Monday, October 31, 2022

Happy Halloween!

Hope you're having a good one! This is just a quick update post to let you know that the Fifth Cannon Cruisers Halloween Special is up today. You can find it here!

In this one we cover the fourth and sixth entries in the Friday the 13th slasher series and discuss how such a simple series maintained longevity for a whole decade. Why these two entries specifically? Well, you'll have to tune in and find out for yourself. You might be surprised at these ones, especially if you only know the first couple like I did.

A lot of horror is looked at, and seen as, a celebration of evil. To be fair, it can be if misused. However, the spirit is really in the celebration of evil being triumphed over and mocked. Believe it or not, the story that carries through these two entries (and technically the fifth, but not really) despite its lightness actually does show this. Much like the first and third Nightmare on Elm Street movies tell a story of evil being put down, this is the same, albeit not quite on that level. However, they do aim a bit higher than you might think for the genre.

For my money, I still believe the two proper Maniac Cop movies (which I covered here and here) are still the best, and most overlooked, examples to making this genre work and showing how evil acts and intent can lead to tragedy. There can be more to it than watching clueless and broken people meeting their untimely end. For another example from that Halloween season during the coof, I also covered Night of the Demons here. It's also surprisingly eerie. Just because the subgenre has been done badly does not mean it can't be done right, or effectively. It very much can!

Nonetheless, our Fifth Halloween Special is an hour long and focused on these relics of a slowly dying decade in the back of our minds. Once again, you can find it here! We talk for a good while on our perception of the series and why these two entries work.

Be sure to have a fun Halloween, and do not let the cynicism and misery of modernity poison your imagination and love for higher things. It is one of humanity's best features and we would do good not to lost it to the nonsense trying to drag us down into misery.

Thank you once again for coming here and also tuning into Cannon Cruisers. It means a lot and makes this all worth doing. Once more, the new special can be found here.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Concentrated Pulp

"The genre wars have done a disservice to speculative and weird fiction of all types for nearly 100 years now, and it's time to put "big F" Fandom in the dust bin where it belongs." ~ Christopher DiNote on The Last Fanatics

What we know of as Pulp Fiction died just over three quarters of a century ago. It existed for a brief moment in time, a drop in the bucket of the typhoon of history, before it was cast to the four winds never to be seen again. Pulp, for all intents and purposes, died before in the 20th century did. Even before the pulp format itself died, the fiction itself had been warped.

That era is long gone, was deliberately erased, and has no real chance to come back in the form that made it what it was. 

So why does the term still stick around today? There are many theories, some fairly surface level. For one, "Pulp" is just a good word that is fun to say and write. It has a joyful simplicity to it that the far clumsier "Penny Dreadfuls" simply doesn't. It also accurately describes both the intent of the stories and the quality of the paper they were printed on: coarse, cheap, and to the point. As such it has attached itself to the style of story most prevalent in its pages, a fast-paced adventure meant for the Average Joe to spend his change on after a tough day at work. Unfortunately, it is something that does not have an equivalent today, mostly because the industry took that away from them in order to create their own club. Regardless, the term survives.

"Pulp" storytelling as it is defined is, of course, nothing new. People love stories, they bathe and marinate in them and they fashion a lot of their understanding of the events that happen in life around the narrative strings they can puzzle out for themselves. Everything has a meaning and a purpose, one just has to sometimes dig to find it. But it's always there.

Storytelling is also a community activity, it is not meant for hoarding to oneself. It is social, not antisocial. For examples of this, there are the activities that used to center on the act. Fairy tales taught to children were done around the fireplace or before bed, usually mean as a way to relax and wind down, taking wonderous thoughts into your imagination as you head to sleep. Campfire tales worked in much the same way, gathering a group around the campfire and telling chilling tales just out of the bounds of the darkness waiting mere steps from your sleeping bag. Stage plays and cinema rely on crowd reaction to generate excitement and word of mouth. Stories, in other words, have always existed to excite, inspire, and bring audience and artist together, and they always will.

The audience is there for communication; the artist delivers it.

Naturally, from this point on, there are types of stories that resonate more strongly with different groups, the main two being men and women. There usually is crossover, but chances are what an artist puts out will usually appeal to one more than the other.

Men and women, as a whole, each prefer different styles of storytelling. Women prefer relationships (the modern term known as "shipping") and who will end up with who, the more insular issues of the story, while men prefer the outer aspect: the journey and destination. As such, the original storytelling genre of Romance encompassed both. Think of the classics and you will find a heavy focus on both throughout the ages, because each are very important parts of what makes us human and connects us with each other as well as the world we live in.

What then happened next, because both men and women have different interests, is that stories began to lean more in one direction than the other. The stories that wished to appeal more to the female audience would focus on the male and female relationships between the characters, eventually coming to embody the term Romance we still use today. Stories like Jane Eyre and Pride & Prejudice are the archetypal form of this. The male side centered more on the Adventure aspect which stories such as Robinson Crusoe or Treasure Island bent more towards. You can see how these two different streams diverged, but also how they still relate to each other.

However, despite this, there was no push to be rid of the original form. In fact, it could be argued that the Ur genre of Romantic Adventure soon found its way into the Weird, the place where the fairy and campfire tales made their home long ago. Here, the romance of existence both interior and exterior could always be explored with no limits on the imagination (the imagination being the one part of storytelling that should not be limited) where the supernatural and natural are intertwined. This is paring it down to the nuts and bolts of storytelling itself.

Imagination and wonder is key to it all.

This might be giving a very superficial reading of it, but this is because it leads into the point. The modern version of Weird which came about in during the early 20th century was a response to the growing materialism and warping of stories to be About Things ideologues which to control. The Romance was being lost, and many authors who saw the universe as a more wondrous creation than slogans and buzzwords for cultists wanted to give it its due. Art as a whole, no matter the form, medium, or genre, is about a celebration of life. Yes, even horror.

Speaking of which, Weird is part classical Adventure and part Gothic Horror, treating both as if they are intrinsic to what makes it all work. In essence, Weird is the closest modern approach to nailing down that original intent of storytelling as a form to lift the audience up.

There are rules designed to sharpen prose and narrative to best communicate with the audience (which is the entire point, remember), just as there is in every medium of art, but in the art itself? No limitations exist. Whatever one wishes to do can do done.

For one moment, one which modern people can only look back on in hindsight now, storytelling did return to where it was meant to be. This would have been the pulp era which ended around 1940 when it was consumed by literary types trying to educate the rubes who wanted wonder and ended up chasing them to other mediums entirely. After that, it became captured by Fanatics who would do their best to erase the past and change the rules.

Fanatics ruin everything.

This was, unfortunately, the legacy of 20th century storytelling. Wonder would find a place, only to be chased out by the materialists and the secular moralists who needed to tear that old world down to be replaced with their vision of utopia. Progress means the old needs to die to such cultists. Fanatics eventually caused an exodus of normal folk from every medium: pulps, comic books, music, novels, television, plays, movies, and finally video games. Every one of those industries in the mainstream of today is nowhere near what they were back in the day.

