Saturday, August 29, 2020

Ghosts Never Die

Not too long ago I read and reviewed the book Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix. It was a look at the horror boom in pocket paperbacks from the 1970s through to the early '90s and illustrated just how badly OldPub screwed the pooch on an entire genre that was as wild as it was weird. Inside the book, Mr. Hendrix highlighted some of the more obscure works to come of the era and managed to illustrate, if not fully by intention, just how much a pulp mindset influenced these works and allowed them to do whatever they wanted.

It was a fascinating read and something I am sure to return to in the future. I highly recommended Paperbacks from Hell back then, and I still do now. Should you have any interest in genre fiction them it is a blast.

A funny thing happened not long after the publication of that book. There became a craving for these forgotten novels lost to time and due to poor curation of OldPub's back catalog. Valancourt Books then created a whole line centered around this era, based on Grady Hendrix's work, highlighting the classic covers (and even creating whole new ones in the old style when applicable!) and the shorter, punchier, pulp lengths showed just how different an era this was from today. Currently, the line is at 13 releases, and appears to be very successful as when the second wave came out they claimed it was the most popular thing they ever did. Here's hoping to its continued success.

I even reviewed one of the books in the line, Nightblood by T. Chris Martindale, and thought it was an absolute blast. If you have any love for the horror genre, or of vampires, then you absolutely should seek it out. It is a crime that this was allowed to fall out of print for so long. It also makes me hopeful that the rest of his works will be made available again, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. If nothing else, this line of re-releases should be commended for digging up forgotten gems like Nightblood and allowing those of us who missed it back at its initial release a chance to rectify that mistake, and those who weren't even alive an opportunity to visit a completely different world. And I don't just mean a fictional world.

But Valancourt Books can't release everything from back then, nor should they be expected to. That is simply an impossible task, not to mention that some of those works can actually still be found for a good price in used shops and online. Unlike the pulp works from before the 1960s, these are relatively newer and can still be acquired in decent shape and in plentiful number. I myself have found a few and I didn't have to go nearly as far out of my way as I had to do to find certain pulp works. So at least they have an ease of availability to them.

Today, I wanted to talk about one book in particular that struck my fancy that contains some of the strengths and weaknesses of the horror genre from that time period. I wanted to do this to highlight the difference, not only from the pulp era that preceded it but also from where the genre would eventually end up to where it today. There is quite a gap, and we can bridge it right here. So without further ado, let us jump into this mass market paperback from hell.

Back in 1985, author Stephen Laws wrote his very first novel, Ghost Train which came out during peak popularity of the genre. I chose to read this one after I found a description of it in Paperbacks in Hell, and the cover looked so striking that I just had to give it a chance. There isn't much information about this book online, for whatever reason, so I was more or less going in blind. In other words, it was very much like finding the book on a spinner rack back in the day and picking it up with little more than a recommendation and being intrigued by the description. This made it a pretty good sample of what it would be like to read it back then.

So what is Ghost Train like? Let us finally get to it.

The original cover

The description is as follows:

Something monstrous is riding on the King's Cross train.

Something is stalking the corridors, preying on the passengers. And very soon, when it has fed on enough souls, it will embark... on the world.

Mark Davies knows that horror. It attacked and threw him from the train. Ex-policeman Les Chadderton is obsessed with the murders and suicides on the East Coast mainline. His wife had been among the victims.

Together they must board the Ghost Train and face their own fears made real, travelling on a one-way ticket on the Nightmare Express...

The book is around 375 pages and is divided into three parts with the middle one being the longest, and the last containing the final climax. It's very tightly structured for what it wants to get across, which makes sense because the story is straightforward. It was Laws' first book in a career that spanned many more well known works to come such as Spectre, The Wyrm, and The Frighteners. He would go on to be quite the successful horror author not long after his debut during the peak popularity of the horror boom. However, I haven't read those ones, and this is my first experience with the author, so let us continue with Ghost Train.

First, the strengths. Ghost Train's horrors are suitably spooky and disturbing, and when there is action it is very fast-paced, clear, and sharp. Laws, even for his first book, already knew what people were here for: they wanted good people to overcome evil threats and they wanted the tale to be told as clear cut as possible. There is much of that pulp flair in this book, with each part escalating in threats until the final face-off on the titular train which ends in a supernatural battle of wills on the living demon train. That isn't a spoiler since it's basically in the title of the book. This is what you're signing up for when you open it up. Nonetheless, the setup is simple and obvious, but the execution is what makes it work. It's a testament to Laws' budding skills at the time that it kept me returning to the book to see just where this would all end up.

For a horror novel from the 1980s it is not quite in the Stephen King mold of "well-detailed and described evil against flat, doomed protagonist" that the era was known for, even if it is undeserved. There were plenty of works that didn't fall into that niche. Instead this is a tale of good against evil where good deserves to win, and evil deserves to lose. It's straightforward, but it works as it should. And it succeeds. Mostly.

What Laws has that King doesn't, at least in this book, is a clear moral vision. The heroes are normal people attempting to battle their own demons as well as the one before them, but they are not despicable bastards you want to see die, or couldn't care less if they did. You don't hate them, in fact you want them to succeed. This is the way it should be.

The evil in Ghost Train is presented as primal, a force brought about by pre-Christian ignorance of spirits brought to today and doing battle with a post-modern ignorance of Christianity. The evil could easily be defeated if anyone really believed it existed, and used the tools they were given to fight it, but we'd gotten too lazy to really even understand that evil exists. This is the crux of the book--that evil is allowed to flourish due to the slothful nature of modern man. It's only by getting past that barricade can we even hope to stand a chance. 

There is a typical modernist Anglican priest in the book that represents this idea quite well, much better than the one King used in 'Salem's Lot, because his faith is irrelevant to the problem at hand. Good isn't a faucet that can be turned off in the face of evil, it's still there and it still works whether you understand it or not. As it should be. It's something I wish more horror books still did, especially from that time period where concepts were so wild and weird. The greater the horror in your story, the great the good should be to combat it, thereby raising the stakes and the entire story in the process. It's just a win/win for everyone involved.

Laws gets a lot right for his first book, which makes it doubly annoying when he gets something wrong. And there are some notable flaws that I just can't overlook.

As mentioned before, there are three parts to the book, each escalating in threat to the finale. This promises good pacing, and there is good pacing . . . at times. The fact of the matter is that for a 375 page book there are around 100 pages that could be excised entirely to make this a better, almost all of which are contained in the first two parts. Were it trimmed to 275 pages and closer to a pulp length work it would jump up an entire level. The book, unfortunately, dilutes itself because of a length it just shouldn't have and can't sustain.

Even worse, the most egregious examples of fluff all take place very early in the book which can turn off a lot of readers. There was far too much that should have been culled in the editing process. I know I was getting tired of slogging through repetitive and slow material and, if it wasn't for the general concept and choppy build up, might have put the book away. Considering what it takes to make me shelve a book that's saying something.

