Saturday, August 6, 2022

Weekend Lounge: Proof of Decline Edition

There's not much this weekend to discuss except this one long video to show you exactly how much video games as an artform have regressed over the last two decades. This one uses the Left 4 Dead series and what built it, contrasted with a newer attempt at the same concept from a modern AAA studio which completely misses the art behind the original classics. This is a long one, but it's a fascinating video.

This just goes to show you what happens when you overlook the soul and over focus on aesthetics, tropes, and the chrome-plating, over what truly makes something what it is. This is essentially what handing the keys over to poseurs gets you.

Such as it is in every other industry, check out the video to understand how far one can lose their way when they abandon their roots. We cannot improve until we shake this anti-art and anti-audience mentality. Things will just remain like this.

So let us be sure to learn properly from the past, and build on it. We cannot afford to keep throwing the baby out with the bathwater forever.

That's all for this week! It's been quite a bizarre one. Have a good rest, and be sure to beat that crazy heat.

Autumn isn't too far away!

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Death to False Pulp!

A lot of the time it feels like things change overnight, when it was actually a long slow process we just weren't paying attention to that lead to a shift. It happens all the time. Hair metal and grunge music (artificial terms) both disappeared seemingly overnight, but both were victims of the industry tossing them out for the next fad. However, the the unspoken truth that they were also starting to put out garbage by the time they fell off and were ditched. It wasn't one thing that lead to their fall, it just helped. Hindsight is 20/20, but sometimes it takes a while to gain that clarity to understand the past. It only makes sense when you see it unfold from a distance.

And sometimes said clarity never arrives, especially when you are paid the big bucks to not notice the truth. This, unfortunately, happens a lot, and is the main reason so many industries were allowed to sink to the depths they are at today. It did not happen overnight, despite how it might feel. It takes a long time to crack the foundation, poison the well, and keep out revivalists who wish to save it. Sometimes it can even take entire lifetimes to do this sort of damage. 

Nonetheless, reversing such a thing can take even longer, especially when there are groups dedicated to stopping this. Baked in subversion can only be purged, it can't fixed overnight. Therefore expecting instant revolution is simply not reality.

This is where we are today, looking at the scrapyard of a future that never was in a past that was much more hopeful. It's all gone now, and that's not particularly a bad thing.

We can't regain that sought after future--such a thing is impossible today--however, we can aim for something even higher. There are always greater heights that can be reached, no matter how low the depths. This is, after all, what the pulps told us.

But you can't build new temples while the high places are still around. Idols are meant to be destroyed, because they encourage unhealthy obsessions that distract from the Truth. Such things can only lead to soul death. Until they are destroyed, we cannot move on. Thankfully, the industry is doing a bang-up job on that themselves.

Can we even do that? Is moving on possible? First we should see if things are still as they were even a few years ago. Do you still think we are living in the 2010s? Do you think nothing has changed, at all? You might be surprised to discover how much things have already shifted from where they were in only a few short years.

End of the old era

A few years ago, I criticized the state of short stories by going over the way OldPub treated the form at the time. What was especially noticeable was how bad they sold, despite being one of the most influential and important forms of storytelling that helped build the industry itself. Half a century since the pulps vanished, and they were practically dead. There just wasn't much of a market for them in 2018. Unfortunately, there still does not seem to be one now.

OldPub has not learned their lesson on this subject. They never will, either. It is far too late for them to do anything about this.

This doesn't mean one can't find short stories anywhere. You simply have to move to NewPub. It is the future for the form, there is no getting around that. 

As an example, Cirsova, Pulp Modern, and StoryHack are still around (Cirsova is even taking submissions right now!), as are newcomers such as the Bizarchives and plenty of authors putting out collections of stories of their own (just look at about any signal boost post on this site to find them), but short stories have still not reentered the wider scene as a legitimate form yet. It's still a niche. To be honest, that will take some time to change. The industry worked tirelessly to alter the perception of storytelling to be logy, bloated, and obsessed with Fanatic concerns, over entertaining the audience. A change will not occur overnight.

There is too much damage to repair first. We're going to be working on this for quite a long time. Just another industry failure to correct. OldPub's lasting damage on generations of people is one that will take a long time to reverse.

Just like how the industry itself ruined reading for kids, we are going to be dealing with it for ages. Part and parcel with dealing with a rotten industry, I suppose.

This twitter thread is here

However, it also will not be like this forever. This world is passing away. As mentioned above, a magazine like Cirsova would not have been possible to even conceive of a decade ago. There would have been no space for them. That it has managed to truck along for as long as it has, even if it hasn't been the smoothest of roads (it wasn't easy for Weird Tales or Planet Stories, either), it still retains a readership and it still puts out new projects all the time.

The one thing we can say we have learned is that expectations for the form are starting to be more understood among writers and readers. It is not quite the wild west it once was, but it's not stifling wither. You cannot just put out anything you want to succeed--you need to know what the audience wants. Okay, you may be saying, so what is it they want? Can we just publish anything and retain an audience? Clearly, no.

However, you have much more freedom than you know. you certainly have much more freedom than the straitjacket of OldPub does.

Another thing I have gathered over the years is that there is a small but growing audience of people looking for short stories, and their expectation for what they want hinges on old PulpRev claims of action and adventure above all, whether they really know the terms or not. In other words, they want a similar experience one would get from opening a Golden Age pulp from the 1920s and 1930s, but obviously not carbon copied as some kind of pastiche or tongue in cheek sendup of other things. They want modern writers to tap into that old energy, albeit without the subversion and perversion that has so gripped the form since.

They want adventure!

One of the things Cirsova did to help themselves, which I would argue is what gave them the shot in the arm to break out, is that they changed their focus from their early days. They broadened their scope, while also solidifying what they were about. This meant reassessing the landscape, and changing accordingly. Confused? Let us go over it together.

In case you either weren't around at the time, or missed it entirely, they are currently in their second volume of existence. The first volume came with the subtitle "Heroic Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine" and ran for ten issues. Unfortunately, despite its quality actually rising with each volume, attention seemed to be drifting off the more they went along. There are theories for it, but they could not quite capture the excitement of early issues.