One merely can trace it back through the 20th century and watch how the weird and wonder drains out of all those medium by the time they hit the 21st and become pale imitations of what once was. All of the wonder and imagination was chased out for "realism" and nihilistic grit because it was "healthier" for audiences. One well knows by now that "realism" and any form of it is a codeword for "acceptable" and it is fairly clear why that became the lay of the land, even as it always ended up chasing more and more people away. This is because it wasn't about pleasing audiences, and never was, but about shaping them to the correct standard. Fanatics were allowed in charge by those who should have known better than they did, and they destroyed it all. They're still doing it today.

Naturally, as a result of all this, every medium and form of art is eventually hollowed out of normal folks and left to the Fanatics to beat to death as they pretend it is an act of love. No one reads anymore, for example, so the industry changes nothing and focuses on pumping out trash meant to educate people who aren't even reading said books. They will not change coarse even in the face of tremendous failures. One can easily communicate with librarians and learn that no one takes these books out. They eventually end up entering and leaving the system without a single check out. The industry has had decades to fix this. That they won't is because it is not about entertainment or uplifting, or pleasing the audience, but preaching the message that the audience already rejected long ago. That always comes first.

What did this selfish attitude lead to? Death. OldPub, the old publishing industry, is as irrelevant as they've ever been, and it is all their own doing.

So as basically all media literacy disappears, where does one go to get their adventure fix now? Not many places, hence the obsession with "celebrity" culture which eventually evolved into being drama about internet figures. Audiences get no excitement from the stories that are shoveled out by cultists so they instead find it somewhere else.

This is where part of the "Cancel Culture" phenomenon comes from. This is because you get to be the protagonist in the adventure and vanquish the great evil in your own adventure! This is a long way from old daytime soap operas and the erotic thrillers of the early 1990s, already twisting towards voyeurism over romance. Now it's warped to an obsessive need around "fixing" the characters in the story--the "characters" who are actually real people. A consequence of the realism obsession materialists forced on the populace? Who is to say.

Regardless, this is where Adventure is in the mainstream today.

Weird is the beating heart of everything else.

What this essentially means is that "Pulp" as it was back in the day, is not feasible enough in Current Year. By that, it means that writers cannot just act around these changes and hope they go away. It is not enough to just make a magazine and call it a day. No one reads anymore, and actually getting them to trust writers again is going to be a very long uphill battle to turn damaged perception that around. And this is just to gain a basic audience again. It doesn't go into the way art and entertainment has been transformed into a drug meant for quick fixes.

How do you fight against the common and accepted knowledge that entertainment is to be consumed and discarded instantly for the next hit? Wait for the assembly line to pump out the next dose! In a world that wants the highest common denominator to be distributed and treated as the lowest common denominator, how does one even create to that expectation? There probably isn't any way to do that, which means a new way forward must be found. Especially in a climate were few read and even fewer read anything under a 100,000 word book made to factory specification, in every sense that entails. There are entire forms and mediums that simply have no room in the modern climate of junk culture as easy heroin.

So if "Pulp" were to continue it would need to move beyond where it was in the 20th century, at least in accessibility. Writers of the weird, adventure writers, carriers of an older tradition, have a duty to make sure the form stays alive, not just with their writing but with mediums. They cannot just abandon the past. Someone, for instance, needs to keep the short story, poem, and novelette alive, as the wider culture abandons them for the next disposable fad to be thrown away five minutes later. But in an age where all mediums are treated as throwaway and disposable, how does one connect? What exactly is "Pulp" supposed to be in the modern age?

Well, it isn't really "Pulp" anymore. Pulp paper is long gone, and the style of adventure it championed was chased out before the medium itself even died off. The spirit flooded out into comics, b-movies, music, and even video games, before being chased out of those, too. So where does it go now? The question could also be asked: should it even be running anymore, especially with its opponents weaker than they've ever been? Perhaps it never should have ran and ceded ground in the first place. Hindsight is 20/20, but still one needs to take stock of the modern climate.

The elephant in the room is that with the growth of NewPub as a separate industry, Fanatics have less control than they've ever had. They can no longer dictate the terms. Now "Pulp" has no obstacle to return, except a problem of how to connect with an audience that has been turned against it by people who hate and wish to control them.

It's all still romantic adventure of the old sort, whether you call it "Pulp" or what have you, but what about it will truly connect with an audience weaned on everything it is against? Writers cannot abandon them, but the point of art is to form a relationship between artist and audience. What is that relationship between them today in the post-post-modern world?

Despite all of this, it does feel as if modern writers of the romantic adventure know this. It has to be treated as more than mindless consuming and moving on to the next product. They know it far better than modern cultists paid by their inept corporate masters do. Folks in NewPub, before it was even called that, were the first to jump into audio books, webtoons, ebooks, podcasts, web comics, digital distribution, and even streaming. Today they are even willing to connect with streamers and YouTubers to broaden the audience that OldPub hollowed out long ago. In order to gain back an industry worth saving in the first place, one must go out of their way to break boundaries that never should have been set up there to begin with. As a result, however, change will take a long time. Any improvement will take a very long time to be seen.

All writers, artists, and creators, off all kinds, must cross-pollinate mediums and forms and learn from each other, to bring all the disparate parts back together again. This might be difficult in an age where societal trust is at an all time low, but that is the future. It has to be. In order to bring it all together again, one must bring it all together again in a larger sense, too. To have a functioning society is how one has a functioning art and entertainment climate. Funny how that works. As mentioned earlier, art is not antisocial.

The fact is that there are many out there who have been taught the wrong thing, almost as a joke. Just as there are whole groups of people that think anime, an entire style formed back in the 1960s, is just porn, there are just as many told that pulp style adventure is a slogan and buzzword loaded minefield of bad things for bad people. Fanatics want their audience to "think" that way because it makes it easier to have them discount the alternative entirely, without having to think about it. This is how they shaped the "field" to begin with.

Thinking outside the box they designed is the only way to rout them. There is simply no other way to break the conditioning, as it were.

There is no reason that Abraham Merritt, the biggest writer of his day, should have been left deliberately out of print for decades simply due to dying relatively young. If it wasn't for Arkham House, August Derleth, and Donald Wandrei, these same people would have done the same to Lovecraft and all of Weird Tales. The things so many love today would never have existed if the cultists in charge had their way. It is time to stop trusting them.

The industry has forcefully pushed out short stories, novelettes, novellas, and novels shorter than the far-too-long 100,000 words, since the 1940s. This is an attack against the form of writing itself, it can no longer be denied. Fanatics have been trying to co-opt and tar the pulps and adventure writing ever since, for nearly a century, because these stories offer a counter-narrative to what you are supposed to believe. Every move the industry have made since 1940 has been to destroy and blacken the name of all that came before.

Why should anyone still listen to the narratives, terminology, and lies they have created? At this point, they have outed their intent and shown their hand. They offer deceit, degradation, and death, to the medium. They must be decoupled, wholesale.

It is the only way tor regain what was lost.

