Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Wasteland & Sky: Best of 2017 Planetary Awards Nomination

It's that time of year again, the time for nomination for the Planetary Awards! Here's where we vote for the best of the best for 2017 as a whole in two categories. I'm finding it a bit difficult to choose nominees as so many good works.

2018 should prove to be even better with both the Pulp Revolution and Superversive stepping on the gas. But until then we should take a look back at some of the stories we might have missed this year. High quality material was everywhere.

Without further ado, here are my nominees.

Shorter Work

"Death on the Moon" by Spencer E. Hart

For short fiction I'm going to be a contrarian this year and vote for Death on the Moon by Spencer E. Hart from Cirsova Issue #6. This was a delight of a sci-fi detective noir that gave me everything I want in a short story. It was a bit overlooked this year, but I think it deserves a second look.

Longer Work

"Good to the Last Drop" by Declan Finn

This series was a pleasant surprise from start to finish. As someone who likes mystical and legendary creatures like vampires and werewolves, it was hard to find stories where they weren't neutered or softened in image.

But the Love At First Bite books managed two tricks. It blended genres effortlessly and raised stakes believably through four books while at the same time opening the world up to an apocalyptic-like ending which contrasted quite a deal with its humble beginnings. If there was any justice, these books would have been optioned for film adaptions by now.

Good to the Last Drop was easily the best of the bunch, and that is a great thing to say when talking about a series.

As it is, it was my most enjoyed read of 2017. Don't pass this series up!

And that's my take on best of 2017. What's yours?

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Cirsova Double Review!

It's been a while since I covered Cirsova. This is mostly down to having such a packed 2017 but also because I had so much to read. After that giant double issue review it just took me a while to work my way back to it. But I managed. That out of the way, I'm going to start this review with issue #5!

Issue #5 was different for Cirsova as it was the special Eldritch Earth volume. Here the main theme was, you guessed it, Lovecraftian abominations in the distant past where the world is a much different place. This initiative was started by Misha Burnett, author extraordinaire as well as writer for one of the stories here. What all this does is give issue 5 a much different feel from the others as it has a strong horror tone throughout where almost every tale is just dripping with ephemeral terror and eerie monsters out of Lovecraft's warped imagination.

These are hard stories to review individually because they all blend together in style. It is not an insult to the authors, as this is a theme they are following, but most had the same atmosphere and dour ending that it made it hard for me to distinguish which ones stood out more overall. Brian K. Lowe contributed two stories (War of the Ruby and Shapes in the Fog) which respectively set the tone and wrap up the theme, so I will point to him for the highlights and for catching the general mood.

If I do not come across as enthused, it is only because my interest in Lovecraft is not as strong as it probably should be. This is not a slight against the stories in this style. I enjoyed them all, and found myself on the edge of my seat wondering how they would end. If you are a Lovecraft fan, you will certainly enjoy the lot. Eerie settings, doomed protagonists, and more intangible monstrosities than you can shake a dead albino supergenius at. This is a definite step up from #4 making #5 is a return to form issue.

There's also a novella by Schuyler Hernstrom. If you've ever read anything by him, then you already know what you're in for, but if not, then let me set the stage for you. A warrior has lost his love and must travel a dangerous land and consult a "sorcerer" to help get her back. But will his journey be worth the risk of a price higher than death? Suffice to say, the journey for the reader is definitely worth it.

It goes without saying that Mr. Hernstrom's story was easily my favorite in the issue. It's a good old fashioned adventure tale with excellent action and intriguing world-building. His stories are always my favorite in Cirsova, and this was no different. It's also a long one!

Unlike issue #4 where there were a handful of stories that did nothing for me (including one I outright disliked) there was nothing here that turned me away. As a full issue, this is the strongest since #3, and probably the third best overall.

Pick it up!

But we're not done yet.

Issue #6 closes off Cirsova's 2017 output with another strong entry. The first three stories in particular had me reeling. The Last Job on Harz and Death on the Moon are detective stories in space and The Battlefield of Keres is a fantasy adventure with a horror bent. The issue is worth the price for these three stories alone. They had me hooked from start to to finish and were exactly the type of tales I come to Cirsova for.

But that isn't to sell the remaining stories short. Every one of these is strong. Kurt Magus returns with another exciting Othan story and Harold. R. Thompson gives up Temple of the Beast, an adventure story with a deadly creature and a heartbreaking betrayal. And this issue even includes another Adrian Cole "Dream Lords" tale which, as you can imagine, is incredible on its own. This issue is a bounty of riches.

#6 concludes with another delicious entry in James Hutchings' My Name is John Carter epic poetry piece and a second novelette. The novelette is another delight from Abraham Strongjohn, the long awaited sequel to his story At the Feet of Neptune's Queen from issue one. This is a perfect piece to end on, coming full circle from where it started in the first release. This one was thrilling from start to finish.

Actually, the whole issue was.

Issue #6 was a pure delight from page 1 with various different styles of action tales that kept me entertained. As a whole, this is the best issue of Cirsova so far. Every story was as good as the last and is as great the magazine gets. Were you to pick up one issue of the lot, I would suggest this one.

