Saturday, February 27, 2021

Signal Boost ~ "Galen's Way" by Richard Paolinelli!

Find it Here!

You might have noticed a sharp output in NewPub material recently. This is because as the old system is dying, the rest of us are fighting hard to give you the sort of content that you crave. Today is no different.

Just released is author, publisher, and writer extraordinaire, Richard Paolinelli's new book, Galen's Way. This is an entry in John C. Wright's new Starquest series, and has for you all the space adventure you could ever desire!

The description:




The Princess Rhiannon of Salacia has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom on the fortress planet of Nammu. Galen Dwyn, the most feared mercenary in the Andromeda Galaxy has been hired to rescue her and bring her home.

He will soon find himself on the run with the Princess and right in the middle of a web of political intrigue even as he begins to fall for the Princess. For her love, he will stand alone against the forces looking to establish a new, and very evil, empire.

Galen will look to keep her safe and bring the budding empire to a halt before it can gain a foothold in the galaxy. He will choose to do so the only way he knows how.

Galen’s Way.

Dragon Award finalist Richard Paolinelli takes us on a grand adventure in this space opera offering set in the 4th age of Dragon Award winner John C. Wright’s Starquest universe.

You can find Galen's Way here.

March is just around the bend, and so too is winter nearly on the way out. I can tell you personally that there is a lot on the horizon not yet announced coming from all sorts of creators and writers, including yours truly. And the year has just started.

2021 is going to be one to remember. Just wait and see!

Also, do not forget that Jon Del Arroz's Deus Vult crowdfunding campaign is still on! It's currently smashing records, so be sure to check it out. Adventure has returned!

Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Importance of Dying

Not the Beginning of the End, just the End.

If you are over the age of 30, you probably remember reading comic books fondly. They were inescapable in the final days before Cultural Ground Zero. The reason for this, as we learned, is that they had reached a commercial peak and were on the downhill slide. By the 2000s, comic books as we knew them were dead.

But if you are of a certain age you don't tend to remember that part of the story. We all tend to remember things at their best as opposed to their worst, because we are hopeful beings. We think that maybe one day they can reclaim their lost glory. When they inevitably don't, we take to going back to the past instead and immersing ourselves in the better times.

Nostalgia aside, there is another reason to fondly remember better times.

You were the last generation able to buy comic books from marketplaces and corner stores before they were corralled into tiny comic book stores where they would slowly fade into irrelevance. The age of buying a bag of chips and a coke at the 7-11 while throwing your spare change at a comic on the way out ended sometime in the '90s. It ended around Marvel's 1996 bankruptcy and DC's admission that death doesn't matter with an event they would never top again. This was all over by mid-90s, and it would never reach those heights again.

Of course you still hear the charge that "You just grew up! Comics aren't for you anymore!" which is designed to quickly disarm you from the fact that were that true then you would still have a duty to expect better for kids and younger audiences. It's an argument consumer bugmen use to justify every decision their corporate overlords make. This defense also doesn't explain why the industry has shrunken to embarrassing levels where their highest selling book in 2021 can't even reach the sales of a low seller from 1987. What this proves is that the industry has no idea what it's doing and is dying. This is doubly pathetic in an age where both Japanese manga and superhero films are breaking sales records every other day. There isn't any reason comics shouldn't be selling well, and yet they aren't, at all. In fact, they only sell worse and worse.

But at the same time there are things that superhero films and manga offer their audience that most comics don't. What is it? Continuity and finality. Comic books have consistently failed to offer anything close to this for decades. Movies and manga are filled with stories that rise, peak, have a release, and conclude. The customers then move on to new stories, possibly even by the same creators. You might question if that is true about superhero movies, but for countless people, Endgame was the End (because it was) and are finished with the franchise. As they should be, because all stories must end. This is because they exist to do just that.

When you create a story, you are making a promise to the audience. These characters matter and you should follow them through events that also matter. What these characters do is important, so you should pay attention to what they do. What happens in this story matters, because it could potentially change their world forever. This, paired with escalating conflict and periods of release, naturally means it must build to a grand conclusion where everything comes to a head. You owe the audience, after all the buildup, all the excitement, and all those promises, to deliver and fulfill all their expectations. You owe them a happy ending, or at least one that is thematically coherent and satisfying.

Comics actually can have endings.

Why do all stories require an ending? Because life has endings. All our lives we work towards things and we hope to see our ambitions fulfilled. Sometimes it doesn't happen, but when we read fiction and get invested, we trust that the writer will reward us for spending time in their world. Everything builds up to an ending, where all that effort is paid off, and the main character we've been following finally gets the reward they so desired and they deserve. And then the good guys lived happily ever after, as far as we know.

This is the sticking point for so many modern comic fans who continue to read long after the wheels have fallen off the industry. Why do things need to end? Can't we just get a new story with the same characters we've had for decades? Can't we just keep building history and continuity forever and grow giant, complex worlds? Why isn't the status quo good enough?

There are two answers to these questions.

The first answer is that you are looking for episodic storytelling, which is such a lost art so far down in the grave that it's a burning to atoms in the Earth's core. Episodic storytelling is comprised of standalone adventures where each story is it's own thing, occasionally having a reference from a past event or character, but mostly new adventures that each have defined beginnings, middle, and endings.. Think of it like the character's performing a job. Day in, day out. Old pulp heroes like The Shadow and Doc Savage operated this way, which is how they were able to sustain hundreds of popular adventures in their original runs. They still relied on having beginnings, middles, and endings.

Should you want stories that last forever, this is the only satisfying way to do it because this is what said form was designed for. The battle against evil never ends, but our intrepid heroes will fight on against every new threat, and they will win. Ironically, when comics did this, they sold at their highest, by far. Now they never do it, and they sell like snow cones in the arctic. Perhaps throwing out successful formulas isn't the best idea.

The other answer is that linear storytelling is meant to naturally climax and have an ending. It needs to have a release for the audience that they can keep and can never be taken away from them. This is like a long episodic story--it still requires a pay off, but a bigger one because it is a bigger story. The audience still expects a satisfying conclusion that will lift them up and satisfy. This one aspect of storytelling never changes.

When you don't do this, when you don't offer release, you run the risk of destroying those victories that your protagonist fought so hard for and utterly annihilating the audience's trust in the world and your storytelling abilities. You run the risk of plowing into narrative nihilism. The last thing you should ever do is gleefully inform your audience that the events they sat through, the ones they were supposed to be invested in, not only don't matter, but can be undone at the writer's whim. In other words, you're telling them they can't be invested in anything, because you aren't.

This is the opposite of what storytelling is supposed to be.

Someone actually thought this was a good idea.

So without further ado, I can gleefully tell you that every single thing I read in comics back when I was a kid has been undone, spat on, and them leveled, repeatedly. In other words, everything I was invested in I was told didn't matter. Why would I keep reading? I don't, and I'm nowhere near close to the only one.

Puts those cratering sales in perspective, doesn't it?

How many stupid tricks has the industry done to pull the wool over their readers' eyes and fool them into believing what they are reading actually matters? How many confused reboots have they indulged in? How many alternate timelines and worlds were made to avoid creating new things? How many #1s that have since been rendered meaningless have swarmed the shelves? Better question: Why do comic readers trust people who have not proven trustworthy?

This is a long way to get to the newest comic book stupidity. Once again the industry has figured out a way to add more narrative nihilism, disguised as fixing said problem. What have they done? They've come up with another big brain idea to explain continuity errors and inconsistencies that will satisfy everyone, until the next one. DC has introduced the Linearverse!

For a short discussion on the topic, I recommend Comic Perch's video. He manages to explain in 15 minutes what most will not be able to do in full articles, because this might be the most convoluted and ridiculous thing the industry has ever done to explain bad storytelling.