This changed, however, when fortune smiled upon them.

Then Cirsova got the rights to an unpublished Tarzan story by Edgar Rice Burroughs and used it as a flagship to relaunch with volume 2. They used this opportunity to rebrand. This second version of Cirsova was subtitled "Magazine of Thrilling Adventure & Daring Suspense" and according to P. Alexander, the editor, it ended up entirely changing the actual submissions they received. No longer were they getting milquetoast big men with screwdriver stories or generic elf and magic OldPub slabs, but actual off the wall tales and plunges into the bizarre. And it ended up separating them from the pack. They've been in volume two for years now, with no reason to shift.

Since then, they've put out quite a library of material, with no plans to stop. There is always palpable excitement every new issue, and it is always a good time.

Congrats as they get ready to move into Year 7!

The magazine essentially became its own thing, divorced from its Planet Stories aspirations or any sort of Weird Tales comparisons. It is no longer a wannabe of any sort, but its own thing. Somehow an issue of Cirsova always feels like an issue of Cirsova. Due to this, it has earned itself a loyal reader base and still manages to truck along after over half a decade running.

They did all this with pulp inspired stories, a form that was supposed to be outdated and hated, destined for the trash heap of history. And yet, it still goes on.

I bring this up because it feels as if there is a zeitgeist close by ready to burst out at any moment. It is at this point that one can't help but feel disappointment when you then so so many new upcoming magazines coming into NewPub repeating the same dumb mistakes that have sunk so many others over the past decade. If these tactics didn't succeed in the 2010s, then what makes you think it will succeed in the 2020s, especially when you are carbon copying the same exact blueprints that already lead to failure? You are shooting yourself in the foot before the game has even begun. Unfortunately, I see this happening a lot.

This time I wanted to take a look at a new magazine asking for submissions, and how one would to do it in the exact wrong way. Note that this isn't intended to specifically single out any one publication in general, but to show how so many attempt to construct themselves around a market that either doesn't exist, or one they wish did. Ignoring customers is an OldPub tactic, there is no room for it in the NewPub sphere.

To make sure it's not entirely negative, however, I do want to highlight the good things and what one should probably focus on when constructing a frame around what they are looking for. to stand out, you need an identity, after all.

Here is the beginning of the submission section:

This is quite good, but there are a few quibbles to be had.

My first issue comes with the "Accepts all genres" part in regards to "swashbuckling" because there is only one genre that really has anything to do with swashbuckling, this being the Adventure genre. I would include "Romance" as well but that title has been co-opted by an entire industry so it wouldn't do us a lot of good using it here. Basically, if you're writing a swashbuckler, you are writing an adventure story, regardless of setting or chrome plating. It's fairly clear cut.

I do like that they emphasized their definition of swashbuckler as focusing on small-scale conflicts and personal motivations, which is exactly what defines such a story and sets it apart. Giving story examples where this done right also helps a good deal for potential submissions and those with questions. The "drawing on other genres" point is a bit weird, though. As long as the story focuses on the central conflict they are looking for, I feel it's fairly clear it should be worth submitting. There is already comedy and romance pre-baked in to swashbuckling. It comes prepackaged in the style of story it is.

The tone point is one that might be considered strange in any other era but this one. Unfortunately it is also completely necessary to write out. We live in an era of two dichotomies: snarky irony and grimdark nihilism. Swashbuckling cannot work in either mold when you need lighthearted back and forth as well stakes that actually matter to make the conflict interesting. It's one of the reasons we haven't seen much proper swashbuckling in a long time. Such a thing cannot work in the framework of modernism we are trapped in right now.

Tragedy has its place in a swashbuckler, but only if it is done right. It requires talent to pull off. A story of a duel where the hero dies can only work if he engages in a higher moral victory. What is important, in the end, is uplifting the audience. Swashbucklers live for this.

But then we get into the weeds that drag it all down.

This is a bit much. It is limiting on creativity, including the reason the writer might think of for said characters to engage in a sword duel. I get the impression reading this that whoever wrote it does not have much faith in the writer to deliver what is desired of them. This, despite the fact that "Swashbuckling" is an easily understandable term for those who care about it. If you didn't then why would you even be looking at submitting to a magazine for it?

For an example, I wrote a story called "Lucky Spider's Last Stand" (available in both the PulpRev Sampler and Someone is Aiming for You & Other Adventures) which involves gangsters, superpowers, and a life or death duel. The entire thing works, despite not following any of the suggestions above. You should have more faith in your writers to figure it out. Part of the appeal of NewPub is that you can do practically anything.

Many of these guidelines just feels like over-explaining for either people who already know all this, or for people who didn't care to begin with. It seems fairly pointless, as a one sentence description of "Swashbuckling" would have been more than enough for anyone interested to get it. The longer descriptions go on, the less anyone is liable to pay attention, as we already learned with genre definitions.

The key thing to remember is to keep it simple and straightforward! The simpler it is, the less you risk needlessly alienating anyone.

The fact of the matter is that you can write a story about anything for whatever reason, as long as it remains internally consistent to the reader. You can find a reason to do just about anything. Editors should know and encourage this.

For an example of how to deliver quick and concise submission guidelines, check out how StoryHack handles it. It is very to the point yet strong in voice without needlessly puffing of chests or getting into the weeds. Give them action, and they are satisfied!

In contrast, this is where our mystery magazine goes off the rails. Any goodwill is lost when one reads the next passage.

This is where the entire project falls on its rear. Whenever a so-called "pulp" production says something like this you can guarantee they don't know anything about what the audience wants or even what made the old pulps appeal in the first place. It comes prepackaged with assumptions about your ancestors, including both those who read and write these sorts of stories. Even worse if you're claiming to be the "New Edge" while spouting unhip and safe classroom jargon that completely misses the point of writing to begin with.

It also feels really out of date with the times, which is very ironic.

In the 2020s, today's pulp writers and readers know they were lied to about the old stories and magazines. They were told all sorts of unsavory lies and libel about the era, all from people who hated and wanted to erase tradition and adventure from the record. The only people who still parrot any of the above nonsense has either never read a pulp story or couldn't possibly understand what people liked about them to begin with. You cannot continue on a tradition if you hate the tradition. What is the point of a pulp magazine that hates pulps? How do you expect such a thing to succeed, because we have ample proof that it does not.

