Thursday, December 29, 2022

What is Coming Next

Remember this?

The year is almost over, and what a weird time it's been. After the last three years of outright insanity, we are hopefully looking at an upturn. Eventually, anyway. We don't seem to quite be out of the woods just yet.

I want to thank every single reader for a very active 2022. Writing-wise, this was my biggest year so far, as I put out three different books, something I had been trying to do for years at this point but was never quite able to manage it. They all have been surprising successes, too, so I must thank you for reading and enjoying. It's been quite a humbling experience finally releasing these works out into the world, as it always is.

For those who missed them, I started the year with Generation Y: The New Lost Generation, with my co-authors Brian Niemeier and David V. Stewart, a free book that you can still pick up today at no cost. There are also files for a physical edition if you wish to print them out for yourself! The book was written to be shared and spread far and wide, after all. I designed and edited this together myself to define the generation Madison Avenue is currently trying to memory-hole event today. Gen Y is having an identity crisis, and is on the edge of despair, so this is the moment to hopefully help them find their way again. This book should clear any misconceptions about the generation you have, and should show just how much has been misinterpreted and lost over the 25 years since Cultural Ground Zero, when modernity died. You will find all of that included for free.

After that, I put out the long-requested series on Fandom in book form. The Last Fanatics is still quite controversial to many in the industry, but it is also honest about its reflections on what led us here. The entire project is a heavily edited and reformatted version of the blog series I had been working on for over three years, studying the early days of Fandom and learning just how the Fanatic mindset has been so damaging to creativity and art in general. It was not a journey I chose to accept for my own health or really any form of enjoyment. It is an avenue that needed to be explored, and I am glad to have done so. My readers wanted to see where this rabbit hole would lead to, so I hope I did not disappoint in the complete journey. Read it yourself to see a descent down into the anti-social lion's den that reveals some dark truths about Fandom and how much falsehood you've been sold about it. Only by ejecting their influence can things really ever improve.

Lastly, I released what some have called my masterpiece, the complete and full version of Y Signal. This was my attempt at pure weird fiction framed through an era people my age look back on rather fondly, to find things underneath the surface we might have missed the first time around. You can still read the first part on the blog, but the final version is both edited and much longer than that initial piece was. Go through an entire year with our main character and learn the truth of a past long since obscured by nostalgia and open hatred for what came before. It's a lot more complicated than you might think, and it definitely won't end up where you think it will. Regardless, this full novel contains all the adventure and battles with the Weird you should expect from my works by now. It is just framed through a much different lens than before.

Oh yes, and in 2022 I managed a writing goal of mine to be published in Cirsova Magazine! It was a very well received issue, too. Surprisingly popular! My story, Dead Planet Drifter continues the adventures of Galactic Enforcer Ronan Renfield as he patrols the boundary between the Here and There in the distant future. I do have more in the series planned, but you will have to wait a little longer to see them. The previous story, Golden Echoes, was published in StoryHack #7, if you somehow missed that one. Trust me, I've got a backlog I'm both writing and editing. You will see more of our overwhelmed Enforcer in the future!

I also have other short stories I have been working on, all of which for projects that have not been revealed yet, some aren't even announced! The main series of short stories I'm focusing on are for the above Galactic Enforcer (which also ties in with something else . . . you'll see when we get there), and my Night Rhythm series about a superstitious rockabilly band on an alien planet far into the future as they roam across the unknown land. They are my main focus in this arena right now, but I do have plans for other stories later to come. I'm definitely not short on inspiration, just time and means. I'm still very much a one-man publishing machine.

As for what is next in the novel realm, well, now that I got those three big projects out into the public, it is finally time to turn my attention back to the Gemini Man series that I received back from Silver Empire. It has been years since I began on this one, and now it is time to finally wrap the whole project up and give readers the complete experience. I can finally give it the focus it needs. The last thing I want is to leave readers with an incomplete work.

For those who missed it, Gemini Man was a series I concocted for the now-defunct Silver Empire Publishing, as part of their Heroes Unleashed universe. They invited in a bunch of writers to construct their own series of heroes to be plopped in and contribute to the greater whole. They would publish the stories for us, just making sure everything lines up with each other.

The first work was Morgon Newquist's Heroes Fall book which established the entire universe and the rules the rest of us were to play by for our works. Unfortunately, because of what happened in the world over the last few years, and the writers having tor republish all their work again after getting it back, this book is now currently the only work in the entire series readily available right now. Nonetheless, I do recommend it just as a good read and a rollicking adventure. Regardless of your feelings on the subject matter, it is a fun ride.

My series in Heroes Unleashed was called Gemini Man, a series centered around Matthew and Jason, two unrelated males, one a teenager and the other a young adult, who look suspiciously close to each other, as they are dragged into an other world galaxies away and become embroiled with an enemy far beyond what they have seen back on Earth. And the story only gets wilder and weirder from there. This was ostensibly a superhero universe, but Gemini Man is not something I can really call a superhero story. There is clear comic book influence, but you won't see a lot of tropes the genre became known for in the latter days of the 20th century.

Book Two: Never officially released!

I wrote three books for Gemini Man, the first book of which is actually the third I ever had published before, after Knights of the End and Grey Cat Blues. As a result, it is very transitional of what I was doing pre-PulpRev and what I was doing after. Each book is very different from the last in where I was intending to go with it. They were all written at bizarre periods over the years in between other things I was cobbling together, ending with the third one written just before lockdown world came into existence and was meant to be the end of the first part of the story. Suffice to say, they were written in a much different time in a much different world.

However, only book one ever officially released. Despite writing and editing three of them, the other two never came out. After the first wave of books from the initial creators, the series suffered from artist troubles before Corona-Chan finally dealt the final blow to Silver Empire, just as it did to a lot of small publishers. As a result, a lot of books went out of print. Unfortunately, I now have three written and ready books without any way to properly release them.

The reason why I didn't just republish them on my own is multifold. For one, these need proper covers, and I do not currently have the means to give all three books the covers they need. Another issue is that my writing style has changed since I started the series. I don't really write like this anymore. Getting back into the mindset to write or even rewrite any of this would do an injustice to those who got to read the original and want more of it. Changing the original three books is something I don't want to do, but I also want to meet reader expectations. I do have an idea for giving it a proper send-off to the series, but that will depend entirely on the readers if that can be done in the first place. Regardless, I don't want to leave this series unfinished and abandoned. A lot of work went into these.

I have toyed with creating a Kickstarter for an omnibus release, with the cover being the main goal, but that is also asking a lot for readers to get invested, especially when only one book was ever officially released before. The other choice is to create a crowdfund for three covers, but that will require a higher goal, and if it isn't reached then the series will still not be allowed to be completed properly. It's an idea I will have to keep mulling over as I finalize what my plans for the series will be. If you have any practical solutions, I'd love to hear them. If I made a crowdfund, which would you be more inclined to support? I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Regardless, next year, will be the year of Gemini Man. I will get those three books released to the readers.

