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.