Saturday, May 25, 2024

Weekend Lounge ~ Time

Welcome to the weekend!

A short one this week. I mainly wanted to talk about Star Wanderers not only funding but hitting two stretch goals! I am very appreciate to all backers for helping make this one of Cirsova's most successful campaigns as well as mine. Every single one of you is to thank for letting it happen and allowing us the chance to make it the best possible book it can be.

Next up are checking the proofs and getting the free trading card laid out as Jacob Calta works on the bonus track for the Star Wanderers EP! Once all of that is sorted out, we can get on with rolling out fulfillment.

Regardless, I am once again very thankful for everyone who backed, shared the campaign around, or was just generally supportive. There are a lot of you! Thank you for all of your assistance in getting Star Wanderers out.

Today is a small update, but I also wanted to leave you with this video shared with me on Twitter/X about Time. It's not too long, but it delivers a very important message about priorities and understanding what we can best spend our time doing. Considering how noisy and chaotic the modern world is, it's a message we all need a reminder of. I know I do.

In case you missed the update, I will leave you with the final cover for Star Wanderers that was unveiled on the last day. It's a banger!

Told you it was great!

That's all for this week. Until the next time!

In case you missed it, my story "City Eater" was in Sidearm & Sorcery, Volume Two!

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Wandering Across Distant Worlds

Just a light one today. I wanted to talk a bit about some future projects as well as the currently running Star Wanderers campaign. We have a bit under a week left to go so I wanted to give another solid push to get more backers to help us reach that stretch goal in order for everyone to receive more goodies. What better way to do that then to talk about the stories themselves?

There is also not too much else to talk about this week. Summer is almost on the way and the energy in the scene seems to be getting more heated and excited, which is always fun. New projects are starting to pop up, as I mentioned last time, and all in all its just a fun time to be doing what we do. I always quite enjoy this time of year.

Anyway, today I mostly wanted to show off some more of the AI images I played around with, especially since they pertain to the Star Wanderers campaign (less than a week left!) as we strive to hit the stretch goals before time runs out. After that, stick around for a little surprise at the bottom of today's post!

I'll also use this opportunity today to say a little bit about each story in the collection, and maybe even hint at what is to come in the future. So let's have some fun and get into it!

Here are the stories of Star Wanderers.

Ronan Renfield lands on a swampy world that has been overtaken by death and decay-worshiping cultists! [First Published in Cirsova Magazine of Thrilling Adventure and Daring Suspense, Vol. 2 Issue 11, 2022]

This is where it all begins, at least as far as Detective Renfield goes. This wasn't the first Galactic Enforcer story I wrote, but it is the one that accurately lays out what the series is all about. In the distant future, when humanity has broken up and divided in a universe of fragmented islands, someone has to make sure it's still safe from what waits in the dark.

And what is it that waits in the dark? It's not quite what you'd expect, or at least it's not something that will leave you alone because you either don't believe in it or want to think its on your side. No matter how advanced you think you are, some things will never change.

"Dead Planet Drifter" was inspired directly by CL Moore, specifically her story "Song in a Minor Key" which is more of a fragment. It is also the last story she wrote featuring her hero Northwest Smith. The general gist of it centers on a break in the action of some other story where Smith remembers where he came from through shaken memories that are long ago from another person he no longer is. I decided to use that as a springboard into this Galactic Enforcer story, but with a quite different twist.

I've actually heard different theories in regards to what actually happens in this one and what is real or not, to the point that I've been asked if it's "reality" myself, but I can't really answer that. Not because I don't want to, but because I can't in the context of how this works. Humanity went off into space and broke off, and when you do that you can't help but lose pieces and fragments along the way, slipping through the void. Renfield is a "Dead Planet Drifter" in the sense of the plot events, and even what happens in later stories, but the story is not just named after him here. How he is able to succeed at all is because he brings with him what this world in particular as forgotten.

But that's enough of that. This is where we truly begin our journey. 

The Agent travels to the ice planet Ouranos in pursuit of a genocidal mad scientist who has holed up in a lost city! [First Published in Planetary Anthology Uranus, 2020]

The Agent, on the other hand, is a related but quite different beast. He was also published first. I had long pictured a lone warrior with a flaming sword hopping from planet to planet and scorching out the rot in his quest across the galaxy, though he was always a separate person from the above Galactic Enforcer. The main difference is that we do not know his name or who sent him (though we might learn some of that eventually) and that his journey follows an arc that mimics our own seasons on Earth. In other words, Star Wanderers contains his complete arc.

Our hero floats about to burn the dead wood and replant the surviving flower bed in more fertile soil. This is because even in the future man is still prone to killing itself even with technology that would make those of us living today jealous. Evil doesn't just get grown out of--but then again, neither does Good. The future won't be as different as materialists used to claim, at least on that level. You can never outrun your sins, after all.

"Cold Heart of Ouranos" involves our hero descending into the dark of an ice planet and finding just what happened to a world that once held promise ages ago. Is it too late for Ouranos and those who still live there? You'll just have to read on and find out.

This one set up a lot of what I would do later, both in these particular Star Wanderer stories and otherwise. I am pleased that it is finally back in print again because I still remember how happy I was when I first finished it up and submitted it (and got accepted!) to the original Planetary Anthology a few years back. Funny to think its already been some years since then.

Ronan faces down a diabolical terrorist leader who uses illegal technology to carve a mystical paradise out of reality itself! [First Published in Storyhack Action and Adventure, issue 7, 2021]

Now we're getting into the weeds. "Golden Echoes" is one of those pieces that I really think I pushed myself to a new level in order to complete. It was also published in the last (to date) issue of Storyhack magazine, which I still recommend heartily to this day.

This is the first Ronan Renfield story I wrote, it is also the one that took the longest to get out of my mind and put it down to paper. Before this, I didn't really know how to process these bizarre future stories I had in mind, my short stories mostly being the magic against powers tales of Someone is Aiming for You & Other Adventures. Once "Golden Echoes" came out, however, it changed a lot of the ways I approached writing and storytelling. 

Despite that, it's still a weird adventure unlike any you've come across with quite the bizarre ending. I never skimp on the action, and this story is no different in that aspect.

For those curious, the title was taken from a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem called "The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo" which struck me when I first read it. That poem is what helped the story come into focus.

A quote from the poem:
O then, weary then whý should we tread? O why are we so

haggard at the heart, so care-coiled, care-killed, so fagged,

so fashed, so cogged, so cumbered,

When the thing we freely fórfeit is kept with fonder a care,

Fonder a care kept than we could have kept it, kept

Far with fonder a care (and we, we should have lost it) finer, fonder

A care kept. Where kept? Do but tell us where kept, where.–

Yonder.–What high as that! We follow, now we follow.–

Yonder, yes yonder, yonder,

Alchemy, turning lead to gold, is the theme of this poem, but what if the gold being sought was not . . . quite right? This is the story that solidified a bit of the early formula of Renfield's missions, though they would not all go this same way.