As for the story, the first three books tell the story of Matthew and Jason as they end up displaced from their home and then thrown about into the crazy world of Heroes Unleashed before finally finding their place in it. Here you get world hopping to an alien planet, sword fights, brawls, monsters, road tripping across the HU world, insidious villains, strange powers, and a lot of chaos and destruction. It's quite the wild ride.

These three books were intended to be a setup into the world, to allow adventures to continue on in the future, since that was the overall goal of the Heroes Unleashed project. However, the book I have planned after this trilogy will instead jump forward in time towards a conclusion. Since times have changed since the period the original three were written, I will also have to alter my approach towards giving it a proper ending.

But none of that will matter until I get the first three, Gemini Warrior, Gemini Drifter, and Gemini Outsider, out for readers. So until then, please look forward to the journey. It's most definitely a wild one. The series isn't quite going to be what you expect.

Anyway, that's all for 2022! Thank you for joining me on this writing journey that's been going for much longer than I originally expected it to. Next year will be another wild year with much coming down the pipeline. I hope you'll continue to follow me down it.

Who knows where we'll end up next?

Thursday, December 22, 2022

The Living Gimmicks

Do you remember rhythm sticks? Probably not, because they were around for about five seconds back in the mid-1990s, sometime before or after pogs. Remember pogs? That came and went quick, too. How about gak? Moon shoes? There were a lot of fads back then, most lasted barely a moment at all. We don't see these sorts of trends much in the physical sense anymore, but they still exist. They're even more potent than they used to be, despite that.

Regardless, back in the 1990s there was a new trend every single week. There had been fads before in previous decades, you can find most of them by watching TV shows from other eras, but by the 1990s it had advanced to where there was a new one constantly. There is a reason the decade at the end is unrecognizable from the how it was at the start.

When the internet came into play, fads changed into online trends. On social media there is a new trending topic every day and, some might argue, every hour. We always seek the new at the expense of the old, every single time. It still happens now, though it most definitely feels as if less and less people care to play in like they once did.

The point being that, for centuries now, the west has been obsessed with the newest thing, and has only found new ways to continue their worship of the novel at the expense of the eternal. Fads don't come and go anymore, now they embody every aspect of life itself. Life, especially online life, is like living on a drip-feed in a coma. Even more so since all the nonsense that has happened since 2020. It has only exacerbated.

We no longer look for anything everlasting or eternal. We no longer even look to create anything that reaches for such things on the most base level. All anyone wants to do is catch what the newest algorithm says people currently desire, and artist intent is now directed at turning heads and causing surprise instead of engaging minds or hearts. All we want is to consume and devour the next piece of content without even letting the previous digest.

Of course you already know this, everyone does at this point, but it has gotten to the point where this reality has invaded even casual discourse itself. Unless you want to talk about whatever the internet wishes to talk about at that exact second, then most will not pay attention to what you have to say. This might not make sense if you haven't seen "guru" types on social media attempting to gain clicks and engagements for their "controversial" takes that simply jump on recent issues and condense them into fortune cookie knowledge so they can sell their own brand instead. Keeping the cycle of garbage going indefinitely, but also telling you how to fill the hole inside of you, is not too dissimilar from the old 1-800 numbers late night television used to be slathered in.

None of this, however, is good for art. It is not good for any sort of scene or creativity. We have turned even that into novelty.

We haven't had a climate of art in a long time, the form being degraded by the newest fad formulas and shoddy genres we were advertised as good by the television and radio programs, and people who ingratiated themselves into secular high priest position at corporations. Every industry has been solely about selling ways to consume, not about reaching the eternal and sharing it with your fellow man. You can't connect with others or anything higher if you're more concerned with being fashionable and filing in with a momentary trend. All you can do in that case is strive to color inside the lines within a frame that has no relation to the bigger picture.

As an example, take Epic Fantasy. The "genre" was sold as a valid formula for writers, and the correct way to tell an Epic story in the tradition of Tolkien. What they never tell you is that Tolkien did not write "Epic Fantasy" at all. It was never his intent. What Tolkien wrote was his version of an old poetic Epic in the imagination space he spent his life creating as a hobby. His example is so hyper-specific and non-applicable to most other folks that it feels ridiculous that anyone should not only try to copy him, but make a career "worldbuilding" to make books like you are told he did. That wasn't what he was doing, and despite his original creation process, in his whole life he only really published two books about said world. How is that the base for a stable genre?

Well, it isn't. The reason it was pushed and sold to audiences as such is because OldPub's stranglehold of the paper industry benefits from fatter books sold at higher cost. They used their advertising machinery and bought for writer's workshops to sell it as The Way Things Should Be for a very good reason. That reason has nothing to do with creativity.

This advertising campaign was so successful that no one bats an eye at the fact that OldPub will not accept any work shorter than 100k words long for publishing consideration. You must either write in their narrow formula and pad out your story to hit an arbitrary word and page count, or you do not get published. No flash fiction, no short stories, no novellas, no novelettes, and no short or normal length novels--only one formula is allowed. They changed the entire industry to sell more paper, and everyone thinks it is because of some noble pursuit of higher art.

This is why anyone telling you "Fantasy" as such is a genre has bought into a frame that sneaked in during a fad of their own creation. This isn't unlike the Young Adult fad pushed by fanfic writers in editor positions at OldPub, an artificial fad that only worked for a few select people with connections at Scholastic and the like. This is just as fake. It isn't relevant anymore, and readers have fled the hobby of reading in droves, but that didn't stop the masters of OldPub from getting the desired endpoint they wanted: an industry of loyal customers who will only buy the formula they deign proper. This is what fad chasing always leads to, in the end.

Such thinking continues in other arenas, too.

This mentality of following OldPub's talking points has what has made the recent debates about AI art so puzzling, particularly those focused around art losing the "human element" for machine algorithms. To believe this, one would have to ignore all the above where those in charge of the industry deliberately mechanized art in an attempt to turn the process of creating into a factory-line of product consumption. Everyone knows this, too, which makes ignoring it so bizarre. The 20th century was spent removing humanity from all art and entertainment to get formulaic product for corporate masters instead. This isn't even deniable anymore.

You can even hear David V. Stewart talk about the subject here:

As he mentions, there is a deeper issue at play, one that exists today because it was ignored ages ago by people who should have known better. Now no one in charge can see the problem for what it is. We turned art into product, and wonder why it is currently being treated as product. We consume, we do not savor, we do not delight. We merely move on to the next plate at the buffet. As long as there is another plate, we simply keep moving down the line.

This is what makes the current cries for "originality" or "humanity" in the industry bizarre. At what point in your lifetime has that even been the secondary goal of the entertainment or art industry, never mind the primary one? Do you even know what the industry would be like if that was the case? Whatever happened to originality, to beauty, to adventure, to wonder? When did it get replaced for halfhearted tropes and rules from corporate overlords? With them in charge, art turned into flavor of the second gimmicks meant to keep you glued to the constant content coming down the factory line. Formulaic gruel is all you get, because that's all you ever asked for. You never demanded better, no one did. I sure didn't. And now we complain? It's a bit too late for that.

To give an example of the "factory line" mentality of creation, let me bring up the ever-popular example of anime. This is a medium that has had its battles with corporatization and creativity for ages, and recently seems to be in a real quarrel with itself trying to figure out its path forward. Right now the industry is in a spot that will define where it goes in the future. But it also still has life in it, unlike in the west.

