took some time, but it was worth the wait. This was their strongest album since Hello Rockview, for a multitude of reasons.

The first is that sonically they have finally found their footing. It's a power pop ska album with spikes of punk here and there. This was where they were destined to head after Hello Rockview and it is good to see them finally embrace the sound. The second is that they have gotten better as performers and musicians, which makes the power pop work where it struggled on a decade earlier on Borders & Boundaries. Every song save perhaps the rather stock opening track has a unique hook to it that will get into your head. Lastly, and definitely not least, are the lyrics. They are Vinnie's best to date.

The title See the Light is not ironic or joking, it is exactly what it says it is. The album is about finding faith from a generation that never had any, and the question of how can they achieve it.

The album starts with a declaration of what Gen X believed as kids in that it was about looking out for yourself and how that was good enough to get them by. However, as the album goes on and the songs pass you see how that attitude has left an entire generation broken and empty with nothing to aim or hope for. It has left them without any light. The album deals with getting older, realizing youth fades, and that there is still more to hope for beyond youthful poses.

The songs, even though they are near a decade old at this point, feel very relevant to today. Sunstroke deals with the neighborhood of his youth being demolished and paved over, effectively erasing a part of his identity. American Idle and Bless the Cracks deal with facing down that the way you grew up wasn't right or normal, but it is something that needs to be accepted and moved on from. Give Me Something to Believe In is about going through the motions of a dead life because you are frightened about what might happen if you stop and believe in something instead. My Money is On the Longshot is given away with the title. The album is about having faith and having trust despite coming from a place where you are unable to do that because of past experience.

But the crowning jewel on See the Light is John the Baptist Bones, a song about Vinnie's relationship with God. It literally opens up a contradiction in his old worldview that he realizes, and is what caused him to understand how faith might actually be more important than he thought it was as a kid. How much had he missed out because he sabotaged himself and never took those trying to help him seriously? Professional reviewers all but ignored talking about this one, for reasons I can only speculate about, but it is easily the most powerful song he has written, and it must have been hard for him to write. Listen to it yourself. It really should be heard.

John the Baptist Bones

Somebody said it's time for me to go,
No matter what's above or down below,
I've always known it, feel it my chest,
I've always only known the half of it.

I believe all these lines and phrases,
Are part of a plan that just never changes,
I always bite the hand that helps me up.

Somebody told us back when we were young,
Have faith in things that you will never touch,
I've always thought this, maybe I'll confess,
I think there's no plans, only accidents.

I believe all these lines and phrases,
Are part of a plan that just never changes,
I always bite the hand that helps me up.

The hand that helps me up.

I believe all these lines and phrases,
Are part of a plan that just never changes,
I've read through all these words on pages,
They make me believe I don't know what faith is,
I always bite the hand that helps me up.

The hand that helps me up.

This is a long way from the kid who said "Like it or not, I'm all I've got" nearly 20 years earlier. The song starts with him accepting that death is coming for him and realizing he has never really contemplated the bigger questions of if this is all for something. When he was a kid he rejected the idea given to him from his boomer parents, but as time has gone on he has realized that there is more to this than he originally thought. Just as he realized there is a devil in his DNA that disrupts his own plans and life beyond his own faults that there also exists another, greater plan that is far above what he knows or understands, because his own nature and lack of faith has always prevented him from seeing anything aside from his mistakes. But now that he sees what he's been missing, he can make the next step forward.

As the whole album is about coming to faith with the world and understanding your place in it, this is the key song on the album. It is even placed dead in the center, but reviewers mostly ignored it. Then again, it isn't as if the band was given that much attention by 2013, unfortunately. It's shame because it is a highlight of the album and one of their best songs, period.

I wish I could tell you where the band went after this, but it gets awkward from this point on. LTJ released an EP, and then in 2018, after over 25 years in the band, Vinnie left Less Than Jake. Wherever he was going next lyrically we'll never know because See the Light ended up being the last album he was involved with, though the songs Bomb Drop and Years of Living Dangerously on their 2017 EP is as good a departing shot as any. Nonetheless he was tired of touring and had a family to raise, so it was probably the right call.

He went on to form a multimedia project with some other old ska guys called The Inevitables. There is a whole backstory, comic project, and aesthetic behind it. Aside from it being a ska project, it isn't very similar to Less Than Jake. Nonetheless, if it gives him time to be with his family then it is worth checking out.

You can hear one of their songs here:

But Less Than Jake didn't stop there. In 2020 they released their ninth album, 25 years after their first, and first without Vinnie, Silver Linings. How did they do without him? Well, better than you would think.

