Thursday, March 30, 2023

The Town That Refused to Die

One of the strangest experiences of my life so far has been observing the town where I grew up slowly decay and crumble away. What was once a boisterous place with a functional economy, constant community activity, and just generally clean, become a near ghost town of awfully constructed apartment buildings, closed stores and broken pavement, and rising crime rates, has been one of the most disheartening experiences of all. I don't live there anymore, but if I did I can't imagine putting up with the destruction it went through. The place I grew up no longer exists. In its place is a modernist monster that has devoured all in its wake.

I'm sure others have similar experiences where they live. It is no longer uncommon to see formerly stable towns and neighborhoods absolutely wrecked by those in charge who refuse to do anything to fix it. That's just the way things are now.

However, nothing is being "progressed" towards. Everything is merely being allowed to die. You are truly seeing modernity go out with a whimper before your eyes. What the end state will truly look like is anyone's guess, but it will most definitely not be an improvement on what has existed before.

As the 20th century continues to finally die out, we are very quickly learning how little we have to replace any of what is rotting away. Times are changing, yes, but we have no direction as to what they are changing into, and as a result are losing nonnegotiable elements in a functional society that are being treated as disposable and suffering the consequences for doing so. It is remarkable how backwards we are acting while this occurs, as if the only version of reality we know is portrayed by overwritten and poorly paced early 2000s single camera sitcoms. We couldn't call it Clown World if the term didn't have some foot in reality.

One of the aims of the book Y Signal was to try and explore just what that something was that we carelessly let die long ago that we are missing now. It was as if it was there one moment and gone the next and everyone knows it but refuses to speak on the subject. Where did that world go? How did it disappear overnight? What have we replaced that old meaning and purpose we once had with in today's modern world? It has to be more than factory belt products and corporate brands not being updated to teach Modern Values our betters get to decide for us, so what is it? What is it about community that we do not understand anymore?

Where does it come from, and where did it go? If you recognize that reference, then you might remember a time when said shared culture existed. Today you would be lucky to meet five people in a row on the street that would not only all know any radio "hits" today, but you would also be hard-pressed to find anyone that will look you in the eye as you spoke to them. That is, if they answered at all. What happened to lead us down this road?

A long time ago, there was a book called Bowling Alone, written nearly a quarter century ago in the year 2000 by Robert Putnam. Not only that, the original piece said work was based on was written around Cultural Ground Zero in the year 1995AD. The book was prophetic about many things we should have seen coming, but did not. For those who want a quick description as to what the work is about, you can find it below.

"Once we bowled in leagues, usually after work -- but no longer. This seemingly small phenomenon symbolizes a significant social change that Robert Putnam has identified in this brilliant volume, Bowling Alone, which The Economist hailed as "a prodigious achievement."

"Drawing on vast new data that reveal Americans' changing behavior, Putnam shows how we have become increasingly disconnected from one another and how social structures -- whether they be PTA, church, or political parties -- have disintegrated. Until the publication of this groundbreaking work, no one had so deftly diagnosed the harm that these broken bonds have wreaked on our physical and civic health, nor had anyone exalted their fundamental power in creating a society that is happy, healthy, and safe.

"Like defining works from the past, such as The Lonely Crowd and The Affluent Society, and like the works of C. Wright Mills and Betty Friedan, Putnam's Bowling Alone has identified a central crisis at the heart of our society and suggests what we can do."

Remember, this book was written 23 years ago from the date of this post, and just about everything this work said would happen, did. Not only that, but it has only gotten worse over time to the point that all those who praised its assessment on the cover would now decry any of the obvious solutions our revival efforts offered (especially any involving religion) and would proudly keep insisting on heading down the road to destruction instead. In essence, we have decayed for too much to even consider another path other than the doomed one we insist on now. We have taught ourselves to choose destruction and insist on calling it progress. For that, we have earned what we have today.

Our industries are run by people who hate the people who buy their wares. Our jobs are run by people who see their employees as disposable cogs that can be discarded for more profit. Our politics are run by politicians who hate the people they are supposed to represent. Our churches are run by New Age nihilists who ignore God's Eternal Truth for the newest fashions and fads that people who hate them prescribe. Everything is now the polar opposite of what it should be, and as a result people are more miserable than they've ever been before.

For much of the younger generation, this is what they think is normal. It is alarming how quickly they have been conditioned to think that living in rot is acceptable. They've been taught to think that the way things are now is normal and that every era of history is Just As Bad as this one which means misery should be ignored. Meanwhile the older crowd who know better refuse to actually know better, instead attempting to garner a seat at the cool kids table as opposed to being the adults they should be. What this does is give the younger generations a false impression of reality, contributing to the rising mental health crisis and the spike in suicides over the despair and hopelessness we champion so highly as Progress. We need to stop lying to the younger generations instead of playing pretend at getting some childish utopia that will come if we just put the Good Guys in charge.

The fact is, the 1990s were a better world. The 1980s were a better world. The 1970s were a better world. Were they perfect? That isn't the claim being made. If your first thought is to point out their flaws, then congrats, you have fallen into the trap of excusing modern times that have no right to be excused. History is not an endless misery mire: there are ups and downs. Periods that are better than others, and eras that are not. Any era that treasures social cohesion and the sanctity of personhood and rejects radical individualism and alienation is objectively better for the people living in it. A famous musician once said that it is only due to being a member of a strong society that he can even play pretend at rebelling against it with his music. Once everyone is a rebel, no one is: they're just atomized themselves into islands. Much like the climate we have today.

As for Bowling Alone, in the 20th anniversary edition Mr. Putnam went over the changes since the book was first published in his new preface. It is just below:

This is a long way to showing objective proof that, not only have things not always been this bad, but they were very much better not that long ago. Again, this book only came out 23 years ago. It would barely be drinking age today. Times were not always "like this" and we need to stop excusing the state of things being this embarrassingly bad.

The outdated coping mechanism of assuming things are either always terrible or climbing up a hill to some shining utopia are both objectively incorrect views of existence. History doesn't work that way, and it never has. The fact of the matter is that you are living in a cultural low after exiting a cultural high. Unless that obvious fact is accepted, the problems of the current low will never properly be addressed, never mind fixed. We will only become trapped here longer.

But surely there are those today who have realized this issue exists in the first place? More than just one man writing an article back in 1995 must be aware of the problem and are attempting to fix the broken landscape our leaders refuse to address. There simply has to be someone somewhere who is willing to not let cultural decay win.

As a matter of fact, there are some examples of such a thing. One of the more interesting ones is in the form of a small town in Australia named Gympie.

The town of Gympie was established way back in 1867 as a gold rush site originally named Nashville after the found James Nash. To this day it still has a Gold Rush Festival that celebrates how Mr. Nash might have saved the Queensland area from total economic depression when things were at their worst. The town grew over the years, as most of them tend to do, to become one like most in the developed world of the 20th century. I don't think you need to guess what it looks like now. For a long time they developed just like everyone else did.

Regardless, you can see a photo below.

So what does Gympie, Australia have to do with the subject at hand? Is it not just another modern town like any other out there today? Well, the subject here is the "Town That Refused to Die" for a good reason, perhaps related to its above origins that still live on in spirit today. Nonetheless, in recent years Gympie has attempted to make some moves that others, especially in the West, could learn from.

The NZ Herald from New Zealand (of all places), reported on this story back in 2017. You can find the archive here. The age of the article is not an issue as to today's subject: all the places mentioned in said article are still around today, proving the point of including it here.

The reason I bring this up is because of how the internet age has absolutely devastated the last bastions of community remaining, with the pandemic delivering the killing blow. The only way to reclaim any of it is for normal people to consciously choose to reject degradation as normal for the alternative of tradition and growth. You can see what I mean by seeing just what Gympie did to address the decay of modernity eating into everything around them.

Once again, the NZ Herald wrote about this subject here.

"While the mobile internet era continues to fuel the seemingly relentless march of the Netflix-Domino's-Uber juggernauts, it seems there is one place left, at least, that will not let it cost them their local businesses.

"In the past couple of years, the people of Gympie have mobilised in outrage over looming store closures the internet age has foisted upon them."

As one can see, Gympie is no different than any other town. They are going through much the same thing your own town is today. It is not centered on one country or general area. Modernity is a pandemic of its own.

It isn't mentioned enough about how the automation of every aspect of life is fostering more atomization and dehumanizing behavior. What is worse is the antisocial thinking we knew was wrong not even 23 years ago when Bowling Alone was written, now seen as a badge of pride. It is a good thing about how little you care about your neighbor or how one in a opposing political party is no longer a human being worth considering, just destroying. Being able to live your life without ever interacting with another human being (and being excited for such a future) or considering them all as objects worth hurdling over, is tremendously unhealthy both for you and society itself. This will not foster an improved higher trust network for people to grow in. It will make them separate from each other even more. Aiming for this as a goal is one of the worst aspects of modern thought. If we continue to let things go this way, we will lose everything.

Why we refuse to see this for what it is remains anyone's guess. As long as we ignore this very observable reality, it will continue to destroy us.

"First, it was when there were moves afoot by Pizza Hut to close the town's all-you-can-eat restaurant, one of just 15 left in Australia.

"Then came the news last month that its last remaining video store, Blockbuster, would shut its doors.