Essentially, Ronan Renfield is a space cop meant to stop terrorists and dark art users from breaking the fabric of reality and turning it into their own playground. But, as the expression goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Different motivations, different end goals, and different plans, all of which are destined to end in disaster because the natural order is not meant to be trifled with. Galactic Enforcers are not miracle workers or all-knowing. It's a big universe out there.

Renfield, despite it all, is not a superhero. He does not have powers. He is just a normal man with a gun and a license to stop lawbreakers from across the stars--some of which do not even recognize his profession. The law he serves just happens to be of a higher kind . . .

A cursed sorceress queen is doomed to conquer and seek revenge her wrongs, driven by a mysterious entity known as the Artisan! [All New Story!]

This was actually one of the last stories I wrote of the eight in this collection. It took me awhile to figure out just how to process the framing of the story and the implications it had on the wider world of both The Agent and the Galactic Enforcers while also showing there is much more going on than just their battles in the wide open stage that is the galaxy. In fact, there is an entire universe outside of their struggles.

I had also written an entire story with this same title that I scrapped for the reason that it just kind of felt like it had no purpose aside from being there. The final result is much different, and better, than the original one that's been recycled into better parts elsewhere. It's also now more relevant to the other tales in the collection.

Of all the stories in Star Wanderers, this one is the most traditionally Sword & Sorcery, though the ending reveal might challenge that assertion a bit. Regardless, this one continues the trend of every story of The Agent not being directly about him (even the first, told from his perspective, is mostly about his observations of Ouranos), which will continue in the next story. He is just an agent for a Higher Cause.

It should also be mentioned that "Armageddon Spring" is one of the stories in the collection that struck Alex from Cirsova the most.

As he said on Twitter/X:

"This is one of the most fascinating in the collection to me; while it's only loosely connected to most of the other tales of Ronan and the Agent, this sword & sorcery fairytale provides a lot of deep and greater context for the world of the Star Wanderers!"

It's also all brand new and exclusive to this collection. You're only going to read it here!

A young woman barely escapes the twisted human experimentation of the supposedly peaceful Plateau and it is up to Ronan to keep her alive! [All New Story!]

I had a really hard time putting this one together. In fact, for whatever reason, it's probably the short story of all I've completed that has had the most rewrites, entire gutting and excising of passages and events, and even perspective changes. Of any I've ever actually put out, this is the one I struggled with my muse the most. I couldn't even really tell you why because the story itself has never really changed, but it just never came out right. Obviously, I started on this one when I was a younger and less experienced writer, and it's not something that happens so much anymore, but it did eventually solidify into what it is now.

If I recall correctly, I started this one after "Golden Echoes" and "Cold Heart of Ouranos" ages ago, but I didn't get it completely done and written the way I felt satisfied until before I started on the last story in this collection. Normally I would just abandon a story that doesn't work, but "Cold Finger Girl" is more important than I originally thought it would be, not just to the collection but for future stories in the series as well. So, in the end, I am glad it eventually came out well.

The titular character, Dana, is the result of a world that preaches peace and equality, but underneath the surface uses blood and bone to keep its machinery going. How does one justify that when every so-called human is equal? You just change what being human actually means and how you qualify for being one.

This is a bit of a theme in regards to the villains in Star Wanderers, a part of that piece of us we lost in our voyage to the stars. We had forgotten the beauty and lessons of the original Green Hills of Earth (The Moore version, not the Heinlein one) to help keep our bearings.

As for the title, it's the most obvious weeb reference I've ever done. It's named after the old Pontiacs song of the same title, specifically the cover by Chiaki Kuriyama which was used as the opening theme for the anime Level E. The imagery in the opening, for whatever reason, struck me and it actually did inspire a lot of the story, including the character of Dana herself.

The anime version (sorry for the image quality)

As an aside, I wouldn't recommend the anime if you're expecting it to be like the opening. It's more of a comedy and the opening is a goof on a story the main character is reading (which is a subtle visual callback to the manga artist's previous work, Yu Yu Hakusho) and not really about this at all. Despite that, it's still a great opening theme.

So now you know the secrets behind this tale! Regardless of all the above, I am more than pleased with how this story turned out.

The Agent fights to protect a wayward prince from the undead cyborg minions of a necromancer intent on breaking the royal line and dooming a world by fulfilling an ancient prophecy! [First Published in Planetary Anthology Sol, 2020]

If you know a story from this collection, particularly if it's one starring The Agent, it's almost certainly this one. It's been published the most times (in the original Planetary Anthology Sol and Sword & Maidens) and is unique in the fact that there is no dialogue in the story. The reason for this is multifold, but mostly because the story has a dream-like quality I couldn't betray by trying to nail it down to a more solid reality.

If I recall right, I believe this story was written in one sitting at my desk during a particularly hot summer afternoon. There wasn't an outline, just the general premise, and it flowed out of me and onto the page, telling the story of Prince Orion and the fall of his long forgotten kingdom, leading to the scorched world that had once been his home being made into a tomb for his love and a throne of corpses for his enemy.

Of the stories starring The Agent, this one might have his least personal involvement in the events that unfold, but it is probably the best example of what his job entails. He is the aide, the secondary to the one who needs him most, and then when his job is over he is gone over the horizon towards his next mission. And after this adventure, he has one more in the collection to go on.

But before that, one more Ronan Renfield story!

Ronan investigates a series of terrorist attacks carried out by exploding cyborgs, and the trail leads him to an apocalyptic transhumanist cult! [All New Story!]

This one was probably the most outright fun for me to write, though for whatever reason it also took me the longest (aside from "Cold Finger Girl") to actually get the ending right. Despite being an artificial world with backwards concerns, the plot of the terrorist cell in "Midnight Machineguns" is one whose concerns transcends mere violence and carnage into control from the shadows. And how easy it is on a planet that idolizes the supposed "Golden Age" of Earth!

I should state, because some might be curious, that this is the only story in the collection (and, so far, the only Galactic Enforcer tale at all) that is written in first person. I don't actually know why. It wasn't originally, but it didn't feel correct initially. For whatever reason, I rewrote it from Renfield's position to the point where it now sounds like he's telling it to someone or perhaps making it into a report for his job. This is a common perspective in old detective stories and even more modern series like The Dresden Files, but since these tales are more about the Unknown I tend to focus on that more than expected genre tropes.

Once I let Detective Renfield take the reins, everything fell in place, including the ending that wasn't coming out quite right beforehand. It was as if he were the one correcting me on how the story actually goes and decided to take the keys away from me. If that sounds odd to you, I can assure you that it isn't uncommon for writers to be like that or have similar such moments in the creative process. Writing is a strange beast.

