Manuscripts Burn


MANUSCRIPTS BURN

"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday, September 1, 2017

Release Day: SLASHVIVOR!

It's heeeeeere!


SLASHVIVOR! is now live!  Grab your copy on Amazon now (or click the cover above or below.)


Try Not to Die

TV-XXX (Salty language, Sexual innuendo, Vomit-inducing ultraviolence)

TBA. Pirate transmission.

North America's number one reality television show returns with instant fan favorite Dawn Churchill, a plucky, hometown girl from the irradiated ruins of the former United States. Will she survive the night in the electrified, booby-trapped arena or will one of the serial killers pitted against her come out on top?

Returning slashers include evil animatronic Abraham Lincoln, eight-year-old “Daughter of the Devil” Abadonna, and all-time undefeated champion Denney the Killer Clown. (Plus surprise appearances by mad surgeon Doctor Feelbad, silver-tongued “Charming” Charlie Whitmore, and steel-clawed firebrand Razortooth.)

A night of chills, thrills, and endless buckets of blood. A must-see for Dawn’s innovative use of a shotgun alone. Fun for the whole family!

Host: Mark Winters
Producers: Marisol Martinez, Amy Green, Jacob Graves, Derron James

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Cover Reveal: SLASHVIVOR!

Coming soon from the twisted minds which brought you THE BREADWINNER trilogy and HUNTER OF THE DEAD...


Friday, August 18, 2017

Toxic Culture

By now you've doubtless read this article from Vulture, or had the opportunity to.  If you haven't, the short version (of the article - I can't really swear to its veracity) is that the YA Twittersphere has become a particularly feculent swamp of ultra-liberal orthodoxy punctuated by occasional witch hunts.  Per this article (again, I'm not really reporting from experience) a certain breed of YA writers and readers have taken to eating their own, attempting to ban books which deal with issues of social justice before even reading them.

I'm not going to weigh in on the particular concerns of this article.  Obviously, if true, it's concerning.  If you're the type of person who watches "Star Wars" and thinks that George Lucas is an advocate of blowing up planets because one of his characters did so, you're obviously missing the point.  But this article also raises a number of specters which I do feel qualified to address.

In the wake of the nightmare of Trump's election a lot of political commentators made hay out of the idea that this was the fault of liberals.  In short, that what conservatives call "Social Justice Warriors" had become so demented in their pursuit of insane goals that they had essentially pushed correct-thinking people into the arms of the Trumps of the world by default.

It hardly needs to be said that this is a specious argument, but, all right, I'll say it.  If the concern is that there is a left-right political division in this country, and the kooks on the far left have made liberalism a toxic brand, what of the kooks on the right?  Am I to judge the average center-right Midwest voter in this country on every statement made by Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, or the nut jobs who threaten to rape every woman on Twitter for speaking her mind?  My point is, if Democrats have an SJW infestation that pushed independents into the arms of Trump, it's equally valid to say the right has a Rabid Puppy problem that pushed independents into the arms of Clinton.

All that is nonsense.  But it's equally nonsensical to argue that there are not liberal kooks out there.  Yes, there were people who didn't understand how economics work and thought Obama was just going to give them free welfare.  Yes, there are people who think every white male is a rapist.  Yes, every insane-sounding, negative accusation against liberalism that Fox News or the current (ugh) president has made has manifested itself in a few people.  In a country of a third of a billion I'd be more surprised if it didn't.

I, personally, have a very complicated relationship with liberalism, progressivism, and the Democratic Party.  I consider myself none of those.  I am very much a leftist, which is how I usually describe myself in polite conversation, though I have no objections to socialist or even communist if that's what you prefer.  I've always thought of myself as militantly leftist, which leaves it hard for me to find common ground with the keyboard jockeys and hippies that make up a great deal of what we call the left in this country, despite our common (to an extent) cause.  I'm also a pragmatist, which leads me to my ultimate miserable condition of accepting that anything that turns this country, gradual though it may be, a tick to the left is desirable.  And so I find myself voting with the hippies and the SJWs, repulsive though I may occasionally find their behavior.  Much in the same way I imagine that every intelligent, conscientious conservative in this country finds him or herself making common cause with redneck mouthbreathers and Klansmen.

The solution a certain segment of people take great pride in is declaring a pox on both our houses, and pretending like one side saying "Murder All Kittens" is exactly as extreme and crazed as the other side saying ,"Don't Murder Any Kittens."  I think these extreme moderates (if that's the right word for them) are just as guilty as the evil party for enabling them with their false equivalencies.  (In case you missed it, those were the types I was skewering with the White factions in EVERY KINGDOM DIVIDED.)  And to be clear here, yes, the evil party is the conservatives.  Pretending otherwise in the last twenty-odd years is an exercise in self-delusion.  It means pretending that Obama is exactly as terrible as Trump, that Clinton is exactly as terrible as George W. Bush, and that Kennedy is exactly as terrible as Richard Nixon.  One party has given us decades of misrule and the other has given us decades of flawed, but pragmatic governance.  Shrugging and calling the two equal is the same as saying "I guess murdering 50% of all kittens is just how things are now."

During my interview on The Horror Show a few weeks ago, Brian described me as "woke" which is not how I would describe myself, but all things being equal, a fair assessment.  I have to say one thing for the extremities of the SJW Twittersphere: I think the introduction of the term "white privilege" will be remembered as one of the most potent teachable moments in the last fifty or a hundred years of race relations.  It certainly helped me to understand a worldview I didn't even understand I was missing.  (Conversely, I think "microaggressions" will be remembered more as a dead cul-de-sac of learning.  But I digress.)

I'm happy to be described as "woke" if it means conscientious, not perfect, but attempting to be a good ally and a good citizen.  Brian went on to ask if I was worried about attacks from Vox Day and the Rabid Puppies since my latest novel, THE HEMATOPHAGES, featuring a deliberately all-female cast.  I answered that I had considered that, but cared very little.  In truth I was more worried about upsetting the SJWs (much as I loathe that term, for all its dismissiveness towards actual conscientiousness) for not being "woke" enough.  I was concerned that there would be blowback that I hadn't written my female characters whatever enough for the particular concerns of whoever.  There's something scary about being eaten by your own, about becoming the witch at the center of a hunt by your peers.

I'd be happy, you see, to have scorn heaped upon me by Vox Day, Alex Jones, the infantile (ugh) president or any other right-leaning son of a bitch who wants to come at me.  Hell, I'd wear it as a badge of honor.  I'd probably put it in my blurbs.  "Kozeniewski is a leftist piece of shit" - Ted Cruz  Right next to the outpourings of support from my favorite authors and filmmakers.

But one of my own attacks me?  One says I'm not "woke" enough?  Says I'm not a good enough leftist?  Says I'm a faker, one who doesn't deserve to make common cause with them?  That would hurt.  That would cut deep.  That would cut at my identity.  A lot like I imagine it would for the YA writers who find themselves on the outskirts.  Just a thought.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Fuck Nazis

I had another post all written and scheduled for today but that...that's just not going to happen right now.  Apparently I have to talk about Nazis.  In America.  In 2017.

I thought this was taken care of.  I thought this had all been dealt with.  I thought the Greatest Generation - my grandparents' generation, that is to say, and for some of you out there your great-grandparents' generation - had stomped Hitler's vision into rubble seventy-two years ago.

But no.  They're back.  The Nazis are back, and they've put representatives in the White House and they're marching in the South.  It's ridiculous.  It's ludicrous.  It's insane.  But it's happening.

