Thursday, 28 February 2013

New Story is Live on the Interwebs!!!- The More Things Change: A Tale of the Aether Age.

Another one of my short stories has just gone live over on the Alternate History Weekly Update blog. Yay!

It's called The More Things Change: A Tale of the Aether Age, it's set in Las Vegas and it's a humorous look at what happens when you put citizens of the various north American nations of The Aether Age in the same room. I'm quite chuffed by how it worked out.

It's actually for a competition they're running on the website called Balkanize Me! which got my attention. Balkanization is when a country essentially falls apart into many smaller nations which is exactly what happens in The Aether Age. My entry was late so I'm not sure I can win but every visitor to the story counts as one point towards deciding the winner.

Either way, it was a good excuse to explore The Aether Age's political landscape in a funny way and got me writing at speed, which is always a good thing.

It's free to read, so have at it. And remember: if you like the writing, compliments are the food of artists. Our egos must be sustained :)

That's two stories on the interwebs! Wow. I must be a writer now...

And if you're visiting the website for the first time you can find my other published short story in the free promotional anthology the Dieselpunk ePulp Sampler which is available for free at Kobo, Smashwords, GoodReads, WattPad, and a whole stack of other places. It's also available for 99c at Amazon and still coming to iBooks which is why I haven't done a big announcement yet - cause it's awkward pointing someone to a free ebook when it's being sold for 99c. Avoid if possible but if you really need that Amazon version it's there too.

Pulp Cover of the Week - Air Wonder Stories, April 1930.

It's so crazy it might just work....

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Dieselpunk Song of the Week - Candyman by Christina Aguilera.

Most people will have heard this very Dieselpunk-y song a few times. The video is full of great images from the era, taking them and putting a modern spin on them for a whole lot of fun. A good one to show non-'punks what Dieselpunk is all about:

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Dieselpunk Manifesto: Some Examples of Dieselpunk.

Sometimes the easiest way to teach something is to show it. So here is some good mainstream examples of Dieselpunk – and Dieselpunks – in action. 

With one big exception – music. 

Music is by far and away the easiest form of Dieselpunk to point people towards because the Diesel era was where popular music began (as we know it, anyway). There always has been, and always will be, bands and artists who will look back to the era for inspiration, and the examples of their creativity are legion. So rather than go for the low hanging fruit I’m going to delve into some of the other Dieselpunk examples kicking around.

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Holodeck Punks.

If you’re a geek then there’s nothing more mainstream than Star Trek. Less so if you’re not, but you should at least know that out there somewhere is a sci-fi television series called Star Trek where they ride around in spaceships etc. Well, one fancy part of the USS Enterprise ‘spaceship’ is the holodeck, a room where tangible holograms are used to recreate environments that the crew can then hang out in for recreational or educational experiences.

The holodeck provides some of the most blatant examples of Dieselpunk in mainstream media because the captain of the Enterprise, one Jean Luc-Picard, loves the old hard-boiled detective pulps of the 30s and 40s. So when he goes to the holodeck he ‘punks out in fedora and suit and sets out to solve a noir mystery with fellow crew members in tow.

Picard’s love for Dieselpunk goes so far that he wants to live the era, something most Dieselpunks can only pine for. Dressing up and speaking like he was from the era, what the captain does is straight up Dieselpunk. About the only thing preventing this from being the ultimate expression of Dieselpunk-itude is that they visit the past but can’t actually bring the past back out with them into their everyday lives (the literal message of this particular episode).

But it does go to show that a holodeck would probably be on the top of every Dieselpunk’s Christmas list.

Jessica Rabbit: One Femme Fatale to Rule Them All.
"I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way."
 Jessica Rabbit is the distillation of everything the femme fatale represents, all in a caricatured, kid-friendly and fun package. Femme fatales are a dime a dozen in any thriller and there have been plenty of memorable renditions of the character archetype (Sharon Stone, we’re trying not to look at you). But the Diesel era was where this character emerged in its most well-known form, mostly because this was the era in which women started to emerge as individuals. Powerful but dangerous, the femme fatale heralds an historic gender shift and society’s nervous twitch in the face of this age of the single independent female.
But it’s the attitude of this powerful, cool and unapolagetically calculating – yet paradoxically sensuous and urge-driven – character that marks the archetype. Established in the early pulps that would later inspire what would become known as ‘noir’, it’s an attitude still evoked today in every woman who vamps it up at a fancy dress party, wears that extra sassy dress out on the town or goes for the alluring and dark rather than the bright and fun. The femme fatale of the early 20th Century (what Americans would call the ‘vamp’, short for ‘sexual vampire’) is an idea of sexual danger, coldness that gets what it wants, and power. In its most stereotypical version it references those early noir examples in the true spirit of Dieselpunking. And in its fun, playful guise that Dieselpunking is Jessica Rabbit.