"Now, in a Big-M shaped cherry on top, the town has just welcomed a brand new roller skating rink, 25 years after the last one shut up shop.

"It comes complete with a regular Saturday night disco.

""If it's not going to work here, it's not going to work anywhere," owner Lena Nyberg laughingly told, nearly a week after Skatezone opened its doors for the first time.

"The gold rush town is celebrated locally as the town that saved Queensland.

"Could it now be responsible for reviving arguably the Sunshine State's greatest decade?"

How Gympie correctly came to the conclusion that in order to fight decay one must build is anyone's guess. According to Hollywood, it is the small towns holding everyone back with "boredom" and a lack of Progress. And yet, they made the right call here while every other city in the modern world is working hard to tear itself apart.

However, the question you might be wondering as to the above quotation is why build a skating rink? Aren't those outdated in our constantly progressing society (which is just code words for insatiable greed that hops from fad to fad) and holding us back from Utopia or something? Wouldn't people prefer to ignore each other and hole up in their crumbling, poorly kept hovels getting more and more depressed and angry instead?

Well, this because the people themselves accessed and addressed the core problem, something Progressive and Forward-thinking cities have not.

It is about the community, not just you.

"Now, 25 years after Gympie lost its last skating rink, a new one has emerged, where, now, many an excited parent is returning to eight wheels to show their children where it all began.

"Lena Nyberg, who opened it with her roller hockey playing husband Darren, said it had taken them five years to find the right venue, and many people had been eagerly awaiting its return.

""We haven't even done any advertising, only Facebook and word-of-mouth so far," she said.

""The people who grew up at that rink skating are now in their 40s and are now bringing their kids here because it's something they can do as a family."

"But the 80s revival of the most 80s of sports does not end with the rollerskates.

"Saturday nights are disco nights, complete with music and light show, while there are also talk of the return of a Blue Light Disco to the venue in the near future.

"And outside the rink is an nostalgic's dream.

"Pretty gross, right, kids?

""We have a games table, with galactic space invaders, glass tables with all old school arcade games, pinball machines, and, of course, two Daytonas," she said.

"Despite the closure of the last roller skating rink in Bundaberg, two hours from Gympie, just last year, Mrs Nyberg said she and her husband believe it will be a successful business.

""Everything goes in roundabouts, fashion, sports, everything tends to go around, and I think it just phased out for a while," she said of the skating rink.

""People who did it a lot in the 80s got a bit bored, I suppose.

""It's really making a comeback. We know a few people who own rinks in Brisbane, the numbers are increasing, the popularity is increasing, and its definitely something making a comeback."

"We can only hope it's a comeback sans leg warmers and leotards."

And it should be mentioned that, yes, this place is still around today, six years after the original publication of this article.

Did you catch one of the key quotes in the article? It is a bit easy to miss in its original context, but its validity transcends just this piece:

"Everything goes in roundabouts, fashion, sports, everything tends to go around, and I think it just phased out for a while."

Find yourself a single politician that will ever utter that truth today.

Another story that the article relays is one about Pizza Hut deciding to turn itself into a delivery kiosk and getting rid of dining (score another for today's anti-social obsession) just like your local Pizza Hut probably already did without any pushback from your neighbors at all. Less work for them, less options for you. Clearly a win/win situation!

Well, in Gympie they actually did push back. In a down of near 20k, around 1300 people went on Facebook to complain, and the higher-ups listened. Now, their location still has the same buffets and desert bars that your local establishment already got rid of because nobody cares about anything around them anymore. I don't know what is in the water in Gympie, but it's clearly something the rest of us are missing out on.

Lastly, the article mentions the then-closing Blockbuster store in the town. I'm sure we're all familiar with this happening in our local areas since rental shops imploded during the 2000s before Blockbuster itself closed up in 2010. It looked as if that era was over and not coming back, lost in undeserved nostalgia for a corporation that kill mom and pop video shops. This, however, is the most interesting part of this entire story.

For those who don't know, renting was a big deal back in the 1980s and early 1990s before Blockbuster came in, backed by Hollywood, to corporatize and ruin the fun for everyone. They ended up closing all the local mom and pop stores thanks to the bigwigs in Hollywood before getting closed themselves by the end of the 2000s due to the streaming boom. Hollywood abandoned them for the next fad (Netflix) and consumers hopped along after, not taking in anything of what they were missing along the way towards their more convenient dopamine hit. A rental store in Current Year is just clearly not going to make it when consuming is easier than ever before, and we are taught that interacting with other human beings is Just The Worst. Clearly, that old era is over.

Or is it?

Gympie, a clearly very engaged and socially strong town, fought hard against this needless change for as long as possible. Even though it was Blockbuster, it was still all they had and they supported their local shop regardless. But the corporation was not made of as stern stuff as the community was. It never is. This lead to the inevitable.

"Blockbuster, the last remaining DVD hire store in Gympie, was apparently still a thriving business when the once-powerful company announced in late January that a dispute between owners had forced its closure.

"In a world where Netflix has hundreds of movies on demand at the touch of a button, it turns out many people in the Wide Bay-Burnett region town still prefer the tradition of heading down the DVD store to choose their evening's entertainment."

Again, Gympie's staunch support of their community is incredibly impressive in an age where most towns can't even bother supporting local businesses at all anymore. Just go online and hole up in your room all day and every day. But this is the opposite of what Gympie has tried to do. It almost feels as if they have fallen out of another reality entirely: a better one where common sense still exists and things can actually be built instead of torn down.

This section is the most interesting part of the story, and why it needs to be shared, especially in this age of doom and gloom or the inevitable rot we are living through. We think things are destined to always be like this, but that is not what happened here.

In this case, it was an independent rental store owner that saved the day.

"But just as there had been a sad kind of acceptant of the apparent inevitability of the move, up stepped the knight Gympie didn't know it was looking for.

"Peter Fife, a veteran of the town's home entertainment scene as owner of the Gympie Video Movie Barn, in the halcyon days of the 1980s, stepped in to revive the store.

""I felt for the staff when I heard and I felt for the regional area of Gympie," he told The Gympie Times.

""I realise a lot of people love this store. Where else can they go?"

"Blockbuster closed, as planned, and reopened this week as Network Video, complete with a brand new library of 20,000 titles on offer.

"A new member sign-up day is being held this Saturday."

Yes, this is something that happened in 2017, not 1987, 1997, or even 2007. It happened only a few years ago.

That's right, megacorp Blockbuster closed and was itself replaced with a mom & pop rental store headed by the people said juggernaut originally pushed out of the business. And yes, it is still around today. All the places mentioned in the article are still around, even after a pandemic that wiped out so much. That says quite a lot about this town that we can learn from. Very admirable for folk to stand against the harmful wave of Progress leading everything else around them to an early grave. How exactly did they do it? And why can't we seem to do it?

Regardless, what it proves is that nothing is inevitable. Things can improve, they can get better. The only thing stopping it, is us. We have bought into every lie about Progress there is, and have found ourselves trapped, unable to see that the way out, is backwards. It is going back to reclaim what we lost along the way. Only then can we finally see improvement again.

What happened in Gympie is a completely unexpected turn of event for anyone who has seen the same playbook being used over and over again over the years, especially those who live in towns that are looking more and more like third world countries by the day as local businesses crater left and right from lack of support and both buildings and streets are left in shambles. Gympie is essentially doing what we all should have been doing ages ago.

Instead of huddling alone in your dank and poorly lit room clicking buttons to consume movies you don't even own, Gympie decided to support pro-social and a traditional community activity. Instead of allowing more and more clubs and entertainment centers to fall away and leave people with nothing, Gympie decided to revive old establishments that were abandoned for silly and vain reasons in the dead-end march for Progress. Instead of treating everything as dopamine to continue living as a hermit-like junkie, Gympie supported community interaction and support of pro-customer practices we all used to cherish not even that long ago.

Essentially, Gympie did the complete opposite of what we did years ago when we shed everything that worked, and also put their money where their mouth is. Instead of accepting decay because it's easy, they instead fought for their social fabric and won. Even after a pandemic that only increased anti-social behaviors, they continue to do what must be done. Nothing is stopping us from doing the same except ourselves.

Of course this could very well change in the future and some out of date mindkilled Progressive type will demand for Gympie to keep up with the trends of 2010 that have already destroyed everything else around them. I'm sure we've all seen that happen more than once. hopefully they are aware enough of that trap to avoid it. We sure haven't. 

However, what matters is the example Gympie sets by showing what valuing your community instead of ignoring it for your own selfish gain can do. Instead of letting rot settle in, fight for what you need to survive. Live for more than just being left alone to consume product. We need leisure to survive, but we also need community to grow. And we will never keep either by traveling down the road we are currently traveling down. That is very evident and obvious for everyone alive today. Well, everyone not avoiding the obvious state of things, that is.

We need better ways and, thanks to Gympie, we can now see exactly how that might work out if we just try. All thanks to one small, out of the way town in Australia.

If that doesn't say it all, nothing will.

I don't know about you, but I want the 21st century to build off the best aspects of the 20th we just left behind us. We are currently proudly doing the opposite of that. Regardless, we can still change course. All we need is a mindset shift. There are better days ahead, it won't always be like this and it won't always be worse. There can always be something better than this.

