Thursday, June 25, 2020

Y Television

This has been a subject I've been wanting cover for awhile. It's a bit obscure, but I think it is an interesting enough one to talk about in the context of Wasteland and Sky.

32 years ago a television network was created in Canada. It aired mainly in Eastern and Pacific time zones and aired in a few places in the little known land of America, but it was mostly a northern channel seen by a certain number of people. The important thing to mention is what it did, not where it came from.

The network was called YTV, and it first came into formation in 1988. It was a TV network for kids, most well known as "Youth Television", and he station wasn't like any others around at the time. In many children's homes, it was their main source of entertainment. Especially for those in the Gen Y camp, it was their main window into pop culture. You can find comments and articles everywhere from those who grew up on it. Very quickly the impression is given that it was not your typical television station, especially for the first decade and change of its existence.

From 1988 to 1998 especially, it was the best network on TV that aimed directly at Gen Y. I wanted to discover how they did it and why they had that success.

As an example, I have found this oral history of YTV posted about 5 years ago that nails a lot of what it was like at the time to those who were there at the time. Oddly enough, there isn't that much official information about what the network was like back in the day, and unlike channels like Cartoon Network they have never bothered to create any sort of retro service to capitalize on nostalgia like so many others have. It's bizarre, especially in this era focused on subverting the past, but it's a bit respectable.

Should you talk to anyone who grew up in the great white north, or anyone bordering it who got to experience it, you will meet someone with fond memories of YTV. But this was a pure Gen Y thing--Gen X were too old and by the time Millennials were coming of age the peak era had past. By the 2000s YTV had changed into a pure slick corporate machine and shed off all of what those who grew up with enjoyed. Though that should be nothing new for those of us who grew up in that time period. It's just the way of the time. So let's look into why this whole thing.

From the oral history:

"You kids might have trouble understanding this, but back in my day, we didn’t have a lot of entertainment options. We might have had some Disney movies in those clamshell VHS boxes, and some of us were allowed to rent one video a week at Blockbuster, but we didn’t have Facebook or Twitter or YouTube or Netflix or Shomi or iTunes or Pirate Bay. There were some channels that had after-school programming, and of course you could see Fred Penner and Elmo on TVO and PBS, but there was only one channel that delivered youth-targeted content at all hours of the day. And if you wanted to see something on it, you had to watch it when it aired, or else there would be no guarantee you’d ever see that episode of Puttnam’s Prairie Emporium ever again. 
"If you were a kid growing up in Canada in the ’90s, you watched YTV. 
"This stone-cold fact unites my generation."

That's big talk, but it's true. Gen Y had the best toys and entertainment, but they had to go out to get them. For those who did experience it when the network was at its peak it has hard to describe something that managed to nail what they were looking for in a package no one else had. Thankfully the writer does.

"Of course we watched for the big, name-brand American shows—Rugrats, Power Rangers, etc.—but we also watched for the network’s in-house productions. There was The Hit List, the decade’s best source for music news, hosted by every ’90s Canadian child’s cool uncle, Tarzan Dan; PJ Katie’s Farm, Jennifer “PJ Katie” Racicot’s legendary one-woman plasticine puppet show; Video and Arcade Top 10, which offered kids the ultimate wish-fulfillment fantasy of playing video games on TV; and Uh-Oh!, the game show that unleashed game show host Wink Yahoo upon an unsuspecting world."

To put it another way, YTV was basically a greatest hits of late '80s to late '90s pop culture when it was on fire. If you turned on the station between 1988 and 1998 you were guaranteed to be given entertainment made directly for you. And it wasn't ACT-approved crap like Captain Planet--it was low budget stuff made by normal people for kids to enjoy.

This also extended to its non-original programming. YTV had its own in-house stuff, but it also contained shows from across the world, including from their neighbors down south, and from every decade since the medium of cartoons began. Well, maybe it wasn't quite that amazing and far-reaching, but it stretched itself in a way no one else did. It felt like a buffet of the best of the past and present, with some hints as to what might come in the future.

YTV had the best of the old (1960s Batman, Rocky & Bullwinkle, and old British sitcoms), foreign (Dragon Ball [years before DBZ exploded], many french cartoons, Samurai Pizza Cats, Sailor Moon, and Gundam Wing), and a hodgepodge of the best of the rest (Rocko's Modern Life, The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat, Woody Woodpecker, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, and Rugrats) and many, many others. That doesn't include their own stuff from the same time period (Beast Wars, Reboot, and Are You Afraid of the Dark?), which added a lot to its unique character as an entertainment center. This also doesn't take into account the movies from The Last Unicorn to the newer (at the time) Don Bluth movies that they would play on the weekends in the afternoon. There was always something new to discover.

With this alone, YTV would be considered the best network for Gen Y kids, but its secret ingredient was mass appeal focused on quality above all else.

As mentioned:

Tarzan Dan Freeman: When I did [The Hit List], it was one of those things where you could hear Blur and Smashing Pumpkins, and you could also hear the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys, and people still watched the show, and it had massive, massive numbers. The other side of it was, we didn’t have as many cable channels back then, or music-based television shows. We didn’t have social media, and email was just new, so it was where people went to find out about the newest songs or to see an interview and hear about music beyond radio….  
For us to be there when the Spice Girls came up and became massive, and Backstreet and ‘N Sync and all those different groups, be it rock and pop and dance or whatever it was…the ’90s were great, because everything that came out was played. It wasn’t just a genre.

That is a good sum up of what YTV was like, and more or less what the best parts of the '90s were about. It was an all-encompassing thing in a culture that was still united. No matter where you went at the time you could find something interesting and surprising. As said before, Gen Y had the best toys, and this is part of the reason it did.

Because of this mixture of past, present, and the oncoming future (seeing things like '90s Spiderman at the time was weird in between airings of the 1960s Spiderman and Count Duckula), as well as a spread of shows from other countries, allowed the audience to experience a lot of different styles of adventure and comedy. It went beyond formula. The only rule to air on YTV was that it had to be family friendly, which isn't quite as limiting as you'd think it would be. For myself, this is allowed me to understand the important parts of storytelling beyond trappings, since so much of what I enjoyed back then had no aesthetic similarity with anything else in the same genre. What was important was a lot deeper than the surface, which went very well with a lot of what Gen Y was taught at the time. Surface appearance just wasn't that important.

Their Gen Y audience, of course, was enamored with this network. YTV was entirely comprised of the best of the culture of the time.

Atul N. Rao (puppeteer, Snit): At that time, in the late ’90s, there were a lot of latchkey kids with both parents working. We’ve been told by so many people that growing up, they watched us, without fail, every day for four or five years. We were their babysitter, they’ve told us. Now I’m teaching at Mohawk [University] and I’ve been told that by my students: “You’re my babysitter.”  
Krista Jackson (PJ Krista): You’d go to these events and have people coming up to you saying, “Hi! How are you?” and you’d think, “Do I know you?” And then you’d think, “no, I’ve never met them, but because you’re in their living room every day, they feel like they know you.” I was just talking to the kids out there, and it was a really intimate thing, I think, for people watching. 
Jennifer Racicot (PJ Katie): I grew up on TV. I was a kid—I was 20. My 20s, I was on television the whole time. It’s really remarkable to grow up with that crowd of people, I was so lucky—I was surrounded by so many creative people. Everything was new and nothing was screwed up yet.