Sonically, it is one of their best records. They have fully embraced their power pop ska sound and have turned their lyrics into positivity for the future. The entire band contributed lyrics to try and make up for Vinnie's absence, and while they don't reach his highs they do nail the feel and his intent. You can tell that even though Vinnie wrote the lyrics that the rest of the band believed in what he wrote, too. As a consequence, the album continues in the trajectory of moving forward. Now that they have all the pieces they can finally be who they are. If this was their last album I wouldn't be disappointed. It is a very good place to end things.

As an aside, I compiled a youtube playlist of around 50 of Less Than Jake's best songs spanning around 30 years from the formation up to when Vinnie left. It starts from a bunch of scrappy Gen X punks into the power pop ska band they would become. You can listen to it here.

The tracklist is here:

And that's where I'll also leave off.

Gen X has more or less left their past behind them and have moved on from their worst days. They are an example to follow. While Gen Y still swims in the past, the rest of the world has marched on without them, forgetting their presence. The generation before us even left blueprints to help us out, this despite their own troubles.

I don't even really listen to alternative much anymore, moving on from most of the things that just didn't move forward with me. You can die hundreds of times in life, it is called failure. But what is important is taking that failure and learning from it to forge a better future. Life is a constant uphill climb. If you're not climbing, you're sliding back down. The key is to never stop. Those who swim in the past are doomed to remain trapped there.

I abandoned most of my bad Gen Y habits years ago when I decided to search for something better than what was left around me. In the last five years alone I have released 5 books, not including short stories and non-fiction pieces, and I have no intention of stopping now. It's our duty to slay the devil in our DNA, take stock in our own talents, and push forward with all we've got. We can't allow the world to beat us, not when we have so much on our side to fight for.

We don't have to be a repeat of the Lost Generation, and we don't have to be passed over for the Millennials who are destined to run everything sooner than later. We can show our own worth right now.

It's a pulp future. Better get used to it. We may have started off on the wrong foot, but we don't have to stop there. As long as you keep going, who knows what might happen next?

Less Than Jake's most recent single

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

New Release: "Pulp On Pulp: Tips & Tricks for Writing Pulp Fiction!"

Find it Here!

Compiled by authors Kit Sun Cheah and Misha Burnett comes this collection of pulp essays by modern purveyors of pulp writing. It's over 200 pages of tips, tricks, and thought processes behind the modern process of NewPub writing. And yes, I am one of the contributors!

We were in dire need of such a book so it is a joyous occasion that it has finally arrived. Do you want to know more about this NewPub pulp atmosphere springing up around you? This is the book for you.

When I put out The Pulp Mindset, some readers asked if there was a book that concentrated more on the bigger questions of writing and storycraft beyond the broader art world that I covered in those pages. Well, this is the book you have been waiting for. Pulp On Pulp: Tips & Tricks for Writing Pulp Fiction covers a wide range of subjects from fight scenes to humor in serious stories to morality to pulp speed to worldbuilding. The subjects spread far as does the content and contributors. For those who have been waiting for a book on pulp writing itself, this is it!

This one has been in production for awhile so I am happy to see it finally released for everyone to enjoy. We definitely need more works out there like this.

There are quite a few contributors to this one, too. In the order taken from the author section in the book:

Misha Burnett
JD Cowan
Matthew P. Schmidt
James A Buck
Morgon Newquist
Anthony Perconti
Robert Stultus
D. G. D. Davidson
Christopher Lansdown
David Eyk
TJ Marquis
Kit Sun Cheah

As for my entry, it is a bit of an interesting story.

There was a submission call for Pulp On Pulp a year ago, to which I submitted. They specifically wanted essays that were less about "Do X to be considered Pulp" and more along the lines of what methods writers needed to reach that sort of magic the old pulpsters had. The first idea I had was to write an essay on Wonder.

Now, if you've read The Pulp Mindset then you know there is an entire essay on Wonder in its pages. The reason for that is because I had the idea to write The Pulp Mindset after I finished writing said essay and submitted it to the collection. I took the essay on Wonder and rewrote it to fit in the frame of that book. What is included here is the original version before I even considered writing The Pulp Mindset. This piece is about the importance of wonder on a general scale. Essentially you are getting material from The Pulp Mindset that didn't quite make the final version of the book.

In essence, Pulp On Pulp is what got me to write The Pulp Mindset. I'm not certain it would have existed had I not got the idea from that one essay. At least, perhaps not in the way it was released. Nevertheless, here it is for you to read for yourself!