And that's saying something.

This idea is as dumb as it sounds.

The above article attempts to make hash of this entire mess. All they do, and I don't think they do this intentionally, is prove how stupid the industry has gotten, and how little they think of their readers. Because if you can't explain the crux of an idea in a sentence, then it's not a good idea.

Case in point:

"So what is the DC Linearverse? First, you have to understand what the DC Omniverse is."

And you've already lost 95% of the audience.

"To understand our product, you need a crash course on this other thing" is a horrible pitch. It isn't that the article can help it, because they are merely stating the truth. As it was, the Omniverse concept was already lazy storytelling, as all alternate universe storytelling is, and now you have to explain it to even make sense of this newest bad idea. It's just a cycle of pointless convolution because you can't end stories and move onto new ones, or just bite the bullet and create episodic adventures again. It's just another way to keep a status quo that objectively doesn't work.

But we're not done.

"Because DC comic book history began in 1938 with the debut of Superman in Action Comics #1, official DC Universe canonical history - what comic book readers refer to as continuity - has been officially rewritten over and over again to explain how superheroes like Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman that have published adventures dated to real-world events like World War II can still be active in new adventures that take place in the here and now.

"That has resulted in a series of retcons (retroactive continuity) and reboots (introducing a new version from scratch) that attempt to explain how a character like Batman can still be somewhere between 30 and 40 years old in 2021, despite chronologically being no less than over 100 if you assume he was in his 20s during his 1939 debut.

I shouldn't have to explain why this is dumb, should I?

Let me tell you how wonder works. It's actually quite simple.

In episodic storytelling, where continuity only matters so much as the characters' names, appearances, and motivations, so too does the timeline not matter. You can have an episode with the characters that take place in the old west, in Soviet Russia, or in modern New York, and people will not care as long as the characters are going on adventures and being who they are. They will fill in those gaps for themselves.

How do I know this? Because Japan does this all the time. Do you know what Lupin the 3rd is? How about City Hunter, Golgo 13, or Detective Conan? They can tell stories in different time periods from when they started and the audience not only doesn't care, they get excited for buying the newest magazine issue or volume. Why? Because it's episodic storytelling. Overarching continuity doesn't matter. They just want a new adventure, and these are all highly popular series.

This is the cake that DC wants to eat, but refuses to bake. Instead, you get endless soap operas that never have a satisfying payoff because they were designed not to, by necessity. They can't keep you coming back if you think you can walk away. Then they might have to rely on new things to survive, and that's a taboo concept for the west in 2021. So they found a way to abandon both episodic storytelling and the linear way, all for an approach that has the worst aspects of both.

This is what chased away so much of their audience. The readers will never get the closure they desire, by design. So why stick around?

The article goes on:

"This led to the creation of the Multiverse concept in the '60s, specifically in 1961's 'The Flash of Two Worlds,' which explains how two versions of the speedster character the Flash - one created 1940 (Jay Garrick) and one created in 1956 (Barry Allen) can co-exist.

"The popularity of superhero comic books waned in the post-World War II years and characters like the Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman disappeared while Superman and Batman endured.

"A superhero revival in the '60s caused DC to bring back the Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman, and others but in new, updated versions unrelated to the previous ones.

"But 'The Flash of Two Worlds' established the premise the previous versions of the characters existed on a second Earth, Earth-Two.

Again, this was a lazy way to have your cake and eat it too. If you're telling standalone episodic adventures, no one is going to care about this sort of thing. 

Take a gander at the old Batman: the Brave & the Bold animated TV series. Every episode is a new adventure with a guest hero or two and no one questions why they are there or what their purpose is: they just are. Because it's an adventure, and the audience only wants to know about the adventure before them. Modern comics could never abide by this simple concept because they don't want to tell adventure stories: they want to tell soap operas.

It should also be mentioned that this above multiple universe approach didn't fix anything. Things only got more and more convoluted as the years went on, leading to what would eventually put the final nail in the coffin for the comic book industry. That would be the tacit admission that none of this matters, with the event entitled Crisis on Infinite Earths.

"Years of stories taking place in different eras and the expansion of Multiverse to include more Earths including worlds DC acquired from other comic book publishers like Fawcett's Captain Marvel (who you know as Shazam) resulted in DC's first attempt to try to juxtapose all their stories into a single, cohesive timeline.

"1985's iconic and very meta Crisis on Infinite Earths (recently loosely adapted to a DC superhero CW crossover) attempted to do away with the Multiverse, but the gravity of trying to turn what was then 50 years of stories into a 10-year timeline resulted in DC having to publish recurring maintenance storylines (most with the word 'Crisis' in the title ) to try to fix the logical inconsistencies Crisis introduced, but to no avail.

Again, you didn't have to explain any of this with "multiple verses" or any dumb convolution like that in the first place. You simply don't address it except to say that Captain Marvel is a different series to Superman, that is why they don't crossover, or that Superman is busy with other things. Whatever you do, audiences will fill in the gaps themselves. They aren't stupid.

But because they didn't trust their audience and kept feeling that had to dumb it down, they created the utterly stupid Crisis on Infinite Earths in order to fix something that never should have been broken to begin with. Put everything in one world and make it easier for the writers to keep track of:. how can it lose? Well, it did lose, because it broke continuity in half and told all the readers that storylines they were invested in simply don't matter anymore. This is because they never did: they were never going to have a payoff or a conclusion

This is the entire point and reason why audiences began drifting from comic books in the 1980s before they were almost all gone by the end of the '90s. You told your readers that nothing mattered, and there's nothing you can do to fix it except to prove them wrong.

And you can't do that.

"Apparently recognizing the folly of trying to defeat the passing of time, DC's new approach is to stop trying to make it all make sense and to simply acknowledge it ALL happened. All timelines and multiverses and alternate realities and futures exist in an Omniverse.

"While the current iterations of the classic DC heroes like Batman and Superman exist in an approximation of real/current-time, they're also meta-aware of the Omniverse's existence and somewhat aware that their own lives, memories, and history are part of an intricate tapestry and patchwork of time and reality.

"And because it's still so new, we don't know yet how much DC will try to explain how it fits together narratively, or if they'll even try at all.

Hey, it didn't work the first three times, maybe it'll work the fourth. Here's the hint: they can't explain it in a way that makes sense because it doesn't make sense on a fundamental level. The concept is busted from the start, unless you fix the pipes you're going to have water all over the floor--patching it with flex-tape is not going to work forever, especially as the floor rots from all the water spraying out everywhere.

There is no solution to this problem, because the solution requires erasing broken concepts that they do not want to let go of. It requires revamping your entire way of storytelling.

And now you're about to see the level of insanity they're willing to go to in order to keep this charade going even longer. 

Here is the Linearverse:

"This brings us to the newest wrinkle (and thanks for bearing with us), the Linearverse.

"A separate reality within the brand-new Omniverse, this way of looking at DC's history takes a much simpler approach DC never tried in earnest ... until now.

"In the Linearverse, characters simply live longer lives than people who don't live in the Linearverse, and this is true for aliens from other worlds like Superman, mythological characters like Wonder Woman, and normal human beings like Batman.

"So the same Bruce Wayne whose parents were killed in Crime Alley in the late '20s or early '30s and first took to the streets of Gotham City as a vigilante in 1939 is the same guy still fighting crime in 2021.

"Technology advanced, fashion changed, world events like wars and presidential terms passed normally in realtime, but the characters only aged a few years and lived through it and experienced and remember it all."

This isn't a prank. This is a real thing. 

No one could ever make up nonsense of this level. This is literally denying reality to make your nonsense work. And it also proves what I said earlier: the comic book industry does not fundamentally understand the importance of endings, of death, of having a conclusion.

