Monday, August 30, 2021

Julian Hawthorne's "Strange Recollections" Kickstarter

Back it Here!

Cirsova is once again back with a new crowdfund: this time for more of Julian Hawthorne's nearly lost works. You can check this one out for yourself here.

This one funded in record time, but the more it makes the more old fiction can be preserved. Because that is what this is really about.

In case you forgot:

"Cirsova Publishing's effort to rescue Julian Hawthorne's planetary romance The Cosmic Courtship from its 'near-lost' status was met with a tremendous response. We established a new and ongoing Cirsova Classics imprint devoted to finding 'near-lost' pulp fiction in the public domain and publishing them in modern format as part of a Stretch Goal that was met.

"We only thought it fitting that, before moving on to other works by other authors, we should complete a set of Julian Hawthorne's All-Story Weekly-era fiction in a standard set."

Yes, this campaign is to preserve the rest of Julian Hawthorne's small body of fiction. Julian was purveyor of weird fiction in its early days, and deserves to have his work live on. Definitely be sure to jump on this one as soon as possible.

Given that this kickstarter involves 5 different stories (4 novelletes/novellas and 1 novel are the contents), there are many different tiers and combinations thereof you can choose from:

Like The Cosmic Courtship, all three books in this project will be offered in the following formats:
  • Pocket Paperback - Cirsova has been bringing back the Pocket Paperback format! These are no-frills and have a small type face to reduce page count and costs. A good, cheap way to get the stories, but maybe not the best for older readers and the visually impaired.
  • Magazine Format - Cirsova recreates the look and feel of the pulps with these large-sized double-columned magazine-style paperbacks.
  • Trade Paperback - Standard trade paperback format. Good balance of cost and convenience.
  • Hardcover - Cirsova is offering each book as a handsome hardcover volume with wrap-around dust-jacket.

We are also offering an incredible limited edition coffee table Omnibus that collects ALL of Hawthorne's All-Story Weekly fiction in a single oversized volume.

All in all, that's 13 different books!

It's quite a meaty campaign. There are combinations and add-ons in different formats you can look into, as well stretch goals and all sorts of production information on the campaign page. Be sure to look into it yourself. I can't even begin to explain it all.

Once again, you can find the Julian Hawthorne kickstarter here.

In other news, I am feeling better and am back on track again. There will be a post this Thursday, and it will be a doozy. 

Until then, have a good one!

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Weekend Lounge: Anime's Pulp Revolution

Hope you all are having a good weekend. As a way to relax, check out this episode of the Superversive podcast where Anthony Marchetta and his guest Caroline Furlong discuss anime and their own pulp revolution.

It's a long one, but it's worth listening to, as they always are. Sit back and relax on this pleasant weekend. You've earned it.

Also, a reminder that Pulp Rock is on Indiegogo! Be sure to back it, as is nothing else like this project on the market. Alexander Hellene has gone all out on this one and if we reach the goal he'll be able to make it even better. Give it a look today!

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Nightland Racer!

Find it Here!

A new week, a new book to check out! With so much fertile ground in NewPub it is easy to miss out on many works constantly coming down the turnpike. It makes posts like this feel more necessary than they normally would be if it was just any other book.

But we aren't covering just any other book!

Today I'm taking a look at a work by author Fenton Wood. That would be the recent release Nightland Racer, a book as weird as you might think it is!

Here is the description:

Reynard "The Fox" Douglas is an outlaw racecar driver who despises the government that jailed him, drafted him, and seized his money.

He's also the only man who can pilot an experimental nuclear-powered supercar into the Zone, a realm of mists and monsters where nobody gets out alive.

The Zone is expanding...and eventually it will engulf the entire world. At the heart of the Zone is a singularity, a portal into other times and other places.

Transported into the distant future of Earth, Douglas has to fight his way across a landscape of alien cultures and bizarre life forms, in search of an ancient superweapon that can stop a sentient black hole from devouring the Earth.

Inspired by William Hope Hodgson's classic THE NIGHT LAND (1912), NIGHTLAND RACER is an exciting and inventive tale, using Fenton Wood's trademark combination of mythology and hard SF.

Ages 12 and up. Contains mild profanity and post-human monsters.

You can find Nightland Racer here!

In other news, I don't think I'm going to have a new post up this week. I've been feeling a bit under the weather and have had to deal with a lot of weird things going on right now. Instead I'll see if I can have another signal boost up by the weekend.

Thanks for reading! Your continuing support is appreciated. It helps remind me that all of this is worth it after all. Have yourself a good week and I will see you next time.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Word & Sound Alliance

For about as long as I've been alive I've always found something ephemerally beautiful about the way music can affect us, whether it be general moods or just triggering emotions we don't expect. This isn't exclusive to music, but it's entirely aural impact gives it a bit of a different punch than other mediums do. This is just the power of art, and it is what makes it so valuable to us as individuals and as a society.

Stories have the same affect, they just achieve it in a different way. Whereas music is entirely aural, storytelling slips through the eyes (or fingers) into the brain where we process and understand it. How they are ingested into the body and soul is completely different. They are both very varied artforms that require wholly separate skills to master. 

And yet they are both very similar in a lot of ways.

When author Alexander Hellene asked me to be part of his Pulp Rock Anthology project, I instantly jumped aboard. I didn't even have to think about. The reason is that I think the two different forms should come together more often than they do. In fact, we've separated and sealed off every medium of art and entertainment into its own ghetto of "communities" instead of allowing them to intersect and flow into each other like they did before the 21st century came into existence. We have forgotten how wild things can get.

There is nothing quite like an adventure story based around music, songs, or legends thereof. I've done it myself many times because it is just so fascinating to me. However, outside of Manly Wade Wellman's Silver John stories, this subgenre of adventure is disappointingly rare, especially today. But it doesn't have to be!

In fact, I created an entire series of short stories involving a band that travels across an old backwoods country planet while dealing with supernatural craziness along the way. You've already read one of them in StoryHack. One of this series is in this Pulp Rock anthology, and another is on the way elsewhere. You'll have to see what all those other tales are about in the near future. But for now, there is plenty on the way.

Aside from that I've also written Grey Cat Blues and Y Signal, both of which feature music as a major component to what happens. I do have other stories in the pipeline with the same sort of inspiration, but for now let us focus on the ones that are already out.

Grey Cat Blues is where the music I was listening for most of my life gave me the entire aesthetic to work around and even add in entire character ideas and motivations. The old blues and country-style storytelling the genres were known for back during their commercial and creative peaks inspired a lot of what I did in that book.

For Y Signal, it was about the Gen X era of using noise rock to express anger and a desire for more than the world they saw before them at the time. It is something that still resonates now even decades later after the 1990s are but a fading memory in a vanishingly small number of people. But the music and stories from that time help keep the memories alive of what an odd time it was. This is something only our art and entertainment can really convey to the audience.

Art is like an intangible cloud in the back of your mind, unpredictable yet thick. It contains all our shared experiences, our hopes, our dreams, and even memories of the past. Without it we would be much poorer, just as we would without any individual life in this world. Every piece matters, every piece contributes, and every piece is necessary, even if we don't see it. This is how it is meant to be. Everything matters.

