Friday, November 25, 2022

New Release ~ Y Signal!

Find it Here!

It's been quite the year hasn't it? Well, it's not over yet! Today it is time for an announcement of a brand new book release.

I did it, readers, just like I said I would! Today releases the second book in 2022 from yours truly, Y Signal! This might technically be my third book this year (along with The Last Fanatics and the FREE Generation Y: The Lost Generation), however, I nonetheless managed to keep good on my promise to deliver the goods for you this year.

The first thing you might be wondering is if this is the same Y Signal that is up for free on the blog. The answer is that this book is the FULL story. The piece on Wasteland & Sky is only one portion of the full tale of Ray's journey across time and space and the strangeness inflicted on his world of 1995. You can think of the blog entry as a preview of the full narrative. The book goes to a lot more, and off the wall, places on the way to its ending beyond that summer night in 1995. I can't quite say where it ends up without spoilers, but this is a truly weird tale. You will most definitely not be reading anything else like this anytime soon.

Here is the description:

BACK IN 1995 
Summer vacation is the same as usual for Ray and his friends. It's video games, hanging out, and endless good times! But when his cousin introduces him to a mysterious radio broadcast, reality is inverted. What is real, and what is a dream? Is the future open, or is disaster inevitable?

The Y Signal reveals all.

Join Ray on his journey as time and space itself bends to forces beyond his control, in his quest to come out the other side. Ape-men, crazed punks, sky trains, hidden worlds, the past, and a so-called Paradise, await him as he fights to discover the truth in a world gone mad.

Paradise is but one dream away. All he has to do is reach out and touch it . . .

That is no exaggeration, though you will have to read on to find out what it means! It is an adventure quite unlike anything I have done before.

Y Signal is a story from the heart of Generation Y, when it seemed like the world was at its peak and nothing could go wrong. Things would only be getting better, because that's what things did. All one had to do was the bare minimum and listen to all the right people, and all would work out in your favor. Of course, that isn't how life works, but it was how kids in the 1980s and 1990s were told it would happed. And there was a time where it felt like it was almost true, before it all came crashing down with a series of events in the late '90s and early '00s that shattered the last illusions of modernity and left us in the decline we've been in ever since. Before Cultural Ground Zero, everything was the way it should be. Or was it?

Part of the nostalgia Gen Y suffers is due to spending their entire lives since the mid-1990s in a societal decline, starting from a high in the materialist age of the 1980s and early '90s, and only sliding into a lower and lower place in the years to come. Generations before them have experienced rises and falls before, and the ones after have only lived at the bottom and lack perspective, but Generation Y (born approx. 1979-1989) are defined by decline. That is their identity. The reason our suicide rates are as high as they are is, for the most part, because of where we started from and not seeing a way to reach those highs again. Is that rational? That's fairly irrelevant to the reality facing us in the modern day. It is what is is.

Nonetheless, none of this is helped by a societal climate that gets irrationally angry when one points out that not only does this generational cohort exist, it was deliberately buried by Madison Avenue in order to sell product to the kids coming up under them. We keep creating new, ridiculous terms like "Xennial" or "Geriatric Millennial" to define a group that already exists and had a name: Gen Y, the younger brothers of Gen X. The last generation to grow up without internet, social media, cellphones, and before Columbine, before 9/11, before the War on Terror, before Cultural Ground Zero. As David Stewart once said, they are a generation raised in an analog world expected to live in a digital one. It is no wonder the entire cohort is a total and confused mess.

The reason '80s and '90s nostalgia refuses to go away is specifically because the world Gen Y was promised never came to fruition and it is the only memory they have in a present that isn't really working out. But it's not just that. It is also because the world that DOES exist already stated this group not only doesn't exist, but everything they loved is now evil and should be destroyed. How do you square this circle? In an imploding social climate that proves Gen Y is right about how the current world is inferior to the one they were promised, and shows no sign of turning from its current dead end trajectory, there isn't anything they can do but check out. The wider culture wants to implode and will do anything to continuing Progressing towards that cliff. All this from the same people who sold them a fake future back in the 1990s that they don't even remember to a group they would rather forget ever existed.

What we are left with is a group adrift and detached in a society that prides itself on alienation and unity through corporate product and vague law enforcement. Hardly an improvement on what a bunch of starry eyed kids saw coming back in 1995 when they were more ignorant about how things worked. What does one hope for, at this point?

I'm not going to pretend I am anywhere near the first person to notice any of this, or even write on it. There has been a small but growing library of releases in this niche of Generation Y experience that has been blanked out by angry modernists who want to pretend there was no eye of the cultural storm, but it did happen. Appreciating those quieter moments, learning why they were so effective, and how to apply them going forward, is the way to reach Generation Y and show just how much they have to offer in a world that very badly wants to pretend they don't exist.

Y Signal is an overarching story about one period of a 90s kid's life as everything changes around him in ways he could never predict. Despite that, I can't quite call it a "coming of age" story due to what actually occurs in its pages. Again, you'll have to read it yourself to see what I mean. If you've read the first part on the blog then you might have an idea what that means, but, even still, the complete story goes far beyond that.

As for other Gen Y books, I can recommend a few aside from the new Y Signal

The first would be our FREE 2022 release, Generation Y: The New Lost Generation. This one contains edited pieces and stories from myself, Brian Niemeier, and David V. Stewart. We even have files for paperback or hardcover printing if that is what you desire. It is a good place to start if you are completely clueless on the subject as it traces our discovery and understanding of this cohort towards our thoughts on where they can go in the future. Please spread this one around far and wide. It is meant to be shared.

David himself has put out two books specifically addressing this group. The first is The Eyes in the Wall which is a horror story about a Gen Y kid who meets a horrific monster as a child and does not know how to process or deal with it. The ending is particularly satisfying on this one. He also just released Afterglow: Generation Y, a collection of small stories that encapsulates the feel of what being Generation Y, of what being in a Lost Generation, is actually like. It goes without saying that both of these come highly recommended.