Aside from me, there are quite a few essays on writing from authors that are more than capable, all on very interesting aspects of the creative process and what they believe it means to be a pulp-style writer. We need more creatives out there shaking up the art world right now, so be sure to give this a look. This book is full of inspiration.

The best part? It is free (or at least it should be by now if amazon has successfully changed the price)! Check out this 200+ page work of essays from some great NewPub writers today. It has been a long time coming.

Pick up Pulp on Pulp on amazon right here!

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Signal Boost ~ Cirsova 5th Anniversary!

Find it Here!

*Update: My keyboard came in. It is nice to be able to write properly again! Thank you for your patience!*

It's hard to imagine how long this whole new pulp wave has been going on, but it has been about five years. This is because one of the first projects, Cirsova Magazine, is about to reach its 5th year anniversary and has decided to celebrate it with it a big blow-out.

As a reader since the beginning, I have to say it has been quite inspiring to see it grow such a rabid audience doing nothing more than offering constant action and adventure content of all shapes and sizes. It has easily shown that the pulp-style story still has a place in today's world.

Cirsova hasn't made a kickstarter in a while, they haven't needed to, but this time they opted to go big for the fifth anniversary.

The campaign description:

Happy 5th Anniversary to Cirsova Magazine!

Hard to believe that it has been 5 years since our first issue back in spring of 2016... since then, we've published 15 issues, three specials, Wild Stars, Illustrated Stark, Duel Visions, Endless Summer, and Mongoose and Meerkat Volume 1. It's been a wild ride!

We haven't always crowdfunded for our magazine, but this seemed like a special occasion and it will give us an opportunity to test out a new fulfillment partner we're looking into.

So, what's in store for 2021? 

Wild Stars V: The Artomique Paradigm

We're serializing Michael Tierney's newest Wild Stars novel, The Artomique Paradigm! Earth is now in contact with their intergalactic cousins in the Wild Stars! But during recent conflicts with aliens and pirates, the Artomiques, fascist refugees from an alternate time-line, have become Terra’s dominant faction using stolen Wild Stars technology!

This newest installment in the Wild Stars saga brings together a number of threads from Michael's 2000s Wild Stars comic run and ties them into the newer adventures published recently in Time Warmageddon and Wild Star Rising.

The Artomique Paradigm is the featured cover story for our 5th Anniversary Issue.

Cover A, by Anton Oxenuk, and Cover B, by Genzoman. 

Paul O'Connor's Badaxe!

We're branching into new territory at Cirsova Magazine... We've acquired the rights to reprint Paul O'Connor's sword and sorcery comic, Badaxe!

An evil god of war has his minions scouring the land for a boy-child born with a certain mark. When found, this child must be killed, for the god Badaxe can only be slain by one with mark!

These comics are being reprinted for the first time and digitally restored! 

Jim Breyfogle's Mongoose and Meerkat!

Kat and Mangos's adventures continue with The Grain Merchant of Alomar! After several odd jobs, Kat and Mangos have finally arrived in the city of Alomar, where they must try to make a name for themselves as sellswords. They've set up in spare rooms of a wealthy merchant who has no idea they’re living there... even after he’s hired them!
Robert Zoltan's Rogues of Merth!

We're pretty excited to also be running a new Rogues of Merth novelette from Robert Zoltan. If you're a fan of Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser or wish you were if not for some of the griminess of the post-60s Leiber stories, Dareon and Blue should be up your alley.

In this new adventure, Dareon and Blue, the Rogues of Merth, find themselves in the crosshairs of an old foe! They must find and bring him the Book of Dark Sighs, or Blue’s love will perish at his hand! 

Also in this issue...

Devil’s Deal


A gambler and a wannabe cardsharp, Henry finally has an Ace up his sleeve: the ability to see a moment into the future—a diabolical gift from the Devil Himself!

My Name is John Carter (Part 9)


James continues his longform adaptation of A Princess of Mars in this issue. 


Yes, for the first time ever, Cirsova Magazine will have illustrations.

DarkFilly, who did the interior art for Mongoose and Meerkat: Pursuit Without Asking is illustrating The Artomique Paradigm and The Grain Merchant of Allomar. [The originals of these are available to backers].

Robert Zoltan has provided an illustration for his story, The Book of Dark Sighs. 

Is... that Chen on the Cover?


We got permission from Team Shanghai Alice for me to include original Touhou fanart on the cover of our anniversary issue.

This variant is probably only going to be available through this Kickstarter or via direct sales.

If you want to buy my Chen painting, it's available as a tier.

There is more on the page, but that is the gist as far as basic content for the anniversary goes. As you can see, there is quite a lot!