I was reminded of this recently when the most popular VTuber in the world, Gawr Gura, performed her usual popular karaoke stream and decided to throw in a Sabaton cover in the middle of it. The internet blew up talking about it, but I think many might have missed why exactly it hit so hard with so many people. It wasn't just the song, but what it meant to the people listening to her. The performance came out of nowhere and left many pleasantly shocked and delighted.

For those unaware of the term, "VTuber" just means virtual youtuber. Someone who uses an avatar for anonymity to do what normal youtubers do. This burgeoning scene blew up big last year thanks to newcomers like Gura who have a lot of charisma and winning personalities to connect with audiences. Next month will be her first year anniversary as a VTuber and she already has over 3 million youtube subscribers. Despite initial skepticism in some circles, she won many people over. Now, near twelve months later, she continues to grow in popularity.

For reference, here is the encore performance of the above song:

The song is out of her vocal range, but it hardly matters. She still nailed it with plenty of enthusiasm. Gura's voice is more adapt to slower, jazzy numbers, and yet she attempted to sing a power metal song that requires a harsher tone and big energy. It is the opposite of what she is best at doing. You'd think it wouldn't work, right?

But it did, and quite splendidly. She performed two Sabaton songs (and a Motorhead one!) during this stream regardless, because she likes the songs just that much. And the audience enjoyed every moment of it. Gura is a fantastic singer, you can find many clips to prove it, but when she enjoys herself, the audience gets into it too. That is what matters more to those listening.

When she asked for an encore, the audience unanimously asked for Sabaton's The Last Stand again, and she eagerly jumped into it. Why did it work so well despite that it technically shouldn't have? Because the song is clearly one she has passion for and put everything into her performance of it. Does it help that the song is great and that she has a great voice? Sure. But it is the fact that threw herself into it like she did is why it worked out so well. It was trending for quite a while on social media for a reason.

At the same time, she also managed to both bridge the gap with metal and Sabaton fans as well as introducing a good portion of her own audience to music they might not be familiar with. On the other hand, Sabaton fans might have found a streamer they might want to follow by listening to her sing. No matter how you look at it, this is a win for everyone.

This is the power of art, especially in something like music. You can be linked to people and things you wouldn't in a million years think you have anything in common with. Such a thing is unfortunately underrated these days, but it still remains true.

Didn't think you had anything in common with a singing anime shark girl? Think again! Art is deeper than just the surface level. You never know just what is going to connect with who and when it is going to happen. This is what makes it exciting!

This is one of the reasons the ego problems we see with artists, musicians, and writers, today is so utterly misguided and pointless. It isn't about us, it's about the art and how we can use it to reach each other when we couldn't otherwise. That is what matters!

At some point we began to worship the artist and the art, and it is what has led so many people to have the wrong view on entertainment. It has also caused us to build whole identities around this misunderstanding. Art is made for everyone, not just cliques.

You can see this in the music world, too. The whole concept of a "rock star" didn't really exist before Elvis Presley, and even his popularity came from that fact that he was naturally popular and charismatic when performing. Starting in the 1960s, most rock music was boosted by either the record labels with the most cash to spare or managers with the same. Not to mention payola, as much as certain people don't want to admit it, existed and flooded radio stations. The music world began worshipping stars over enjoying the music instead. It might be hard to imagine now when all modern music stars are walking punchlines, but it was different back in the day.

Unfortunately, most of the time the music was liked mainly because of who was making it. This filtered reception of said material and caused fanatic cliques to spring up. Just look at the way music made from those who die young is treated in comparison to those who live normal, long, fulfilling lives. It is as if they are worshipping golden gods. It didn't help that there were entire magazines dedicated to building a cult out of this music.

The advent of MTV putting an emphasis on aesthetics and looks over the sonic quality of an aural art shouldn't even need to be mentioned. For some reason in the 1980s and 90s you needed a music video--a term that is contradictory on its face--to stand out. Of course, music videos don't really exist anymore, and anyone hearing about them these days would be baffled by their appeal, but they did a good job changing the perception of what the form is meant to be about. Visuals are simply not a part of what makes music powerful. Sorry, punk and metal fans. What matters is the musical content.

Oddly enough, the combination of music with prose fiction is a unique one that actually adds a layer to each, though it was hardly every pushed the way music videos were. Aural sounds to put a slant on prose and words to put a story to sounds is a combination that adds something unique. It is just reality that the shallow and pointless form of the music video could never really do anything on this level.

This is what makes projects like Pulp Rock so fascinating.

How does this combination of sound and word do it? By attaching so viscerally to the imagination. Music requires your mind to put the disparate instruments and sound together to form a whole. The production and the composition of the song adds to what picture your mind puts out in order to understand it in a coherent manner.

Reading is not much different. You read the words off the page and your brain plays the scenario inside your head. You are given the tools of the story--now it is up to your imagination to do the heavy lifting of letting the plot play out. This is the fun of it!

Combine these two separate things together and you can easily see the appeal of each and how they can work as one. This is one of the reasons I jumped at the chance to contribute to Pulp Rock. In an age where both music and reading have been so devalued by the wider culture it is nice to be a part of a project that combines them into one and allows the audience to see just what makes this insanity all so special. In a time where we worship artists and aesthetic over content, it's nice to be part of something that cares more about concept and the core. It's not as common as you'd expect!

I am not certain when it happened, but a shift did occur. We went from liking music for being music and stories for being stories into liking the idea of each being dismantled by the people "in charge" of these industries. As a result, you now have what the modern music and OldPub industries are--walking corpses that receive no respect from anyone. They are dead, and not coming back, and no one is going to think they deserved any better.

But the forms themselves remain very much alive! With the death of those old decrepit industries, it is now the chance for the revival both need badly. Pulp Rock is one such new idea.

The 2000s especially was such a horrible decade for art. If you lived it and put aside any lingering nostalgia, you'd know what I mean. Post-2001 art was a quagmire of misery and misdirected hate that makes it unbelievably hard to revisit outside of personal attachment. 

Music especially suffered a death blow. It was the decade where rock music finally breathed its last breath and endless variations on boring dissonant dance music being dominant. What wasn't awkwardly politicized by people who just repeated talking points from comedians was still covered in a grime and misery that wouldn't wash off no matter what anyone did. By 2010, the genre of rock was irrelevant, and the industry itself was basically over and done. The collapse was sudden, and few noticed it at the time, but it was very real.

To be fair, reading as a hobby and industry did die first. After the Thor Power Tool Case removed so much history and backlog off the bookshelves, people started reading less and less. Everything appeared to wrong during this point. All the independent companies were bought up or went under. The sword and sorcery boom was cut off at the knees due to OldPub meddling, and Mythic Fiction began imitating the bones of Tolkien's story structure and calling it a genre. 

Creativity was being commoditized into formulas for easy bookshelf stacking. Reading was no longer fun, imaginative, or thrilling--it was a bunch of checkboxes you needed to hit to be accepted into the OldPub meat grinder. In essence, the industry has been dead for decades.

The less said about the slide in Futuristic Fiction, the better. If you can think of anything from the genre from the 1990s that made any impact, you probably either lived during the period and scrounged hard for something to find or you just read anything with a sword or spaceship on the cover. Either way, none of this improved when the 2000s came along. By that point it was already much too late to right the ship. Audiences were long gone.