Currently the  anime industry is doing battle with the nostalgia trend the entire world appears to be caught in, delivering new adaptions of classic anime like Spriggan, Bastard!, and even new City Hunter movies (the Spriggan one is made by the JoJo's Bizarre Adventure guys and is particularly good, by the way), while also carrying trends like moe idols and shonen adaptions on the other side of the spectrum. While some think the industry is at an all-time low, this is partially because there is too much glut and a lot more trash being produced than there once was. Back in the 1990s there was less being produced, but the quality ratio was a lot higher than it is today. If one focuses on the material outside disposable glut, you can still see the spark in the industry.

As a matter of fact, one bigger trend that appears to be going by the wayside (slowly) is the corner cutting that once used to define the industry so well. the anime industry has always had a problem with being a content mill at the exchange of focus (outside of old movies and OVAs), and they are slowly changing that. This is to everyone's benefit, even if it means less drip-feed of product. It leads to a much better, and long lasting piece of entertainment.

For instance, a Shonen series like Naruto would go on weekly without breaks for years, even decades, suffering in animation and writing quality as oodles of terrible filler content had to be squeezed out while the manga was still going. It led to a rocky experience at the expense of quality. That's 52 episodes a year with no break, constantly.

Today, the likes of My Hero Academia gets one season of 25 episodes a year that are very well animated, for the most part. Whatever complaints you might have with the adaption, it is objectively overblown. I suggest watching some Naruto filler, and even some canon manga material, and learning how good you actually have it. They then take a rest from the series, and work on other projects until next year for a new season. The process is not perfect yet, but it is most definitely a step in the correct direction. It is better this way, despite there being many Millennial weebs that think otherwise. They simply want that content drip-feed instead.

Regardless, this leads to a better quality product, a better piece of entertainment. When the series is finished, and that will be sooner than you think, My Hero Academia will be a better watch than Naruto. It will age better as a completed piece of art. Better animation, better pacing, and at a much more compact length.

On the other side of the spectrum, is the obsession with "simplifying" everything in order to make series "easier to animate" which is, allegedly, why character designs have gotten so bland for anime original series over the years. Try thinking of many memorable ones and you'll notice it difficult. This is because quality is treated as secondary to ease of production.

This is what leads to the below degradation of character design. It isn't all encompassing, but you can see the trend.

Your aesthetic preferences in the above aside, the first two are better character designs because you get a sense of the character's personality on her face with just one simple look. The facial features are more defined which lends to a resting face that allows personality on it by default. The character is built to have a character, at a glance. The remaining three designs don't say anything, and can be interchanged with any character to mean anything with what the animator wants to get across.

This makes it easier for the animators and designers, but it doesn't add more for the viewer. This is because the change wasn't made for their benefit.

These designs weren't changed for character design related reasons, they were changed because less detailed characters means less work for the animators. This is the Japanese equivalent of the western "CalArts" or "Toon Boom" (for lack of a better term) problem. That being safer and rounder designs meant to make the product easier to pump out. Again, your aesthetic preference is not the point here, it is what the intent of the creator is. This is like designing characters to be cosplayed, instead of designing characters to be who they are. It isn't done for the benefit of the story, or the audience, it is done to make Content easier to pump out.

I'm not saying having more work is necessarily a good or bad thing, but I am saying that making your art have less character or take less effort shouldn't be the goal. If you have a story to share, to express, why wouldn't you want to put as much into it as you can? This doesn't mean overworking yourself into an early grave, but it also doesn't mean dictating most of your art to an assembly line factory to slap the pieces together for you instead.

I don't want to sound like I'm picking on Japan, because I'm not. This piece isn't even aimed at anyone in particular. It feels as if we in the modern world care more about the artist doing less work than about the work they are producing. You don't need to kill yourself to produce, but you also shouldn't be killing your soul and identity to push out characterless product instead.

Isn't there a higher reason to create than just because you can? Every piece of art is meant to express something, even if it is simple. The undercurrent of nihilism that undergirds all art today is hard to shake off. But it wasn't always this way.

In order to remember the purpose of art, we need to remember the purpose of life. What is purpose? What is meaning? Why are we doing anything we're doing? Art was once the constant reminder that what you do has higher origins, and everything that happens occurs for a reason. You can't even write a good story where everything that occurs doesn't have an overall purpose in the result. We take in art to remind ourselves of Truth and Beauty, to take ourselves away from the mundane. In essence, it reminds us that life is precious, a gift.

Life is not novelty. Existence is not a gimmick. This is why modern art and trends have no relation to reality or human nature, because they are just product meant to manipulate you into paying the bills of conmen and advertisers (but I repeat myself) instead. That's all it is.

This does not mean one can't produce art created off of another's property, even one created initially by someone else, since art is conversation and all, but that the entire purpose should be framed around lifting the audience toward the divine in some way. You can do that even with a simple hero story showing how good can triumph over evil, or a tragedy where wrong choices lead to a bad end. The overall aim, is Truth.

Back in the day when Flash animation degraded the quality of hand drawn animation and cells, we were told it was "either this or nothing" as if the choice was between comfort or quality, which it was. In no scenario was the answer to simply slow down the pipeline and focus longer on craft--we just wanted to consume more content faster. And now we live in a world where the dopamine matters more than the art itself does. Quality was never the reason for any of these changes.

It is no wonder we care less about art than we do gimmicks and novelties. We long ago lost the love of art as beauty. We have sunken into hedonism, devouring to devour, satiating the base urges. This cannot be sustained, and it currently is not being sustained.

Art cannot be nihilistic, without any meaning. Even a story whose point is that there is no point still has a point, even if incoherent and couched on 20th century irony. This is what "subversive" art seeks to do, and it is empty for it. Subversion, after all, is little more than a gimmick, a way to make art about nothing instead of Something. In the end, there is still a meaning to it.

This is the part of the recent debate around AI art we tend to miss. We ejected the human for the inhuman long ago, and we don't understand what the human element we lost even is. It is something only we can use to make art that matters: soul. Soul is more than the tools used to make art, it is also in the intent and the purpose of creating at all.

What is it that we should really be doing?

When was the last time we asked ourselves these sorts of questions? When was the last time any industry made a decision based upon them?

What is it that we are meant to do? What heights are we meant to reach? Why are we neighbors with so many others just like, and also, just as different, from us? Do we pretend they don't exist? Do we ignore anything that doesn't give short term gain? Is jumping on the creaking gimmick train the way to sustain a healthy art scene of artists with their hearts in the right places? Is pretending the previous century wasn't a failure going to prevent us from finally moving on from bad decisions we still justify to this day?

Fanatics are only a portion of the problem. They are a large portion, but still not the entire pie. The people that refuse to admit their Modern God of an ideology didn't work out and has led them into a world of despair and regression, when it was supposed to do the opposite, really shouldn't command the amount of power over others they still have. And yet not only do we let them control everything, we make excuses for their changes and want to bring their level of power back to a time in the past when it was more manageable instead of insane.