Another example is Mark Pellegrini's They'll Get You, which is a book about a kid during this very period. He has also written other short stories in this world, which mythologizes a lot of the weird things from this time period you might have forgotten about. They are all in various issues of Cirsova, so pick every one of those up! Gen Y or not, it is a fantastic magazine of wonder and imagination worth your time.

I do hope we see more takes on this subject in the future. This is quite fertile ground that we are only beginning to discover and will absolutely lead to more and more interesting stories. Even other mediums have begun diving into the subject.

Those all take different approaches to the topic of Generation Y, but Y Signal is about one's relation to reality itself and how we see each other and our place in the world in an age where that wasn't so clear. How are things meant to be? Who decides that? It is a difficult book to describe because it isn't quite like anything else I've done before, nor is it one I've seen from any other writer. This is the definition of a weird story.

I will write more about it in a future post. For now, I just needed to announce it to the world. You won't read anything else like it!

Find it Here!

In related news, there is also a sale going on right now, thanks to author Hans Shantz! This is the Big Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale from authors all across the board, new and classic releases included. All works are on sale for a buck or even free, You can find it here!

Three of my books are included in the sale, Grey Cat Blues, Someone Is Aiming for You & Other Adventures, and Brutal Dreams! You can pick these up along with the freshly released Y Signal and have yourself quite the reading selection in the process, There is plenty to go around, so give it a look over. As always, NewPub has you covered for all your entertainment needs! Who needs the mainstream with a selection like this?

That's all for this week, folks. I hope you now know why I was laying a bit low recently. I had to make sure to get all my ducks in a row. Now that it is out, please enjoy to your heart's content. 2022 has been a crazy year.

Thanks again for reading! It is only because of readers like you that I am able to do this at all. My gratitude is immeasurable.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Big Black Friday Sale 2022!

Find it Here!

It's that time of year again when author Hans Shantz organizes the Big Black Friday to Cyber Monday sale! It's a huge one. There is quite the selection this time. Get yourself some great books, including some from yours truly!

Every book is either a buck or free, so be sure to check this one out. There is something for everyone. Fill your NewPub collection today!

The description:

These are some of the top offerings from previous book sales including science fiction grandmasters, established mainstream authors and emerging indie talent. Authors include James Alderdice, Tony Andarian, J.M. Anjewierden, Leigh Brackett, Jonathan P. Brazee, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Rachel Fulton Brown, Carlos Carrasco, Kit Sun Cheah, Paul Clayton, Alexandru Constantin, Travis J.I. Corcoran, J.D. Cowan, Lucca DeJardins, Jon Del Arroz, Declan Finn, Amanda Fleet, Milo James Fowler, Erin Furby, Adam Furman, Michael Gallagher, Charles E. Gannon, Peter Grant, Fiona Grey, Paul Hair, Harry Harrison, Frederick Gero Heimbach, Alexander Hellene, Daniel Humphreys, C.S. Johnson, Steven G. Johnson, Joseph L. Kellogg, Tom Kratman, L. Jagi Lamplighter, Christopher Lansdown, N.R. LaPoint, Frank B. Luke, Loretta Malakie, T. J. Marquis, Russell May, Michael McCloskey, Paul McKesley, Yakov Merkin, Bradley J. Mitzelfelt, Jonathan Moeller, Alexander Nader, Morgon Newquist, Brian Niemeier, Andre Norton, Christopher G. Nuttall, Deidre J. Owen, Richard Paolinelli, Iris Paustian, Francis Porretto, Matthew W. Quinn, John Ringo, Timothy Scott Roach, Justin Robinson, David Roome, C.A. Sabol, Denton Salle, Cedar Sanderson, Hans G. Schantz, Richard Sezov, Jonathan Shuerger, David Skinner, Benjamin A. Sorensen, Emily Martha Sorensen, Kevin Steverson, David V. Stewart, John Taloni, Kevin Trainor, Jr., Kalkin Trivedi, Bev Vincent, Henry Vogel, Patrick Walts, Mark Wandery, David Weber, H.G. Wells, David J. West, Barry Scott Will, Michael Z. Williamson, Ryan Williamson, Fenton Wood, John C. Wright, and Timothy Zahn.

My included works include Grey Cat Blues, Someone is Aiming for You & Other Adventures, and Brutal Dreams. These three still do surprisingly well even years later, so if you still haven't jumped aboard then now is your chance to see what the fuss is about. As for what I have coming next? Well, you will learn that information soon. There is no point revealing it in this post on an entirely different subject. For now, enjoy the sale!

The full thing can be found here.

There is also an entry for NEW inclusions in the same. Here is the list of authors who have books never before included:

The contributors include science fiction grandmasters, Dragon Award winners and nominees, established mainstream authors, and emerging indie talent. Authors include Patrick Abbott, James Alderdice, J.M. Anjewierden, Graham Bradley, Henry Brown, Misha Burnett, Paul Clayton, Mel Dunay, Marina Fontaine, Karl K. Gallagher, N. Gray, Steve Griffiths, William Hastings, Chris Haught, Daniel Humphreys, Becky R. Jones, M.R. Kayser, Chris Kennedy, Moe Lane, B.P. McCoppin, Jon Mollison, Chance Paladin, S. Kirk Pierzchala, Alex Rath, Denton Salle, Cedar Sanderson, David Skinner, R.H. Snow, Glen Sprigg, Henry Vogel, David J. West, Thomas Wilson, John C. Wright, and Page Zaplendam.

You can find the new inclusions list here.

That isn't all for 2022, though. As I said, I have information for you that my next book will be revealed on Friday. Full details will come out then. Until that moment, kick back, relax, and enjoy some good reads. You have no shortage of the good stuff coming.

And much more to come!