And there you have it. Two great issues from a year that contained much fiction well worth your time. 2017 was a good year for stories, and Cirsova was a big part of it. Wonder, action, mystery, dread, and romance fill every page of these issues. The pulps are back.

You can find issue #5 here and issue #6 here.

I highly anticipate Cirsova's 2018 work. They have their work cut out for them after their last strong year!

For that, you can check out their Kickstarter here.

I'm currently writing action stories of my own. You can read one of them right now!

Monday, 1 January 2018

2018 is Here!

This is a post I wanted to write to go over the last year of this blog and put everything in perspective. From what I recall 2017 was a wild, wild year.

I was just coming off of the release of Knights of the End and pleased that I finally put out a work I could be proud of. However, it wasn't a clear path from then on. I spent the rest of the year putting what I learned from the Pulp Revolution and the Superversive movement to work in my own writing and ended up not putting out nearly as much as I would have hoped to. Too much time was spent on rewrites! But that can also be explained by some real life mishaps that simply got in the way. It happens.

Still, my 2017 can best be described by one of the first posts I put up this year which was Selective Memory: An Appendix N Post, about the ever-controversial subject (for reasons I still do not understand) of Dungeons and Dragons and its undeniable influence on pop culture and storytelling over the decades. My takeaway from the whole project was that what came before us is valuable and worth exploring instead of destroying the past like certain elitist fandoms would prefer. I also learned that I really liked reading this material, so much so that most of my reads this year were split between old pulp works and modern PulpRev output.

From what I can tell, 2017 is the year the Pulp Revolution really began to take off. Many writers released their own works and created a unique ecosystem of crazy fun fiction that made it hard to keep up with. At the same time, traditional publishing put out near nothing of note. Not a good look for them. If 2017 was anything, it was the year of PulpRev.

January was also the month I began Grey Cat Blues which finally, after so many setbacks, released in December. If you want to know why it took so long to come out, well, it wasn't the only thing I was spending 2017 on, as you will see.

February was the month I saw the one film worth paying money for in 2017 and covered the downfall of Japan's Dragon Magazine, one of the most influential pulp-style manga and light novel magazines. It was at this point that the disappointment of modern pop culture was getting to me. Things actually were getting worse. It wasn't just in my head. But I was still writing and hoping to put my own pop culture out there at the same time

This year I took Lent off the blog and social media to focus on writing and got quite a bit done including the first draft of Grey Cat Blues and several short stories. I'll probably be taking another absence again in 2018. But I did make a few posts, including one for my first published short story, Someone is Aiming For You, in the Superhero Anthology by the Crossover Alliance. It was also published again in Paragons by Silver Empire later in the year.

At this time I made a behind the scenes decision to change the focus of my writing to focus on submitting several short stories to different anthologies. All except one was eventually accepted to where they were submitted, but in retrospect I should have focused on getting Grey Cat Blues out instead. The stories ultimately wouldn't release for much longer than I should have been comfortable with and as a consequence my presence was not as out front as it should have been.

So March was productive, and it wasn't. That's the best way to explain it.

However, April also ended up being one of the most productive months on the blog. Many of these posts where shared all over social media, even from people who have never read or shared my posts before. This was the month my traffic really began its climb.

My post on Comic Books came out just as the industry's madness became well known to everyone, I began my four part series on good anime, and I finished off the month with a post focused on the most important topic of entertainment and the arts: entertaining the audience. I suppose being offline for as long as I was gave me plenty of time to think in between drafts.

May was mainly spent on offline problems, but I did put out my second and third posts on my anime series, and another one on self-awareness killing entertainment. At the same time I shelved another novel I was working on for many reasons, which killed a lot of my productivity and wasted too much time. That isn't something I'm going to do again.

But the blog kept doing well.

June was a lighter month with my finishing off my anime series, and writing what might be my most personal post, and an update post regarding book 2 of Knights of the End which ended up getting pushed back indefinitely after I realized I wasted too much time sitting on Grey Cat Blues and getting short stories written and submitted to anthologies. At the same time I began work on another new project. Again, this was clearly the weakest part of my year. I should have absolutely had more released than I ended up releasing.

July ended up being a big event in my offline life, and taking up most of my time. Coupled with the paragraph above and you can see that I definitely wasted too much time. I finished up on Grey Cat Blues, waiting for my editor to have a spare moment, and started on another book I hope to have out in the first quarter of 2018. On the other hand, the blog did have my post on Shonen and its undeniable influence which is one of my favorite posts.

But then August got everything back on track and it has been only going uphill ever since. I posted my single most popular post ever on this blog centered on the End of Pop Culture and I finished Grey Cat Blues and gave it to my editor and wrote another short story in a sitting and got it back from my second editor. Thanks, Brian! My update post clears everything up. I also started working on the Cannon Cruisers podcast with a friend of mine which ended up being a good outlet for movie watching this year. Blog posts were mostly reviews outside my tribute post to the massively underrated Brave Fencer Musashi, though this was the month I got a ton of writing done, including submitting Lucky Spider's Last Stand in pulp speed (I spent one afternoon and night writing and editing it) to the PulpRev Sampler.