Moreover, rejecting a story because it contains historically accurate terminology is just plain creatively bankrupt and cowardly. There is no way around this. Writers and editors that are scared of words should not be allowed anywhere near them, for both their safety and ours. You are out of your depth, and cannot handle classic pulp storytelling. Leave it to the adults.

Now, the last point here is strange because it's simply just a virtue signal. There is no reason to have this in any sort of submission page, unless you are trying to impress people. Cirsova, for instance, has stated they get submissions from everyone and everywhere, and it just happens without them asking for it outright. Adventure is already universal, and everyone already knows it. Why would you need to specifically single this out on a submission page unless you wanted people to know how openminded and great you are? It does not come across as professional.

This is a remnant from the failure of OldPub. Such a thing has no place in the world of NewPub, which we can tell from audience response. It is time to leave this sort of attitude behind in the dismal 2010s where it belongs. What do you expect from a dying industry that refuses to cater to normal people and lift them up, but instead sinks in depravity and juvenile moods. That is how one gets nonsense like the below image. 

Art does not exist to pander and talk down to people. It exists for higher reasons. NewPub knows this, and you should know it too if you want to thrive here.

This is where such junk thinking lead OldPub:

They spin their wheels while the audience shrinks. No one stops or changes course, because they don't care if anyone reads. They just want to impress their peers.

As for our "nouveau pulp" magazine, the rest of the submission page is fairly obvious after this, mostly focusing on PG13 level of violence and word count, but by this point most interested writers or readers have tuned out. One can easily surmise that there is no higher plan here, no attempt to reach people. It is just yet another attempt to subvert an older tradition.

All this is done to cop strong aesthetics and hop on a trend train while also continuing all the poisonous practices and trends that led to people preferring pulp over OldPub slop in the first place. There is a reason these projects fade away very fast. No one is asking for pulp that removes everything from it due to a modern misunderstanding of what adventure is.

Here is the reality: pulp is in. It's the new fad. It has been for years now, which is why so many are trying to co-opt it. Pulp has been steadily gaining in popularity over the past decade, and it has gotten to the point that readers want fresh new stories in the style of old traditions. They do not want modern stories with a cheesy old aesthetic.

If they wanted modern OldPub garbage, they would already be reading that. But no one is reading that. No one is really reading at all, and that is the point. Going back to the pulps, the last time mass literature and reading existed as a concept is paramount to understanding what has been missing and grow the industry again. It is not an excuse to continue failed tactics and philosophies that no one wants today, only with a new coat of paint. Your ways have failed, the audience has spoken. It is time to move on.

If you want pulp, then aim for pulp; if you don't want pulp, then stop pretending that you do. There is no more room for poseurs in NewPub. We need to right this ship that OldPub and their acolytes, such as the above, have steered into the rocks over the decades.

The future is pulp. Get used to it, and adapt accordingly.

As Christopher says: Death to False Pulp!

We don't have to worry so much about this anymore. It's already on the way out. The 2020s have just begun, and already we're facing major disruptions to the way things have been for so long. All the old rules of modernity no longer apply when tired modernity is on its death bed. We have to be ready for better ways.

We don't need an industry of creators that hates their past and misunderstands and disrespects its customers: we need one willing to connect with all of that. Art needs this to thrive, never mind survive. Things will change, because that's how the world works. We just have to make sure we do it right this time.

I truly hope you are as excited for things to come as the rest of us authors, writers, artists, and entertainers, in these new spaces are. With false pulp and usurpers finally out of the way, we can finally look forward to brighter times. Fandom is over, remember. You no longer need them to get what you want. You never really did. Fandom is not a way of life, it is a grave.

You need a past worth cherishing, and a future worth striving for. We will have the latter again soon enough, as long as we continue to work for it.

Death to False Pulp! The real stuff is here now!

"Ever wanted to know why the fun and wonder has been sucked out of sci-fi, fantasy, and adventure? JD has the receipts. Essential reading." ~ Alexander Hellene, author of The Last Ancestor

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Weekend Lounge: Last Saturday of July!

Not much to talk about this week aside from a new episode of Geek Gab! You can tune into it above. Hopefully it is live when you're clicking on it.

That said, there is still some stuff to mention. There is one thing I wanted to get to that I keep forgetting to mention.

Now I can finally being up that the second volume of the Cannon Film Guide finally released. This one covers the years between 1985-1987, whereas the first went over 1980-1984. Despite that, this volume is TWICE the size of the last at over 1000 (!) pages. For those interested in the best purveyor of b-movies, the Cannon Film guide has proven itself to be more than up to the task.

Find it Here!

I still have yet to pick up my copy, so do not expect a review anytime soon. Nonetheless, here is the description:

"Trunick's Guide . . . will sit comfortably on reference shelves next to Michael J. Weldon's Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film and Danny Peary's Cult Movies books." - Spectrum Culture

"The Cannon Film Guide is a treasure trove of info for Golan/Globus fans. Even diehard Cannon scholars will learn from this tome." - Paul Talbot, author of the Bronson's Loose! books

The unbelievable story of the legendary 1980s B-movie studio continues in The Cannon Film Guide Volume II, which covers the company's output from 1985 to 1987, their peak production years under Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. This book takes an up-close look at sixty Cannon movies, from deep cuts to cult classics, including American Ninja, The Delta Force, Over the Top, Invasion USA, Masters of the Universe, Runaway Train, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, King Solomon's Mines, Lifeforce, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, and many more. With hundreds of photos and more than forty interviews with Cannon directors, writers, and stars, this is an indispensable reference book for fans of the VHS era's wildest production company.

"For students of film history-of which the Cannon saga has been a largely unexplored chapter-fans of exploitation filmmaking and B-movies, and aficionados of cult cinema, The Cannon Film Guide is likely to be an essential addition to your bookshelf." - Den of Geek

You can find the second volume of the Cannon Film Guide here. It is available in both paperback and hardcover. This series was originally slated for three volumes (Volume 1: 1980-1984, Volume 2: 1985-1987, and Volume 3: 1988-to the end) so there is still one more to go. The first volume was great, so there is little doubt the follow-ups will not be either as good, or surpass it. For those interested in the strangeness that was the 1980s, this series is bound to inform you.