The Mask

He's wearing a Zoot Suit. Enough said.

Chrysler PT Cruiser

Here’s another easy one. The Chrysler PT Cruiser:

It clearly takes its design cues from an earlier era of automobile. Something more like this:

Making a modern car in the mould of something from the 1930s? That’s Dieselpunk baby.

And just because I can: the Maybach Excelero. This is what I imagine a Dieselpunk Batmobile would look like:

 <Sigh with longing...>

Finally, we’ve bypassed music, glanced at attitude, noted character, gloried in design... it must be time for fashion.

I could go straight to the Ultimate Example of Dieselpunk fashion but I want to do an in-depth exploration of the character in question a little later on (maybe next week) but if you’re talking Dieselpunk fashion then you’re talking this guy:

Bond. James Bond.
Bond isn’t just about fashion, he’s the one stop shop for most things Dieselpunk. I mean this guy was ‘punking the Diesel era just after the Diesel era finished. He dresses the lifestyle when all others around him are casualwear slobs, he takes his cocktails seriously and, although he can punch on like the best of them, he prefers to do everything with a truck load of class, from the sly wit and sharp banter to the classic cars. He was evoking aspirational deco-punk long after it was popular, proving that it would always be cool. 

But I want to do a much more in-depth expose later on so we'll pass for one of the many examples inspired by Mister Bond-James-Bond. One such recent character is Neil Caffrey from the tv series White Collar.

Neil Caffrey, the Debonair (but sort of reformed) Art Thief/Forger/Con-Man/etc etc etc...

 White Collar is a tv series about an FBI agent in the white collar crimes department who finally takes down one of the world’s most successful art thieves, Neil Caffrey. What results is one of the best odd-couple heist procedurals on tv where the everyman Peter Burke has to show the world that Neil has reformed his ways by setting him to task catching the sort of people he used to be. Neil does not make this easy for Pete.
He likes his hats. Always a good sign.
The Dieselpunk aspect of the television series comes mostly from Neil’s sense of style and the house he rents. Neil has a thing for hats, suits and the finer things in life, refusing to use a gun because his wits are enough on their own. He’s charming, he’s debonair and he’s also appalled by Peter’s lack of refinement. However, his Dieselpunk credentials are made possible thanks to the house he stays in. It belongs to June Ellington who, along with her late husband, was often into the same trouble Neil is today. A talented jazz vocalist herself, June is a connection to the history of New York's underground and therefore a direct link to a lot of Diesel-era related stories. A recent example would be their attempt to prove the brother of a jazz club was illegally selling taxi licenses. June is brought in to sing at the club while the agents are dressed up as sexy cigar vendors and forced to prove how much they know about real jazz. As always it’s a great episode and illustrates how the series creators draw on the (late) Diesel era in order to provide the necessary cool and class both Neil and the show are famous for.

So there you go, Dieselpunk everywhere. Hope you enjoyed these examples and no doubt I’ll get round to discussing more in the future. Who knows, maybe next week I’ll get to discussing Mister Bond-James-Bond. Stay tuned...

ePulp Review of the Week- Tales of the Red Panda: The Crime Cabal, by Gregg Taylor.

Tales of the Red Panda: The Crime CabalTales of the Red Panda: The Crime Cabal by Gregg Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*Pulp Warning* All my reading skews towards e-pulp, as do my reviews. Reader beware :) *Pulp Warning*

Tales of the Red Panda  The Crime Cabal

Overall: 4 stars (Recommended)

A really fun story with lively characters, witty banter, plenty of action and some great set scenes. This is your straight up masked pulp vigilante story with the joy turned up to 11. Its only downfall may well be the fact that it's too stereotypical and therefore has no real momentum to make it a true classic.

Pacing and Action: 5 stars.

Pacy and lively, the story has plenty of action. It also helps that the sense of humour and the witty banter between the two main characters really snaps and crackles. It's a whole lot of fun. And while there isn't a huge variety of actions scenes the many fights are nice and chaotic. Just the way the Red Panda likes it.