The first part is titled Mark and is mainly about the first protagonist. We start with our reveal of Mark Davies as he awakens from bad dreams that have come to him ever since he was thrown from a train not so long ago. The story starts by telling us everything about him as he is recovering and seeing his therapist. At the same time the plot is interspersed with small stories of bizarre happenings around the same train where people are both attacked by odd shadows or suffering from bouts of unexplained insanity. The very beginning actually isn't a bad start, and it gets to the action quick while setting up stakes before you've barely begun to breathe.

But then it keeps going and repeating itself.

After the opening there are long, interminable stretches of the same thing happening over and over. For 100+ pages. Mark has a bad dream, sees his therapist, sulks with his wife and daughter, some random person might be killed by the train, and repeat. The only real important diversion in this slog being a small story as a child when he was with his friend Robbie and they discovered an evil person. This event comes into play at different points later on. If you take that tiny story, make it the prologue, and cut most of the repetition that came after the beginning, it would go a long way to making the story more powerful and less choppy.

This problem is highlighted further with the second part entitled Chadderton, named after the second protagonist just introduced. His backstory is revealed instantly and quickly and is only ever touched on afterwards when necessary to the plot later on. Compared to Mark it is a drop in the bucket, and yet somehow he still attains the same level of depth as the man we were with for over 100 pages. It almost makes you wonder why the second part is even called Chadderton since he barely has, or needs, the focus that Mark had in the first section.

This just makes what happens in the first part seem even more pointless since so much of it just wasn't necessary, especially when only Mark and Chadderton are integral to the second and third parts and no one else that was introduced earlier aside from some villains. If Chadderton can get by with a quick backstory, and he does, there is no reason Mark needed so much space for himself along with so many characters that just simply didn't matter. Aside from the first victims that establish the tone and the threat, the rest were just needless filler. And that's the biggest problem with Ghost Train--it needed a harder edit and a pulpier focus to match its stronger parts.

The second section's problem is more cosmetic compared to the first. Those earlier chapters with random one-off characters killed by the train? They still keep happening, even long after we've already established the threat. Not to mention they come after long stretches in part one where we randomly stopped seeing them, thereby making it feel like padding to make the book longer. There are several unnecessary cutaways to one-off characters that feel superfluous in the second part that dilute from the urgency of the main characters' discovering this unfolding threat and learning to trust each other. It's a shame because when the story focuses on the two of them it is some of the strongest material in the book. We already know the threat is bad, we do not need to be shown it every second chapter, especially when there are a group of villains already demonstrating it.

The third part is practically flawless in how it allows everything to come to a head, though the characters that aren't Mark and Chadderton have a problem of not feeling necessary to the plot. Some are unceremoniously killed almost as if it didn't matter that they were even there in the first place. If you have a character in the story they should exist for a reason. There are at least two that might as well not even have been there since they add nothing to the plot.

The only other fault I can offer is that the story doesn't end so much as it stops. The climax of the plot is riveting and intense, but then the story keeps going a bit longer before a realization is made before an unnecessary hint is given that perhaps everything isn't settled, even though there's no reason it shouldn't be. It's an attempt at an "Is it really over?" ending that has no purpose being there when it should instead be about the character making up for a past mistake and winning in the end. We don't learn about what happens to a couple of characters that weren't on the train, nor the fate of a ghostly being that pops up briefly for a few scenes, or just what ends up happening to the train itself after the chaos subsides. The story just stops in an unsatisfying manner as if the editor decided it was finally long enough to let the writer end it.

Again, however, it is difficult to be too hard on a first novel when you know the author went on to do much more that people loved afterwards. I'm also not sure how much of this was simply not caught by an editor because they wanted fat books to sell for higher prices instead of letting pulpy works be what they are meant to be. It's a mystery.

I say this because when Ghost Train works it works very well. With a more ruthless editor the book would have been slimmer, punchier, tougher, and a lot more memorable and possibly more popular. But as we all know, pulp was a bad word in OldPub at the time and continues to be one up to the modern day. And now they are feeling the result of abandoning an entire style of writing. Stories should just be what they are, pulp or not.

As a result, Ghost Train is just good, but could have been more. It has a clear moral vision, accurately depicts horror, and knows that action is important. That is more than you can say for NewPub books released these days. When it works, it works very well.

You just have to know what you're getting into.

The most recent cover

Despite the downs in my experience reading Ghost Train, the ups were enough to make me want to read more from Stephen Laws, especially since I know he will improve as an author. But warts or not, I still had a good time with the book and would like to read more. That is the mark of a good story, even when flawed.

I also am interested in continuing my journey through the paperback fountain that is 1970s/80s horror, since both this and Nightblood have raised the bar from what I had been constantly told the genre was at during the time period. The experience is very much in line with the lies I had been told about the pulps, and so far they seem to be maliciously libeled and unfairly slandered, just as the greats were. The only question is in how many more times am I going to have to make this discovery of overlooked gems? It's getting a bit old learning that all the past things you were taught were garbage turn out to be better than the modern slop you are told is good.

Thankfully, these books are a lot easier to find than most of the pulps were, and I've already found a few for myself to read in the future. There is more than enough to go around. Now I just need to find myself an old fashioned spinner rack to put them on in order to make the entire strange experience complete!

Ghost Train is a good read, but not a great one. Nonetheless, I still recommend finding these types of '70s/'80s horror books when the opportunity arrives, especially if you are an avid writer or reader of pulp style fiction. They have a lot more to offer than you've been told they have, and they contain much the genre does not offer now, especially in the mainstream where they have been diluted to little more than thrillers with a ghost killing morally grey people instead of the human stabbing morally grey people mainstream thriller material offers. The old works are an entirely different universe from what you get today.

You'd be surprised at what these paperbacks from hell offer, and it is more than you'd been told. My recommendation is to give them a shot when you can. You never know what gem you might find hidden out in the minefield of old horror. It's a treasure trove.

But that's part of the fun, isn't it? It's a wonderful and weird world out there with surprises at every turn. Maybe what is out there going bump in the night isn't a monster at all, but something far more? Who knows? It's possible.

There's only one way to find out.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Wretched Sons and Exploding Stars!

*NOTE* The usual Thursday post will be out on Saturday!
Find it Here!

Welcome back! As mentioned above, the usual big post has been moved to Saturday this week. Don't worry, I still have a treat for you in this not quite so big one.

Today I wanted to do a highlight for a book that just came out! The subject in question would be the new book by action adventure author Jon Mollison entitled Wretched Son.

Jon has been a big supporter and contributor in the new wave of pulp-inspired writers for the last few years, and every story he puts out is full of energy. This new one is no different! Check it out for yourself and see.

The description is below:


Take a ride through a different sort of apocalypse. A world on the verge of forging a better tomorrow, or repeating all the same old mistakes. And the fate of the world to come rests on the shoulders of a young boy as uncertain of his future as the world in which he fights to survive.