Regardless, this might be the most action-packed tale in the collection. Well, aside from one more story that we must go over . . .

Detective Ronan Renfield and the Agent team up in an epic clash against a rogue elemental Knight who desires to warp the soul of an entire planet! [All New Novella!]

There is a lot to mention in this story, but it's also a very easy one to spoil, considering it is the buildup and columniation of every other tale so far, so I will try to keep that aspect of it vague. That said, be wary of some spoilers if you want to go into it completely blind.

I've stated before that Star Wanderers is a sort of "fix-up novel" without the "fix-up" part. That is because these stories were always meant to fit together like they do. How that happened was because when I was first putting together who The Agent and Detective Ronan Renfield were, I had the basic flow of the stories come to me, and one of the last and most daunting one was the last one I'd written in my notes. "Slow Death on San Sebastian" is a story I both badly wanted to write and was also hesitant to engage with until everything else was nailed down first.

In contrast to "Cold Finger Girl" this story is named after the classic movie Guns for San Sebastian, though it isn't as direct of an inspiration as you might think. There are thematic similarities in some of what occurs, but it is more in what happens to the town in the movie vs what happened to the planet in the story. It's not as obvious as other inspirations.

You'd probably have to have seen the movie and read the story to know just how they relate together. Regardless, I will link the trailer for the movie.

Here is the trailer to the movie

A lot of strands from previous stories come together in this tale, but it was also important to me that it stand alone on its own even without full context from previous stories. I very much try to make it that every story I put out can be engaged with without needing a complicated backstory or history to get into. At the end of the day, adventure tales need to be both accessible and punchy for anyone who desires that shot in the arm, and those are non-negotiables to me. Even though a lot of what happens in the earlier stories wrap back around here again, you can still read it without having engaged the other tales and it will still make sense to you. However, it will probably make you want to go back and read them anyway.

All that aside, I used the opportunity for this being the climax to really cut loose with both the action and the escalation. Of all the stories I've written, I'd imagine this one has the most explosions, the most intense and over the top swordfight, and the most bullets fired. there's even flamethrowers and grenades, I believe. You'll see just why there is so much carnage when you see what leads to it all happening, and where it ends.

There is also a surprise in this one for those who have been reading since I first started publishing, or maybe have read said older books. I've said before that a lot of what I write is more connected than you might figure, even if it isn't necessary to know that for full enjoyment, but I think this one might cause the most questions for anyone who has read me for any long period of time. What exactly is going on here?!

It all comes to a head in this one!

And that's where we'll end our discussion of Star Wanderers! As you can see, we have reached funding, but we are still currently on the way to our first major stretch goal. If we can hit it then that means more goodies for every backer who wants it, so be sure to tell everyone you know! I want to see it happen myself, after all.

Of course, as much as I am excited to get Star Wanderers out for you in as best a shape as it possible can be, I also have other projects I'm working on.

Though I don't want to fully reveal it until after the campaign is over, I can give you a short teaser of what's on the way. Not only that, I can do it in video form.

I shared with you some of the above AI images I played around with for the stories in this collection, but I haven't quite shown you some of the others I've used for my other works. Since there's so many, I put together a video, including a song I pulled out of Suno in order to match it called "Waiting for the Night." Yes, it's based on '90s House and old Eurodance. I think that's the genre that can best encompass the tone of most of the tales without jarring too much. Suffice to say, this was a lot of fun to put together.

You can see the full teaser here:

Feel free to download and use any images or even the song, if you wish. What is more important are the works themselves. I've got a few new things teased in the video that I cannot wait to show you in the near future.

As for the last revealed project in the video, it will come soon! The full unveiling will happen after the campaign. Until then, please help us to make Star Wanderers an even bigger success and the best it can be! You can back it here.

That's all for today! Thank you for all your support, have a good rest of your week, and I will see you sooner than later. You'll never quite know what is coming next!

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Weekend Lounge ~ Writing Odds & Ends

Welcome to the weekend!

For those who missed it, we reached funding on Star Wanderers with two weeks left on the campaign and are now working for stretch goal rewards for all readers. This means the more who back and the higher we go, the more extras every backer will receive. So if you haven't yet hopped aboard the space and sorcery train, now is your chance!

Of course, there is other recent news to go over. The above video features a rare interview with dynamite write of the mythic, Schuyler Hernstrom. There he talks about both his writing and what makes him tick as well as what his future plans entail, should he have the opportunity. Be sure to give it a watch and pick up his books if you have yet to. He is quite incredible and has a good deal to say.

Another recent project you might have missed was J. Manfred Weichsel's Sword & Scandal anthology project on Kickstarter. A short explanation: Weichsel is a controversial writer who tends to use explicit and dark material to bring greater light and clarification on issues you might not expect. While his work is not for everyone, and especially not the young, it is very unique and one of a kind. And now he is funding an anthology meant to bring others along for the ride. Be sure to give the campaign a glance. It's 1/3 funded already and on its way.

I would also be remiss to not bring up a new market for short stories. High Tower Magazine, a new project by several Superversive alumni, just recently started up. You can visit the site here and learn everything about who is involved and their submission guidelines. The goal is apparently to start out slow and roll out from there. Give it a look over and see if it's your thing. We need more markets for short stories, after all.

Lastly, author and musician David V. Stewart put out a video in his recent Writestream series that shows the step by step project on how to publish a book on Amazon. He also does it live, which makes it invaluable for those of you struggling to figure it out.

He also had a recent video revisiting his opinions on the influx of Boomer Hate, which is also worth the watch. It is not as simple as both the young and old think it is.

We talk a lot about generational theory, mostly how it works on a spectrum, but the overblown nature of those who both think stereotypes aren't real yet go out of their way to act them out in great detail says a lot about why these discussions exist in the first place. There is much more to this than the growing desire among many to become a living cartoon character, and it is good to have more discussions where self-awareness is brought to the forefront. Kayfabe is one thing, but playing a part that isn't you is a recipe for disaster.

To be honest, despite leaving the 2010s behind, many of us have either clung stubbornly to old ways that were already dead then, or have turned against all we once knew in an attempt to be some sort of pseudo-Gen X style snarky revolutionary from on one of those terrible streaming series that fall out of fashion every day. Neither is ideal, but it's also a complex topic many have been going over for years.

Regardless, that's all for this week! It's a bit light in quantity but not quality. There were at least a few things worth sharing as we passed the halfway point of Star Wanderers.

What is exciting is the recent weather shift around my area. The cold is finally starting to give way to warmth, which is good to see with summer on the way. We're about due for some nice weather around here, and I hope you're getting some wherever you are.

Have a good weekend and I will see you next week!