How it is meant to be.

Those in NewPub, going forward, will need to have all of this seared into their very souls: if one does not protect and water the gardens of what they love, enemies will very much use the opportunity to destroy it. They're very good at using deceptive wording and terminology to make themselves out to be the good guys, but their handiwork has been laid bare over the last 80+ years as one of failure. It has been nearly a century and all they have done is strangle the life out of everything they sunk their claws into, whether IP or industries. They cannot be trusted.

What this means is that Adventure, the Weird, the Pulps, the Penny Dreadfuls, Fairy Tales, Romantic Adventure, Romance, or whatever you want to call it going forward, can never be owned by anyone ever again. It cannot be a Brand or a badge, and must be left to its objective definition as stories of wonder meant to lift and inspire, bringing the audience a new appreciation of the universe they live in and their hope for something more. Those that go against this can find their own playpens they can soil themselves in as they have already done for nearly a century.

It might sound contradictory, but this is what true gatekeeping actually is. It doesn't exist to change the content that exists behind the gate, but to prevent those coming in from outside the gate from doing just that. If you like something why would you want it to change? Because new programing from the leader came in, of course. These usurpers then seize control themselves under the guise of mass appeal. But this objectively never happens. If these crowds were truly for mass appeal like they tell themselves, they wouldn't be hemorrhaging sales and audience interest whenever they force their changes in against the people who like it to begin with. There is no argument on this point, it is clear that their changes always devolve to this state. No, their attempts at mutation of others' spaces exist for their own ego and infantile views of an impossible utopia.

This is what one gets for letting Fanatics at the levers of power. They should have been chased out to begin with, but to do that requires a total rejection of what they stand for. They want control over forms that they cannot understand, because all forms are fundamentally against everything they are about. Art is connection, not control. Rules are what define mediums and styles from each other, not a warped means to reshape the reality they hate.

Where OldPub, Hollywood, AAA gaming, and all of the usurped industries and mediums are at now is the opposite of where they should be to allow art to flourish. That is why the Current Year madness of today is at a cultural low, at least, in the mainstream. Antisocial Fanatics control the levers of mass media, and they want to use it against those they detest.

To change this, the entire industry and every subculture and hobby will literally have to be turned 180 degrees around after decades (in some cases, a century) of subversion and mutation. It will require more gatekeeping than simple dunks on social media or snarky YouTube videos. It requires a complete transformation in outlook and approach.

A look into the possible future

It's been a long ride over the past 80 years. As generations have come and gone, they were told that all change is just progress. Of course things change, why wouldn't they? But that is because humanity is just Progressing. Enjoy the ride and eventually the human race will awaken in Utopia and all ills will be solved. Something being new might be scary, but it is new so it is better. Don't think about it beyond that. That is all you need to know, so take a nap while everything you know changes just a little. It's for your own good. It is always for your own good.

Now it is clear what the game was all along. As these Fanatics stomp on the gas to take the world off the nearing cliff while the sleeping wake up in the backseat, things actually have changed quite a lot. However, it never quite changed in the way they wanted it to. Now, the world crumbles around them and all they can do is scream about tolerance and acceptance while they crack snide jokes between pill dosages and sugar rushes. Their loaded and programmed thinking from their betters will carry them to victory as long as they continue the cause of stomping on all that came before them. The people must be protected from themselves, so they must blindly follow processes which led them off the oncoming cliff in the first place. Just don't think about, let the drugs take the wheel.

For those who wish to finally abandon such insanity, there is an obvious truth in all of this. Those who wish to control and deceive, those stained with degenerate and malicious intent, those subversives that only know how to destroy, will always find a way in and they will always try to make themselves the hero of their own story at the expense of their cobbled together villains. There will always be Fanatics trying to poison what they can. Thus we reach the obvious conclusion that the future can never be allowed to be owned by any one person.

Art is communal, but it is also a way for an individual to connect with the whole. It is a way to share and learn, and to grow. It cannot be subversive and destructive, otherwise it will crumble with the society housing it, much like it is today. Modern paths and roads have failed, it is time for other ways. There is no future on this blown out street the Fanatics are barreling down. One would have to be blind to not see this very obvious truth by now. It is no longer the 1990s, it is time to grow up and address the problem.

People are meant to grow and connect. Being trapped in a Fanatic induced cultural stasis focused on killing yourself (in more ways than one) and shrinking from you so-called "lessers" has done little but harm both people and the art they have made. It has killed entire scenes and movements for the next fad, the next hit.

Pulp may be dead, but it's spirit is very much not. This spirit is the only way forward and out of the mess the world has been left in after rushing towards it for longer than anyone today has been alive. The 20th century is over, but it's zombie vampire corpse still hovers over the world as a specter regardless. It is time to put it out of its misery the only way Pulp can.

With fire.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Dusk: One of the Best Video Games Ever Made

It's been quite some time since we talked vidya, so let's get to it. Today I'm going to talk about a more recent favorite of mine.

I've written many pieces on video games that stand the test of time, and now it is the moment to speak on a modern classic that sheds the mistakes of the present industry to build a new way forward. Today, we're going to dive into 2018's Dusk, made by developer David Szymanski, composed by Andrew Hulshult, and produced by New Blood Interactive. Yes, it's recent, which should tell you how good it is if I'm talking about it like this.

That's right, instead of a game over 20 years old, we are going to discuss one made not even released half a decade ago, though it did take some time to get off the ground. You might be asking why exactly I chose to speak on a video game released in 2018. This is because after a recent playthrough I feel it has reached that elusive classic status and deserves to be spoken about. Though you might not quite understand why that is if you only look on the surface and see just a horror game of shooter.

In order to talk about Dusk, we're going to have to talk about the one man behind its original origins and design, David Szymanski. Back in the 2000s, Mr. Szymanski had lower end hardware (like a lot of us did at the time) which led him to mainly playing older games on his PC, like DOOM instead of the growing AAA trend of the time period. By the time he started work on Dusk in 2015, the sorts of games he played then were not in vogue anymore. The FPS genre at this point had fallen far from the glory days of the '90s and had been long replaced by movie games of the sort mentioned in the post I wrote specifically on the genre. Read that one if you want more back story on the time period. It is paramount to understanding why this game is the way it is, and why it was necessary to be made.

By the 2010s, the FPS had basically been gutted of anything that made it what it once was and became little more than cookie-cutter 5 hour movie cutscenes and ADD-addled multiplayer sessions and DLC. It looked like the Golden Age was long gone and never coming back. AAA had long since hollowed the genre out.

This list only contains 50 classics. There are many more.

Around the time the first HD generation came around in 2005, the genre had basically become cinematic and narrative focused, less on adventure and wonder or centering on the player's gameplay experience above all else. You can even see the shift happen very slowly in the above chart towards narratives coming before design. By 2005, nothing above the above chart remained any longer. Much like every other medium and genre, the FPS had been absolutely subverted from its original intent. And it didn't look like it would be ever be coming back.