I feel like I'm living in some kind of dimestore '60s novel.  You know the kind I mean.  The kind where some vaguely European-accented mad scientist smoking hand-rolled cigarettes out of a bone holder pulls back the curtain at the end and reveals Hitler's brain has been inserted into a gorilla robot.  The kind where the villain says, "Yes, we sunk into the shadows, hiding, waiting, until you were no longer looking for us."

Because that's what happened.  We mobilized our nation and helped cobble together an alliance of half the world to smash the fascist war machine three quarters of a century ago.  But when the overt threat was gone, it slunk deep into the recesses and dark places where we weren't looking, where we weren't paying attention.  As we spent eight decades making it impossible to be overtly racist in civic society in the United States, the racists gathered like rats in the sewers, establishing their Storm Fronts and their alt-rights and building an invisible empire that puts the KKK to shame.

And the invisible empire has struck their first blow with Trump.  Trump was always the preferred candidate of the Nazi underground, which is what the alt-right really is.

In fact, let's set all that linguistic business to rest quickly.  The right in this country has had a tortured relationship with truth for at least the last twenty, some might say forty years.  And it has had an especially Orwellian relationship with words.  I've watched Glenn Beck torturously try to convince me that the Nazis were also communists - and that the American left is both Nazi and communist, as though any word with a negative overtone can just be heaped at the door of one's political opposition.  I've watched Trump rebrand the truth as "fake news" - in order to distract from the actual fake news which got him elected.  I've had to watch the right vehemently reject all the extreme positions on the right end of the spectrum - Nazism, fascism, totalitarianism - as having nothing to do with them, as though they didn't need to worry that that was the dark end of their path if they weren't careful and prudent.  As though only liberalism could ever possibly lead to bad things.

There was a time where you just had to admit, "Look, I lean right, but I'm not some crazy fascist" the same way you might say, "Look, I lean left, but I'm not some crazy communist."  Those are just the two ends of the political horseshoe.  But the right entirely refused to accept that reality, to the point where they're now trying to convince us that the alt-right is just a fun, sexy young conservative movement.  But it's not.  It never was.  "Alt-right" is the sexy new brand for "Nazi" because it just sounds better and has less baggage.

But don't fool yourself.  Don't agree to do the mental gymnastics necessary to try to differentiate between one identical brand of awful and another because they don't want to be associated.  These people are Nazis.  They're jingoists, militarists, racists, misogynists.  The lyrics are a little different, but the melody's identical.  They hate minorities and minority religions, they heap all the social ills of society at the footstep of one convenient scapegoat and they'd be happy to go to war with anybody and everybody to distract you from it all.  The alt-right, regardless of what they prefer to be called, are, and always have been, Nazis.

Steve Bannon is a Nazi.  There's a Nazi in the White House, for Christ's sake.  They act offended when we call them what they are because they'd prefer not to admit that's what they are.  But don't let them off the goddamned hook.  These people who marched in Charlottesville were carrying swastikas right alongside their Confederate flags.  But it's all about heritage, right?  I don't even have the time or space to delve into that right now.  I'm too busy dealing with the Nazis.  In control of America.  In 2017.

Jesus.  And I thought George W. Bush was bad.  The best thing - the absolute best thing - I can say at this point about Donald Trump is that he may just be an unwitting puppet.  He may not be Hitler; he may simply be Hindenburg.  Certainly, he knew the KKK and the alt-right and the racists and the shitbags and every vile breed of hateful person in this country supported him, and he refused to denounce them.  Still hasn't denounced them.  Still, as of yesterday, is making false equivalencies.  Sure, Antifa's the real problem.  BLM is the real problem.  Not the fucking Nazis who said they would vote for you, and when you were elected, started rioting and mugging Muslims and immigrants, all while shouting, "Welcome to Trump's America!"  But no.  It's the counter-protestors who are the real problem.  Of course.  Of course they are.  Because if they didn't have anything to counter they wouldn't exist.  But they're the real problem.

You might ask what's the point of this.  What's the point of writing yet another blogpost, yet another thinkpiece about what happeend in Charlottesville?  We've all read dozens of them since yesterday, and if you expand the definition to include thinkpieces on Trump we've all read thousands of them since November.

Sure, I could be preaching to the choir, or worse, talking to an empty chair.  But the odds are that if you're reading this, and you're American, there's a one in three chance you voted for Trump in November.  And if you are, maybe you drank the Kool-Aid and it's impossible to reason with you.  But I think most people are reasonable and most people are not Kool-Aid drinkers.  So this is addressed to you, the person who voted for Trump who nevertheless keeps an open mind.

You may have been wrong.  I've spent the last ten months being told that I was wrong.  That I didn't "get it."  That there were coal towns in West Virginia and steel towns in Pennsylvania and little lost rural communities in Ohio and Kentucky where poor white people were living lives of quiet desperation, and Trump offered them, perhaps for the first time in their adult lives, a life preserver.  I've been told that I missed all that because I was a coastal elite, that I didn't "get" the sense of loss and fear and anger that most Americans felt, and that that was what drove people to the polls for Trump, what ultimately, improbably, saw him sitting in the Oval Office.  I was told that it wasn't about racism, or sexism, or any of the negative things that I associated with Trump based on his behavior.  It was that people were ignoring all of that and seeing someone who was finally speaking up for the little people, and that it was an irresistible siren's song.

So now I want to turn that around.  Maybe you are that person living by the shuttered coal mine in West Virginia, the rusting steel mill in Pennsylvania, or the dying farm in Ohio.  Maybe you voted for Trump not out of animus, but because he had promised you something.  Maybe you ignored what the media said about him, listened to his words, believed his promises, preferred to believe that the better angels of his nature would drive him, and that the rest was just noise.  Now I'm telling you to consider, just consider, that perhaps you were mistaken.

Maybe this is a man who has happily accepted the support of Nazis, the KKK, the militia movement, all the miserable dregs of society who you hate and hate being associated with because you're poor and rural and white.  Maybe this is a man who has refused to condemn the hate groups, not out of political expediency, but because he's okay with them.  Maybe this is a man who doesn't mind racism and sexism, as long as he's in control.  Maybe this man is the demagogue that all along you were warned about, but decided with your reason and your heart instead that he was something more, a good man who was being smeared, not unlike Jesus, perhaps.  Maybe he's the kind of man who won't think twice about blasting Muslims, Democrats, the media, the government, and other instutitions of millions or billions of individuals, but just can't quite bring himself to condemn in even moderate words a single hate group.

You, and by you I mean those of you on the other side of the political spectrum from me, have asked me to reconsider my position, to slaughter my sacred cows and consider underlying currents that I either ignored or didn't even know existed.  Okay.  I have.  I've granted you that courtesy.  I've considered what it must be like to be poor and white and it seems like you have no voice, that everyone's speaking for some other marginalized group, but, fuck, your group is just as marginalized and you're just fucked because of who you are.  It must suck.  It must really suck.  I'm not sure it would've changed my vote, but I think it probably would've changed the tone of the election, and I think it'll probably change the tone of future elections.  You won't be forgotten again.

But now I need you to extend me, and by me I mean the people on the other side of the political spectrum from you, that same courtesy.  Consider that maybe you voted for the wrong guy.  A shitty, shady guy who was actually every bit as bad as the media said he was.  That by voting for him, you were tactily allowing Nazis in the White House...and on the streets of towns like Charlottesville.  Nazis who your grandparents or great-grandparents (or, hell, maybe it was you yourself) fought against 72 years ago.  They're back, and your vote, whatever else it did and whatever else you think it did or might do, emboldened them.  You helped give them that tiny, infinitesimal grain of support, and now all those grains of sand have come together to form a landslide.