September continued on with me finishing the first draft of my novel (still need to get back to it, and will do so very soon!) and began the final edits on Grey Cats Blues. I also put up a series of popular posts centered on the limits of superpowers, the arrogance of modern creators and critics, a post on the fracturing of shared culture, and one on the real reason the X-Men were popular.

Then as things got better, they also got odd.

October was a frustrating month. Grey Cat Blues was completely finished, but all sorts of outside factors led it to being delayed until December. I spent a lot of time arguing with several people about dumb things on top of it and wasting my time. Not again. But we finally got Cannon Cruisers off the ground, and I did get stories released in two different anthologies this month including Paragons and the PulpRev Sampler. I ended the month better than it started, but not getting the book out when it should have been really soured the mood.

In November I finally revealed Grey Cat Blues and spread the word on the vital RetroWave scene. There was also a very popular post the shallowness of modern culture which wasn't spurred on by nothing.

Things were going really well. They only got better.

I also sort of participated in National Novel Writing Month. By which I mean I didn't really take part. I started about halfway through the month on a new novel and went through to the halfway mark of December. Since I was trying to get my novel out at the time and was frustrated editing so much material that wasn't seeing the light of day I took a small break to work on something new as I was waiting for outside forces to catch up to me. The plan was to write 30,000 words of a new project in a month to which I succeeded. I then spent the rest of December finishing the draft and went back to editing previous projects again.

And December was a big month in that I finally released Grey Cat Blues on the public. It outsold Knights of the End quickly and got positive word of mouth. You have no idea the size of the weight that lifted off of me when I finally got it out. Even after I had to go back and forth with amazon to finally put out the paperback for such a silly reason that eventually ended up getting solved by them in one afternoon. It took much too long.

I also put out a post on the state of anime in 2017 and another very popular post spurred on by a really bad year for Hollywood about the loss of common sense on storytelling. These helped cap off a a year that was better to me than I was to myself.

Looking back on it, I can't help but be surprised at how good it really was.

So at the end of the day, 2017 led me to release a new novel and three short stories despite writing over twice (and nearly three times) that amount of material. I actually wrote 3 novels and 6 short stories, which was triple my previous year. I'm hoping to release that much this year and not spend so much time on revisions. 2018 will be even better.

But that's not to sell 2017 short. The blog grew by leaps and bounds, I started a podcast and released a book, I met a lot of really good folks, and learned a lot. As much as 2016 was better than 2015, 2017 was even better. Any problems I had with it are of my own doing. There is a lot of good to talk about, and I think I did so in this post.

Thank you for reading Wasteland & Sky, and I hope you stick with me as we continue into 2018. It's going to be a good year.

In case you missed it, you can check out my most recent work. I can promise it was a lot of fun to write and just as fun read.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Rock n Roll is Dead! Long Live the Dead!

Take a few breaths and calm yourself to this

I tend to avoid talking about music on this blog for two reasons. The first is that it is easily the least popular topic and garners the least amount of attention, and the second is that it's just very subjective. I don't know anyone with similar musical tastes to each other let alone mine. Discussing sound is difficult outside of prose, especially when you're talking about a song you like and someone else just might not care for.

This is different. I want to talk about the dumbest music related quote I've seen in years. And if you've ever seen some of the stupid things record executives had said since they destroyed their industry back in 1998 then you know how idiotic it must be.  And in an industry that houses Ariana Grande and Katy Perry, and their millions of clones, that says a lot .No one takes these people seriously anymore, and for good reason. Whether you like Pop, Jazz, Metal, Rock, Rap, Classical, or Funk, I think we can all agree things in the industry are not looking up.

Ready for this quote? Your brain will not be able to handle this level in inane blather.

Though I suppose if you still listen to Pop music in 2017 you're probably already brain damaged to begin with. How many times can you listen to the same stale beats and hack lyrics, anyway?

Here it is.

Someone actually thought this was an important thing to say in Current Year. Someone thought this was worth saying. This is absolutely real.

Now I'm no genius but I think anyone who has turned on a radio or MTV in the last 50 and 30 years respectively (whoever there is still doing so) would be hard-pressed to tell you a single female pop star who doesn't write about the topic of sex. Because they all do. All the time. Incessantly. Without pause.

And yet this sort of thing is still said all the time. Is there an industry more out of touch with reality than this one?

But, you see, this industry is full of Important People who have Important Things To Say and we will cheer them on and swallow whatever they tell us no matter how objectively retarded it is, and how often it has been repeated, because they give us peasant ear candy that make us smile. They are above you and me. At least, that's what the record labels tell me. I haven't bought an album from them in well over a decade so you can forgive me if I'm a bit out of touch with their stagnant and unchanging practices. So little ever changes even after so many decades.