The Average YTV watcher's hobbies 

Gen X was typically known as the latchkey generation, but the practice didn't just end overnight. While is is easy to look back on the '80s and '90s as a time of great entertainment with a lot going on, there is a truth below it all that is frequently left unsaid. That being that certain things that should have changed remained the same as ever, some of which remain the same to this day. But that's not how it felt living through the time period.

Things were looking up for kids at the time. New things were coming out every day, and the man on the radio told you utopia was on the way. What was there to feel sad about? So maybe it felt a lot better at the time because those kids just trusted everyone in charge. You could keep your chin up because everyone was in this together, and we would push through to a better future just like the mainstream media said.

But looking back on all of it, detached from its time, its hard to see the era as anything other than what it really is. Sure there were a lot of great toys, but you rarely ever hear a kid from that period talk about anything else. As has been discovered, Gen Y was actually a very lonely generation. This is still the case today.

What it was like to be Gen Y at the time

The period of the late-80s to late-90s was a strange era of transition where media hit its peak. Those who grew up on it still treat their media, not only as if it is still as good, but as a sort of holy script that must be used to preach truth to the masses. It would help explain why so much modern art is so self-important and reliant on old brands to sell new messages these days. Gen Y is still communicating in the best way they know how. Their one short period of cultural relevance was purely commercial and corporate. Yet, at the same time, it was the last generation without overbearing control and suppression that children would soon by smothered in. What do you expect from the last generation to come of age before Columbine, 9/11, and the internet, radically reshaped everything--all of which are still felt to this day.

This is before Millennials were thrown into helicopter parenting overload and before things such as participation trophies, cellphones, or social media became the norm. This is that weird period where then-young Gen Xers had just begun getting creative and were allowed a platform. Of course it was mainly their younger siblings watching them and rooting for their success. Everyone was in this together. That notion would abruptly end by the close of the '90s where their naivety would leave them stranded as the world moved on from them to a new demographic. At the time, though, kids were oblivious as to the older generations' true intentions. They really did just appreciate having someone to talk to who had been through what they had. It helped them feel a part of something bigger than themselves, even if it turned out to be made of sand.

As said in the history:

Tarzan Dan Freeman: They held an audition for this new TV countdown show they were going to have called The Hit List, and I went along with lots and lots of other people. I just got lucky that that day, they were looking for somebody who was kind of goofy-looking, who probably people believed they could actually be friends with.

But that isn't to insult the network. You can't blame them for doing what they were made to do. The network did its job and did it well. YTV is still around today, after all, which means it must have done something well.

They created and imported shows they knew their audience of Gen Y watchers would dig, they hired hosts and personalities that would talk to them like they were normal, and they were family friendly so anyone could watch them. As far as TV networks go, it is hard to imagine one getting as much right as they did.

This is why they succeeded from their inception in 1988 through to the close of the '90s while slick corporate attitudes and fads came and went. They were stable, reliable, and never wavered in what they were about. It is quite remarkable, looking back. They were able to do something no one else in the decade short of Nintendo could do--stick to their guns.

Though, like everything else of the era, it started to change by the late '90s:

Phil Guerrero: It eventually became something where they figured out—especially as it became more and more corporate—“We can make money with these. It’s not a commercial, but we can have a ‘contest’ sponsored by Hasbro, right?” When you look at The Zone now, it feels that way, and it’s more character-driven, I think. That’s kind of why I left, too: they said they were going to go this more character way. 
Jennifer Racicot: It started to get more oppressive. I don’t know how to describe it. They were trying to make it into a tighter ship, or the fun was squeezed out of it. I left, and I took a year and did some TV, and I came back and did The Zone, and I did two years of that. That’s when I was interviewing really big celebrities…and it was all changed. Everything was different. The innocence was gone, y’know? I dunno…it wasn’t as magical and soft and clean and gentle. 
Nicholas Picholas: I remember we had a lot of trouble just finding games that weren’t violent. All the hot games were pretty graphic. Those were games that were huge and we couldn’t touch them, because we were on YTV and you just can’t do that for kids. We would get stuck playing a lot of these games that were really very young-targeted.

More than that, there was also a shift that has been mentioned many times, from targeting Gen Y into this newly created Millennial demographic. The signals were sent up that Gen Y was over--they didn't have to be your audience anymore. Now they wanted the new age demographic--the ones that would change the world.

It was time for Generation Next themselves, the Millennials, to have their turn at the wheel. They are still at it to this day.

Yes, Gen Y and Millennials are different generations.

This was a gigantic cultural shift that occurred in the late '90s, and it eventually wiped out a whole demographic by the end of the decade to replace one that had been there at the start. Now, there isn't anything wrong with taking on the new kids that just came up--but there is a whole other side to this change that is never really mentioned. Gen Y's whole identity was built on media--media that had suddenly flipped on them for someone else. And this someone else was being especially groomed using methods and ideas completely foreign to those slightly older, in order to become the future leaders of the culture.

Gen Y no longer existed in the minds of the bigwigs, and for some unfathomable reason we just let it happen. To this day many will assume the generation is the same because they were told it was, even if looking into it for basic research would show that is clearly not the case. How can two groups of people who grew up in two different worlds with little to no similarities with each other, a world people of the time admitted they changed, by the same generation?

Because they're not. There is no such thing as a "Xillennial" or whatever dumb term you want to invent for something that already exists. It was Gen Y, at the time. It is still Gen Y. Stop supporting revisionism by continuing to ignore what was deliberately covered up by those who chose to throw you away.

Unfortunately, the demographic replaced in the late '90s was a demographic that already had identity issues and are now left forgotten without what had defined them. It isn't any wonder Gen Y is primarily known for nostalgic remembrance when that was the last time they had cultural relevance. Too much came into play in the late '90s and early '00s that worked to wipe Gen Y from the wider culture. There was, and still is, no other place for them in the modern world, or so they think.

Nonetheless, they had reason to think that was true. Those in high places had deliberately set out to divide them from the kids coming up under them by focusing all their efforts on these newly christened Millennials instead. These children were effectively treated as the second coming of the Baby Boomers. By the '00s, the Ys entire identity, their products, had been abandoned, destroyed, and memory-holed from the wider culture overnight. One day they woke up and found they had no identity anymore, and they were being replaced. That put them in a state of shell shock they still remain in to this day, somehow convinced they are actually Millennials even though they weren't at the time, and still aren't.

Those who came of age by the end of the '90s weren't much of a concern any longer. It was all about the Millennials. Gen Y was memory-holed.

Tarzan Dan Freeman: If kids started watching [The Hit List] when they were 12 years old, and when I’m leaving they’re 19 years old, then all of a sudden they’re outside the demographic. What we noticed was, the demographic was aging. When I left, they took the show off the air for a couple of months, and they came with plastic furniture and a couple of female hosts, and it was really about young boy bands or Aaron Carter, that kind of thing—really pop, ear-candy type of music that was more geared towards the kids. [JD: This was 1997, by the way] 
Originally the show was going to be cancelled, because the show had run its course and had gone on for quite a while. What happened was, because I’d been there for seven-ish, eight years, and the demographic had changed, I think when they decided they were going to bring the show back in a different form, I was too old for the show. Because for me to go back and go “Here’s Aaron Carter!” after I’d just been playing Smashing Pumpkins and Blur and Collective Soul and Creed, and then to go, “Aaron Carter’s the best!”…y’know, we could still play Backstreet Boys, but I think what would have happened is, my credibility would have been somewhat crushed.