Racists use to wear hoods to hide their shameful behavior from scrutiny.  Now they walk boldly among us, march loudly and shout in torchlight parades, and mow down the people who oppose them with cars.  And Trump is silent, because these are his people, his supporters.  You don't need to be silent, though.  And your vote is your voice, come 2018, 2020, and beyond.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Red Lion Street Fair or Bust!

Hey everybody!  If you live in the Baltimore/Central Pennsylvania area, you should definitely stop by the 41st Annual Red Lion Street Fair tomorrow between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm.  I'll be there with Ryan Griffin and Andrew Craven.

You'll be able to find us at booth N17, near the intersection of Broadway and Main Streets, Red Lion, PA 17356.

All of my novels will be available for purchase, including the recently much sought-after HEMATOPHAGES.  As always, autographs are free, but books are $10.  Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

HUNTER OF THE DEAD Giveaway!

Want a free, autographed, personalized copy of HUNTER OF THE DEAD?  It could happen!  Enter the giveaway below!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Hunter of the Dead by Stephen Kozeniewski

Hunter of the Dead

by Stephen Kozeniewski

Giveaway ends August 17, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

About HUNTER OF THE DEAD:



Someone has begun targeting vampires.

Vampire leaders of the thirteen Houses attribute the string of recent losses to over-zealous vampire hunters. Only Cicatrice, the most ancient and powerful vampire in the world, suspects that the semi-legendary Hunter of the Dead may be the real culprit.

Carter Price, a vampire hunter who despises the way his profession is becoming centralized and corporatized, begins to suspect the Hunter of the Dead is back, too – and no longer distinguishing between vampires and mortals. Against his better judgment, Price agrees to work with Cicatrice.

The uneasy allies attempt to uncover the truth about the Hunter, while a vampire civil war brews in the background. But perhaps most difficult of all, they must contend with their new apprentices, who seem to be falling in love with each other against every rule of man and monster…

Friday, July 21, 2017

Scares That Care Weekend IV or Bust!

Hey everybody!  If you're going to be in the Williamsburg, VA area this weekend, you absolutely need to stop by Scares that Care Weekend IV.  It's going to be packed with celebrities like Jeffrey Combs, the cast of "Friday the 13th," Joe Lansdale, and many more.  I'll also be there at a table with Steven Shrewsbury and I'll have all of my books available to sell.  And, most importantly of all, it's all for a good cause, with all the money the charity collects this weekend going to a burn victim, a breast cancer survivor, and a pediatric cancer survivor.  Hope to see you there!

Dates: 

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday July 21-23
Location: 

Double Tree by Hilton
50 Kingsmill Road
Williamsburg, VA 23185

Panels:
Saturday 9:45 pm - "This Is How We Do It: A Discussion on Self-Publishing" (M)
Sunday 11:15 am - Reading and Q&A with Ralph Bieber

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

RIP Romero

My reaction to George Romero's death this past Sunday has been subdued.  I didn't immediately jump on Facebook or Twitter to state my feelings.  I hope that hasn't given me the appearance of not caring.  I guess I've just been having difficulty putting words to my feelings and thoughts.

First of all, there's the usual basket of caveats which attend celebrity death: I didn't know the man personally, his work naturally lives on, it's difficult to sort the artist as a person away from his art.  But without delving into that rather shallow well of sewage which haters sometimes make us do when we lose a beloved celebrity, it's important for us as fans and creators in the zombie genre to acknowledge the man who literally, nearly single-handedly, created that genre.

There are few people we can say that about.  Neither King nor Lovecraft nor even Poe invented the horror genre.  Arthur Conan Doyle didn't invent the mystery.  But George Romero invented the zombie, in its modern form, practically out of whole cloth.

As authors we often dream of leaving an impact on the world.  We dream of success, sales, awards, name recognition.  In our wilder dreams we imagine being a titan like J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, or, yes, even Stephanie Meyer or E.L. James.  We may also even hope to do something new and memorable.  But it's very rare to imagine that we might create a genre ourselves.  J.R.R. Tolkien did it, perhaps.  Jules Verne maybe did it.  And George Romero did it.

The idea of the dead rising is as old as man itself.  But the zombie, the modern flesh-eating conception of it, is George Romero's.  His and his alone.  I owe him a debt.  So does Max Brooks, John Skipp, Mark Tufo, Lucio Fulci, Peter Jackson, Robert Kirkman, George R.R. Martin, Brian Keene, and everybody who's ever included a flesh-munching corpse in his book or movie.  That alone would be a contribution worth celebrating.  But George gave us more.

George gave us an eye for satire.  He gave us a political conscience.  He gave us independent filmmaking as it exists today.  He gave us terror and delight in equal portions.  Following in the footsteps of Herschell G. Lewis, he helped to bring us explicit gore in film.  He also gave us "Bruiser," which, the less said about, the better.  (But I like to think that's the kind of joke George would've appreciated - I would've left it out of this tribute if I didn't.)

George gave the world a lot, and, unfortunately, benefited from it very little financially.  It irked him, obviously, and I can only imagine how much it must irk to create something like the zombie and to midwife gore in cinema, and see so little return on it.  So, perhaps it's especially incumbent upon us to celebrate the man, to remember him, to venerate him.  He gave us a lot and got screwed a lot.  That seems to be the way of it.

And at the end of the day (and dawn and night) he gave us a monster.  He gave us a monster that we can project all of our modern-day fears onto.  He gave us a monster that will not go silent to the grave, literally or metaphorically.  I suspect a hundred or five hundred years from now the zombie will be seen as the definitive monster of our era, the same way we now look at the vampire as the definitive monster of medieval Eastern Europe or Frankenstein as the definitive monster of the 19th century.

So George will...well, he won't live on.  But he'll certainly have a life after death.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Episode 124 of The Horror Show With Brian Keene is dedicated to THE HEMATOPHAGES

Hey everybody!

While I was enjoying my lunch of Tom Yum mixed with chili (jealous?) a friend texted me and said he'd never heard an episode of "The Horror Show" dedicated to a single book before.  I wracked my brains and although one episode took a long look at Paul Tremblay's A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS, I think, for the most part, he's right.

So I'm especially honored to have an entire episode of the world's premiere horror podcast devoted to my latest novel THE HEMATOPHAGES.  Take a listen.  I really think you'll enjoy it.


(If this embed isn't working for you, the direct link to Project Entertainment is here and The Horror Show website is here.  Oh, and you should probably give their FB page a like.)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Shore Leave 39 or Bust!

If you live in the Baltimore, MD area make sure to stop by Shore Leave 39 this weekend! Sci-fi author Mary Fan, fantasist Elizabeth Corrigan, and myself will have a table in the dealers room all weekend. Books are just $12 apiece or $10 apiece for more than one. I'll also be busy speaking at panels all weekend (see the schedule below for more.) Hope to see you there!

