Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Wave of the Future

My current favorite RetroWave album

RetroWave, also known as Synthwave, Dreamwave, Vaporwave, Darkwave, NewRetroWave, in turn and simultaneously, is a style of music in the vein of synth music from the 1980s created to recapture an abandoned musical styling. For simplicity's sake I'm going to just call it RetroWave here.

This genre unofficially started in the '00s mostly as random guys joking around and making ironic video game style music. Most of these songs and pieces can still be found, but are more or less faux-retro and almost pisstakes. The style morphed by the early '10s into a full fledged genre by people who legitimately love and enjoy the music they are making.

It's now a large underground scene of its own.

For the last few years I have found myself listening to more and more of this music. I'm not entirely sure why that is.

Growing up I've never particularly liked synth music, especially from the '80s. It always came across as cheesy and fairly shallow compared to the "deep" rock music I listened to. I enjoyed video game music from the era as it tried to imitate pop music and thus had to make itself catchy to stand out, but film and TV music rarely ever hooked me outside a random TV theme here and there. It was just standard music.

But at the same time, the style just sort of died out with the '80s. Now you are lucky to find a film theme with any sort of power or hooks that will stick with you. It did make me go back and appreciate the material from my youth and before that. I do have more of an appreciation for this style of music, despite it being absent from the mainstream since the early '90s. And that is a shame for a lot of reasons, mainly that the 1980s was the last era to have a distinctive character.

I grew up mainly in the 1990s, but it wasn't as great a time as nostalgia would have you believe. Most of what was great was bleed-over from the '80s in the first half of the decade. By 1997 there was nothing left except hollow corporate mandated pop, loud empty cartoons, unmemorable films, and snarky miserable television shows. It's a lot like now, actually. Only video games appeared to improve at all beyond the '90s. Everything else went stagnant. There isn't much of anything exclusive to that era of the late '90s that isn't still around in some distorted and perverted form.

But RetroWave is different. The genre formed as a bit of an attempt to mine the past for ideas--old video games, films, pop, and television, from the '80s. All things that were left abandoned by about 1993, and completely gone by '96. This music is an attempt to pick up the pieces.

What the artists did was take something that was abandoned and continued the tradition from where it left off. As I have been saying for the entire existence of this blog, I believe that is they key to art and entertainment. It is about connecting with those who came before and continuing on by keeping what we have learned close to our chest. It's carrying on meaningful tradition.

And music is no different.

Or, at least, it used to be. Listen to anything on the radio now and it only goes back to 1998, the single worst year in pop music history up to that point. Once the record companies seized the airwaves with their manufactured idols, songs, personalities, and hype, talent no longer became necessary. Why do you need to sing when computers can do it for you? Why do you need to write songs when the company will tell you what to say by paying other people to churn them out? Why connect with normal people when you're a star, and above them? All you need to do is sit back and let the money roll in.

Nobody listens to pop music anymore and for good reason. But, under the surface of this terrible musical era, there are movements like RetroWave dedicated to continuing traditions the mainstream deliberately threw away.

This is to our benefit that we get music like this now.

It's funny that someone like me who never really liked that music can get so into this style. It might be because RetroWave is not about simply imitating what came before, but encapsulating everything about a certain era into one genre of music and taking it to the present. You will see influences from old video games to television to pop to rock to rap to electronic to movies to even foreign music as well as atmosphere of the time and places all rolled into one thing. It's a celebration an a continuation of a tradition that was left behind.

There are no artists doing this in other genres, or mediums, short of the Pulp Revolution and Superversive for literature.

But it goes beyond nostalgia.

The artists aren't content with simply reliving the past by mindlessly rehashing dusty, wellworn tropes in the same ways. They're perfectly fine with expanding upon the old styles, creating new sounds, and writing original songs that expound upon the old template.

What emerged from them is a whole new style of music with a very rabid fanbase. RetroWave is unlike any musical movement I've seen pop up in ages since at least the swing and ska movements in the '90s. There is real passion here.

It's about more than nostalgia and reliving a dead era, and more about connecting with the past to move forward as one. It's about connecting. This is what culture is all about.

Where else can you find a group that specializes in forgotten J-Pop from the height of anime popularity?

And I guess that's why I'm a fan. There's a genuine joy and sense of fun that comes from this genre that just isn't available anywhere else on the landscape right now. Rock is dead and up its own rear, alternative OD'd on itself, punk is virtue-signalling blandness, rap has been dead since gangsta crap sucked the fun out, and the mainstream is still pretending that recycling two decade old bubblegum is exciting and edgy. As far as music scenes go, this is the only one that sounds as vital and fresh as it does inviting.