The place those kids in Gen Y grew up with was gone, and now there was a new demographic coming in. The old ones were forgotten and left without a place to stay any longer, and nowhere to go. Of course it isn't so dramatic as that, but it is an odd feeling of displacement to be watching The Hit List on a Friday evening showing of cool new genres and bands from all over the world to having chirpy young women squealing about nothing but disposable pop overnight. What was the old audience supposed to do with that? It isn't unlike the Rural Purge in its lack of respect for its main audience, only at least there are people who acknowledge the Rural Purge happened. Gen Y still won't admit they were thrown away, and would instead prefer to be considered part of demographic that never were a part of, all while ignoring the bigger issues at play here. You can't deny who you are.

As far as YTV goes, it went on two decades after its initial successful one, and it's still around today. However, it did get corporate in the late '90s and at one point more or less became Nickelodeon Canada, doing little more than airing the same shows from down south and little else. No more worldwide material, and no more hits from the past. YTV as it was effectively died out completely by the '00s. It doesn't really exist anymore.

Everything that had made YTV what it was had been replaced with corporate gloss--no old series, no anime, and no retro shows remain on the network now ad haven't for almost 20 years. It's just as faceless as everything else these days. They could change the name and no one would notice.

At least Gen Y has the memories. While YTV will never be what it once was again, not even for their own kids, they can be satiated with the knowledge that they were privy to something no one else was. They were able to feel a part of something bigger, if only for a few hours out of the day.

Hopefully, if Gen Y can teach a lesson to younger generations it is to not put so much of your identity in the creations of others. Products and brand logos were not your youth, not really. It was the experiences you spent with those around you, your hopes and dreams, and the imagination and wonder you felt when something new came your way.

So while YTV, and the period it represented, are long gone, the memories do remain. The '90s were not as great as we remember, but there are pieces of it that were. You rode bikes with your friends, you didn't have to check your phone and social media, you had family that lived close by visiting every Christmas, and you didn't have to worry about unexpected terror bursting into your peaceful life to kill you. These are things corporations can't give you, and neither can they take them away. We are of the last generation to truly get to experience such things, so they should be treasured far more than what we spent our lawn-mowing money on.

While Y-era television and entertainment is long gone, we are still here. We can still create, and we can still enjoy the life we were given, regardless of what was taken away from it. We are still who we are, and nothing can ever change that.

Here today, gone tomorrow. However, you are still here now. So be sure to make what you've got count.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Signal Boost ~ Brian Niemeier's "Combat Frame XSeed S" Campaign

Two Signal Boosts in a row? That is quite out of the ordinary for this blog, but summer is typically a busy season in general. This is the time when creators and customers are the most active, and I would be remiss to not chip in at such a time to aide both in finding what they want. NewPub is exploding in activity and increasing in success, and I'd like to highlight some of it.

This time we are looking at Brian Niemeier's Combat Frame XSeed Indiegogo campaign. He has successfully crowdfunded every book in the series so far, and this one is no exception. It is already funded and ready to go with less than a week left in the cmapaign. In fact, it is doing the best out of every campaign he has done so far.

So why does this project need a signal boost? He appears to be crushing it quite soundly. There is a good reason for that beyond the obvious one of supporting NewPub creators. First let us look at the campaign description then I will explain.

An unstoppable scourge lays siege to Earth
Can humanity survive a world-destroying force that has never known defeat? 
The Ynzu Siege nears its third bloody decade. Battered to the breaking point, the United Commonwealth-Protectorate recalls its combat frame carrier fleet for a last stand at Earth. 
Lt. Dex Trapper must battle for his life when the Ynzu strike his remote extrasolar colony. Cut off from the UCP, Dex and his CF tech Thatch make a desperate break for help in a century-old XSeed. 
Fans of J.N. Chaney’s Messenger series and Cole and Anspach’s Galaxy’s Edge will thrill to this new series in Dragon Award winner Brian Niemeier’s XSeed saga! Back it now and take the ride before anyone else!

The author has introduced stretch goals such as bonus short stories for all backers, card games, and perks such as posters. There is a lot of content to look through to see what strikes your fancy. Check out the campaign for yourself.

However, despite its success there is one goal he has mentioned that those in NewPub should want him to hit. If he reaches 5 figures ($10,000) on his campaign he will be able to look into animation and move up to the next stage. That's right, if readers can give him the support he needs they will have opened up a brand new road for those in NewPub to travel down. This is something we all want to see happen for very obvious reasons.

All that aside, this is still a campaign worth supporting as Mr. Niemeier is an author who knows how to spin a yarn. As someone who has hired his services as an editor I can confirm his knowledge in the subject of storytelling. You will have a great time.

Back the campaign today secure in the knowledge you will be taken on an adventure you have never experienced before. NewPub is killing it, and you can be a part of the action!

You can find the campaign here.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Signal Boost ~ Kevin J. Anderson's "Up, Up and Away" Superheroes Bundle

Interested in superheroes? If you're reading this post then there's a good chance you do! But how much? Check out this new bundle of hero books compiled by immortal SF author Kevin J. Anderson. The offer is for a limited time, so don't miss out!

The description for the bundle is as follows:

The Up, Up and Away Superheroes Bundle - Curated by Kevin J. Anderson: If reading is your kryptonite, I've put together a superpowered StoryBundle—thirteen books with marvelous heroes, supervillains, secret identities, mutant powers, and extraordinary gentlemen (and ladies). 
In curating this batch, I included my novel Captain Nemo—one of my favorites—the life story of Jules Verne's fictional friend, who fights pirates at sea, is marooned on a mysterious island, finds a passage to the center of the Earth, crosses Africa in a balloon, and builds the extraordinary sub-marine boat, the Nautilus. 
Dean Wesley Smith presents a brand new book featuring his popular and unnaturally talented character Poker Boy. Heroes comes in all shapes, sizes, and personas.What makes a hero super? Mark Leslie's collection Nobody's Hero contains seven stories that explore what makes a hero.

That's not all! Read more about the 13 books in the bundle here, and make sure to click on each cover for a synopsis, reviews and preview of each book.

One of the books included is Jon Mollison's Overlook, part of the same Heroes Unleashed superhero universe as my own Gemini Warrior! If you haven't yet had the chance to read this superspy-inspired novel then now is the perfect opportunity. Not to mention there are plenty of other books in the lineup well worth your time.

You can get the story bundle here. The promotion will be running for the next 20 days, ending on July 9th. So be sure to pick it up before time runs out!

Summer's here, so why not curl up with a good read? You have no shortage of options.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Summer in the Wasteland

2020 sure has been something so far. Outside, the sun beats down on scorched grass and empty bike paths. Kids are out playing en masse while adults watch passersby from their air conditioned cars and teenagers talk on their phones. Summer is here, and boy is it welcome! I think we can all use some sun and escape from our worries.

Though recently things have been a little weird in the writing world. Unlike the wider, normal world, where writers roam, things are always odd. 2020 is no different on that end.

You might have heard that a certain infamous genre writer went out of his way to sue the Internet Archive for offering free library books during a worldwide pandemic. A chunk of writers are criticizing this choice, as are all readers, while a certain clique of OldPub acolytes defends their corporate masters with wicked glee. It isn't that I don't understand how piracy can hurt writers, but the Internet Archive is not a piracy site. Everything they have is legal, and it's a library. So the fuss being kicked up is more than bit ridiculous.