That's easier said than done, but it can be done. You just saw it happen yourself, and we can do it, too. And we can start today!

Monday, March 27, 2023


Back it Here!

Today we have a pleasant surprise! A new magazine of action and adventure has arrived on the scene. This one is called Anvil, and it is aimed at being a magazine with everything a reader of exciting stories of wonder could ask for! They are currently crowdfunding for the first issue of their brand new pulp-era inspired magazine that they hope to make ongoing.

This is an attempt to put out a magazine focused on pure adventure without any of the baggage found in mainstream media currently chasing the masses away. Since they won't make what the people want, the people have decided to make it themselves.

For those who have a love for storytelling not tied to Current Year nonsense, this is what you have been waiting for.

Here is the description:

ANVIL is the first official step into the world of publishing by IronAge.Media, a site focused on connecting Iron Age creators with new fans. The dedication and growth from the community surrounding this site has allowed me to pull together a fantastic team to bring this magazine to fruition. Daniel P. Riley, of Whimsyland as Editor and Jacob Calta of 365 Infantry as Designer. Together with the fantastic Iron Age authors and artists we've collaborated with, the first issue is over a hundred pages of pure talent guaranteed to blow you away.

For this first issue we've collected seven fantastic short stories, reviews, a short RPG, and a ten page comic preview of the upcoming western from Razorfist and George Alexopoulos. The details for all of these can be found farther down.

You might not know it, but this has been a long time coming.

The Iron Age guys have been very active on social media, trying to inspire story and art prompts and generally asking questions and engaging with the audience as much as they can. It is a very high energy crowd. I have talked with some of them and can see how passionate they are about what they create and what they love. Their commitment to what they enjoy has been quite inspiring and one hopes they can continue this into magazine form to carry on the growth into the wider culture.

We definitely need more projects like this!

This campaign is for the first issue, but also includes bundles and posters for those who want a little more. It is currently aiming to ship in July of this year, so it isn't that long a wait for completion. Though, obviously, hitting stretch goals will allow more issues to be produced. So should this project interest you, please do not be shy about backing.

But, aside from the bells and whistles, you probably wish to know about the stories! That is, after all, what it is about. A lot of magazines today care more about Brand Name authors and buzzwords in their advertising, but in the end it means little without stories to back it up.

Well, here they are!

Fleet of Theseus - Daniel J. Snow

Earth is gone - and in the depths of space, a team of scavengers investigates a derelict warship. Inside, they find much more than they bargained for… A sci-fi mystery unravels in the cold emptiness of space.

Codename: Ghost - William Donnelly

In an alternate near-future world run by a transhumanist, totalitarian state, a group of rebels fight for freedom. Mercs Grizzly and Bambi take to the streets of a desolate and bombed-out American sprawl on the trail of a tac-tank urban assault vehicle used to patrol and terrorize the city's unaugmented populace--aka "rats"--living in squalor in alleyways, tents, and destroyed buildings. Can they stop it, and at what cost?

Brigands of the Moors - M.F.R.

Things are not well within the Drakkenholm Empire. Wicked men of greed and avarice stalk the roads, while more esoteric horrors that go bump in the night do prey upon the good people. Recently, trouble stirs amongst the back roads of the Moorlands. An army of bandits and highwaymen has begun hitting the church's tithes as a considerable amount of wealth flows from the faithful in these trying times. As such, the elder priests have called upon the ranks of crusading priests known as Lay-Clerics; amongst them, an ancient drake champion and his young human squire, to answer the call to arms and escort a considerable amount of gulders being transported by reinforced carriage…

The Affair of the Unquiet Grave - Owen G. Tabard

Death stalks the stately halls of Ashworth House—a mysterious affliction, spectral apparitions... perhaps even murder. But such is the stock-in-trade for Sir Alastair Fitzaubrey, Regency-era gentleman and occult detective. An acknowledged master of the arcane, he is summoned by the parish constable to investigate the strange happenings at the manor, much to the chagrin of the lord of the house, to say nothing of the local church authorities who take a dim view of his sorcerous practices. Undaunted, Sir Alastair must uncover the truth, but will he be able to find the cause of the unexplained deaths before it is too late? Find out, in The Affair of the Unquiet Grave.

A Thief of Perûn - Joshua M. Gonzalez

Lam's troubled past catches up with him when he learns an old foe has returned, and the young thief now seeks something more valuable than gold: revenge. Will the streets of Perûn run red with the blood of his enemy or his own?

Archive of Bliss Ep 1 - T.J. Marquis

Gero Von signed on with the Luzcorp Interplanetary Survey Group to follow his dreams. Getting paid was great, sure, but seeing new sights, weird cultures, and experiencing the magic seeded in the hearts of every world was the real prize. Sent to the far-flung planet of Bliss, known by its penchant for intoxication, Gero couldn't begin to imagine the wonders he'd discover there if he could keep his head clear...

The Chroniclers & the March of Trees - Daniel P. Riley

The Academie Dimensionnae has trained wizards since time began. These intrepid explorers are called Chroniclers. Their solemn duty? To observe and record variations in the multiverse. A sacred position taken very seriously by all. And then there’s these guys…. Eliden the Green, Pasho Pyr, and Grothnar of the Mountain Tribe travel dimensions on madcap adventures, helping those in need in The Chroniclers.

And this is just the first issue. Check out the campaign today! 

You can back Anvil here.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Weekend Lounge ~ The Importance of Saturday Morning

The weekends are important. You already know this, and there is no point telling you that as if you don't, but there is a specific greatness to this time of the week that goes completely overlooked in this age of constant activity, bad shiftwork, and unending job hopping. That being, the importance of leisure and relaxation.

For kids, the existence of Saturday Morning Cartoons were the perfect encapsulation of such a thing. Before they were destroyed by the very same people currently censoring everything unchecked today, Saturday Morning Cartoons were the one place where kids could relax and have fun after a long week of work. 

This is what things like TGIF used to tap into, though for the entire family in that case. There is something to a thing as a simple as a television block being so capable of drawing out so much excitement and anticipation from an entire set of people that hasn't truly ever been studied by all these supposed Pop Culture scholars of today.

Here is a brief piece on the history of Saturday Morning Cartoons found online. It's short, but a good primer for those who might be unfamiliar with the time period.

Saturday Mornings were the closest things kids have to a true rest day, at least in the modern world. No other day really came close, especially not the way parents would treat the rest of their activities as time blocks to be filled in. We all knew kids like that back in the day. Perhaps we do that ourselves today. Regardless, it's no way to live.

There is a reason commercial compilations still exist on YouTube

Think about it.

After the dreary "reality" you have been forced to endure all week, you finally survive and make it back home to rest. After emerging from said rest you awaken into a world of wonder and excitement, taking you to new worlds and possibilities far away from what you know. Not only that, but you also share it with your friends and families, your entire community. You all experience this together, and you all grow to experience the same sensations as you get older and older.

This is how, even nearly a quarter century from their unceremonious implosion, Saturday Morning cartoons remain such a positive memory for everyone who experienced them. Everyone who was alive for the short period those blocks were around still remember and thinks highly of them. You won't find anyone who lived with them calling them down. They were important, and they remain so, even years after they were shut down and taken away.

In an age where we don't see much of a purpose to most work, leisure doesn't quite seem like the reward it once was. Now it merely is treated as a break between the dreariness of modernity. There isn't much there these days.

Do we have an equivalent to Saturday Morning Cartoons today? Is there an adult equivalent to bring us together into a shared experience?

No, there is not. There is nothing at all that unites us, not even for one morning out of seven in a full week. Even putting aside cartoons, we are less united as a culture than ever before. In an age of remote work, never ending job hopping, and low societal trust, there is little true escape to be had. Suffice to say, we've completely lost any sort of connection between us on any level and it harms the sort of escapism we can indulge in.

But that doesn't mean we can't learn from this example of a dead practice and apply it to the future. Even something as simple as a television block has something to teach us about the importance of leisure. Perhaps something will come about in the future to eclipse those experiences we had long ago. Who knows? The future is wide open.

Until then, we can work for something better. There are no limits, after all. We should start acting like there aren't!

Thursday, March 23, 2023

New Release: Sidearm & Sorcery Volume Two!

Find it Here!

I hope you're having a good Friday as we head into spring! Winter is finally over, and I have another surprise for you to end this week. As you can clearly tell, it's a good one!

The first question you might be asking is if I planned this. No, I can assure you that I did not plan to have two anthologies release in the same week! It just worked out that way. These things are not very easy to release as it is. But it is a great surprise to have! It isn't every day one gets to have two different anthologies release in the same week. So let us get to the meat of it. Today, Sidearm & Sorcery Volume Two releases!

For those who read the first volume of this anthology series, you know the score. Sidearm & Sorcery is framed around classic sword and sorcery stories that take place in the modern day among normal people like you or me. All the power of man against magic, but in a place where technology rules and where magic is underestimated. I'm sure you can see what that can lead to! What you get is a unique expansion on a storied and treasured genre.

Sidearm & Sorcery Volume Two is even bigger than the first volume, with many more stories and authors new to the series. The second entry contains seventeen (!) different stories of magic slicing through modernity, from a chunk of the most exciting authors in NewPub. This is no small tome, and you will find no shortage of adventure in these pages.