Thursday, May 9, 2024

What Ain't So

How does one fashion a future if the past build itself on lies? The answer is to dig until the truth is uncovered. Until then, we will be forever cursed to repeat the same mistakes.

Today we're going to swim in rough waters, so be aware of what you're getting into. At least it's going to be short and to the point this time.

The topic for today is the wonder and the fantastical, and how we've smothered it so successfully within the last half century. Not only that, but just about everyone involves fully admits there is a problem, but few wish to outright state where the issue stems from. I'm going to try to pin that down today, so be aware of controversial statements.

Let us start with the obvious issue: wonder restricted by systematic editorial pressure has been a net negative for writing. The battle to set up systems in wonder stories over the decades has been a problem for ages. It's also the strangest rabbit-hole I've ever gone down before in regards to writing and creativity, because it is obviously an incorrect approach, and no one will deny it. And yet, here we are in 2024 with a dead industry and a new one selling itself on not following those old mistakes that led to this mess.

This goes beyond "Science Fiction Doesn't Exist" and into something just as controversial: "Fantasy Doesn't Exist." If you thought future stories flew off the tracks back in the mid-20th century then you might not be surprised to learn the same about mythic stories of the past and tall fairy tales. However, it is the same mentality that led to the artificial division between the two and continues to stunt writers from aiming wider and connecting with where audiences are today.

We have to move beyond dead clichés formed over half a century ago and stop acting like they are eternal truths instead of what they were: marketing tools that no longer apply. Suffice to say, OldPub is dead, and so are their labels and categories. We're still figuring out just what that means.

If you're reading this, I assume you are aware of The Last Fanatics, the book I edited together from the post series here on Wasteland & Sky. What you might not know is that a good reason that series was originally written was because I was (and still am, honestly) trying to piece together and understand why modern storytelling is so at odds with the way it was done for thousands of years beforehand, and striving so hard even now to avoid connecting with normal folks. And no, "modern people be smarter now durr" is not a sufficient explanation for any change that has ever happened, it's a self-aggrandizing cope and a smokescreen for subversion.

I realize a lot of what I write on this topic either sounds hyperbolic or crude, but that is mostly because the resistance I've come across in regards to anyone who goes against the prevailing dead narrative is to be outright dismissed as if Canon Law had already declared the issue settled by people who never had authority in the first place. But not only has no such thing happened, the current state of the market is telling everyone that what we thought we understood, what we thought we had mastered, is incomplete at best and outright incorrect at worst. In other words, everything we knew isn't so, and we need to put aside ego and adapt.

This isn't to say I have all the answers, though obviously I think my opinions are right or else I wouldn't have them. The point is to look beyond sacred cows and golden idols and consider things from a bird's eye view. I understand this is difficult, but it's an honest conversation and back and forth that probably needs to happen before anything changes.

And we all know things as they are simply aren't sustainable. Memes and jokes aside, we do need a new approach divorced from the system that has already killed itself off. We should not strive down go down with that ship.

I want to talk about this topic because it is not only a sore point for a lot of older readers who grew up on the Way It Always Was (the "way" in question today which didn't exist before 1969), and those who want to push the "genre" into it's obvious conclusion (a systemic nightmare of political platitudes and overcooked tropes that barely go back to the 1990s), both of which ignore the oversized elephant in the room that this entire frame is busted in the first place.

"Fantasy" doesn't really have a meaning anymore that isn't vague or hinged on outdated mid-20th century tropes. And the distinction was only ever made by materialists who didn't want their grown-up science stories to mix in with childish make believe of silly nonsense that didn't correspond with Reality. When you consider that such meat robot thinkers barely exist anymore (read their genre of choice these days to see just how spiritual and religious they've become) and that it is the lowest selling "genre" today (which proves it does not connect with modern readers) and it is easy to come to the conclusion that something is off.

It is more than story quality, it is the human element. It no longer strikes at what is true to the modern man's condition. It is hinged a Fantasy/Science dichotomy that no longer exists. I know a lot of non-religious folks don't like it when I say this, but it is very clear from casual observation that materialists in the older sense are a dying breed.

Just as the stock geek crowd from 2013 no longer exists anymore, so too does the group that demands the material and the spiritual be cast off into their own ghettos have no power or relevance over the way things are today. In fact, sales show they should have been ignored even longer ago.

What is obviously unavoidable today is the entropy that modernity has been spending at least the last quarter century suffering under, which requires an honest critical reevaluation of what works and what doesn't. What was followed and left wanting, and what was abandoned without being tried. This is where a lot of folks will argue and split hairs, and it is where most of the dispute and heated opinions comes from. Fact of the matter is that where we are now is not sustainable and everyone knows it, so now it is time to see just where we skid off the road and learn what not to repeat--what we cannot afford to repeat any longer.

And some do not like that the pavement cracked on their favorite section of the highway. So I apologize for stepping on toes, but it's going to happen.

"Disney" is a catch-all for "Modern Fantasy"

The reason I attached the video about the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series at the top of the post is because I believe the line is part of the source of how we got off track and into the bunk genre distinction weeds. Much of the blame goes to Disney in how wonder stories were watered down over the past century, but little is mentioned on how the framing of a book line was used to manufacture a different Year One of its own sort. Mainly, it was used to spike the divide in adventure storytelling even further than it already had been with the death of the pulps.

For quick clarification, none of this blame goes to either Lin Carter or the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line itself: that is not what is on trial here. Mr. Carter's work was invaluable in salvaging work being buried by the modernist mechanized hell of then-modern publishing and keeping classics in print and in circulation long after Thor Power Tool demolished the market and modern media made reading look like a lame past time for sissies. The fact that the series still contains the best printed versions of many of the books in it is a testament to its quality--and further proof of the uselessness of the old industry in the ensuing years since.

What I am instead speaking of is the usual modern glorification of a puzzle piece at the expense of the greater picture. While too many treat Tolkien as Ground Zero of fantastical storytelling and use is every word and statement as gospel to follow unquestioningly, many others do the same to other writers, whether it be Martin, Jordan, or even Dunsany. That is fine in so much as everyone has a favorite writer they wish to learn from. When it becomes a problem is when one source or period is treated as all that matters in relation to the wider creative world.

Because, it should be reminded, creativity is the name of the game. If you don't think so then just use AI writing problems and model it off of your favorite 20th century writer. At that point, what's really the difference compared to how so many think things should be run today? We talk about artificiality being an issue then ignore that we've turned creativity into a trope checklist to be filed on shelves no reader is perusing anymore and wonder how everyone else has lost the plot.

It's called OldPub for a reason, and we are part NewPub for that very same reason. We are working to correct the mistakes we made, not repeat them.