It didn't take much longer for other forms like comic books or movies to make the same slide into the mire, though you can still find the root causes go back much further than even the '90s. The nadir was just hit during the 2000s. Even video games are falling into this pit. Really, the lack of creativity from the big boys was only a problem when audiences had no access to alternatives. The thing is, now they very much do.

Nonetheless, that was over a decade ago. It's in the rearview mirror. Today we can appreciate things for what they are again, especially with the rise of so many better alternatives. The withering away of crusty 20th century institutions have given us the chance to reassess and remember just what everything is for again. 

Music at its heart is meant for the concert hall or the hootenanny, a place where we can all get together and have a ball together. That might be difficult these days, but the internet gives us the opportunity to have that connection in a new way when it would otherwise be difficult. Even if it is through the online concert of a singing anime shark girl!

Reading as well now is no longer locked to OldPub bookstores owned fully by the flatlining large book corporations. Now you can find anything online you desire, regardless of your taste. It would be nice if it were easier to do that, and if the internet weren't battered by poor algorithms and programming all over the place, but who knows what the future will hold? Either way, reading itself is in much better shape than it was a decade ago.

And projects like Pulp Rock allow us to see the connection between them on an even clearer scale. This is the future of art and entertainment. You better get used to it! The tired 20th century ways are finally over and done with. It is time for new ways; ways more in line with human nature itself.

I have to say that if this is the future we see before us then we are really heading in the right direction. We are starting to connect and share among each other again, and that means everything. We've needed this for a long time. The times are finally changing.

In the end, that's what really counts. Change isn't always a good thing or a bad thing, but in this case it was well beyond needed and very necessary. The old way of the big publishers and industry is finally over and done. The corpse can now be laid to rest and buried. We are well beyond due for this.

Art will never die, no matter how we might try to smother or gut it. Just like the future will never stop coming, even if we try to ignore it bearing down on us at every opportunity. All we have to do is pay attention to what's ahead, because it could be anything!

Once again, you can find Pulp Rock here. Check this exciting anthology out for ten exciting stories about music, in any way you can imagine. They are all very wild and off the wall. My story is bizarre, but it fits in just fine. You're going to love it.

And there is much, much, much more to come from me and many artists and entertainers out there. We're going to find a way to get across to you, no matter what. Because that's what we do, and that's why we're here.

It might get strange, but isn't that what makes it fun? You never know what's coming next on the road ahead. All I can say is that you won't see anything else like what is coming down the pike. The future is open, but it's also always coming straight for you.

Be ready!

For more weirdness, check out my new book, Brutal Dreams! This is a story of adventure, romance, and horror, in a nightmare world. What does the future hold in endless sleep? Read on to find out!

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Brutal Dreams is Out!

Find it Here!

After far too long, today is finally the release of my new book Brutal Dreams! This is a story I've had ready to go for such a long time that I almost wondered if I would ever get it out there for you to read. Now is the time for it to be unleashed on the world! Suffice to say, this one is a bit different than anything I've released so far.

Brutal Dreams is the story of Average Joe Christopher Archer who awakens from a car wreck in the middle of the woods at night. But he isn't alone in this mess, as he soon finds himself face to face with beings that Shouldn't Be. On his way to learning the truth about his missing fiancé, Archer enters a living nightmare where the rules of reality no longer apply and death is not the worst thing to be feared--what lies in the bowels of that old mansion is. But what brought him here to begin with? You'll have to find out for yourself!

Can Archer learn the truth and escape the unending death of this miasma world? Perhaps he can. But at what cost? Any man who walks into this world will never walk out the same again. That is, if he ever finds the way out to begin with.

Suffice to say, with a title like Brutal Dreams, it isn't going to be easy. Would you expect anything else? This is not a clean book in regards to violence or suffering.

Here is the official blurb:

A Living Nightmare

After awakening in the woods, Christopher Archer finds himself trapped in a world outside of time. Fog monsters, armed gangsters, and a legendary spear, all await his arrival. But what about the fiancé who disappeared months ago?

As Archer explores this eternal midnight, he can only wonder—is this all just a dream, or is there something more hidden in the dark, watching his every move?

There is one choice. He must traverse the nightmare and learn the truth.

I can't say where the inspiration for this came from except me wondering what actually would be the worst horror to wake up to one day. Most horror films are content with a lone aggressor with a butcher knife attacking low IQ college kids, and most horror books always want to make it about some weird sexual disfunction instead of true terror. I definitely didn't want that.

Therefore, Brutal Dreams is a book about a normal guy who gets the rug of reality pulled out from under him, in more ways than one. Suddenly his seemingly normal existence is gone and now he must fight in the dark for a way to reclaim some light for himself again. But can he do that with a whole world out to get him? Hopefully Archer is made of sterner stuff.

If not . . . well, you'll see.

Much like Y Signal, this release leans closer to Horror than it does pure Adventure . . . to a point. But to say anything further on that end would involve major spoilers. Nonetheless, my readers expect action when they read my books, and you will definitely not be disappointed on that front. It gets a bit wild and out there by the end--but the battle of good against evil always does. You're never going to guess where this one ends.

Brutal Dreams is weird, like everything I've done, though it goes further off the deep end here than before. The projects I have been writing recently are a tad more on the strange side--ask my editors for confirmation on that one. This was more or less the story that set me down that path, and I can finally share it with you all today. It gets weirder from here. And yes, Brutal Breams available in both paperback and kindle form. Physical copies aren't going anywhere under my watch. I want readers to have as many options as possible. As should be standard in NewPub.

Here is the paperback cover:

A bit different than my usual covers

I guess what really got me started on this one was the 1980s horror novel boom I had been indulging in and the genre movies I'd covered on Cannon Cruisers and elsewhere. Basically, I wanted to write a sharp and to the point story of adventure, terror, and excitement of the kind the mainstream no longer offers audiences and of the type editors destroyed with tons of needless padding to break the pacing. Brutal Dreams is a bit of a throwback in that regard, but it is NewPub-style work of rock solid pacing and constant escalation all the way through. You're not going to believe where this one ends. Trust me.

One thing I learned, and it might have been when writing this book in particular, is that I can really do anything I want. I don't have to hold myself back in the fear that something might be too weird, violent, or against some imaginary rule system. As a consequence, a lot of off the wall things happen in Brutal Dreams, but it's all logically consistent with the story being told. It's something I should have already known, it just finally sank in fully here.

And this is a trend that has continued with other things I've written. You might have read Y Signal, but that's only one of them. Upcoming short stories (to be announced later!) are a lot crazier than usual. The sequels to Gemini Warrior get progressively off-kilter, including the ones I haven't even written yet. The next project I'm working on, and will hopefully be out this year, is the most bizarre thing I've ever considered doing, and I'm still a bit in disbelief that I'm actually doing it . . . and that it is working out. It's getting strange, folks.

Then there is the future beyond that.

The last two years haven't been as smooth as I'd like. My writing output should be higher than it is, and I'm definitely working on trying to get it back up to speed again, but life is what it is. Hopefully I can still reach my goal of 4 books released this year, because I am very close to achieving it. Nonetheless, there is much more to come even after 2020 ends.