All you needed to do was keep it episodic and no one would have cared. Or if you want continuity you have characters die (and STAY dead), pass on to the next generation, and tell new stories with new characters. It has to be one or the other. You cannot have the benefits of both in one story: they are separate storytelling approaches for a reason. And this entire mess is proof that it just doesn't work.

I don't even have to go into the logistics of how you can't have a world where no one dies and have it progress as our society has over the past century, do I? People die and generations take on from their ancestors, adding their own stamp to the tradition they are carrying on. If you replace that with one generation, then you would get, not only an overpopulated planet, but a world much different from the one we are living in now. This isn't how the world works.

The only reason any of this exists is for billion dollar corporations to milk the same set of characters indefinitely and not have to risk creating anything new. This is why you have been sold nonsense such as "heroes never kill" or "multiple interpretations" of the same ancient character, or silliness like "Modern Greek Myths" to cover their behinds, not because any of those things are true, because none of them are, but because they want to sell you on lifestyle brands that will have you hooked on their product for life. They aren't in the storytelling business, and we know this from the fact that they can't write endings.

Do you want to know the real reason the comic industry is flailing while every surrounding industry is thriving? This is the real reason. This is a cancer set at the heart of the industry that has never been excised, so it will continue to be a problem until the patient dies. That's just the way it is.

Whatever industry comes next in its place will do well to remember the utter failure of this one to tell stories. The current crop of independent comics are nice and all, but if they're just planning to repeat the same storytelling mistakes then nothing will ever actually change, and no audience will come back or grow. Unless you're willing to let your story have its death, its end, then the audience will never fully trust you. You are only agitating the cancer in the system and making it worse.

The solution is simple. You let your stories end, have a conclusion. You move on to new frontiers, create new worlds. When you do so you inspire others to do so, as well. They can always take those old stories with them and they will always have the memories.

But everything dies, and they need to be allowed to die. That is the nature of everything. To deny it is to defy reality and the way things are, and that never ends well for anyone.

So the next time you read an issue of X-Men, remember the good times, and how great it was when Scott Summers and Jean Grey finally got to marry and have the happy ending they deserved. Whatever comes after that is purely a figment of your imagination, someone trying to wring orange juice out of spent peels. There is nothing more to tell. It's over.

Everything ends, and that's fine. We just have to remember to carry on afterwards. That is what we are here to do, so lets do it. There is no time like the present.

Read my own heroic stories of noir, powers, magic, redemption, hope, and heroism, in the dark city . . .

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Heroes Are Unleashed!

Find it Here!

Today, the next series in the Heroes Unleashed universe has begun! I know you've been waiting for this. The next series is the Teen Heroes Unleashed series by Paula Richey!

In case you are unaware, Heroes Unleashed is a franchise of multiple different series that takes place in the same universe and tend to crossover with each other. So far we have had the original, Morgon Newquist's Serenity City, followed by Kai Wai Cheah's Song of Karma, Jon Mollison's The Phoenix Ring, and Richard W. Watts' Atlantean Knights. And of course there is my own Gemini Man series (book 2 and 3 on the way this year!), as well as more surprises on the way. Teen Heroes Unleashed is the newest addition to the group, and it's a welcome one.

The description:

Penance Copper is tired of being a tool for evil.

She’s been working for Acid ever since she was small. She had no other choice, he owned her. Even with her superpowers, she’s never been able to escape. But at least he only has her steal. Never anything worse than that.

Until he orders her to use her powers to kill the superhero Justice for investigating trafficked girls.

Penance doesn’t want to be a murderer. She uses the opportunity to run away from Acid and make a new life. One where she can make up for everything she did on Acid’s orders.

But events larger than Penance are spinning into action, and soon she is embroiled in an intergalactic encounter with an alien boy named Kail, who is perhaps as lonely and broken as she is. Even if he is infuriatingly arrogant.

The first young adult series in the shared Heroes Unleashed universe launches with the Teen Heroes Unleashed series. Readers will love hardworking, sassy Penance as she tries to learn to use her superpowers to save the world instead of to steal.

Can Penance and Kail find the missing girls and save the Earth from an alien invasion? Or will Acid find her again and punish her for running away?

Read Penance today to find out!

This has been quite the project so far, so if you enjoy stories of heroes, fantasy, and pure action, then you will want to dive in today. While the OldPub has lost sight of the magic of heroism, we in NewPub very much have not. We're still putting it out there.

Check out Penance here.

Also, be sure to check out one of the author's other projects with IndieGen.XYZ, a way to unite NewPub creators and their audience under one banner for easy access.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Signal Boost ~ "Deus Vult: A Crusader Fantasy Graphic Novel" by Jon Del Arroz!

Find it Here!

There sure has been a lot of activity in NewPub recently, and today is no exception. Not hours ago did writer, creative, professional shitposter, and youtuber, Jon Del Arroz, put out his new crowdfunder. And it might be his most ambitious one yet.

He has taken to creating a space opera adventure graphic novel starring an actual Crusader. Teamed with illustrator Jesse White, the art pops in a classical '70s comic vibe unlike anything else you're going to see on the market today. Take a look at the campaign page to see for yourself. But we can't forget the story, can we? Jon never skimps where it counts.

The description:

A crusade into another realm...
...leads to the deadliest of evils.

Sir Domingo, Spanish Knight and Holy Crusader, is blessed with a vision on his return from his triumphant conquest in the Holy Land. The Holy Grail appears in the sky, leading him on an adventure to another realm where demons and monstrosities lay waste to all of creation.

He discovers a strange race of people called the Kityin, who seem more kin to Earth's cats than they do humanity. He alone can lead them to salvation and away from the tyrannical rule of The Demon King.

Should he fail, not only the Kityin but all the people of all the realms will be destroyed!

DEUS VULT is a 66-page crusader fantasy graphic novel which will bring back memories of great comics like CONAN THE BARBARIAN and THE MIGHTY THOR.

The story is written by #1 Bestselling and award-winning Sci-Fi author, Jon Del Arroz, artist Jesse White, and colorist Matt Crotts with a special variant cover by our good friend Miss Sashi!

You can find the campaign here.

Inspired by the likes of Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Otis Adelbert Kline, Deus Vult attempts to reach for that old adventure vibe where fantasy worlds were just around the next bend, and action could come at any moment. 

Back it today!

For an odd project, you can also check out the video game Zealot, about a priest who, after seeing his faith and the lands ravaged, goes about reinstating the One True Faith. In other words, you purge demon monsters and pagan cultists from the lands. The game isn't out yet, but check out the page below. You won't see anything like this in the AAA industry!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Signal Boost ~ "Nephilim: Corruption: A Christian Space Princess Novel" by Ann Margaret Lewis!

Find it Here!

Today, I would like to share a new space opera series from Ann Margaret Lewis and published by Silver Empire (it is also available via amazon), entitled Nephilim: Corruption!

This series is called Warrior of Kizan and is a sort of Christian Space Opera for those sick of how boring the genre has gotten in the modern mainstream. Silver Empire has been working hard to put out unique adventure books, and this is certainly no exception. you aren't going to find anything like this coming out of OldPub.

The description:

Dune meets Star Wars in this galaxy-crossing Christian sci-fi tale!

Dahkar knows his place in life. But the God of his ancestors has a different plan for him.

For generations his people have fought an endless battle with the cursed Nephilim, and Dakhar followed in his father’s footsteps and went off to war. All he found there was horror and death. He is unclean, and unworthy of the honor his people want to grant him.

But his bravery has won him command of the Royal Guard, and the sacred duty of protecting the King and his family. The King who rules by divine right, and receives council directly from an Angel. Dakhar doesn’t deserve this life, but he will do his duty anyway.