It helps that there is no real way for this genre to "sell out" and cash-in on some trend, because it just isn't built for it. There's no way to appeal to a broader audience because the genre is specifically built to cater to those who want what was already abandoned by the mainstream. You can't sell out to a group of people who want nothing to do with you.

Sure, it could get popular, but it cannot shed its roots to do so. This isn't pop punk. Its roots are all that keep it firmly planted in the tradition that its audience built. If you take that away, it just becomes standard electronic music. It becomes another genre completely.

RetroWave is what it is, popular or not.

Like genre fiction and pulp, this music thrives because it has not been dislodged from its roots. Nobody is going to come around and push these groups into betraying their core identity in order to dumb down the sound for Normie Joe or appeal to a "smarter" audience of the 1% of the 1%. There's no "mutation or death" scenario coming for this genre that will eventually lead to its downfall. This is because it was already built with the knowledge that the "mutations" already exist: they are the mainstream and not what these artists, or their audience, wants. Snake oil salesmen can't sell to those who know what their game.

The audience wants a soundscape and atmosphere that could only be captured by operating a certain way that these artists provide. If you strip the songwriting, synths, guitars, saxophones, and effects away, you're left with modern, characterless dance music that you can get anywhere else. If only one piece of the puzzle is removed, the picture is completely lost.

The formula must remain for it to survive.

There's a lot we can learn from RetroWave whether you are in the music arena or not. Sticking to your roots, giving your audience what they want, and having fun doing it, is the way to go. Its a lesson the rest of the music industry has apparently lost, and one other industries need to relearn. Although it would be nice if we could stick to one genre name.

No one knows exactly how long RetroWave will be around for but the music has definitely made its mark and the genre has well established itself and satisfied its audience. And at the end of the day, that's all that matters.

This is hopefully a sign of things to come in the wider world, and becomes the wave of the future.

My first RetroWave album

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Shallow Grounds

Irony is more of a Gen X thing, isn't it?

There was a small push-back on one of my posts. I brought up "references" and Millennials (I am Generation Y) and how they use it as a crutch in all their works. This response wasn't in the comments, but from the outside world.

The accusation wasn't so much a charge that Millennials do not engage in this trifling attitude (it is impossible to deny) but that references as a concept are nothing new and are in every piece of work from Twilight to Shakespeare. This is true. Referencing history, classic fiction, and real world events is natural and expected, and this generation is no different in that regard. So why are Millennials so much worse at it than anyone else? That is a fair question.

It's simple. It is because they are shallow and irreverent references.

Now I'm not saying every work needs to make reference The Castle of Otranto or the Knights of Malta, but it would be nice if these modern stories didn't all touch on the exact same subjects from the same era in the same way without any nuance or wrinkles. You can tell a reference from a Millennial coming a mile away. This generation all has the same response and thoughts on every subject.

There are very obvious examples that anyone who has been paying attention can already mention.

When a child of the 1950s writes about the era and their experience in it we get The Outsiders, a reflective look at how other teenagers were at the time, how they thought, and how they all grew up at the time. The tone is both critical and nostalgic, respectful and understanding, but never false or hollow. It is of a specific place and time, but relates to a reader of any generation. It is made to connect to a specific audience.

Now when a Millennial writes a story about the 1950s, what do you get?

You're already picturing it in your head right now. Every person acts according to their skin color and their sex. Every person that does not think in a (post)modern mindset is stupid or ignorant and must be taught the error of their ways. The ending is always about how much better the present age is to the old one because we're not neanderthals anymore. This current generation is the best ever!

They are all like this. Every story with the same beats, the same morals, and the same character archetypes. It's tiring. There is absolutely no nuance or understanding about how anyone who thought different in another age could be anything but stupid and unenlightened. There's nothing original being said, and nothing worth saying to begin with.

What is left is a tepid story with cardboard characters, a disrespect to those who came before, and a lack of any attempt to connect with anyone outside of your narrow worldview.

Take that example and apply it to every era and time period. Millennials do it to everything. This is why we have ended up with the barren wasteland of entertainment that we currently live in.

And that's not coincidental.

Millennials are well established and thought of as the least empathetic and most vain generation* to ever walk this mud ball. This impression did not fall out of the sky. Millennials are completely uninterested in anything that occurred outside their lifetime except as a means to denigrate those who lived before and put themselves above their ancestors. This is important to their self-esteem. Because they believe they are the best and the most important people to ever grace God's green earth.

This means, by definition, that Current Year is the greatest time to be alive. And yet, ironically, by their own works, it is also not as good as the past, or at least their childhood. It is a strange dichotomy this generation holds in their heads.