Check out Brutal Dreams today! You definitely won't read anything else like it. I've made certain of that!

Untold horror, a mysterious secret, and a lost love! What else is waiting in the world of Brutal Dreams? Read today and find out!

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Hope Against Trope

One thing we as writers and audiences don't tend to ask is what stories are actually for. Why do we consume them so eagerly and so intensely? And what is it these old weird tales had that prevents so many modern ones from sticking as well or reaching as big an audience as older stories did. What happened? I have a theory as to why some of this might be the case. It is simply a matter of disorganized thinking and mismatched priorities.

Stories have been around for a long time, but they haven't always been the same as they are today. In fact, in many ways, we are more limited today than we were when storytelling itself began countless centuries ago. Limitations aren't always a problem, but in the 21st century where mainstream book publishers have killed off reading as a hobby, it is an epidemic.

Today I thought I would cover a controversial subject in writing circles that I've never quite seen as controversial, partially because I tend to not look at things from a writer's perspective but from an outsider. This way I can get a more neutral position which is what led to my view on the subject. I didn't form these thoughts out of nowhere. Whether from NewPub or OldPub, the same advice is always given on this subject, which is always a good sign that it is misguided and out of date. I am of course speaking of tropes, and the worship of them by modern writers.

In this day and age, just about everyone knows what tropes are. Even though they've always existed, it appears that in the modern day they are inescapable. From the teenager guffawing at the snarky leader who makes funny quips, to the very educated collage student who nods sagely at the female lead not needing any man, to the adult clapping along when the comic relief references a video game made in the 1990s, tropes are everywhere. They rule all.

And that is exactly the problem: they don't.

There are two camps today in regard to storytelling: one that thinks tropes are checklists that make fiction great and another that thinks tropes are checklists that must be subverted to make great fiction. Both of these groups are horrendously wrong and incorrect to the point that they are currently damaging and dulling the creative process of modern writers and creators. If you are arguing that tropes are a "good" or "bad" in a general sense then you have already lost the plot. Tropes are neither; they just are.

Let us start from the beginning. What are stories? Stories are tales told about events that happen and protagonists that get from one place to another. That is as stripped down a description as one can get. Stories are about things that occur to people. Simple.

Since everything in this world runs on systems, it only makes sense that there would be one for the creation of stories. And there is. Many, in fact. We've learned what audiences react to in storytelling and what they do not. Hence why genres such as adventure, mystery, romance, and horror, all contain elements shared across the spectrum as well as containing aspects exclusive to their own. People who want an adventure story want certain things to happen in them, and it is the writer's job to fulfill that expectation. So of course there are universal elements they will share. This is an unavoidable reality we all must accept.

Where this goes horrible, horribly wrong is when gatekeepers begin performing shit tests and checklists to determine what the audience is allowed to consume and what a writer is allowed to write. How do they do this? They do it by using the idea of "Tropes" as a rulebook and makeshift bible. In essence, they decided certain "Tropes" are no longer acceptable to audiences and others must be included instead to appeal to whatever fancy the OldPub urbanite hipster editor has at that moment. Essentially, this turns stories into trope checklists meant to be filled out.

It goes further than that. The false genres on the OldPub book stores were all fabricated the same way. It's all a network of systems devised by a handful of urbanites that has no bearing on reality. And being so out of touch is why they are currently failing.

Want to be filed in the right section of the bookstore? If so, then be sure your story contains Genre Element or face rejection. Science Fiction might not exist, but the people in charge need it to be real in order to control it. Because that is what this is about for them.

So for the purposes of this piece, let me be clear. Tropes do not define stories; stories define tropes. What this means is that adventure stories will always have heroes exploring the unknown and the darkest pits because the story type defines it as such. They don't have those things because a checklist demands it be there. That is backwards. One is dependent on the other existing. By the same token, doing the opposite or "subverting" these fabricated checklists made by gatekeepers doesn't create anything new or original. It's simply reacting to a strawman genre that gatekeepers invented for themselves and their legions of workshop writers.

For a controversial example you can take the modern worship of the Hero's Journey. If you are altering your adventure story because you need to add The Refusal Of The Call because it is a supposed non-negotiable trope for adventure stories then you are no longer writing a story. You are now writing a story constructed around tropes--the tropes now control your story. You do not. This isn't creativity: this is a box. You should never put something in a story because it has to be there. You should only put things in a story because the story needs it to be what it is.

This is what makes "subversion" such a cheap gimmick and a crutch for writers. Simply looking at a list of tropes and deciding to do the Opposite is not writing a story. There is no effort, there is no soul, and there is no point beyond reacting to meta-nonsense audiences themselves don't care about. You are more interested in being clever than being creative. Basing your idea of good storytelling on fooling your customers and calling them names when they don't like your hackwork writing is a fool's errand. At this point you are no longer attempting to connect with them.

And it is why no one watches Hollywood TV and movies or reads OldPub books anymore. They deliberately refuse to give stories to their audiences by basing their entire idea of storytelling around meta-tropes that no one aside from the obsessive care about, then flipping them. Audiences want to be entertained--not have a flaming paper bag placed on their porch.

I regret to inform you that trope obsession is entirely this: it is putting the audience and the story behind obsessing over the chrome plating instead of the engine. Your average audience member wants the hero to get the girl and stop the villain. They don't care how you get there as long as the storytelling itself is internally consistent. Is it a "trope" that a hero gets the girl and stops the villain? I don't care. The audience doesn't care. It's just something that happens and is expected. Not letting that happen because it is a "trope" is exactly the issue here.

Putting tropes on a pedestal is inviting idol worship, and that is exactly what has happened here. Those obsessed with the idea of this meta-nonsense then find ways of bending and breaking these rules, unaware that you cannot bend or break the story you are constructing simply to get a result you want. That isn't storytelling. It's hackwork. If we didn't pointlessly obsess about the chrome plating to begin with then this wouldn't have ever happened. But we did, and now everything is a mess.

Take the above picture as an example. You might write a story and get to a point where you are figuring out the people who live in your world. Then you think "I want a geek character" so you begin to scan trope pages to make sure he fits every box possible. After all, you want your character to be "correct" don't you? Tropes are rock solid rules, after all! You might even just lift a "Geek" character from one of your favorite television shows and just file off the serial numbers. Anything to make sure you fall into the box, or react against it.

However, this is wrong. You are writing human beings with hopes and dreams and strengths and flaws. They very well might match a trope type somewhere. The issue is that as a writer you shouldn't care if the character does. It doesn't matter if your side character reminds someone of Steve Urkel as long as he fits the story you're trying to tell. Warping and bending your creation to hit the correct tropes for consumption is bad writing.

Now, you can very well do all the above, but doing so is not creativity. You aren't creating a character that fits naturally within the confines of your world that is reactive to the setting or plot. You are just writing a trope for the sake of having a trope because you think you have to have it there in the story. This isn't what storytelling exists for. Writing is about more than looking through lists of tropes and mixing and matching them in order to get the best audience reaction. Nothing kills creativity worse than focus-testing. When saying this became controversial, I don't know. But I do know no one who wrote the pulps wrote stories with a checklist by their side. So why do you?