If you want to know more about Cannon Films, you can always check out my still-ongoing Cannon Cruisers podcast. We have covered over 100 Cannon Films at this point, as well as over 100 Non-Cannon favorites from the same era. We still put out a new episode every Sunday, as we have for nearly 5 (!) years by this point. It's been quite a journey.

Check out the Cannon Cruisers here!

That's all for this month, folks. Hope you're beating the heat and keeping cool. Take care and I'll see you in August!

"JD Cowan has over the years shown himself to be one of the most prominent, and perhaps most important, essayists of the new movement in pulp revival beginning in the mid 2010s. His is must read work." ~ P. Alexander, Cirsova

Thursday, July 28, 2022

End of the Month Signal Boost!

Find it Here!

Once again we're back with a new signal boost post, and a pile of new books for you to check out! There's always something to look forward to these days. Today, we've got a few humdingers to talk about.

The first is the above Stellar Stories by adventure writer David Skinner! This is a collection featuring new stories as well as pieces published in places such as both StoryHack and Cirsova magazine, as well as the old PulpRev Sampler! It contains eight different tales for your reading pleasure, and there is even a physical edition available on Lulu. He truly went all out on this one!

The description is as follows:

Eight stories of rockets and robots, monsters and Martians, fistfights and beauties, wonders and awe...

A young man's blind date is kidnapped by Martians and he is drawn into her secrets. A brotherhood outside of time seeks to mend a Solar System devastated by lunatic machines. Men from a Plutonian research base confront metaphysical weirdness on Charon. Two runaway sisters resolve to rescue the implanted helper-sentience of a deceased warrior. And more!

You can find Stellar Stories here! It is listed as volume 1, and the author does have more published stories beyond what is included in this book, so there should hopefully be a new entry in the not too distant future. Until then, enjoy this release!

Find it Here!

For something a bit different, there is Yakov Merkin's second batch of Isekai light novels, Light Unto Another World, currently being kickstarted right now as we speak! This campaign is for volumes 6-10, following on from the first which covered the original 1-5.

For those interested in diving in, here is the description:

For returning readers, Light Unto Another World needs no introduction. For all newcomers, however, Light Unto Another World is my take on the isekai (portal fantasy genre). As enjoyable as many isekai anime & light novels are, they can get very same-y, especially in regard to the types of main characters, and the story setups.

So I decided to put a little spin on things, while not throwing out the fun stuff or subverting the genre.

Uriel Makkis is a very different sort of isekai/portal fantasy protagonist that what you'll usually find. Decisive, with a clear sense of what needs to be done, he very much charts his own course on this new world, while not forgetting where he's come from. Determined to shape this new world rather than become swept up in it.

There is much more to it than this, so be sure to check out the campaign page for yourself. This is not quite what you might think it is!

Find it Here!

Finally, let us take a look at a new series by PulpRev master Kit Sun Cheah, with Saga of the Swordbreakers. You should know to expect intense action from him by this point, plenty of martial arts and genre madness to go around. The second book is up for preorder, and out in a week, but the first entry is readily available right now.

Here is the description:

Li Ming is a small-town boy with big dreams.

In the era of the Five States and Ten Corporations, the immortals of the jianghu stand head and shoulders above the masses. Li Ming aspires to join their ranks.

But the world of the rivers and lakes is fraught with peril. Deception and danger lurk in the shadows. Bloodthirsty beasts roam the wilds. Martial cultivators constantly battle for wealth, glory and status.

Armed with his ancestral swordbreaker, Li Ming enters the jianghu as a biaohang, eager to deliver justice with steel and magic—and to chase the dream of immortality.

But first, he must prove himself worthy.

He is also quick to add this disclaimer for those who might be worried of being tricked by the contents within:

Author's Note: This series is not a power fantasy. There are no LitRPG / GameLit elements, no unconventional relationships, and no sexual content. It is, quite simply, a cultivation story—in the actual sense of the term.

So there will be no bait and switch for those who just want a straightforward adventure. This is more appreciated than you might think!

Once again, you can find both books in the Saga of the Swordbreaker series here. I'm sure he also has more on the way.

That is all for this time! Keep your head up: there's a new surprise just about every day in NewPub. We've got fresh experiences around ever corner. You just got to keep looking. Eventually you won't be able to turn around without finding something to your taste. At that point, NewPub will be all that remains.

Out of the dark age and into the forges to create a brand new start. I can hardly wait.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Living in the Post-Fanatic World

How does one move on from an era built on false premises and hinged on dated materialist jargon that no one even believes any longer? I'm still not sure how one does this, because there are still many who think the old rules apply even though they clearly do not. We still follow aberrations and half-truth explanations from those who we know are wrong and out of touch, their philosophies wedded to a small slice of history that has long since expired. Until we finally accept that we were wrong to trail off the beaten path, and retrace our steps accordingly, we will continue to spin our wheels in a culture that has long since run out of road.

Nonetheless, we will have to move on, whether by choice or not. We can't cling to a failed past forever. Eventually, reality will reassert itself. Where will we be when it does?

It is fairly obvious to just about anyone living today that we are ruled by a class of people who loathe and look down on us, for little real reason except that we let them. It was a long and very stupid process that lead to this happening, but we still allowed it to happen to begin with. that's what happens when material comfort comes over eternal truths. Sure, we've always been ruled by other people (we always will be, get used to it) but it is only today in the modern age where it feels particularly frustrating to most of us. Why is that?

The difference might be that people who ruled you before didn't necessarily hate you. Sure, they might have looked down on you, but there was a point where they didn't see you as cartoon stereotypes they invented in their own propaganda that they then bought into themselves. They at the very least saw you as people. 

What this change has led to is a society full of Jim Jones wannabes who throw their weight around as if they are in control when the vast majority actually considers them depraved, unhinged, and loopy. Everyone wants to be a cult leader, because they hate everyone else. Once the right insane mental patient is in charge, all the other mental patients will be cured. This is the lie of Utopia we still insist on chasing.