But genies don't go back in bottles, and relinquishing any control to someone who hates you, and has a track record for failing in tremendous ways, is suicidal. Fanatics only rule because we continue to give them power over our art, our worldview, and even the very words and terminology we use in day to day life. We let them rule every aspect us, even when we admit they shouldn't, even when it is proven all they push has failed.

How much longer is that going to go on for? 

I don't know, but at this point it's just as much our fault as it is theirs. They might not be able to accept failure and move on, but neither can we. Excuses make for good coping. We are just as much to blame for the way things are today. All we are doing is allowing the decay to continue, and making excuses for letting it.

All because we can't live without shiny chrome plating and jiggling keys. This would almost be funny if it weren't so obviously unhealthy and dangerous. Do we really desire novelty and fashion over truth and eternity that much?

Fanatics are only half the problem

The AI art issue isn't the real subject to discuss, and it's obfuscating the reality we are being faced with in the blown out ruins of Cultural Ground Zero. Tools aren't the source of the communication breakdown and entropy enveloping the arts: it's our lack of soul that is. It is our fear of pushing into unknown territory, of reaching into the past to push forward. We are instead enamored with frivolous distractions meant to keep us complacent.

There isn't an easy answer to this problem, but there is a simple one. If one wants an art climate where things matter, where we look beyond the fads and trends of the meaningless mass media of today, then it must be created and supported. The old industry only gets as much power as you give it, as much room as you give it to breathe. You don't have to give attention to people who hate you. If they hate you, they're not trying to reach you to begin with. If they don't want to reach you, they aren't creating art in the first place. You owe them nothing.

There is plenty out there not swirling the drain with the dead mainstream culture of today, and even less alternative artists and entertainers are plugged into that hellscape than you think. So why get obsessed with the downfall of an already dead scene when you can enjoy the fruits of a live one instead? You have far more options than you did in the Good Old Days, including material you might have missed out on the first time around. Why sweat the small stuff?

At the end of the day, you are the scene you want to create. Unless you create it, no one else will. So what are you waiting for? Bring the soul back, and show everyone else what that means. This is something only you can do.

We need a climate of art that matters again, free from obsession with the mundane and the novel over beauty and truth and the good. And we're going to have it again.

The old industries are dying, detached from the good and humanity as a whole, enveloped in pleasing corporate masters and fads over creating any sort of art at all. But you don't have to be like them. You don't even have to give them attention.

All you have to do, is be the best you that you were born to be. That might sound overly simple, but that doesn't make it any less true. The world doesn't need 500 variations of the same tropes, fads, or gimmicks; the world needs you. And that difference is what matters more than anything else when it comes to creation.

Remember why we're here, and what we can do for the future. It's later than you think, but the sun always rises in the morning. Life is no novelty, it is an opportunity, one we should always make full use of.

Have a Merry Christmas! It's been a wild year, and it's not over yet. Make the best of what you have! Who knows how many chances we'll have to get it right next time.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

So Much for the Afterglow

Find it Here!

The '20s have not started out quite as quiet as the 2010s did. Despite that, it has shown itself a decade of change more than the previous decade has. The only question, it if it will end up being for the better or not. We are about due for a cultural shift. Here is hoping it will be an improvement on the last one we are still suffering from.

Even though we talk a lot about its affects here at Wasteland & Sky, the Current Year of 2022 is the 25th year of Cultural Ground Zero. For those unaware, 1997 was the year western culture flatlined after a slow decline since at least the 1960s, before becoming the zombie monstrosity of a punchline it has been ever since. One only has to look at the events that occurred back then to see how little has actually changed in the ensuing quarter century, which is what the above piece was meant to do. We're still living in the rusted ruins of a world long since executed and left dead, waiting for it to finally fall decay into the dirt.

That said, some of us are still trapped there, and not entirely without reason. That was a time where there was a lot more hope, and people need to live with hope, even when the current times are telling you to not have any. We simply cannot go without it.

So what about that Generation that grew up in that eye of the cultural storm that was the 1980s through the early 1990s? What about those who came of age in a world with more promise and hope than the one that exists today? The kids who grew up in that time period where technology was always Progressing and humanity was readying to reach its zenith, soon learned, in record time, about the truth of this materialist utopia they had been sold. It was never coming.

But that wasn't how it was supposed to go! World peace was a stone throw away. All we had to do was listen to the newsman, our teachers, and our government officials, and sacrifice all that had come before us to the Cult of the New, and we would reach the Eternal Summer we dreamt about as kids. Everything was laid out for us. What was known and advertised as Generation Y back during this time, kids more or less born between 1979 and 1989, the younger siblings of Gen X, were a generation that was sold false hope by the people in charge and were too young and naïve to realize their trust had been misplaced until it was too late. And then they were abandoned for a new cohort made up by the people who wanted you to forget those previous promises.

I wrote about that time period itself in my Y Signal book. For a long time, as someone who was plugged into the decay of Cultural Ground Zero at the time it was happening, I had been trying to understand just what it was Generation Y thought was coming and where they might have gone wrong along the way. The answer turned out to be far more complicated than I could have known at the time. Y Signal was an attempt to see what would happen if Gen Y had an inkling of what was coming ahead of them. How would they react? Would anything change? Could it be changed? How can one approach the world when they were lied about so much of it, even worse when the lies weren't always intentional? How does one deal with that? You can see the final result for yourself, but the book itself is primarily aimed at the time period it occurred in.

However, I'm not the only one who was focused on understanding the lost Generation Y. There are others, thankfully, dedicated to understanding this period as well.

I reviewed author and musician David V. Stewart's Eyes in the Walls a while back. This was a story, not unlike my own, focused on the time period of the '90s and those who lived in it. I highly recommend reading that story to anyone interested in the subject. It really does evoke that time and place to tell its tale. I'm not going to spoil the ending here, but there really isn't any other way it could conclude. That was simply how the 1990s were.

I also partnered with David, as well as author and editor Brian Niemeier, to release Generation Y: The New Lost Generation earlier this year, as a way to celebrate both a quarter of a century since 1997, and to help those unsure of what Gen Y is, to learn what exactly we were writing about. This subject is still oddly contentious, so the book was a necessary release to hammer the research down for newcomers. It was free then, and it still is now!

All of this preamble is to get to the point of the matter, which is today's subject. While the above works focus on the era itself and the people who were around back then, I wanted to talk about a different book today. David V. Stewart recently put out another book on Generation Y, but this one instead takes place in the here and now in the modern day. Afterglow: Generation Y is his newest released work, and focuses on our subject, the new lost generation, as they deal with today, decades after their heyday and vanishing into the background like they were told to by the wider culture.

While the other works mentioned above discuss the time period and how it affected those growing up in a world dismantled overnight, this book talks about how that experience led them to where they are today. Think of it as Generation Y: 25 years later, and you might get the gist of it. Where did the New Lost Generation end up?

Afterglow contains original short stories written by Stewart and mostly posted on his blog between his musings on culture and the rapid technological change over the past few years. I admit I had read a lot of these when they were originally published, but still read them over again in the full release here. They hold up very well, especially for those interested in the subject.