Because nothing in this festering boil of an industry has changed one bit in at least two decades. And I'm being very generous with that number.

Let's disregard the fact that all modern female pop stars are interchangeable. Let''s ignore the reality that mainstream music hasn't changed one iota since 1998 and is still praised as revolutionary by the hacks in the music press. Let's forget that Gangsta rap has left the world worse off both culturally and sonically and yet is still praised for recycling the same three topics ad nauseum after a quarter of a decade into its existence. Let's just bypass the uncomfortable truth that Kurt Cobain and Thom Yorke destroyed rock music with their terrible influence and obnoxious, holier-than-thou fans. Forget all that for a moment. All of that has contributed to the death of the music industry, but there's more to it than just that.

How out of touch with your own industry do you have to be to believe this? How dumb do you have to be to not know that hack musicians (and some good ones) have been writing solely about sex since the industry began? Name me a single female Pop singer with a hit from the last decade that that isn't about sex in some fashion. You can't unless you want to be pedantic. Because that's all they write about!

What else do modern female Pop singers sing about? What 95 Theses are they nailing to the door of their precious industry? What revolutionary message do they have to share with their fellow hacks? What are they doing that is different or worthy of praise?


They are doing nothing new or interesting. They have nothing at all to say, but they'll say it anyway.

And that is why this industry is a laughingstock and has been for so long. Mediocre thinkers that peddle tepid musical swill with 3rd grade lyrics and tired loping beats to kids and addle-brained pop culture whores are completely unaware of the very swamp they created. The very same creatively dead environment they still champion as if anyone outside their circle cares. Let's also not forget certain artists protest along political lines by withholding concerts to deliberately drive a wedge in their fanbase to get what they want. These musicians are a bunch of children.

And the record execs and "journalists" just nod along to it all like a '60s folk song that sounds deep but is actually about nothing.

Lester Bangs might have been a blowhard, but at least he was self-aware enough to know stupid when he saw it. Unfortunately, you won't find any music critic worth their salt these days calling out the stagnant and sour taste the industry has been reveling in or their undeserved diva behavior. When was the last time you heard of a popular music critic? there's a good reason you haven't. The record companies can't have anyone making them look bad, after all.

Heck, how Rolling Stone is even still in business despite being wrong about literally everything for the last half century is a mystery to rival the Transfiguration. Remember when they called Justin Timberlake's first solo album a masterpiece? Of course you don't, because you, like anyone with two brain cells to rub together, don't read the rag! And yet they're still running. Funny, that.

If you want to know why the music industry is a pile of burning oil rags you have your answer in that one tweet. Every aspect of the industry is that brain dead.

A simulation of the Modern Pop Artist's life

You might notice my tone is particularly rough on this subject. That is because the music industry is a whole other different kettle of fish from other entertainment sectors when it comes to stupidity. I've also been dealing with them longer than any of the others. There is no industry full of such complete ignorance about the future and such hatred of its own roots and none filled with anywhere near as many undeserved egos. Which says a lot when you remember that I'm including Hollywood in there.

The publishing industry is out of touch, but it has an independent and mid-tier world that are not. The television landscape is on life support, but it has growing competition in the online space. The video game industry has a thriving fanbase who aren't afraid to call a spade a spade. Even the movie industry is beginning to get push-back from online services and independents. There are wheels turning.

The music industry has none of that. There are independent artists, but they get far less exposure than they did even ten years ago despite the explosion of online streaming. Because it's all backwards. No one in the industry is going to give them a look. Not when they pay to manufacture their own artists and hits.

But what do you expect? The music industry is a rubber room of post-modern morons staring in mirrors, seeing their drooling faces, and thinking women should continue doing what they're already doing as if it is some radical statement. It's easier than ever to put out music with creative and bold sounds but no record company has taken advantage of it. and if they did they'd bury it like their late '90s culling of everything not bubblegum, gangsta rap, and rap rock from their artist roster. Twenty years later and how much of that has changed? One less genre.

They'd rather still push their swill peddlers who go on about the same stupid topics from the 1960s as if anyone still cares. You will never see another Michael Jackson or Elvis Presley again because of this. If they're this dumb is it any wonder that they've lost so much relevance?

Pop music is dead, Pop fans. We killed it. We let the record companies dump and screw bands and artists because they wanted to push their corporate mandated and manufactured stars on us. One day we were seeing the Smashing Pumpkins in arenas and the next they were replaced with a New Kids on the Block clone, and we shrugged and did nothing about it. We allowed payola to take Swing, Blues, Alternative, New Wave, Metal, Ska, Punk, and Rockabilly off the radio and didn't bat an eye. For all crap about how shady (oh, and they were shady) record execs were to people like Bob Dylan or Berry Gordy, the same exact thing still goes on today and is completely ignored. We razed this whole industry to the ground, but it still refuses to roll over and die.

But younger fans are smart enough to simply go indie to get what they want and make a career out of that. There is nothing to gain by feeding that fattened beast. Better to walk away and let the whole house of cards crumble at this point.