This is what I meant earlier by the difference between tropes springing from the story, and stories springing from the tropes. One treats the story as an organic thing, the other as a Frankenstein hodgepodge of hacky ideas awkwardly pasted together. It is (post)modernism driving right over the edge of sanity.

When I say trope obsession is ruining storytelling, this is what I mean. Writing is about connecting to your readers, not pandering to expectations. This is a creativity killer.

It also is quite a bit devaluing to your own work to just slap random nonsense other people came up with into your writing. A "Geek" character doesn't mean a walking stereotype. No one wants to read about a cliché.

And unfortunately, this is what tropes have become: a way for writers to lean on clichés under the guise of creativity and "realism" with premade ideas ready to be copy/pasted in. Whether you agree or not with the point of tropes, it is a fact that the way they are used and worshiped today is objectively harmful. Especially when so many modern writers use them like this.

Storytelling isn't dependent on tropes; tropes are dependent on storytelling. This difference is crucial and is in danger of being forgotten in this age of automated storytelling pumped out like product.

The sooner we remember this the sooner we can get back to worrying more about plots and ideas instead of filling imaginary writing quotas. I for one, would like to put things in proper proportion again.

Creativity should not come at the expense of boring formulas and hack tropes because you have to have them. You should only have whatever the story needs to get by, and nothing else. Sometimes that requires going against what is expected.

Give the story what it needs to be the story it was meant to be. Do not add things because you think they should be there. Creativity is more than checklists.

This whole screed sounds as if I hate tropes or the very idea of tropes at all. Truth be told, I was approached by many writers when expressing the opinions you are reading here reminding me that "tropes are inescapable" and that one can't write a story without them. How can you escape the reality of the almighty trope?

Very easily, actually. I simply don't let them control me or what I do. They are controlled by me. Do you see the difference?

I write stories that contain tropes; I don't write tropes to be placed in stories. Clearly I know there are recurring themes and archetypes that occur in fiction--we are writing in a tradition after all. There is nothing wrong with that. What I am telling you is that tropes are not the lifeblood of the fiction itself. Such an idea is completely backwards as to where tropes come from in the first place. We are looking at them upside down.

Tropes exist outside the framework of the creative process and are meant for analyzation by those who care about such things. Audiences don't care about any of this, though, and that is what really matters here. 

I don't tend to talk about tropes on this blog because I find them corny to discuss with any degree of seriousness and that I don't care about them. I don't care because they don't matter. It's a waste of my time to think about them.

As I said, the bigger point is that none of this actually matters in the slightest, and thinking it matters is why storytelling has been so damaged by idolization for so long. The fact that we obsess over this instead of discussing the actual stories or themes that roll out of the eternal truths being expressed is part of the reason having conversations about storycraft is such an unfruitful endeavor these days. Trope discussion is horrendously boring.

This is a difficult subject to write about because I do like art and entertainment and I do like talking about what people like about it and what affects people. That is fun as much as it is illuminating. But tropes are surface level descriptions of things similar stories might or might not contain. My interest in them is very limited and I honestly don't think about them at all when writing characters or plot points, so being told constantly they are the lifeblood or cornerstone of fiction itself is not matching of my experience.

I think this is entirely backwards. Fiction is what gives tropes any meaning at all. Otherwise they are just a list of things that might or might not be in a specific kind of story. Nothing more and nothing less. They aren't in control of the story, they are the what is being controlled.

Do Tropes exist? Sure. But the audience doesn't care. They just want entertainment. And that is all that matters, in the end.

At the end of the day, writing is a craft with tools like any other. Just like those other crafts, the tools do not define what the craft is. They only aid in getting it completed in the best shape possible. You cannot master a craft without mastering tools, but the tools are merely part of the process of crafting. They are not what drives the craft.

And that is all that needs to be said. Do not worship the tools. Do not worship the paint. Do not worship the aesthetic. Do not worship any part of a craft, honestly. Keep it all balanced in the knowledge that every piece contributes to a greater collective whole. This is what makes the whole process so fun and exciting, both as a writer and a reader.

Since art is a way to connect it only stands to reason every part of the story should be in the service of doing just that, but no individual part should stand above the others. Separating and cordoning off different segments to fetishize them is exactly the reason so much art is alienating and insular these days. This is the opposite of how it is meant to be done.

Since we want to bring fiction back to the masses and to get more people to read again, we cannot use this failure of an approach any longer. We need to stop bowing to tools instead of just using them. It is time to put things back in their proper place. 

Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lord Dunsany, Abraham Merritt, Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Stanley Weinbaum, Donald Wandrei, E.E. "Doc" Smith, and C.L. Moore, didn't need to scan lists of tropes to write their stories, and neither do you. I can tell you that none of them stressed over or gave a second thought as whether their stories fit in any boxes. That sort of thing is entirely incidental. What mattered to them was the story itself above all else.

All you need to do is write the story you need to write. That's what the audience wants and desires. To grow and reach more people, we need a new focus. We need to turn away from insular perspectives and thought processes that fetishize the craft. We need to grow outward. It is the only way to connect with audiences.

We live in a NewPub world now. The many mistakes of OldPub no longer apply to us or the fresh landscape we are currently exploring and building in. Therefore we no longer need the same bad habits that led us to the glorified car wreck that is the old dead industry. We can finally move on to better frontiers.

We need a new approach, a fiction and audience first perspective. In order to put the audience first we need to give everything to the story itself. This means putting things in their proper place. Tools must remain tools--not the focal point of the craft. Disorganized passions lead to disorganized thinking. There is a reason writing seminars and courses have so many applicants despite being next to useless in creating writing careers. The people in the OldPub industry have everything exactly backwards. That is why they are dying.

But you're not in that industry anymore. Nobody is except a shrinking demographic of readers and aspiring writers who like the idea of clout from cliques more than entertaining audiences. This old crumbling road has no future. But you do.

So it is time to reassess and get everything back in order again. With so much freedom and creativity in NewPub we can do anything.

Let's finally act like it.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Coming Soon: Brutal Dreams!

Yes, this one is more than a bit due for my readers. My new book is coming out very soon. Finally, Brutal Dreams has a release date. It will be out August 17th: next Tuesday! Now you too can explore a world of strange horrors unlike any you've ever seen before. What is a dream and what is reality? And what lies out there in the dark?

Brutal Dreams is a weird adventure novel with more than enough horror and action to shake a stick at. I've been working on this in the background of a few other projects and have finally found the opportunity to share this one with all of you. This book was a new experience for me, being so unlike anything I had done before at the time, and I can't wait for you to have this one in your hands. One thing I can definitely promise: it's gonna be a good time! You won't find anything like this outside of NewPub!

The description for Brutal Dreams is here:

A Living Nightmare 

After awakening in the woods, Christopher Archer finds himself trapped in a world outside of time. Fog monsters, armed gangsters, and a legendary spear, all await his arrival. But what about the fiancé who disappeared months ago? 

As Archer explores this eternal midnight, he can only wonder—is this all just a dream, or is there something more hidden in the dark, watching his every move? There is one choice. He must traverse the nightmare and learn the truth.