It's hard to believe it's been five years since this whole rollercoaster began, but it's not quite over yet. This pulp jalopy has got millions of miles left to go.

You can find Cirsova's kickstarter here!

Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Pulp Mindset: "Welcome to NewPub"

Find it Here!

*Short update: my keyboard is dead. I ordered a new one, but it hasn't come in yet. Here's hoping it comes in soon because even this is difficult to write. For now, enjoy this Chapter 1 excerpt from my bestseller,  The Pulp Mindset!*

If you are in possession of this book it can be assumed that you are at least partially aware of the sea change currently occurring in the world of art. Big chain book stores are dying, ebooks are taking off, and major publishers are absorbing massive losses from both of the above. Fewer people in the modern world read than ever before; no one watches television or buys music much anymore, and Hollywood is hemorrhaging money from bomb after bomb. Things certainly look bleak for modern entertainment.

Despite this, the online space of new creators grows more with each passing day. These mavericks are snatching up what the dying industry is losing. Audiences still want entertainment, but not so much from the old guard. The twentieth century has finally been left behind, and the world is moving into a new age. You are living in a transitional period of art where anything goes.

New writers, however, are a bit lost at sea. Should they trust these old creaky corporate behemoths that are but a shadow of their former glory, or should they strike it out on their own in this burgeoning, yet confusing, landscape? It looks like a tough call, at first glance, but the answer is easier than it’s ever been.

The old publishing world—”OldPub”—is dying.

What were once the Big Five major book publishers that ruled the West have contracted, and the large lumber industry feeding their giant bookstore chain is drying up. The days of acquiring a big book contract and having a hit bestseller topping the charts for weeks is over. In an era where no one buys from those Big Five publishers anymore, this is a pipe dream. A writer who chooses this dusty path is looking at a dead end with a limited future. This OldPub world is breathing its last breaths.

Meanwhile, the new publishing world—”NewPub”—is thriving. This is the online independent space that is only stealing more and more of the old guard’s lunch with every passing day. While OldPub tumbles down the hill, the new blood pushes up instead.

Today, some authors make hundreds of thousands on their books without the interference of any publishing company. They do not have to relinquish an absurd cut of their profits to a publisher, either. What you can make in NewPub far outstrips what you could in the dinosaur industry. Others find niches for themselves, cranking out their works to a loyal audience that manages to steadily increase in number with each new release. The road ahead for new creators is rocky, but it can lead to much success with enough effort.

This NewPub world is the inevitable future of book publishing. The freedom offered here for both customer and creator is overwhelming. Ignore it at your own peril. Sadly, many new writers are.

Of course, there is still no guaranteed path to success, there never is with art, but there are more options to succeed in the wild west of NewPub than there is in the cold corporate fringes of OldPub. At the very least, you have full control over what you put out.

It goes without saying that if you are reading this then you are already either aware of the shift or curious enough to dig deeper into the subject. You want to see just what this fancy NewPub thing is all about and how to take advantage of it. Well, there are most likely a few reasons why you haven’t done so yet.

NewPub has a problem. It is tied to the outdated advice of dinosaurs from decades ago, holding new writers back from fully taking advantage of the wide open opportunities before them. These dinosaurs are part of OldPub, still passing out the same bad guidance that led their own industry into the death throes it is currently in and preventing upcoming writers from succeeding in this new landscape. Did you catch that? Yes, that’s right: what’s holding back new creators from succeeding is advice from an old industry that is failing.

Much of this either comes from misplaced nostalgia or an outdated mindset. There is nothing OldPub can teach you in order to succeed in NewPub. The fact that new publishing is even thriving at all is partially due to the fact that the corporate behemoths are floundering as badly as they are. But many new writers still find themselves attracted to the bells and whistles of OldPub.

For instance, if you are a writer who still thinks getting an agent or having a publisher logo on the side of your book is the key to success, then you are a victim of this backwards thinking. You have the wrong mindset for a new writer to have. This book you are currently reading is precisely for upcoming creators like you. Your sabotaged and antiquated mindset will hold you back, and keep you from being the best you can be.

To move forward, writers need a new mindset: a mindset based on customer-first practices and a writing style that prioritizes entertainment above all. In the entertainment world there was once a time when creators thrived by putting entertainment first, and it is an era you need to seriously consider when becoming a writer yourself. You have to take your focus back to the early twentieth century, from before the mess OldPub is currently in, and learn from the true masters.

What you need is a pulp mindset.

#1 seller in four categories!