 Jump in today for another good time. Once again, you can find it Here!

But that's not all for today! Here's a bonus.

Find it Here!

Tangentially related, author Jon Del Arroz recently put out a space opera book of his own! I told you before: pulp never sleeps.

The description is here:

A deep conspiracy upends a civilization…

…which could cost the lives of billions.

The war rages on between Earth and Arysha, even after the death of a prominent Aryshan leader.

Sean Barrows is sent into Aryshan space a second time to gain details on their fleet movements and objectives, but he has a greater goal in mind: find the love of his life. But a major threat looms for everyone: a new fleet of Aryshan ships which can go unseen and launch deadly stealth attacks. Can two civilizations survive?

Fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Earthrise by Daniel Arenson will love The Stars Asunder!

You can find The Stars Asunder by Jon Del Arroz Here!

The usual longer post might have been delayed until Saturday, but I do hope you enjoy these new release until then. Unless we support smaller and upcoming creators, the landscape will never change. But the revolution is here, we've just got to give it space to run wild. NewPub can't be stopped!

So, I hope I have gotten across that there is plenty of good stuff out there, and still on the way! This might be the longest summer ever, but it doesn't have to be the worst. There are creators dedicated to making it better, and they're not planning to quit anytime soon.

So check them out!


Saturday, August 22, 2020

Signal Boost ~ Misha Burnett's "Endless Summer" Kickstarter!

Find it Here!

The summer isn't over yet, and plenty of creators still have new projects out and about for you to take a gander at! It's been a busy year, and it's only looking to get busier.

Today we're looking at a joint release between the good folks at Cirsova Publishing and Nu Wave author Misha Burnett: a short story collection currently being crowdfunded as we speak. For anyone plugged into the pulp world you know why this is a big deal! Misha Burnett is a pulp author with tons of great stories under his belt, and Cirsova has been on a publishing storm these past few years cranking out excellent collections and the always appreciated magazine swimming in the newest writers of adventure and wonder.

That's a long way to see that you're in for a good time when either are involved in a project.

The description:

"Misha Burnett is a master of the macabre and champion of the New Wave. His talent for tales runs the gamut of weird fiction from contemporary Urban Fantasy to Sword & Sorcery to Science Fiction, all with his unique (and slightly twisted) take!

"Misha Burnett's Endless Summer is a collection of strange and chilling tales of Mankind's future, near and distant, from tomorrow until beyond the mark of history, through Civilization's zenith, decline, destruction, and ultimately, Mankind's rebirth! 

"Cirsova Publishing invites you to embark on an incredible and breathtaking journey across the ages, beginning with the time-travel thriller from the pages of Cirsova magazine, The Bullet from Tomorrow, and running through eleven original stories that hold up a mirror to the worst and, more importantly, the best that humanity has to offer! Plus, a foreword by rising pulp star Schuyler Hernstrom (Thune's Vision, Eye of Sounnu)!"

Once more, you can find it here!

There is available as an ebook, trade paperback, and hardcover version as well as many different extras in different tiers to select from. Be sure to choose what interests you the most before supplies run out. They tend to in these sorts of crowdfunds.

That's all for today! The summer's not over yet, so who knows what else is on the way. Pulp never sleeps, after all! It only gets stronger and stronger by the day.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

When the Vultures Came


Nostalgia for the past in this pit we call the present has more or less reached a ridiculous place that it should never have reached. It's gotten to such cartoonish levels our ancestors could never have predicted. We will pine for anything. One glance at the above image should tell you exactly what I'm referring to. We spout our undying love for institutions that helped destroy the things we love, seemingly oblivious to the truth of it.

Anyone with any fond memories of pre-90s pop culture knows that Blockbuster deserves no sympathy or love, never mind nostalgic remembrance. However, everything created before 2001 is given extensive attention due to the role (no matter how small) they had in better days than the ones we are currently living in. It is understandable, even if it has become a crutch for many.

However, there are things that don't quite deserve your pleasant memories or warm feelings, or at least the product or establishment itself doesn't. Nostalgia for events around those things will always be genuine, but that doesn't change the fact that the source of all those pleasant memories might be corrupt. In the case of Blockbuster, it was a tool used by Hollywood to more or less destroy an industry of competition and created the climate we live in.

Blockbuster was supported by the major movie studios to forcibly wrestle the home video format from the hands of mom and pop stores and make sure that only their product was left on the shelves. Essentially, Blockbuster killed independent filmmaking as a career aspiration by leaving filmmakers with no distribution while at the same time only offering customers a bland, corporate, safe McDonalds image of the rental industry to wash away the fact that they were made to control your tastes and funnel your interests. It's a lot like OldPub, AAA gaming, and the dead modern music industry. And just like their eventual deaths, Blockbuster's death a decade ago was a good thing--too bad it was just to put Netflix in its place and deal critical blows to physical media and customer ownership rights. Make no mistake--this is where they wanted the industry to go.

Blockbuster might be dead but Netflix is the new weapon for Hollywood to corral tastes into one place, even though it is nowhere near as prominent as it once was, and after it dies something else will come up. That's just the nature of the beast. None of that means Blockbuster wasn't complicit in an industry's destruction, however.

However, even now if you look up the history of video stores online you will find endless articles and videos talking solely about Blockbuster, the soothing memories surrounding it, and how it ruled the roost, but nothing about what it was like before they came around. Perhaps you are too young to remember, but there was a whole better world around before they charged in to wreck the house and burn it down. The rental industry was a much different beast before Blockbuster, and it was much more interesting on top of it.

The fact is that the video rental store wasn't around for very long in the grand scheme of things, but the brief window when it was allowed to live was quite the time. This is why it is a shame that is being wallpapered over with corporate-endorsed nostalgia instead.

I recently watched a documentary named VHS Massacre which aimed to talk about the death of physical media in relation to the death of video stores. The documentary makers interviewed a bunch of people involved in the independent scene from the time, as well as newer creators today (or at the time of the documentary) to discuss the changes. They talk about the bigger studios and what exactly changed in the industry since the 1980s when VHS and the possibility of owning physical copies of movies became a reality for the first time ever.

There were already a few similar documentaries about that era, but none that really tried to focus on the stores themselves or their impact on independents and the big studios, never mind on physical media and ownership. Most were more interested on quirky personalities and niches, and not so much the bigger picture. This documentary has a few faults of its own, but the more ambitious scope tends to make it more interesting than the others, and less self-involved.

As long as a version of home video products existed there have been rental shops to stock them, but they only began to pop up the late 1970s in North America. Even then they weren't that affordable. Studios would license their films out in order to let stores rent them out to patrons, and the industry ballooned out from there. Considering the cost of tapes in that time period (they only really became affordable to outright buy in the 1990s), rental stores were the best ways to watch movies in the comfort of your own home and not have to break the bank.