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Weekend Lounge ~ Last Song

For this weekend post, I'd like to highlight the above video on possibly the most broken sector of the utterly demolished modern mainstream entertainment industry. You can probably guess what it is from the title. That would be the long-dead music industry. You probably already know what I mean without having to explain it. This is how bad it is.

As someone who was very big into music as a kid, something which carried to this very day, I can definitely tell you all the change that happened just in that short amount of time of when I was growing up. I even spoke a bit on this subject before, compiled here in our free book on Generation Y. The industry has been particularly bad at adapting to fads and trends, usually happy enough to throw entire bands, genres, and listeners, out with the bathwater at the drop of a hat for short term gain. What has been left is an industry owned lock, stock, and barrel, by a cadre of "professional" songwriters, artificial talent both in image and personality, and a trail of death and destruction nearly a century long. This isn't even bringing the oft-ignored, for reasons I can't even begin to speculate, Clear Channel into the picture.

Unfortunately, none of this is exaggerated, especially when it comes to shady behavior. The music industry has had more mysterious, and suspicious, deaths than any other industry that has ever existed, including Hollywood. It isn't just substance abuse issues, the issue is a lot more ingrained than that. When we are including an industry with known sexual abuse problems and the self-destruction that always folds out from it, events we've heard about far too often to be considered a coincidence, this is saying a lot. The above video highlights a good source of the evil here, without even needing to get into things like Laurel Canyon or events like the Music Row Murder, which already pointed to a cancerous growth killing the industry.

The mainstream music industry essentially runs on death, and it has for a very long time. Surviving it intact is a blessing not bestowed on many.

I would suggest watching the above video and accepting just how beyond hope this sector actually is. The worst part is that every mainstream industry is as bad off, but none of them are as obviously dead and bloated as this one which only floats by on money laundering and things like Hollywood and the media propping up their fake stars as important simply for being signed to their bloated labels and played on their payola-run systems.

This is all fake, and we all get that now. Their tricks don't work on normal people anymore, most stick to the classics or go independent. You can find anything you want now without having to deal with a bunch of con-artists that don't even have money left to pay you. You can can be into music without having to deal with them at all anymore. This is more or less the way to go in every big industry these days, but nowhere is it as obvious than the music world.

For a future divorced from this degeneracy, we're going to move on from the busted mainstream. There is nothing left but the perfect encapsulation of the seven deadly sins running rampant and unchecked. Forget this system and move on to new waters. There is nothing left here that you can't find somewhere else. Whether places like Bandcamp or sites like Discogs, you can find anything if you look hard enough. Take control of your hobbies for yourself.

We need to start looking forward and learn to dump the Fanatics. It's the only way we can reclaim art for ourselves again.

Friday, November 11, 2022


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Weekend Lounge ~ Animated Days

Find it Here!

Welcome to the weekend! There are a few things I wanted to mention before they pass me by.

First, I would like to show you the above--the second instalment in author Rawle Nyanzi's Sasha Reed series of futuristic sun and adventure. For those unware, The Perils of Sasha Reed is a series of interconnected short stories about the titular character as she stumbles from situation to situation. They don't really make 'em like this anymore. I would talk more about this one, but it just came out! Suffice to say, if you enjoyed the first volume, and you should have, this is what you've been waiting for. It's a good time.

Here is the description:


Sasha Reed fears what her Compact Containment Device, or “Cocodee” could do. It’s so powerful that it could make world-ending weapons the size of smartphones. The worst scum on Earth will stop at nothing to get one for themselves, and that means Sasha’s their #1 target. Can she escape their clutches, or is the planet itself doomed to destruction by her own invention?

You can find the second volume of Sasha Reed here. The paperback should be out next week.

The next thing I wanted to bring up was this video on the history of the legendary Fleischer Bros. animated studio. It's quite an interesting story, and well worth looking into, about how innovation truly comes from building on tradition.

Once you lose it, it's only a matter of time before it all crumbles. You can see it for yourself in the documentary below:

That's all for this week! Hopefully you're having a relaxing break after the chaos just left behind. It was quite a strange October.

Only two months left of 2022 remain. Let's make them count.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Happy Halloween!

Hope you're having a good one! This is just a quick update post to let you know that the Fifth Cannon Cruisers Halloween Special is up today. You can find it here!

In this one we cover the fourth and sixth entries in the Friday the 13th slasher series and discuss how such a simple series maintained longevity for a whole decade. Why these two entries specifically? Well, you'll have to tune in and find out for yourself. You might be surprised at these ones, especially if you only know the first couple like I did.

A lot of horror is looked at, and seen as, a celebration of evil. To be fair, it can be if misused. However, the spirit is really in the celebration of evil being triumphed over and mocked. Believe it or not, the story that carries through these two entries (and technically the fifth, but not really) despite its lightness actually does show this. Much like the first and third Nightmare on Elm Street movies tell a story of evil being put down, this is the same, albeit not quite on that level. However, they do aim a bit higher than you might think for the genre.

For my money, I still believe the two proper Maniac Cop movies (which I covered here and here) are still the best, and most overlooked, examples to making this genre work and showing how evil acts and intent can lead to tragedy. There can be more to it than watching clueless and broken people meeting their untimely end. For another example from that Halloween season during the coof, I also covered Night of the Demons here. It's also surprisingly eerie. Just because the subgenre has been done badly does not mean it can't be done right, or effectively. It very much can!

Nonetheless, our Fifth Halloween Special is an hour long and focused on these relics of a slowly dying decade in the back of our minds. Once again, you can find it here! We talk for a good while on our perception of the series and why these two entries work.

Be sure to have a fun Halloween, and do not let the cynicism and misery of modernity poison your imagination and love for higher things. It is one of humanity's best features and we would do good not to lost it to the nonsense trying to drag us down into misery.