How they see normal people

This is especially prevalent on social media were you will find no shortage of nobodies who pop up like whack-a-moles to spout declarative statements into a sea of people who have no idea who they actually are. On top of that, it is frequently objectively wrong or silly advice. There is a reason this is known as the clown era in some circles.

OldPub, as we've learned definitively by now, epitomizes the clown age we live in. They are run by the above example, inside and out. Cultists of the postmodern materialist age that has long since over still think they should rule over you.

What is particularly noticeable about such people is not what they rant about, but that their entire worldview is always pinned with undeserved arrogance and a barely concealed hatred for who they are talking to. It is as strange as it is noticeable. People who desire to assert control over others typically detest them more than they respect them.

Let me share with you a recent example of this attitude taken from where else but social media. It is the very best place to find this sort of thing without even really trying.

"Let me tell you about my Comps..."

Spend enough time on social media of any kind and you are likely to get a cavalcade of unsolicited opinions on anything and everything, and these bits of knowledge nuggets are frequently dead wrong or just plain goofy. On social media, it is unavoidable. One such example is the following speech from an OldPub acolyte on how important "comps" are to selling your books. Let us go over this advice and how ridiculous it is.

For those who don't know what "comps" are, because no normal person knows (which is part of the underlying issue with OldPub as a whole--they do not appeal to normal people) is something in the vein of "comparables" as in authors or books similar to the one you're writing and trying to sell. You know, all those useless "My book is like Game of Thrones meets Stephen King" pitches that mean nothing to anyone listening? It's just that.

Basically, they consider such a simple comparison as one of the most important parts of selling your book. More important than editing, advertising, or cover art (none of which OldPub authors have control over, yet all of which said industry is abysmal at) is a "comp" that is as useless as putting your book on an OldPub chain bookstore shelf and expecting any sales.

Why is this useless? I shall explain. There are many reasons, all of which are highlighted in the below example.

This silly twitter thread was posted on July 15th, 2022:

I'm sure you see the issue right off the bat. It's a bit hard to ignore.

This is the biggest problem with the thread: nothing she is talking about here matters at all. Nobody cares what your book is "similar" to, and will not suddenly buy it because you spouted the correct buzzwords or buzzwords. Do you know how many "Stars Wars meets Dune" stories there are out there? Take a guess at how many of them are anything like either, never mind the two combined. the answer is not surprising.

This advice is also slathered with the usual ignorant arrogance this industry is so very good at screaming at newer writers. You would be a far better writer if you never listened to anyone in the industry ever again. There is nothing to be gained here.

Of course, there is another layer to the "Comp" thing. It is about how creativity works in the first place, and how this nonsense devalues it.

Here is the truth: unless you are very deliberately writing a pastiche or aping a modern mainstream formula (like generic James Patterson-style assembly-line hackwork) you are very likely not very comparable with other writers or stories. This is not to say you are a special snowflake or whatever similar outdated term they use nowadays to devalue art, but the fact is that writing is a way of filtering the way you see the world into a story. Since you are an individual, you will naturally put large pieces of yourself in whatever you write and it will show up your work in some way to be different to other books on the market, even those in the same genre. This is art; it's all like this. Rearranging tropes and speaking through our experiences and beliefs is how art has managed to last so long despite it supposedly being so easy to create in formulas and workshops. The human spirit is a fascinating thing, which is what makes art so fantastic a thing.

I can use myself and other authors as an example. Thinking back through my books, from Knights of the End, Grey Cat Blues, Someone is Aiming for You, Gemini Warrior, Brutal Dreams, my short stories, and even in work like The Pulp Mindset or The Last Fanatics, I am drawing a blank on what I should compare them to, because I didn't model them off other things when I first wrote them. There is no one in OldPub writing anything like these stories, and even in NewPub you end up with writers who might write similar themes or concepts but the final result is drastically different. This isn't to blow smoke, it is how it works with all writers.

I recently spoke of Rawle Nyanzi's Sasha Reed, for instance. He himself admits he got the central idea for the project from old Penelope Pitstop cartoons, even though he didn't do it intentionally, but the stories themselves are nothing alike and are not comparable to the cartoon at all. So what does one compare them to? What is the "Comp" in this situation? A trope is not enough to make something similar enough to another thing to make them worthy of comparison. You have to factor in theme, intent, genre, and the actual plot and characters. In this case, the work stands as what it is.

Another example would by Alexander Hellene's Pulp Rock. Who is making an anthology of music themed pulp-style stories that would be comparable to it? In OldPub? Nothing at all. Every story inside isn't even comparable to each other, so what should the whole even be compared to? The same extends to StoryHack's Sidearm & Sorcery anthology: who is even doing traditional sword and sorcery in OldPub, never mind with a modern setting twist? Even if they did, the stories inside all take the concept differently enough that they don't compare to each other.

This isn't to say these are the most original ideas in the world, or that nothing can ever be like them, but that there isn't anything quite like them, because there can't be. They were all formed by the individuals in charge who had their own idea and vision of what the final result should be. The end result is obviously not going to be formulaic modern 400 page, 100k word hackwork that gets dumped onto OldPub store shelves. Those are designed to be disposable and stock.

If you read enough (ironic, considering the OP) you would know that it a lot easier to write something not comparable to OldPub's generic modern slush than it is to write something in their frame, especially if you read a lot. Being yourself makes it harder to be a comparable. And why would you ever want to be comparable to an industry that doesn't sell? You need to move beyond it. There is no future in a dead industry stuck in the past.

As for the site listed above, well, it's silly. Here is what one gets when one of my influences, CL Moore, is put into it:

Yes, this is a real screenshot.

Should I truly go into why the above is not only stupid, but wrong? It should be very self-evident. The list doesn't even include her own husband, Henry Kuttner, whom she co-wrote with for a large chunk of her career. This isn't even going into the other two writers on the list. The long and short of it is that this supposed valuable resource is not very valuable at all.

Not only that, but the author in question is not like her "Comps" in the slightest. This is typical dead internet nonsense that is common of the modern day.