Because cable was still not a factor in the television landscape, and wouldn't be for years (Now that I think about it: cable's influence didn't last very long either, did it?) movies were the go-to form of disposable entertainment of the 1980s. It's hard to deny it when you see just what the b-movie landscape was at the time even compared to big budget movies. If you wanted cheap and quick entertainment the best place to be was a rental store. Friday nights at the video store was just as busy as the cinema. Soon enough, with the emergence of Nintendo and Sega into the video game console market, video games followed by the late '80s to give the stores even more product to rent out. These companies made deals with the mom and pop stores in order to supply the shelves, and with all the content, there were no shortage of options.

However, this also meant that since every store was its own entity that meant they could also carry their own library of products. Every single rental store had its own lineup of moves and games based on whatever the owner chose to stock. This meant that if you had more than one rental store in your town (and by the mid-90s, even before Blockbuster's explosion over the entire world, everyone had more than one) you could theoretically find vastly different products by going to the different stores around town. Some kids even made a game of it by riding their bikes all over town and looking for that copy of Mortal Kombat on the Genesis that hadn't been rented out yet. Limited copies also meant that grabbing the last copy left and inviting the guys over was a common occurrence.

In other words, the rental shop was a community thing. The above documentary taps into this aspect a bit, though not as much as it should. When it comes to most video store or VHS aficionados, the focus always tends to be more on the nostalgia and certain obscure cliques--not so much on how it affected the local populace and their community.

The Documentary's Cover

This is my biggest issue with most Gen Y nostalgia pieces. They tend to focus more on how it affected them personally as opposed to how much of an impact it had on the wider world and their community. It's always shallow self-love. Life is about more than you, and it's nice to be reminded of that.

As an example, I'm reminded of a documentary on the life of John Hughes made over a decade ago. This was made before he died. This documentary focused more on how the four young filmmakers were influenced by The Breakfast Club and teen movies. The main "plot" centered on them driving around trying to find John Hughes and . . . offer him a slice of pizza. There was nothing in this picture about his friendship with John Candy, any interviews with people close to him, his un-produced screenplays, or the influences that led him to both come into filmmaking and what caused him to retire from the industry when he did. Instead, it was mostly about how the hosts related to the movies and how it shaped who they were.

There is a reason I have forgotten its title and why no one ever speaks of it.

Thankfully, VHS Massacre doesn't really do that (As mentioned earlier, it was the reason I chose to watch this one over several other similar documentaries), though it does touch more on the format of VHS itself other others. This isn't a bad thing. The VHS format played a much bigger part in pop culture than you might think. More than just creating a form to be nostalgic for, the cheap medium allowed quicker distribution, more content on the tape, and bigger and striking boxart, to deliver a product for the widest variety of customers possible. In essence, this is why VHS outlasted both Beta and Laserdisc despite both formats offering more on a quality level. It seized control of the format wars by offering more with less.

We've already discussed through The Pulp Mindset and the growth of digital distribution that the garden variety customer cares more about the art itself than they care about the delivery mechanism or bells and whistles surrounding it. They just want the art for the best available price. DVDs eventually replaced VHS because the form trumped the old one in every way AND offered a cheap price. In music, Cassettes to CDs was the same sort of transition. It's also why it has taken Blu-Ray so long to catch up to DVD and overtake. There just isn't that much of a jump a there was from VHS, and customers don't see much of a reason to make the leap. They aren't wrong, either.

A big subject of the documentary is the supposed death of physical media and the rise of digital. Since this was filmed around 2012-14 there are a few things that have aged poorly in the subject (physical sales of DVD and Blu-Rays are still about the same, streaming is king despite Netflix's downward spiral from the top of the mountain, and customers have been proven to buy when the product is worth the cost and pirate when they do not) however the bigger point is that there will always be some way for the customer to receive the art they want, even when conglomerates tied to big Hollywood studios interfere to devalue the product and experience for everyone else. Art finds a way, in other words.

The bonus to having local rental stores run and stocked by those in the community was that they could carry anything they wanted and interact with those around them. When Blockbuster came in, they were boosted by Hollywood and didn't have to pay as much for their supply, which meant they could order more than the locals at no additional cost. However, this meant they only carried what the studios wanted them to carry. This quarantined smaller studios and independent filmmakers to the shelves of local shops, and when they were run out of business so to did their shelf space vanish. Blockbuster essentially usurped an entire industry and pushed out the little guys for Hollywood's sake. No longer was renting a community experience both for patrons and local artists, it was now the equivalent of walking into McDonalds instead of the local burger joint. You're basically paying money to corporations to lose local industry for lesser product.

This is why I get puzzled at the nostalgia Blockbuster gives certain folks. Everything they offered was a sterile, corporate imitation of what your local shops were offering for years before they were killed off by this monster. They were never the good guys, and in fact harmed the very industry they worked in. There's nothing worthy of being nostalgic over.

If you think the constant comparison between Blockbuster and McDonalds is too much then you might want to see what drove Blockbuster's growth. 

From wikipedia:

"In 1987, the company won a court case against Nintendo, which paved the way for video game rental. Also that year, Waste Management co-founder Wayne Huizenga, who originally had reservations about entering the video rental industry, agreed to acquire several Blockbuster stores. At that point the number of stores counted 19, and attracted Huizenga's associate John Melk's attention due to its efficiency, family-friendly image and business model, and convinced Huizenga to have a look at it. Huizenga and Melk utilized techniques from their waste business and Ray Kroc's model of expansion to rapidly expand Blockbuster, and soon they were opening a new store every 24 hours. They took over many of the existing Blockbuster franchise stores as well, and Huizenga even spent much of the late 1980s acquiring several of Blockbuster's rivals, including Major Video.
"In 1990, Blockbuster bought mid-Atlantic rival Erol's which had more than 250 stores. In 1992, Blockbuster acquired the Sound Warehouse and Music Plus music retail chains and created Blockbuster Music. In October 1993, Blockbuster took a controlling interest in Spelling Entertainment Group, a media company run by television producer Aaron Spelling. Blockbuster purchased Super Club Retail Entertainment Corp. on November 22, 1993 from Philips Electronics, N.V. for 5.2 million shares of Blockbuster stock. This brought approximately 270 Record Bar, Tracks, Turtles and Rhythm and Views music stores and approximately 160 video retail superstores into the corporation. It also owned 35% of Republic Pictures; that company merged with Spelling in April 1994."

Very quickly Blockbuster destroyed the competition and became a monopoly, almost overnight. By the end of the 1990s they were the only game in town. Throughout the back half of the 1990s until its closure in 2010, for a bit over a decade, Blockbuster controlled the entire rental industry, and not because they offered the best service or product, but because they forced their way in and made sure no one else could compete with them.

As a result they ended up changing the makeup of the film industry, and shaping customer attitudes and expectations. It became about the Cult of the New over quality. Big budget blockbusters over solid filmmaking. Flash and sizzle over craft and content. Of course they would want this change--they wanted to make money off their partners' new films. You don't get as much off of classics or independents, do you?