Dates: 

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday July 7-9

Location: 

Hunt Valley Inn
245 Shawan Rd.
Hunt Valley, MD 21031

Panels:
Friday 4:00 pm - Salon A - "Public Face on Social Media"
Friday 7:00 pm - Hunt - "If I Had a Publishing Empire" (M)
Saturday 11:00 am - Chase - "Your Writing or Your Life" (M)
Saturday 3:00 pm - Chase - "The Role of Science Fiction"
Sunday 12:00 noon - Chase "The Devil's in the Details"
Sunday 1:00 pm - Derby - "Chasing Our Tales" (M)

Friday, June 30, 2017

Pokemon Go Update

The party line (by which I mean the pop culture line) on Pokémon Go is that it's dead.  Everyone played it for five minutes a year ago and then gave up.  That hasn't really been my experience.  We're not talking about MySpace here. 

I play Pokémon Go daily.  I've explained previously how I essentially work at a Pokéstop.  It makes it far too easy for me to sit and score points and items all day while I'm at work.  Considering you get 50 XP and a minimum of three items per spin, and you can spin every five minutes, in the average work day I'm scoring somewhere a tad south of 4800 XP and 288 items a day.  That's before I've even caught my first Poke of the day.

So my perspective may be a bit skewed, because I essentially keep the app open 8 hours a day.  But judging by how rapidly gyms turn over and fill up with Pokes, I can tell I'm not the only one playing.  And considering I work on a closed Navy base, I assume that my experience is a bit on the meager side in terms of players as well.

I think the common wisdom that Pokémon is dead is due to the fact that it ballooned out tremendously at first, then contracted over the course of a year to a more sustainable size.  We're still talking about one of the biggest games in the world, but since it's suddenly not the biggest game of all time anymore, people are dismissive of it.  Such is life.

So for those of you who have given up already, you may not know that Pokémon Go recently underwent a massive change.  Gym battles have been completely revamped. 

The way the original gym battles worked was that one of the three Pokémon teams (red, blue, or yellow) could claim a gym.  Then up to ten team members could stash an individual Poke in the gym.  (So much as I may have wanted to pack a gym with ten of my own Pokes, I was always limited to one.)

When an enemy team attacked your gym, they gradually wore away the gym's capacity to hold Pokes until it was empty.  Then they could claim it.

When a friendly team mate attacked a gym, he could drive up the gym's capacity to hold Pokes up to a maximum of ten.

Now, as for the battle itself, it consisted of three controls: simple attack, dodge, and complex attack.  Complex attack happened when you had successfully conducted a certain number of simple attacks in order to fill a gauge.  Then you could depress the screen and execute a complex attack.  The only problem being if the enemy Poke was also attempting to execute his complex attack at the same time, you were stuck standing still. 

So here's how literally every single gym battle went:

Tap tap tap tap tap depress tap tap tap tap tap depress tap tap dodge tap tap tap depress

And so on.

With the recent update the controls haven't changed very much.  Animation has changed massively, though (your Pidgey now looks infinitesimal compared to a Gyarados) and a sort of showdown poster pops up before every battle reflecting the stats of the competing Pokes. 

Gyms now contain a max of six Pokes, and there is no need for friendly fighting to make that possible.  That makes me a sad panda because I used to spend countless hours every day friendly fighting.  Now if my team has a gym, we just have it.  The only time I get to wear out useless Pokes is when I can find an enemy gym.

Pokes who sit in gyms also gradually get depressed.  Their combat power slowly degrades over the course of a day.  A friendly player can now give out berries to combat waning morale.  This is a mild positive for me because I used to just immediately throw out every Nanab berry I got, being the most useless of all berries, to make space for my 200-odd items a day.  Now I can actually do something with my Nanab berries, and feeding berries comes with a very small stardust bonus.  And stardust is always in demand. 

Now, as Pokes get depressed from either sitting there or getting beaten (or even just engaged in combat) their CP gradually degrades.  So when I go to fight an enemy gym, it may start out with, say, 6 enemy Pokes at 2000 CP apiece.  Then I go in for the slaughter and they're all reduced to 1000 CP apiece.  Which means now I can use difference Pokes.  It's like a battle against a different Poke every time, as opposed to the old system where it just felt like I was fighting that same 2883 Blissey over and over and over and over again.

Now the worst part of the change is the new coin system.  Under the old system, when you had a Poke in a gym, at a certain time every day you could claim 10 coins on his behalf, up to 100 coins.  So if you had Pokes in 10 gyms, you were golden.  The time decreased by three hours every day, which did lead to very awkward issues where my alarm was waking up my girlfriend at 3:00 am and it was a bit embarrassing to say why.

I'm not a big fan of the new coin system.  It, like the fact that you can't friendly fight anymore, encourages a lot more changeover of gyms.  The way it works is now that your Poke collects a coin for every ten minutes it spends in a gym.  You can collect a maximum of 50 coins a day.  And coins are only collected when the Poke returns to you.

So the pro: I don't have to worry about checking in at a certain time every day.  Coins just come when the come.

The many cons: there's no way to predict when your Poke will come back to you!  You could put ten Pokes in ten gyms and they could all sit there for a month, all get beaten on the same day, and you collect: 50 coins.

I mean, it's positive from the sense you don't have to wait 21 hours every day.  Having a Poke in a gym for just a few hours means you'll collect.  But it's a waste to keep a Poke in any gym for more than eight and a half hours.  So that battling bastard of a Blastoise you've had tucked away in one spot for almost a week?  Congratulations, he's worth 50 coins when all is said and done.

Basically, it encourages you to go around and constantly be fighting to put Pokes into gyms.  Or else pay real money for coins, which I'm sure is the real goal here.

Anyway, I've blathered on long enough.  Are you still playing Pokemon?  What do you think of all the recent changes?  What do you miss and what do you wish they would just adjust?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Feelin' Groovy

I know I've been a bit scarce here of late and I could give any one of several reasons why I've barely blogged this year, but I find nothing more exhausting than a blogpost promising to do better.  (Usually they're the last blogpost of a dead blog, anyway.)  I'd rather just do better.  So onward and upward.

I, like all reasonable, intelligent human beings, was intensely worried, perhaps even panicked after the sociopathic man-child who was "elected" president took office earlier this year.  From the day after the election until fairly recently I was wringing my hands in worry about all the damage someone like Trump could do while occupying the most powerful office in the world.  Now, though?  Not so much.

I'm not feeling better because I expect Trump will be impeached or otherwise removed from office.  In terms of simple math impeachment is an almost statistical impossibility.  For reasons I hesistate to attribute to loyalty, (but perhaps I can at least offer that complimentary term to the insane side of the aisle) Republicans don't eat their own.  Trump's been buffeted by scandal and sitting in the mid-thirties in terms of his approval rating almost since he took office.  If the Republican congress hasn't turned on him by now, what would it take?  Would he have to devour a live infant on camera?  He's done just about everything but, including talking about grabbing women by the pussy.  No, Trump will be safe from impeachment as long as the R's are in charge.

And even if (because it's far from a guarantee) the House of Representatives flips to the Democrats in 2018, and even if they then impeach him (also far from a guarantee) the Senate even as ideally constituted for the purpose will still have enough Republicans to block removing Trump from office.  So impeachment, should it ever occur (which it probably won't) will have about the same practical effect as it did on Clinton: making the other side look petty for doing it.

Other forms of removal from office, barring unexpected death (I mean, the man is 70) are even more outlandish.  Plus, and I didn't even want to get into this, but even chopping the head off the snake won't make much difference.  The difference between a Trump presidency and a Pence presidency will be one of temperament, not ideology. 

So I don't expect Trump to leave office before 2020.  I certainly hope he does then.  Why, then, am I feeling cautiously optimistic?  Because the man is fucking worthless.