This was the era when retro gaming first really began coming into vogue. It had always existed before, but it was a lot more prevalent, game stores even beginning to raise prices for classics that could have been bought for less than a Happy Meal now costing as much as a lavish steak dinner. With hindsight, we can now see why that was.

So around 2015 when Dusk began development, no one had any idea what it would actually be. I'm sure many believed it would be another gimmicky one hour walking sim or something like throwaway experience. Those sorts of products were very popular for a time in the '10s, and they gave indie games a label for a long time as being little more than jokes. I have no idea what Mr. Szymanski thought would be the reception of his project when he began, but I doubt he thought there was much of a scene for it at the time when the genre was heading in the opposite direction.

It wasn't until DOOM (2016) came out the year after he began development that it proved that there was an audience for more than the movie-like "experience" the genre was being dumbed down into. The success of this one game (itself scrapped from a hokey project that was little more than a generic Call of Duty with demons) sparked a resurgence and interest in the genre of the kind AAA has still ignored to this day, but smaller middle market and indie developers have jumped on to their benefit. The scene sort of sprang up overnight as gamers realized they were finally getting what they wanted again. The long winter was over.

In essence, games like Dusk coming around in the wake of DOOM (2016) resurrected the genre. However, Dusk is the game that topped all of them. Yes, it even topped id Software's franchise revival itself. How did this one game do that? Well, we will get into it right now. This is how Dusk became a modern classic.

First, we shall began with the launch trailer at its release in 2018. A project mainly be one man (with a composer and producer helping out), Dusk was quite an impressive release, even for the time it came out. You didn't get games like this in 2018:

For those who can't tell, what makes Dusk so good is that is unapologetically old school in every single facet of its design and the intent behind it. While the popularity boom DOOM (2016) gave to the genre definitely help stoke a desire for different sorts of FPS beyond cinematic, it was Dusk that brought it in for a touchdown. One can now find scores of new classic FPS designed games to the point that the AAA string has not only been dwarfed, but is more or less dead now. The genre is back in the hands of those who love it.

Dusk succeeds for three main reasons. These three include the rule of cool, atmosphere and wonder, and pure craft. The aspects make the classics hold up to this day, and it is what Dusk traffics in heavily to its own benefit.

The first thing to mention is the rule of cool. Everything in this game is "cool" before being "realistic" which is how all video games were meant to be and where they started from. Part of the appeal of playing a game is that you can experience things you can't easily do in real life and the interactivity gives you a level of immersion in it. This is the main appeal of playing one. Dusk is very focused on making the player feel cool at every opportunity.

The guns not only offer good feel when being shot, but they all offer varied functions for different situations. Everyone will have a favorite, but not one will you be unhappy to go without (aside from the default sickles, which can be upgraded to a very powerful sword if you look hard enough) and even feature a spin button instead of a reload, because reloading would slow the action down and spinning weapons looks cool.

The Y axis also isn't limited, and bunny hopping exists, which means you basically fly around and flip across the screen with enough speed, and do almost anything you want. If you search hard enough you can even find a hidden bar of soap in every level that can one-hit kill everything, including bosses. Not to mention you can eat food (or cook meat on fire), or drink beer to  gain some morale. Go easy on the booze, though. You don't want to get inebriated! Whatever is cool comes first, and it makes the experience that much more involved.

You are supposed to feel powerful while also feeling like one slip up will lead you to a messy, violent death. Be cool, or be dead! This  has always been the staple of the classic First Person Shooter. Eventually you become the cool main character on the box by playing well. In essence, this is the secret of its immersion and why it has endured over time.

What also helps is the fact that the lower-poly environment and horror atmosphere lends itself to the player filling in the gaps in the visual design themselves. The more detailed game graphics have gotten, the less they manage to give off the weird uncanny valley effect old horror games could give and the more the need to rely on jump scares to keep you on your toes. In a game like Dusk, every location feels like a real place you might meet in life, but slightly off. You want to know more about this place. It encourages exploration for secrets and not only for that but just to see what weirdness lies behind every corner.

You see, there is a story in Dusk, but it works because it is entirely in the background of your goal from getting from point A to B. You are a treasure hunter just known as the "Dusk Dude" (a wink to "Doomguy" from DOOM) searching through the cult-ridden town of Dusk and into its depths where things are a lot worse than you initially thought they were on the surface. By the end of the game, up is down, down is up, and where you'll end up is far worse than what you might have thought. This slow descent into insanity is perfectly maintained throughout.

The mystique is maintained mainly by the fact that the only voiceover is from some mysterious entity taunting you the closer you get to it. The common human enemies only repeat odd mantras and insults when they spot you, if they are even human to begin with that is. The jury is still out on that one. The music maintains creepy ambience with spikes of hard rock of the sort we haven't seen since the original Quake back in the mid-90s. You are always on edge, leaning around that next corner and hoping that thing you heard isn't more than a crazed leatherneck with a chainsaw.

In essence, walking into Dusk is walking into horror, and you need to be tough enough to get through it and reach the literal light at the end of the tunnel. All you have are your guns, treasures (which give morale, this game's version of armor), and health packs, along with Hallowed Health in the form of shining holy crosses that give you a huge boost in vitality. All of that sets a tone that carries through the 33 levels ahead of you.

Other than that, you're on your own.

A good review of the final product

What also helps with Dusk is how balanced the entire experience is. Since they released it old school, the game was put out like the ancient shareware episodes once were. You first get one episode which is ten levels (and a secret one!) which on its own gives a complete and satisfying experience.

This also allowed the developer to focus on polishing and balancing pieces of the game and allowing it to ramp up in complexity and difficulty as it goes along without having to focus on one giant 33 level project at once. Each episode, as a result, is its own little project that ramps up and adds to the whole at the same time. The episodic format was where this genre started, and what gave it so much of its character, and it is nice to see that it has returned to the genre again. Dusk, it should be mentioned, is one of many newer FPSes that get this right.

This is a surprisingly tight game, design-wise. Every piece works to bolster the whole experience and make it sing.

The entire design is the crown jewel here because it gives plenty of elbow room (and priority) to the rule of cool (immersion) and the atmosphere (wonder) before anything else, and then puts full use of the craft to buoy those things above everything else. The craft is as good as it is because it knows what matters the most, but doesn't skimp on lesser things either.

The level design in Dusk is great, but it is always done in a way to emphasize the player's involvement in the environment first. You want to be here, and not only do you want to be here, you want to conquer these evil horrors and stomp them into the dirt. The game knows this and will give you every reason to stick around doing what you want to do.

Every one of these 33 levels are all immaculately designed, and they do get more complex as they go, but they are never boring. I can't think of a single level that annoys more than challenges or one that stands out from the pack as inferior at the same time. Never do you feel like you've been put in an unfair spot and want to give up because of annoying  design choices. Despite the intense speed, the threat of horrors around every bend, and the daunting path ahead, you always want another go at conquering this madness. This is the mark of a well designed game. The other more recent game I remember nailing this was Cuphead. Different genre, same idea.