In a way, Blockbuster contributed to the current pop culture obsession of novelty over quality. Constant supply of new blockbusters while shoveling the old ones out for pennies devalued their own medium. They certainly helped foster the Cult of the New that still exists today.

"Blockbuster stores followed a strategy of emphasizing access to the most popular new releases, obtaining early access and stocking many copies of the new-release titles, with a relatively smaller depth of selection than traditional independent video stores. Much of the shelf space in the stores was devoted to popular titles that were placed relatively sparsely on the shelves with the entire front cover visible, so customers could browse casually and quickly, rather than having a more diverse selection with fewer copies of each title. Blockbuster sometimes contracted with studios to obtain earlier access to new titles than other companies could achieve. Examples of such contracts were those in which Blockbuster became the exclusive rental chain for new releases from the World Wrestling Federation (now known as WWE), Paramount, DreamWorks, Universal Studios, The Weinstein Company, Miramax, Lionsgate, Disney, 20th Century Fox, MGM, Sony, Image Entertainment, Warner Bros., New Line Cinema and Allumination FilmWorks. As one commentator complained, "Blockbuster was once an unstoppable giant whose franchises swept across the country putting mom and pop video stores out of business left and right by offering a larger selection of new releases, pricing them at a lower point due to the volume they worked in... Gone were the fragmented, independently owned shops that were often unorganized treasure troves of VHS discoveries. In their place were walls of new releases: hundreds of copies of a small handful of films. Everyone watching the same thing, everyone developing the same limited set of expectations... They put focus entirely on what was new rather than on discovering film history ...""

And now they're dead, where they belong.

So you can tell why nostalgia for this company is strange and completely unwarranted. They damaged a much more healthy industry and medium so they could make a few more bucks. If anything, what they destroyed is what should be what we are talking about instead. Blockbuster deserved the fate that befell it, but what they demolished didn't.

A Whole Different Experience

Netflix coming in to wipe Blockbuster out was a good bit of karmic justice, but as the VHS Massacre documentary mentions through several of the interviewers, Netflix is the Blockbuster of streaming. Bigwigs with Hollywood ties pretending to be for the smaller guys, until they seize control and kick them out, run the whole show. Troma, for instance, only got on Netflix through alternate dealings around the executives at the company. Netflix itself didn't do much of anything to try and court them or get their movies out on the service, and why should they when they get deals from the giant studios? It's all for Hollywood, not the customer.

The one bright spot is that with the rise of alternate forms of streaming and video hosting sites that these smaller creators now have an outlet to entertain audiences again without being blocked. This more decentralized approach allows creators more reach than they ever had even in the mom and pop shops run by the locals. It might not solve the problem of loss of community, which is a bigger issue unto itself, but this is a better solution than allowing those who destroyed an industry get more credit and attention they do not deserve.

Especially now with Hollywood cratering extra hard due to the pandemic, there are less and less customers willing to give the bigger studios the time of day. The best time ever for the independent scene to strike is now while Hollywood is flailing. Without the big dogs to get in the way the field is wide open again and anyone can put out anything again. Times have changed yet again, only this time Hollywood is the one suffering, for once.

So why be nostalgic for things that existed to destroy that sort of experience you crave? It's counter-productive, and it's goofy.

There are many things I don't have nostalgia for that I understand the appeal of, such as VHS. I was there for the format. It was clunky, unreliable, and offered far less than DVD did, but they also contained great box art, had good ease of use, and were rather sturdy. They offer something different than what exists now, even if that something doesn't offer me anything personally. Nostalgia for that sort of thing makes sense.

But Blockbuster is not anything to be mourned. Just like when OldPub finally crashes and burns, it was an institution that harmed the very industry it operated in. You might have good memories attached to those locations or to the packaging used, but the chain itself does not deserve your love or support. It is gone, it is not coming back, and that is a very good thing for everyone involved. (On the other hand, if you want some nostalgia for the more exciting and socially good local mom and pop stores you can find some over here.)

Better things are coming in its place. Independents are still around, audiences are still around, and both still want exciting new stories. The medium might change, but the stories themselves won't. We still desire beauty and truth.

Vultures will always exist, but so will creativity and fresh ideas and approaches to art. Things change, but they also always stay the same.

In the end, I would recommend the VHS Massacre documentary for a watch. It isn't perfect and meanders a bit in its scope, but it does offer enough to give the subject its due and the interviews are all very interesting. This whole VHS era isn't an one that gets enough proper focus so it is good to see it when it happens. The movie is available to rent on youtube, if you are so inclined, which goes to show just where the industry is heading.

Netflix will not be around a decade from now, but movies will. Art goes on regardless of the changes we make to help or hinder it. The suits can't always stand in the way, though they may try.

The medium doesn't matter as much as the message, and the message is clearer than ever before. The audience wants good stories: so start making them! At the end of the day that's all we can really do, and it's enough for us to do what we can. Just don't let nostalgic memories of dead enemies get in the way of future success.

We've got more important things to do: we've got to create!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

You Gotta Pick it Up!

The 1990s were a strange time, looking back. It was so strange that there was nostalgia for it mere seconds after it ended, but does that mean they were all that good? Though those of us who lived through the decade think of it in one of two ways (the first of many bland decades to come, or the last bastion of originality) the truth is that through the first half of it a lot of interesting things were happening both in the mainstream and in the underground that affected many people's lives in ways it still does to this day. So in many ways, the 1990s never really went away, unlike, say, the 1950s or 1980s which faded pretty fast after the decades' end.

We take some of it for granted now, but those in Gen Y, due to their long memory and nostalgia obsession, managed to keep most of what happened in the forefront of our minds even during the emptiness of the '00s. This laser focus has done a few things, some of which is positive, such as preventing cheap nostalgic cash-grabs from taking root and having as much of an effect as it has for said above decades, and to keep the past constantly in mind so that it can be taken forward by those who would want to. In many ways, the 1990s was the last decade to really have any character at all, which is why it is remembered so clearly by so many.

The 1990s never really went away, even during a period (the '00s) where it was uncool to even so much as smile or have fun. 1980s nostalgia has since returned to freshen the landscape up a bit, but it was due to the constant counter-cultural act refusing to let the 1990s die that anyone could put their mind in a framework that would allow them to accept the past. Remember, we're only supposed to be blindly marching forward. The more were pushed forward and told we ca't look back, the more we are going to fight against it and do just that.

This is why as long as Gen Y is alive the 1980s and 1990s will never really go away. It's the last reminder from the generation of when things were stable, yet there was something new and exciting awaiting around every corner.

Take for example, Ska music. If you are a '90s kid you are having one of two reactions, either rolling your eyes, or nodding your head as the memories and sounds of this forgotten genre fill your brain. In the era of the transition from cassette to CD, the strange surging sounds of Alternative, New Jack Swing, and Third Wave Ska, made the decade a lot more interesting for pop music, at least until the late '90s suddenly banned all three from the radio overnight.