He has been writing on the subject for years now, just as a lot of us have been, and the book starts with his original Gen Y story that got him started. The titular Gen Y describes a typical afternoon of a kid getting home after a long day of school to an empty house. This simple tale is short and to the point, but it accurately describes a world that no longer exists, and is long extinguished, and yet perfectly frames the tone going forward. This is a place Generation Y is very familiar with, and it is a place many of them still live in today.

The next piece, Generation Why, serves as a more descriptive introduction for those who might not be able to quite understand the previous fragment of where it comes from. For those who still, for whatever reason, don't believe Generation Y exists (despite the subject having been written about extensively and solidly defined by its proponents for years, at this point) this piece serves to nail down the terms and definitions for the rest of the work to follow. It makes a good case as to why this Lost Generation has been such a hot topic these last few years, even among people who don't quite understand why it is a subject at all.

A different Gen Y tale from the same author!

In total, the book contains 16 pieces of varying lengths. David was kind enough to allow me to include three of them in the above Generation Y: New Lost Generation, but they have a different context here in their original place among the author's other stories. Instead of being used to define the Gen Y experience as a whole, here they are used to paint a picture of people struggling to find their way in a world that has forgotten them and really has no room for the people they were always told to be. The more you argue this cohort doesn't exist, the more you prove just how true these stories and experiences are. Erasure defines their entire lives. They are lost, and have long since abandoned hopes of being found.

Stewart describes this static state as Middlebury, a term he uses many times throughout this book (and which is also the name of the last story) to describe being caught in the middle. He also dedicates the work to those still trapped here. The name reoccurs for good reason.

There was once this term known as "failure to launch" that died out a while back because, well, that would describe everyone in the modern world at this point. The phrase referred to young adults who were unable to start their life and were stuck in a period of adolescence stemming from this inability to begin a career in the rat race. But in a time where careers can be ended with one wrong word (and a definition of "wrong" that changes with the wind), community itself being dead, the media and politicians continually calling for Armageddon against those they are supposed to be serving, and the future looking bleak among those with even a the minuscule amount of IQ, you would be harder pressed to find anyone able to start a "proper" life in a world of alienation where nobody knows your name and has no desire to learn it.

This decay had been around for awhile. The sadly forgotten Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam described the slow death of community over the course of the 20th century and his hopes for a revival based on trust and goodwill. However, said book also was released in 2000, post-Cultural Ground Zero and pre- 9/11, making it the last gasp of a sort of 20th century humanism and trust in Progress that simply cannot return. The book needs to be revisited today, because it (unwittingly) understood a lot of the problems that were to come.

Over time, this festering wound of alienation and atomization became infected, worsening as the years went on due to lack of treatment. Now, all the societal ills and jaded cynicism of today is a result of it never being treated. Even now, as suicide rates continue to rise, we have one western country asking if they can help dispose of the body instead of understanding any sort of cause. This is the exact opposite of what a healthy society would do. No one cares, and they haven't for a long time now. For those who remember otherwise, it is still hard to accept. 

This is very different from the world Gen Y grew up in, where everyone had a shared culture, things were always looking up, and you could always count on at least having something in common with the guy next to you in traffic. You were, at the very least, in this together. Now, you are on your own in every aspect of existence, and all the people who sold you that vision of the future that you just had to pull up your bootstraps for, the one you were lied about, are now told you were never promised anything of the sort. Get in line, shut up, and die alone in a cube. It is a mystery as to why depression and suicide as at an all-time high and rising, though. A real puzzler!

Those suicide rates are the highest they've ever been, and they're only getting worse. Pills and drug usage are more common than they've ever been. Heavy drinking and getting high is considered normal among everyone alive today in a way that was never socially accepted before, and depression is at an all-time high. It hasn't always been this way, and neither had it ever been quite this hopeless for those growing up now without a higher purpose or reason to get up in the morning. What is the point of living to be a cog that will eventually break apart in the grind, only to be replaced when your usefulness has worn out? Is this all there is?

The only way this purgatory can be fixed, you are told, is by voting, and if it wasn't for that gosh darn bad guy team voting against you, the materialist paradise you were offered as a kid could finally be brought into existence. Then you could sit around consuming all day, because there is no other purpose to your life other than dopamine addiction for you and your neighbors. What a horribly vapid existence!

Naturally, this isn't how it really is, but it sure contributes to the radioactive atmosphere around basic discourse these days. As if people need more reason to hate and mistrust their neighbor, to add to the radical individualism of being Special they were fed by Hollywood currently cutting them off from understanding others. Regardless, it's still happening, and it's still only getting worse the more we ignore it.

But you do.

Despite this reality, Stewart's book is not particularly pessimistic about Generation Y's relation to modernity, the antithesis of the world they were raised to survive in. He describes many scenarios and lost people making their way through this defeated era with little in the way of hope, but also find ways to dig themselves free of the traps they had fallen into. Regardless of how bad things can get, there is always purpose, even in the worst moments. Suffering can lead to clarity, to knowledge, and builds resilience. By the end of Afterglow: Generation Y, you will see traces of the world Gen Y were promised springing from their dreams, their struggles, and their newfound hopes, in what they can build in the destruction around them. 

That old hope we had is still there--we just have to dig for it. This might take some time, but it will all be worth it, in the end.

Despite the subject matter, Afterglow is an easy read. Stewart has a comfortable style of settling the audience in and guiding them through his characters' ordeals and has a real knack for finding the core issue they suffer through and what eats at them. At times, it comes across as almost autobiographical, despite that obviously not being possible when one considers what happens to each character in the book. The author gives the impression that he loves these people, and considers them more than just characters in a story, which adds to the impression of this work feeling like he went out and interviewed members of Gen Y for their life stories. If anything, this is the book's strongest aspect and gives it a stamp of authenticity. Should you not understand what this cohort is by the time you are finished with this, you may by beyond help. Stewart adeptly and accurately explains all here, leaving little room for skepticism about the subject and who these people really are.

As mentioned earlier, 2022 was a bit of a banner year for the subject of Generation Y. After years of discussion, the gathered information, the plentiful theories, and the general discourse, has finally begun to hit on a wider scale, defining what so many have been spending their time trying to define. Truth be told, this book is one of the best on the topic.

Afterglow: Generation Y contains 16 pieces of wonder and speculation about a generation that had long since been forgotten and abandoned by the society that spawned it. These are stories about alienated adults trying to find their place in a world that long ago informed them they have no place here. Such a work could easily be nihilistic and hopeless if handled incorrectly. Nonetheless, Stewart's respect and love for a cohort lost in the rusted maze of modernity makes it stand tall. There is no other book quite like this one out there, and you would be doing yourself a disservice by passing it up. One can't know where discourse on Gen Y will go in the future, but Afterglow has cemented itself as an essential part of that discussion. It should not be ignored.

There are certain subjects we in the west need to address if we wish to dig ourselves from the pit Cultural Ground Zero left us in ages ago. Until we do, we will only live in the ruins of a heyday that came and went like a leaf in an updraft. 1997 was 25 years ago--it isn't coming back, and nothing we can ever do will give us the events and miracles that existed to get us to that point, or any other point in history. It is gone. You cannot roll back the clock, but you also cannot charge blindly away from the past and hope it somehow works out for you. We have a quarter of a century of rot to prove blind Progress does not work.