Here is the description:

Supernatural evils lay hidden, deep in the shadows of society. Be these dangers man or beast, they will strike at unsuspecting, everyday people. What if there are no selfless wizards around when a demon steps from the alley? What if there are no supers to be found when the ancient demigod awakens? What if there is no prophesy and no chosen one to stand in the way of the dark forces? In these cases, the regular people must must courage to face the foe. The protagonists in these stories have no magic powers, but they refuse to be powerless. This collection of 17 short stories brings you new adventures and new dangers, all in modern settings.

Welcome to Volume Two of the Sidearm & Sorcery series. This anthology includes:

  • Flaxen Wires by Bryce Beattie
  • First Kiss, First Kill by Beth Buck
  • They Delved Too Deep by Misha Burnett
  • City Eater by JD Cowan
  • Swamp Serpents by Nathan Dabney
  • In the Hall of the Crocodile King by Michael DeCarolis
  • Personal Mythologies by Dale Glaser
  • Scent of the Sand Wurm by James Krake
  • A Moonblessed Hunt by John Longtain
  • Den of the Necrolord by TJ Marquis
  • Ain't No Grave by Jason McCuiston
  • The Red Horse of War by Z. M. Renick
  • Souldrinker by Frank Sawielijew
  • A Shilling for your Troubles by Mark Schultis
  • The Baron of Nevada & His Branded Broads by David Skinner
  • Infestation by H.A. Titus
  • The Galveston Incident by Luke West

Over 400 pages of adventure and wonder. Combine this with Swords & Maidens and you're looking at a more excitement in one week than most people can handle. I told you 2023 would have some surprises up it's sleeve, and the year has barely just begun.

So let us get to it.

As you can see, I have a story in this collection called "City Eater" and is the fourth tale here. I suppose I should talk a bit more about it, since I've been rather vague on what this one is about since it was first revealed. "City Eater" is the longest story I've ever submitted to an anthology or magazine, and I probably could have made it longer if I didn't practice restraint. There is a very good reason it is so meaty, though.

"City Eater" is about a family that very slowly realizes the city around them is slipping into madness and the world is seemingly turning towards some sort of Armageddon. Monsters appear, and nightmares arrive, but where are they coming from? And is the city itself the monster they need to battle? Or is the source something else? Read on to discover for yourself!

A few tidbits on this one. I want to say more without ruining any of the fun. "City Eater" was quite the blast to write.

The first tidbit is that "City Eater" is related Y Signal, and not in the most subtle of ways. You should be able to figure out very fast what the connection between the two stories is. Another morsel to share is that the pink anime rabbit girl who bookends the story you might recognize as having similarities to VTuber Pipkin Pippa. What better way for a father to be mystified over current technology than coming across a computer avatar his son watches talking about esoteric weirdness and monsters? I really don't think anyone in the past could have foreseen this invention coming and it gives the story's events more context in the times we live.

A lot of this story is about old and new, strange and normal, past and future, but with a family twist. To make it out of this situation, our family will have to come together and put aside their differences to reach their goal. Or are they doomed to be consumed with everything else in the city? What even is a City Eater supposed to be?

You will have to read and find out for yourself!

And be sure to check out the other stories in the anthology. There are a lot of names in this one, and some unique tales unlike those you've seen before. Unlike others proud to ripoff the classics while dumping on them, we are excited to be able to build off and connect with those who came before us. I know I'm proud to have been in both volumes of this series so far and hope there will be more in the future. But there's only one way to make sure that happens and more projects like this come to life! Pick up Sidearm & Sorcery Volume Two today!

Once again, I want to thank the readers for all their support. We most definitely could not do any of this without you!

And we're going to keep going, because there's more on the way. There's always more on the way!

Monday, March 20, 2023

New Release: Swords & Maidens!

Find it Here!

Welcome to a new week! Let us start it off with a new release!

As the above trailer says, it is time for Swords & Maidens, an anthology unlike any you've come across before. Here are 11 stories of chivalry, high adventure, and more wonder than you can shake a blade at from some of the best writers in the world of NewPub. Hope you like a good time, because you're going to find one here.

Here are the eleven stories included in the anthology as well as the authors who wrote each of these fantastic stories for you to indulge in!

  • “Wings of Ether” by T.J. Marquis
  • “The Shrouded Tower” by Michael Gallagher
  • “The Winged Horse” by Hawkings Austin
  • “Three Swords” by Blake Carpenter
  • “Harem Fantasy in Another World” by John C. Wright
  • “Azrael” by N.R. LaPoint
  • “Crazy Like an Elf” by Declan Finn
  • “The Gift” by Anne Clare
  • “The Supercomputers of Rai” by Alexander Hellene
  • “Vivre Le Patriarchy!” by L. Jagi Lamplighter
  • “Judgement Sun” by J.D. Cowan

This one has been a long time coming, and today it's finally here. I couldn't even begin to tell you have much time was spent putting this together, and it has been worth it!

I'm very honored to have the final story here, as I feel Judgement Sun, the story of the struggle of salvation for the last remaining souls on a dead world is the perfect note to end on. It is still one of my favorite stories that I've written to date, and I'm happy it is back in print. And that doesn't even go into the rest of the tales here!

I have more projects on the way still to release, so please be sure to keep an eye out. I've even updated my Works page with some new releases and a new Out of Print section for you peruses at your leisure. But don't think there isn't more on the way! I can't wait to show you what is coming down the pipeline very soon.

Once again, you can find Swords & Maidens here!

Friday, March 17, 2023

The Same Sound You've Always Known

What makes something what it is? What is it that gives anything the defining traits that give it an identity? Is it aesthetic preferences, or is it the fad of the times? How does one stand out among a sea of contemporaries to connect with a wider audience?

This is quickly becoming a lost art. In the world of Cultural Ground Zero, it is quite near a myth, at this point.

Lew us take Rock music. This is a genre of music that came into existence nearly three quarters of a century ago (feel old yet?) as a combination of the Christian music genres of Blues, Country, and Gospel, to form a kind of hootenanny dance music that anyone can get into and is meant for all who want to get on that dance floor to blow off steam. It is no wonder that it quickly gained popularity around the world. Everyone knows about Rock music, it was the biggest genre of music for around half a century for a reason, but it is now known as a relic of its time and is quickly fading away into the background into novelty.

And it happened almost over night. One day it was there, and the next it was gone, replaced by record labels for carefully constructed fads that funnel product off an assembly line and into the ears of those captivated by sources said record companies own. Now all that is left are cheap CD boxsets on Amazon, Spotify playlists, and old music videos with millions of views on YouTube. The music industry is already dead, and it took Rock down with it as it died.

So why is that? Why did the biggest music in the world suddenly fall out of relevance, from out of the garage before ending up back in there again by the end of the century that spawned it in the first place? How can something have such a large and well detailed rise and fall without falling into endless stagnation (Rap), a flash in the pan punchline (Dubstep), or being just plain forgotten (Ska) by the mainstream? If one didn't know any better it would almost seem calculated.

And to be sure, it is calculations, formulas bandied about by "experts" that did eventually lead to its downfall. This is a story that has happened before.

Would you believe if I told you the answer for what killed Rock is the same for what genre fiction was killed for? A combination of genre-fication and misplaced religious worship is what did it in, disconnecting it as a form of art and entertainment. And the fact that you can see it in the above recent quote should show you that it is still very much alive and the reason why the genre cannot make a return as long as cultists exist to hold it back from its true potential. It's audience does not understand it at all. This is what happens when something is not properly gatekept.

But let us get to the subject at hand.

For those unaware, the White Stripes were quite possibly the best rock band of the 2000s decade. After the 1990s had gone so far into the alternative sphere that was beginning to eat its own tail, the genre was beginning to lose focus and fire, much as it had before metal and punk gave it a shot in the arm back in the 1970s. This time, it was losing all connection with its roots for pomp and ego as it had back then, but at the same time as this was when Cultural Ground Zero was happening. Rock was beginning to lose a lot of ground to the payola-backed bubblegum acts that the major labels were pushing. It was dealing with a war on both the inside and out.

Rock music needed more than posturing and attitude to keep up--the Cobain era was long over. It didn't need technicality: Dream Theater's wild success despite lack of any true mainstream penetration should have been a clue to that. No, it didn't need aesthetics or image to reclaim its balance. It needed to remind listeners what made Rock music so endearing to mass audiences in the first place. The genre needed its roots.

Enter the Garage Rock Revival boom of the 2000s, the last time the genre fittingly had any mainstream attention. The Strokes, the Hives, the Black Keys, the Vines, and the White Stripes, were but a few of the bands that made a splash during this era. Yes, returning to the classic "The Xes" band naming was part of their success, the postmodern trend of naming your band a sentence at the time was mostly left to the emo crowd. Nonetheless, the Garage Rock Revival wave was desperately what the genre needed at the time it was starting to fly up its own rear as sales and audience attention was waning. Tradition was on the way out for endless novelty, where it still is today.

The White Stripes formed in 1997 (that's right, the very year of Cultural Ground Zero) with two members, Jack White and Meg White who played at being siblings. They were actually formerly married, but this was part of their schtick. A large part of the White Stripes sound and appeal is formed in their image as traditionalists from another time and place, playing as if the world of music had gone in an entirely different direction than it actually did.