Lastly, I should mention the real reason I'm talking about Dusk here instead of any other old school classic FPS like those in the above list from the Golden Age. That is because this was a deliberate and conscious decision not to follow a trend, but to make a piece of art based on what worked before. I am using the proper definition of art as a craft made to a standard, and this is exactly what Dusk is. It realizes why the FPS genre became big in the first place, and decided to make a stamp on the entire scene. Everything I'm talking about here also applies to what makes those classics stand the test of time. Dusk merely reminds you that it's not a fluke.

It can still be done today!

A more in-depth look at what makes Dusk good, through gameplay!

But I'm not going through this game piecemeal. That would be selling it short. Art succeeds because of the whole the pieces strive to reach.

One can pick apart and deconstruct pieces of why something works, but explaining the whole is another thing entirely. There are certain things you can never quite adequately explain why they work so well even though you know deep in your bones that they do. I could explain why I like a song, but I could never tell you why I think this song specifically does what it does better than other songs with the same instrumentation or a similar composition style or genre. This is because the most important part of any piece of art is the whole that reaches for something higher than the base, more than formulaic hackwork or expectations.

As an example, there are plenty of songs that share similar elements to the song "Unsatisfied" by the Replacements, but none of them hit as well as it does. I couldn't explain why when the elements to it are not original, but they come together to make a final product that transcends the bits and bobs that make it work. This is the same with Dusk and its place in its own medium and genre. Despite its roots as a "throwback" or whatever gimmicky moniker you want to give it to explain away why it works, the game becomes its own thing. It is simply Dusk, and nothing else is quite like it. This is why you are reading about it right here, right now.

There have been other really great shooters coming out of the middle market and indie space that I could talk about (Ion Fury and Amid Evil are particularly strong and well worth your time), but I think it was Dusk that really hit that perfect storm of everything the genre once was and needed to be again for it to thrive again. It is the best of the past and the present, pointing towards a better tomorrow. This is what makes it one of the best video games ever made.

I've never let it be a secret that the FPS is one of my favorites genres (it's part of the trinity with platformers and beat 'em ups), but to me it takes a special dose of imagination and wonder to really nail what made a genre's Golden Age work while also building on it and showing new ways forward from the dead ends it was left in by poor caretakers. But Dusk does this, and does it perfectly. Still does, because I still get cravings to replay it every now and then for the entire experience. That is the mark of a classic and one that justifies the medium itself.

That might sound hyperbolic, but we are talking about art and entertainment. This is what it is supposed to do. This is why we're all here in the first place, isn't it?

So give Dusk ago, if you still haven't. Since Steam will almost certainly have it on sale soon enough, you can go get it there, or find a DRM-free version on GOG. Either way (or even on your Switch, if you want, because it's also there!) it's quite an experience. This is probably, as the above video says, the Game of the Year for 2018, but I'm willing to say it's Game of the Decade for the entirety of the 2010s. It is the perfect example of why we love this medium to begin with.

And that is all the reason you need to play one of the best video games ever made. They rarely get better than Dusk.

One of the earliest trailers!

Thursday, October 13, 2022



Words are stirring, your anger's really burning
You could really use a slogan right now
Eighteen and feeling kinda mean
'Cause you're sick and fuckin' tired of being pushed around and round, up and fucking down
Wanna believe there's an answer?
Well, there's not
And the funny thing about it is
That two hours later, they're just words that you seem to have forgot

Don't think about what's right or wrong
Just leave the thinking to your boss
And do what you're supposed to now

Your heart is pounding, your feet hit the ground
You wanna see some action right now
Feeling strong, gonna right some wrongs
Gonna raise your banner and stand up tall and proud
Don't try to tell me ideology has a thing to do with this
Think you're so much different but you're all on one big fucked up power trip

And I don't really give a shit
What you happen to believe in
Now you can finally begin
To feel like you fit in

Don't ever listen to yourself (listen to yourself)
You'll fuck it up just like you always do (listen to yourself)
Someone will be there to explain your job (listen to yourself)
So do it

Your heart is pounding, your feet hit the ground
You wanna see some action right now
Feeling strong, gonna right some wrongs
Gonna raise your banner and stand up tall and proud
Don't try to tell me ideology has a thing to do with this
Think you're so much different but you're all on one big fucked up power trip

And I don't really give a shit
What you happen to believe in
Manipulated, now you can begin
To feel like you fit in

Good day to the Pepsi Generation, are you getting a Dell, dude? Have it your way. Be an original, just like everyone else.

What can one do in a modern world of pure NPC thinking? No matter where one goes, it is completely inescapable. Now, you might wretch at that overused term, but that is because you know there is some truth to it. We live in screwed up times where everyone has all the answers, so you better pick a team and sign up for the right one lest the bad guys destroy you first. It's all black and white, except when it's grey to assuage doubt on the good guy side. You live in a world of smoke and mirrors operated by clowns stumbling from one disaster to another.

It's enough to lead many to despair and, sure enough, it has done exactly that for an abnormally large amount of people. The western world currently has the highest rates of depression and suicide ever recorded and they get worse every day. This isn't arguable, it's a serious issue. If those in charge were real white hats, this would be the #1 issues on their agenda, but it never is. It always ends up not even mentioned as they come up with new problems to solve. Life is always the last thing they care about. If we weren't inundated with NPC thinking and pointing the finger at each other, perhaps this could be addressed and tackled in the right way, but just like the school shooting epidemic (Of which Columbine was not the first, not that you'd ever know this thanks to the media) we look to scapegoats instead of facing the real problem.

Of course, this is not new, but before the 20th century it seemed at least those in charge had a vested interest in their populace not falling to pieces around them. After all, if your populace isn't happy, who will defend you from your enemies across the border? That notion fell off hard in the century of repetitive genocide and pointing the finger to avoid self-reflection. Now they think of you as machines to be programmed. Get the right script and live the way they tell you? Don't? Well then you probably deserve your life ruined by the mob.

You're either an NPC, of you aren't human anymore. There is no in between on this issue for those who follow the script.

For those unaware, An NPC refers to a non-playable character in a video game, one who goes through programed motions and has nothing to offer anyone outside of what they are guided to do by their programmer. They live of the whims of their betters, which they cannot live or operate without. I should clarify that I don't believe anyone is truly an NPC. Most everyone has NPC behaviors and thoughts, some more than others, and some of them can be healthy and lead to good things (constant routines aren't exactly a bad thing), but for many people they can be a crutch to simply thinking properly. The  danger comes from when those in charge hand down new programming that is destructive to the people it is meant to "help" or "fix" outdated routines.

Not too long ago I was watching a YouTuber discussing the faults in the US police force. They were justified complaints, but eventually as words stumbled, some in the chat started throwing out slogans and the conversation more or less stopped when the juvenile word "Copaganda" showed up. It was at this point that thinking was abandoned, and the dehumanization of NPC thinking and creating enemies reigned over all else. For someone otherwise rather smart, it led to the end of conversation and the ruling of emotion and Us Vs Them over solutions.