I mean, maybe I should have already expected this, but somehow I had convinced myself that Trump would come into office and actually enact all the crazy shit he promised on the campaign trail.  I halfway believed he would actually surround himself with brilliant advisors who would do all the heavy lifting, and the country would tilt rightward into a fucking ditch.

But Trump never surrounded himself with brilliant advisors and at this point, most know to steer well clear.  Instead, he's surrounded by his daughter, son-in-law, and some low-rent Goebbels wannabe.  And they're all at each other's throats.  By all accounts no one working in The White House knows who's in charge.  Trump himself is apparently always convinced of the rectitude of the last article someone shoved under his nose.  The whole thing sounds like a page out of the Kremlin court squabbles of the Soviet Union.

A preternatural gift for demagoguery has translated into precisely jack and shit when attempting to govern.  (I say "govern" to be kind, because it's obvious that Trump would much rather dictate, and seems frustrated by the very idea that his pronouncements are not actually instantly obeyed as law.)  I mean think about this: Trump couldn't get Obamacare repeal passed with a Republican House and Senate.  That's like McDonald's running out of beef.  I don't even know what to make of that.  But this buffoon cannot get the one thing that has united Republicans of all stripes for the past decade passed?

Legislation is a difficult, grueling process of compromise and discussion.  And Trump is absolute shit at it.  He nearly ruined the budget reconciliation by demanding his stupid wall, which both sides considered idiotic to even be discussing at that point in time.  Imagine that.  Republicans and Democrats in the congress, normally at each other's throats, are suddenly united in how stupid they consider The White House's demands.

As for the scandals, well, Trump will weather them.  I'm not convinced anything can disgrace him anymore.  He's incapable of shame and his followers have erected a nigh impenetrable cult of personality around their own five senses (six, if you count "common.")  Trump is right and therefore right is Trump in their eyes, so it doesn't really matter what he does, he's always right.  The scandals won't bring him down.  What they will do, though, is keep him distracted.  While all his fury is focused on James Comey and the news media being mean to him (poor guy) he's not concentrating on enacting his stupid campaign promises. 

The scandals also keep him boxed in.  Legislators who don't have the advantage of being as Teflon as Don himself are already giving him a wide berth.  Even Fox News seems to be tentatively stepping away from their constant beatification of him.  It's easy to pretend it's still sunny when you feel a lone raindrop, but it's harder to dismiss a storm.  As long as the crap keeps piling up, people with a survival isntinct (read: politicians and pundits) will continue to distance themselves from Trump.

And what this all adds up to is that Trump is so incompetent he can't ruin the country.  In November I was worried about him establishing a fascist dictatorship, but now I'm not convinced he could cut the ribbon to a strip mall without breaking the scissors.  I think, in the end, Trump will run out his four years as essentially a lame duck.  He's what the press used to call "embattled" when they meant a politician was all out of friends and couldn't get anything done any more.  And he's already embattled six months into his presidency. 

Sure, things will be fucked up.  There's already another right-winger on the Supreme Court.  He could fumble a war or a terrorist attack.  But mostly I expect a whole lot of nothing happening.  And when the alternative to nothing is rabid right-wing policies, I'll take it.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Cover Reveal: STARSWEPT by Mary Fan

Hey all!

I'm delighted to reveal the cover for STARSWEPT by our good friend Mary Fan!

As an author you sometimes get the opportunity to read books at various stages in the formation. I had the distinct pleasure of reading this when it was still called BUTTERFLY DOME and I loved it then. If you like sci-fi even a little bit, I think you'll love it as well. Check it out!

This sweeping YA sci-fi romance will be released on August 29 by Snowy Wings Publishing. The cover features photography by Roberto Falck, with graphic design by Streetlight Graphics.


Release Date: August 29, 2017
Publisher: Snowy Wings Publishing

Some melodies reach across the stars.

In 2157, the Adryil—an advanced race of telepathic humanoids—contacted Earth. A century later, 15-year-old violist Iris Lei considers herself lucky to attend Papilio, a prestigious performing arts school powered by their technology. Born penniless, Iris’s one shot at a better life is to attract an Adryil patron. But only the best get hired, and competition is fierce.

A sudden encounter with an Adryil boy upends her world. Iris longs to learn about him and his faraway realm, but after the authorities arrest him for trespassing, the only evidence she has of his existence is the mysterious alien device he slipped to her.

When she starts hearing his voice in her head, she wonders if her world of backstabbing artists and pressure for perfection is driving her insane. Then, she discovers that her visions of him are real—by way of telepathy—and soon finds herself lost in the kind of impossible love she depicts in her music.

But even as their bond deepens, Iris realizes that he’s hiding something from her—and it’s dangerous. Her quest for answers leads her past her sheltered world to a strange planet lightyears away, where she uncovers secrets about Earth’s alien allies that shatter everything she knows.

Preorder the hardback on Amazon

Preorder the e-book on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Kobo, or iBooks

Add it on Goodreads

About Mary Fan:



Mary Fan is a hopeless dreamer, whose mind insists on spinning tales of “what if.” As a music major in college, she told those stories through compositions. Now, she tells them through books. She is the author of the Jane Colt space opera trilogy, the Firedragon YA dystopia/fantasy novellas, and the Fated Stars YA high fantasy novellas. She's also the co-editor of the Brave New Girls YA sci-fi anthologies, which are dedicated to encouraging girls to enter STEM careers and raising money for the Society of Women Engineers scholarship fund.

Find her online at www.MaryFan.com.
Facebook: facebook.com/ mfanwriter
Twitter: @astralcolt
Instagram: @astralcolt

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Feast of Horror...For Your Ears!

https://www.amazon.com/The-Ghoul-Archipelago/dp/B071NLTTVS/


THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO is now available as an audiobook!  You can purchase it from:

Amazon
Audible

If you've never read TGA before, this is now the Cadillac of ways to enjoy the book.  And if you have, voiceover artist Jennifer Fournier has turned this into a wholly novel experience, well worth revisiting.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Tips For Conducting an Interview

If you've been following my group blog closely (and if you haven't, really, what's wrong with you?) you've probably noticed that there's been more emphasis on interviews this year.  That was a deliberate choice at the suggestion of contributor Kimberly Garnick Giarratano. 

Interviews are great for content.  They essentially double your audience, because you tap into the audience of both interviewer and interviewee.  I've done a lot of interviews here on the blog, and I've also been the subject of a number of interviews.  So here are some of my thoughts on how to conduct a good written interview:

1.) First of all, do some research on your subject. You may find questions just jump out from that. For instance, I was writing questions for an author and I found out his dad was a general in the British army, so I asked what that was like.  Whenever you can ask about things other than their basic bitch job, you're showing that you know about them, which is a good thing, and you're giving them opportunities to talk about subjects they may not always get to discuss.  Which dovetails with my next suggestion:

2.) Don't ask questions that have been asked a million times. I, and every other author who ever lived, has already answered "Where do you get your ideas?" and "When did you start writing?"  These are boring questions.  They're boring because they're boilerplate, and they're also boring because they're hard to put a fun spin on.  Your interview subject will probably have a canned response and that's no good, and nobody likes answering those questions anyway. Things that are constantly changing like, "What are you working on now?" are fine, because at least the answer can be different from interview to interview.

3.) You can throw in one whackadoo question, but I recommend keeping it to just one unless you know the person really well. I once asked an actress from Edmonton, which is famous for its dinosaurs, what her favorite dinosaur was. It had nothing to do with acting, but it was fun to hear the answer.  You could even just something straight crazy like, "If you were a hot dog would you eat yourself?" It lets the subject know things aren't too serious, and at a minimum it's a question they've never heard before. Sometimes those even have the best answers.