They played blues, but it was informed by the garage, particularly kids who grew up listening to both revivalists like the Lyres and more modern acts of their time like the Replacements. Here you end up with a collision of the early days of rock with what its eventual change over the decades would become by the end of the century. It wrapped into their weird charm, especially for as deliberately luddite as their sound and presentation was. Guitar, vocals, and drums, a key feature of their obsession with the number 3: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as it is. Jack White being a Catholic features into the songs as Christianity was so instrumental to creating Rock music in the first place. This makes a lot of their more obscure lyrics and sound choices make more sense in retrospect, though still clever enough that you can interpret your own meaning from them.

The number 3 even spread over into their image. Red, white, and black, were the central colors the White Stripes were known for. You can see it in the image above. Just as every song rarely ever had more than three instruments (they were including vocals as an instrument, of course), the band itself never broke from their colors or their code. This helped add to their early mystique, and they never stepped away from it from their formation to their eventual disbandment.

The band put out their first two albums in 1999 and 2000, the self-titled White Stripes and the sophomore De Stijl, quickly gaining a lot of indie cred during a time when mainstream rock was... pretty bad. We can admit that by 1999 Rock music was not at its best anymore. This was that strange era of Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth, when one-hit novelty wonders suddenly overtook the charts as bubblegum began to buy the radio stations. In one corner you had lightweight pop and in the other was post-grunge sludge and misery. It was a battle of two extremes that never should have become extremes in the first place. No balance remained.

But then, in the summer of 2001, the White Stripes released their third (and best) album, White Blood Cells. It was not only a great album: it was also a surprisingly large hit. This was pre-9/11, remember: it was before Bush-era lunacy and pomp from arrogant musicians and yet just after Rock had begun its descent down the charts for its replacement. No one could have called Garage Rock storming the charts, but it did. This album seemingly made the band famous overnight, for being in the right place at the right time and also reminding everyone who made rock music what it was in the first place. And they were no flash in the pan, either.

This is the lead song off the album, the one I played back in the day to convince others that this band was worth listening to. Put yourself back in the summer of 2001 when nu metal and bubblegum was all you would hear on the radio. It does not sound as if it is from that era, and that is why it has managed to age so well.

This album hit for a very good reason, one whose context has been lost by those more concerned with bells and whistles. Let me show you how out of joint this was for the time: White Blood Cells is lean, tight, and powerful. The album is almost exactly 40 minutes long, sixteen songs total, a throwback to before CDs overcluttered albums with filler, guest-stars, and overproduction. Every song is short, concise, and punchy, never overstaying its welcome and keeping it both rooted in traditional styles while also leaning into newer ideas that could only have come in the later days of the 20th century. It is truly justice that it would be the band's third album be the one that broke them out, as the number 3 was so important to them.

This was only the beginning, however.

It was after this that they released their fourth and most popular album in 2003, Elephant, and hit superstardom with it. There they became the titans of the decade they are remembered for being. "The Hardest Button to Button," "Ball & Biscuit," "The Air Near My Fingers," "Black Math," and the mega-hit "Seven Nation Army," are only a few of the classics that adorn its track list. This is a perfect album, easily on par with White Blood Cells, and well deserving of being considered the peak of its era when Rock was on the decline. If you know the White Stripes at all, it is almost certainly because of this album. 

They didn't stop there, though. Somehow the band maintained momentum throughout the rest of the decade. They put out a total of 7 albums (6 LPs and 1 live record) before they finally called it quits in 2011 and moved on to new things. With that, the Garage Rock Revival era petered out and Rock itself faded away.

The White Stripes left quite a legacy behind them, all their releases are still high quality and worth seeking out, transcending their time. They were also a tremendous live act, and are still thought of highly today by those who managed to see them. All in all, they are probably the best overall band in the Garage Rock Revival, and one of the last that mattered culturally.

The reason I am bringing this up is to relate it back to the image with the silly quote at the top of the page. People like that are why Rock music is dead now, and is not in any way ready to rise from the grave. Their religious devotion to technicality and ego fellating goes against every single thing that made Rock connect with the common man in the first place. All they want is to convince themselves they are listening to the best music--they do not love the music for what it is or what it does. It was one of the worst aspects of the time period when music fans on message boards would have to posit themselves as music scholars to explain why it took 5 years and countless bus rides to understand the appeal of OK Computer as if they were some kind of judge in a Roman coliseum deciding over execution. This overwhelming arrogance is what Rock fans became entangled with and it seems to exist to this day.

But let us address the charge.

First, is Meg White a bad drummer? No, she is not. This is not arguable. She does exactly what a drummer is objectively meant to do: she keeps the beat and the minimalist tone that the songs call for. She is not an outlier either. There are no early Rock drummers who play over the top technical fills or rolls the 1960s brought in, so neither does she. This is the point of the band: to reclaim that era and bring its ideas to the modern age. Simplicity is the point. That it is still being argued about to this day is indicative of the undeserved arrogance Rock fans still refuse to exorcise from themselves, and refusal to understand when they are wrong.

It wasn't that those drummers from back then couldn't play like that, most of these guys were Jazz drummers and far beyond even most Metal or Progressive drummers. They didn't play that way because the songs were not about technicality: technicality was not the point of the Blues. The genre was about atmosphere, tone, and mystique. Meg White is emulating these guys because that is what the band's sound is. Without her, it loses all of that feel and the identity of the band is lost. As an example, listen to the stuff Jack White has done without her--it sounds nothing like the White Stripes. This is because her drumming is part of why they were big in the first place. That we still have to point this out over a decade after they disbanded is proof that Rock fans have yet to shed their cultism and obsessions over understanding the genre they purport to love.

Just because she doesn't play fills or rolls like newer drummers are known for doing doesn't make her a bad drummer. Nor is she bad because she plays simply. This isn't how it works. She isn't the drummer for the Shaggs and pretending otherwise is disingenuous. Technicality has nothing to do with the appeal of Rock music and it never has. Johnny Ramone is one of the most influential guitarists of all time and he never played more than a handful of chords and never played a single guitar solo. Wanting to brag about a band purely for the musicianship reeks of childish behavior.

What this comes down to is, once again, paint worship. There is nothing wrong with technicality in a Rock song, but it isn't the point of a song. The song itself is the point. Listen to what the band is doing, not what you wish it was doing instead.

Let us get to the bottom of it. What makes Rock music what it is? Is it guitar solos? No, there are plenty of bands without guitar solos. Is it a double bass drum? No, most bands don't even use them. Is it slap bass or walking basslines? No, that's a minority of bassists. Is it an operatic singer? No, there are plenty of examples of successful bands with untechnical singers. Technicality has nothing to do with what makes Rock music hit with audiences, though it can help depending on the identity of the band in question. It is, nonetheless, not what makes the genre what it is and does not necessarily make a band better. There are plenty of extremely technical bands that can't write a half-decent song to save their lives. The tools are not the point of the craft and we lost that knowledge a long time ago.

One should also mention that popular and well regarded Rock bands have existed without a vocalist, guitar player, bassist, drummer, keys, horns, harmonica, or even plugged or unplugged instruments. You can find plenty of examples of each. Therefore, the instruments themselves do not make the genre or give it an identity.

So what is it?

We can take this question to other arenas. What makes wonder stories what they are? Why did we need to cut them into genres so we could worship the parts we are obsessed with and shun what we don't understand? Because we want to put ourselves over the art itself. We do not want to understand it or connect with it: we want to rule it with an iron fist.

This is the opposite of what Rock is. A Rock band is a group of fellas coming together to make noise in a garage and get the audience moving with a fun sound that excites them. You might have your preferences in sound specifics, instruments, and styles, to get that to happen, but that is the core of what it is. Whatever gets that job done is the core of the genre--the Rock Solid center of it all.

There is no one formula to getting this done, and thinking there was is why the genre is dead now. People can now only operate in manufactured genre clichés and outdated gimmicks in place of reaching across the aisle and grabbing what they can to build their own sound and focus. Technicality can help, as a musician, but it is not why people listen to the songs. They don't listen to be impressed, they listen to be taken somewhere else.

As long as those in the genre refuse to look beyond their narrow scope, to continue in dead end fads and styles that wore out their welcome decades ago, to run off novelty and gimmicks over craft and purpose, then Rock will stay dead.

It isn't just about music, but about everything. Why we insist on holding to rotting 20th century frames at the expense of something more eternal is a mystery for the ages. We aren't here for no reason, therefore what we do can have great meaning.

What makes something what it is? That's a hard thing to define, but it certainly isn't the bells and whistles that come out of it. What makes something what it is goes far deeper under the surface into the center of it all into the core of our being. Unless we keep digging, we'll never find it. This is what makes art so special.

That is, after all, why we're here at all! To create and to grow. We need to keep on doing so. Otherwise we'll never truly find what we are really capable of.

Just don't forget that you sometimes also have to look back to trace your steps, or else get lost in the haze with everything else in the modern world. You can't move on without a clear direction forward, after all. And it is art that can help us find that path we have been seeking so desperately. We just have to keep searching for it.