You can easily confirm they believe this strange notion by what Millennials consistently reference in their stories. It is always the same. What do they reference? The 1990s. That is because that is when they grew up which makes it the most important decade in human history.

Sure you might see a 1960s reference (it will only ever be hippies, Civil Rights, or the Beatles) or '70s (afros, punk and metal fashion, and . . . that's usually it) but never earlier in time except to make a cheap joke at the era's expense or to spit on those earlier generations who lived before them. The '80s are the prime example. In every Millennial work, the '80s are referenced to mock as if it is still considered the worst and most embarrassing decade (a notion that only exists in Millennials) and an obvious step down from the glorious '90s. This is a very shallow outlook on culture and humanity as a whole.

Their influences only go so far, like what their parents rented for them when they were kids. How many times have you seen Star Wars referenced, but not the pulps or serials that inspired that franchise's creation? How about Back to the Future? The Goonies? Power Rangers? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Old Nintendo or Playstation games? How many times have you seen these products, or exact facsimiles of them, used to prop up some Millennial's unrelated work?

It's a very small window that only exists for them and others like them to peer out of. It is not for anyone else, and that is the opposite of what art exists for.

Naming a gang boss "El Scorcho" after an old Weezer song is a lazy reference because it does not mean anything in the context of the story. It exists only to wink at the audience. Having the main character in your comic use a guitar as a weapon because Haruko in FLCL did is lazy and without any purpose. It does not exist because the story calls for it: it exists because the author wanted it to be there. Having defeated enemies in a comic turn into coins because River City Ransom did it doesn't mean anything except to call attention to an obscure reference. If it was taken out of the story, everything else would remain unchanged.

All of this is just signalling to other Millennials about things from their youth, and nothing else. There is no attempt to connect to the greater humanity or anyone outside a tiny circle of people who wore the same pajamas they did when they were six years old. It is completely shallow. And that's the exact problem.

Classical references in older works existed to link the creator's piece to a canon of works much greater than they are. It was to be part of the bigger whole. Millennials and their miscellaneous childhood references are minuscule in the greater scheme of things, and that is why they fail consistently to connect with anyone not of their ilk. Their works are made for them and other people like them and no one else. It is deliberately insular.

When I talk about shallow references, this is what I mean. Millennials only want to cater to themselves and do not care about anything except that trivial audience.

Writers do not use the Super Mario Bros. 3 box art for their covers despite it having no bearing on the story except to leech nostalgia. Everything in their writing is in service of the story and nothing else.

Which is what matters most: the story.

The story is what connects the creator to the audience, and not the small, usually nonexistent, group the Millennial thinks is interested in their stories. They are spiting the core potential audience to indulge in their own fantasies.

And that is what bothers me the most about Millennials. They have no attachment to anything outside of their box, no intention of empathizing those they disagree with and demonize, and they are hard-headed and insular despite claiming they are against that sort of mindset. But art is about connecting with others, and you can't do that if you look down on groups of people and only want to please yourself. It's not possible.

Not only do they not want anything to do with eras from before they lived, they are perfectly fine with ignoring their ancestors and castigating them as objectively inferior. In other words, these creators are missing the point, and loving it.

So yes, these references are absolutely a crutch. They're the crutch of a generation that has no interest in anything but itself, and that is a very large part of the problem as to why they are so miserable. They have no link to the past which allows no hope for the future. They are cut off and adrift.

Open your front door, guys. There's a whole universe out there waiting to be explored. The sun might hurt at first, but it sure beats a slow death alone in the dark.

Give it a try.

*I, for one, do not believe this. There is a far more selfish and vain generation than them, but I don't need to tell you who they are. You already know.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Signal Boost ~ "The Awful Truth About Forgetting" by L. Jagi Lamplighter

Check it out Here!

The newest chapter in L. Jagi Lamplighter's Unexpected Enlightenment series is finally here after a long time waiting!

For those unaware, this is a YA Fantasy series that is like a more well constructed Harry Potter only without falling into the traps that said series did, or becoming a tired clone. Here there is magic, mystery, and wonder, like all the best Fantasy you read before the genre got overrun with crass nihilism and sexual obsession. These are fun books that will keep you coming back for more.

The fourth in the series continues the direction here:

"What she knows, she dare not tell. 
Rachel Griffin should be having an amazing freshman year. She has the Princess of Magical Australia and crazy orphan Sigfried the Dragonslayer for friends and a handsome sorcerer boyfriend romancing her with charms magical and otherwise.