4.) If you're into them, like really into them, don't be afraid to ask super deep cut questions. If somebody asks me, "What was your first novel" I instantly switch over to "fuck off" mode, and I'll probably stay that way for the rest of the interview.  Also, the reader doesn't care. But if they're like, "Listen, I noticed in BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS you said there were no animals, but then on p. 163 there were a bunch of birds, what was that all about?" then I know the interviewer is actually a fan, and, counterintuitively, that stuff is actually really interesting to the reader even though it sounds like it's only for superfans. Sometimes you find out stuff in those answers you didn't even know you didn't know.

So what do you think?  Do you have any tips or tricks for conducting interviews?  If you've done a bunch, what do you like to hear from your interviewer?  Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, April 28, 2017

What the Fuck is the Buddy System?

Countless great movies have been made about one man's quixotic struggle against a vast, dark conspiracy.  And some not so great movies, too.  (I'm looking at you, Sandra Bullock vehicle "The Net.")

What's compelling about the idea of a dark cabal in charge of things is that it both suggests that the vague unease we all feel about living in a complex, sometimes amoral society is legitimate, without really being existential.  Sure, the world is evil, but only because a couple of bad apples are pulling the strings.  Let Arnold Schwarzenegger or somebody explode all the bad guys and all will be righted.

The truth, of course, as most adults grudgingly come to accept while somehow not descending into a wallowing pit of despair, is that the world is actually quite fucked up, society is deeply dysfunctional, and while individual humans can listen to the better angels of their nature, humanity as a whole has mostly allowed its collective id to run rampant.  Corporations aren't so much evil as avaricious, governments aren't so much repressive as bureaucratic, and people aren't so much cruel as blithely, banally self-centered.  That, of course, is a wholly unsatisfying answer, hence why conspiracy theories are so popular.

But this is all a roundabout way of introducing today's topic: the buddy system.  For most of you, of course, the buddy system is nothing more complex than elementary school kids holding hands in the pool or on a field trip so that the teacher can easily count the pairs.  But for members of the horror community, the buddy system has taken on a whole new meaning in recent years.

The buddy system conspiracy theory is (and I don't believe I'm misrepresenting it here) begins with Stephen King and Simon Schuster in the late eighties deciding to cripple one of their employees - a promising young writer named Bradley Snow - and then blackball him from the industry for the next thirty years.  During these three decades of unwarranted McCarthyism, the horror industry shriveled on the vine, being reduced to its current state of mostly being produced by small presses (which don't count and/or are simply porn.)  The other authors who came to prominence during this period are not "true" horror authors in the sense that no Scotsman who disagrees with your premise is true.  One can only surmise that had Snow been allowed to continue writing that we would be in a golden era of horror, perhaps one where the most popular show on television was a zombie saga and horror was consistently increasing in popularity across all media forms.  It is but to dream.

Of course, don't take my word for it.  Snow has been promising to publish a tell-all for years.  I think the back cover really says all you need to know about "the buddy system," and straight from the horse's mouth:


Of course, the conspiracy version of the buddy system is entirely the feverish creation of one dull-witted and mentally ill troll.  Now, to clarify, I suffer from mental illness myself and I have a great many friends who do as well.  But we have all either sought out help or learned to live with our conditions with the support of our friends and family.  Bradley Snow has decided to lash out at horror creators and publishers of all stripes, meaning that what's important about him is less the fact that he's clinically delusional and more the fact that he's an asshole.  You can certainly be mentally ill without being an asshole...but that's not the case here.  And while they may not all use the juvenile term "the buddy system," there are quite a few authors and schmauthors who feel the same way.

It's kind of a shame that the trolls have decided to latch onto this conspiracy concept because I think it's entirely possible that what an adult would call "nepotism," "favoritism," or even (were he struck by a fit of poesy) "the good ol' boy system" may be a concerning factor in the outcome of publishing deals.  Certainly, I've heard more than a few stories of very average novels getting major Big 5 deals before it's revealed that the author was the niece of a big time editor at Penguin or something similar.  So nepotism is certainly a possible factor in the state of publishing today, if you consider it doomed.

But what Snow and his ilk are describing is something far less insidious.  He's absolutely furious that big-name authors and publishers all seem to know each other and, what's worse, like each other and even sometimes help each other out.  There's nothing particularly confusing about that to the non-diseased mind.  Everybody in politics know each other, everybody in the recording industry knows each other (how often do you see hit singles "featuring" another recording artist), so why is it strange that everyone in the horror industry knows each other?

Horror authors (well, any authors, really) need to network to succeed.  I've been in I-don't-even-know-anymore-how-many anthologies with the likes of Jay Wilburn, Shana Festa, and even luminaries like Mark Tufo.  I've done a collaboration now with Stevie Kopas.  I've worked with four small presses and met friends and like-minded individuals at all of them, even at the ones I didn't ultimately publish with.  I've met horror authors at conventions and on Twitter and Facebook and all over the place.  We're all like-minded individuals setting out to succeed in a tough industry, and we often like each other.  Do I have enemies?  Sure, unfortunately.  Are there people I find distasteful and like to avoid?  Hell, yeah.  But for the most part, if you're a horror author, you're part of my tribe, and I'm going to help you any way I can.

Unless you act like Bradley Snow.  That's my one caveat.  If you've decided you're a frustrated author because a mythical "buddy system" is keeping you down, then you may as well just give up right now.  No one's going to welcome that kind of vitriol into their lives, and you're going to remain on the outside, unwelcomed by all.  Hell, I'm a frustrated author.  I don't have nearly the level of success that I'd like.  But instead of blaming others, I work constantly on becoming better at my craft and networking with my fans and, yes, other authors and publishers.  I don't want to alienate anyone who could potentially give me a hand up one day.

Now, where I would agree with Snow is if I felt that I had been given chances I didn't deserve because of my personal relationships.  If I felt that I was doing sub-par work and only getting published because of who I know, then that would be an issue.  But I haven't.  In fact, I was recently accepted into an anthology I'm very excited about and the editor assured me that I wouldn't have been accepted if my work wasn't up to snuff, and in fact he had broken the hearts of a few of his much older and closer friends because their work wasn't good enough.  That's the way this stuff really works.  Good relations will get your foot in the door, but only quality writing will get you accepted. 

So what is the buddy system?  Just an excuse for poor writers to go on being terrible and blaming everyone but themselves for their lack of success.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Carlisle High School SciFi Saturday or Bust!

If you live anywhere near central Pennsylvania, it would behoove you to stop by Carlisle High School this coming Saturday.  Carlisle High School SciFi Day is one of the best-run conventions that I attend.  The kids work really hard to take care of the vendors and guests.  And there is a lot of great charitable work that goes on.


If you're interested, the address is:

623 W Penn St
Carlisle, PA 17013

The hours are 11:00 am to 5:00 pm EST.  I'll be participating in the following panels:

Saturday 2:30 pm - LGI - "Q & A for Aspiring Authors"
Saturday 1:00 pm - M41 - "Promoting Yourself in 2017"

Hope to see you there!

Monday, April 3, 2017

New Release: THE HEMATOPHAGES


Hi everybody!  I'm very pleased to announce the release of my sixth novel, THE HEMATOPHAGES, from Sinister Grin Press.  It's something like a combination of "Office Space" and "Alien."  It's available now in e-book and paperback formats through the following fine booksellers:

Amazon

You can also add it on Goodreads.