We are deliberately playing in smaller and smaller sandboxes, breaking off away from the greater whole, and it is a problem that will only get worse the longer we turn away from each other and shrink into ourselves. We are always looking to build walls over the metaphysical and spiritual that we were never meant to build, and it has effected our understanding of older things that existed before our own borders sanctioned them off to begin with. We are still living off old mistakes not yet corrected.

And it is a problem. It is in fact the biggest problem we have today in regards to the writing world. You might complain about political or pseudo-religious nonsense filling the dying book store shelves and not being sold, but that was always the goal of an industry whose main purpose was to shape people the way the tastemakers decided they should be. It was always going to end this way. The question is how do you move on from it, because simply setting up in an earlier stage of an infection doesn't cure the disease. It will always end up in the same position again.

Let me try to frame this by using the above video example of a book line that is both important and has been slightly twisted from its original purpose. Please stay with me on this one.

The Ballantine Adult Fantasy line was not made to "establish" Fantasy as a genre, despite popular opinion. That is how it was used by tastemakers after the fact. Here is the ugly truth: the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series was made because of clubhouse materialists who thought Science was all that mattered and the immaterial was for deluded school children and slow-witted religious folk. I could give sources, but you can just read The Last Fanatics again and see their words about "Fantasy" for yourself. They absolutely believed that was true, and it took people like Lin Carter to show them they were wrong. The clubhouse kids and Futurians that were handed the industry are the ones who caused this unnecessary divide in the first place. The Ballantine line was created to contest these obviously wrong and ignorant views and show that there was value in what existed before Donald Wollheim spent the better part of a decade trying to destroy Hugo Gernsback because of an issue that didn't even matter. Little did Mr. Crater know, however, that his creation would lead to yet another mutation in the way things once were.

As a consequence to Carter's work, the conclusion was not that these old stories had value and should be treated with reverence and respect (though that was the intent), but that this was actually a completely separate genre of writing that new writers could follow if they wanted, but of course make sure it is systemized and modernized so that even materialists might indulge in this "Fantasy" fluff on a lark. In case you don't remember, this was John W. Campbell's original intent with Unknown magazine: to demystified the mystified. Keep it separated from the "real" stories while the psychic seers and technopriests are working on Fixing The World. The Science Club spent the back half of the 20th century trying to convince you that "Weird Tales was second to Unknown in influence" for that very reason. They needed it to be so.

The Ballantine Adult Fantasy line was therefore an excuse to fashion the separation the Fanatics had always desired, to define something that never needed to be defined. You could write this Nonsense, you just had to file it over there away from the Real books. They now needed this distinction, however, because modern materialists had taken over wonder stories and the industry itself. and now they had a special shelf to shovel it off onto. That was what they always wanted: to get rid of the old ways and defang it.

I do not wish to drag down the creator of the above video, but his confusion as the why GK Chesterton should be included in a "Fantasy" line when his book is closer to a "surreal spy thriller" is very much the point of this piece. Chesterton wasn't writing a "Fantasy" story or a "surreal spy thriller" or anything like that. He was writing an adventure story that took place in a nightmare world. No distinction needed to be made when he wrote it, and neither did those who read it thought so, but we need that distinction now because we lost some semblance of understanding of what this is all about. We lost ourselves along the way in trying to partition off and wall ourselves away from each other. Mr. Carter clearly understood that, because he included the book in his line for a reason. Unfortunately, we seem to have forgotten what they knew back then.

And so it is to this day that this separation in the "genres" exist that never had before the line was created. Every segment, idea, and approach, need be shuffled into its own designated quadrant never to meet again, and the technopriests can lead us to utopia in the mean time. This is how the industry was meant to go after the stumbling blocks of the late 20th century.

Until NewPub came around, that is.

Those writers and readers out there scratching their head on where to go next are beginning to understand the truth of the matter: the 20th century was wrong. What specifically it was wrong about, of course, is still not agreed upon nor where we should go in response to what has been learned. However, the answer most definitely does not lie in rehashing What Everyone Knows from said dead century, as it is very clear now that no one appeared to know anything--they were simply told what was so. And we cannot keep that charade up any longer.

The time for inflated egos, wild subversive mavericks of bad taste, and destructors ruling over the masses has come to an end. We are beyond that era, and it isn't coming back. Whatever comes next is still yet to be decided.

The reason we must reassess and reconsider our prior assertions on genres and creative boundaries is because we've already hit the limits on where those old ones could take us. You might say we could still do so much with those old ways so why abandon them, but I would say you could say the same about any era or trend. You can always do more, but you will never be able to do it all. That isn't quite how it works. We  don't choose when we leave one era for the next, it just seems to happen whether we are ready or not. And we can all tell we are entering new territory. We don't have any choice except to try and meet it head on.

This fear of the unknown is doubly bizarre in a sector that purports to understand the past and future better than any other, despite selling the least by far. We should have already seen these changes coming and prepared accordingly for what is on the road before us. Instead, we have dragged our feet for far too long and ignored the world spinning around us.

So what do we do? Just check out some of what NewPub has been up to in recent years. We're already on the way to whatever is coming next. We no longer need to pine for a past that rejected its own roots, or hope for an anti-human future that will never come.

Instead, we can accept what ain't so, and what one day will be. The 2010s are over. Let's just see where the 2020's will lead us now.

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Weekend Lounge ~ Cover Game

Welcome to the weekend!

The recent post on artificiality was a bit of a long and bizarre one, filled with examples of what constitutes "real" in regards to art. The past two decades of the 21st century has been spent reassessing what works and what doesn't, and now we're thinking over what we've lost and what we've gained along the way and what path we should make going forward. One thing we've learned is that the way things once were is no longer feasible going forward.

For an example on this, consider how different expectations of NewPub is compared to how the industry was only a decade ago. The above stream by author and musician David V. Stewart goes into modern cover design, including the AI topic, and how it has affected both the independents and the old industry and how much can be learned from the rapidly advancing technology. Also, on what priority should be given to design depending on how you wish to connect with readers.

If you wonder why book covers have become the way they are today then it is an informative stream. You might also why those who get their books illustrated still don't look like the old books you remember growing up with. Well, there's a good reason for that.

Anyway, it's a good stream with a lot of good advice. Definitely a recommended watch (or listen if you'd prefer) for weekend relaxing.

Another example I always bring up in regards to the way things once were was back when I first started looking into OldPub. About a decade ago, before I even published my first book, the minimum word count to even be considered by a publisher to look at your work was 100K words. The cap is now somewhere around 125k, here in the present. They won't admit it, but that was obviously done because of the results they got over the previous decade.

Unfortunately for them, it's not going to matter much.

On the other end of the creative spectrum, Alex from Cirsova was recently on The Gutter talking about Leigh Brackett, CL Moore, and space adventure, as well as Star Wanderers!