CL Moore wrote gothic stories with adventure trappings, sometimes in the distant past or even the far-off future, but her concern was more on the side of the fae and the relationship between man and woman. It isn't quite like what anyone else in the pulps was trying to do. HP Lovecraft wrote cosmic horror about man's insignificance in a universe that they can never truly understand. Cordwainer Smith wrote of an "Instrumentality of Man" and how Christianity and science would bring about a future unlike any we could imagine. Do you see how these three connect with each other? Because they don't really, at all.

None of these three writers are comparable, other than that they all wrote stories in magazines. That's literally it. At that point you might as well say Edgar Rice Burroughs is completely interchangeable with Isaac Asimov. It makes as much sense as this.

As for the last piece of advice on categories, there is no reason to do this. Amazon's search feature (the only one you need to care about) is completely busted. No matter what tag you put in, you are unlikely too show up on a random search. It used to be pay to play, but it doesn't even do that anymore, mostly because the internet is dead. You should not worry too much about genre classification, as we've gone over many times. Sell the story before anything else.

This part is a good clue that the writer of this thread does not understand the audience. Nonetheless, she will persist with her arrogance accordingly.

Your book won't be shelved anywhere in a "real-live" bookstore, because bookstores only order from their corporate masters in the paper cartel. Not to mention that no one goes to these stores anymore either.

You can also forget about libraries because your librarian will not stock your books and if they do no one will check it out or know it's there to begin with. I hate to be that guy, but libraries are functionally useless in the modern day, just as the people running then are more interested in political posturing and lecturing parents than inspiring kids to read. We have an illiteracy epidemic and until that is fixed your book being in a library is not going to matter. [Note: From insider knowledge I've accrued, entire swaths of OldPub books never even get checked out once. They are eventually dumped from their listing when it is time to clean house. Librarians aren't going to sell your book when they can't even sell their corporate masters' works.] Libraries are not for reading, they're prayer chambers for Fanatics. You won't reach anyone from being stocked in one.

For the second point, I don't think I've ever seen a book and then wanted to write my own version of it. Why would I do that? I've been inspired by things I've read, but to say something like Grey Cat Blues, for instance, is comparable to Rumble Fish, a book that is of a completely different intent and genre, simply because I was inspired to write mine after reading that, is incorrect. This is how inspiration works: you take a piece of one work and translate it into something completely different. This is why "it's X meets Y!" comparisons don't work and are a very shallow interpretation of creativity. You are either not different enough from your inspiration, or you are relying on them to carry your work, if you need these "Comps" for some reason. Either way, that is not what art is meant to do. Originality comes from your take on a familiar subject, it doesn't fall out of thin air. Whatever this is, it will not foster any originality.

And again, when we get into the third point, this is not how creativity works. There is no direct line from writing due to a single inspiration into having a 100% similar stock of opinions and tastes as said original writer. I have little in common with the backgrounds of most pulp-era writers, yet they have inspired me to write many things. Just because they are inspirations does not make them comparable to each other, either. If they were it would mean my own interests and inspirations and my tastes are very limited and I' writing for personal validation.

This is strange considering the original point of the twitter thread was to chastise people for not either reading enough or exploring outside their interests. This is the opposite of that. Then again, the thread definitely comes off as someone rehashing advice they were told by an industry that can't sell water in the desert.

Many such cases!

Here we come to the silliest entry so far. If this is how your creative process works then you've probably been attending too many writing workshops. That is money you could be spending on better covers and editing, two things that will be far more valuable to you. Jargon while talking to people who will forget they talked to you two seconds after they move on, is not worth this amount of discussion. Then again, this misunderstanding of storytelling and audiences is why OldPub is dead. "Comps" do not matter.

There is nothing less creative than trying to mix and match your potential story to tropes and diagrams created by people, again, who have no idea how to sell books but act as authorities on the subject. I don't claim to be an expert in this arena, but it is fairly clear to anyone paying attention that the current day industry is such an utter failure that every piece of advice it gives out should be discarded and those in charge should be ignored. They have done enough damage to the scene already and chased more than enough people away.

The second tweet is complete nonsense. "Good sellers but not bestsellers" is silly. Books don't sell at all, and getting on the NYT best seller list is as easy as your rich urbanite publisher buying up copies for you (that you will never see a penny of) to get on said list for fake clout that normal people, again, don't care about. This is a shell game with no prize. Nothing sells, because OldPub does not sell to anyone except cultists in "book" circles who all have the same uniform thoughts and beliefs on every single issue. If you copy them, you are destined for failure. No one should want to be comparable to a dead industry.

Nothing quite compares to the tone-deafness of the third point, however. "My book is like the Sopranos" is a dumb enough statement on its surface, a meaningless comparison, but its fairly clear what that means. No one who hears it is stupid enough to think there will be actors speaking Italian or a bopping soundtrack when they flip the pages. "One specific element" to focus on is, again, pointless. It feels like you are pathetically trying to glom on to something far more popular for your own gain. You really don't think the average person who hears this won't just roll their eyes and silently pass on your book? They already do this now.

Of course it isn't about the average person, at all. OldPub gave up on appealing to normal people decades ago, chasing away everyone they could to appeal to upper class urbanite cliques and their personal fetish material. they'd rather rule the world instead. You will never appeal to normal people by using OldPub's methods because they were never intended tor reach normal people in the first place. It's a waste of time.

That is what makes this thread doubly ridiculous. It is saying how to be successful by doing things that will provably not make you successful.

Speaking of "disrespectful" …

Saying "I don't have any comps" means you think enough about your story that you believe it can stand out on its own. The only "comp" you have is that it is part of a genre like adventure, mystery, or romance. It is not disrespectful to not want to lower your work and works by others by insinuating they are prepackaged tropes that can be exchanged at random to be sold piecemeal as gruel. By writing what you can, the best you can, you are a creative maverick, because you are writing the sort of stories only you can write, and not what out of touch overpaid book execs think you should. Your only "comps" should be that is a part of a series or of a wider genre. That is it.