Thank you once again for coming here and also tuning into Cannon Cruisers. It means a lot and makes this all worth doing. Once more, the new special can be found here.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Concentrated Pulp

"The genre wars have done a disservice to speculative and weird fiction of all types for nearly 100 years now, and it's time to put "big F" Fandom in the dust bin where it belongs." ~ Christopher DiNote on The Last Fanatics

What we know of as Pulp Fiction died just over three quarters of a century ago. It existed for a brief moment in time, a drop in the bucket of the typhoon of history, before it was cast to the four winds never to be seen again. Pulp, for all intents and purposes, died before in the 20th century did. Even before the pulp format itself died, the fiction itself had been warped.

That era is long gone, was deliberately erased, and has no real chance to come back in the form that made it what it was. 

So why does the term still stick around today? There are many theories, some fairly surface level. For one, "Pulp" is just a good word that is fun to say and write. It has a joyful simplicity to it that the far clumsier "Penny Dreadfuls" simply doesn't. It also accurately describes both the intent of the stories and the quality of the paper they were printed on: coarse, cheap, and to the point. As such it has attached itself to the style of story most prevalent in its pages, a fast-paced adventure meant for the Average Joe to spend his change on after a tough day at work. Unfortunately, it is something that does not have an equivalent today, mostly because the industry took that away from them in order to create their own club. Regardless, the term survives.

"Pulp" storytelling as it is defined is, of course, nothing new. People love stories, they bathe and marinate in them and they fashion a lot of their understanding of the events that happen in life around the narrative strings they can puzzle out for themselves. Everything has a meaning and a purpose, one just has to sometimes dig to find it. But it's always there.

Storytelling is also a community activity, it is not meant for hoarding to oneself. It is social, not antisocial. For examples of this, there are the activities that used to center on the act. Fairy tales taught to children were done around the fireplace or before bed, usually mean as a way to relax and wind down, taking wonderous thoughts into your imagination as you head to sleep. Campfire tales worked in much the same way, gathering a group around the campfire and telling chilling tales just out of the bounds of the darkness waiting mere steps from your sleeping bag. Stage plays and cinema rely on crowd reaction to generate excitement and word of mouth. Stories, in other words, have always existed to excite, inspire, and bring audience and artist together, and they always will.

The audience is there for communication; the artist delivers it.

Naturally, from this point on, there are types of stories that resonate more strongly with different groups, the main two being men and women. There usually is crossover, but chances are what an artist puts out will usually appeal to one more than the other.

Men and women, as a whole, each prefer different styles of storytelling. Women prefer relationships (the modern term known as "shipping") and who will end up with who, the more insular issues of the story, while men prefer the outer aspect: the journey and destination. As such, the original storytelling genre of Romance encompassed both. Think of the classics and you will find a heavy focus on both throughout the ages, because each are very important parts of what makes us human and connects us with each other as well as the world we live in.

What then happened next, because both men and women have different interests, is that stories began to lean more in one direction than the other. The stories that wished to appeal more to the female audience would focus on the male and female relationships between the characters, eventually coming to embody the term Romance we still use today. Stories like Jane Eyre and Pride & Prejudice are the archetypal form of this. The male side centered more on the Adventure aspect which stories such as Robinson Crusoe or Treasure Island bent more towards. You can see how these two different streams diverged, but also how they still relate to each other.

However, despite this, there was no push to be rid of the original form. In fact, it could be argued that the Ur genre of Romantic Adventure soon found its way into the Weird, the place where the fairy and campfire tales made their home long ago. Here, the romance of existence both interior and exterior could always be explored with no limits on the imagination (the imagination being the one part of storytelling that should not be limited) where the supernatural and natural are intertwined. This is paring it down to the nuts and bolts of storytelling itself.

Imagination and wonder is key to it all.

This might be giving a very superficial reading of it, but this is because it leads into the point. The modern version of Weird which came about in during the early 20th century was a response to the growing materialism and warping of stories to be About Things ideologues which to control. The Romance was being lost, and many authors who saw the universe as a more wondrous creation than slogans and buzzwords for cultists wanted to give it its due. Art as a whole, no matter the form, medium, or genre, is about a celebration of life. Yes, even horror.

Speaking of which, Weird is part classical Adventure and part Gothic Horror, treating both as if they are intrinsic to what makes it all work. In essence, Weird is the closest modern approach to nailing down that original intent of storytelling as a form to lift the audience up.

There are rules designed to sharpen prose and narrative to best communicate with the audience (which is the entire point, remember), just as there is in every medium of art, but in the art itself? No limitations exist. Whatever one wishes to do can do done.

For one moment, one which modern people can only look back on in hindsight now, storytelling did return to where it was meant to be. This would have been the pulp era which ended around 1940 when it was consumed by literary types trying to educate the rubes who wanted wonder and ended up chasing them to other mediums entirely. After that, it became captured by Fanatics who would do their best to erase the past and change the rules.

Fanatics ruin everything.

This was, unfortunately, the legacy of 20th century storytelling. Wonder would find a place, only to be chased out by the materialists and the secular moralists who needed to tear that old world down to be replaced with their vision of utopia. Progress means the old needs to die to such cultists. Fanatics eventually caused an exodus of normal folk from every medium: pulps, comic books, music, novels, television, plays, movies, and finally video games. Every one of those industries in the mainstream of today is nowhere near what they were back in the day.

One merely can trace it back through the 20th century and watch how the weird and wonder drains out of all those medium by the time they hit the 21st and become pale imitations of what once was. All of the wonder and imagination was chased out for "realism" and nihilistic grit because it was "healthier" for audiences. One well knows by now that "realism" and any form of it is a codeword for "acceptable" and it is fairly clear why that became the lay of the land, even as it always ended up chasing more and more people away. This is because it wasn't about pleasing audiences, and never was, but about shaping them to the correct standard. Fanatics were allowed in charge by those who should have known better than they did, and they destroyed it all. They're still doing it today.