Pulp Concept: 3 stars.

In a funny way this is the weak point of the book. The characters are great but beyond the somewhat jokey fact that they are fighting on the 'mean streets of Toronto' and the guy looks like a red panda in his domino mask there isn't a lot unique about the character as a classic pulp hero. Personality etc are great but the whole 'rich guy in a fedora and domino mask fighting crime with weird special powers' doesn't get any new elements added to it.
And Toronto is... Toronto. It ends up being yet another 30s city in decline etc etc etc.
The saving grace is probably the bad guys who are very well done. They're suitably monstrous and Ebil and make you think what Toronto could have been like back in the 30s...

Character development: 4 stars.

The main characters are great. They have real personalities, a real and complicated relationship and, again, their witty banter is awesome. On a personal note, they do seem to be a bit arrogant and smug but then again, I've never been a one-man war against crime. Maybe that goes with the territory.
The real let down is the support characters. When they're not barely there they're somewhat annoying and clueless, helping the smugness of the Red Panda sort of run unchecked. And the lead support character sort of just shows up half way through and then... doesn't really achieve much. It made me wonder if he was there just to make the last half of the story work better. It's a bit of a let down considering how well the rest of the story is written.

Production: 3.5 stars.

The editting was fine and the cover okay but what really kicked me in the teeth was the price. $5 for a pulp story is steep when you can get quality stuff for $3 a pop. Not as audacious as the $6 plus stuff out there but pushing the limits of worth-it. I'll probably get the rest at $5 anyway but I'll still smart when I push the buy button.

Series Potential: 4 stars.

Gregg Taylor can write good pulp and the Red Panda series already stands at 3 books. Which is awesome. However, whether Toronto is up to the challenge of hosting pulp stories as interesting as the Red Panda and the Flying Squirrel remains to be seen.

Special Award: My New Favourite Scene.

Book gets an award for the first paragraph of chapter 5. Fantastic scene that not only paints an incredibly vibrant picture for what is a fairly simple sequence but also serves to move the story along at the same time. Well done.

Wrap Up.

A really fun pulp reading experience that is just a little let down by the supporting elements and the feeling that there could have been more to the concept. Recommend this to anyone who wants some fun in their reading. And who doesn't want fun in their reading..?

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

It's... still on the way...

For those who don't know yet, I'm publishing my first story!


It's part of a free promotional anthology of Dieselpunk stories I'm helping to put together with a bunch of other writers and the cover will look something (but not exactly) like this:

But we've hit a slight complication...

You see, Amazon doesn't like free stuff. In fact, it won't let you sell free stuff, which makes it difficult to publish a FREE anthology. But Amazon also likes to match the price of all its competitors, finding other prices and then lowering them to the same.

What does this mean? It means that we have our book out there and ready to read but, not at all according to plan, Amazon is charging money for it. Until it sees that other websites are 'selling' said book for free. At which point it will (hopefully) lower its price to $0 in order to match their price, the price we wish to sell it at.


So we are currently sweating on Amazon's 'dob in service' to recognise and change the price to 'free' before we go big on the whole promotional and telling-people part of publishing - which is the reason you publish!!!!

If you're really desperate to read it then it is available at several different platforms other than Amazon and I can post the links if anyone wants them, but at the moment we're still hoping for it to all get set up properly so we can go big proper-launch style.

So, again, sorry for the inconvenience, but it's still happening! Just a bit delayed and not as planned <grumble grumble...>

Song of the Week: Mack the Knife by Bobby Darin.

This song is a classic of the jazz age and has been sung by many people from Armstrong through to Sinatra. But even ol' Blue Eyes admitted that when he sang it he was just singing Bobby Darin's song. And when Sinatra admits the jersey has been retired, and he's just borrowing it... you gotta be doing something right.

I love the way the song keeps building and building throughout the piece. Not to mention Darin's 'screen' presence. A different era of cool, that's what that is.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Pulp Manifesto: The Pulpiness of Tommy Thunder.

Last Pulp Manifesto I explained what ‘pulp’ was, so this time I’m going to explain what the Tommy Thunder series is and how (I hope) it will be influenced by pulp.

For those of you who have just joined us, pulp stories were written for magazines published on a monthly basis with a strong emphasis on genre fiction and entertainment value. They were cheap entertainment anyone could read on a regular basis and skewed towards the fantastic and the emotionally riveting. They were pulp.