As always: to those who knock, the door will be opened.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Weekend Lounge ~ Left in the Dust

It's been quite a year so far, but spring is just ahead of us. I think we're about due for it, especially after the winter that just wouldn't end. We could use some warmth.

Before we get to that, let us take a break. That is what weekends are supposed to be for, after all. I would like to share a few videos from YouTube on things that we lost along the way to the great future we were supposed to already be at by now. Let us reassess where we might have stumbled along the way, and how we might orientate ourselves anew.

For those who remember back when video games were actually for everyone, as opposed to being dumbed down for a mythical wider audience that doesn't exist, they might think on a time when gamers would play anything, as long as it was fun. Believe it or not, there was a time when the gameplay itself was the reason people picked up a video game. If you were a kid in the old days of the medium, you played RPGS, platformers, sports games, shooters, strategy games, point and click adventures, puzzle games, and even racing games. Yes, even racing games.

This was because genres didn't use to be walls, they were signposts for varied gameplay experiences that everyone used to find fresh experiences. No one stuck to their corner and dismissed everything outside of it. It wasn't like it is today.

Believe it or not, back then what mattered was quality. As long as it was fun and the gameplay was solid, we played it. Genre ghettos didn't exist. Now that they do, everyone tends to keep to their own lanes and rarely do they venture out of them. As the video linked above shows, the reason for this is partially because of the people who make the games now. Somewhere along the way they forgot where their very medium came from, and now endeavor to forget it on their quest to find the perfect audience that doesn't exist.

Sound familiar?

At some point, the gameplay became secondary to aesthetics and image, getting into the genre clique's good graces, and their quest ended up chasing out the majority of the audience for a fringe niche that continues to hold said genre back from doing anything interesting. Yes, we've seen this mentality before. The Fanatic mentality is not just a problem in genre fiction. As the video shows, it has become an issue in gaming, too. It's even worse there because they haven't had decades of revisionism to tell them the past was bad and must be destroyed--they only have a decade and change of it. But we've covered that before. It is the same poisonous mindset that must be abandoned if one cares at all about their medium of choice. The past is not an enemy to be destroyed.

The AAA mentality in gaming ate away at ambition and creativity, leading people in the industry who should know better down a road of ignorance, arrogance, and just plain disrespect to the very medium they profess to love. There are plenty of examples where modern developers will outright spit on those who came before, despite not being able to live up to them in the slightest. Again, it's a familiar attitude, and one not without precedence. There is no love, no sense of gratitude, no attempt to make art or connect with others. It's just selfishness all the way around. 

Not even creators of formerly beloved properties can escape the siren call of the Fanatic as he embraces his ego over the art. That's right, it's not just newer people, but even those who should know better are proving that they do not. This is how you know when the Golden Age of an industry is long gone and forgotten by those inside of it.

The perfect game even exists that demonstrates this exact process happening. You might be thinking of several, there are many similar examples, but this one sticks out for the simple reason that the people involved should have clearly known better than they did, and just didn't. Feast your eyes on the perfect example of AAA failure that is Lawbreakers. This story isn't one people will forget anytime soon because of how absurd it was.

For those who need some back story, one of the people involved with the rise of gaming megacorp Epic Megagames and helped it into what it is today, somehow completely forgot why people played video games in the first place and created one that simply flatlined and died in record time. It is quite the story, but not uncommon among former celebrity figures in an industry that cares more about appearance than gameplay..

This isn't even to say that Lawbreakers was necessarily a bad game. The quality of gameplay wasn't even the main selling point of the game, and has little to do with its failure. The point of what happened has little to do with the quality of the product. This goes beyond game design, and into everything surrounding what caused such a product to exist in the first place, and where it very quickly ended up. This is the sign of a creatively bankrupt industry.

It isn't the perfect example of AAA hubris because they aren't unaware that AAA is killing gaming. They even understand the problem with the market, but complete misdiagnose the solution and lack the self-awareness to see that they are part of it. And it ends up resulting in, well, the exact industry we are trapped in right now.

This is Lawbreakers:

It's hard to watch that rather short video and not marvel at how clueless the industry has become over the years. It took OldPub decades after the 1930s to completely destroy their past; it only took AAA a mere decade after going HD to obliterate their industry. From racing games not understanding their base appeal to race, to the creators of beloved classics no longer getting what audiences clicked with their creations in the first place, the spark has just been completely lost. AAA is gone, and now it is in the slow slide into the muck.

The old industry is dead, and it isn't coming back. The future will not be coming from them, but by the mavericks outside the system. It is time for better ways.

The last thing I want to leave you with is one more video about a video game franchise that came from the old days back when gaming just went HD. This is one of the last original franchises that came around before everything sank into the mudgenre and developers were slaughtered and gutted to make conveyor belt games. This game is Dead Rising, specifically the game in the series that ended up killing both the studio that made it, as well as the franchise itself.

For those unaware, Dead Rising was a game with a unique design, especially for HD. You were dropped into a zombie apocalypse situation with a time limit to get your wider task done. You then needed to fit your playtime around getting said task done in said limit as best as you can. Your performance would then net you the ending you would earned from your choices therein. The entire game was wide open with many places to go, but that just made it harder to reach the goal you wanted to reach. Every playthrough in Dead Rising was a new chance to figure out the best path forward and get the best ending. It was a good wrinkle and mashing up of arcade design and open world gameplay that no one else has done before, or since.

So naturally they made it into a franchise and, AAA being what it is, ended up turning it from a unique experience unlike any other into another mudgenre open world game with no defining features. In other words, they turned it into the opposite of what it once was, because AAA is anti-gaming at the end of the day. It is merely bad movies and busy work disguised as gameplay. Dead Rising 4 was so bad it killed the franchise stone cold.

This is how you successfully kill a successful creation and wear it as a skinsuit: you do what they did to Dead Rising. Keep in mind, it only took one decade from the original game to do this. That is how fast AAA has deteriorated into what it is today.

AAA is over, OldPub is over, and Hollywood is over. We are going to need to look to be sources before we lose these mediums entirely. There isn't anything left to be gained by supporting an industry holding back its own potential.

It is time to leave them in the dust.

That is all for today! Take heart in the knowledge that we can now clearly see the problems that have plagued us for so long, and now we can finally get to work working them out. It has been a long time coming. The AAA industry might be dead, for much the same reasons as OldPub now is, merely living off the momentum of past successes they do not understand in the slightest yet think they should profit off of, but there are other places to go where the medium still thrives. There are always alternatives and, especially today, they are are frequently the better options.

You don't have to put up with those who wish to destroy, whether intentionally or not, but can instead find creations on par (and in some cases, better) than what came before. Inspiration and creativity still exist outside the mudgenre money pit that is the modern industry, and that is the case with every medium today.

You just have to know where to look. Ask around and you'll be surprised at just how much good stuff there is. And there is more of it all the time.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Banned Brains

Average depiction of a modern Book Cultist

Sorry to say that for today I will be going back on the recent tone shift around here. I apologize, but it must be done. Recent events have proven to me just how hopeless OldPub really is, and we need to expound upon it here. Hopefully we can move on from this in future entries, but today, right here and right now, this must really be addressed.

You know the score by now. It wouldn't be the modern day if we didn't worship products, industries, and celebrities, despite how hollow they might ultimately be. It's been decades of decay, and still we cling to the bad habits of idolatry and materialism that led us down this rabbit hole in the first place. And somehow we are still hitting new lows.

The 21st century is a guerrilla war with bodies and rubble laying strewn across a blown out countryside. The thing is, all of the chaos you see from it are remnants of the 20th century, battles long since fought and won, or lost. We are still trapped here in this same forever war, firing at zombies that refuse to stay dead and ghosts we refuse to admit already are. It's a conflict long since over, with no reason to still be going, but still we fight over nothing regardless. We do this despite there being nothing left to go to war over. It's all already all gone.

And there are still active landmines buried all over the place for the survivors to still watch out for. One such place where they remain plentiful, is in the arts and the entertainment world. It is as if it were boobytrapped by those who laid down inside those buildings and died decades back. We're still fighting those ghosts today.

The most obvious example of this tiresome climate, is the old book publishing industry. OldPub destroyed reading as a hobby for normal people long ago, and they are very interested in keeping it dead. Destroyers can never stop destroying.

The worst thing that ever happened to the hobby of reading was mystifying it and turning a simple pastime into a personality trait for hipster types and loners. This has not led to anything good. The process of transforming something anyone can (and should) do into an identity for antisocial people has transformed the entire industry into an ongoing war against general customers and the Average Joe. It has chased normal people away from something they should already be doing normally by weaponizing stories instead of giving them what they want. Not only that, but the hobby has been refashioned into a (failing) industry based on syphoning money through said antisocial behavior to spread even more antisocial behavior, with plenty of money laundering, of course, and is even backed up by the public school system to continue this nonsense forever. One can argue, correctly, that this is a symptom wider cultural problem in the West, and not a recent one, but I am increasingly under the belief that this particular industry was where it all started from.

The book industry is patient zero to every modern ill the West is currently suffering from, and the one most diseased and closest to death from its long unaddressed and untreated sickness. Its death from self-inflicted wounds has been a long time coming. Were it not for NewPub, the entire system would have already collapsed by now.