This is a shift that requires looking to the past, long before the corporate minefield of OldPub became the lumbering, decaying mammoth it is today. You need to return to when writing was at its most prolific, wide-reaching, and exciting—all the antithesis of what the industry is today and what it champions. This means reconnecting with an unjustly-maligned past to construct a better future.

The pulps have suffered from much revisionism over the last century, mostly from those who have never read them or who take them out of context in order to prevent new readers from experiencing them at all. Understanding their success is invaluable in realizing just what has been lost over the years in modern writing, and what can be reclaimed.

When the pulps were around, everyone read. As they faded away and were replaced with fat, overwritten tomes about the drudgery of modern life, the audience walked away. Decades of this audience-repelling attitude has led to the current state of the industry. No one reads anymore because they think reading is about the garbage OldPub puts out. However, when the pulps were king this wasn’t the case.

Literally every aspect of OldPub is as anti-pulp as it can get, and that is why it is currently failing. This is to your advantage. NewPub embracing pulp is their ace in the hole that will help them win over their stumbling competition.

This pulp mindset will change your way of thinking and allow you to write stories totally unlike anything OldPub is dishing out, with their dwindling sales and audience interest. A new exciting world exists ahead, unconstrained by the limits of their dying industry. This brand new frontier before you is going to be built on pulp. It is inevitable.

You can be a part of this new pulp landscape, and it won’t take much at all. You only need to shift your way of thinking.

If you are not sure what being pulp entails, hold on, it will be addressed very shortly. First, some clarifications are needed.

Now, this book is not a How-To manual. It’s not about gaming algorithms for online book sales or a formula to writing a top seller. There are few practical tips to tell: it’s all about having a mental edge. This is a book about how to gain a mindset to survive as a new writer in the saloon shootout that is NewPub, and why you should ditch the boneyard that is OldPub. All that other material from writing formulas to book formatting to advertising comes after you have learned the pulp mindset.

First thing’s first, make sure you approach this new frontier with the right attitude and that requires doing things you were told not to do for decades by writing courses, literature professors, and historical revisionists. Assess the past and appreciate what it can offer you. In order to be pulp, you need to understand what that entails. There is more to it than the over the top comic art you’ve seen parodied countless times over your life. It’s also an attitude, and a writing style. You must put the audience first, and that is scary to modern writers!

Pulp is actually a good bit more dangerous than how “offensive” the art or language is. It breaks all the rules. You would be surprised to learn that pulp writers are far less limited than modern writers are because of their cavalier attitude towards creativity and craft. They could do anything, and they frequently did so.

Pulp writers in the first half of the twentieth century pumped out hundreds of thousands of words with no regard to genre or future political discourse. They concentrated on establishing awe, action, and clear moral stakes, and yet they had boundless imaginative ideas to prop it all up. What they did was put one rule forward: the audience must be entertained above everything else. Know your audience, and give them what they want before you throw a curve ball or whatever is that you wish to do. This is the key to the pulp mindset.

This sounds strange in an era of overbearing artist ego and fanatical worship of content makers, but it is paramount to changing the way you think about writing in this ever-shifting era. As stated earlier, the modern industry is completely anti-pulp and backwards, and that is why it is failing. In order to change that, you need to look for another way to progress past the muck of OldPub. You need to reclaim what was lost, and work forward from that.

The pulp path is the only way forward, and it is what NewPub can do better than anyone else. Remember: the dinosaurs are dying because they have abandoned what the audience wants. All you have to do is remember what they’ve forgotten, and apply it!

The audience and the artist exist together in order to work off each other, with the audience being the more important of the two. They pay, you deliver, and you both get what you want. It was once that simple. However, we live in a time where the audience wants more, and the artist offers less. How can this be reconciled?

You understand now. It is reconciled by looking back to a past long abandoned by the currently dying dinosaur industry and taking up what they have thrown away. It is about becoming a pulp writer and putting the audience first.

Yes, OldPub is dying, but you do not have to die with it. The solution to moving into the future lies in recovering a past you were told to avoid and dismiss without a second glance. You must do the opposite of what OldPub wants you to do.

The solution to the modern ails of upcoming writers involves gaining a pulp mindset, and marching into this dangerous NewPub world where anything can happen. This is what the book you are now reading exists to help you do. Read on and you will soon find yourself equipped with the pulp mindset you need to survive.

Welcome to the new world. You have quite the journey ahead of you.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Signal Boost ~ "The Second Sojourn (The Swordbringer Book 2)" by Alexander Hellene

Find it Here!

Short update: my keyboard is on its last legs so I'm going to keep this quick. Here's hoping it comes in soon because even this short post is difficult to write. I don't know were this issue suddenly came from!