And I want Tommy Thunder to be the same way. The goal of the Tommy Thunder series is to be as adventurous as humanly possible on a regular basis. If I had a mission status, that’s what it would be: ‘as adventurous as humanly possible on a regular basis’. I want to explore worlds and I want to have fun exploring them and I want to be completely unapologetic about that goal. Tommy Thunder is about adventure, set in the golden age of adventure, following a character whose political affiliation is ‘adventure’. That’s what the series is, that’s who Tommy is, but it’s an adventure that just happens to be served up via biplanes, zeppelins and gangsters because that sort of stuff just floats my boat.
Adventurous like this!
 But the series will also be pulp in form, not just content. 

Pulp magazines were regular, serialised storytelling. That was its ‘thing’. People could expect the next instalment of their favourite hero because that expectation was a key attraction of the medium. What people don’t realise when reading classic pulp stories is that this penchant for being the ‘monarch of serialised storytelling’ was a crown the pulp magazines lost in the 50s and 60s. A crown that was taken by television. Pulps went underground but much of the best work in serialised storytelling from that point onwards was done by television writers, cranking out the adventures of your favourite characters on the same time, same channel every week.
Say this isn't pulp and I'll fight ya...
 In this way, I want Tommy’s adventures to be serialised. Properly serialised. So instead of looking to film or other successful novel series I want to look to television and the way it has perfected serialised storytelling. I want a regular cast of characters. I want a full story with each ‘episode’.  I want it to be accessible to everyone. But I also want an overarching story that stretches across the whole series. I want the series to be about characters plural, not just one individual, and I want them to each have their B and C plots, just like in my favourite television series. I want guest characters each episode and new threats to the status quo and, above all, I want to be able to look forward to the next episode so I can spend more time with these characters I’ve come to love. That to me is the perfect television experience, so that is what I will be attempting to write with Tommy Thunder – the greatest adventure television series you’ve ever read.
This, but never cancelled.
 And I’ll be doing it with an unlimited special effects and stunt choreography budget. Yay!!!

Pulp was also cheap, punchy, and perhaps worst of all, released on a monthly schedule. Now cheap is fairly easy to provide – Tommy’s focus will probably be e-reading with print on demand for people who like the tree-editions – but the ‘monthly schedule’ bit is perhaps where things get a little tricky for me the writer. Writing a full story on a monthly basis, while still earning enough money to feed myself, is not easy. So maybe ‘monthly’ is out of the question. But my hope is that by the time I get round to releasing the first set of stories I’ll be able to write at least one full Tommy adventure every three months with a goal to whittle that down to one every two.

That’s the plan, anyway.

The Tommy Thunder series is going to be an experiment, an attempt to write a story out of time, but written in what I hope is a very contemporary way. If I do my job right it should be a whole lot of fun and I can’t wait to edit and finish the first several stories so I can finally see what other people think. But sadly these things don’t edit themselves :-(

Next Pulp Manifesto I may get stuck into one of my favourite topics – adventure writing. Adventure writing, how it does and does not relate to action writing, and why they don’t make adventure stories like they used to. Stay tuned...

GoodReads reviews - The Troubleshooter: New Haven Blues by Bard Constantine.

The Troubleshooter: New Haven BluesThe Troubleshooter: New Haven Blues by Bard Constantine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*Pulp Warning* My online reading is mostly epulp related and as such my opinion of a story's worth also tends to be epulp skewed. Review-reader beware :) *Pulp Warning*

Overall score: 5 stars (highly recommend)

The Troubleshooter was a joy to read. With all the zaniness you could expect for your epulp reading dime The Troubleshooter throws you into a very different world, one that is part Bladerunner, part 1930s America and then continues to heap on the weird and zany. All to the quirky, jargon-deep voiceover of our protagonist Mick Trubble. It's fast paced and constantly confronting the reader with whacky new ideas as we follow a bad, yet fairly typical day in the life of Mick Trubble. And if you like zany epulp style sci-fi/noir shenanigans then this is definitely the story for you.

Pacing and action: 5 stars.
This story is ludicrously fast if you're watching the clock. Within the space of 24 hours Mick Trubble does an insane amount of running and gunning yet amongst it all the reader still gets a fairly comprehensive story of political intrigue. Everything from sci-fi car chases to stand offs with leather clad assassins. You will not e left wanting for action.