Then Tasia, the lovely young Princess he’s honor-bound to protect is kidnapped and whisked offworld. Dakhar will tear apart the galaxy to find her, no matter the cost.

Can he find Tasia before it is too late? Will he forgive himself and become the man he’s meant to be?

And what orders will the Angel of their people have for a sinner like him?

Read Nephilim: Corruption today and find out!

Once again, you can find it here on Silver Empire's official site!

For my own Silver Empire book, check out the world-hopping Gemini Warrior, book one the Gemini Man series! Book two is just very close to release, and I will let you know when it is available. Until then, check out the first entry!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

How to Pick up a Pen

"I'm not an author, I'm a writer, that's all I am. Authors want their names down in history; I want to keep the smoke coming out of the chimney." ~ Mickey Spillane

It's been awhile, so let us talk about the topic of writing. Just before Lent it appeared to be showing up all over social media in earnest, so it is clear there are many questions aspiring authors have. I'll do my best to answer them in this post from the position of someone who will have been published by publishers and publishing my own works for near 5 years, at this point. It hasn't felt much like it's been that long, so it's still a bit wild to think about. Being a professional writer is not a job I ever thought I would have in my lifetime.

And yet here I am, writing this very post.

Nonetheless, this post will be about learning how to become a writer. If someone like me can do it, then so can you. I was the least creative of my friend groups growing up, and the one who read the least, yet I am the one who is now the very opposite of all of them, due to making it my goal to learn story craft. Anyone can do it, so don't ever convince yourself that you aren't built for it. Talent merely gives you a head start: it will not keep you running the whole race. Only hard work matters, in the end. As long as you keep learning you can do just about anything.

The important part is learning the right way to handle things, which is definitely the trickiest part of being a writer. The main issue is that most of the advice comes from OldPub figures thinking with a 20th century mindset. It's all simply outdated.

One of the most common complaints I received from The Pulp Mindset, apart from being too mean to the above OldPub, is that several of the readers wished I went more in-depth on my writing tips, of which I was intentionally light on. Of course, they knew why I couldn't elaborate further--that simply wasn't the point of the book, but it was a valid request nonetheless.

However, I also believe there are far too many books on writing out there in the market. Most will not help new writers because just about all of them contain contradictory advice, and many do not remember what it was like starting out and being adrift without a paddle to row them to shore. I myself went through many writing books when learning how to write and I can't say any of them really influenced me much. Every writer simply absorbs information differently, which means explaining their specific process isn't really going to aid confused newbies. What is more important is learning how to put a pen to paper, so to speak, and how to keep in there for the entire duration of your very first project. You need to learn the Why of writing before you begin, not the How.

A lot of the problems that come with wanting to write, or wanting to be an author, are the expectations put on the job from decades of romantic nonsense foisted on you and the larger public from writer's workshops, librarians, schools, and OldPub as a whole. The first thing you need to do to be a writer (not an author--big difference, which we will get to later) is to have your predisposed ego smashed into tiny pieces. You need to come at it from a practical standpoint before you start. Embed this in your brain: Nothing you are about to undertake is special or magical: it is merely a job like any other that you must learn in order to do.

Writing requires learning tricks, gaining experience, absorbing from your surroundings, and applying them all to the act of putting words down in the correct order. The requirement--the ONLY requirement--to being a writer is that you constantly write. The more you write, the more you will improve. This also includes training your mental process of coming up with ideas to be more and more creative. Yes, even creativity is a process. The more you engage in something, the more you will naturally acclimate to it. The best way to learn how to write is just to do it. Treat it as something you must do, not something you feel like doing because you are some sort of tortured artiste. Writing is a job, not a social standing for special people.

But I also realize that just saying that doesn't mean a whole lot if the whole idea of doing it seems daunting from the get-go. I'm sure professional swimmers will tell you all about how easy it is to jump from the high diving board after they've done it thousands of times. That doesn't change that they had to work up to it after countless hours of practice. We should therefore start at the beginning.

Do you have your notepad ready? Then let us go through the steps.

I apologize if this is you.

We will begin with the most important question: Why do you want to be a writer? 

Beyond just liking stories, since most everyone likes stories, what is it about writing that makes you want to do this sort of thing? What is your drive? What makes you want to pick up the pen or, in this day and age, type on the keyboard? This is the very first thing you should ask yourself before beginning, just as you would any other job.

There isn't really a right or wrong answer here, but answering this as honestly as you can will tell you if writing is for you or not. No one randomly decides one day to be a nuclear physicist, for instance, they have motivations and aspirations linked to pursuing said occupation. Becoming a writer is no different. Why do you wish to do this on a professional level?

This is how we weed out the hopefuls from the romantics. It isn't that I do not wish those with romantic aspirations to stay away from the field, but that I wish them to approach it from an angle that will not harm them in the long run. You should be a writer because you want to write. Many romantics do the exact opposite, harming their own potential and wasting their precious time when they could be learning a more practical skill, like knitting or banjo playing. You shouldn't learn a skill in order to not do it, and yet that's what many romantic authors not only do, but advertise loudly that they do it. This is the only occupation that does this, because it is the only one that has ridiculous romantic notions foisted upon it by the dying OldPub system.

Here's the issue with this thought process: Writing is not water torture. You either do it, or you don't. If you don't then you're not a writer. If you're not a writer then stop calling yourself one and find a better use of your time. This is not a special occupation reserved for high class brains so that they can lecture and look down on the low class plebeians. OldPub sold this image to you long ago. It isn't what being a writer is about, at all.

This advice goes for hobbyists, too.

If you are under the illusion that you are specially tasked with writing one story that only you can tell and then think you can just hang up your hat, you're probably not in the right mental space for this. That isn't quite what writing entails. You are better off hiring a ghost writer to just do the entire thing for you--it would take far less time and it will definitely turn out way better. Learning to write in order to write a single story is completely pointless, and misunderstands the occupation.

No one learns to paint in order to paint one picture. No one learns to play football in order to play one game. No one learns to fish in order to cast one lure. No one learns to do anything in order to do it one time. All the people in those occupations and hobbies learn the ropes before they begin, regardless of how much they do it afterwards. That is just giving the task the respect it deserves.

Even if you only want to be a hobbyist, you must learn how to write correctly first. Writing is no different than any other occupation or hobby, and you best get it out of your head should you think it dissimilar. This romantic notion of writing is what has turned the professional writing world into the equivalent of a modern art museum: an industry of people who have no idea what they're doing, who see the customer as an irritation, and then believe they should garner prestige titles and fame that will allow them to coast through life. They treat writing as a priestly occupation in a secular society. It's a bit disturbing, honestly, but that is how it looks to normal people.

However, this isn't how being a writer works, and we don't need more artistes in the world. We need more professionals, even if they only do it for fun and not as a career.

No other occupation does this romantic nonsense.

This is why it is important to know why you wish to be a writer, why you want to pick up that pen.

Do you want to be an author because you think it will give you fame (it won't) or "respect" from a higher class of people? Sorry, this industry is overcapacity on ego and childish adults as it is. You do not have that one brilliant story that will change the world or will breakout and allow you to retire early. The industry that manufactured these sorts of events doesn't exist anymore and no longer has the power or influence to trick boomer women who watch Oprah into understanding just how lifechanging your uncreative litfic nonsense actually is. OldPub is dying, and taking this sort of romantic idiocy out with it. Eventually only the mavericks of NewPub will be left.