I'm also at fault. I walked away from the whole mess years and years ago. Stopped going to shows. Stopped hanging out with music snobs. Stopped hoarding CDs. Stopped dealing with musical elitists who couldn't stop huffing on their copy of OK Computer for the 500th time while ignoring the crumbling scene around them. I ceded the industry and walked away.

So let this be a warning to you, fans of various forms of media. Cede ground and you are giving it to the sort who will destroy what you love. You will be left with an industry of vapid fools who think stating something that has been happening for over 50 years is revolutionary. Fight for your hobby and your interests, because they will be taken away from you and ground into the dirt by clueless fools who are as brain dead as the product they put out.

The music industry is the lesson we need to learn, and oh boy is it a lesson to learn.

Happy New Years, everyone!

Reclaim what we've lost

*Note: Hey look, three songs in this post and not one about sex. Amazing what you can you do when you don't live in a box.*

My novel actually does have a lot of musical inspiration, but from far older than the current crap era of pop music. If you're a big fan you might even recognize a bit! Give it a look.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Quick Update: Out in Paperback!

I had a bit of a tussle with Amazon over this, going back and forth over an issue that should have resolved ages ago, but finally the problems were settled. You can now get Grey Cat Blues in paperback.

Of course I well know there are those of you who prefer your physical copies, just as I do. There's nothing quite like flipping through the pages yourself and filling out that PulpRev collection. If you also want to get that sweet Kukuruyo cover art in print then this is your chance.

I'm also letting you know that there will be a post tomorrow night, and it will be a crazy one. Here's a hint: it's about the music industry.

But the important part is that physical copies are here.

Come and get it!

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Year End Anime Report

Best Ending Theme of the Year

After reassessing my enjoyment of anime this year, I'm left with one overwhelming feeling. It can be summed up in one sentence.

Well, that was a letdown.

The anime industry can do better. After 2015 and 2016 were such steps up from the previous few years of mediocrity, 2017 sort of settled back into bad old habits. Where action and adventure returned from being shelved for fan pandering and the otaku crowd, this year didn't seem to know what to do with their recent turn.

Don't get me wrong, there were good series in 2017, but as a whole it just didn't stack up to previous years.

However, I'm going to start from the beginning of the year and catch you up on the highlights from every season. This will include some material I'm not into, so don't claim any series as an endorsement unless otherwise stated.


January was surprisingly strong for the first season of the year (most places it's the dumping ground for entertainment) including popular series like Konosuba (season 2), Little Witch Academia, Saga of Tanya the Evil, a new season of Blue Exorcist, and the phenom known as Kemono Friends. There is a little bit of everything like with Interviews with Monster Girls that tried something a bit different with the stale moe formula. Not the most original as a whole, but it was decent.

There were also leftovers from the previous year including March Comes in like a Lion, Iron Blood Orphans, Tiger Mask W, and Time Bokan 24. But those don't really count when discussing new shows. Still, they were something to watch.

The biggest problem is that most of those were sequels, and what I didn't list (such as Hand Shakers) is fairly lousy overall.

But let us move on.


This was the season that took Crunchyroll offline and destroyed many subscriptions as people were attempting to sign up. Why were they signing up? For Attack on Titan (season 2) and My Hero Academia (season 2) which were undoubtedly the biggest anime of the year. The later is, of course, one of my favorite series, and the former is huge worldwide. These were the biggest of 2017, without question.

Spring is usually the strongest season next to Fall, and this year was no different. AoT and MHA would be enough to carry any season, and they do so here.

But there were other shows that did well. Re:Creators, (most of) Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul, and Sakura Quest.

On the other hand, there's trash like Eromanga Sensei and the continuation of the Berserk anime reboot. But hey, you can't win them all.

Unfortunately, this was as good as the year got.


This one is going to be controversial. Summer was an absolute black-hole of quality. Unless you were still watching series from Spring, you weren't missing much. There were only two series that stood out, and neither one were very good.

And this is where I get hate mail.

Made in Abyss is a very divisive series, and I have to admit I don't fall on the fan side of this one, but the squik factor kept me away. Needless to say, it tarnishes a lot about this one. Look it up yourself if you want to know the controversy, but even that aside I'm just not interested. The Reflection was an interesting series that didn't quite stick the landing, but at least it's something different.

And that's it.

Unless you like moe, there's nothing else here. Nothing here is worth your time. It's an absolute tire fire.


Then we come to Fall, which is usually the strongest season this year. There were some sequels, and not every series was great, but there was enough to stand above the crowd.

Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond was the highlight. A sequel season of standalone action stories centering on each member of the cast was a great way to go and made the series feel even more out of time than what is put out now. Here's hoping for a season 3! Another surprising highlight was Garo: Vanishing Line, a hero vs villain show that feels like it fell out of 1998. These two shows were easily the best of the season.

Inuyashiki is from the creator of Gantz, but does not look to be anywhere near the dumpster fire that series became. Black Clover and Food Wars! (season 3) are Shonen Jump series which had fairly typical anime adaptions. March Comes in Like a Lion returned for the new season as did a bunch of other older series. This season had a lot of sequels, as did the year.