You should not follow other people or approach them with the sole intent on profiting off of them or their audience, as this section of the tweet thread implies. Find like-minded creatives, sure, but do not befriend them just because you think their audience will like your stuff so you can squeeze a few bucks out of them. Creatives interact because they like each other and enjoy talking shop, even if they don't sell the same thing, at the end of the day. Friendship is exchange and back and forth interaction, it is not a transactional relationship where one must profit off the other in equal amounts. Follow who you wish to follow because you like them before anything else. Following someone because you think you can get something out of them is doomed to fail the second you don't get what you thought you should have gotten. Human beings do not work or operate this way.

I shouldn't even need to address the third passage which contradicts everything she has written so far, and even in the same section of the tweets. If you're an upper class bored urbanite (like everyone in OldPub is) then there are plenty of people already writing the same grievance fiction and nihilist philosophy you are. This is the easiest thing to find similar works in, because they're all the same. Your "Comps" are that point are simply other cultists who will not even buy your work at all, because their attitude is all for show.

Much like this tweet thread, it all goes nowhere. You gain nothing by following any of this advice.

As if proving my above statement, misunderstanding writing as a whole is all this section is. We've gone off from "loving" chastisement to outright condescending here. You should not think about any of this when you write your own work, you should only focus on the story. Bending to weird elitists is how normal readers were chased away to begin with.

All of this material she is talking about is "issue book" material. It's already narrow in scope and guaranteed to appeal to a fringe minority of potential buyers regardless of how you try to sell it. If you're aiming for mainstream success with a book that has an extremely specific niche or appeal then it really doesn't matter what amount of advertising or self-promotion you do for it. There is a limit to who you will reach.

At some point it became standard in the industry to think that anything publishers want to sell should automatically be mega sellers or there is something wrong with audience. Frequently, this attitude just means that publishers have extraordinarily limited taste that is out of touch with the common man. Nonetheless such groups assert that it is the audience's fault that they won't buy their wares, even in a time where people read less than ever before.

No matter what your "comp" is, if it's an "issue book" then people who don't care about the issue will simply tune out immediately. That is just the way it works.

She even admits as much when she finishes up in the last few posts:

None of this matters. If you're a writer and you're considering an agent, you are wasting your time. It is the 2020s, not the 1970s. Hilariously enough, for a thread professing to inform people, it does little but parse outdated advice around like candy at Halloween. None of this applies to a new writer coming up in the 2020s, in any way. If it does, then your work will likely be little more than the factory-pressed assembly-line hackwork OldPub desires--the very work we already know normal people do not want anything to do with.

This entire twitter thread is a waste of time, even more so if you're an aspiring writer. As a writer, I can tell you that it is pointless advice to follow.

Once again, here is a little bit of insider information for potential writers. Agents, publishers, and editors, in OldPub, literally do not care about your theme, dramatic arc, setting, style, or "big idea" at all. They do not consider it when looking at manuscripts handed to them from their goon agents who work for them. You are not creating anything when you work for them: you are producing product they can weaponize for their pet social causes.

OldPub cares about which demographic your book can be used on to milk media attention and gather headpats from their cult pals in the media. All you have to do is not be a part of one of these groups, and your book will never even be considered at all. Doubly so if you disagree with them on the wrong issues. Therefore, whatever book gets into the pipeline is by definition already going to be formulaic hackwork meant to be sold as product over any attempt at art or entertainment. In such a case, this advice is pointless because it is the publisher's job to fill in the blanks for you. If you are independent, you are not selling prepackaged wares to a prepackaged audience, therefore it is completely unnecessary to even try engaging in this practice.

But that is the whole thread in a nutshell. It is pointless.

So now that we've entered the post-Fanatic world, what is the future? Where are we going now that these old ways have finally passed away? How can we correct the damage that has been done by an industry that neglected its job for so long?

Right now, all of that is still up in the air. We do know the future does not lie in a class of people who at best are ambivalent to the majority of people they are supposed to be working for. That era is over, and it isn't coming back. There is too much competition from too many other mediums to allow poseurs and irony-poisoned self-hating misanthropists a space to ruin the image of your scenes any longer. This includes reading, most of all because it is one of the oldest ones. For reading to be saved, it must be returned to the average Joe again.

The above attitudes are not just an obstacle in one industry; material Fanaticism has been a big problem for a long time, long before any of us alive today were born. It's going to take time to wean ourselves off of it. There is no sense in getting upset about those still trapped in that mindset, even if we also still relapse into it. That has just been the most standard way of thinking for so long that it won't be easy to shake off overnight. We still have to wait for the remnants of the 20th century to burn off first before we can finally focus on how best to move forward.

Until then, focus on your craft, get as good as you can, and learn what you are able along the way. Put your work out there, connect with others, and do what you must do for your audience. There is no formula for success except to just do the best you can as only you can do it. As of right now, it's really all that can be done. Creators should create, after all. Worrying about the above nonsense, like in the Twitter thread, will not help you at all.

Just be aware that there is no guarantee that you will see tangible results off the bat. It could take a long time, it might not even happen in your lifetime. What is important is that you do what you are able to do. As long as you stay away from writing workshops, agents, and OldPub advice as a whole, you will at least be on the road to becoming the best writer you can be. This is what any writer should care about above all else. What makes your writing stand out? That answer, is you. You are the only weapon that no one else has in their arsenal.

It might sound corny, but that doesn't matter. It's true. The content of what you're doing is the focus, and the identity you press into it is what allows it to stand out from the crowd. You are you, and that is what you have to always remember when creating. Attempting to slide yourself into broken and proven unsuccessful corporate molds will only end in disaster, as we've seen by the state of OldPub today. That past is gone and never coming back.

I surely am grateful for that, as we all should be. The past is over, and we're lucky to finally be able to move on.

"JD has been naming names and documenting the decline and fall of genre fiction for a long time. It wasn’t always like this and his work is important to the question of why it’s like this now." ~ Conan, Esq.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Weekend Rest Stop!

My newest book can be found Here!

How is summer going for you? It's been a long one, and the heat hasn't let up much at all. Nonetheless, there has been a lot going on.

I recently had an interview with DMR Books about my career in writing so far. It was a fun one. You can find my piece with them on their site here. Hard to believe I've been writing for about a decade at this point, but I have!