Naturally, as a result of all this, every medium and form of art is eventually hollowed out of normal folks and left to the Fanatics to beat to death as they pretend it is an act of love. No one reads anymore, for example, so the industry changes nothing and focuses on pumping out trash meant to educate people who aren't even reading said books. They will not change coarse even in the face of tremendous failures. One can easily communicate with librarians and learn that no one takes these books out. They eventually end up entering and leaving the system without a single check out. The industry has had decades to fix this. That they won't is because it is not about entertainment or uplifting, or pleasing the audience, but preaching the message that the audience already rejected long ago. That always comes first.

What did this selfish attitude lead to? Death. OldPub, the old publishing industry, is as irrelevant as they've ever been, and it is all their own doing.

So as basically all media literacy disappears, where does one go to get their adventure fix now? Not many places, hence the obsession with "celebrity" culture which eventually evolved into being drama about internet figures. Audiences get no excitement from the stories that are shoveled out by cultists so they instead find it somewhere else.

This is where part of the "Cancel Culture" phenomenon comes from. This is because you get to be the protagonist in the adventure and vanquish the great evil in your own adventure! This is a long way from old daytime soap operas and the erotic thrillers of the early 1990s, already twisting towards voyeurism over romance. Now it's warped to an obsessive need around "fixing" the characters in the story--the "characters" who are actually real people. A consequence of the realism obsession materialists forced on the populace? Who is to say.

Regardless, this is where Adventure is in the mainstream today.

Weird is the beating heart of everything else.

What this essentially means is that "Pulp" as it was back in the day, is not feasible enough in Current Year. By that, it means that writers cannot just act around these changes and hope they go away. It is not enough to just make a magazine and call it a day. No one reads anymore, and actually getting them to trust writers again is going to be a very long uphill battle to turn damaged perception that around. And this is just to gain a basic audience again. It doesn't go into the way art and entertainment has been transformed into a drug meant for quick fixes.

How do you fight against the common and accepted knowledge that entertainment is to be consumed and discarded instantly for the next hit? Wait for the assembly line to pump out the next dose! In a world that wants the highest common denominator to be distributed and treated as the lowest common denominator, how does one even create to that expectation? There probably isn't any way to do that, which means a new way forward must be found. Especially in a climate were few read and even fewer read anything under a 100,000 word book made to factory specification, in every sense that entails. There are entire forms and mediums that simply have no room in the modern climate of junk culture as easy heroin.

So if "Pulp" were to continue it would need to move beyond where it was in the 20th century, at least in accessibility. Writers of the weird, adventure writers, carriers of an older tradition, have a duty to make sure the form stays alive, not just with their writing but with mediums. They cannot just abandon the past. Someone, for instance, needs to keep the short story, poem, and novelette alive, as the wider culture abandons them for the next disposable fad to be thrown away five minutes later. But in an age where all mediums are treated as throwaway and disposable, how does one connect? What exactly is "Pulp" supposed to be in the modern age?

Well, it isn't really "Pulp" anymore. Pulp paper is long gone, and the style of adventure it championed was chased out before the medium itself even died off. The spirit flooded out into comics, b-movies, music, and even video games, before being chased out of those, too. So where does it go now? The question could also be asked: should it even be running anymore, especially with its opponents weaker than they've ever been? Perhaps it never should have ran and ceded ground in the first place. Hindsight is 20/20, but still one needs to take stock of the modern climate.

The elephant in the room is that with the growth of NewPub as a separate industry, Fanatics have less control than they've ever had. They can no longer dictate the terms. Now "Pulp" has no obstacle to return, except a problem of how to connect with an audience that has been turned against it by people who hate and wish to control them.

It's all still romantic adventure of the old sort, whether you call it "Pulp" or what have you, but what about it will truly connect with an audience weaned on everything it is against? Writers cannot abandon them, but the point of art is to form a relationship between artist and audience. What is that relationship between them today in the post-post-modern world?

Despite all of this, it does feel as if modern writers of the romantic adventure know this. It has to be treated as more than mindless consuming and moving on to the next product. They know it far better than modern cultists paid by their inept corporate masters do. Folks in NewPub, before it was even called that, were the first to jump into audio books, webtoons, ebooks, podcasts, web comics, digital distribution, and even streaming. Today they are even willing to connect with streamers and YouTubers to broaden the audience that OldPub hollowed out long ago. In order to gain back an industry worth saving in the first place, one must go out of their way to break boundaries that never should have been set up there to begin with. As a result, however, change will take a long time. Any improvement will take a very long time to be seen.

All writers, artists, and creators, off all kinds, must cross-pollinate mediums and forms and learn from each other, to bring all the disparate parts back together again. This might be difficult in an age where societal trust is at an all time low, but that is the future. It has to be. In order to bring it all together again, one must bring it all together again in a larger sense, too. To have a functioning society is how one has a functioning art and entertainment climate. Funny how that works. As mentioned earlier, art is not antisocial.

The fact is that there are many out there who have been taught the wrong thing, almost as a joke. Just as there are whole groups of people that think anime, an entire style formed back in the 1960s, is just porn, there are just as many told that pulp style adventure is a slogan and buzzword loaded minefield of bad things for bad people. Fanatics want their audience to "think" that way because it makes it easier to have them discount the alternative entirely, without having to think about it. This is how they shaped the "field" to begin with.

Thinking outside the box they designed is the only way to rout them. There is simply no other way to break the conditioning, as it were.

There is no reason that Abraham Merritt, the biggest writer of his day, should have been left deliberately out of print for decades simply due to dying relatively young. If it wasn't for Arkham House, August Derleth, and Donald Wandrei, these same people would have done the same to Lovecraft and all of Weird Tales. The things so many love today would never have existed if the cultists in charge had their way. It is time to stop trusting them.