But it would be an average season in 2015 or 2016.

Best Opening Theme of the Year


As I said, not the strongest year. Summer especially felt like a backslide into the moe and generic mud pit that anime had been stuck in for years as if the last two years didn't happen. But the rest of the year felt like the studios were unsure of themselves, uncertain if they should commit to the bit. As it stands 2017 feels halfhearted more than bad.

That said, there are some show to recommend out of the muck. And if you actually like that stuff I hate, then this was probably a good anime year for you. So there's that.

As for me, these are the shows I recommend as a top 3: My Hero Academia, Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond, and Garo: Vanishing Line. Yes, they're all sequels, but there wasn't all that much great that was original.

2017 didn't deliver on original series, and what originality there was just wasn't that great.

But 2018 does show signs of improvement. With confirmed sequels like My Hero Academia coming, as well as sequels to Overlord, Seven Deadly Sins, Saiki K., Tokyo Ghoul, Fairy Tail, Steins;Gate, Full Metal Panic, Attack on Titan, and movie sequels to Peace Maker Kurogane showing that the demand for quality is definitely being met.

New anime include Golden Kamuy (which I expect pulp fans to be all over), Grancrest War (from the creator of Record of Lodoss War), Megalo Box, A.I.C.O. -Incarnation-, Gurazeni, Juushinki Pandora (by the creator of Macross and Escaflowne), a new Ultraman anime series, and the Junji Ito Horror Collection. All of which are more interesting than any other new series this year.

2018 is the 50th anniversary of Shonen Jump Magazine which is also going to be a big deal. Expect much in the way of new announcements as the year goes on.

So it actually does look like the studios were holding back this year. 2018 looks to be loaded.

There are also new anime of old manga like Devilman: Crybaby, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Hoshin Engi (Soul Hunter), Fist of the Blue Sky, Captain Tsubasa, and Banana Fish. Studios are realizing that there are plenty of classics ond overlooked gems that never got the adaption they deserved.

Oh, and there's two genuine anime movies I'm looking forward to in Mazinger Z: Infinity and the upcoming My Hero Academia summer film. It's been a long time since there's been one, let alone two, anime movies I care about seeing. Oh, and a new Space Battleship Yamato film is on the way. Almost forgot about that.

And this is only what we know about now in December.

Even from this distance, 2018 is going to absolutely bury 2017.

So the post isn't that much of a downer. 2018 looks like a return to form. I'm not sure what happened this year other than the fact that the studios and the industry were taken aback from the reaction to the last two years and had an off year. Because business is about to get back to normal again.

And that's a great thing.

Here's to a better 2018!

Eat your heart out, Shinji.

I also put out my own novel this year. If you like action stories that take place in abandoned alleys on distant planets then this is for you!

Thursday, 21 December 2017

The Buried Treasure of Common Sense

I don't have a lot of rules when it comes to fiction. I've actually been mistaken a lot of the time for hating everything because of the way I choose to express myself when the latest Hollywood failure is released. I can't help it. Even in some of our Cannon Cruisers episodes, I tend to come off as more of a downer than I actually am. To better explain myself, and why I am so hard on certain types of fiction, let me give you a short bullet point list as to what ticks me off.

This isn't a long list. It's not a complex one. All it contains is the bare minimum any piece of fiction needs to contain to satisfy the smallest portion of an audience. It's all I need to at least enjoy the piece on a base level. There are no hidden secrets or impossible standards to meet.

When I was a teenager I went to the movies almost once a week. Considering the quality of movies at the time, it isn't a ringing endorsement for that era. It doesn't take much to please me. This year I willingly went and paid for exactly one movie. I even reviewed it on this blog, and bought the DVD because it was that good. But it was an exception, and it was the only movie in 2017 that I willingly indulged in.

So what happened? Well, let's get into that.

These four points are literally (in the actual sense of the word) all you need to do to get me to nod along and consume your story without it giving me a stomach ache. It's not hard or baffling to comprehend. I'm actually a very easy person to please and my standards are not all that high. I am a proud fan of Samurai Pizza Cats after all.

All I ask, aside from general technical competence, are four very simple things.

1. Do not spit in my face

General rule. Whatever you're writing, you're writing for a general audience. You are not writing for a niche audience, even if it is a niche genre.

Now before my fellow authors come in here screaming that I'm wrong and that you can't sell to "everyone"--you are misunderstanding my point. I'm saying you're writing for the general fan of whatever your story's genre is. The general audience. You are writing for all erotic romance fans and not just furries. You are writing for all Star Trek fans and not just Voyager fans. You are writing for all free verse poetry fans and not those who dislike poetry. You are not writing for a subset of that particular audience but for all of them.

This means I don't expect characters to stop the story in mid-tale to tell me my religion is for idiots or that folks with certain political opinions should be euthanized. The immersion is broken. Even if I agree with whatever opinion it is, it doesn't matter. You are stopping the story in order to talk down to me. You are calling me stupid.