Until we learn to bridge what we lost with a future we can see on the horizon, one we can build towards, we will be trapped in the the dead dreams of a materialistic century that has no relation to reality, and perhaps never did to begin with. That will not lead to any sort of future not still dealing with the sins of the past.

So let the afterglow fade into history like it should. That doesn't mean we can't carry the best of it forward as we face the storm clouds looming ahead. Rough roads await us. There is always a path past them, as long as we find the right trail.

[You can find Afterglow: Generation Y here!]

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Inside Looking Out

Find it Here!

It has been quite a crazy launch week for Y Signal, and I want to thank everyone who shared it all over social media and in real life. It was very much appreciated for such a strange story that would be hard sell otherwise.

It is no exaggeration to say that Y Signal is a difficult story to explain unless one is familiar with the new lost generation of Gen Y or the reality of Cultural Ground Zero. Regardless, there is a universal appeal even then. I have spoken a bit on Y Signal before, but the inspiration for this story goes back far before then. How far? Well, some of the characters and concepts are ones I came up with way back in the 2000s before I had even thought of writing anything at all. It only took until now for me to understand just what this story was. Writing is weird that way.

You see, even back in the day, back before the society-changing events of 9/11 or Columbine, I had a sense that the times were shifting, and that they were getting worse. I know this because at the time I was actually delving deeper into pop culture and the like due to personal events in my young life that made it more agreeable to me than the real life crap I had to deal with. Seeing things decay when I was told they just "got better" because that was how the world was supposed to work was such a bizarre mentality that I couldn't even process then. I still heard that hoary logic from my peers both online and off as far as up to the beginning of the 2010s, even. It isn't as easy to process such thinking today, perhaps because so many in the wider culture have gas-lit themselves into thinking some other party is to blame for certain utopia becoming derailed, but the magical thinking of humanism that said progressing to perfection was a certainty died out. The explanation of things improving because that's "what they do" lasted far beyond its expiration date, and we can see it when looking back at earlier times. It's easy to take for granted now, but it was a very real belief for a long time.

This was one of the reasons so many back then didn't put much thought in the future. If you lived then, you probably remember what the climate was like. There was no sense in truly pushing yourself if no matter what you do the same result will play out regardless. Yes, it was a pseudo-determinist view of existence, which makes sense when you are dealing with a pure materialist view of reality, as most everyone did in the 20th century. Humanity are a bunch of meat robots gradually stepping up a slope where paradise awaits at the apex. Everything will be better in the morning, because that's just how it is. Things will always get better.

People did believe that, until the party stopped.

Eventually, the mechanisms that made modernism worked began to squeak and break under the strain of impossible expectations. The rust had done its damage, especially with no one there to keep maintenance as it began to crumble. Even now, the system is still in the process of imploding. It still hasn't quite reached the extreme, but we all know it's on the way.

Now, you would have to be blind, deaf, and dumb, to still believe in the mystical idea of Unending Progress today. There is no shining paradise waiting ahead for humanity as long as we do what our betters tell us to. That well never happen because Utopia doesn't exist. All that is coming is self-destruction stemming from that vapid mentality that led us off the cliff in the first place. We did this to ourselves, and we continue to do it to this day.

What this means is that looking back on the old days is usually due more to regret than it is to longing. You don't really want to return to a time where you were more ignorant of where things were headed; you are nostalgic for the chance to make a different decision based on what you now know. Perhaps you can still find that reality you were denied. But it was always going to end up here, in the end. Too much would have to change to depart from the road to ruin ahead. In that case, how does one view the past aside from thinking it one huge mistake? What can be gained from it?

We're not on the outside looking in, because we've never really left the past behind. Instead, we are still inside, trying to find the path forward, the way out. But what does that even mean? This is why I wrote this in the first place. How does one find their place in a world that doesn't believe you have one, that you are expendable? Where would such a place even be? It's not an easy idea to think about, even over a quarter of a century after the modern world truly ended.

Where did we think we were going in the first place?

Remember this?

Y Signal started as an idea I had a long time ago, as I mentioned earlier, which was more focused on how Gen X (and, though I didn't know it then, Gen Y) kids found themselves outdated in the social decay the 2000s brought. Oddly enough, that old idea was probably was closer to SLC Punk than Y Signal ended up being. That eventually changed as I began looking into Cultural Ground Zero and questioning just what was it that made Gen Y so nostalgic for a time that, frankly, wasn't actually that great. It also helped that I had started taking influence from the pulps and old adventure fiction, too. That was when the story finally began taking shape.

How do we move on from the last period where it felt like social cohesion existed? What do we move towards, and how do we finally move on from the past?

Now, of course, this does not mean there was nothing about the 1990s worth remembering or taking forward, but it has turned into a sort of Shangri-La for Gen Ys, just as the 1980s have been turned into an aesthetic for those who never even lived in it, and I wanted to look at this from a different angle. What if those who inhabited this sacred time and place actually did see it all coming, or at least had an idea? How would they react, especially if humanity was determined to make things as they are today? Would reality itself break, or was it always destined to turn out like this regardless of what anyone did? Was there really only one possibility?

That was when it all blew up into the story before you. Reading through what happens in Y Signal, as things go more and more sideways, should tell you exactly what might have been, and what might be. There is more than one future, but not in the way you might think.

When I wrote the first part and shared it with you all, I had always expected it to go longer than that piece. However, I first wanted to see what the response would be to an idea like this, in the first place. For those who have read most of my other work, Y Signal wasn't really in my wheelhouse. While there are elements of horror and action in this one, just like just about everything I've done, this is a straight out weird tale before anything else. Thanks to the overwhelming positive reaction that shorter piece received, it allowed me to pursue the full story. And what a story it is. I do not think I will be able to create something like this again.

Talking about Y Signal without utterly spoiling the entire story is a bit difficult, so I'll try to talk about the inspiration.

One of the things people do uniformly miss about earlier decades is how much better mainstream art and entertainment was as a whole. That is because it was better, but also because there was a unified culture uniting everyone together. This doesn't exist anymore, and it won't again for a long time, however, that is what people miss more than just the products or brands themselves. They are nostalgic for a world that wanted them. At least, that's the thought.

Music, especially rock music, was very much a male interest back in the day. Before it died out in the 2000s, and before flatlining utterly in the '10s, you would be hard pressed to find any red-blooded male who didn't listen to it. Rock was energy and testosterone, embodied.

On top of that, music itself is also the most ethereal form of art, making it harder to quantify why it works or explain how it can dig in so deep. Without being fully tangible, explaining music's appeal is difficult. It is more than just sounds arranged correctly, but also a form that scrapes at your insides and stirs your soul in a way no other form can. That is also why describing it through prose adds a different flavor to the mix. It is using one form to try and describe the appeal of another. You might have noticed that a bit in my Night Rhythm stories. One of which is in Pulp Rock right now!