More information will be forthcoming on the August 17th release date. Until then, please prepare yourself for horrors unlike any you've ever seen. You're not going to believe what you will see in this one.

I've also got more projects on the way, hopefully some will be announced in the very near future, though they are still totally out of my hands at this point. When they come out, they come out. Many wheels are turning at different speeds and they aren't my vehicles. This just happened to be the first car to reach the destination.

Nonetheless, I told you I would be delivering this year, and that's what I've been doing and will continued to do. We got a long road ahead of us, so strap in. We're going pulp speed!

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Signal Boost ~ Gemini of the Sleeping Gods!

Find it Here!

In the tradition of Conan and Dune comes this new epic (in the old sense of the word) Futuristic story of wonder and magic called Gemini of the Sleeping Gods. In this new Mythic series by mysterious author Hyperphant called The Books of Bask, you will be transported to a mysterious world unlike any you've ever seen. It's everything you love about a good adventure but will never find on a modern OldPub shelf.

This one has been described as a sort of '70s sword and sorcery (and planet) hybrid with a dose of Glen Cook's Black Company. That's not a combination you'll see too often. Be sure to look into it for yourself to see just what that means!

The description:

"Under the undying gaze of the red sun Bask and amidst the machinations of mortals, the traveler known as The Wanderer carries with him both a message and the relic of a fallen god—weaving into his chaotic odyssey a cast of expatriates, both willing and unwilling, their journey seeking answers at the misty fringes of the known world.

"Awoken in the yawning abyss of a phantom empire, a pale warrior claws free of a millennia-elder grave to challenge any who stand in his way—even the legacy of his own creators—before an exigent task; to hunt down the construct of his rival and destroy it before it can complete its portentous mission.

"The first installment in the science-fantasy series The Books of Bask, brings a new flavor of the fictional epic as primordial wills clash across the gulfs of time in a wild and astral world dense in barbaric tribes, terrifying technology, and the ancient bones of hypercivilizations."

Once again, you can find Gemini of the Sleeping Gods here.

Here's yet another title of nowhere for you. They just don't stop coming! Hope you all are enjoying this exploding NewPub climate, because I sure am. Within a few short years the entire landscape of publishing his entirely changed and flipped around on its head. What lies ahead in this unpredictable place? I can only guess.

Nonetheless, with works like these I think I can rest a little easier in my assertion that things are slowly taking a turn for the better. But that doesn't mean we can stop just yet. Adventurers never stop until the adventure is over, after all. And we definitely won't be stopping.

In fact, let's keep going even faster. I want to see just what's coming next over that endless horizon!

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Violence is Golden

You can say a lot about social media, but I think I can safely say that it is unhealthy. Of course pornography and a smokescreen of altruism over a rancid layer of greed are by far the most common seven deadly sins on display. If you go online you want walk three feet without stumbling into a minefield of either blowing up under you.

What tends to go unspoken is the absolute poison that is Wrath being just as prominent. In fact, I would say it is just as big an issue as the other two, especially today. Dehumanization is rampant, as is dehumanizing the dehumanizer and vice versa, in reverse, upside down, and even in the mirror. It is as if everything must be torn down--except the fault itself.

Many who act on such passions try to camouflage it as righteous anger or injustice. Anything to avoid taking the blame for their own faults. I would know, as would you. We've all been there. Justification of falsehood is the first step to avoiding truth.

A lot of this gets pushed on our entertainment as projection from those who very much have issues with Wrath. As a result, the modern view of violence has been completed twisted. It has been twisted by those who misunderstand the roots of their own disorder.

But I do think much of this disordered passion comes from misunderstanding the difference between Wrath and Justice. This goes a long way to describe the modern state of art and entertainment. Actual Justice isn't about me and it isn't about you. It is blind because it transcends the individual and the group to encompass us all. It is real, and it scares a lot of us.

And a lot of people, really really don't like it. You can tell that by the way violence in storytelling has been treated. The history of critique in this area, I have to admit, is straight up abysmal to nonexistent. It still is, unfortunately. Nothing has ever changed.

For about as long as I've been alive I don't think there has ever been a time violence in media has ever been understood correctly. To this day, even by those who should know better, violence is considered the lowest form of entertainment, made for those sick individuals who like blood and guts and mindless carnage. And this goes for both people who enjoy the stories just as much as those who don't. How this happened is a mystery to me, aside from it just straight up being projection.

Don't get me wrong, there are times when violence, like everything else in fiction, can go too far. You can say this about most anything, however. This issue comes from a lack of self-control or misplaced priorities in regards to fiction. However, it isn't quite as common as you've been told it is. In fact, if anything, most modern creators are far worse with sex (from basic appearance to the very act itself) than they are with violence.

Then you get complaints that the violence in fiction glorifies these horrible acts, such as wanton killing or malicious torture (though the latter is more of a complaint centered on horror) and suggests these as valid solutions to our problems. Such complaints, however, are often given my those who don't understand the purpose of storytelling to begin with or are projecting their own fears onto others. And yet they somehow control discourse over the subject. This really does explain a lot.

So what actually is the purpose of violence in fiction? It varies depending on who is speaking, though usually dependent on how much blood churns said critic's stomach, most agree it is unnatural, unlike the very natural subject of sex, which means it has little value in most stories. Sex should be celebrated, violence should be shunned! But this is like the "realism" argument (post)modernists tend to make: it completely misses the point of fiction to begin with.

At the same time, some psychoanalysts have gone so far as to shove sex into the equation even further by comparing violence in fiction with the sexual act itself. Everything is sexual! This should go a long way to explain how misunderstood storytelling itself has become over the decades, especially from perverts obsessed with sticks and holes.

In other words, much of violence's place in storytelling has been obscured by people who have never liked it or seen value in the subject to begin with. How this misconception came to be the predominant view on the subject to this day is a bit beyond me, but much of it must have to do with the miscategorization of  bothWrath and Justice.

Let us start with the most obvious elephant in the room, and the one we are going to have to start with before we get anywhere: What actually is the purpose of violence in fiction? To talk about this objectively, we have to cut out the modern jargon, degenerate fetishes, and (post)modern deconstruction that has utterly demolished all discourse on the subject for as long as most people reading this have been alive. Essentially: why does violence exist to begin with? Why have it in a story at all? Shouldn't all stories be "natural" and "healthy" instead?

The answer is that violence has a very potent purpose in fiction in that it is the strongest form of tension release possible in a story. The writer builds up a threat the protagonist has to stumble through only for the stakes to ratchet up to threatening his very life and soul. The easiest way to show this is through physical altercations.

By the end of the story it is between the hero and the villain of the plot: who is correct in their struggle? Who will make it out with their values intact? This is the underlying tension in all adventure stories. Which one is ultimately correct on a moral level? We find out through the final confrontation where all stakes are on the line.

The most intense way to show this is with a physical clash that ends with the ultimate result of two titans dueling: the death of falsehood and the victory of Truth. Through this peak battle, both sides are revealed for what they are and the story ends with the most powerful climax possible where it all comes to a head. In essence, and ideally, the rougher the violence the more intense the participants beliefs are and the more willing they are to fight for or be killed for believing. It is the ultimate confrontation of men, and it is why the story is so universal.