Check it here:

It's a good discussion on what made the pulps so good and what we can learn from them going forward in the future.

This is where it should be mentioned that Star Wanderers not only cracked 90 backers but is less than $250 from reaching our goal! If we can hit the $2500 funding point then we can work on stretch goals to give backers more goodies on top of the book and the soundtrack. We're very close, and it's all thanks to you!

That's all for this weekend. It's been quite a rollercoaster of a campaign so far. Let's see how high we can reach!

Thursday, May 2, 2024

What's Really Going On

Ever wake up in the morning,
New ideas with no warning,
Now you know what that's like:
It feels like this!
~ Assorted Jelly Beans, "Booshduckdow"

One of the main problems today is that no one is one the same page. Not only that, it feels as if nobody wants to be on the same page, constantly backbiting and sabotaging each other over petty disagreements over even basic word definitions.

How can we live together when we can't even communicate with each other? How can one build anything off of a relationship that cannot ever grow? Why does it also feel sometimes as if this never seems to get better?

Will it always be like this?

Every day it feels like a new piece of our lives is being mashed into one artificial algorithm in order to shuffle this failing modernity into one particular funneled direction. Of course, it's true, but there was a time when they weren't so obvious about these changes. Perhaps that's just the natural state of things when entropy is involved, but there is no longer any subtlety to the decline going on when even the most delusional lovers of destruction need to take pills in order to ignore it.

At the same time as all of this, however, is the plentiful amount of scapegoating and pointless battle lines being drawn over nothing. It is almost as if everyone knows there is a problem, cannot allow themselves to define it, and then therefore look for an easier target they can control and take that down in its stead.

Take the recent spree of AI "invading" modern artforms and supposedly putting creators of all stripes out of work and devaluing the sanctity of Human Art by turning it into a mechanized belt-line of product. This AI monster has striped the sovl out of creation and made Art about producing content to satiate the fickle masses. How could the machines do this? Everything but art was supposed to be mechanized!

You might be nodding your head to this line of reasoning, but before you continue down this road, I want you to look up what internet creators call themselves these days, regardless if they're streamers, video makers, or just general entertainers. You've probably already heard the phrase before: they call themselves Content Creators. Why do they use that term? Because that's their job: pumping out Content to satiate an artificial algorithm for consumers that want a constant drip feed of entertainment pumped into their veins like morphine. This is what these Content Creators treat their vocations as: mere appeasement to satisfy an algorithm that cares nothing for them and can throw them away at any moment.

Now pair the above two paragraphs together into one cogent thought. Do you see how this landscape was created? Who was it that demanded it be this way? The creation of AI did not lead to artificiality; the elevation of artificiality lead to the creation of AI.

For as long as I've been alive, expectations around arts and entertainment have changed constantly, and not for the better. Audiences have repeatedly demanded both the bare minimum (hitting specific fetish checkboxes) at the same time as requesting the maximum (jangled key subversion) which severely limit what any creator can do. This has lead to corporations such as Disney and Sony to create entire advertising campaigns predicated on online bots (it doesn't even matter if they're human anymore, to be honest) to disparage and rile up audiences to get the correct ingroup to consume their product while pointing fingers at the outgroup and assuring you the corporation is on your side. It feels good to be on the good guy's side, after all!

If this sounds completely ridiculous that's because it is. It's also unsustainable because it goes against the original purpose of art: it is the opposite of communication. It is turning creation into a farce with no purpose behind it except some combination of ideological subversion and extra pocket change. Though when Fanatics are involved, it always leans more to the former.

The question we need to start asking is what is going on here. What are we creating for, and what are we taking in these creations for. If it's just to pump out and consume content then we don't need people for that. Objectively, we don't. It is then a disposable job that doesn't need human input at all. We can just build machines to inject that bare minimum into our veins whenever we want. This is more or less what all creation has become, after all. All we have to do is lower (or let others lower) or standards and accept the bare minimum.

Who cares about uplifting themes, creativity, cogent worldbuilding, or consistency, when you can enjoy more things by pretending they don't matter? That way you can consume more! Isn't that clever! (And convenient for those in charge, but I digress.)

As an example, take this song I cobbled together in a the Suno AI program called "Cultural Ground Zero" that I made for fun. In fact, I did it twice to help prove my point. Follow me here, I assure you this will make sense.

All I did was both generate and write some lyrics, decide the music genre being third wave ska, and specified the general song structure and the AI just slapped it together. I just wanted a short goofy little song I could imagine in Tony Hawk Pro Skater or the like back in the day, and that is exactly what I got.

The program created this:

The first one created with the prompt

The second one with the same prompts

Did you listen to them? They sound like 1990s ska tunes, don't they? Surely this means musicians are in danger, right? Well, hold on a moment. You might think that if you don't know much about the genre besides how stale it got in the 2000s. (Honestly think these are somehow more creative than some of the boring stuff I heard in the '00s and '10s though.) But if you legitimately enjoy the genre, you would understand how they fall short.

My personal opinion on these tracks: they're fine. As someone who has repeatedly said third wave ska is one of his favorite genres, this hits all the tropes. It does exactly what I want the algorithm to do and delivers the bare minimum to reach it. To be honest, it's just as good as a lot of the genre is these days. Why? Here is where we get into the weeds.

My issue with the genre today is people want to write to tropes instead of writing songs, and it's been a problem in the genre since the 2000s. That's because people who want to write third wave ska songs today will write "third wave ska songs" and check trope boxes off to slap together an acceptable genre song. They themselves are already doing the same thing the above AI is doing. At that point, why do I need any human input? Humans were not made to check boxes in order to create. They were made to create, period.

In other words, what they do is barely any different to what AI does. The "human touch" or whatever weak qualifier you want to give them is irrelevant: nothing is really being expressed musically other than wanting to fit in a box to get content out. Back in the day you wanted to make sure your CD was put in the right corner of the store, after all. Wouldn't want to stumble into something original you didn't expect.

There isn't any difference to what a lot of creativity arguments boil down to today. The change is that today there is a thankfully shrinking demographic of consumers who desire only check box entertainment, and now they have a toy they can use to give that to them instead of making human beings do that waste of time for them. If these AI programs threaten what you do, then what you do is simply not very good.

To contrast the above example, I want you to listen to keep the above AI songs in mind, then listen to the one just below with your headphones on. Whether it's your genre of choice or not, I want you to hear it for several reasons. The main one being that the below comes from when the genre actually was at its peak in popularity and the song is not even a well known example of the genre or from one of the popular bands of the time. I want to make this contrast because you need to understand just how different a checkbox creation is compared to a piece of art made for specific purpose, even an obscure one that was never even popular in its day.