The other reason you need to ask yourself why you want to become a writer is because you should know what it is you're coming into this to do. I write fiction and nonfiction which include, essays, short stories, novellas, novelettes, standalone novels, and novel series, all of which require different ways of planning and thinking about the subject. There are even more forms that I don't yet do. Are you just planning on taking on only one of the above forms of fiction and running with it at the exclusion of everything else? Then I would have to tell you that it won't be enough to really break out of anything less than a small niche.

In NewPub, being an author isn't enough: you need to be a writer. And yes, there is a difference between the two.

Writers specialize in anything that involves putting words in the right order to get a message across; Authors specialize in cocktail parties and bragging about how their pretty word order got them a good review in some literary rag that no one reads. One of these paths exist to reach people, the audience; the other exists to elevate yourself above them.

The difference is that there used to be an industry that could support the latter approach. However, it doesn't exist anymore. You cannot be an author and survive in the modern age because there is no more system in place to elevate egos and brownnosers as a higher class. Putting out a single book and hanging up your coat for a long retirement is impossible in the 21st century. To survive, you must either be a writer, or find another field. Those are your only real choices.

NewPub has no room for OldPub ways. That world is gone. Either adapt to reality, or die.

The current state of OldPub.

The fact of the matter is that too many aspiring writers still have an outdated view of what it means to be a writer. There is no reality of a writer that anywhere near matches the silly portrayals on TV and in the movies, or even in some books. Those were all written as wish fulfillment to alleviate the writers' fragile egos. Writing is simply a job, no different from plumbing or working at a call center. There is nothing mystical about it, and that's not a bad thing.

Get that into your head and harbor no illusions. Writing is an occupation, not a priest class for special elites.

"I'm a commercial writer, not an author. Margaret Mitchell was an author. She wrote one book." ~ Mickey Spillane

Are you still reading after all that? Perhaps you may be in the right mind to be a writer after all. Now we can discuss creativity.

The reason you want to write is going to control what kind of writer you will develop into being. Your genre preferences, what it is about stories that strike you, your beliefs, your imagination, and your ambitions, will all help form what path you will take forward.

That said, if you are tackling fiction, you have many avenues to go down in order to begin writing. The one thing you need to learn fast, however, is that whatever you write will be terrible when you first start writing. It is unavoidable. In order to alleviate this problem, you need to write somewhere in the ballpark of a million words of bad fiction in order to get to the place where you can start creating good works. However you get to that million words is up to you, but there is something you should understand before you begin whatever first project you start with. That being, your first story will be awful. It doesn't mean it will be completely without merit, but it will not be good on a technical level in ways you won't yet be able to yet understand. 

Many think you should start your writing on some sort of dream project and get your million words out endlessly re-writing it until you hit your word threshold. I tend to think this is a horrible idea that might chase potential writers away since this a lot of work revising the same project so many times that you might feel too creatively stifled and believe professional writing is in any way like this when you get good. The truth is that the better you get at writing the less time it will take to complete projects, so this sort of approach of learning to write doesn't feel correct to me. It actually teaches you the wrong expectations.

I'd say to start yourself off with short stories. Writers used to start writing with short stories back even before the pulps existed, and they are a good way to learn how to craft a full narrative. Writing a story to completion, even if awful, is a good learning experience and a great motivator for continuing with new projects. Reaching the end after only a couple thousand words is less time consuming than still not seeing it after 150k+ of endless noodling and false starts. You will still have to write many more words before your prose gets there, but at least you will understand the nuts and bolts of the process a lot faster. Either way, it is going to take time.

Get the junk out of the way first.

While you're doing all this you should also keep up a schedule of writing everyday. It might feel daunting at first, but it really isn't so tough. At least writing down 500 words each day will get you far, especially if you're starting with short stories, but it will also teach your creative muscles how to turn the faucet on and off when needed. The more you do it, the more it will make sense to you, and the more you can write when you get better at accomplishing your tasks.

You can also add a bonus of transcribing two paragraphs from one of your favorite books by hand on paper. Point out the nouns, verbs, etc., and have their placement burned into your brain.  Do this everyday and you'll be surprised as to how much you'll improve in a short amount of time. All of these tips will help you get there in a much smoother fashion.

What will also aid you is reading in your genre of choice. This might actually be difficult if you're like I was and left simply unware that there was a whole buried era of storytelling that had what you were looking for, but you should be able to find something close to what you want to write. Originality is overrated. Read those books closest to yours in intent, take note of what they're doing and how they're doing it, and apply it to what you do. As long as you read you will have a concrete example to remind yourself of what you're aiming for. You don't stop reading when you become a writer.

You also don't stop getting ideas.

One thing writers get asked a lot is about where their ideas come from. The answer usually comes in the form of a joke. "Idaho. My ideas come from Idaho. They take the train." It sounds flippant, but it's a strange question. Other than uttering a joke, the recipient of the question might just roll their eyes or angrily reply in frustration. The reason they do this is because the question misunderstands how stories are written.

Ideas are a natural part of creating something, but they are no special than anything else in the process. I could be watching a movie and wonder what if the story went a certain way. I could be sitting in a doctor's waiting room and a random sentence from a patient will stick in my head. I could be reading a book and be unsatisfied with a plot turn or character motivation. I could be walking down the street and step on a plastic bottle. I could notice it is sunny outside. I could just be sitting down and already writing another story. Ideas aren't special, they're just thoughts that turn into motivation. As long as you're thinking you will always get ideas. There is nothing unique about them. It is how you apply those ideas that matters most.

Where indeed?

While it is true that writing isn't some mystical experience that puts a writer above anyone else, it does take a writer to know how to use the ideas they get in order to communicate them to the reader. Art is about links, whether from person to person, God to man, or artist to patron, it is meant to extend ongoing communication between parties and even across generations. That doesn't mean anything you personally make will last that long, because there is really no way to know until you're dead, but that what you create is part of a tradition that was formed to do just that.

This is what makes the tortured artist lie such a damaging one for the process of creation, because it is the complete opposite of how art is meant to work. The fact of the matter is that most "High Art" you were forced to consume as a child was nothing of the sort, but pushed by the industry because it had the sort of message and or angle they thought kids should take in. They are just propaganda pamphlets disguised with camouflaged character names and a plot aimed at getting a desired political result. These aren't ideas, and they aren't meant to communicate. They're meant to stifle creativity and thought with acceptable slogans and proper formulas. Why else would schools push them on children, after all.

And this is also the purpose of modern writer's workshops, and why no aspiring writer should ever attend one. They do not exist to make you a writer, they exist to sell you an idea of being an author. They sell the image of tortured artist and "advanced" writing formulas that the narrow range of middle-aged urbanite OldPub editors enjoy--they do not sell you any sort of guide on how to be a writer or how to connect with the most amount of people with your writing or even how to make a living doing it. That they make more money hustling aspiring writers than they do selling their actual writing should be the hint that it isn't about the audience. They perpetuate the lie of the auteur author, living in an urban apartment and moping around life, misunderstood, as the uncaring world crushes their sensitive genius. Too bad this fictional artist type never actually existed or else it might be sad.

You don't really need a book on writing to learn to write, nor do you need to attend a class to become a writer. You just have to sit down and want to do it. This is a job, not a divine right. It's not going to come fast, but writing is a skill like any other, one you have to cultivate. Once you have it down you can do whatever you want with it and create whatever you desire. There is no real limit on creativity, but there is an actual limit on what will connect with your audience, and it is not their job to bow to your whims. That's not how conversation works.

Find the balance between creativity and your audience's needs, and you've got it made.

This is what OldPub wants you to be.

At the end of the day, however, if you want to be a writer today, you're going to have to operate in the pulp mindset. While I wrote an entire book about what that entails, the simple answer is to basically do the opposite of what the mainstream publishing industry has been doing since about the 1950s or so. You want to grow, while OldPub has done nothing but shrink for well over half a century now. You have to be willing to adapt to the NewPub world springing up around you and accept the old industry will not be around for much longer. The future is already here.