However, as stated above, the 1990s never really went away, but those paying attention did take notice when things they enjoyed were suddenly and unceremoniously thrown away for things that were 180 degrees its opposite. That's how you went from positive and fun music like ska to negative and abrasive stuff like Nu Metal by the end of the negative, and almost overnight.

But we should start from the beginning.

Though it began in Jamaica in the late 1950s/early 1960s (before Reggae!) and was popularized by such artists as Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker, and the Skatellites, influenced by Jazz, R&B, and local Mento music, Ska really managed to hit mainstream influence during the shift from Punk to New Wave in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This was one of the last periods Punk was doing anything interesting and the addition of a dance groove to the then-fresh 1950s Rock n' Roll revival sound gave it an even more energetic flow. This era was known as Two Tone: the second wave of Ska. Being the child of so many disparate styles is what makes the genre so fascinating for those listening, especially how it clicked with the normal working class who loved music they could blow off steam to, and is a shame that it is looked down on by so many today.

An example of Two Tone:

The first two waves never really died out, they just waned in popularity, but they were the base for what came in the late '90s. You see, despite the popularity of the genre, it never really affected the mainstream all that much. That was, until the late 1980s. While Metal and good Rap were on the radio, the underground was starting to get weird again, despite its initial stale nature throughout most of the decade. Punk was quickly realizing it was getting too far up its rear, its sound was getting too formulaic and tired, and few bands out there were anything close to the fresh and exciting sounds of the 1970s Punk bands. Aping Black Flag, Bad Religion, and the Descendents first two albums incessantly, would eventually smother the genre into bland pop punk and badly dated hardcore ranting, but for now there were those looking for another way. The genre needed something new, a kick in the pants to remind them that the genre was more than what it became.

Enter Third Wave Ska.

As said before, the first two waves never really died. Through the 1980s there were bands still playing both styles, including groups such as The Toasters, Bim Skala Bim, or Bad Manners, even as big Two Tone groups such as The Specials or The English Beat broke up, or others such as Madness moved on to New Wave and more mainstream pop. At the same time, new bands such as Fishbone and Operation Ivy formed that had the spirit of Punk, but added the dancibility of Ska, adding a whole new edge to the genre and adding fresh new sounds to the landscape. This new underground sound began to tickle the fancy of this getting tired with the endless nihilism and whining of the then-modern Punk scene, and by the decade's end, Ska had flowered into a sensation into the radar of the mainstream. Despite what you might have heard, it did not happen overnight.

In this writer's opinion, it was the shot in the arm both genres needed for the time, as Ska had been treading water for a few years and needing a jolt of energy, and Punk was starting to feel the hyper-serious and joyless weight bands such as Bad Religion and Black Flag had put on it. If you go back and listen to the Two Tone or Punk of the mid-80s, it's pretty bland stuff and easy to see why they only fell further to the fringes. This was the rejuvenating boost both needed to finally reclaim the fun they'd been missing for near a decade.

While Punk would eventually shed Ska, and a segment of the scene always hated it, and kill itself in the '00s, Ska would spread to other countries and continue to flourish as an underground style. If anything, the 1990s was exactly what the genre needed to get its head on straight again.

I recently watched a documentary centered on this weird part of pop culture where Ska broke out big in the late '90s. Called Pick it Up: Ska in the '90s this piece was made to finally document this odd time in pop culture and perhaps give some context to all this madness. The story itself is fairly interesting, and more or less an example of the last pre-Clear Channel musical style allowed to actually gain natural popularity. There is a reason for that, and the documentary waste no time getting to the point within the first few minutes.

The very first thing that is brought up those who were there at the time was that it made them feel good. This is important to the genre's success. The positive vibes, the energy, and the fun, was what made it click with so many listeners and caused so many bands to form back in the time when the scene had nothing else going for it. There was something in the air that connected with a lot of people at the time and wanted them to spread positivity instead of the negativity the 1980s scene had fostered by the end of the decade. Just like in the mainstream, where exciting things were happening, the underground also wanted to have good vibes. And they did, for the first and only time since.

In this context, it's easy to see how Ska grew from underground sensation to mainstream explosion, especially in the sunny times of the early to mid '90s where arts and entertainment was still at high quality threshold. It was also the perfect music for Gen Y kids, and for those who simply felt good about where they were in life. It should be remembered that things were looking up at this time, whether accurate to reality or not, and the belief that things would only ever get better was the highest it had ever been, and will ever be again. Positive music would only match that feeling, unlike the dour Grunge scene that died out within the first two years of the decade. Gen Y didn't want any of that: they wanted to dance!

This is a bit hard to understand now, since there hasn't been a musical movement since Ska described as "fun" or "positive" in a very, very long time, but the reason the genre blew up was because it was the quintessential '90s attitude in spirit, or at least what the younger Gen Xers and Gen Y kids thought at the time. Things were looking up, and they wanted music to reflect it. Just seeing it from this angle gives the genre explosion that came out of it a lot of context.

However, as suddenly as it came, by the end of the 1990s, 2000, it was over. You could blame overexposure, but the fall happened so suddenly and abruptly that it was almost comical. '80s Metal and the Grunge scene didn't die overnight, it took a few years for them to vanish from the mainstream. But Ska? Suddenly you couldn't play an upstroke or a horn without the payola dregs radio DJs throwing your album out the window, unlistened. While the constant play and overexposure from MTV and radio was part of the fall that only tells half the story of what happened. Now, in 2020 it is next to impossible to find anyone, especially Millennial and younger that even know what the genre is. Then again, they probably don't know what MTV or Rolling Stone magazine is anymore either.

But we'll get to that.

The documentary goes on to describe much of the music scene at the time of the late 1980s and early 1990s, including how most of the Third Wave bands formed, why kids dressed up for shows, and what exactly is that crazy dance they do and where did it come from? There's some good information for those completely unaware of the genre such as what's the difference between a Rude Boy, Mod, Skinhead, Punk, and so on . . . the differences are quite fascinating for those who remember when scenes had character (and weren't erroneously called "communities"), and it was impressive that so many different types of music scenes and listeners could come together under one banner to enjoy the music. It was something that brought people together.

Yes, racial unity was one aspect of Ska, but it went beyond that. Just like the crazy amalgamation of musical styles, it brought vastly different people together with the sound--it connected them at a time when it felt like we were all closer than ever. THAT is why Ska achieved the popularity it did. For one moment everyone put their cares behind them, got together, and danced, enjoying the lighter side of life where the junk and hardship that weighed you down didn't matter anymore. We're all in this together, and you know what? It's actually not all that bad. We can get through this.

In this aspect, Ska very much was the anti-Grunge only not a corporately-made label. In fact, most of the music from the 1990s is fairly miserable . . . aside from Ska. This is interesting, because when most people think of the 1990s it's not misery they think of. They think of a stable society, a local community you can trust, bright fashion, the rise of video game consoles, explosive action movies, and the last remnants of good television. Ska fits into that groove a lot better than any other '90s music scene does. The genre represents the feeling of those who lived at the time in a way none of the others really do. It's also aged much better than those have, as a result.