Doctoral student Paige Ambroziak is a “station bunny” – she’s never set foot off the deep space outpost where she grew up. But when she’s offered a small fortune to join a clandestine salvage mission, she jumps at the chance to leave the cutthroat world of academia behind. 

Paige is convinced she’s been enlisted to find the legendary Manifest Destiny, a long-lost colonization vessel from an era before the corporations ruled Earth and its colonies. Whatever she’s looking for, though, rests in the blood-like seas of a planet-sized organism called a fleshworld. 

Dangers abound for Paige and her shipmates. Flying outside charted space means competing corporations can shoot them on sight rather than respect their salvage rights. The area is also crawling with pirates like the ghoulish skin-wrappers, known for murdering anyone they can’t extort. 

But the greatest threat to Paige’s mission is the nauseating alien parasites which infest the fleshworld. These lamprey-like monstrosities are used to swimming freely in an ocean of blood, and will happily spill a new one from the veins of the outsiders who have tainted their home. In just a few short, bone-chilling hours Paige learns that there are no limits to the depravity and violence of the grotesque nightmares known as…THE HEMATOPHAGES.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS is Back, in Audiobook Form!

http://www.amazon.com/Billy-Cloneasaurus-Stephen-Kozeniewski-ebook/dp/B00L7RXG6U/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1418930188&sr=1-1&keywords=science+fiction

BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS is now available as an audiobook!  You can purchase it from:

Amazon
Audible

If you've never read BATC, this is now the premiere way to experience it.  And if you have, why not take a moment to revisit it, enjoying the dulcet tones of Voiceover Arts Awards-nominated Steve Rimpici?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Scares that Care Shrimp Feast or Bust!

Hey kids!  As you can probably tell by this point I am a big proponent of the Scares That Care charity.  Scares That Care is a horror-themed charity organization which benefits a different set of three ill people each year: a victim of pediatric cancer, a victim of breast cancer, and a burn victim.  I attended the Scares That Care Weekend last July (and I'll be attending again this July) which is an absolute must-attend for anyone who's a fan of horror literature. 

But Scares That Care isn't just a one-weekend event.  They have pop-up events and charity drives all throughout the year.  For instance, I attended the 24-hour Horror Show telethon in January which raised over $10,000 for the deserving families.  And this weekend I'll be attending the STC Shrimp Feast in Baltimore, MD.

This isn't exactly an open event, because tickets were sold and I'm not sure if they'll be available at the door.  But if you are present, and you want to talk to me or have me sign a book, cool.  I'll also have a few books in my car, but, trust me, bookselling won't be my focus.  I'll probably have to grab a few dozen wet naps to clean off before I sign anything for you.  And if you just happen to be in the area, tweet or FB me and I'll meet you in the parking lot to sell you some books, provided you promise not to bone collect me.

The Shrimp Feast will be at:

Jimmy's Famous Seafood
6526 Holabird Ave, Baltimore, Maryland 21224

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Back to Jack

Hey kids!  I haven't forgotten about the Re-Animated series, I've just been bogged down a bit lately.  We'll get back to it, but not today, despite appearances.

With Re-Animated being focused on adult animation, I hadn't originally intended to cover the gorgeous, brilliant, but children-focused early '00s Cartoon Network series "Samurai Jack."  Recently, though, a change has occurred which has made me re-evaluate that decision.

"Samurai Jack" original ran for four 13-episode seasons from 2000-2004.  The show never got a series finale, so the story was never officially finished, although due to the time-travel-centric nature of the show (SPOILERS from here on out) the viewer learned Jack's fate: after walking the earth for many years, maybe decades, he finally returns to the past as a wizened warrior-king, a far cry from the humble samurai we had watched and loved for four seasons. 

As a children's show, never showing this evolution made sense.  "Samurai Jack" didn't precisely hit the reset button each week, but it wasn't exactly fucking "Breaking Bad" either.  The set-up was that our blank slate warrior ran into a crazy sci-fi conundrum each week and solved it through the power of Batman-level fighting skills and a noble heart dedicated to bushido.  Kids weren't exactly going to tune in for "Jack loses his way and goes grimdark," (though one suspects the brilliant minds behind the show could've made even that work.)

Thirteen years after its cancellation, though - now, in other words - the kids and teens who watched the show during its original run are now in their twenties and thirties.  And with the advent of Cartoon Network's adult swim brand, there's even a home for grimdark Jack.  And we've been fortunate enough to get it. 

But this is not the Re-Animated entry on "Samurai Jack," and I fear I've droned on too long already about the whys and wherefores of this show.  My actual intent with this entry is to address something that's been weighing on my mind all week since the Saturday premiere of the new season (remember, SPOILERS already abound):

Where's Aku?

Now, I've been known in the past to complete over-analyze TV shows and even fuck my analysis completely up.  So it's possible I'm being premature on this one, maybe even likely, but just go with me on this, if you please.

Here's what we know with certitude based on the first new episode of "Samurai Jack": Aku has abandoned his cult.  The cultists intend to kill Jack for the stated purpose of catching Aku's attention and bringing them back to him.  So we know that he was once with them, and abandoned them for unknown reasons.  They're not just crazies who took to worshipping Aku as a distant unknown.  He was there and then he wasn't.

And here's a second, mildly interesting factoid: Aku does not narrate the opening introduction as he did through the entire run of the original four seasons.  Jack is a terse, laconic character.  It doesn't make much sense that he would unspool his origin story a whole lot.  We get a glimpse of what a Jack-narrated introduction might have sounded like in the early episode "Jack in Space" - and with it, a clear idea of why Aku always narrates instead.  Jack is too humble to unfurl the story with clarity.  Aku, on the other hand, is a braggadocious blowhard, one who will talk himself up, and talk all the appropriate shit about Jack.  By flipping the script suddenly in season 5, a shift is obviously intended.  This season has so far been a closer examination of Jack's psyche, so it makes sense that the new introduction is from his own lips.  But it also again raises the question: where's Aku?

At first this made me wonder if Aku has totally gone missing from the world.  But then, later on in the episode Scaramouche, a robotic assassin, challenges Jack and claims to be Aku's favorite.  Okay, so maybe Aku is still around.  Then, when he learns the crucial piece of information that Jack has lost his sword - the only weapon which can harm Aku - Scaramouche calls Aku on the phone to let him know...

...or so we're led to believe.

I have a couple of problems with this.  First of all, the voice on the other end of the phone sounds nothing like Aku.  Now, there's a simple explanation for this: Aku's original (and might I add, brilliant) voiceover artist, Mako, passed away while the show was off the air.  So, obviously Aku is going to sound slightly different.  However, the voice on the other end of the phone sounds nothing like Aku.  Aku's delivery and diction is so distinct, I don't feel that it would be hard for even a nominally capable voiceover artist to replicate Mako to the extent that I would recognize it as Aku.  But, shit, man, I could do a better Aku than this.  This leads to two possibilities:

1)  The creators of "Samurai Jack" decided to re-cast Aku using someone who is absolutely unrecognizable in the very distinct role of Aku, or

2)  The voice on the phone is not meant to be Aku's.

I can't really fathom why they would opt for the first choice.  But, okay, let's ignore our meta knowledge.  Let's just look at just what we know in-show.  The voice on the phone, instead of saying, "Yes, Scaramouche, my most trusted assassin?" says with irritation "Who is this?"  This leads to two further possibilities:

1)  This is really Aku, Scaramouche got his phone number, and yet Aku doesn't recognize a guy he gave his number to...which is really weird considering how secretive Aku is in 99% of instances.  Jack has, in the past, gone to great lengths just to get an audience with him.