But otherworldly forces conspire against those she loves. 
While all others can be made to forget the truth, Rachel cannot. When she runs afoul of the hidden force hiding these terrible secrets, Rachel must face her most desperate hour yet. 
This on top of winter fairies, missing friends, Yule gifts, flying practice, and a rampaging ogre…oh, and schoolwork.

Then there is the matter of a certain undeniably attractive older boy…"
If you are a fan of YA novels, or have a younger sibling, relative, or child, who can't seem to find the right book to read, send them to this series.

The author has helped me to edit many of my works, including the upcoming Grey Cat Blues, and is one phenomenal writer herself. You can be assured you will get more than expected with one of her stories. She is very observant and a masterful storyteller at that. Be sure to check this out.

You won't regret your dive into the magical world of Rachel Griffin, and will wish you could stay longer. This is the way Fantasy is supposed to be.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Grey Cat Blues

It's been a long time coming. There have been setbacks. There have been annoyances in more than one area. But it's finally (almost) here.

Yes, I'm talking about my next novel!

The story is called Grey Cat Blues, and it will hopefully be available by the end of November on kindle and a bit later in paperback.

Here is the glorious cover supplied by artist extraordinaire Kukuruyo:

Have a summary:

Siege on the Shadow Planet! 
Ex-punk Two Tone is left for dead and his friend is taken. His assailants: men of mud from some place darker than Hell! 
The inscrutable Sarpedon has slithered from the depths to rule a planet that has long abandoned hope for a better tomorrow. With no one to stop his spree of violence, it is only a matter of time before Two Tone’s world is overrun. 
Old friends and a mysterious beauty gather by his side, but are they enough? Is it too late for this dying world? If all cats are grey in the dark, will anyone see the panther stalking its prey? Two Tone will find the answers the best way he knows how—through his fists! 
Grey Cat Blues tells the tale of a distant planet at humanity’s end. In this place, a man must choose between love and hate. And where his choice leads him might not be where he expects . . .

This is a story that takes place in the future on a world that is as cold and distant as the main characters in it. In Grey Cat Blues you get gangs, fights, monsters, horror, noir, love, rock n roll, and good vs evil, all in a crisp 200 pages. My goal from Day One was to make an exciting book that was brisk but able to grab the reader and stick with them like books of old. I like to think I succeeded here.

For an explanation as to why this exists, I have a bit of a tale. Grey Cat Blues is a story I came up with years ago but was never able to get right. I pseudo-released it on amazon as While You Were Dancing, but ended up taking it down because the narrative just didn't work. I pushed it aside and got working on Knights of the End and my short stories, figuring it was best to leave as a failed experiment.

Then I met the Pulp Revolution through the revival of Appendix N. That changed the way I write a good deal.

I began to dive into the old pulp works and they heavily affected how I saw fiction. I finally understood what it was that I liked about stories and what it was I wanted out of them. In turn, it changed my writing by an astronomical degree. My short stories (see the sidebar for examples) were far sharper and more direct and yet had more inside their pages than stories I wrote that were easily ten times the length of when I was struggling to put pen to paper years ago. Things were different.

What began to happen was I kept thinking about that failed story and what the problem was. I began to form a picture in my head about what I wanted to do and how to achieve it. In the middle of some stories I was writing (including my next novel after this, hopefully out early next year) I sat down and began to crank out the story While You Were Dancing was supposed to be. It came out as an entirely new story with no similarities to the original outside of two characters and one scene near the beginning. It came out as the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror/Weird Tale novel Grey Cat Blues. It came out as something I never thought I could write.

This is a story that takes place long after we've left Earth and colonized a distant planet. In a world where fragmentation and alienation are ways of life, only clinging to memories of Earth form any cohesiveness over the people. There is no escape, there is no future, and there is no brighter tomorrow on the shadow planet. It is at this point a darkness arrive from the heart of the Central's shadows and begins to swallow everything whole. With everything against him, how can our hero win? And what awaits him if he does?

And now for some bad news. The only reason I can't give you a direct release date is because one of the people involved in helping me put it out had a relative how attempted suicide. Naturally, this put a break on their progress in aiding me, but I would be appreciated if you could send prayers to their family in this horrid time for them. It would do them some good.

But I don't want to just leave you with grim thoughts. Fiction is meant to keep is looking up when we are down.

I'm proud to finally present this book in complete form from an idea I just couldn't get down properly. Please be sure to check it out and leave a review when it comes out within the month. If there is another book out there like this, I'd like to see it for myself.

If you want action and adventure, this is the book for you. Grey Cat Blues is novel I've been trying my darnedest to get out for ages, and I can easily say that it has been worth the struggle.

Saturday, November 11, 2017


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.