The industry has forcefully pushed out short stories, novelettes, novellas, and novels shorter than the far-too-long 100,000 words, since the 1940s. This is an attack against the form of writing itself, it can no longer be denied. Fanatics have been trying to co-opt and tar the pulps and adventure writing ever since, for nearly a century, because these stories offer a counter-narrative to what you are supposed to believe. Every move the industry have made since 1940 has been to destroy and blacken the name of all that came before.

Why should anyone still listen to the narratives, terminology, and lies they have created? At this point, they have outed their intent and shown their hand. They offer deceit, degradation, and death, to the medium. They must be decoupled, wholesale.

It is the only way tor regain what was lost.

How it is meant to be.

Those in NewPub, going forward, will need to have all of this seared into their very souls: if one does not protect and water the gardens of what they love, enemies will very much use the opportunity to destroy it. They're very good at using deceptive wording and terminology to make themselves out to be the good guys, but their handiwork has been laid bare over the last 80+ years as one of failure. It has been nearly a century and all they have done is strangle the life out of everything they sunk their claws into, whether IP or industries. They cannot be trusted.

What this means is that Adventure, the Weird, the Pulps, the Penny Dreadfuls, Fairy Tales, Romantic Adventure, Romance, or whatever you want to call it going forward, can never be owned by anyone ever again. It cannot be a Brand or a badge, and must be left to its objective definition as stories of wonder meant to lift and inspire, bringing the audience a new appreciation of the universe they live in and their hope for something more. Those that go against this can find their own playpens they can soil themselves in as they have already done for nearly a century.

It might sound contradictory, but this is what true gatekeeping actually is. It doesn't exist to change the content that exists behind the gate, but to prevent those coming in from outside the gate from doing just that. If you like something why would you want it to change? Because new programing from the leader came in, of course. These usurpers then seize control themselves under the guise of mass appeal. But this objectively never happens. If these crowds were truly for mass appeal like they tell themselves, they wouldn't be hemorrhaging sales and audience interest whenever they force their changes in against the people who like it to begin with. There is no argument on this point, it is clear that their changes always devolve to this state. No, their attempts at mutation of others' spaces exist for their own ego and infantile views of an impossible utopia.

This is what one gets for letting Fanatics at the levers of power. They should have been chased out to begin with, but to do that requires a total rejection of what they stand for. They want control over forms that they cannot understand, because all forms are fundamentally against everything they are about. Art is connection, not control. Rules are what define mediums and styles from each other, not a warped means to reshape the reality they hate.

Where OldPub, Hollywood, AAA gaming, and all of the usurped industries and mediums are at now is the opposite of where they should be to allow art to flourish. That is why the Current Year madness of today is at a cultural low, at least, in the mainstream. Antisocial Fanatics control the levers of mass media, and they want to use it against those they detest.

To change this, the entire industry and every subculture and hobby will literally have to be turned 180 degrees around after decades (in some cases, a century) of subversion and mutation. It will require more gatekeeping than simple dunks on social media or snarky YouTube videos. It requires a complete transformation in outlook and approach.

A look into the possible future

It's been a long ride over the past 80 years. As generations have come and gone, they were told that all change is just progress. Of course things change, why wouldn't they? But that is because humanity is just Progressing. Enjoy the ride and eventually the human race will awaken in Utopia and all ills will be solved. Something being new might be scary, but it is new so it is better. Don't think about it beyond that. That is all you need to know, so take a nap while everything you know changes just a little. It's for your own good. It is always for your own good.

Now it is clear what the game was all along. As these Fanatics stomp on the gas to take the world off the nearing cliff while the sleeping wake up in the backseat, things actually have changed quite a lot. However, it never quite changed in the way they wanted it to. Now, the world crumbles around them and all they can do is scream about tolerance and acceptance while they crack snide jokes between pill dosages and sugar rushes. Their loaded and programmed thinking from their betters will carry them to victory as long as they continue the cause of stomping on all that came before them. The people must be protected from themselves, so they must blindly follow processes which led them off the oncoming cliff in the first place. Just don't think about, let the drugs take the wheel.

For those who wish to finally abandon such insanity, there is an obvious truth in all of this. Those who wish to control and deceive, those stained with degenerate and malicious intent, those subversives that only know how to destroy, will always find a way in and they will always try to make themselves the hero of their own story at the expense of their cobbled together villains. There will always be Fanatics trying to poison what they can. Thus we reach the obvious conclusion that the future can never be allowed to be owned by any one person.

Art is communal, but it is also a way for an individual to connect with the whole. It is a way to share and learn, and to grow. It cannot be subversive and destructive, otherwise it will crumble with the society housing it, much like it is today. Modern paths and roads have failed, it is time for other ways. There is no future on this blown out street the Fanatics are barreling down. One would have to be blind to not see this very obvious truth by now. It is no longer the 1990s, it is time to grow up and address the problem.

People are meant to grow and connect. Being trapped in a Fanatic induced cultural stasis focused on killing yourself (in more ways than one) and shrinking from you so-called "lessers" has done little but harm both people and the art they have made. It has killed entire scenes and movements for the next fad, the next hit.

Pulp may be dead, but it's spirit is very much not. This spirit is the only way forward and out of the mess the world has been left in after rushing towards it for longer than anyone today has been alive. The 20th century is over, but it's zombie vampire corpse still hovers over the world as a specter regardless. It is time to put it out of its misery the only way Pulp can.

With fire.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Dusk: One of the Best Video Games Ever Made

It's been quite some time since we talked vidya, so let's get to it. Today I'm going to talk about a more recent favorite of mine.

I've written many pieces on video games that stand the test of time, and now it is the moment to speak on a modern classic that sheds the mistakes of the present industry to build a new way forward. Today, we're going to dive into 2018's Dusk, made by developer David Szymanski, composed by Andrew Hulshult, and produced by New Blood Interactive. Yes, it's recent, which should tell you how good it is if I'm talking about it like this.