Slogans are stopgaps to thinking, they are tools to program NPC thought. The more you use them to "sum up" what you mean, the less you can think things through fully. They work well when advertising products to get phrases to stick in people's minds, but outside of that they exist so that when a specific trigger is hit, the subject abandons thoughts to their programmed terms and follows the routine instead. Slogans are an actual mind killer.

The Brand!

Perhaps the above usage tickled me funny because I had heard that term before in a much dumber context, in real life. Once when discussing underrated films with someone, I brought up the movie Cop Land, which is, in my opinion, one of the best movies of the 1990s. Starring Sylvester Stallone, Ray Liotta, and many others from the time, it is a surprisingly strong crime film on the difference between Justice Vs Law. The reply was that Cop Land was basically "Copaganda" which was all the explanation I received as to why it is not that well known now. There was no in depth thinking on the plot or themes, just a buzz word meant to mean something to those not programmed to accept a completely made up emotional tag. This term killed thought.

For those unware, Cop Land is a crime movie about crooked cops who look out for each other at the expense of the people they are supposed to be protecting until one of their victims, a sheriff who is nearly deaf and ruled by these scumbags leads others to bring justice upon the crooked law before them. The scene where he delivers retribution through a fog of feedback because he can't hear them (or their excuses) is one of the most perfect shootouts ever recorded. Cop Land is a film about how Justice supersedes Law, especially when those infallible human beings who are supposed to protect fail in their endeavors to do so. You tell me how a nothing term like "Copaganda" has anything to do with this movie's story or themes. But it did prevent this individual from thinking about anything the movie was actually about and filing it away as bad to dismiss it.

So why do you think the word was made up in the first place? To kill your mind. To prevent nuance or understanding. It is a buzzword, inherently meaningless to anyone not following the script that this term was programmed into. It is worthless.

And before you think any different, it isn't just newer terms that rely on NPC thinking in order to work their magic on you. Think of the plentiful "ist" and "ism" words you know and were taught since youth that are loaded to the point that just hearing them is enough to either ignore people labeled those things, or instantly file them away into a "bad person" category to prevent you from considering anything they say. It is a mind-killer. I'm not sure there is any time in history that is more inundated with this sort of thing than the 20th, and now the 21st century, is.

Before you think otherwise, think of all the art made in all of recorded history. How mush offers different perspectives and alternate thoughts on the way things were? How many might even enjoy the status quo but offer additional takes on it? How many different ways have artists, writers, and poets, attempted to understand God and the world He made in so many different ways that we can't even count them? Why is it now that we can't even indulge in something that isn't a poor facsimile of old things injected with modern NPC thinking?

How many times have you heard "kids won't watch old things" when you know this isn't true? Why is this lie pushed? Why are we destroying the past and warping the words we say because people who hate us tell us to?

Make no mistake, while this sort of issue existed before, it is a far worse problem today than it ever has been before. The people in charge are trying to hurt you, and for no real benefit to anyone, not even them. This was simply not the case before, regardless of how people paid by the current folks in charge want to tell you it is.

"Because I said so" might work with children, but it is not an explanation a proper thinking adult should ever accept. You are not an NPC, you are a person.

They pretend these are rules, but they're not. Rules exist to keep order, not kill you. Don't let it be said that "rules" are the same as slogans. As an example, a Christian does not need to use the "thou shalt not murder" law when talking about why murder is bad in conversation. They can go into great detail without having to repeat one phrase. This can be done simply by exploring the subject and the value of a person and the harm of the wrath that can lead to such situations. It involves talking--discussion. Understanding why things are the way they are. This is how theology and thought works. You explore a subject, see the angles, and come to conclusions and a greater understanding. You do not invent one word responses to sum it up--your thoughts should grow, not shrink. It is never that "Murder is bad because X" but that "Murder is bad because [explanation]." Anything less is an exercise in NPC thought and not giving the subject the respect it actually deserves.

As another angle, let us use the example of a robber who was shot dead by a vigilante at a grocery store. The job of blind justice is to look at the motives and the factors surrounding the skirmish that lead to this situation so that one can come to a conclusion over who was in the right and who was in the wrong. The second you start asking for secondary factors that lead to this such as whether they were "ists" or "phobes" is the second you begin looking for excuses to stop thinking about the issue and finding easy outs. All you want to do at that point is to file it away with easy NPC thinking. You are not giving the situation the serious thought it deserves.

And if you believe any of the above is "political" then guess what? You have just fallen into that trap yourself. 

Think about it rationally. If, for example, watching and laughing at a movie like Rush Hour was not considered political when it came out and became a massive box office success, and people like it just as much now as they did at the time, then who is really telling them it is political and therefore unacceptable now? Who decided such a thing was now "political" and thereby verboten from public discourse and thought? Why are you meant to suddenly agree with something absurd no one believed in over two decades ago? We have not advanced, there is no argument that we are clearly dumber than we were when this movie came out, so why are we pretending different? The only thing that changed was the script you're being programmed with by those who hate you.

If you didn't think up these words or terms to begin with then why are you using them? What is the end goal meant to be in all this? If you stopped using them, stopped believing in their power over you, who would get mad, and why? Why do you care if people who already dislike you will hate you more? You cannot address these questions if your mind is stuck in a programming loop, if you are unable to question your own artificial responses. You aren't a machine, so why do you so badly want to think like one?

This is the beating heart of sloganeering: it is meant to sell you compact thought so that you can avoid thinking about it. This is one of the reasons many actually do think of advertising as evil. You might disagree, but you can easily see how one might come to that very plausible conclusion. Something that prevents thinking is dangerous.

And looking at today, it clearly very much is dangerous.

You wrap up this sort of thinking in modern Brand worship and you have the modern cult of modernity we live in today. Many hated when I pointed this out in The Last Fanatics, but it has been a problem for a long time. You are being molded into a human-shaped automaton made to follow routines and never think about anything.

Where do you think creating a society of people like this will lead? Do you think continuing down this path will make the despair, depression, and suicides go away randomly? At what point do we realize there are better ways, and how do we get there? Well, that's a whole other subject, and not one we can even begin to tackle before we deal with the mess in front of us.

The '20s are going to be rough.

Ironic, but it does prove the point.

So why is NPC thinking so prevalent today? Many factors. People aren't all easily definable by terms and cliques, much as they wish they were. Simplifying things tends to make them easier to process and understand. Why be John Smith when you can be Anarcho-Communist Freedom Fighter & Ally To Women & Nearly Extinct Blobfish The World Over instead? That's a lot of shiny buzzwords to slap on yourself to fashion a personality around, and it is a lot easier to show off and impress others without having to actually do anything. But ultimately, it's garbage. Nothing.

Being an automaton is easy and therefore preferable to many, but you will never really be one. Your mind and soul will fight you the entire way, hence the miserable state of many today, banging their heads against walls in an attempt to find out what is wrong with them and why they cannot achieve happiness. There is no guaranteed way to be happy, but it certainly will never come from following a script that exists to kill your very thoughts.