Of course, however, there are those that completely misunderstand such obvious things. They instead twist it around backwards.

The above clash often gets misinterpreted by perverts to equate to the sexual act. This is as deep as it gets for them, as they will willingly brag when speaking on the topic. The reason is that they cannot think outside of base pleasures or their own shallow and juvenile views. They are prisoners of lust, and quite proud of it.

You heard it all the time if you were around back in the day. Shirtless men showing off their muscles is not meant to intimidate the enemy or cause the audience to nod at the protagonists chances in the ensuing threat--it is actually about sex. That's all! 

A serial killer's butcher knife is actually a penis substitute which means every murderer in history has exactly, and only, one motive. The final action sequence is akin to a sexual climax because . . . they share the same name I suppose. Do you get it? It's all about sex!

What such interpretations do is lead to boring and very sterile fiction that hasn't aged well at all. If all you see is pornography in everything you read then you're eventually going to burn your brain out. Not everything is so juvenile as that.

None of this new, either. I recently quoted Sam Lundwall's description of sword and sorcery, and he took the most shallow view possible. Because that is what Fandom does.

"The more exclusive variants of sex like sadism, masochism, necrophilia, fetishism and so forth can be found in ample measures in the Sword Sorcery Heroic Fantasy. Despite the cries from some advocates of this type of entertainment that it is pure and virginal and clean, there is sex to be found everywhere; sublimated in various ways, but still there, and in fact the overshadowing ingredient. There is sex—but an immature, infantile sex where the copulation is the sword-fight and the orgasm is the death of the opponent. Women are invariably beautiful, desirable and, beneath their exquisitely sculptured bodies, completely sexless. The symbols of sex (breasts and so forth) are there, but sex itself can be found only in a grotesquely sublimated form. Like in the Wild West story, the sex urge has been transformed into violence and death in the manner of the Marquis de Sade and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch."
"The hero's sword-penis is used a lot, although mostly on other males."

If your literary analysis is the exact equivalent to the 13-year-old chuckling at Sam and Frodo hugging in the Lord of the Rings because lol! then you might not be quite as smart as you think you are. And you might not be mentally equipped to analyze fiction or themes.

You're also probably a degenerate who should expand your mind beyond base subjects. I suggest adventure stories: they are far more wholesome for the mind.

But then again, those with baser interest on storytelling always seem to enforce their own shallow interpretations on everyone else. As you can tell with the state of criticism, it's more or less a dead art. This, unfortunately, isn't a new problem at all.

Take the emergence of vigilante films during the 1970s. Many of these were made to counteract the nihilistic evil of movies like Chinatown that were running rampant during the decade. Were you to look at the #1 complaints of these vigilante movies, starting mainly with Dirty Harry and Death Wish, you would see that many people, usually those who don't understand the purpose of narrative violence, were attempting to tell those who actually do understand it, just what they really believe about the subject. You better listen up and learn about yourself from people who don't know you. Sound familiar? That's because things haven't changed at all since then.

You see, you enjoy movies like Death Wish because you like to see people shot to death and you want to shoot people to death. Possibly even innocent people! You think everyone should be free to distribute their own brand of justice, regardless of what the government says about such things. You're a fascist and dangerous! These were the very things being banded about back during the 1970s. You can read the old reviews, and the same stupid charges are still being shouted out today.

The truth is that a story is a story. This is what many wannabe moralists disguised as critics forget. A true and proper story is one that reflects the innermost desire of the soul. The reason people like things such as vigilante movies or revenge films is because they embody and enforce something the modern world doesn't understand at all: Justice. 

It doesn't really have to do with loving to see bad people die without a fair and impartial trial, it has to do with wanting to see Justice played out on the unjust and the innocent saved and their suffering vindicated. And, believe it or not, the law as it is does not always work to do these things. Sometimes it is up to the architect who lost his family or the rogue cop who watched his partner be murdered in cold blood to be the one to make sure no more harm comes to innocent people, and also that the evil of the antagonist is stopped before it flowers into an even more poisonous plant. Stories give us hope and remind us that Good is always Good and Evil is always Evil. These tales of Justice are very necessary.

These movie promote the opposite cause of Wrath and very frequently argue against it. Paul Kersey in Death Wish struggles against the taking of life, but does it because he feels he has to and that there is no other choice. His emotions do not overwhelm him--what he does is very calculated and reasoned out. Whether you think he is right or wrong in his methods is where the discussion comes from, not whether murders and rapists deserve what they get from him.

As you can tell, there is more to these types of stories than mindless carnage and death. But that is rarely the sort of side we see discussed in the wider culture. Mostly we just seem to be endlessly fascinated with the most boring topic of all: sex. And we project it onto everything.

It must be said that if you giggle because your sex-addled brain sees a gun as a penis and the villain as a potential sexual partner then I have to say that these stories probably aren't for you. Also, I would suggest cutting out the pornography. It is obviously damaging your brain.

Next we turn to horror, another genre quite misunderstood, though its biggest fans certainly don't help with that impression. There is more to the genre beyond slaughter. One simply has to look at it from the right angle, and not the debased one so common in our modern culture.

In horror stories the point of violence can be the same as the above, but it is also used to emphasize the level of the threat being dealt with. The protagonists are facing an unknown evil, after all. It's a matter of scale and proportion. Those who break the rules usually don't live long afterwards. How badly a fate they suffer should, theoretically, have to do with the nature of the horror itself. Who will get through the night and who will fall to the darkness? I don't know--but you can bet they will never open that door ever again. And that is the point of a good horror story. Coming from a storied tradition of fairy tales will do that.

For instance, in the film An American Werewolf in London, the plot starts out with two young college students wandering the Scotland moors. Seeing the world and enjoying everything they can before going into the working world. It was a big pastime for kids at the time. These two are told specifically to not use a shortcut at night through the moors or else they will regret it. Of course, the two young fools don't know any better and do not heed the wise warnings of the natives. To summarize what happens next, they both die in very horrific ways and the movie is about the gruesome result of their choice from the beginning of the movie and how it rolls over onto everything to come. Essentially, it is a morality tale.

The same tends to go for even slasher movies. There is a reason the chaste tend to last to the end of the film while the others die along the way. The ones that are slaves to their passions and baser desires are the ones unable to think clearly or see the forest for the trees. In a way, the slasher is the representation of what befalls those who break the rules for selfish gain.

There is purpose here, though it has gone ignored for many years by critics and perverts with far different agendas than expressing universal themes and connecting the audience to the art.

This ties into another complaint about violence. You don't see it as much these days, at least from mainstream types, but it still remains nonetheless. That gripe being that there are many who consider violent stories inherently nihilistic and evil.

If you grew up in the 1980s or 1990s you probably heard this charge a lot. How so many people die pointless deaths and audiences cheering over corpses mean we have become morally depraved and have lost our way as a culture. It should be mentioned that many of these same people would stand up and cheer for movies like Pretty Baby or that terrible Dakota Fanning movie about Elvis music from a few years back, but let's not bother addressing that elephant in the room. The point is that these people see stories in one very myopic way and believe such a shallow view is universal.