This whole snafu is about as stupid as you would expect, especially considering those defending this decision all get checks from multimillion dollar corporations that stand to lose more from the existence of libraries than low paid authors do. Authors working in the OldPub system have royalties that would make 1950s rock n roll artists blanche, but even those musicians never bowed their heads to their corporate overlords. You can't be a rebel while also bowing to the man. For "free-thinkers", many authors speak two directly opposing views from each side of their mouth.

When I was growing up, all the cool kids in the edgy cool kid's club were all about that piracy. Take whatever you want! Are is for the people, not those stuff-shirts in NYC! I'm not just speaking about things like Napster, but books as well. You had artists like Neil Gaiman delivering rousing tearful speeches about the importance of allowing anyone the chance to read which supersedes any claim a book publisher has at making a dime. It was so counter-cultural and edgy and we all hooted for the rebellious rapscallions to overturn the world. It's all about the people, man! It's not about money! What a noble way to live. The future is so bright we're all gonna wear shades.

And then we learned that our heroes were full of it.

Now the same rebellious forward-thinking artists support their OldPub masters, going back on everything they built their rebel brand on. You're just supposed to forget they said all that, that they created a whole image and career off of their big talk, all while they burn down digital libraries and return to their second job at Starbucks to pay the overinflated rent on their expensive urban ratholes. Meanwhile their superior retires back to her overpriced New York apartment ecstatic with the fact that the thirteen people who borrowed that one online library book will no longer have access to it.

Is that a hill worth burning your entire career over? Apparently, but that's because OldPub is dying. All they can do is rail at people who don't want to pay money for their products instead of offering products said people will want to pay for instead. OldPub wants your money; they just don't want to have to work for it. They deserve your paycheck just for being OldPub.

Suffice to say that world is coming to an end.

This is one of the reasons NewPub is taking off. We are working for the readers, and only the readers, while we do our best to get the best product we can out in a timely manner. There is no middleman, it's just about storytelling.

Summer might be here, but things certainly haven't changed that much in the writing world. Here we are talking about the year where the world essentially stopped and still we go on about petty things. But writers can't stop.

So while the world burns for many, many, many, other reasons, the rest of us still continue on. What else can we do. Writers write, because that's all a writer is expected to do.

I've been writing, but you probably already knew that, and I haven't any inclination of stopping. It's been awhile since my last update, so let me let you in on what's been happening over in my camp down in the wasteland.

The year's half over (or will be in a few weeks) so it's time to see if my promise of delivering three books this year is still on track.

In January I released Someone is Aiming for You & Other Adventures, which has done even better than my last self-released book, and the feedback on it has been strong. In these seven tales that traverse an overarching story, we follow a varied cast of heroes, vagrants, and vigilantes, as they search for justice in a dark world or magic and monsters. This one took me several years of stories, so the positive reception has been fantastic to see. But that was where the year started.

Just recently I put out a free novelette for readers that you can get by signing up to my newsletter. It's a western horror mecha story with plenty of action and wonder to keep you going. It was also edited by Dragon Award Winner Brian Niemeier! Read it today.

The second book I'm working on is Gemini Outsider, the third book in the Gemini Man series. I'm a bit over a third of the way through the first draft. It's coming along quite well and should be done before you know it. This one is a good deal darker than the first two, though not bleak--as you'd expect from me. You're going to hate the villain in this one, I can say that much.

As for book two, Gemini Drifter, it is still in editing. Silver Empire has a lot on their plate right now for reasons I'm sure everyone reading would understand, so I'm not certain exactly when it will be finished up. Nonetheless, it is written and it is on the way. One of the books in the Heroes Unleashed series will be part of an upcoming bundle that I will share here soon enough. Either way, expect more superhero content soon!

The last book, Brutal Dreams, still needs a heavy edit before I send it to my editor. I'm going to get to this once I finish up writing Gemini Outsider and getting my very first non-fiction book out. Brutal Dreams will most likely be out by year's end, at this rate. But either way it will be out for you to enjoy!

My non-fiction book is ready to be looked at by my editor, I am just waiting for them to have a spare moment to send it in. As stated before, it's short, less than 30,000 words, and is about the blossoming NewPub climate and how to adjust to it. I wrote it to get new writers in the right mindset for this burgeoning world, and to warn them away from the traps of OldPub that still cling to fresh writers like rusty barnacles. This isn't a How-To book, but a book to push new writers in the right direction with a attitude adjustment. I'll reveal more about it when it's closer to release. That said, I'm going to get it out in July as long as all goes according to plan. A cover and title reveal will be in an upcoming newsletter. Keep an eye out!

So instead of three books, I might instead get five in a best case scenario situation. I would say that things are going well. In other words, I am on track to meet my promise.

Short fiction has taken a backseat for now. I still have a story coming out in Planetary Anthology Sol this November, and I have several other stories written and ready to be polished off. If I can just find some open markets to sell to I could get them out to you ASAP. But they are all closed right now, and I have other priorities. Until the opportunity arrives, they sit awaiting release. That said, there is much more to come!

I have plenty of other ideas, outlines, and fragments, in the back of the line, but those will have to wait. Focusing on the right project needs to come first. If I'm going to double my output this year then I want to double my success, too.

I also wanted to mention that I'm tinkering with an idea for next year that would require a crowdfund to get off the ground, but that's a ways off. There's plenty to work on in the meantime. I just wanted to let you know that there are future plans beyond 2020, assuming the world doesn't end. NewPub writers only stop when we're dead.

So while the dinosaurs continue to fight over table scraps, pointing fingers at libraries and the small number of pirates who won't buy their books, the rest of us are out there constantly working and doing our best to give you everything we can. Writers write--it's what we do best. It's a constant machine of activity behind the scenes, and that is the case with most everyone in NewPub, I can assure you of that.

Summer's here, and while things might not be great across the world there are still those of us delivering something to give you a boost out of that dark mood. That's the job of artists and authors, after all. Storytelling is meant to lift you up, and that's what we're going to do. Pick up your chin, and a book while you're at it!

We might be in a wasteland now, but that won't be forever. Blue skies still await even behind black clouds. Here's hoping for a great summer ahead.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Later Than They Think

Time might be dark, but they aren't so bad. It's at time like this that we should appreciate the good things. It isn't too late to appreciate a good sunset.

I don't bring up Cannon Cruisers a whole bunch on Wasteland & Sky for the simple fact that it is a bit of a separate project from what I do here. This place is about both appreciating and creating general entertainment and art, while Cannon Cruisers is purely about inspecting a specific era in art and entertainment. It's a bit more of a specific specialized interest. I decided to finally start Cannon Cruisers, and roped a friend along for the ride, because I was awakening to the fact that movies devolved and became more or less trash.

I was confused as to where all that moxie and creativity went in movie-making, and decided to inspect the era where it was at an all-time high. That would be the period from the mid to late '70s up to about 1995 or so. Even past that period you can see a decline in overall movie-making until we get up to the abysmal period of the modern day.

Let's be real, the '10s were a pretty abysmal decade for film. Sure there were some good movies, but a tiny handful does not negate the irrefutable fact that entire genres are dead and gutted, and most everything else is peppered with postmodern nonsense such as nihilistic messaging and viscous historical revisionism. It's a wasteland out there, and nowhere ear where it was decades ago.

Of course, there are those that will disagree, but they are missing the bigger point here. Yes, you saw two good movies last year. Congratulations to you. That doesn't mean cinema is hunky dory, and it doesn't mean the system is fine or still worth saving. Pure garbage with no redeeming value is being pumped out into people's heads. We are a long way from the day when movies were made to make viewers feel better about themselves and the world when walking out of a cinema. It is not as it once was, and hasn't been for decades.