It also should be mentioned that thinking you are better than others is a very good enticement to be the best NPC on the block. This should not be ignored as a possible factor for this nonsense continuing. Keeping up with Joneses and the fear of isolation are also good motivators for preferring sloganeering over thinking. Being original, like everyone else. Think, but only in the correct way. You are trained in contradictions.

At the end of the day, it more or less comes down to the fear of alienation and exclusion, one of the biggest problems currently threatening the western world. If we rage and posture hard enough, maybe we will be the last ones to suffer the slings and arrows of the NPC mob programmed to beat you back in line. Essentially, this is a problem we create for ourselves out of fear and uncertainty with the world. No one wants to be alone, not even introverts. If there is a chance we can feel like we belong, we will take it. Not a soul alive is above this, no matter the propaganda telling you that you're a rebel individual who can live as island that is, ironically, just like everyone else. 

This entire trap is quite devious, and it doesn't help that all our supposedly trustful institutions indulge in these contradictions gleefully. Libraries don't teach thought, they carry books that teach the NPC script and refuse to carry those that don't. Big chain bookstores are the same. These do not sell, leading them to ruin, but it doesn't matter. The routine comes before logic. Schools don't teach thought, they teach NPC programming patterns for you to rely on and avoid thinking of the bigger picture. Your job is the same: they value falling in line and doing whatever HR wants of you, even if it is humiliating. There is a reason the modern age has been called Clown World by many.

The people you meet on the street are not a title or cliché, even if they badly want to be one--they are human beings with complex thoughts and emotions, souls made in the image of the One True God, and they have greater worth than any of the trinkets, ideologies, or fads, this world has to offer. You are not a number or a conglomeration of terms. You are a person, and you will only fully feel normal when you think like one. This is what everyone needs to hear.

You are capable of so much more than what you are programmed to be, and this is what makes Clown World particularly frustrating to many. This is an embarrassment. We are capable of greater things than what the 20th century spat out. Unfortunately, it will be a long time before we realize that. Until then, we can only keep speaking the truth, not what we are told is truth.

The lyrics at the top of this post were written back in 1991 or so. It's been over three decades since then and yet they remain true even as their writer went through so many changes himself, including coming to faith in Jesus Christ. He was able to do so because he tried not to let NPC thinking steer his ship and eventually ended up there of his own volition after many years struggling. You never know where life will take you, but it can only take you there if you seek it out to begin with. We don't live in a world that rewards such things, but maybe that is the point. Who can really know?

If there is one thing that might hopefully change as we realize the errors of the previous century it will be our reliance on simplified, condensed thinking to avoid having to operate as a human being. You are not an automaton, you can drive yourself insane trying to be one, but you will never escape your humanity under the layers of scripts and programming. Now is the time to embrace your humanity, and become who you were always meant to become. It's never too late.

Let me leave you with the final and title track from the above album, one of my favorites. While the earlier song was about understanding slogans and NPC-like thought processes, this is one about getting yourself out of them and accepting things for what they really are. Break out of clichés and find the truth obscured by the mud pit of modern life. There is a reason this album is looked at as a genre classic and still holds up well today.

Find yourself something higher, better than what you are being sold. You would be surprised what you can find if you're just willing to look.

Just be careful of what you consume. Who knows what they put in the water these days?

Time gets wasted every day
I watch the minutes tick away
My brain is melting like a chocolate ice cream bar
Like characters on my TV
These people look like maggots to me
And I wonder what the hell is wrong with me

Milk-fed little beauty queen
She's straight out of a magazine
She sits beside me breathing different air than me
The perfect generation sees
That I'm infected with disease
And everything just crumbles and there's nothing left

If I wanna do something right
I gotta do it myself or someone else'll fuck it up
It isn't all black and white
And now it's time to stop and figure out reality
No one knows what they're talking about
If what they're talking don't make any sense to me
I gotta figure it out
'Cause I don't want something to believe in

If I wanna do something right
I gotta do it myself or someone else'll fuck it up
It isn't all black and white
And now it's time to stop and figure out reality
No one knows what they're talking about
If what they're talking don't make any sense to me
I gotta figure it out
'Cause I don't need something to believe in

My brain hurts, my brain hurts
My brain hurts today!

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Heroes Return!

Find it Here!

Ever since publisher Silver Empire unfortunately closed its doors, several very good projects from very talented writers sort of got waylaid and lost in the shuffle. One of these is the shared Heroes Unleashed line of books.

For those unaware, Heroes Unleashed was a planned universe centering around superheroes that focused on books where each individual hero shared their own tale. Yours truly wrote a trilogy around a pair known as the Gemini Man, which I will get around to addressing at the end of this post. First, I want to talk about another series that is currently making its comeback through crowdfunding as we speak. That would be Paula Richey's Penance.

Despite Heroes Unleashed ostensibly being about "Superheroes" every series was very different from the other, which a much different focus. Espionage, military-style action, interdimensional madness, and high adventure, were just some of the sampling of what the tragically cut short line offered. We tended to not really write "cape" stories but modern pulp adventures in a world where powers existed. Once such weirdness was Penance, the story of a henchwoman and . . . aliens? Yes, it is as bizarre as you might expect.

Now she is relaunching the series, starting with reprinting the first book. Obviously, since the authors involved no longer have publisher backing, we require your help, the readers, to helps us get it off the ground and running. Paula Richey has in fact done a Kickstarter for just this. Want to know more about Heroes Unleashed? This is a very good place to jump in.

You can find the description here:

Penance Copper won't be a tool for evil any longer!

For as long as she can remember, Penance has belonged to Acid, a criminal boss with his hands in everything from superpower-enhancing drugs to human trafficking. She's tried to escape before, but her ability to generate electrical frequencies with just a thought make her too valuable as an electronic lockpicker to let go. Now, she's gotten strong enough that there's a new use for her powers - as an assassin.

Penance doesn't want to be a murderer. But when she breaks away from Acid and tries to join up with the heroes she had been sent to target, she becomes embroiled in an intergalactic conflict.


Kail ip ibak, Supply Officer for the Emperor of Hylinek, has enough problems trying to overcome his low birth status and instill discipline in his newly assigned troop. His job is to make sure the upcoming invasion force has support and supplies to subjugate and civilize Earth. He had a great plan to get those supplies, until this upstart alien female stood in his way and challenged him in front of everyone. As he learns more about Penance Copper and her planet, however, he begins to wonder if he's really on the right side.

Here is why the Kickstarter is necessary to help get this project off the ground:

Around the beginning of this year, I discovered that if getting published was tough, staying published could be twice as difficult. The news of my publisher's closure hit me in the middle of a string of other, equally overwhelming events both professional and personal. It's a long story, but the result is that I've spent this year learning how to take over previously outsourced tasks and expenses for both Penance and my comic series SoulBound, as well as unrelated-to-publishing things such as how to file an appeal with an insurance company and a whole lot of other things I never expected to need to know.

So, Penance was put on the back burner.