So until that gets fixed, take a gander at this long awaited sequel to author Alexander Hellene's The Last Ancestor!

The description:

Terror strikes the heart of Pysh!

The Global Union has tracked the Canaanites across the galaxy, hellbent on finishing the job of extermination. But first they need to recover a secret, one that will explain everything.

A distress signal from the East brings Garrett, Ghryxa, and their friends closer to the answers about what happened on Earth. The lost ship survives! But to find it they must cross the Waran Steppes, and an endless swamp filled with ancient, deadly creatures.

Pursued by assassins, Garrett must make the hard choices and be a hero like his late father. Escaping the High Lord was just the beginning.

Once again, you can check it out here!

The next post is going to have to wait until my keyboard comes in, so I'll see you then. Have a good weekend!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Anime Report 2021

We made it into 2021! It's been very serious and intense around here recently, so I'm going to liven things up a bit today. It's time for some weeb talk.

2020 was not a great year for a lot of things, but it also wasn't particularly great for anime. Aside from some new seasons of older series there wasn't really much to talk about. The originals were few and far between and the ones being raved about were mediocre at best. Even those older series with new seasons were fairly limited in that there was merely a handful of them. Just like everything else, and for various obvious reasons, the year didn't produce a sizeable amount from bigger studios. Suffice to say, there just wasn't much in the way of anime in 2020.

But how is 2021 shaping up? Surely there is some new material on the way to make up for the lack of new stuff last year? Well, there usually is a bounce back after a dry year, and it looks like 2021 is no different. There are quite a few series to talk about.

So let us go into some of the more interesting series coming this year. Whereas 2020 had very little, 2021 s hoping you forget that.

First is the Winter season, usually the lightest season of the year, actually has a few returning series of interest to many viewers, and some new ones. We will start with some of the highly anticipated returning series first.

These aren't unknowns by any stretch of the imagination. The final season of Attack on Titan just recently started, and the next season of The Promised Neverland and Dr. Stone are just about to begin. These have been highly anticipated for some time now.

I don't keep up with Attack on Titan, so I can't be certain of what it is doing, but being that it is one of the most popular series of the '10s means many should be looking forward to it. MAPPA is also a studio that knows what it is doing, which means they should be more than capable of finishing the story that has been going on for so long.

Promised Neverland is a bit of a mystery to me. I read the entire manga so I know how it ends and can definitely tell you it will not reach the conclusion with season 2. However, I also do not know what it will cover since there is only one place I can see this set of episodes ending and it will require much faster pacing than season 1 to reach that point. Either way, it should be a treat to watch as it was to read.

Meanwhile, Dr. Stone's manga is so far ahead that I can't even begin to imagine where season 2 will end, but I can say that the material it is about to cover is some of the best in the series. Those who enjoyed the first season will find much more to enjoy with this one.

On top of those three, the highly popular Seven Deadly Sins has returned for another season, as has Beastars and Log Horizon. And this is still the first season of the year.

But that isn't all that is returning. Those are merely the most popular returning series. Other series continuing in the winter include the recent Jujutsu Kaisen, the highly anticipated season 2 of World Trigger, and the next part of Osomatsu-san season 3. As far as returning series, there is no shortage of them ot watch this winter.

However, there is actually some new stuff to talk about, which isn't that common for a winter season. There are in fact two I wish to mention before moving on.

First up is a new project from Bones entitled SK Infinity. Because it's Bones it also looks really weird. This appears to be a throwback to the old extreme sports fad from decades back since the plot is one of skateboarders finding an abandoned mine and having downhill races in it. There they settle beefs and have heated battles. It wouldn't be anime if it wasn't weird on some level, but taking a subject like this that hasn't been used or really addressed in so long, and by a studio like Bones no less, makes it something worth keeping an eye on.

The second series starting this winter is Studio VOLN's Back Arrow. There isn't much known about this one aside from the pedigree behind it and that it looks to have mecha featuring in it. The series has a very familiar beginning with an amnesiac awakening in an outskirts village, but beyond that we don't know much else. And that helps make it more exciting.

Once again, this is still just the winter season.

Now we are heading into spring where the first heavy hitters usually show up. So what do we have this time that we didn't last season? A lot. The problem here is that there is so much interesting material that I don't have enough space to mention it all.

So I will just talk about what interests me or any readers the most. That's still quite a bit, though.