You have to be constantly writing, constantly producing, and constantly coming up with new ideas. You aren't going to be able to write one book every decade and wait for the money to roll in. That's the old world, and it no longer exists. That gravy train has been derailed. OldPub is dead, but you don't have to die with it. Become a writer if it's what you truly desire, but just know that most everything you learned about being one is completely wrong and will hurt you in the long run.

There isn't much else to say about being a writer, certainly not enough to fill an entire book, which is why I'm summing it up in one post.  I have no idea how writers manage to write those How to Write books, because there simply isn't really anything to say that you won't learn by just sitting down and doing it. Writing is about organizing your thoughts and assembling them in the best order for maximum flow. That's about it. There isn't anything else you can teach because the rest depends on your own creativity and ingenuity. It's up to you, at this point.

I hope this post didn't sound too discouraging for new writers, because one thing I want more than anything is more creatives out in the field. We are currently at a cultural low of tired rehashes, endless subversion, and nihilistic storytelling, and drowning in it. We need more artists to counteract this plague. But we also don't need more artistes who will help contribute to these problems and chase more potential audience away. The sinking ship of OldPub is full enough with such egos. We require more writers putting creativity first, and using their art as a way to connect with audiences instead of pandering to them or insulting them. We need a revolution in writing.

NewPub is here, and we need more ships in the fleet. It might take some time until you can catch up, but the journey will be well worth it. All you have to do is keep rowing.

For more on NewPub, check out the #1 bestseller, The Pulp Mindset!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Planetary Anthology is Complete!

Complete Series Available Here!

After many years in development, and going through two separate publishers, as well as many different editors and creative hands, the Planetary Anthology series has finally wrapped up! Today is the official release of the final volume, Saturn, and for the first time every volume is now out in the wild.

Starting as an ambitious project with the now-defunct Superversive Press, the Planetary Anthology series was meant to host 12 volumes based on the classical planet system (including the sun and two for the moon due to the amount of stories received) each headed by a different editor. The various volumes would each contain stories based on the different legends and themes centered around each planet. They could be any genre, as long as they were superversive in some way.

Unfortunately, Superversive Press ended up taking on more than they could carry, and only ended up releasing five of the volumes before they closed up shop. It was around this time that author Richard Paolinelli and his publisher, Tuscany Bay Books, stepped in to take over. He mentions it on his blog here back in April of 2020.

"Then disaster struck. After publishing only five books, Superversive Press shut down. For the six editors left hanging it was, to say the least, a huge disappointment as it was for the authors who had been accepted into many of them. But there was a ray of sunshine to be found among the dark clouds. Jason Rennie, the publisher at Superversive Press, announced he would be willing to turn over all rights to the series to another publisher should one be found with an interest in doing so.

"As you know, I just happen to have a small publishing house, well at least one-half of one, in my back pocket. And we’ve already established my interest in this entire series. So I put in a call with the other half of Tuscany Bay Books, Jim Christina, and we decided to pick up the series.

"We also decided to re-release the original five – Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and Jupiter – under our own imprint. This meant waiting for Superversive’s first editions to come off of Amazon after a three-month wait. Instead of sitting and waiting, we decided to release the three new books that were ready to go.

"Pluto was first, followed by Luna and Uranus. Then we reached the point where we could start re-releasing the originals and Mercury came out earlier this month. Venus will be released in late May and every six weeks after that a new release will become available until all 11 books are out.

[. . .]

"It has been an incredible journey with this series, an epic in its way, these three years. When it began I never for a second imagined it would turn out the way it has. I’d like to thank Jason for creating this series and, when circumstances forced him to shutter Superversive, that he was willing to allow another publisher to pick up this series’ banner and carry it on to completion."

Tuscany Bay kept this schedule. Starting their run in November of 2019 with the completed but never released Pluto, they pushed the rest of the series out, including the five reprints, up to today with the final release of Saturn in February 2021.

And it was no half-thought out project. Tuscany Bay created both print and audio versions (still in production!) of each volume, and have been very active promoting on both social media with posts and trailers for every release. The only change from the original project was keeping Luna at one volume instead of cutting it in two due to how much longer it would make the production process. Otherwise, this is the series as it was originally intended to be.

I should also mention that I have stories in two volumes, Cold Heart of Ouranos and Judgement Sun, both of which are sword and planet stories in the same cycle. There are two more to come in the future, though I cannot tell you when right now since they are not yet completed. Nonetheless, it was nice to have this series to push me to get started on them sooner than later. I am quite proud of both tales.

However, I know there are other writers who also used this series as a planning board to create new series and craft new ideas, so you can look forward to a lot of fresh material in these 11 volumes. There isn't any other project like it.

So now we should get to just what is the final count for the series. The number of contributing authors tally up to 90, and the amount of stories included reaches 193. There are all sorts of names from all over the field in different genres, as well as a few pseudonyms, contributing to make this project quite the read. 

The final trailer can be viewed here.

Contributors include (apologies for misspellings):

  • Danielle Ackley-McPhail [Venus]
  • Edward Ahern [Neptune]
  • Kevin J. Anderson [Mars]
  • Arlan Andrews [Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto]
  • J.M. Anjewierden [Saturn]
  • Lou Antonelli [Mercury, Venus, Earth, Luna, Mars, Jupiter]
  • J.D. Arguelles [Pluto]
  • Jay Barnson [Mars]
  • J.D. Beckwith [Mercury, Venus, Earth, Jupiter]
  • L.A. Behm [Luna, Jupiter, Pluto]
  • Dana Bell [Venus, Mars, Saturn]
  • Bret A. Booher [Jupiter, Neptune]
  • David Breitenbeck [Jupiter, Neptune]
  • Bokerah Brumley [Sol, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Luna, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Editor for Saturn]
  • Misha Burnett [Mercury, Venus, Neptune]
  • Sarah Byrne [Uranus]
  • K.M. Carroll [Mars]
  • Amy Sterling Casil [Venus]
  • Christine Chase [Pluto]
  • Kai Wai Cheah [Mars]
  • Jim Christina [Publisher]
  • J.D. Cowan [Sol, Uranus]
  • Vonnie Winslow Crist [Saturn, Neptune]
  • Emily Crook [Neptune]
  • Nathan Dabney [Earth]
  • Lucca DeJardins [Mars, Editor for Mars]
  • Chuck Dixon [Mars]
  • Susan Dorman [Sol]
  • Colleen Drippe [Jupiter]
  • Karina L. Fabian [Luna, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto]
  • Rob Fabian [Saturn]
  • Gail Deibler Finke [Neptune]
  • Declan Finn [Mercury, Venus, Luna, Mars, Pluto, Editor for Luna]
  • Marina Fontaine [Uranus]
  • A.M. Freeman [Sol, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Luna, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Pluto, Co-Editor for Venus]
  • Jake Freivald [Jupiter, Pluto, Editor for Neptune]
  • Julie Frost [Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus]
  • Caroline Furlong [Sol, Luna, Uranus]
  • Dan Gallagher [Earth]
  • Karl Gallagher [Luna, Saturn]
  • Alfred Genesson [Earth]
  • Marie Genesson [Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars]
  • Paul Go [Luna]
  • Allen Goodner [Pluto]
  • Josh Griffing [Sol, Earth, Luna]
  • Clinton Hale [Uranus]
  • David Hallquist [Sol, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Editor for Mercury]
  • W.J. Hayes [Venus, Earth, Neptune, Pluto]
  • Sean Patrick Hazlett [Mars]
  • Carlton Herzog [Saturn]
  • Frederic Himebaugh [Venus]
  • G. Scott Huggins [Saturn]
  • Lori Janeski [Luna]
  • Avily Jerome [Mars]
  • C.S. Johnson [Saturn]
  • Steve Johnson [Luna]
  • Jeb Kinnison [Jupiter]
  • L. Jagi Lamplighter [Mercury, Venus, Luna, Co-Editor for Venus]
  • Jane Lebak [Venus, Jupiter]
  • William Lehman [Luna]
  • Ann M. Lewis [Luna]
  • Frank Luke [Sol, Pluto]
  • Corey McCleery [Mercury, Pluto]
  • Jon Mollison [Mars]
  • Constantine Nakos [Uranus]
  • Jody Lynn Nye [Earth, Luna]
  • John M. Olsen [Earth, Pluto]
  • Richard Paolinelli [Sol, Earth, Luna, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Co-Editor for Pluto, Publisher]
  • Julie Pascal [Editor for Jupiter]
  • C.E. Perez [Neptune]
  • C.T. Phipps [Mars]
  • R.A. Piatt [Saturn, Pluto]
  • Andy Pluto [Pluto]
  • J.F. Posthumus [Saturn]
  • James Pyles [Sol, Mars, Saturn]
  • Jim Ryals [Pluto]
  • Denton Salle [Sol, Saturn]
  • Hans Schantz [Earth]
  • David Skinner [Pluto]
  • Margot St. Aubin [Venus, Luna]
  • B. Michael Stevens [Pluto]
  • Justin Tarquin [Luna]
  • Europa Thomas [Luna]
  • Mark Wandrey [Luna]
  • Richard Ware [Earth, Jupiter, Neptune]
  • J. Manfred Weichsel [Earth, Pluto]
  • Robert Wenson [Jupiter, Neptune]
  • Ben Wheeler [Sol, Mercury, Earth, Mars, Saturn, Uranus, Editor for Sol]
  • Edward Willett [Venus]
  • Chris Wilson [Uranus, Editor for Uranus]
  • Dawn Witzke [Editor for Earth]
  • John C. Wright [Mercury, Luna]
  • Josh Young [Mercury, Venus, Saturn]
  • Jason Rennie & previous editors for Superversive Press