When someone dies in a story, the audience needs to analyze the circumstances that lead to their death. In every story, as in life, there is a reason everything happens even if it is not so clear to us at the moment it is occurring. Looking into things deeper always reveals a pattern. This is also invaluable to being a better writer.

There is always a reason for everything.

For instance, I recently viewed 1976's The Tough Ones, also known as Rome Armed to the Teeth or Roma a Mano Armata in the original language. This is a poliziotteschi film, a crime movie, a genre which blew up in the 1970s and '80s in Italy. This happened for a very good reason. What the Italians have never been scared of is portraying violence for what it is, when even Hollywood shied away from it during the supposed unbridled and "Golden Age" of the 1970s. I have a feeling Italians are so good at it because has to do with their heritage, but that is neither here nor there.

The Tough Ones is essentially Italian Dirty Harry only a lot less shy in showing the results of the evil the criminals perpetrate or the violence the spurs from it. Protagonist Inspector Tanzi is a cop who has to deal with an amoral and collapsing society the cares more about rules and base pleasure than what is right or what must be done. The villain even uses the fact that he's a hunchback to garner support in the media against Tanzi because he is being bullied and abused by him. The freaks are always misunderstood and hated, for no reason! However, we the audience know this psycho is guilty, as is the gang he runs with, which is terrorizing the city. But no one will do anything about it. Inspector Tanzi takes on the role for himself. Chaos, of course, soon follows in his wake.

The entire film is about Inspector Tanzi being the agent of Justice that is inevitable in a world that has forgotten out. When the characters in the movie don't act with Justice in mind, someone ends up paying the price for that decision. Whether it is innocent people suffering from inept law enforcement letting scum roam the streets, to showing mercy to someone who has no intention to repent, those who fail in their duty end up suffering the consequences, or it rolls out onto the innocent. As such, you are cheering when the villains actually do die. Not because they are dying, but because they have been stopped and Justice has been served. The world has been set right again. Justice always wins, in the end.

Most would call such violence nihilistic, but there is a point to everything that happens. Every decision has a consequence--and this truth is what makes such a story tick. As far as storytelling devices, violence is an invaluable one which remains because it is so potent and raw. It isn't quite as blatant as message fiction is, but it's a fairly obvious theme for those paying attention. Or, really, you'd think it was.

Compared to the topic of sex, which has a very limited use and can stop a story dead in its tracks, violence very rarely slows anything down. If anything, it exacerbates the pacing, which is something a lot of modern stories suffer from in their bloated lengths. The fact of the matter is that the hotblooded violence flows out from the passion behind the story conflict itself. When the unstoppable force hits the immoveable object, one will break. This is the tension of an action story that often goes unexplored. It also goes a long way to showing why today's bloodless violence is so often cold and flaccid. Conflict is about more than pretty words and idealistic speeches.

Without that old school pulp energy you're just left with a bunch of thunder and bluster signifying nothing. And that is exactly where we are right now. All this because we put things in the wrong place.

Now, don't get me wrong. You can use violence incorrectly in storytelling. You can find no shortage of examples in modern stories from "shock" (the worst possible reason to use violence) to outright gore fetishism. One who has to rely on either is engaging in pornography, not entertainment. They merely want to see violence for the sake of watching blood be shed, and not for the storytelling itself.

An example of this would be the Saw franchise. A gaggle of good-looking Hollywood actors playing normal people are kidnapped and put in elaborate death traps. They have to squirm out, possibly suffering bodily mutilation, and engage in horrific acts, including betrayal, or face violent and painful death. There is nothing else to this aside from wanting to see how people will die in miserable and pointless fashion.

If you took out the deaths, what story would there actually be? What would be the goal for the villain beyond bloodthirst or the protagonist beyond escaping pain? You can't muster sympathy for such characters outside of a base level so what are you supposed to feel towards them? And with an ever-rotating door of protagonists to slaughter you also cannot get a feel for who you are supposed to root for. Partially because none of them matter, in the end. It doesn't matter who lives or dies, as long as we the audience get to watch someone die horrifically.

And what critics see violence in fiction as being is pretty much what Saw actually is. There is absolutely no nuance to them.

The only way you confuse a movie like Saw for The Tough Ones is if you don't understand violence at its very core. One has a belief that human life is worth nothing but the organs and flesh we are composed of; the other believes that lives have inherent value and should be protected from the evil that seeks to destroy them. As a complete coincidence, the latter type has all but been removed from OldPub and Hollywood and replaced with safe superhero fare where upholding the Status Quo comes before all else. True Justice doesn't really exist in mainstream art and entertainment anymore. Just its store brand counterparts.

The issue is that if you look at a lot of reviews from the decades many of these works came out you will find critics absolutely oblivious as to the audience's interest in it. Not just oblivious, but outright hostile. That fact is that decades after its heyday, the highest selling genre of vintage Blu-ray releases is 1980s horror--the one considered the most worthless and most degenerate by said critics when they were around. Now how can that be? I was assured these movies were completely depraved and amoral. Aren't they getting this exact thing out of Hollywood right now? If so, then why is Hollywood product not selling as well as it used to? Perhaps there is more to this than what the critics believe.

The thing to keep in mind is that we live in an era where pornography is everywhere, and free at that. Meanwhile, re-releases of those old beach movies and erotic skin flicks don't do all that great in contrast to horror. Why is this? Don't they offer the same thing? Clearly not. This should be a good hint that the reason people buy those movies isn't quite for the titillation or depravity, especially when they can easily get that for no cost elsewhere on the internet. There are whole sites dedicated to misery and porn, after all. Yet horror still sells. Therefore, this tells us that these older generations of critics completely missed the boat.

People desire more from their entertainment than mindless pleasure or indulgence. The repeated success of pulp-style adventure in popular culture despite its constant burying by the industry is proof of that. The audience always knows what they really want, even when they can't get it. The critics? Not so much.

Those in charge of your tastes have their values backwards. They substitute Justice for Wrath, replace Love for Lust, and mistake Virtue for Sin. This is why their critique's only ever get the surface level details right. When it comes to any of the above topics, they are like a fish flopping around the side of a creek. Completely lost and without a clue.

Without Justice we will fall to Wrath, and this is something the critics will never understand. Not as long as they stubbornly refuse to put things in their proper place. But people like that have always existed, and they always will. We just have to get around them.

They might wish to dictate to the audience what they should consume, and sometimes we might need a little nudging ourselves, but for the most part we know exactly what we want even if we can't describe it quite well. At least we know better than they do. If one thing about the failed social experiment called the 20th century should stick it is that the audience isn't as dumb as some of their "betters" think they are. They might not even see it themselves--but they know it internally. Everyone does. That's just how it is.

At the end of the day, that's all we need to understand. Art is connection, for artist and audience, and without that shared understanding we are both left adrift in the ether lost in our own worlds of madness. It's not about one group over the other or a battle to the death between them. We should hopefully get this by now. None of us are kids anymore--we can easily be on the same page when we have to. And it is about time we do so.

Because despite what OldPub or Hollywood pushes in their misplaced arrogance and mindless greed, art is a team effort. We can get through this together, and we will. Such a thing might be difficult in an era that so overwhelmingly focuses on ego and the self over all, but it is very much possible to accomplish.

All it takes is a little imagination.