The first is the ever-popular My Hero Academia with season 5. I shouldn't have to say why this is so popular or even what this is, but I can say that this season will basically cover the calm before the storm that is currently happening in the manga. This season should adapt everything up to the beginning of the current massive arc in the manga that has just wrapped up. Bones are also using additional staff to put out a third movie this year, which means there will be plenty of MHA activity in 2021. I'm still personally hoping for an adaption of the My Hero Academia: Vigilantes spin-off manga, but the year is still young. Who knows what will come out of this massive franchise next? It's not going to be over anytime soon.

The most anticipated new series is easily To Your Eternity by the creator of the very popular A Silent Voice. This is a very different series from that far more grounded one, being more of a sort of metaphysical fantasy adventure series starring a spirit that can become other creatures and absorb their essences and memories. I can't really say much else that wouldn't involve spoilers except that Brain's Base really has their work cut out for them on this one. You're going to be hearing a lot about this one very shortly.

Another big one is the new anime adaption of Shaman King, the old Shonen Jump manga from back in the day. The series has had a tough legacy from an anime adaption that crafted its own ending to a manga that was canceled under questionable circumstances to taking ages to ever actually getting a proper ending. Those who enjoyed this series have had a very rough ride. This adaption, however, promises to actually adapt the entire story for the first time. 

Shaman King probably doesn't need an introduction, especially to anyone who frequents places likes Wasteland & Sky, but here it goes. This is a series about spirit warriors who team with souls of the departed in order to set balance to the world and become the Shaman King. It's quite a big series, in many ways. Needless to say, everyone is going to be keeping their eyes on this one, especially since the series has so much intrigue and history behind it.

But that isn't it for spring. We've still got more to go through.

There is also the spin off to the mega popular SSSS. Gridman entitled SSSS. Dynazenon. It isn't a sequel but a spinoff to the Tsuburaya and Trigger tokusatsu anime, and will undoubtedly be talked about all season. I wish I could say more about it, but there hasn't bee much revealed. The Gridman anime was a sequel to both the original 1990s tokusatsu and the US adaption entitled Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad (hence the "SSSS" before the "Gridman") but Dynazenon is a complete mystery. Nonetheless, the same team should create a similar quality of series. But we will see.

Next might be one you'll brush off, but I suggest giving a chance to. This is an adaption of the new manga by the creator of Fairy Tail, EdensZero. The reason I suggest giving it a chance is because it is much different than his previous popular series, in fact closer to the creator's first series Rave Master in that it is much more of a typical quest series. Most of what you might not have enjoyed in Fairy Tail simply isn't in EdensZero.

So what is it about? EdensZero is a planetary adventure series that doesn't rely on the power creep formula of Fairy Tail but on discoveries on alien worlds, new hazards and mysteries, and battles that rely on ingenuity and spirit beyond constant powerups. It is much more of a traditional adventure series, so be sure not to sleep on it. Hopefully the anime adaption can do it justice.

Third is one I've been waiting for since I first discovered the manga, and that is Tokyo Revengers. The best way to describe it is the time travel thriller Erased only with delinquents and a lot of fist fighting. It starts as the main character nearly dies and is transported back to high school where he falls in with a rough crowd. He soon learns that to save the future he will have to rise in the ranks of a certain gang i order to change the future. As long as he isn't killed by his enemies first. It's a dramatic series with much hotblooded action and twisting time travel that will keep your head spinning but is never confusing. Here is hoping the anime adaption gets it right.

But that isn't it for spring. Somehow there is still more to talk about. Lastly, there are three more series to round off the season.

There is Godzilla: Singular Point, a combination of 2D and 3D animation and the first proper Godzilla anime series to ever include such a thing. There isn't much info aside from character designs being done by the creator of Blue Exorcist and the involvement of Godzilla alum Eiji Yamamori, but what else is there you really need to know? It's Godzilla.

Then there is Mars Red, an original series taking place in 1923 about vampire hunters solving the rise in vampire attacks. There isn't much else known about it but the previews have made it look quite interesting.

Lastly we have Cestvs: The Roman Fighter. It takes place in 54 AD and is about an orphan slave learning how to be a pugilist and learning to fight for his freedom. This one is based on an old manga from 1997, so it should be quite the experience. Japan has gotten into the habit of giving anime adaptions to older series that never got them, so it should be a treat to see what exactly they do here. Nonetheless, it looks to retain the flair of the original art.

And that's finally it for spring. Again, I could mention more, but eventually this post has to end. There is another half of the year to talk about, after all.

However, from this point on it is impossible to tell just what is going to be released when. This means I can only tell you about series that have not yet been scheduled but are due for this year. Unfortunately, it means I'm going to also have to skim a lot and a pick and choose here too.