As an example, take the scam known as Banned Book Week. This forged celebration centered on an ad campaign for Big Publishing is a way of mystifying the act of buying a corporate product as if it were some sort of suppressed religious text from the Enemy. But that isn't what it actually is. You've probably heard the justification for supporting it, too. "If it's banned then it must be worth reading!" they scream as they hand over their money to buy books that simply weren't placed on one random school's reading list in some random state once. That's right, the definition of "banned" means less than nothing. And these lists never have books that have always been and are still banned to this day, including recent ones scraped off of Amazon itself for dubious reasons. Why are these banned? Because they don't contain the Cult's religious tract in it. "Banned Books" as defined by OldPub simply means what stock they want to clear out that week. They have successfully convinced cultists that rule the industry that The Man is somehow in charge and fighting against freedoms or whatever vague nonsense they were taught by their cult leaders, and buying corporate product will help you fight back. Yes, book cultists actually believe this. Truth is, it's just a lie to spur the ingroup on to spend more money buying more cultist tract and give the illusion that they are some kind of warrior for the cause. It has nothing to do with books, banned or not.

Want an example of how it's a scam? The Bible, an actual religious book, is never on any of these lists or sold at the front of the store during the sham festivities. One of Solzhenitsyn's last books has been suppressed in the West since it originally came out, because no one wishes to discuss the contents within. Not much for freethinking, these freethinkers are. They do not think and they are not free; they are merely cogs in Big Publishing's machine. 

But weren't we told that reading was supposed to be about expanding your mind and growing as a human being? Is this not what it was sold to you as back when you were a rug rat watching carefully curated episodes of Reading Rainbow on the old PBS back in the day? Isn't reading a magical act that makes you whole, especially for understanding perspectives outside your own? Wasn't censorship of books supposed to be bad because it goes against this? How can you address ideas if you can't face them down or argue against them? By having the billion dollar corporations and their pals in governments and schools do the thinking for you, after all. 

If any of the above was actually is true then why do all of those frauds continue to ignore the elephant in the room with their mystical talk of books? Why do they still pretend to be oppressed despite being the oppressors and having billionaire friends in every space and adjacent industry, able to suppress whatever they desire? These people even brag about censoring their enemies. They aren't fighting the censors: they are the censors.

Reading is being destroyed as a hobby, it has been since at least Cultural Ground Zero, and all your heroes are the ones burning the books and suppressing competing texts to their cult beliefs. And no one appears to be the wiser.

Let us get blunt. OldPub is currently in the process of gutting old works (or pretending to do so in order to gain publicity for newer releases, which is no better) in order to appease a small cadre of anti-social urbanites who won't buy these books in the first place. OldPub is speed-running its collapse in real time, showing the rest of the world what a fraud it always was in the first place, and it's taking everything it dubiously owns down with it. This whole set was never anything other than a cult that existed to indoctrinate you into the fold.

By now you've certainly heard about what happened with Roald Dahl's works, editors without tact licking their chops over butchering his works for children. Why? Because they have decided his words are not as important as their message. Because they are the Masters of the written word, they have free reign over all words past, present, and future. They can do whatever they want, and you have to obey. And every single person in the industry right now, and those who still buy their books, is culpable for their current false king status.

This is not the first time such censorship has been enacted, and if you think the second hand market will help fight the insanity going on, you might be surprised at how bad things really are now. The cult is winning in their quest to destroy reading.

When publishers banned Dr. Seuss books (Forget about this one? The book worshipers in OldPub sure have!) several were banned from even being sold on eBay, in the second hand market, essentially informing readers they wanted contraband and that was just plain illegal. The billionaire corps decided you can't read these books so by gum you will NOT read them. They are your masters, and they know better. And every adjacent industry and platform rushed to help them do it. This is only the first example. It will happen again in the future, because no one is interested in stopping them from banning books they shouldn't own the rights to in the first place.

By the way, Dr. Seuss has also not made it onto the corporate-approved Banned Books Week, either. What a surprise, the cult has not decreed it important! Scammers live to scam, and we're all fine with letting them scam.

Right now, more than any imagined time portrayed in a Book Cultist's fantasies, we are living through a cultural book burning celebrated by an entire government-backed group of supposed freethinkers and progressive creatives who somehow consider themselves rebels. And it is being lead by every aspect of the modern world, including those who pretend they are not doing so. It's not censorship if the billionaire corporation owns the rights to the art it had no hand in creating, it seems. They have free reign to edit any book and prevent selling of any older version. They own the very being of art. It's very normal, you see!

Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl are merely two targets, and are easy ones because the publishers can strongarm (or inject infiltrators) into the estates of these long dead writers and get "permission" (permission they should have no rights to have, by the way) to do whatever they want to art they had no input in creating in the first place. This is a clear loophole to the copyright issue, the flipside of the one the Walt Disney Corporation has been abusing for ages to no reasonable pushback from anyone. If you think extending copyright indefinitely on creations no one alive today had any hand in creating is good for creativity, I have a bridge to sell you. Dante and Homer didn't need to be owned by Disney to survive the passage of time, but somehow everything today does? At this point, everyone should be seeing this scam for what it is.

As an example, look up who owns the rights too Robert E. Howard's work and marvel at the fact that somehow these people think they have any right to profit off his name or creations. It hasn't been owned by anyone affiliated with him in any way for nearly a century. All it takes is one of these types to smell blood in the water, and do the same his works they are planning for the above authors. And what right do they have to do such a thing to his works?

They have none. Nonetheless, they will get unlimited support from the Book Cult to fleece readers forever. Truly an industry of rebels and freethinkers.

If you think it will stop here, then you have not been paying attention. Once the precedent is set, it never stops. Especially in OldPub, when it involves anti-art and anti-reader action above everything else. Eventually they will work their way up to J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and by then it will be too late to do anything about it. The book cult will remake everything in its own image. And yes, they will be saved for last. And nothing will be done to stop them.

The longer this goes on, the worse it will get.

Should OldPub continue their war against normality, everything they own, including that which it doesn't, will be destroyed. And yes, they will push to obliterate even that which it should have no control over too begin with, like the classic fairy tales we so take for granted. Nothing can be hated by this crowd more than purity or beauty, so it must be subverted or destroyed. There is no other option. This is the poison of the anti-social mentality infecting its soul. Eventually it turns against what created it in the first place.

It won't stop with fairy tales, it merely begins there. Just like our modern wonder stories do, so will the infection that fights to kill them.

As you can tell, this isn't stopping. The cultists are only attacking harder and harder, and have no one to push back the tide against their advance. When you leave anti-social and hate-filled bugmen in control of your entire industry of art, don't be surprised when they eventually learn to hate it as much as they hate you. They will eventually steamroll it all. This is where we are now.

There will be no survivors, if this crowd has its way. No more connection to the past, just endless rewrites and scripture updates for the ever-changing modern dogma that our betters will decide on for the rest of us.

Leaving Fanatics in control of anything was always a terrible idea, and we are living through the result of doing such a thing long ago. Until they are flushed out back to the margins where they originally skulked out of, they will only continue to destroy and find justifications so they can keep doing it forever. When one has their hearts poisoned by evil and cannot be reasoned with, they must be stopped. Otherwise everyone loses.

And one should be vigilante, even among those he trusts. Infiltrators are everywhere, and getting support from those who sell themselves on knowing better. It is getting darker out there, and it feels as if there are less and less of those willing to stand against them.

Because these antisocial types are not only in OldPub, they are trying to squeeze into NewPub, as well. They are attempting to jump from their burning car into the neighboring train so they can crash that one too. And they are having old guard support from the industry to do so. Because destroying one industry wasn't enough for any of them.

We've been dealing with an industry on decline for longer than most of us have been alive. It's time to stop doing things like this. There is no excuse to be supporting people who not only hate you, but hate everything their industry came from.

There is no excuse for this one, sorry. I don't care if said magazine has roped in a Brand Name author or two for its table of contents, it doesn't excuse supporting subverters and destroyers of your industry at this juncture. They are not working to fix any actual issues, they just want to be kings of the junk heap and get back pats for saying the Right Things. There is nothing being fixed here, just more support of mindless cults.

I can't count the number of vanity projects like the above have been bandied about this sphere longer than I've been alive. They always have an initial pop from labeling and insiders pushing the project before instantly fading into obscurity afterwards, never attracting anyone other than a rabid fringe that disappears as soon as they see shiny keys elsewhere. If this sort of thing worked, they wouldn't still be rehashing these same tired ideas for well over a decade at this point to absolutely no fanfare or interest. And yet here we are again with the same failed nonsense.

These sorts of projects don't grow the market, they never grow the readership, they don't attempt anything new despite their cliched buzzwords being thrown around. The biggest red flag that is never addressed: It doesn't appeal to normal people, no wider audience. So who is this sort of project meant to impress? How many times are you meant to regurgitate the same idea and act as if it is fresh? Corporate buzzwords that don't even sell books in OldPub? Name Brand Authors from half a century ago being bandied about on crowdfund campaign pages? This isn't offering anything new, it is relying on selling ideas that haven't sold since the 20th century, if they ever sold in the first place. None of this exists to benefit the readers or the art--it's all ego. It's about the self over all, and that has been a problem with Fanatics in this industry since they seized control back in the late 1930s. They don't want art: they want to be a part of the in-crowd.