Cannon Cruisers was created because I was watching the documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (I have yet to see the other documentary the Israeli cousins put out themselves), and was hit with the cold hard reality that this modern climate was unacceptable. There was really no reason there shouldn't be anyone like Cannon Films around today. What they created could easily be replicated by anyone: simple genre, drama, family, and action, films all done with a pulp-inspired action and audience-first formula. There was no secret ingredient in Cannon's success that didn't boil down to working at pulp speed and giving the audience what they wanted. That is literally all they did, and they made bank on it.

Now, I am not going to pretend it was all sunshine and roses with the Israeli cousins at Cannon. There are stories and rumors of underhanded dealings they engaged in (though, if this is the worse they did then they are already pure saints compared to the rest of Hollywood) and they had plenty of duds, but one thing was certain: they always tried to deliver something to the audience. The cousins, Golan and Globus, loved movies and wanted to entertain people. Everything they did was for the twofold purpose of making movies with a low enough budget and using that small profit to make more movies. They grew with this formula and steadily their budgets improved until they forgot their roots and went in over their heads spending money. They had no political agenda, no pet social issues to push, and no qualms about doing anything if it meant selling a movie to anyone who wanted it.

In many ways, they were the ideal movie studio, and it gave them a character few others managed, even to this day. Cannon Films were completely unlike anyone else.

However, not everything lasts forever. From 1980 through 1994 (or thereabouts) Cannon Films were the king of b-movie entertainment, mostly gaining profit the home market. Boys and male teenagers were their bread and butter audience, and they loved what the studio put out. Cannon more or less ran the home video market throughout that time and helped bring rental shops and eventually movie stores into prominence. But by the end of the 1980s Cannon was already running out of gas after near a decade of solid output.

Their quality began to shrivel, their ideas were getting more and more half-baked, and Hollywood had all but dismantled the action movie by the early '90s. The audience had been redirected towards big budget blockbusters, and nothing else. Smaller studios, many of which caused gave the films of that era its identity had faded away since they could no longer compete with the top dogs. By the end of the 1990s all that was left was the big budget studios, and nothing else. It is no wonder that the decades that followed contained far less character than what came before.

There were a few other studios that came during this time, but there is one I want to mention in particular, since I have been covering them recently on Cannon Cruisers. They are nowhere enar as well known as Cannon, but they were quite impressive nonetheless.

At the end of the 1980s, a studio named PM Entertainment emerged. They didn't come around at the best time for b-movies, being that those nuggets of entertainment were on the way out. They have gone rather unknown even to this day. In fact, anyone can name from Troma to Cannon themselves, but no one would dare bring up PM Entertainment. They just aren't as well known.

This despite the fact that they put out around 90 or so movies between 1989 and 2000. That's right, they were at their peak in the 1990s, long after every other b-movie studio had more or less died. A studio like this naturally piqued my interest, beckoning me to learn more. So I did.

There is a good deal of information on PM from this oral history found on It would be easy to mistake them as a studio from another era, because in just about every way that counted they were. If you are into this sort of b-movie scene, you will even have heard about four of their movies (The Sweeper, Hologram Man, Repo Jake, and Little Bigfoot) which appeared on Red Letter Media's Best of the Worst show on youtube. The latter two movies really deserving of the honor, and the first two movies ones Cannon surely wished they were putting out in 1996. But they were long gone by then. And those are only their lesser works.

PM Entertainment was formed in 1989 by two filmmakers, Richard Pepin and Joseph Merhi, the initials of their last names giving the company its name. Not long after setting up shop they had already began putting out low budget direct to video fare. This was at about the same time b-movies were kind of losing their edge. 1989 was not a particularly strong year for cinema.

Joseph Merhi was a lot like Golan and Globus at Cannon in that they came over from another country with the sole purpose of creating entertainment like that which they grew up on. No agenda, no ulterior motives. PM Entertainment started from much the same place Cannon Films did, a place of putting product before anything else. And they very quickly became a machine, just as the Israeli cousins did.

But just because they came from the same place does not automatically mean they would be putting out works of similar quality. In fact, PM's earliest work from 1989 through about 1991 was about at the level of Cannon's worst from when they also started up. And given that Cannon's 1989 material was anything but them at their best you don't have a company anywhere near coming close to them. It was a rough start for PM.

Indeed, I started a mini-series on Cannon Cruisers about PM Entertainment, and in the very first episode I covered about three different movies each from a different period in their run. The first I discussed, 1989's Shotgun, is abysmal. The plot is non-existent, the acting is ridiculous, and the action happens in fits and spurts... and rarely at that. It's like a 1970s cop movie, only wrong in every way that counts. It's hard to imagine them coming close to Cannon's best with material like this.

However, the next two PM movies I covered, 1992's Maximum Force and 1995's Rage, were monumental improvements. Watching these two were night and day compared to what came before and were movies Cannon would have died to put out. They were action packed, fun, and thrilling rides, that anyone would have enjoyed. Unfortunately, by that time in the 1990s Cannon was already dead. PM Entertainment was all that remained.

The more important thing to realize is that there was a studio in the 1990s doing what Cannon Films had once did, and no one really remembers that very studio. It's a mystery as to why that is, since the more you look into them the more fascinating they become.

These quotes by writer/director at PM, Richard Munchkin, says everything you need to know about PM Entertainment:

"Everything at PM was driven by the market. Rick and Joe hired this guy named George to become their head of sales. George would go to the market and come back and say, "less nudity, more action," and then he’d meet with a buyer from a different country and he would say, "more sex, less violence." So you were just in this crazy world of being told conflicting information constantly. The bottom line was that he was constantly coming back requesting more action, more action, more action. "Can you kill people in different ways? Can we start blowing things up? Can we have bigger stunts." The rule eventually became that somebody had to either be shooting, chasing, or fighting every seven minutes, and, if it was quicker than that, even better."
"The budgets back then were around 350,000 dollars. If Cannon had made something like Ring of Fire, for instance, the budget would have been 2-3 million. Working with really low budgets, as a director, forced me to learn how to shoot really fast. You had to design your day with speed in mind. It wasn’t about "What is the best way to tell the story," it was "how can I shoot 11 pages in one day." It prepared me really well to do television."
"PM never had any desire or care about social good. It wasn’t about promoting female action stars or Asian American action stars. It was always about the bottom line: can I sell it?"

Pure entertainment, and giving the audience what they wanted was what mattered. The strange part was that they actually did get better and better as they went. It turns out that the audience wanted better quality, because they delivered that, too. Their later movies were leagues beyond where they started at.

PM made a deal with HBO to supply movies for them, back when this was a newer thing for them, and this gave PM a leg up. They were just cranking them out one after the other, and their momentum only allowed improvement. Throughout the 1990s they put out some of the most action-packed movies you might not have watched. Starring names you might remember include Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock, Wings Hauser, Jack Scalia, and Traci Lords, among many others. They might not have been the A-list, but audiences didn't really care. Entertainment was entertainment. Brand name stars are irrelevant if they don't offer quality thrills.

While action movies were getting more and more procedural and bland in the big leagues, PM was going on like the 1980s never ended. Tough guys, hot women, guns, punches, kicks, and explosions, were what they offered, and people wanted just that. Naturally this made them a good alternative throughout the otherwise generic decade that bottomed out with The Matrix in 1999. They offered far more traditional fare than the mess The Matrix turned the genre into.