That's right, instead of a game over 20 years old, we are going to discuss one made not even released half a decade ago, though it did take some time to get off the ground. You might be asking why exactly I chose to speak on a video game released in 2018. This is because after a recent playthrough I feel it has reached that elusive classic status and deserves to be spoken about. Though you might not quite understand why that is if you only look on the surface and see just a horror game of shooter.

In order to talk about Dusk, we're going to have to talk about the one man behind its original origins and design, David Szymanski. Back in the 2000s, Mr. Szymanski had lower end hardware (like a lot of us did at the time) which led him to mainly playing older games on his PC, like DOOM instead of the growing AAA trend of the time period. By the time he started work on Dusk in 2015, the sorts of games he played then were not in vogue anymore. The FPS genre at this point had fallen far from the glory days of the '90s and had been long replaced by movie games of the sort mentioned in the post I wrote specifically on the genre. Read that one if you want more back story on the time period. It is paramount to understanding why this game is the way it is, and why it was necessary to be made.

By the 2010s, the FPS had basically been gutted of anything that made it what it once was and became little more than cookie-cutter 5 hour movie cutscenes and ADD-addled multiplayer sessions and DLC. It looked like the Golden Age was long gone and never coming back. AAA had long since hollowed the genre out.

This list only contains 50 classics. There are many more.

Around the time the first HD generation came around in 2005, the genre had basically become cinematic and narrative focused, less on adventure and wonder or centering on the player's gameplay experience above all else. You can even see the shift happen very slowly in the above chart towards narratives coming before design. By 2005, nothing above the above chart remained any longer. Much like every other medium and genre, the FPS had been absolutely subverted from its original intent. And it didn't look like it would be ever be coming back.

This was the era when retro gaming first really began coming into vogue. It had always existed before, but it was a lot more prevalent, game stores even beginning to raise prices for classics that could have been bought for less than a Happy Meal now costing as much as a lavish steak dinner. With hindsight, we can now see why that was.

So around 2015 when Dusk began development, no one had any idea what it would actually be. I'm sure many believed it would be another gimmicky one hour walking sim or something like throwaway experience. Those sorts of products were very popular for a time in the '10s, and they gave indie games a label for a long time as being little more than jokes. I have no idea what Mr. Szymanski thought would be the reception of his project when he began, but I doubt he thought there was much of a scene for it at the time when the genre was heading in the opposite direction.

It wasn't until DOOM (2016) came out the year after he began development that it proved that there was an audience for more than the movie-like "experience" the genre was being dumbed down into. The success of this one game (itself scrapped from a hokey project that was little more than a generic Call of Duty with demons) sparked a resurgence and interest in the genre of the kind AAA has still ignored to this day, but smaller middle market and indie developers have jumped on to their benefit. The scene sort of sprang up overnight as gamers realized they were finally getting what they wanted again. The long winter was over.

In essence, games like Dusk coming around in the wake of DOOM (2016) resurrected the genre. However, Dusk is the game that topped all of them. Yes, it even topped id Software's franchise revival itself. How did this one game do that? Well, we will get into it right now. This is how Dusk became a modern classic.

First, we shall began with the launch trailer at its release in 2018. A project mainly be one man (with a composer and producer helping out), Dusk was quite an impressive release, even for the time it came out. You didn't get games like this in 2018:

For those who can't tell, what makes Dusk so good is that is unapologetically old school in every single facet of its design and the intent behind it. While the popularity boom DOOM (2016) gave to the genre definitely help stoke a desire for different sorts of FPS beyond cinematic, it was Dusk that brought it in for a touchdown. One can now find scores of new classic FPS designed games to the point that the AAA string has not only been dwarfed, but is more or less dead now. The genre is back in the hands of those who love it.

Dusk succeeds for three main reasons. These three include the rule of cool, atmosphere and wonder, and pure craft. The aspects make the classics hold up to this day, and it is what Dusk traffics in heavily to its own benefit.

The first thing to mention is the rule of cool. Everything in this game is "cool" before being "realistic" which is how all video games were meant to be and where they started from. Part of the appeal of playing a game is that you can experience things you can't easily do in real life and the interactivity gives you a level of immersion in it. This is the main appeal of playing one. Dusk is very focused on making the player feel cool at every opportunity.

The guns not only offer good feel when being shot, but they all offer varied functions for different situations. Everyone will have a favorite, but not one will you be unhappy to go without (aside from the default sickles, which can be upgraded to a very powerful sword if you look hard enough) and even feature a spin button instead of a reload, because reloading would slow the action down and spinning weapons looks cool.

The Y axis also isn't limited, and bunny hopping exists, which means you basically fly around and flip across the screen with enough speed, and do almost anything you want. If you search hard enough you can even find a hidden bar of soap in every level that can one-hit kill everything, including bosses. Not to mention you can eat food (or cook meat on fire), or drink beer to  gain some morale. Go easy on the booze, though. You don't want to get inebriated! Whatever is cool comes first, and it makes the experience that much more involved.

You are supposed to feel powerful while also feeling like one slip up will lead you to a messy, violent death. Be cool, or be dead! This  has always been the staple of the classic First Person Shooter. Eventually you become the cool main character on the box by playing well. In essence, this is the secret of its immersion and why it has endured over time.

What also helps is the fact that the lower-poly environment and horror atmosphere lends itself to the player filling in the gaps in the visual design themselves. The more detailed game graphics have gotten, the less they manage to give off the weird uncanny valley effect old horror games could give and the more the need to rely on jump scares to keep you on your toes. In a game like Dusk, every location feels like a real place you might meet in life, but slightly off. You want to know more about this place. It encourages exploration for secrets and not only for that but just to see what weirdness lies behind every corner.