All of these names contributed to make this series happen.

So if you have not yet jumped on the train of this incredible 11 volume series, now is the time! Get yourself just under 200 stories of wonder, excitement, and plenty of action.

It's been near half a decade since the Planetary Anthology blossomed from a single interesting idea, and yet here it is in its completed form.

Check it out today!

Find the Complete Series Here!

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Violent Storm: One of the Best Video Games Ever Made

We're about due for another dive into the past with one of these posts, so what better time than now? Let us talk about some classic video games. Posts around this place have been a bit heavier than usual, so let us lighten this puppy up. And we're going to lighten it up with one of the goofiest video games you can imagine.

The subject I have chosen is a game I have mentioned briefly one or two times before at Wasteland & Sky, but which has recently been getting noticed by bigger figures in the retro scene and new gamers everyday. This would be the 1993 Beat 'Em Up, Violent Storm, created by Konami. This was Konami's last entry in the genre, alongside Metamorphic Force (which is a game I might also talk about at some point), and is not very well known. Nonetheless, they went out with the strongest possible game they could. Violent Storm is one of the best games ever made.

And that's why this post exists.

Though for the longest time, Violent Storm was mocked by irony-bros and very online people as being too cartoony and stupid with "bad" music, it has recently turned around in appreciation due to the long-awaited wane of '00s bitter and angry internet culture. People now appreciate the game for what it is instead of mocking it for the era it came from.

I chose to talk about this game because of two reasons. The first is that Konami will probably never re-release it--they rarely ever re-release any of their classic arcade games from the late '80s and early '90s. The second is that it epitomizes everything the genre does right and when it was at its absolute peak, and easily shows how Beat 'Em Ups managed to captivate audiences for near a decade back in the day. The genre showed the art of simplicity in concept and how it could be blown up into an entire genre that still engrosses to this day. Keeping it simple allows more flexibility than you would think. Violent Storm is the perfect game to epitomize what the genre does best.

The reason it has shown new appreciation is due to the game finally getting a clear-headed approach. This is due to the death of irony poisoning in game criticism. Now we can discuss what Violent Storm mechanically right, and how its aesthetics are actually not bad, but indicative of the time, bring bright and attractive. Now that we're finally done laughing at a better cultural time period than the present we can see just what appeal was.

Violent Storm is the peak of a genre that had been more or less solidified by 1984 with games such as Kung-Fu Master or Konami's own Shaolin Road.

The Golden Age of the genre (Picture made by me)

Violent Storm came out right as the peak of the genre was starting to wane. By 1995, Beat 'Em Ups would more or less vanish from popular consciousness aside from one or two console releases in the years to come. Due to the advent of the one on one fighter, such as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, most arcades changed their focus towards them. The focus remained on the burgeoning fighting game long into the death of the arcade scene. As a consequence, Beat 'Em Ups were looked on as lesser for many years, hitting a low with IGN's review of Double Dragon Neon in 2012 lamenting "quarter munching" difficulty and stating that games such as this should no longer be made.

But that is getting ahead of myself.

Let us begin talking about the subject of the post. Violent Storm was put out at the tail end of August 1993 on the 30th. It was the 21st most successful arcade board of the year in Japan and, as previously mentioned, was Konami's last real entry in the genre. The game sort of came and went, not really getting much notice.

It was also the unofficial third entry in their Crime Fighters arcade series following Crime Fighters from 1989 and Vendetta in 1991. These were all made by the same team, and showed drastic improvements with each entry. Each game was based on a Cannon Films-style action movie plot with Konami's typical brand of cartoony, slapstick humor and buoyant music to brighten the crisp gameplay. As a consequence, this unofficial trilogy is fairly unique, even today.

Most Konami Beat 'Em Ups were based on licenses such as The Simpsons, X-Men, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but these were completely original games that carried much of that flavor over in new ways. By 1993 they had the genre mastered. Violent Storm is the peak of everything Konami learned in the genre since they started near a decade prior.

For instance, let us start with the story, such as it is. You don't play these games for the story, but it is important to note how they threw wrinkles in the framework in unexpected ways. It's a jambalaya of well worn ideas, mixed extremely well.

"In the 1990s, World War III has at last ended. The people are left to pick up the pieces and rebuild their civilizations. However, vicious gangs that prey on these defenseless citizens are obstructing the reconstruction.

"The main protagonists are Boris, Wade and Kyle, vigilantes who protect the fearful and helpless. Their largest problem is the corrupt, incorrigible, ruthless and lethal gang known as The Geld Gang. They have commissioned every type of person imaginable: purple-haired, leather-clad, chain-wielding, lead-pipe swinging, masked, martial artists, orange-mohawked, and men who use manhole covers as shields.

"One day, when the trio is patrolling the streets, alert, ready and able to help those in need, they see a woman named Sheena (a friend of theirs) waving at them as she walks across the street from a supermarket with groceries. A moment later, Lord Geld's right-hand man, Red Freddy, snatches her away on his motorcycle. Now, the three braves must save Sheena from the grips of Lord Geld."

Someone clearly likes Fist of the North Star, Mad Max, Cyborg, and Double Dragon, but the twist they took on the topic is what makes it memorable. It takes all those things and adds just enough of a spin to make it different. What makes Violent Storm work so well is where this all goes after said setting and setup is out of the way. They crank it to 11.

While most decided to make such an aesthetic look grim and depressing, Violent Storm decided to do the opposite. They created a strange look that helps the game to stand out from the crowd, inspired from many of the other games in the genre they had made up to this point. As a consequence, Violent Storm doesn't really look or sound anything like the above properties.