Pulp concept: 5 stars.
It's a little complicated but essentially the world of The Troubleshooter is retro-style dieselpunk world with a reasonably believeable justification. Don't think too hard about it, but by pulp standards it's pretty good and creates a world full of potential future adventure while giving us plenty in the present. The setup also turns out an impressive number of whacky yet cool supporting characters. And that's what good pulp does.

Character development: 4 star.
The achilles heal of pulp, when you're doing all that running and gunning the characters can often get left behind. The Troubleshooter did this better then most with a comprehensive character story that Mick Trubble himself has to uncover. It's not brilliant but we at least get a good sense of who Mick is, even if the supporting cast can be easily forgotten as characters. Bit harder to forget them as garrishly dressed hitmen though. They're definitely better as archetypes than they are as fleshed out characters. But Mick himself saves this from being 3 star.

Production: 5 star.
This thing has been editted properly (I mean spelling, grammar, formatting - everything. It's a professional product) with good cover art and nice touches like the glossary at the front. 5 star production from a genre that can often be lacking in this department.

Series potential: 4 stars.
It's definitely there. If Constantine can come up with just as many whacky characters for a sequel then this will be quite the epulp series. Fingers crossed and here's hoping.

Wrap up.
Definitely one of the best epulp stories I've had the pleasure of reading. It's quality, it's fun, it has a unique and endearing style. It leaves you wanting more. And that's good pulp.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Dieselpunk Manifesto: Why Write Dieselpunk?

Branding yourself a Dieselpunk writer is an odd thing to do, and to be honest it’s more for my benefit than any potential reader. I actually write pulpy action-adventure stories that involve biplanes, gangsters, Caribbean safaris and old-school mad scientists. But I do put a lot of effort into theming my stories in order to experiment with ideas and genres and for some reason I just clicked with the Dieselpunk vibe. I enjoy the stories that happen when I think Dieselpunk so that’s why I write them.

Working out why I enjoy them is a completely different issue.

I started writing Tommy Thunder set in the 1920s because that’s the golden age of adventure, a time in which the world still hadn’t been completely mapped, but the technology existed to take you to those places anyway. The chance to explore those blank spaces of possibility is what gives the era so many possibilities. It was this excitable attitude that characterises many of the writers of the era, a certain amount of idealistic positivity that, while in some cases poorly guided, it provided a world of imagination and possibility that looked to the stars and beyond with an energy that’s hard to match these days. Their imagination ran wild with stories of what was out there in the world, out there in the galaxy and out there in the future. It made for some fantastic imaginating.
The Future!!! We just don't think like this any more.
 But because of this pulpy optimism, Tommy Thunder is decidedly Dieselpunk-averse. While I can touch on Dieselpunk ideas, the pure naive optimism of Tommy under the clear blue skies of the Caribbean prevents me exploring the gritty cool of Chicago and New York, and with it the reasons why so many people love the symbols of the age, the clothing, the music and the design. I’m fascinated with the idea that people would rather live there than here and I want to know why. And I want to know why I enjoy all these things as well.
Not really a Caribbean kinda gal...
 So Tommy wasn’t enough. As fun as he is, Tommy is not able to explore the Dieselpunk side of life, a set of ideas that fascinate me no end and exists within the same era as Tommy, if not in the same spirit.  In order to explore Dieselpunk I need gangsters and fast cars and mad scientists and speakeasies, and while all those things will show up in a Tommy Thunder story, they won’t be distilled the way they will be in Tales of the Aether Age, my Dieselpunk ‘label’. In Tales I can go nuts and explore the arguments of Dieselpunk, get my noir on and explore the Jazz Age’s seedier political corners without compromising Tommy’s story. I get to explore ‘casual-isation’, ‘mainstream criminality’ and the everyday politics of art deco design while Tommy gets to shoot biplanes out of the sky. Everyone wins :)

Holodeck Dieselpunks/Tales of the Aether Age readers.
To that end I’d also like to announce something very exciting. This is where I reveal that my first piece of published writing will soon be released, a Dieselpunk story published as the first Tale of the Aether Age. I’m quite chuffed with how it turned out and it will be released as part of an anthology released in conjunction with, the internet’s best source for all things Dieselpunk. More info to be posted during the week but for now I’ll leave you with the title of my first story and a working cover: 

That Sort of World: A Tale of the Aether Age.

Whatcha think? Release date is the 18th February so I'll have more details soon.