There was much music that got me in the spirit to write Y Signal, but as I was writing it I thought of what exactly the characters might listen to that affected them during the era of the story. It's not quite a soundtrack, but more of a tone that I wanted to set in atmosphere and in characterization. The only way I can really explain it, is by sharing.

These are the songs that helped me craft the feeling and mood of Y Signal. One can arrange these as a double disc compilation of the sort you would be able to buy back then, before Napster existed. Some of these were even directly mentioned and referenced in the story itself, though not always in obvious ways. This is the sound of Y Signal.

  1. Rush - Red Barchetta
  2. Supergrass - Alright
  3. Boston - Peace of Mind
  4. The Ramones - Chasing the Night
  5. The Replacements - Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out
  6. Pavement - In the Mouth a Desert
  7. Sonic Youth - Teenage Riot
  8. Urge Overkill - Positive Bleeding
  9. Fishbone - Question of Life
  10. Suicide - Johnny
  11. Pere Ubu - Navvy
  12. The Lemonheads - My Drug Buddy
  13. The Replacements - Johnny's Gonna Die
  14. The Specials - Blank Expression
  15. Less Than Jake - Blindsided
  16. Screeching Weasel - Going Home
  17. Less Than Jake - Last Train
  18. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Dogs and Chaplains
  19. Smashing Pumpkins - Siva
  20. Counting Crows - Mr. Jones
  21. Oasis - Wonderwall
  22. Pavement - Fillmore Jive
  23. The Replacements - One Wink at a Time
  24. Oasis - Champagne Supernova
  25. Goldfinger - King for a Day
  26. Less Than Jake - Sugar in Your Gas Tank
  27. Gin Blossoms - Follow You Down
  28. Smashing Pumpkins - 1979
  29. Swervedriver - Never Lose That Feeling
  30. Deluxtone Rockets - Judgement Day

You can find it all in a custom playlist on YouTube here.

These are the songs that got me into the mindset of the times, the characters, and the general feel of the in-between of the Here and There that makes the story what it is. Remember, these songs aren't meant as literal, at least, not entirely, but a way to grasp a sensation and mood--a lost spark--that both the characters and I, as the writer, were trying to understand. It's the soundtrack of Y Signal in that very specific way.

I realize I might sound more than a little frazzled or unclear when talking about this story, but that is for good reason. This is the era where the fostering alienation and fragmentation the west had been marinating in since at least the 1960s really bubbled up to the present, and it was most noticeable through the change in the music. Not even so much the popular music, as a lot of what became popular before Cultural Ground Zero was underground and college sounds that was scooped up by the big labels to try and wring some dollars out of it. As a consequence, "genre-fication" from so-called experts (the same kind that swallowed adventure storytelling in 1939) drained character and ambition out of an entire artistic medium, not even allowing it to flourish in the indies. Rock music died as a result of this shift. It's still never recovered.

As a result, there is a sense of foreboding one cannot avoid when exploring this era. It's a mood that was there even if we didn't see it at the time. When making a story that seems primed for easy nostalgia bait (and don't think Hollywood hasn't tried), it is easy to fall into the trap and ignore what was going on under the surface. Gen Y's relationship with the 1990s is a lot more complex than we sometimes realize it is, and I wanted to get it across here. The track-list above is not meant to be a walk down memory-lane, but to capture that relationship between the times and the people, both then and now. Art is meant to be unite, after all.

Hopefully, you, the reader, can connect with it. That was always the goal, to begin with. I wanted to find that missing link that gets mistaken for brand worship today. I pray I succeeded in my efforts. That was the whole point of Y Signal--to understand.

The last song in the above track-list is out of the timespan of the story, for a reason you will probably guess when reading it, but so are others that inspired its writing to begin with. Much of initial outlining was done as I listened to the album The Elements of Transition by Edna's Goldfish, a long defunct band that only put out two albums (and this is not the favorite of the two) which came out in 1999. It's an album that is odd for it's time period in that it is focused on one aspect of the transition between adolescence and adulthood that most don't, which is the loss of the little things that gets missed in the rush to move on, including regret.

Sample lyrics:

Summer of 95
I still don't feel like I'm alive
Sometimes I can feel so drained
But my friends are here I can't complain
I've underestimated again
The power of the words of all my friends

Everyone I know and
Everything I see
Everywhere I've been
It means so much you meant so much to me

What comes next I'll keep you guessing
Come to see the life that you've been missing

The Y Signal in the story is discovered by a musician, someone who works with sound and manipulates it to his whims to the point that he soon found a way he could use it for his own means. Though, of course, just stopping there does not give much credit into the ways a soul can bend reality itself and end up falling into the cracks of their own making. As everyone well knows, things fall apart. We are seeing it happen right now. But it always starts from our own choices.

So the story ended up being about finding something that won't fall apart. Do the characters know this? Not entirely. No one who lived at that time would really understand how fragile what they had then was. We don't even really know it now. Should something like what occurs in Y Signal happen today, I guarantee it would not end quite like the way it does here. Would it be better or worse? You'll have to read and find out for yourself and come to your own conclusion.

The entire story ended up being a lot more off-kilter than I originally imagined, with multiple parts including inbetweeners and a prologue and epilogue to tell a story that covers a lot of territory in a shorter pulp-like length with typical quick pacing. It's not something I would have been able to write if I hadn't gone through what I had since learning to write years ago, in many ways. Again, I doubt I'll ever write anything quite like this again, so please give it a read and see for yourself just how crazy it gets. This never would have been possible before NewPub took off, so I definitely must thank the readers for allowing a climate like this to exist so these sorts of stories could even be told and released in the first place. It's been quite the ride these last few years.

Strangely enough, Y Signal managed to release on the 25th anniversary of Cultural Ground Zero. It has been a quarter of a century since this modern world died out. Hopefully it makes for a solid capstone on it. What will we think of 2022 when we look back on it 25 years from now? That should be interesting to see.

Hopefully we will have moved beyond the brands by then and into a deeper love, lamentation, and appreciation for the past. We can only hope.

In the end, Y Signal is an amalgamation of everything I've learned since I started writing, filtered through my curiosity with an age that is long gone and never coming back. The 1990s sure were wild. It was a crazy time, but it's over now. It is time to face the present we live in today. What do we have now to look forward to?

Well, for us now, we are quickly entering 2023 in less than a month. Whatever happens next is in God's hands. For me, I will continue to write for as long as I am able to. Hopefully I will be doing this for a long time, and can share many more stories with you in the future.

But who really knows what tomorrow holds? Anything can happen, right? The possibilities are unending, now and forever.

There are many futures, after all.

Friday, November 25, 2022

New Release ~ Y Signal!

Find it Here!

It's been quite the year hasn't it? Well, it's not over yet! Today it is time for an announcement of a brand new book release.

I did it, readers, just like I said I would! Today releases the second book in 2022 from yours truly, Y Signal! This might technically be my third book this year (along with The Last Fanatics and the FREE Generation Y: The Lost Generation), however, I nonetheless managed to keep good on my promise to deliver the goods for you this year.