When people ask me why I still listen to Ska, this is why. This is the reason the music connects with me in such a strong way, and why I'll still put on Hang-Ups by Goldfinger, Willis by the Pietasters, or One Step Beyond by Madness, to this day. Ska still manages to inject energy and life into the listener in a way that has been forgotten. It's a musical style that represents a lot to those who like it, and it is one of the few musical experiences from the 1990s that still holds up today since it more accurately reflects the mood of the youth at the time.

In fact, speaking of video games, Tony Hawk Pro Skater's influence on the popularity of the genre was paramount. The documentary even mentions just how surprisingly influential such things as inconsequential things such as video game soundtracks were on the careers of bands. Tony Hawk personally picking Superman, for instance, ended up changing Goldfinger's entire career trajectory. It is funny to see just how different it was back then when video games are only considered big today. Back then, they could help jump-start entire careers. It is almost as if the industry had more pull back then than it does now.

Of course, not everything lasts forever, and neither did Ska's time at the top. Everything goes up most come down, and musical trends are no different.

Almost from the outset, a large chunk of the Punk scene disliked Ska, not to mention the Two Tone or First Wave purists that had it in for this crazy combination from the outset. Then there were the Emo kids who disliked it for being the antithesis for everything they wanted to do. It's hard to really emphasize, but the genre had a lot of enemies--including with itself. To this day, there are people who irrationally dislike the entire Ska genre because one band with a lead signer who overdosed in the mid-90s wrote a song about Santeria that ended up on the radio. It's a bit crazy to think about, but it's true. I'm still not sure why the genre has this image to these specific people, but there it is. If you missed out on the positive vibes and energy because you wanted more misery back, well, congratulations because that's what you got for the next 20 years in mainstream (and underground) rock music scenes. I hope it was worth it so you didn't have to hear Sublime rapping about a dalmatian in one overplayed radio song. No fun allowed, indeed.

At the same time, the people in the genre who got successful began feeling guilt that their "frothy" sound appealed to a lot of people. They started putting more overt messages and lecturing in their music (As great and as popular as the Mighty Might Bosstones Let's Face It album was, that song has their most embarrassing lyrics, by far) by assuming those listening to their music needed political issues dumped onto them, because apparently they were stupid. As if listeners don't already think about these things and are using a music based on unity and fun to blow off some steam instead. You know, the whole point of the genre in question?  Once you get pompous, the audience will walk away, and that is what happened here. Put yourself and your "causes" over your audience at your own risk. Ska wasn't immune from this.

There was also over-saturation. Because the music was so bright and energetic, and hit with so many people at the time, bands were falling over themselves to form and play shows. You couldn't escape the sound for awhile, and the overexposure still irks people to this day. The context as to why this happened is completely lost.

However, the one thing nobody wants to talk about, even in the documentary, is that around the same time Ska was forcefully taken off the radio around 1998, so to was Swing music, Blues, New Jack Swing, Alternative Rock, and many other genres that were enjoying success throughout the decade. It was replaced wholesale by bland corporate music that persists to this day. It was as if the giant labels didn't like that there were too many musical options that they couldn't control and decided to force only their gruel onto the populace. Of course their payola lapdogstotally and coincidentally like-minded radio DJs fell in line to offer the same sort of crap to their listeners.

And now the music scene in the West is dead.

The reason for this has already been discussed on this blog multiple times, but the record labels had created their own pop stars that they owned, lock, stock, and barrel, and were instead using them to maximize profits off of teenybopper girls while flooding everything else out that anyone else might enjoy. Even Rock itself would devolve to post-Grunge Nu Metal in the mainstream and post-Punk Emo in the underground, thereby sapping all joy out of the musical landscape. Neither of those are around anymore, though, and neither is Rock's presence in the mainstream except through very old, and very safe, bands that haven't put out anything exciting since the 90s themselves.

You can deny this truth, if you'd like, but then ask yourself when the last fun thing you heard on the radio that wasn't pure studio gloss written and produced by a team of highly paid professionals singing about sex or drugs. You're going to have to go back decades to find an example. The big record labels own the industry, and they don't want you to have good music: they want you to consume theirs for eternity. Which s probably why there will never be nostalgia for the '00s, to be honest. As said earlier, there was '90s nostalgia five minutes after it ended due to the back half of the decade already being a departure. There was even 1980s nostalgia in the '00s. What is there to be nostalgic about in the '00s? Corporately owned radio stations, depressing music, and empty bubblegum pop? We still have that. It never went away.

Nonetheless, the music of Ska itself, just like other abandoned American genres like Rockabilly or Blues, found fertile ground overseas and in neighboring countries such as Mexico or far off in places like Japan, where they aren't so hung up on genre labels. Ska is still around, it's just, like every other good genre, not really alive in the West anymore. You have to go deeper than even the irrelevant, poseur-filled underground scene to find it. You can just chalk that up to the times, I suppose. Find it on your own, like everything else.

As I said, the 1990s were strange. In many ways it was the last gasp of the 1980s and mid-century trends in the West, but despite all that there was still a push for something better and a hope for better times. The slinking sludge of nihilism popped up with Grunge (featuring countless future suicide attempts and victims) and book-ending with the empty slink and forgotten bang of Nu Metal, but in between there were flashes of something else, perhaps a world that could have been if we had kept talking to each other. But that time is passed, and over. The 1990s are done.

Ska is still around, as is just about every musical genre that blew up at one time before being dumped by the labels, but it's never going to reach that point of popularity again. And that's fine. That's just the nature of the beast.

You can find the documentary on Ska's rise to popularity here. If you have any interest at all in what was going on in the 90s pop culture scene and how different it was, the documentary does shed some light on the times and put it into context. There's also some bonus features hat talk about religion in ska, shows off some of the art of the time, and has various background bits for different bands. All with a surprising lack of contemporary political crap everyone is sick of sick of hearing about. It's a good documentary that shows glimpses into the last embers of a shared culture before it was extinguished in our move to the 21st century. The party might be over, but at least you still have the memories, and you can still share and pass them around. Connection is what art is all about, after all.

Before we go, have a listen and hear why it was this bizarre off-kilter music connected with so many people at a time when it seemed like it shouldn't. This a music meant to appeal to normal folks, and to make them get up, dance, and have fun.

Grab the mates, go out on the town, and remember that life's an adventure. Today might not have been great, but there's always tomorrow, and who knows what's coming up next!

Isn't that fun? Sure it is, and fun is what the music is all about.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

We've Got the Pulp Mindset!

I got a THIRD tag!

I have to say, the past week made things quite hectic around here. I'm almost not even sure what to say about what's been going on, though you certainly know by now. None of this was expected, least of all by me.