Now, I'm sure that will cause controversy, so let me make myself clear. The Matrix isn't technically a bad movie. It did a lot of interesting things for the time, and wasn't like much else on the shelves. However, it is very dated and very much of its a product of its time, from the humorless and dour tone to the self-serious pomp of the entire picture. The movie Dark City managed to do much of what it did, only with less dated computer trickery and more noir influence. It went forgotten while the movie with state-of-the-art CG got all the attention. Take away the gloss and you're left with a plain action movie that is missing some of the core ingredients that makes the genre work.

The Matrix has a lot of faults no one ever mentions. Aside from the hard to look at CG and the rather standard chosen one story with gnostic trappings, there are a few other issues. The movie took the masculinity out of action heroes with weakling Neo (Keanu Reeves could pull off masculinity, see Speed, but the character he plays in this is not masculine), the freewheeling fun of good guys stopping bad guys is stripped away for super-serious speeches and wanton disregard for innocent life. The overabundance of slow motion, needless posing, and typical late '90s lack of aesthetic plagues the film as a relic of its time. Unfortunately, since the late '90s have never really ended it just looks like a worse version of what is also being made today.

That's its biggest fault. It's difficult to appreciate anything the movie did when movies still more less still look exactly the same as The Matrix did even with a 20 year gap from its release. Its influence has never gone away, and we have never moved on.

Either way, the action movie was on life support back at the time. Coincidentally, PM was sputtering out by 2000 and closed its doors in 2002, a whole three years after The Matrix changed the landscape. The classic action movie, solidified in the 1970s and which hit its peak in the 1980s had finally been binned by the industry by the 1990s. The industry had successfully killed the genre.

Unlike when Cannon Films went under at the time PM was hitting its peak in the mid-90s, there was nothing to come in PM's wake. Partially because the industry had changed so much by 2000 that no one could come up in their place. At the same time, the home video market had been totally usurped by big budget studios. B-movies were being squeezed out of the market.

Per Mr. Munchkin and Kathleen Kinmont:

KATHLEEN KINMONT: It was the whole home theater thing, and the transition from tapes to DVDs that did them in. All of a sudden, they had to start competing with a great deal of other 30-40 million dollar films. Plus, I think they were just burnt out. It’s hard work. It’s like working in a restaurant; really long hours and I don’t think they could keep up the steam any longer. 
RICHARD MUNCHKIN: Eventually, the movie studios figured out what was going on. So the studios started making low budget action movies, but what was low budget for them would have Dolph Lungren in a 10 million dollar budget. By that point, PM had moved up to the 1-2 million dollar range, but suddenly the studios were cranking out these films and PM couldn’t compete. The buyers wanted stars. They wanted action but they wanted stars. PM just didn’t have the money to compete anymore, and they were able to sell the company and cash out. I think they were happy to do that.

PM was bought be the Harvey Entertainment Group and was closed less than two years later. The climate had changed too much to continue.

Yes, there was no longer a place for low budget movies when the big studios were in the way shaping what "low budget" meant. B-movies suddenly took on a whole new meaning, copying the super-serious and uptight era of modern Hollywood and smaller budgets. They changed what the little guy could do--and they could no longer directly compete.

I'm not too certain that audiences cared that much about stars, however. After all, not everyone is a star in their first movie, but that "brand" mentality did pave the way to the current remake/reboot culture we are currently in. This is due to conditioning the audience to never expect anything new and outside the framework the big dogs set down. Buy the familiar brand, and stick with it forever. This is what the studios want their customers to think. The term "lifestyle brand" exists for this reason.

But if that was the way it was, the idea that customers wanted name brands and corporate approved stars and nothing else . . . then how did b-movies come to prominence during the 1970s to begin with? Did the audience change the much? If they did . . . how? What caused this shift? As big budget movies were getting blander and blander, putting bombast over fun, (bombing out with the execrable Independence Day in 1996 and the laughable Godzilla in 1998) audiences were suddenly no longer demanding anything else? Especially when this tired studio system cause b-movies to take off to begin with? That's a hard pill to swallow.

Not to mention that this safer big budget blockbuster steadily afforded less and less pop culture cache. These were disposable and forgotten just as quickly as they arrived in cinemas. If it wasn't for adaptions of other writers outside the system such as Tolkien and Rowling then Hollywood wouldn't have had much in the way of hits during the decade to come. The big studio system basically pushed their way to the front, yet again, and elbowed everyone else out of the line. They've been flailing ever since, putting out movies that made the overrated James Cameron Titanic movie look positively daring in comparison.

As a personal example, the last comedy I watched that truly had me rolling with laughter was Tropic Thunder. It was so out of left field, and with an original idea and spin that wasn't very common at the time. In the years since, there has not been a comedy that has managed to elicit a reaction out of me beside eye-rolling at the 453rd improv comedy line about genitals or the 862nd groin hit to a hapless male lead. It's all just so formulaic and empty.

There also have not been much in the way of hits in the genre, either. I can't remember the last comedy that was a huge success. The genre is on life support.

Tropic Thunder came out in 2008, over 12 years ago. Not only that, but there have been attempts in recent years to cancel the people behind it and to slander anyone who enjoys it as some sort of horrible bigot. These people who don't udnerstand comedy are trying to control what you can and cannot enjoy. This movie was a huge hit a little over a decade ago, and not a minor one, and yet now we are pretending it is offensive and those involved should have their lives ruined. All because we o longer understand the comedy genre.

So how did that happen?

How did audiences go from expecting escapism and fun in their entertainment into accepting lukewarm gruel as a replacement? Why are changing audience expectations always conveniently about offering less variety, less fun, and less excitement to the customer? Who is demanding this lunacy?

The '10s might have been the worst decade for cinema there has been so far. I'm not even sure how that can be argued. Not just when it comes to the big tent-pole releases, either, but also for the lack of quality, simple b-movie fun. The joy has been sapped out of film-making and replaced with conveyor belt content. Action movies were stripped of their spirit. After an empty '00s of colorless Jason Bourne knock-offs, all that was left was the same cookie cutter superhero movies in the decade to follow. No one could have fun anymore.

Yes, there were some good superhero movies, but they are not the same thing.

Action movie heroes were always closer to pulp heroes than superheroes. Where they were once protagonists tasked with dispensing justice above the law and saving those that couldn't be saved, they were now just costumed brand names operating in vague ways that coincidentally meant supporting the failing societal systems which led to their current predicaments to begin with. Heroes do kill, but superheroes always have a vague and ill-defined excuse not to. There is no heroism in letting a murderer free to murder. These are not action movie protagonists.

It isn't to say there aren't some good films in this mold, but they have gotten beyond tiresome and have been the only option for action for near a decade. And they have solidified the idea that superheroes are just the postmodern version of pulp heroes.

One fights for higher ideals, the other for ill-defined ends that somehow always involve complacency and uniform thought acceptable to mainstream thought. The mainstream thought, by the way, that allows such villains to exist to begin with. That's not a hero: that's brown-shirting for the broken modern world nobody likes. That's why so few satisfy anymore.

Action movies represented more than brand loyalty: they were about the greatness of the common man, the importance of justice, and with an emphasis on creative thrills. These are three things modern superheroes do not offer. How can they when they are treated as little more than religion replacement for a lot of the fanatics who indulge in them? They are a cultural dead end. There's nowhere to go from here.