2)  Scaramouche is a blowhard (this is borne out by, well, all of his behavior up to and after this point) and he doesn't actually have Aku's digits.  He just pulled the old joke of, "Oh let me call so-and-so" and dialed a random or simply different number. 

Again, I'm hard-pressed to see why the answer would be the first one.  It's possible that this is another goofy ol' Aku joke, like the show sometimes likes to play.  But when you couple this phone call with the rest of the information in the episode - Aku never appears, the cultists are no longer in contact with him, and perhaps most interesting of all, Aku no longer narrates the introduction, we're suddenly presented with what I think is a mystery:

Where is Aku?

Nothing can kill him except Jack's sword...which is missing.  Again, with the caveat that I may be utterly over-analyzing this whole thing, "Samurai Jack" has always been a simple show, one that largely wears its heart on its sleeve.  Jack has lost his purpose - which is to defeat Aku - because he has literally lost his purpose.  Aku has already been defeated.  Aku is gone, and without his nemesis, Jack is lost.  At least, in my humble opinion.  Otherwise, why would a show that essentially has only two characters reboot with one of those characters unseen for an entire episode?  Amongst all the other hints we've seen here.

What do you think?  Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Call to Action: Help Me Win the Podcast Wars

It has been brought to my attention recently in a moment of kind, private, candor that my interview on The Horror Show With Brian Keene is now the least popular episode of all time.  OF.  ALL.  TIME.

I have no recourse but to attempt to unfuck that.  And so it is with a heavy heart that I must ask you, my beloved fans and friends, to do one or all of the following:

a)  Listen to the episode

b)  Download the episode

c)  Share the episode link all up and down social media

d)  Encourage your friends to listen to the episode

Part A couldn't be any easier.  Since you're here, all you have to do is click the right-pointing triangle below:



Thanks for the support, everybody!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Women in Horror Month #12: Rose O'Keefe, Owner of Eraserhead Press



For the final entry in WiHM 2017 I am delighted that today's guest agreed to stop by as she is one of the most singularly influential people working in the field today.  Without her, modern extreme horror - as well as the the entire bizarro genre - would look nothing like it does.  Let's meet her and then pick her brain as we save the best for last in this year's WiHM interview series.

About Rose O'Keefe:



Rose O'Keefe is the owner/ publisher of Eraserhead Press, the leading publishing house of Bizarro Fiction since 1999. Eraserhead Press is comprised of one main line of books and three imprints: Deadite Press, Lazy Fascist Press, and Fungasm Press. Under O’Keefe’s direction, Eraserhead Press has released over three hundred titles and developed an international cult following for its cutting-edge weird fiction which has been praised by The Guardian, Chuck Palahniuk, Jack Ketchum, Boing Boing, and Cracked.com, among others.

As a leader in the Bizarro Fiction community, she hosts monthly writer's gatherings, writer's retreats on the Oregon Coast, and the annual convention/art event, BizarroCon.

In addition to being a full-time publisher and editor, she’s also a homebrewer and Argentine tango dancer. She lives in Portland, Oregon. You can find her on: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Interview:


SK: What are your horror credentials? 

RO:  I am a lifelong fan of horror and have been professionally involved in the industry for nearly two decades. I am the publisher/owner of Eraserhead Press and our imprints Deadite Press, Lazy Fascist Press, and Fungasm Press. I publish powerhouse authors Brian Keene, John Skipp, Edward Lee, Carlton Mellick III, Monica O'Rourke, Wrath James White, J.F. Gonzalez, Bryan SmithTiffany Scandal, Jan KozlowskiShane McKenzie, Molly Tanzer, Stephen Graham Jones, Laura Lee Bahr, Ryan Harding, Autumn Christian, Geoff Cooper, David Agranoff, Brian Allen Carr, Bryan Killian, Adam Cesare, Robert Devereaux, and many others. I also support the work of artists and filmmakers working in the genre and as programming chair of the 2014 World Horror Convention, I was the first person in the history of the event to make sure there were women seated on all the panels.  

SK: Who or what terrifies you? 
 
RO:  So many things! And that's what keeps me interested in horror. Rather than running from the things that terrify me, I'm interested in confronting them, dissecting them, seeing what makes them tick. Some of the big ones are parasites, going blind, narrow confined spaces, losing my memory, unpredictable people, willful malice, natural disasters, and loved ones in danger.


SK: Are there unique challenges to being a woman in horror or do you feel like gender is irrelevant?

RO:  The challenges to being a woman in horror are less about the horror genre in particular and more about being a woman in a patriarchal society. Even in 2017, being taken seriously as a woman in business has its obstacles. For example, it is still a frequent occurrence in meetings of mixed genders that myself or another woman will put forward an idea and the men at the table won't hear the idea until another man repeats it. This can be very frustrating and is one of those things that women frequently have to pick their battles on. As a woman in a position of leadership, I make sure to create space for women's voices wherever I can and encourage the men around me to learn how to listen. Similarly, I've had other experiences of being overlooked. Like the time I was setting up my table in a horror convention dealers room and one of my employees, a man, was down on his knees on the floor digging through boxes of books organizing our inventory. Meanwhile, I was standing next to the table overseeing the setup and telling him what I wanted him to do. A writer walked over with some questions about our company and addressed the man on the floor. My employee looked up at him and said, "You should probably ask my boss those questions, she's standing right next to you."  These are things I think women in any business can relate to and unfortunately things I consider just part of the landscape of being a woman. But the most beautiful challenge for women in horror, as well as men in horror, is the risks they take with their subject matter. Creating art that delves into the darker parts of the human psyche and holds a mirror up to our most depraved aspects as well as our best and most fragile strings of hope takes empathy, compassion, and bravery. It is no easy task and can turn people off if handled improperly. At its best, horror has the ability to transform the reader/viewer and reveal things about the human experience that they may otherwise have left unexplored. To truly appreciate this requires being open to diverse voices and the women who create horror are some of the fiercest among them.

SK: Who are your favorite female horror icons?

SK: What are you working on/promoting currently? Why should folks check it out?

RO:  I'm excited to announce that this Fall Eraserhead Press will be releasing a new novella by Amber Fallon titled THE WARBLERS. I've been following Ms. Fallon's work for a while and was delighted to receive this book during our open submission period last year. It knocked my socks off! It is about a young farmer who is plagued by strange cryptozoological creatures and what it will take to save his family. Anyone who loves heartfelt, weird and creepy stories is going to love it. It comes out September 1st.

Out now, I'd love to bring the attention of fans of women in horror to the dark comedy SHIT LUCK by Tiffany Scandal:

About SHIT LUCK:



"One of the most exciting new voices to emerge in years. A deft, masterful mix of both bizarro and horror." 
- Brian Keene, author of THE RISING and GHOUL

"Dark and grim and surreal." 

Mondays suck. You get mugged, your car won't start, you miss the bus, and your stylist burns a bald spot into your head. Suddenly you're single and unemployed, and the only friend you have left is a cat. By Tuesday, you've been murdered. But death isn't the end. You find yourself on an odyssey between weird worlds, reborn each time you die, stalked obsessively by the man who killed you.

Even in death, you just can't seem to catch a break. Call it Mercury in retrograde, call it Murphy's law, call it...SHIT LUCK.
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