It's been a long week, but it's safe to say that The Pulp Mindset has been a big success with readers! As shown in the image above, I've managed to get #1 New Release orange tags in three different categories on amazon. All of this is thanks to my intrepid and very generous readers. You guys really went all out, and continue to show that you want positive change in the arts.

While 2020 has been treacherous for a whole host of other reasons, those of us in arts and entertainment have been pushing ahead hoping to provide blue skies where some might only see grey. What else can we do? Apparently audiences have been more than willing to reciprocate, showing that we are all very much on the same page.

For this particular success, I'd like to thank everyone who purchased a copy of the book, those who read it on Kindle Unlimited, those who left a review, and those who helped me promote it so far and wide on social media. Every one of you helped make this a success far beyond what I had hoped or expected. Thank you so very much!

If this doesn't show there is a hunger for more in entertainment then nothing will. OldPub is over, and now it is time for greener pastures.

It's great to know that so many others are interested in ataining the Pulp Mindset and joining the rise of NewPub. Things are really changing in the creative landscape, and it's invigorating that so many others are not only aware of it, but are actively preparing for the change ahead of them. The '20s are going to be quite the shift from what we were all used to, and very little from the 20th century will still be around to hold us back.

In other words, we are finally stepping into a 21st century world. Prepare accordingly!

On top of all the fantastic feedback from readers, I also managed to appear on the SuperversiveSF podcast last Sunday hosted by author Ben Wheeler. We talked about the Pulp Mindset and a few other related subjects for nearly an hour and a half. It was a lot of fun, and you can hear the show and my appearance on it here.

It's over 80 minutes long, so settle in!

But I don't want to make this post just to repeat things you might already know, but to highlight what is coming next! I don't plan on resting on my laurels here. The Pulp Mindset also means you must keep moving and producing. I plan to do so.

As I've said before, my goal for this year was to get three books out, thereby doubling my total published output in a single year. We have just passed the halfway point for 2020, and I've just released book #2 into your hands. In addition I've also published a FREE novelette for newsletter subscribers, have had a story in an issue of StoryHack, and will be in two volumes of the Planetary Anthology. It's safe to say that I'm well on the way to hitting my goal for this year.

On top of that, I've just received edits for book 2 of Silver Empire's Heroes Unleashed and my Gemini Man series with Gemini Drifter, and am cutting through them as we speak. It's not going to take too long. Aside from just me, Heroes Unleashed is about to have a flood of new content burst out of the dams from new and returning writers, so be sure to keep an eye out. The next few months are going to overflow with goodness!

In addition to book 2, I'm also very far into writing book 3, Gemini Outsider, and will be getting back to it after edits on #2 are polished off. That's my next work to finish. The first three books of the series sort of have a mini-arc to them, so I would like to have all of them out close together before I dive in deeper. So you can expect many heroic adventures ahead.

Those that have been following Wasteland & Sky and have purchased both Someone is Aiming for You & Other Adventures and The Pulp Mindset are aware that I keep promising a book called Brutal Dreams, but have yet to mention more than that on the project. Well, you haven't seen it because it will be the third book I put out on my own this year. Just like Grey Cat Blues, it is a shorter pulp length work meant to be read really fast to keep the blood pumping. This one leans more into Gothic Horror than what I've done before, though there is plenty of action to be had, because that is just how it goes. Nonetheless, I am aiming to have Brutal Dreams out before the end of the year.

In between all of this are a pile of short stories currently waiting for homes, as well as a few others half-written or edited and needing some spare time to polish off. Nothing is really open to submission right now so they just sit, waiting for their chance to strike. I hope to be able to give them the focus I need between the above, and with what is coming in 2021.

That's right, I also have a bit of 2021 planned out. We're looking ahead into the new decade!

But this all makes perfect sense to those paying attention. The next decade is definitely going to be a monumental shift from what came before, as those who have read The Pulp Mindset are aware.

My First Orange Tag!

My Second Orange Tag!

Next year, I am hoping to do a crowdfund, my first crowdfund. That will require a bit of looking into and such, but it is something I definitely want to attempt for myself. Crowdfunding is a new avenue for NewPub, so it only stands to reason that I should explore it for myself.

This crowdfund won't be for anything I have discussed on this blog or anywhere else, but for a brand new project that I have yet to discuss with anyone at all. Those aware of what I write probably know the general idea will be action-based, but as for the content . . . that's going to be a bit of a surprise. I can promise that it will be as exciting as it it will be weird.

Suffice to say it isn't like anything you've seen before which is why I'm going to need the help of readers to make this a reality. It's easily the wildest idea I've cobbled together so far, so I'm going to need plenty more time to get it ready for prime-time, especially with other projects on the docket to be written and released first. I'll reveal more about this one, but in the future. Needless to say, 2021 is going to be a wild time!

For now, we have plenty to focus on here in the crazy year of 2020. I've got quite the full plate.

But this is my way of saying that there's plenty of road ahead, many different possibilities, as long as we're willing to make that move. I wasn't expecting such a loud and visceral reaction to The Pulp Mindset, but it appears there are many out there that want more than what's currently being offered on the withered vine of OldPub. They want adventure! They want action! And we're going to give it to them! As OldPub crumble into dust we are going to be thrown into the spotlight in their place, whether we want to or not, and whether we're ready or not.

And you would be surprised how many of us there are out there. I know I am shocked every time I meet more of us.

I know plenty of creatives that are quietly making their art and getting ready to unleash it on the unsuspecting world, and still I know yet others who are still struggling to learn the craft but continue plugging along regardless. These are the creators that are going to be taking over the field when OldPub collapses under its own dead weight. If The Pulp Mindset can help them do it even faster then I will consider it an even bigger success than I even imagined. Get ready for the change ahead, because it's definitely coming!

This isn't just to declare victory before the battle is even over, but to say that its going to take a lot for OldPub to right their ship, and it's going to take steps they will never make. The industry is too bloated, too decayed, and too tired, to gather the energy it needs to completely overhaul itself and put the customer first again. Too much bureaucracy, too much ideological bias, and too much focus on chasing silly urbanite trends, have left them without any oars to paddle. They did this to themselves. At the same time, too many exciting ideas and creations have been springing up in the burgeoning frontier of NewPub to bother readers giving those dinosaurs the time of day anymore.

Why give money to people who hate you when you can have more fun with people who don't? Life's too short to waste on decaying industries and forgotten fossils.

Meanwhile, I'm going to continue to do what I always do here on Wasteland & Sky and talk about exciting goings-on in the present, great future projects, and some of the overlooked ideas and products of the past. There's a wide world of art and entertainment out there, and I'm going to keep exploring it. We have much to discuss, and much more to enjoy!

So I would just like to use this post today to thank all of you readers and promise you all that more is on the horizon. I won't be stopping anytime soon, and I'm happy to have you on this journey with me. It's been quite the ride, but we can't stop now. There's too much on the road ahead.

We have the Pulp Mindset, so let's use it.