But that is what the pulp revolution is for.

There are new creators committed to bringing back this abandoned style of storytelling to those who are missing it, and attracting new customers who have never had the opportunity to experience it before. It's hard to imagine, but the '90s have been over for 20 years, and PM Entertainment has been closed down for almost as long. We've been trapped in this same era for so long that it feels commonplace. But it shouldn't. It's been enough time to admit things aren't working, so taking another path is necessary to move forward again.

The big studios and publishers might have abandoned the field after clearing it of opposing players, but NewPub is on the way to fill the gap. There is no shortage old good stuff to be found out there, as long as you know where to look.

I'm going to continue Cannon Cruisers to document exactly how much has changed from that era, and what we can learn from it. But at the same time I plan on continuing creating and delivering new experiences to an audience looking to be entertained.

It might be late, but its never too late. This ride never ends.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Paint Worship

There's been much that has happened over the past five months, 2020 has been an insane year so far, and it doesn't seem poised to peak anytime soon. The '20s are not fooling around. Don't expect normality to return anytime soon.

One of the things that has radically shifted in recent times is the trust people have in corporations. It is now nearly nonexistent, at least among the general public. However, many consumers still put brands created by said corporations on a pedestal, and refuse to abandon them for greener pastures. They hate and love them at the same time, but only the normal people have learned to walk away. It's a bit of a conundrum, but I believe people are beginning to understand this ridiculous dichotomy of simultaneously trusting and being suspicious of corporations.

There is more to art than what corporate stamp is put on the box. We all know this, but it is beginning to settle in as an inescapable reality for the fringe among us.

As one example, there was a recent viral video of a "lost" anime from back in the 1980s that found its way onto social media. It wasn't a real anime, but an opening and endings credit sequence designed by one man over an eight year period. He matched aesthetics, music, and artstyle, perfectly with what was made during the era, and at the same time created something wholly original that did not come out during the period. He also constructed some commercials that would have aired at the time, too. In other words, he created exactly what a lot of weebs had been complaining for years. A return to tradition, done without any interference from suits.

However, the reveal of Kodai Senkaku Genocider was not quite as successful as it could and should have been. While anyone who saw it was impressed and wanted more, weebs as a whole did not so much bother as share it across social media. It's range was limited. Author Rawle Nyanzi speculates why that was in a recent blog post:

"This is something I’ve noticed quite a bit — content based on legacy brands and corporate product gets the most attention, while talented original work is largely ignored. Furthermore, this happens even when legacy brands drop the ball and many people online complain. 
"At first, I thought it was because original work wasn’t made with the same level of skill as corporate work, but this animation demonstrates a very high level of skill. The buzz just isn’t as big as it should be, with retweets only in the hundreds, while redraws of legacy brands are retweeted and shared to hell and back. 
"I have a guess as to why this occurs: the complainers don’t actually want something new. They just want their favorite old brand to come back."

What Mr. Nyanzi is saying is that there is a disorder at play here. A segment of weebs that say they actually want a return to this sort of thing just want the same brands over and over again. They don't want new things done in the same style as the old. They don't want tradition to carry on to new things: they just desire endless rehashes in the same corporate branding.

There is some truth to this. All one has to do is look online to see where the conversation lies in "geek" circles. It is either nostalgia, or endless obsession over irrelevant social issues. No one is discussing the actual stories.

It isn't as if the corporations don't share a blame in this pandering. Disney's recent takes on legacy brands have gotten showered in press, attention, and controversy. However nothing else in pop culture has gotten remotely the attention that they have. Even if they release divisive junk, they will still receive endless coverage while actual creators striving to make new things are ignored. Written a new space opera? Who cares, there's no Disney logo on the box or copyright from 1977. Have a new take on superheroes? There's no Marvel or DC branding, so who cares. Some people put more stock into image than in quality, and it is hurting modern art as a whole.

We can't escape this cycle of corporate worship instead of discussing actual art. It just won't end.

In a sense we have been trained to believe brand logos are a marker of quality for decades, despite recent history showing that this is a very wrong attitude to have. Still it persists unchallenged and unquestioned. Though, in some areas of the world, such as Japan, there is a reason for this loyalty. They still haven't quite fumbled the ball yet.

Their corporate structure pumps new things through the system so fast that audiences hardly have time to breathe before the next thing comes out. What this ends up creating is a culture of endless mush with some gold nuggets sprinkled inside. It's still better than how it works in the west, but it won't last forever.

Author Bradford Walker added in his two cents to this issue:

"Now, with a quarterly level of frequency promoting disposability and an emphasis on Muh Waifus to push merch and tie-in products (and get butts in seats for live events like concerts by the voice cast), while you do get big hits you also get a disdain for anything not current and scorn for anything older than 2000; very little has the lasting impact of Zeta Gundam, and certain genres and styles get favored due to extensive A/B testing via things like Shounen Jump's ranking system by the readership at the detriment of long-term overall cultural fertility. This has long-term implications and we'll see soon how bad this gets. 
"The tools to disrupt anime production are present, and one-man projects like Astartes and Otaking's Star Wars and Doctor Who short fan films are Proof of Concept that a determined creator can compete on quality. The issue, therefore, is the audience; they are long accustomed to the established way of doing things and find no reason to change away from that. 
"A large part of that reluctance does come from the fact that, to date, this corporate infrastructure actually works as intended for the benefit of the audience. If there is a flaw to be had here, it is a blind faith that this system performs good stewardship and cannot degenerate into mindlessly pleasing the most insistent (who become like Veruka Salt) or be gamed to produce desired outcomes- states that should be guarded against."

The long and short of it is that there is a system in place that rewards delivering reliable product that actually works, at least to an extent. Because of this atmosphere there isn't as much of a demand for this sort of retro idea like Genocider to gain traction. It has little to do with how good the product is, and more to do with the fact that consumers just aren't really thinking about what they're consuming. In a way it isn't quite so different as what is happening in the west.

However, there are a few questions that this Genocider project does raise, especially for those who have wondered why anime went off the track in the mid-00s. It shows a love of things that have been lost and cast away for no real reason. Sure, anime has recovered much of its missing mojo recently, but the question remains: how much was lost?

One glance at the video for Genocider brings up all sorts of questions. Why couldn't something like this get made now? For reference, this is the video in question:

The fact that this could be done by one man, even over a large time period is a bit of a gut punch. At this point you have to ask yourself that if one person could do this, why were teams and studios . . . not? This Tokusatsu style adventure drama was popular throughout the '70s, '80s, and '90s, even a bit into the early '00s, before it completely vanished. Perhaps the loss of the original wave of anime creators caused it, but that still doesn't explain the lack of tradition being passed down. Thankfully these sorts of animated Tokusatsu series never suffered through overrated and tired deconstructions like Mecha or Magical Girl did over the years, but it just sort of disappeared. You can say the audience no longer wanted it, but something doesn't suddenly vanish after 30+ years without outside interference.

Genocider adds a fresh wrinkle to this classic genre by having a large cast of varied characters of both sexes and varied ages that makes it quite different from something like Ronin Warriors, Bubbelegum Crisis, or Armored Police Metal Jack. It is clear that there is some interpersonal drama between this vast cast that would add quite a bit to the proceedings. Despite that it still feels congruent with the tradition that existed before. You get this impression from both the opening and ending themes, which also sound closer to Retrowave than they do songs that came out in the '80s or '90s. This is a long way to say that this is a great idea for a project that should be getting more attention from anime watchers than it is.