The first thing you might be wondering is if this is the same Y Signal that is up for free on the blog. The answer is that this book is the FULL story. The piece on Wasteland & Sky is only one portion of the full tale of Ray's journey across time and space and the strangeness inflicted on his world of 1995. You can think of the blog entry as a preview of the full narrative. The book goes to a lot more, and off the wall, places on the way to its ending beyond that summer night in 1995. I can't quite say where it ends up without spoilers, but this is a truly weird tale. You will most definitely not be reading anything else like this anytime soon.

Here is the description:

BACK IN 1995 
Summer vacation is the same as usual for Ray and his friends. It's video games, hanging out, and endless good times! But when his cousin introduces him to a mysterious radio broadcast, reality is inverted. What is real, and what is a dream? Is the future open, or is disaster inevitable?

The Y Signal reveals all.

Join Ray on his journey as time and space itself bends to forces beyond his control, in his quest to come out the other side. Ape-men, crazed punks, sky trains, hidden worlds, the past, and a so-called Paradise, await him as he fights to discover the truth in a world gone mad.

Paradise is but one dream away. All he has to do is reach out and touch it . . .

That is no exaggeration, though you will have to read on to find out what it means! It is an adventure quite unlike anything I have done before.

Y Signal is a story from the heart of Generation Y, when it seemed like the world was at its peak and nothing could go wrong. Things would only be getting better, because that's what things did. All one had to do was the bare minimum and listen to all the right people, and all would work out in your favor. Of course, that isn't how life works, but it was how kids in the 1980s and 1990s were told it would happed. And there was a time where it felt like it was almost true, before it all came crashing down with a series of events in the late '90s and early '00s that shattered the last illusions of modernity and left us in the decline we've been in ever since. Before Cultural Ground Zero, everything was the way it should be. Or was it?

Part of the nostalgia Gen Y suffers is due to spending their entire lives since the mid-1990s in a societal decline, starting from a high in the materialist age of the 1980s and early '90s, and only sliding into a lower and lower place in the years to come. Generations before them have experienced rises and falls before, and the ones after have only lived at the bottom and lack perspective, but Generation Y (born approx. 1979-1989) are defined by decline. That is their identity. The reason our suicide rates are as high as they are is, for the most part, because of where we started from and not seeing a way to reach those highs again. Is that rational? That's fairly irrelevant to the reality facing us in the modern day. It is what is is.

Nonetheless, none of this is helped by a societal climate that gets irrationally angry when one points out that not only does this generational cohort exist, it was deliberately buried by Madison Avenue in order to sell product to the kids coming up under them. We keep creating new, ridiculous terms like "Xennial" or "Geriatric Millennial" to define a group that already exists and had a name: Gen Y, the younger brothers of Gen X. The last generation to grow up without internet, social media, cellphones, and before Columbine, before 9/11, before the War on Terror, before Cultural Ground Zero. As David Stewart once said, they are a generation raised in an analog world expected to live in a digital one. It is no wonder the entire cohort is a total and confused mess.

The reason '80s and '90s nostalgia refuses to go away is specifically because the world Gen Y was promised never came to fruition and it is the only memory they have in a present that isn't really working out. But it's not just that. It is also because the world that DOES exist already stated this group not only doesn't exist, but everything they loved is now evil and should be destroyed. How do you square this circle? In an imploding social climate that proves Gen Y is right about how the current world is inferior to the one they were promised, and shows no sign of turning from its current dead end trajectory, there isn't anything they can do but check out. The wider culture wants to implode and will do anything to continuing Progressing towards that cliff. All this from the same people who sold them a fake future back in the 1990s that they don't even remember to a group they would rather forget ever existed.

What we are left with is a group adrift and detached in a society that prides itself on alienation and unity through corporate product and vague law enforcement. Hardly an improvement on what a bunch of starry eyed kids saw coming back in 1995 when they were more ignorant about how things worked. What does one hope for, at this point?

I'm not going to pretend I am anywhere near the first person to notice any of this, or even write on it. There has been a small but growing library of releases in this niche of Generation Y experience that has been blanked out by angry modernists who want to pretend there was no eye of the cultural storm, but it did happen. Appreciating those quieter moments, learning why they were so effective, and how to apply them going forward, is the way to reach Generation Y and show just how much they have to offer in a world that very badly wants to pretend they don't exist.

Y Signal is an overarching story about one period of a 90s kid's life as everything changes around him in ways he could never predict. Despite that, I can't quite call it a "coming of age" story due to what actually occurs in its pages. Again, you'll have to read it yourself to see what I mean. If you've read the first part on the blog then you might have an idea what that means, but, even still, the complete story goes far beyond that.

As for other Gen Y books, I can recommend a few aside from the new Y Signal

The first would be our FREE 2022 release, Generation Y: The New Lost Generation. This one contains edited pieces and stories from myself, Brian Niemeier, and David V. Stewart. We even have files for paperback or hardcover printing if that is what you desire. It is a good place to start if you are completely clueless on the subject as it traces our discovery and understanding of this cohort towards our thoughts on where they can go in the future. Please spread this one around far and wide. It is meant to be shared.

David himself has put out two books specifically addressing this group. The first is The Eyes in the Wall which is a horror story about a Gen Y kid who meets a horrific monster as a child and does not know how to process or deal with it. The ending is particularly satisfying on this one. He also just released Afterglow: Generation Y, a collection of small stories that encapsulates the feel of what being Generation Y, of what being in a Lost Generation, is actually like. It goes without saying that both of these come highly recommended.

Another example is Mark Pellegrini's They'll Get You, which is a book about a kid during this very period. He has also written other short stories in this world, which mythologizes a lot of the weird things from this time period you might have forgotten about. They are all in various issues of Cirsova, so pick every one of those up! Gen Y or not, it is a fantastic magazine of wonder and imagination worth your time.

I do hope we see more takes on this subject in the future. This is quite fertile ground that we are only beginning to discover and will absolutely lead to more and more interesting stories. Even other mediums have begun diving into the subject.

Those all take different approaches to the topic of Generation Y, but Y Signal is about one's relation to reality itself and how we see each other and our place in the world in an age where that wasn't so clear. How are things meant to be? Who decides that? It is a difficult book to describe because it isn't quite like anything else I've done before, nor is it one I've seen from any other writer. This is the definition of a weird story.

I will write more about it in a future post. For now, I just needed to announce it to the world. You won't read anything else like it!

Find it Here!

In related news, there is also a sale going on right now, thanks to author Hans Shantz! This is the Big Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale from authors all across the board, new and classic releases included. All works are on sale for a buck or even free, You can find it here!

Three of my books are included in the sale, Grey Cat Blues, Someone Is Aiming for You & Other Adventures, and Brutal Dreams! You can pick these up along with the freshly released Y Signal and have yourself quite the reading selection in the process, There is plenty to go around, so give it a look over. As always, NewPub has you covered for all your entertainment needs! Who needs the mainstream with a selection like this?

That's all for this week, folks. I hope you now know why I was laying a bit low recently. I had to make sure to get all my ducks in a row. Now that it is out, please enjoy to your heart's content. 2022 has been a crazy year.

Thanks again for reading! It is only because of readers like you that I am able to do this at all. My gratitude is immeasurable.