The first I want to mention is the long awaited adaption of Naoki Urasawa's Pluto. This is a cyberpunk adaption of an Osamu Tezuka work only altered to fit in with Urasawa's high octane thriller style. It's not a long series at only 8 volumes, and the adaption won't be long either with hour long episodes which also number 8. The original story was sort of the original shonen tournament arc, however Pluto changes it into a mystery. A serial killer is seeking out and destroying the seven great robots of the world. Only our protagonist Gesicht can find the murderer. The catch? He is one of the targets. Get ready for an explosive ride.

Next is Sakugan, a mecha adventure based on a novel. In this humanity has moved underground in colonies in the distant future. There a father and daughter team go exploring, both for riches to survive and to see if they can find her long lost mother. From what I've heard this seems like a much more classic approach to mecha that we haven't seen in a long time, and one we have been hoping to see. It is a series to keep your eye on.

Then there is Chainsaw Man, a bizarre gonzo adaption of a Shonen Jump series that just ended mere weeks ago. It is off-kilter, hyperviolent, and unpredictable, which is probably a good fit for a studio like MAPPA who specializes in capturing the more bizarre aspects of the source material. Expect a full adaption, no matter how long it takes. I'm honestly not sure how this will air since it is probably one of the most violent series that has ever run in Shonen Jump. Nonetheless, most will be watching this one with keen interest.

We have a few more to go, but I wanted to focus on one anime in particular before we mention the rest. It is a series no one expected coming, but was highly welcome when it was announced. That would be the upcoming anime of Getter Robo Arc.

For those who don't know, mecha as a genre was more or less solidified around the time Go Nagai created Mazinger Z back in the early '70s. He created the hotblooded pilot, the super attacks, and the over the top action the genre would be known for. The basic framework of mecha was solidified with him. However, it is when he worked with Ken Ishikawa to create Getter Robo that mecha as an idea was turned up to 11.

Ishikawa quickly turned Getter Robo into a powerhouse of its own as the first combining mecha that required multiple pilots and teamwork. He also cranked up the pulp influence by adding in lost races, mysterious alien energy, and plenty of action both in and out of the mecha that never slows down. It is a requirement that everyone in Getter Robo be hotblooded and functionally insane yet intensely heroic to deal with the otherworldly evil and cosmic horror they face on a constant basis. You can see Getter Robo influence from everything from G Gundam to GaoGaiGar to Gurren Lagann. It all started here with the original pulp mecha series.

Every anime adaption of Ken Ishikawa's manga has been entirely different (though no less great) from his original work, but has always maintained a high quality regardless of that fact. The reason the Getter name is beloved is because it has never had a bad work come out of it. That says a lot considering the franchise is near 50 years old.

Unfortunately, Ishikawa never got to finish the final manga instalment of Getter Robo, which is the above Getter Robo Arc, due to his sudden unexpected death in 2006 at 58 years old. So the original manga series never had an official ending, despite the fact it looked as if he was building to one. This is what makes this newly announced adaption so exciting since it can finally give closure to a series that deserves the chance more than any other.

Directed by the man who has handled the most Getter Robo adaptions, including the highly influential Getter Robo Armageddon, this anime of Getter Robo Arc promises to be what we've all been waiting for. And that is something I can't help but have excitement for.

All in all, 2021 looks to be a great year for anime. And that is only including what I'm mentioning here. There is still yet more.

So what else do we have? Well, quite a lot of sequels to very popular series. 2021 has new seasons of Kaguya-sama, Megalobox, Shield Hero, Fruits Basket, Thunderbolt Fantasy, two different Megazone 23 projects, the Patlabor EZY project, and the new season of the remake of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Then there is the Gundam Hathaway Flash project, a second Blame! movie, and a new Space Battleship Yamato film. The new Spriggan, Saber Marionette J, and Bean Bandit, OVAs are also due this year. 

Then there are other new projects without a defined release date such as Megaton Musashi, Orient, Shadows House, Despera, Rescue Academia, The Vampire Dies in No Time, and others that have yet to be announced for 2021.

Some of these might be moved back to 2022, for all we know, but it's already quite the packed year as it is. I'm not even certain if I will have the time to watch what interests me. This post has mentioned just over 40 projects for this year alone.

It looks as if Japan won't be stopping anytime soon, not with a 2021 this stacked. I can't imagine what else they have up their sleeve. The year has just started, and already it's looking much more interesting than last year.

So keep your chin up. There is much to come, and many more things to see. Here's hoping Japan can keep it up. We're due for some good times ahead. We just have to get there.