The song is called "Entry Level Positions" by Assorted Jelly Beans from 1998, a third wave ska punk trio that put out only two albums and are almost unknown today. The album it comes from, What's Really Going On!?!, was a huge step up from their 1996 self-titled debut (here's an example of what that sounded like), and is still one of my favorites from the genre a quarter of a century later. Despite the year it came out, it points out and criticizes the decay of Cultural Ground Zero, and the decay going on.

Listen to this ditty here: [Warning: It's loud!]

[Trivia: their drummer is now in The Aquabats]

Did you hear it? Then maybe you already see the differences. Ska punk existed to make the audience move, whether by dancing or shuffling, it wanted you to move. The band uses every trick up its sleeve, inspired by both 1980s-era punk rock and 1990s-era ska to get you to do that.

The song is messy and overwhelming, yes. That is the point. But a close listen reveals a unique song structure and lyrics interwoven with the composition, sound effects and vocal tricks (where did this go in rock music?), and even a unique usage of a horn section (which sound almost like traffic noises) that the band only ever employed on one other song.

"Entry Level Positions" matches the albums intent to replicate a full collapse with tracks that feel like the band could fall apart at any moment to match the state of the modern world itself. Listen to the song a second time more closely and you can easily tell the difference between this and an AI song. There is simply too much here for an AI to replicate. That is because this song, even made by a nearly unknown band and one of their lesser known tracks, is much more than the bare minimum.

It should also be reminded that this song came out when the genre was at its commercial peak. This was being released the same time No Doubt, Sublime, and the Might Mighty Bosstones were selling millions of records, and this band even played on stage with some of them. This creative track and sound was made with the intent to reach as many people as possible, not to chase away "normies" or something stupid like that.

This was not a purposeful rejection of commercial aspirations usually reserved for when a subculture begins its fall from grace--in fact there's a good chance a lot of people heard this album back then and liked it. Commercial peaks come when something is at its creative peak, not before or after. This means groups like Assorted Jelly Beans were still playing pop music aimed at people who wanted to hear the genre. There is no faux rebellion playing into a rejection of false crowds.

For art to connect, it must be aimed at the largest number of people who want to engage with it. It should not deliberately shun people.

To be fair, the album is about how culture is in freefall and crumbling apart and trying to figure it all out. And because this was before Blue Team Good, Red Team Bad thinking that mentally stunted the genre a mere handful of years later, you end up with a message that resonates just as much today as it did back then and to far more people. Though I bet the band would have preferred if the song were dated instead. Nonetheless, even ska punk bands would devolve into weaponizing their music in mere years after this released, sealing their genre into ghetto status and putting out the bare minimum for people who wanted just that. Creativity did not flower in this down period when normal people left. It never does.

On the other hand, the band's most popular song, "Rebel Yell", which is probably known most for being in a Tony Hawk Pro Skater video game, is more or less about this poisonous artificiality of creating product despite the fact that art itself is actually incredibly dangerous and powerful on its own. It can warp and change who you are. Given what the album is about, these two songs form the picture of an art world very rapidly losing its footing and understanding the purpose of expression and connection. It's a very important message lost in the growing sea of Content, even more so that we're a quarter of a century removed from that old era.

And as a result these songs sound like them. the band. I recommend the album, but it's really for aficionados who already like the genre, as it's not very accessible stuff overall. It could only have come out when the genre was flowering with popularity and attention. Regardless, they get across what they want to get across via their very unique approach and sound. But this is what we engage in art and entertainment to do: connect with the artist and maybe come to a clearer understanding of them, our neighbors, the universe, and ourselves, through it. You are not getting that experience by creating content for robots to shovel out into a perfect package for consumption.

The above music is a nearly unknown song by a nearly unknown band, and not even their most well known piece, and it still blows away the AI examples I used before it. The problem in this scenario, however, is not the AI or that it exists to begin with: it's that the audience has been trained to want checkbox content and artificial filler dressed in the right clothes. They want that more than they desire creativity.

This didn't start with AI, and it's not going to end there.

Artists, for instance, have been going ballistic over the recent strides in image generator AI to give more of less basic pictures for people who put in prompts. For a while, there were those running around screaming that their world was falling in on them. If you even so much as looked at one of these generators, they would destroy you. A bit hyperbolic, but it was over the top, and still is at times. Some people were really scared of these things, you see.

Again, if you wish to only produce the bare minimum, then sure, your job might be in danger from these things. If you have something to say, though? You have nothing to worry about. Just as the above example, so it is here.

First, before we go further, let me give you an example.

I've used AI image generators both for memes and for fun. I've yet to use it officially for any project, and I probably won't at this stage. The reason for that is because, while it works for silly images, or vague setting concepts and stray ideas I want to see before me, it's not really for much beyond that. I guess it might help for animators who use their own style and process, but for static images it has little use right now.

You might have, for instance, seen my cover for Y Signal. I used a free photo from Pixabay and edited the image myself, adding in my own font and filters to make it look like the cover it is today. For the story it is I can't really imagine a different cover. The book is very bizarre, after all. I couldn't even conceive of how an illustrator could get the vibe I wanted from the story. That said, I think it works very well.

Y Signal can be found here!

Most of my books use hired illustrators because they are action stories, but this one has a different focus, which required a different sort of cover. I prefer a design that looks rough and worn, much like my stories are. I can't get that with prompts. I need to batter it in myself to get the exact result I want. If someone else used this image for their own story, it probably would look very different from this. That's how it should be.

As a result, I banged out a cover that I've been told is great. It required a lot of finagling on my part, but it came out great and I'm glad others see it that way. All of the covers I've made, illustrated or not, have a lot of touchups made by me to get them just right for readers. I want them to be aesthetically pleasing, but also to match the quality of the writing inside. Therefore they have to be equal. My covers, in other words, take a long time to craft, just like my stories.

I want to give people a reason to pick up a physical version, after all. There is no sense slacking on one area of the process.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have played around with image generators for fun. I generated some pictures of my main characters from Y Signal as I think they might look back in the year of 1995. Why? Because it was fun. It was a bare minimum prompt made to give me the bare minimum in return. And I don't really think there's anything necessarily wrong with goofing around like that.

At the end of the day, it's just a tool and that means it can be used for anything. And that's just what I did.

Here are the pictures I generated did for Y Signal:

From L to R: Danny, George, Ray, and Andrew

George, Ray, Danny, and Andrew, from the 90s in Y Signal

Pretty nice overall, I think.

I had the idea of putting out a '90s anime design of the characters of my story that takes place in the 90s and wanted to see how that would look. It was a silly and simple idea, so I decided to just go for it and see how it would turn out. Feel free to enjoy it. The image is just meant to be a toss-off. It's simple and I like it.