Other authors have also been putting out plenty of work themselves, as the recent Signal Boost post has shown. I also know plenty of other authors who are also working on material of their own. Hopefully I can share some of that with you in the future.

Today also features a new episode of Geek Gab, which never fails to be a listening podcast listen. You can find that one here.

As for me, I just finished up two short stories I'm submitting. Here's hoping those go well! Then it is on to finish Y Signal, and then to work on the Gemini Man Trilogy. That is more or less my plan for the rest of the year, God willing, unless something goes wrong. Here's hoping it doesn't!

This year has been a lot messier than I've hoped it would be. Hopefully things will settle down soon. It would definitely be nice.

Lastly, I'll leave you with two interviews done by VTuber Pipkin Pippa (Pippa Pipkin for you westerners) which are quite good listens. A while back she interviewed two different developers at currently crumbling video game megacorp Blizzard to see both what it was like back in the day, and what it became by the end. They are very informative at how such a titan could end up in such a joke state.

This is the first interview with someone who had been there since their heyday in the 1990s. It tells you a lot about how things changed. Yes, it even goes into some of the rumors, including the "breast milk" one. Suffice to say, the subject can get NSFW.

The second interview is radically different. This time she interviews someone who came along later with a vastly different view on the industry and the customers within. It also shows just how much things have changed in the industry, attitude-wise. This is probably a good example of what caused AAA to be the disaster it is today.

Keep in mind that these are long interviews, but they can be put on in the background as you do other things. If you want a good example as to how an entire industry destroyed itself with hubris and corporate nonsense, they are definitely worth delving into.

Do not think for a second other industries, such as the book industry, did not fall into this exact trap. The same mentalities killed both.

Regardless, have a good weekend. Summer isn't over yet, and there is plenty more to do. Hopefully it all turns out better in the end. We can only hope.

"Ever wanted to know why the fun and wonder has been sucked out of sci-fi, fantasy, and adventure? JD has the receipts. Essential reading." ~ Alexander Hellene, author of The Last Ancestor

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Pseudo Signal Boost?

Find it Here!

Today I wanted to highlight some books, but they aren't the usual sort, given that two of them are not really new releases and one of them isn't even out yet! However, why not do things a bit different this time? It's fun to shake it up every now and then.

First up is Cirsova's new Kickstarter, which is as out of left field as always. This time it is for Misha Burnett's new collection, An Atlas of Bad Roads. One can say a lot about the consistent quality of the projects that Cirsova releases, but they are always quite a bit different than anything you would get from OldPub. That is not even factoring in superstar weird writer Misha Burnett into it! This project is no different.

The description:

There are many strange places off the beaten paths in this great land of ours. From the abandoned shopping malls where squatters revel in violent nihilism to the new subdivisions built atop ruins where tragedies lay buried, Misha Burnett is your guide to the weird and out of the way places that are haunted by the past and the future.

This all new collection from Misha Burnett includes 16 strange tales of the macabre as well as 16 original poems, exploring the mysterious nature of the seemingly mundane world, where the run-down warehouses, shady night clubs, and even 24-hour gas stations may be home to magical fae creatures or skulking maniacs.

You've been offered a map to these beautiful vistas and disturbing local attractions. Just try not to get lost.

As always, you can jump in with any format your heart desires, including a magazine/atlas style with is apt for the contents. This is going to be a weird one, though I guess that is to be expected. You can find the kickstarter for An Atlas of Bad Roads here.

It's sure to be a good one.

Next we will cover The Perils of Sasha Reed by Rawle Nyanzi, a compilation of short adventure tales all starring the same main cast.

Find it Here!

Wait a minute, wasn't this already released? You would be correct to ask that. It has. However, you might have noticed the new "Volume 1" distinction on this one. Rawle Nyanzi has decided to turn this one into an ongoing series. Not only that, but this release is a brand new pulp-style paperback for your more tangible reading needs. If you haven't checked The Perils of Sash Reed out yet, now is the best time.

The description:


Pit girl Sasha Reed has a problem: every dirtbag on the planet wants to kidnap her! Her new subspace storage technology has attracted the attention of mutants, mad scientists, and the worst scum the Earth Sphere has to offer. Now Sasha and her gun-toting race car driver boyfriend must deal with all sorts of danger in this short story series!

You can find the paperback version of The Perils of Sasha Reed: Volume 1 here.

Here's hoping Volume 2 isn't too far away!

Lastly, we have the not-yet-released Gun Magus by N. R. LaPoint. However, it is available for preorder before its release date next week. If you like them weird, it doesn't get weirder!

Find it Here!

From the author of Chalk and Lightsinger comes another bizarre tale, though at this point you should probably expect it from him. This one is a mashup of old style action with Isekai in a story full of fast-paced adventure!

The description:

Low on luck, but not ammo

The last thing Kenneth Jericho needed was a gunfight and car chase with human traffickers. What started as a bad morning only got worse.

A flash of light sends Ken to a strange world filled with magic, hideous monsters, beautiful women, and seemingly unlimited ammo.

With pistol in hand, Ken is thrown into a race against time to stop a local ganglord's reign of terror. 
But is the thug the brains behind the violence, or is someone - or something - else pulling his strings?

You can find Gun Magus here! This one promises to be a good time. Get it ahead of the line and preorder it now.

That's it for this week, though there is still quite a number of new releases coming all the time so it might not be long before I make another one of these posts. Hard to tell, really. It is not like that is anything worth complaining about, though.

As for myself, do not forget the release of the new collection, The Last Fanatics! This is 400 pages of our journey through Fandom over the past few years compiled in one handy place. The readers wanted this one, so here it is!

There is still more on the way, so please stay tuned for what is coming next. It has been quite a year behind the scenes, let me tell you, but I do not intend to stop anytime soon, and neither do many of the others in NewPub. This wild west is just beginning to get wild.

Just wait until you see what's coming next!

"JD Cowan has over the years shown himself to be one of the most prominent, and perhaps most important, essayists of the new movement in pulp revival beginning in the mid 2010s. His is must read work." ~ P. Alexander, Cirsova