Welcome to another Fun Friday! Nothing much is happening here in the darkest jungles of Appalachia. We’re between adventures, and the most exciting thing going on is our palace in the trees needs a good scrubbing. On days like this, cold, wet, un-summery, I want to climb into my pillow fort with a pitcher of lemonade and my e-book reader.
I have a confession to make: I love the internet and what it’s done for creative people. Yeah, granted, it’s scaring the crap out of the music industry, the film industry and the publishing world, and, as a professional writer, I can see their point. But, from the perspective of a consumer, that shakeup can be a great thing. The “gatekeeper” system had and has it uses. But one of its flaws is that it can … shoot, how to say this? It can vanilla-ize the content that ends up coming out at the end.
For example, the blockbuster movie situation. Obviously, after several big successes over the last ten years, the movies have figured out that a certain kind of superhero action flick is gonna make them big bucks. And that’s great; I enjoyed the heck out of the Avengers, and I adore Robert Downey’s performances as Tony Stark. But, much as I enjoyed them, I don’t want a steady diet of superhero movies. There are other stories that are just as exciting and fun, that don’t involve Ken-doll-perfect actors with a six pack and , mutant powers and skintight spandex. I’m sure good ideas come over movie producers’ desks all the time, but they don’t produce them. They play it safe; superheroes sell, so superheroes is what we’re gonna do.
But in writing, music, any art, “playing it safe” and creativity don’t always go together. Sometimes you gotta go against the current. You gotta go with your gut, your heart, you gotta chase your passion, even if it’s not fashionable or salable or safe. Independent writers, performers and artists are doing that, with varying levels of success. Their work is not being squeezed and changed and shoved through the funnel of “safe” and “marketable.”
The downside, obviously, is that our arts created the gatekeepers for a reason, and it wasn’t only to make money. At least 99% of the time, writers NEED editors, to help us see what we sometimes can’t see for ourselves, to catch our typos and give fresh perspective. Same with music producers and movie producers. Moreover, they filter out the gunk, the unreadable, unlistenable, unwatchable get filtered out before they can be inflicted on the public. And I guarantee there is unreadably, unlistenably and unwatchably bad art out there in the world. If you doubt me, go to Smashwords and read ten books at random, and dare tell me that at least two of them were not worth the effort of clicking the link. Or, for a more painful example, go watch some of the painful auditions on Britain’s Got Talent or other examples of that sort of show. Go surf tumblr or deviantart for an hour or two. Yeah. It’s out there; get the brain bleach ready. The internet has given everybody a platform and some of them ARE NOT READY to be at the lectern.
HOWEVER. With that said, and with the understanding that you’re going to have to sift through a lot of pig feces before you find those pearls of great price (yeah, I mixed my metaphors, it’s Friday, don’t judge me), the fact is, there is some really great pearls out there on the Webz. My own particular addiction is for online serialized fiction (as if you couldn’t guess, from my Monday morning escapades) and audio books from independent authors. I thought I’d share a few of my finds with you today.
First, let’s start with some New Pulp. The Cliffhanger Case Files is a webpage specializing in hardboiled detective style pulp, “inspired by the Serials, Pulp Dime Novels, Old Time Radio, and Film Noir of yesteryear. ” Best I can find out (I hate webpages that don’t have an “About Us” link somewhere), it’s Canadian based, and, unfortunately, apparently stopped posting in about 2007 (this is one of the major downsides to this sort of thing; independent sites often stop abruptly and are never fired back up again. Sigh). But it has five completed offerings there for your reading pleasure (plus two more unfinished fragments and one dead link): four novels and two “pulp exposes,” or more accurately, short stories. If you’re into hardboiled detectives and two fisted action, you could do worse than to settle down for a nice read here.
Speaking of New Pulp, have you been over to Podiobooks? I’m only just discovering it myself, and so far, so good. It’s a site for authors to post audiobooks of their work, and you can listen for free (though they do have a prominent Donate button, and you should totally do that very thing; donations help the authors bring you new material). Sometimes the authors are indies, but there are also traditionally published authors who are posting free books for any number of reasons: to promote their work, to try something new, to just get their name out there. The selection on Podiobooks in our New Pulp, Dieselpunk and Steampunk range from slim to non-existent, but the few that are over there do not suck.
Podiobooks is where I found The Second Bat Guano War, by J.M. Porup. The blurb says
“Rats ate his baby daughter while he partied in a disco. Now Horace “Horse” Mann is a drugged-out expat teaching English to criminals in Lima, Peru. Oh, and doing the odd favor for the CIA.
When his Agency contact, Pitt Waters, goes missing, Horse’s desperate efforts to find his only friend lead him to a Buddhist ashram on the shores of Lake Titicaca. There Horse uncovers his friend’s involvement with a group of Gaia-worshipping terrorists who want to kill off the human “disease” infecting the earth.
Can Horse find his friend in time? And when he does—will he want to stop him?“
I usually don’t usually go for modern day New Pulp; my personal preference is for the period settings (I’m a Weird War fan, obviously I dig the past). But the author (who also reads the audiobook) is having a good time, and you can tell. Give it a listen.
The Gearheart describes itself as “Magic, Espionage and Intrigue in a Noir World.” The page has a series of interlocking audiobooks, short stories, art, and music, set in the world of the Steampunk “Ministry of Peculiar Occurences.” Sort of. It’s complicated. I”m new to this one, so I can’t tell you too much right now, except that, while nominally Dieselpunk, it is pretty loosely so, with frequent crossovers into gothic, gaslight horror, Steampunk, Clockpunk, James Bond, the works. What I’ve listened to so far, I’ve enjoyed. Go check it out.
Now, normally I have only three installments on Fun Fridays. Consider this an encore. Sorta kinda. Statless and Tactless is a blog about a group of friends running and playing in a Steampunk role playing game. Very very meta. To say they are a dysfunctional bunch, as the front page describes them, is a fair cop. The entries look like cut-and-pastes from an IRC chatroom, so be prepared for the format to not be what you’re used to (and a pet peeve of mine: colored or white text against a dark background always gives me a headache. AND some of it is in Courier font, which i despise with the heat of a thousand ancient volcano gods). But, once you get past those flaws, it is surprisingly fun to read, laugh out loud funny in places. Then again, I’ve been an RPG-girl since the 1980’s, and my elder sister and I co-GMed groups like this for over a decade, so maybe it’s one of those, “You gotta be a part of the community to appreciate it” kind of things. Go check it out, see if it’s for you.
Okay, I think that’s it for now. I’m getting hungry; I may be forced to go hunt down one of the magic-wielding bears that lurk in the Infinite Forest, here in the darkest jungles; magic bear steak with eggs would be a nice lunch. Monday I’ll be back with (I think!) is the thrilling conclusion of Errand, the magical adventures of Paul and Ellie. Until then, don’t forget to comment, tweet, share. And if you have a contribution for next week’s Fun Friday, write me at the email on my About AJ page. And that’s it! Enjoy your weekend!