At what point do we begin trying to grow this space instead of deliberately shrinking it? How many more decades do we have to sit through where things just get worse and more insular while being told the opposite is happening by the same crowd censoring books and saying they are not censoring them? How long are they going to be allowed free reign to destroy? At what point do we stop playing stupid games without even any prizes?

As for censorship, don't think they will start with obvious examples like a 1984 or Brave New World. This industry has mastered only one thing besides virtue signaling to its cultist followers, and that is slowly boiling the frog, usually be distracting with Brand Names and misplaced nostalgia. By the time anyone notices they are being cooked, it will be much too late. And make no mistake, it is much later than you think.

Of course the censors will start with the more controversial, in their mind, yet less popular titles and authors before they move forward with bigger. That is also why they went after Ian Fleming's work. his is the source of a billion dollar corporate franchise, of course, so it needs to be wrestled away from its creator and made to be acceptable to the executives who get to profit off of it now. The same people who had nothing to do with its existence in the first place get to control the work now. Who cares if it bares little resemblance to what the original author wrote when we can rewrite what he wrote. All for the greater good.

What matters is that it says the right thing today in Current Year dogma. Because, again, that is all that matters to the zealot. You will have to constantly update it in the future, of course, but that is a job you give to your allies to justify a paycheck in a dying industry like this one. This is nothing more than another mean girls' table for people who never grew up.

And all the people who fancy themselves geniuses because they read books, because Reading Makes You Smart like the propaganda from the industry said, are so sucked into their cult that they do not even see what is going on around them. No, that is incorrect. They see it, but they are incapable of processing what is happening because they are the Good Guys. They can't possibly be in the wrong. No, as that Simpsons meme says, it is the children who are wrong.

There is no excuse to be silent over any of this, especially if you are involved in any form of art in any similar industry, even as an amateur or hobbyist. Yet, there is a palpable silence over this exact issue right now. We have case after case being reported, downplayed by the allies in the old media and ignored by the willfully blind Professional Authors. None of them are taking this seriously, and they are hoping you don't notice. The Book Cult have been dead quiet, talking instead about holding book conferences outside concentration camps in Chengdu and pondering how much money to give China while these Professional Authors can lecture on injustice to their home country out of the other side of their mouths. Because they loathe normal people more than they care about any form of justice, or any art. It's never been about anything else.

It's a scam; always has been and always will be. Antisocial hatred runs deep. There is no love to be found here.

Guess whose social media accounts are dead silent over the issue?

Not a word from the above crowd. Not a single solitary comment aside from self promotion and virtue signaling the same inane Book Cultist platitudes on their social media accounts. Because it isn't about the art, not really, and it never has been. It's about what you can squeeze out of it for yourself and get ahead of your supposed allies.

But be sure to check out the new adaption of their work streaming on the multibillion dollar streaming service right now! You don't want to pirate it, would you? That would be unethical! And we know this crowd is all about ethics. Things should be wiped out of existence if corporations can't pay me $$$ to terribly adapt my work in any sloppy and halfhearted way they decide to do it. Better for something too get wiped out of existence than me missing out on a single penny I could have gotten from desecrating what I made. I should also attack any reader who dislikes the changes because corporations are fragile little things who need my protection. Can't let a scorned reader potentially affect my bottom line. It's all so admirable.

These noble people even gave out wooden assholes at the Hugos once because the wrong people voted for their tiny, meaningless clique awards. Something they still seethe over at the drop of a hat today! They have their priorities straight. It's all about ethics and art for the people who really count! And those who count obey Big Publishing.

You won't see any wider pushback in OldPub or any of the old industries to this obvious insanity. It will not happen, at best it will be excused. It is always excused. Remember, this is the group that cared more about trying to take down the Internet Archive over fears they might not get a few pennies from it (more than what they are getting from OldPub, mind you) then they do about any form of creation or shared culture. It's all empty rhetoric meant to trick people. They will do anything to make a buck and scrap some clout to stand out among their allies in the unending struggle against normality. It's the mean girls' lunch table, because none of these people have ever moved on from high school. And they never will. They can't.

If anything, this whole scenario should give you definitive proof that reading doesn't make you smart. That's just another lie told by people who hate you and see you as a wallet with legs. Book Cultists are no different than those still obsessing over Disney or Funko Pops as if they are personality traits. They just go to WorldCon instead of drunk singles vacations to Disney World. It gives them the illusion of having principles or an identity because otherwise they have neither. There is nothing under the surface to be found except more Brand. It's all the same cult.

No, the only thing you can do is remember what is happening right now, record it into your mind in as much detail as you can, and really take into account how much these people hate you and wish to destroy everything around them. Make sure future generations see this nonsense for what it is. Preserve what you can, while you can preserve it, because in the next few years you will see a lot of things you have taken for granted disappear without a trace. It doesn't matter what it is, all of this is in danger of being erased, rewritten, or revised for modern audiencesthe cult, not unlike what I described happened nearly a century ago in The Last Fanatics. Those people never went away, they've just devolved into an even cruder mockery of what they once were, and they will decimate anything they can in their quest to claw their way to the top of their sad pack and rule as king of the junk heap. You will find no help from them, no respite from their constant barrage of attacks. They will destroy everything on their quest to destroy themselves. It is time to accept this nonsense for what it is.

Here's another harsh truth: the Book Cult also will work around the author to get what they want. Whether the author is a member of their ingroup or not does not factor into this. They will take what they want from them regardless. They are all disposable cogs in a machine, no different than any other random office job.

The most recent example of this happening is the news of censorship around author R. L. Stine's Goosebumps series.

The site in question is linked here

For those who don't know, Goosebumps abruptly vanished in the early 2000s because noble publisher Scholastic wrestled the rights away from its author and deliberately cratered sales and promotion to take it away from him. It is one of the many shortsighted moves the Book Cult has made to crush its own industry. They have control over the property now, including those totally coincidental Hollywood movies they keep making out of the series while the above censorship is going on. Can't have outdated word usage affect the modern dogma that needs to be spread among the sheepchildren.. This will also not be their last attack. They will never stop.

Everyone is a target in their path. This is the future looming ahead of us in the years to come. Assume no one else will preserve anything, and get to work doing it yourself. Prepare accordingly. Dark times are coming.

One of the most fascinating outcomes of the Cult of Books seizing control of reading as an industry has been their shift to worshiping multibillion corporations over appreciating the stories themselves. This is because the corporations make sure only the Good books with the Right messages will get printed, while the heretical competing texts will be filtered out. The new priest class has created the new official canon, one you must follow, and if it falls outside that limited ideological span then it is considered blasphemy and evil. It must be suppressed.

And this is what is happening on all the cases we have mentioned so far. There is nothing about quality factored in here, though their cult allies in education will make sure to force you to think it is quality work, but about purity. This isn't about reading, it's about obeying and being a cog in the machine of the new world. Obey your betters or be cast out.

There is no third choice. It isn't even a choice, in the end. Cults don't give choices: they give ultimatums.

It has gotten to the point that actual censorship of books exists in OldPub because it is Good For Them to be tampered with, as if constantly updating books like they were the satanic reverse of sacred scripture (in that must always change with the whims of those in charge instead of being eternal everlasting truth), is the end goal. This mutation of common sense really should show how degraded our culture is today and how much it's decayed. No one would have accepted this at any other point in time, except one with high levels of depression, heavy medication, self-destruction, and atomization, being ignored by the current cult in charge of it all. It's pathetic that we let it persist, at this point. And yet, that is what we do.

The solution to all of this is to keep a clear head. While Book Cultists, like every other person who turns their hobby into a personality trait, continue to spiral down the drain of worshiping their corporate overlords and justifying their hatred of everyone outside their silly club, you can bypass the whole lot of them by just being normal and continuing to be so. Just don't be one of them. The most rebellious thing you can be in a society that hates normality more than it does evil, is to just be a normal human being. Be something other than a cultist that lives off product and cloud and uses supplements to deal with the resulting alienation from their own backwards mindset. It shouldn't be that hard if you live the opposite life of literally everyone ruling these corporations.

What we need is a true revival of what we have forgotten, not more irrelevant corporate jargon used to sell more product to people only slightly less depressed than the one selling it to them. We need to aim higher than what we have now. This isn't good enough anymore, and it never was in the first place. Art is important, and should not be treated as a disposable commodity or worshiped like a cult tract. We should be ashamed at letting it get this bad.

Religious thought and worship belong to real religion, hobbies belong to everyone who wants to engage and learn, subcultures are meant for you to grow in and not for them to bend to you, and art is meant to connect instead of being ran by an iron fist by unelected commissars of the revolution. This is all backwards today, and it must be repaired before we can even thinking of moving forward from it. Whatever pathetic revolution these types think this is, they can never really win it. But they can take a lot of good things down with them along the way to the grave. Be sure to prepare accordingly. They still have further to fall, and they will most definitely not go quietly into the night once they realize how futile it is. They will not be able to lie to themselves forever and when they explode, we will get caught in the blast. Remember that, in the end, their motivator is hate, not stupidity. they know what they are doing. Never forget that.

We can't bend the knee to them anymore. We need to do better than supporting people who hate is. we need to push back against infiltrators like this:

I have never interacted with this account, by the way.

And that's the bottom line.