You are writing for a general audience. Your audience does not have the same beliefs you do on every issue, and they have no obligation to share them. This means you are risking chasing away potential fans and customers every time you engage in an enlightened sermon. And no, it doesn't matter how clever or "obvious" or right your point is. The story comes first and if your story "needs" a lecture to throw me out of it then it is a garbage story.

If you do not understand this point, do not write fiction. You are an ideologue and part of the reason no one goes to Hollywood movies anymore.

2. Do not burn down your own universe

Your story has metaphysics and a way the world works. It is given to the audience from the word go. This means you are giving them expectations that you are obligated to fulfill. You owe them a complete story.

This means you can not introduce a new origin for a previously nonexistent race in your fantasy series that overwrites an important anecdote your side character gave in a previous story. The former is obviously of more import than the latter on a narrative level, but in terms of audience investment it is the latter that trumps it. The audience comes first. You are clearly shoehorning in new material at the expense of a character and story they were already invested in. You are insulting me by thinking I will not notice your idiotic sleight of hand.

This is why retconning (retroactively changing continuity) is objectively terrible storytelling.

You lay ground rules from line one and you follow them to the bitter end. Break them because you want a new race of aliens that explain a psychic power away that was previously revealed to be magic and I'm done. You cheated. I know you cheated. And I can't trust you not to cheat again.

This also applies to characters. Execution is everything, and I can get behind tragedy and irony when that is the point of the story, but a character should never willingly undo the reason he started his "quest" at the story's start later on in the tale.

This means when a character goes on a quest to find the magic chalice because it contains the mead of immunity to save his dying friend, said character should not then decide to murder his friend because he is "suffering" and "would be better off dead" or some such. You are negating the entire point of the journey in multiple ways.

All sequels fall under this rule, as well. Films are usually the worst offender. If you make a movie thirty years after the original that tells me everything the protagonist accomplished meant nothing, then I am finished. You have lost me. I do not owe you kudos for spitting on a story I am invested in.

Note that this is why I loathe most time travel in stories (outside of comedies) because there is never a time where the logic doesn't fall apart after three seconds of thinking. It is also why I hate alternative universes in comics as excuses to bring "new" versions of characters in to replace old ones. It is a lazy way of expanding the universe without doing any heavy lifting.

3. Do not make the main hero weak

Modern heroes are weak. It's not entirely by design despite what you might think.

The obsession with shades of grey in morality has diluted both the power of heroes and villains, but especially heroism. I'm not against morally grey characters, but your protagonist has to be someone I can root for. He cannot be "just as bad, if you think about it" as the villain just because you want to feel clever as a writer.

You can have a lousy main character who is indistinguishable from a villain--at the beginning of the story. He has to grow and learn what true objective good is and strive to achieve it. He has to at least try to become a white hat.

By making your character a pussy who mews and whines as things happen to him, you are creating a character that does not deserve to win. He does not deserve to win the audience's respect (and he won't) or the confrontation in the plot.

Your hero, despite anything else in the story, has to be a good person at a fundamental level, or he has to strive for it. If he is not, no one will care.

And he can't have everything handed to him. He has to work for it, he has to suffer, and he has to bleed. He has to make amends and make sure things are put in order. We have to want the character to win, which means they have to want it as badly as we want to see it.

They can't be handed everything simply because they are the main character. You have to show us why they deserve to be the main character.

But Hollywood doesn't do that anymore and that is why there are no new memorable main characters coming out of them.

They have forgotten these simple points.

4. Do not make the main villain weak

Modern villains are also weak. This is actually entirely by design.

Look at stories like Wicked or Maleficent. What did these tales do? They destroyed the source material in an attempt to reform the villain and make them seem like a victim and the hero like the bad guy.

Now this might seem very clever and creative, but it's shallow. Simply swapping white hats and black hats is hackery. It's weak. There's nothing at all to it, and there's nothing actually being created. This is subversive storytelling at its most vile.

Your villain is the mirror of your hero. He is what stands in your main character's way of achieving their goal. You do them a disservice by clipping their wings and filing their fangs in order to spit in the hero's face.

By taking the wind out of your villain's sails, you also destroy any satisfaction the audience gets when they are finally toppled. There is no payoff or relief. The plot just sputters out.

Why do you think Hollywood hasn't created a memorable villain since Hugo Weaving in The Matrix?

But this is what happens when you live in a world that tries to change what the definition of words mean all the time. You start to believe that there is no such thing as evil, and that clearly there has to be a reason people become bad. Surely they are just misunderstood.

Well, no. Bad people exist because they choose it. No one forced Ted Bundy to hunt and murder his victims. No one told Stalin to starve his own people. Those are conclusions they came to on their own.

And your villains are the same. They have reasons, but they aren't controlled by outside forces. They chose to become what they are. So let them be it, and show us why they should be stopped.

No one had to make excuses for Darth Vader, after all. At least, in the old films.

And that's it. That's all I'm asking for. It's basic Storytelling 101 stuff here. It's simple garden variety competence.