You see, there is a story in Dusk, but it works because it is entirely in the background of your goal from getting from point A to B. You are a treasure hunter just known as the "Dusk Dude" (a wink to "Doomguy" from DOOM) searching through the cult-ridden town of Dusk and into its depths where things are a lot worse than you initially thought they were on the surface. By the end of the game, up is down, down is up, and where you'll end up is far worse than what you might have thought. This slow descent into insanity is perfectly maintained throughout.

The mystique is maintained mainly by the fact that the only voiceover is from some mysterious entity taunting you the closer you get to it. The common human enemies only repeat odd mantras and insults when they spot you, if they are even human to begin with that is. The jury is still out on that one. The music maintains creepy ambience with spikes of hard rock of the sort we haven't seen since the original Quake back in the mid-90s. You are always on edge, leaning around that next corner and hoping that thing you heard isn't more than a crazed leatherneck with a chainsaw.

In essence, walking into Dusk is walking into horror, and you need to be tough enough to get through it and reach the literal light at the end of the tunnel. All you have are your guns, treasures (which give morale, this game's version of armor), and health packs, along with Hallowed Health in the form of shining holy crosses that give you a huge boost in vitality. All of that sets a tone that carries through the 33 levels ahead of you.

Other than that, you're on your own.

A good review of the final product

What also helps with Dusk is how balanced the entire experience is. Since they released it old school, the game was put out like the ancient shareware episodes once were. You first get one episode which is ten levels (and a secret one!) which on its own gives a complete and satisfying experience.

This also allowed the developer to focus on polishing and balancing pieces of the game and allowing it to ramp up in complexity and difficulty as it goes along without having to focus on one giant 33 level project at once. Each episode, as a result, is its own little project that ramps up and adds to the whole at the same time. The episodic format was where this genre started, and what gave it so much of its character, and it is nice to see that it has returned to the genre again. Dusk, it should be mentioned, is one of many newer FPSes that get this right.

This is a surprisingly tight game, design-wise. Every piece works to bolster the whole experience and make it sing.

The entire design is the crown jewel here because it gives plenty of elbow room (and priority) to the rule of cool (immersion) and the atmosphere (wonder) before anything else, and then puts full use of the craft to buoy those things above everything else. The craft is as good as it is because it knows what matters the most, but doesn't skimp on lesser things either.

The level design in Dusk is great, but it is always done in a way to emphasize the player's involvement in the environment first. You want to be here, and not only do you want to be here, you want to conquer these evil horrors and stomp them into the dirt. The game knows this and will give you every reason to stick around doing what you want to do.

Every one of these 33 levels are all immaculately designed, and they do get more complex as they go, but they are never boring. I can't think of a single level that annoys more than challenges or one that stands out from the pack as inferior at the same time. Never do you feel like you've been put in an unfair spot and want to give up because of annoying  design choices. Despite the intense speed, the threat of horrors around every bend, and the daunting path ahead, you always want another go at conquering this madness. This is the mark of a well designed game. The other more recent game I remember nailing this was Cuphead. Different genre, same idea.

Lastly, I should mention the real reason I'm talking about Dusk here instead of any other old school classic FPS like those in the above list from the Golden Age. That is because this was a deliberate and conscious decision not to follow a trend, but to make a piece of art based on what worked before. I am using the proper definition of art as a craft made to a standard, and this is exactly what Dusk is. It realizes why the FPS genre became big in the first place, and decided to make a stamp on the entire scene. Everything I'm talking about here also applies to what makes those classics stand the test of time. Dusk merely reminds you that it's not a fluke.

It can still be done today!

A more in-depth look at what makes Dusk good, through gameplay!

But I'm not going through this game piecemeal. That would be selling it short. Art succeeds because of the whole the pieces strive to reach.

One can pick apart and deconstruct pieces of why something works, but explaining the whole is another thing entirely. There are certain things you can never quite adequately explain why they work so well even though you know deep in your bones that they do. I could explain why I like a song, but I could never tell you why I think this song specifically does what it does better than other songs with the same instrumentation or a similar composition style or genre. This is because the most important part of any piece of art is the whole that reaches for something higher than the base, more than formulaic hackwork or expectations.

As an example, there are plenty of songs that share similar elements to the song "Unsatisfied" by the Replacements, but none of them hit as well as it does. I couldn't explain why when the elements to it are not original, but they come together to make a final product that transcends the bits and bobs that make it work. This is the same with Dusk and its place in its own medium and genre. Despite its roots as a "throwback" or whatever gimmicky moniker you want to give it to explain away why it works, the game becomes its own thing. It is simply Dusk, and nothing else is quite like it. This is why you are reading about it right here, right now.

There have been other really great shooters coming out of the middle market and indie space that I could talk about (Ion Fury and Amid Evil are particularly strong and well worth your time), but I think it was Dusk that really hit that perfect storm of everything the genre once was and needed to be again for it to thrive again. It is the best of the past and the present, pointing towards a better tomorrow. This is what makes it one of the best video games ever made.

I've never let it be a secret that the FPS is one of my favorites genres (it's part of the trinity with platformers and beat 'em ups), but to me it takes a special dose of imagination and wonder to really nail what made a genre's Golden Age work while also building on it and showing new ways forward from the dead ends it was left in by poor caretakers. But Dusk does this, and does it perfectly. Still does, because I still get cravings to replay it every now and then for the entire experience. That is the mark of a classic and one that justifies the medium itself.

That might sound hyperbolic, but we are talking about art and entertainment. This is what it is supposed to do. This is why we're all here in the first place, isn't it?

So give Dusk ago, if you still haven't. Since Steam will almost certainly have it on sale soon enough, you can go get it there, or find a DRM-free version on GOG. Either way (or even on your Switch, if you want, because it's also there!) it's quite an experience. This is probably, as the above video says, the Game of the Year for 2018, but I'm willing to say it's Game of the Decade for the entirety of the 2010s. It is the perfect example of why we love this medium to begin with.

And that is all the reason you need to play one of the best video games ever made. They rarely get better than Dusk.

One of the earliest trailers!