As a cover to the book, though? No, it doesn't fit. The story is oddly dark and dangerous, and this is just a random slice of life scene with the four friends portrayed in the style of certain media at the time. It's not meant to express anything, just be a goofy lark for myself and anyone who enjoyed the book. And I like it for that.

This is also why the cries of the crowd that demand AI be "turned off" as if it were a spigot falls on deaf ears. These AI generators are not meant to make serious art: they are meant to create content, which is a perfectly fine thing to do--even better because artists no longer have to waste their time doing it. Instead of Content Creation they can now focus on expression and communication through art and entertainment. The bare minimum is now covered and audiences can now fulfil that novelty for themselves. Artists are now called to higher things and don't need to waste their time on what they never needed to in the first place.

We aren't talking about Progress or Retvrning or any such romantic notion. It is simply that we have created technology meant to deal with busywork which should leave artists free to indulge more in creativity and out-there ideas, the kind that cannot be pumped out by algorithm keywords or just general plagiarism. Artists are now free from the shackles of having to stick to the bare minimum in order to survive, and now need to go all out in order to reach people instead. This is a good thing, in the end.

For one last example, let us talk about the current crowdfunding campaign my book is a part of (yes, very coincidental!) in order to really discuss how the sausage is made.

A few years back, I wrote a story called "Cold Heart of Ouranos" and submitted it to what was then the Planetary Anthology series. It came out and was well liked despite production issues the publisher was going through. Slowly, as I wrote it, I got a greater vision as to what the bigger story was. It turned out to be the first chapter in a four part cycle each based on the seasons that I called Star Wanderer. The second tale I wrote was called "Judgement Sun" which was also submitted and accepted to the Planetary Anthology series. It was not long after at this point I had the four parts imagined and sketched out.

Around the same time I began a separate series called Galactic Enforcer starring Ronan Renfield, a space cop that ends up in over his head in the Unknown constantly invading his life. "Golden Echoes" ended up being published by StoryHack and "Dead Planet Drifter" ended up being published by Cirsova, but both series were developed at the same time.

It then became clear to me that these weren't all that separate after all and, much like CL Moore and Henry Kuttner did with "Quest of the Starstone" ages ago, I realized these two characters were actually even more closely intertwined than I first thought. So while Star Wanderers might be thought of as a "fix-up novel" in that old sense, it's not really one. It was more that the bigger story unveiled itself as I went along until I wrote out the last story myself. That's not an experience an AI can replicate, nor could it anticipate where the book goes by the end of it, never mind where I will go in the future. Because I will do more in the future.

If you've read any of the stories I've put out in this series before then you know these are different enough even from the other material I've released that they are difficult to classify. As a result I knew I would need some help putting this book together.

Enter Cirsova.

For those unaware, Cirsova is one of the leading publishers of modern short stories of the weird and the thrilling and has been doing so since 2015. Since they published one of these tales, I knew they would be the best ones to help me get this out to as many readers as possible. Therefore I approached them with the plan for the project.

I also wanted a cover that made the weirdness of space cops and lone knights caught between the world of crime and the Unknown and what lies in that gap. Therefore we requested the services of artist Anton Oxenuk, someone who can get into that vibe unlike few others I've seen. You've seen the result, and that's the cover for the campaign:

Art by Anton Oxenuk!

As one can see, that's not the sort of art one can get out of typing in some prompts. The otherworldly quality as well as the fast-paced action could only be expressed with a cover like the above. It was especially made to hit a specific vibe to give an idea of the stories awaiting you inside. And that's what a cover is meant to do.

At the same time as this I also wanted to add a little bit extra to backers of the campaign. Despite the crazy stories and killer cover, I was thinking about the possibility of a sort of soundtrack companion to the book. How many mediums can we dip into at once?

What I decided to do was commission the crazed creator (what else do you call this man?) named Jacob Calta who knocked out two songs based on the story, each centered around a different main character. I guess I could have gone into the above song generator and did it that way, but it wouldn't really be what I wanted or what the stories deserved. I needed a composer who understood what I wanted to get across and could reach for it. That is exactly what happened, and you can hear the songs by backing the campaign today.

This wouldn't have been possible if I didn't want to make this the best campaign it could be, and if I didn't choose to get the right people involved. And that's what makes all the difference. Thanks to this, within a week of launching, we reached $2000 of our initial $2500 goal. And now we've even got some stretch goals lined up!

None of this would have been possible with both the backers and the people helping me with this campaign.

Check out the soundtrack companion in the campaign!

All that aside, you understand the central point being made. There is more to art than gimmicks and tropes. There is a specific point to creating beyond Pumping Things Out. There are reasons and purpose to everything, even if we always seem to lose it in the weeds.

If we want to make a real change for the future, it will have to in our expectations for what art actually is and what we want from it. No more can we continue to expect and desire the lowest common denominator because we want to mindlessly consume. There is more to art than that, just as there is in life.

Thankfully, this isn't 2014 anymore. Just as it's not 2004, or 1994, or the much desired 1984. We are in 2024, and the tides have shifted. We have decided to no longer let things continue to crumble and instead fight for something more.

We might not all be on the same page, but we'll get there eventually. Times are already no longer what they once were and we are quickly learning what it takes to move in the right direction. It might have taken a bit longer than some of us would have liked, but there is no avoiding it. The '20s are a period of shift and we're living through it now.

Where we'll be in a few years, who knows. For now, lets appreciate what we got and what is coming over the horizon.

If you listen closely, you can almost hear it!

All this time spent running around
And still searching for something that can never be found
Still looking for these answers, still looking for yourself
The answer's not in me, and it's not up on a shelf


I know you want it bad, something you've never had
Stardom made you a man, you can't fool all the fans
I wanna hear a song I could stand listening to
Maybe see something that I could believe in

So sing a song, sing it loud
Maybe someone in the crowd will understand
(It's all about running from the gaping mouth!)
So sing a song, sing it loud
Maybe someone in the crowd will understand
(It's all about running from the gaping mouth!)

The spotlight's shining (heard you had something to say)
The hourglass is pouring, your boring crowd fades away
The spotlight's shining (heard you had something to say)
The hourglass is pouring, your boring crowd fades away

So . . .

Soundlessly, you think you're new
Your fifteen minutes was yesterday
The flavor of the minute now tastes like shit
So now just try to deal with it
And now you think you are the one
Why go on? 'Cause all your fun has come and gone
And now you want to hear that song
The one that they just play too long
Too long
Same song
Too long

Alright, listen up
'cause I'm only going to say this once
Everything you've heard by now is a lie pretty much
The TV stimulates your mind, but it makes you feel controlled
This music thing's so powerful, it can fill an empty soul

And you know this

And you know it's gotta go

American Dream, isn't what it seems
Money and Fame, it's only in your dreams

So take a step back, and take a look around
You got the Rebel Yell, but you haven't made a sound

No sound.