Now look at that list and pair it with what Hollywood and traditional publishing is pushing out and tell me who are accomplishing these simple points that have been the bread and butter of stories since cave paintings were thought up. You won't find much.

I'm not asking for every story to blow me away. I'm asking them to deliver a pleasant experience. As you can tell by sales from major publishers and Hollywood, they no longer offer either.

And that is why I hate most modern stories.

If you are interested in a good modern tale, I have engaged in creating my own.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Black Holes, Broken Bones, and Stolen Souls ~ A Review of "The Secret Kings" by Brian Niemeier

Check it out Here!

This review has been a long time coming, but Brian Niemeier's books are not easy to review. I mean that in a good way. This is because they are not only so different from what the mainstream publishers put out but also because they are different from each other. Nethereal was structured like an old anime series from the late '70s or '80s, and Souldancer was like a Dreamcast-era RPG in how things shook out. The Secret Kings is different from even those.

That's not to say there is no consistency between them. All three books are space opera with heavy fantasy, science fiction, and horror elements, in different proportions. They all follow a coherent story that build off the previous one in the series. They also could be read standalone--at least the first two could. The Secret Kings could be called the third book in the series, but also could be read as either the sequel to Nethereal or Souldancer if you had only read one of them. The third book drops you almost in the middle of the characters' journeys and expects you to keep up. This is not a bad thing, as both the first two books were perfect jumping on points for this series and at some point the author has to address those who want to see more of the world and characters. It's a long way of recommending either of the first two books (or both!) to read before this, but that isn't a slight against it. They are all rather absorbing.

Now let's get into the actual tale.

The Secret Kings is the best book in the series so far. The fantastic characters from the first two books (well, the ones who aren't dead) are all here and even more engaging than they were before.The story of demons attempting to rule the "universe" which had been set up throughout the first two books is finally put into motion and a certain villain returns with greater plans. But because of the ending of Souldancer, this plot strikes on a different level than you would think. It isn't just about saving the universe. While this is a fight to survive and save the Middle Stratum from the Void, it is also a fight to save souls from the darkness the surrounds them all.

Characters from both Nethereal and Souldancer appear in prominent roles, embroiled in a plot that stretches much further than they originally thought it would. My personal favorite character from Nethereal appears in a main role, so this reader found himself pulled in extra fast. Because of the already engaging characters and the quick plot turns, The Secret Kings grabs the reader and holds them much quicker than the first two books did, and that is to its advantage. It also helps set it apart from the rest of the series.

While this is a Space Opera, featuring plenty of action and adventure, it is also a story of good against evil. It might not be obvious to those who might have only read Nethereal, but the war goes a bit beyond the events of the main plot at times and adds extra scope to the tale. This adds a layer to the story that I certainly appreciated.

And to get this out of the way, because it is sure to ruffle feathers, the book is Pulp. There is no respect for genre boundaries, there is clear romance of the old kind, there is defined good and evil, there is wonder, action is constant and focused on, and the pacing, despite the book's length, never stumbles. It clearly falls into a pulp revolution mold, and is all the better for it.

It's also Superversive. While the Soul Cycle series is dark and contains characters who do not always do the right thing, the objective morality of this world begins to clear as the overarching story progresses. It lifts the reader up with its imaginative ideas and active characters, gripping them all the way to the last word. And it never steps on their hopes or pulls the rug out on the audience.

If you've read the first two books (or only one), then this one is a must read. The Soul Cycle contain the freshest and most inventive speculative fiction books in years. The major publishers would never put out something as risky and unabashedly fun as these are which only serves as a reminder as to why they are dying and independent and small publisher authors are growing. These books offer a clear case as to how the majors are missing out.

Now there remains but one book in the series, and I am eager to see how it all ends. This Dragon winning series has definitely been quite the ride so far.

Highly recommended.

You thought that was the end of this post? Well, it is the end of the review, but there's still more to it than that. I have another surprise for you.

The final book in the Soul Cycle is out now!

Here's the description:

The Zadokim healed the cosmos from the ravages of the Cataclysm, and the survivors made them kings. Now the Ophians, a ruthless insurgent movement, wage a vicious uprising against their immortal rulers’ two hundred year reign.
Xander and Astlin have transformed the desert world of Tharis into the hub of a flourishing trade empire. Their Nesshin subjects spread a new faith promising true freedom in another universe. But when Astlin seeks forbidden knowledge to resurrect her long-dead family, sinister forces exact a terrible price from those she loves. 
With the Ophian threat engulfing the spheres and a primeval terror rising from its prison, Astlin must turn to a shiftless gambler, the outlaw squire of a fallen knight, and a mismatched pair of smugglers to escape the ghosts of her past and save all souls from eternal death. But can mortals succeed where even gods have failed?

You can find it here!

I hope you're as excited as this reader is to see the epic conclusion. Mr. Niemeier has not disappointed yet, and this is guaranteed to be quite the ride to the finish.

If you want more great fiction, I'm currently writing action stories of my own. You can read one of them right now!