Now, it's time to dust myself off and get back on the horse. Publishing is more accessible now than ever, but it's still a pricy endeavor. I've already poured my personal savings into getting everything ready, and I'm still a tad short of being able to print copies. I didn't want to run a Kickstarter without offering something new for my readers, but I was elbows-deep in a children's book commission on the art side and somewhat burnt out on the writing side. (Red tape will do that to you.)

Now that I'm done with the commission and the insurance paperwork and mentally adjusted somewhat to the other stuff, I'm ready to give Penance everything I wanted it to have from the beginning. Bit by bit, I have acquired the ISBNs, the software, and the contacts to publish Penance and my next books and comics entirely through my little studio. Why not cram in everything I, as a reader and artist, love?

She is working on getting print, audio and illustrated versions out there for readers. Be sure to check it out and see what interests you. She also needs the funs to help produce the complete trilogy she has in mind, so be sure to look over all the tiers and stretch goals.

Once again, you can back the Penance Copper campaign here!

As for me, older readers might be wondering where Gemini Man as, and newer readers might not even know what that is, so let me clarify.

Gemini Man was my entry in Heroes Unleashed. I wrote three books a few years ago before the pandemic even started, and two were completed, one was published, and one was almost out before Silver Empire shut down. The third I only recently got the edits back for and still need to go through it myself to finish. In other words, I'm basically sitting on three completed (more or less) books at this point.

The thing is, I'm just one author with limited resources and time. The reason I agreed to do Heroes Unleashed originally was because things like the editing, cover art, and promotion, could be done while others while I could simultaneously put out more work. Unfortunately, it clearly didn't work out that way.

Gemini Man as it stands is basically a complete story as far as the main characters go. the first three books tell their story. However, that doesn't close off the entire shebang. In order to do that, I plan on combining all my ideas for one final book that I will work on after re-releasing the trilogy in full. But I can't do it alone.

So next year I will most likely be running a crowdfund of my own for the trilogy. I'm still figuring out what to do--this sort of thing is new to me and I'm not a very number-minded person. Nonetheless, it will probably involve an omnibus of the original three, and all funding will go towards a fresh cover and editing for the (big) final book. It won't be for some time--I still have other projects and obligations to work out, but I think I've let down readers of the original book for far too long. I apologize. You will get to read more! I promise!

Anyway, that is all for today and this special post. Heroes Unleashed is very much still alive, just in a different form. Don't count us out yet!

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Weekend Lounge ~ The Future of NewPub

Sorry for posting a bit late this week! I was a bit busy finishing up a story I was really getting into. I also have to get back to editing that one next. Anyway, today there are two things I wanted to mention that have happened recently.

The first is that David V. Stewart's NewPub Talk returned! This is a series on his YouTube channel where he discusses the state of art and entertainment with authors in the NewPub sphere. He started again last week with Brian Niemeier in the above episode.

In case you are unaware, the two of them, as well as myself, put out a FREE book on Generation Y this year. They discuss it in the episode and you can find it here! David also has more news on the Gen Y topic in the show, so be sure to tune in!

In his second episode he continued the series with Alexander Palacio. You definitely will want to catch these episodes. David makes them very fun and informative for those into storytelling and the new era of art itself.

In other news, Alexander Hellene has also started a Kickstarter campaign for the third book in his Swordbringer sword and planet trilogy, The Final Home!

For those unaware, he began with The Last Ancestor in 2019, and continued with The Second Sojourn in 2020, and now to get the final entry out he has decided to test out the crowdfunding waters. Starting with a third book might be daunting, but he offers tiers to newcomers who wish to purchase the entire trilogy in one go! That is definitely a good move for newer readers.

He lists out where the funds will mostly go (unsurprisingly, cover art and editing which are always the most expensive parts) which you can find on the campaign page itself. If you wish to know about the project itself, then read the description below.

Exciting Sword-and-Planet Fiction!

My name is Alexander Hellene, and I'm a writer. My only goals are to entertain you and make you think. Along with the rest of the PulpRev indie writer scene, I'm on a mission to bring back the fun and adventure of thrilling stories of yore for modern audiences, using the past to create something new . . . something timeless . . . something like The Swordbringer.

I've long been a fan of epic fantasy and sci-fi by authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Jordan, Frank Herbert, and Dan Simmons. But I also have a love of authors whose works have too long been forgotten or maligned, titans of the pulp era like Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, A.E. van Vogt, H. Beam Piper, and Jack Vance.

These writers had no limits, no rules. They created new worlds and characters ready to throw themselves into thrilling adventures on them. Genre mash-ups were common because there were no genres. Everything was fair game with adventure being the featured item on the menu.

That's the kind of writing I love to read, and that's the kind of writing I want to create.

The Swordbringer is my love letter to this forward-moving spirit, an homage to the sci-fi and fantasy tales that fire my imagination combined with other influences ranging from the action/adventure cartoons of my youth like Thundercats and Masters of the Universe and retro videogames like The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy.

I took all of these things, threw them together, and added what the best books of all eras do, whether they be by Burroughs, Vance, and Howard; Herbert, Tolkien, or Simmons; Dostoevsky, Homer, Melville, or Cervantes; and that is explore big ideas.

And what's a bigger deal than faith and the meaning of it all? In other words, how would the religious respond to finding intelligent life on other planets?
The Swordbringer is my attempt to explore this question, but with swordfights, freaky monsters, and intrigue on an alien planet.

The Swordbringer is, at heart, a tale of friendship between two very different young men: human teenager Garrett Nestor and Ghryxa, a member of the planet Yxakh's dominant species, the dog-like Growlers.

As for the story itself:

In the near future, the last remnants of Christendom flee Earth after its hostile takeover by the Global Union, whose ambition to consolidate power led them to exterminate all world religions. Yxakh was the first inhabitable planet, but to the faithful's misfortune, their ships landed in Kharvalar, land of a hostile, warlike race of Growlers who do not tolerate outsiders or their strange ways.

Book I, The Last Ancestor, focused on Garrett and Ghryxa's friendship and coming of age, and how the two young men helped stave off a resumption of the war that nearly destroyed the humans eight years prior.

Book II, The Second Sojourn, detailed Garrett, Ghryxa, and the rest of the colonists' finding safe harbor in the seaside city of Pysh. However, this peace was broken when a Global Union expeditionary force tracked them to Yxakh, hellbent on recovering a secret the humans did not know had been smuggled off of Earth in their ships.

Book III, The Final Home, chronicles the Global Union's final attempt to recover the stolen secret of immortality, with the only thing standing between the human race and total enslavement being Garrett, Ghryxa, and a handful of allies on a desperate mission into the heart of enemy territory. 
I want to make fiction that explores themes of friendship, faith, and meaning . . . and I want YOUR help!

Read the campaign for yourself, and back it, here!

I should also give you hearty welcome to October! The year is finally almost to the finish line and we are about to hit the highway of holiday seasons just around the bend. Nonetheless, you made it this far, and there's only a bit more to go. Thank you so much for reading, and I will see you again soon enough. It is time to really get cracking on putting stuff out for you to read!

2022 might almost be done, but NewPub isn't. As you can tell from the videos above, there is still much more to go. We hope to see you on the journey going forward!