Even the artstyle and design takes influence from every decade before it from 90s style armor designs and action, '80s style direction and music, and '00s style character designs, it offers a best of all worlds approach while looking completely original. One could even theoretically create merchandise quite easily based on what has been created here by Defrost, the creator. There is a lot of potential in this property, money waiting to be made.

They don't make 'em like this anymore, but they still should. There is much left in that gas tank, but since the industry gets just as much disposable money from idols, moe, and porn merch, they don't really need to bother appealing to wider audiences.

But, hey, you might be saying. Things are better than ever! You have Demon Slayer, My Hero Academia, and World Trigger, among others. Action series can still be good. Is that not enough for you?

There's nothing wrong with any of those series. I actually like those three in particular a good deal, for instance. The greater point here is that we don't need to be content with only new stuff or old stuff. We can have both. Industries should grow as they age, not contract. There should be more options over time, not less. So why aren't we allowed both of these things? We are we stuck with one or nothing?

This situation is reminiscent of the 32-bit generation of video game consoles. There was nothing stopping companies from expanding on what they did with 2D a generation before in addition to trying new things with 3D. We could have had both, but companies like Sony sabotaged 2D instead, and game journalists did nothing but tear into 2D games for being 2D games, and left the medium near death. It was buried and savaged so badly that it took two generation to return, and even then it wasn't quite what it once was. This whole event was unnecessary, and it has left 2D struggling to move in new directions since. All this because new creators have to build a new basement level as a support thanks to the old one being burned down long ago.

So, as a customer, why should I have to put with this behavior from a corporation that is no longer giving me what I want? Because some company made the decision for me without asking, I stopped getting what I wanted. I never asked them for this change, but it happened regardless. It is very reminiscent of why OldPub is dying, actually.

It's about time we stop letting them tell us what we are allowed and not allowed to have. We're in an age where we can have options for better things. We don't need to settle for less any longer.

My message to the creator of Kodai Senkaku Gencider, Defrost, would be to do what ONE did with his web series One Punch Man. Start with manga where you don't need to rely on a large team or investors. Create the series on your own, then have the companies come to you when you've made it great. This is a fantastic idea with plenty of future potential, so don't rely on fandom or corporations to make it success. Do it yourself. Attention will come eventually, as long as it offers what people are missing. The sad truth is that some people will only give it a second look if it has a corporate stamp on it, regardless of its quality.

The fact that he even needs corporate backing to give his idea any sort of "validity" is only true with a certain segment of fandom who will only buy things with the right paint job on it. Their obsessive focus on the color scheme has blinded them from the ability to see the engine underneath. How good a piece of art is goes beyond the corporate labeling on the box.

For instance, I trust anything that Sunrise put out back in their glory days. They had a quality staff and created some great properties in the '70s, '80s, '90s, and early '00s. It was hit after hit and classic after classic for such a long time that it would be hard to deny they were a quality company. They earned trust, and that put stock in their brand that they knew what they were doing. If I picked up a Sunrise series from that era, it was guaranteed to be worth my time.

But eventually the staff began to move on or retire, and their replacements just didn't have the same spark the old guys had. They stopped creating what the wider audience wanted. Sunrise's track record became so spotty in the second half of the '00s and into the '10s that I no longer look at the Sunrise name as a marker of quality. Just because the series has their name doesn't mean I trust it will be quality any longer. That ship has sailed. As it should--if you aren't making quality then your brand image should suffer for that. No one should be buying it based on past successes or for fandom clout.

It works the other way, too. If an upstart studio like MAPPA starts creating quality, even with ex-Madhouse staff at the helm, people will begin to trust them if they grow a quality library. After making a string of quality hits such as Kids on the Slope, Hajime no Ippo: Rising, Terror in Resonance, Garo, Rage of Bahamut, Ushio & Tora, Vanishing Line, Banana Fish, Dororo, and the recent hit Dorohedoro, they have earned a lot of trust. They aren't always perfect, but you know you're getting something of quality if you see the MAPPA studio brand.

MAPPA has earned the trust they get.

But that won't last forever. When they slip, for whatever reason, and begin making subpar material, customers will instead find something else they want instead. Which they should.

On the flip-side we have people worshiping a space opera franchise that has largely been trash since the 1990s, rewarding companies for incessant and inferior remakes of what they did decades ago, and celebrating a dying comic industry for being unable to grow in over 30 years. Things have stagnated so much that it seems strange that there are those so resistant to trying anything new, even if it means going back to tradition. We can at least thank Japan for not quite being at that level just yet.

That won't always be the case. If there is one thing the modern world is good at doing that would be decaying. It's only a matter of time.

Pop culture has moved from being a celebration of things that unite us into being the focus of celebration itself. People will read a Marvel comic and assume it is good because they read a good run of Spiderman 25 years ago that made them feel warm, not being able to objectively assess it as lacking the quality and polish of what the brand once put out. It doesn't matter if none of the same people who made said Spiderman comic good are even still at the company--it has the brand name so it will be bought over anything new. This blind worship overrides all logic and instead becomes a religion for lost youth and better days.

At that point, you're worshiping paint. You're not even doing it well, since you're avoiding looking at the faded colors and instead applying a new coat with cheap floor paint. It's no longer about stories or imagination, or what is under the hood. Heck, it's not even about mindless merchandise hoarding anymore. It's about redirecting your sense of religious self towards a corporate logo as if it were a god. Blindly consuming everything with brand name and assessing it has to be good because of the moniker on the box is how you get cultish behavior. Hence, the pop cult that currently surrounds us today.

The loss of objective assessment is why we have so many people still putting out youtube videos on a bad space movie nearing three years old, both asserting how brilliant it was for not being on brand and chasing audiences away, and the other still arguing its poor, subversive quality. At no point do either one of these camps think to watch or read anything outside of the brand instead. The logo puts it above all that other junk--don't ask why, it just does. The brand is everything, it is life, love, and existence itself.

So pop culture rots away, new creators are unable to create, and lazy companies still get all the attention for things that were made decade ago. Everyone who is sane loses while cultists are driven deeper into obsession.

And no, it wasn't always like that. Your ancestors didn't worship brands like we do. They would move on to new things. Why can't newer generations?

The influential magazine Weird Tales ended, and they moved on. Some fanatics would try to revive the moniker many times over the decades, despite no one involved having anything to do with its original success. However, these new attempts would always bomb. Its time had passed and the audience moved on to new things, as they should.

If that happened today we would all keep buying the issues, half saying how horrible the original run was and the other half ranting about how much the new stuff is inferior to the old. But if a new magazine came out that was as good as Weird Tales was at its peak these same camps would ignore it because it does not have brand or nostalgia on its side, and the brand is everything, not quality. Quality is irrelevant. This is how you get a mess like the one pop culture is in now. No one can move on from their youth.

Eventually paint worship is going to have to disappear, and we're going to learn to put things where they belong. Storytelling is about the story, not the brand name on the box. Creating quality should be enough without needing the backing of a billion dollar corporation that commands unearned clout from the work of dead generations. It's about the story, and we would do well to remember that. Brands mean nothing without quality.

So while the '20s have started out quite insane there is a silver-lining in that it is a start for something new to come along. We can only hope it will be better than where we're at, and will allow us to move beyond worshiping paint into something more normal once again.

Keep creating, no matter what they say.

Hey, it can only go up from here.