The advances in arcade boards and technology also allowed for big, bolder sprites than ever before, as well as improved sound. This game is a 2D powerhouse. What you get is almost an entire world of difference from what was happening in Kung Fu Master nearly a decade earlier, and well beyond what the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis were capable of. Konami pulled out all the stops. This is how far the Beat 'Em Up genre came in such a short period of time.



The bright palette contrasts with the violent subject matter and adds to the comedic tone without undermining the action. Every character is big, intimidating, and larger than life, and yet their reactions when they get hit are taken to the extreme which both adds to the threat and comedy at the same time. Violent Storm does double duty as a straight Beat 'Em Up and a loving parody at the same time, and both work tremendously well to creating an exciting tone.

However, as hinted at above, Konami also adds in a wrinkle with the aesthetic and setting, which is a sort of post-apocalyptic utopian vibe. You'll see crumbling buildings, creaking trains, dirty punks, and dirty streets outside ruined buildings and museums, and yet you'll also see sealed-bubble cities, beautiful forests, clean water, and happy people dressed in ancient Greek attire. It's a strange setting, but since it isn't elaborated on, it works. This is showing and not telling taken to the extreme, and that's what sells the tone. It also adds to the wide variety of locations you'll be battling through as well as some of the bizarre enemies that will show up to take you on. You won't see anything else in the genre that quite looks like this game does.

Given that you are playing a game as a post-apocalyptic gang, the sights you see along the way to rescuing your girl are quite in contrast with what you might expect. This isn't Double Dragon or Final Fight. It's a bright and busy world, yet filled with a lot of danger that will catch you off guard. And isn't that how it should be in a video game such as this?

As you also might have gathered from the clip at the top of the post, the music is also quite buoyant and loud. Of course many people will take note of the cheesiness, which is very much a good thing, and sort of write it all off as a lark, but that is dismissing much of the appeal. The music works because it knows how to shift with the atmosphere. It never stays in the same gear too long. always changing when the game demands it.

There are tracks that are bright cheery pop songs such as the above, but there are also darker atmospheric tracks for abandoned museums and underground facilities. Most tellingly of all, however, is the presence of rockabilly piano tracks, and surf songs that riff on Konami's own Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games. These add a punch of energy, levity, and aesthetic that gives much to the tone of the game. You're always left wondering just what is coming next, and everything works towards that.

Art-style aside, there isn't really any other game that sounds like Violent Storm does.

Then there is the gameplay. This is what puts the game over the top, as it should for any video game.

Konami Beat 'Em Ups have always been the most simple in the genre to get into, and Violent Storm doesn't buck the trend. However, in this game they decided to take the old standby Final Fight formula of one button to attack and the second to jump, and add a host of tweaks to it. Violent Storm is a game that is easy to get into but satisfying to master, much like home entries in the genre such as Streets of Rage 2 or Double Dragon Advance. And, unlike those two, Violent Storm manages this feat with only two buttons.

Depending on the direction you push the joystick, you can block attacks, strike enemies behind you, or angle your own moves in a way to break enemy defenses or strike faster or harder. Subtle directional movements of the stick can also add additional attacks to your arsenal while you hit the attack button. You can also change how you input your presses of the attack or jump button to change the movements you make. In other words, instead of one button being responsible for one move you are afforded an entire move-set depending on how willing you are to dive into what the game offers you. Or you can just mash the attack button. Whatever you'd prefer.

Another advantage is that the game directly tackles what is unavoidably one of the biggest issues with the genre: repetition. No matter how good a Beat 'Em Up is, the largest challenge is getting around the fact that you are beating up more or less the same waves of enemies over and over again for stages at a time. So many entries in the genre fail at offering the variety so sorely needed. This is what makes level design so very important.

In Violent Storm you are always doing or seeing something new. The first stage, as always, introduces the basics, but every level after that throws in a new wrinkle to keep things fresh. Just like the music and changing aesthetic, each stage switches things up in very subtle ways. Stage 2 is on a train that allows you to throw enemies off, light bulbs to shatter, and piglets that turn into weaponized footballs when you pick them up(!), and stage 3 goes from a street brawl with a kicking rap theme into a dance club with some of the craziest music you can imagine, not to mention weaponized potted plants and breaking furniture. In the midst of this are plenty of weapons, enemy patterns, and bosses, as well as varying enemy strengths, that all must be approached differently. The game keeps the flow moving, and keeps you thinking. It also ends at the exact right moment it should.

There are seven stages, each taking somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes to beat, lending the game the perfect length for the genre being around 45 minutes to an hour. This is assuming, of course, that you fly through the levels with ease.

The difficulty isn't really as quarter muncher as you might think. By this point, and with other games such as Sunset Riders and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, Konami had mastered their arcade design in a way where they didn't need to suck your quarters to keep you playing. They simply made the game tough enough that you just needed to understand the gameplay loop and get rewarded with having fun simply doing well. It's a hard game, but it isn't close to overbearing. This is arcade difficulty done right.

If you didn't know better you would have to suspect Violent Storm was made by someone who knew the genre inside out, and they very clearly did. As said before, this was made in 1993, when the genre was more or less mastered. Konami had this down to a science.

See for yourself:


As you also might have noticed, this is a three player game. Konami was always good at allowing a party atmosphere into their arcade games, and Violent Storm is no exception. Get together with a bunch of buddies and the lunacy of Violent Storm gets just that much better. The arcades were the peak of co-op gaming, followed by couch co-op with friends, but nothing quite beat making new friends and bonding  over great games like this. It's an experience lost with the death of the arcade. Nonetheless, this remains a shining example of a lost era. It doesn't get much better than this.

Unfortunately, Violent Storm has never been ported to anything since its original 1993 arcade release date. As mentioned, Konami never releases compilations or re-releases of their late '80s and early '90s arcade classics, for some reason, leaving gems like this forgotten outside of those in the emulation scene. Unless you find a cabinet of this one (which is very unlikely) there are precious few ways to get your hands on it legally.

Regardless of all that, you should very much play it. They don't make them like Violent Storm anymore.

In an age of $70 AAA games that last for maybe one playthrough before they are forgotten, the arcade age seems like an entirely different world now, and it is. Back in the day the length in games didn't come from artificial length depending on linear progression through a story: it came through mastering gameplay loops and replay value which leaned on fun factor. This is why classic games have stood the test of time like they have and why AAA will not, and such a thing just isn't admitted in the current broken industry. But you know it's true.

We are coming to the seventh anniversary of when the game journalists declared Gamers Were Over, and, as you can tell, that turned out to be patently false. They get everything wrong, just as they passed over great games such as this. They have no idea what they are doing or what made their own industry so successful to begin with. This is why they are dying out.

As the old industry falls apart under its weight from years of going in the wrong direction, it is more important than ever to realize what made the medium so big and so good to begin with. In other words, industry guards are not to be trusted. Be wary when this crowd reviews classic games. They aren't looking at it from the right angle, and they deliberately undersell them. Keep that in mind in the unlikely event that Violent Storm is ever released. Guarantee that nothing I mentioned in this post will be brought up by them.

Nonetheless, none of that matters. What does matter is that Violent Storm is one of the best games ever made, and one that everyone should play. It epitomizes the best in the genre, and the best gaming has to offer. Its gameplay, aesthetic, and structure, are all perfectly crafted to form the ultimate example of what one expects from a video game.

Seek it out and play it. Few games are so fun as Violent Storm is, and few ever will be. It epitomizes what makes a Beat 'Em Up great.

And that is what makes it one of the best games of all time.

For more Beat 'Em Up inspired action, check out Grey Cat Blues! Where mudmen from hell run rampant on the shadow planet!