Fun Friday

Fun Friday: Food Food Food!

Well, I was gonna say good morning, but it’s already afternoon.  Oops!  I have to confess, I was distracted by food.  Friday is when I usually start planning my cooking for the next week, and I often do this by looking for new recipes online.  Today was no different, and it distracted me when I should have been writing!  But the nice thing is that several of my distractions might be interesting to y’all.  So I’m gonna share.

First off, there’s a blog I found a while back, called “The 1940’s Experiment.”  It seems this lovely lady name Carolyn Elkins, who is a bit of a foodie and a history buff, decided to try an experiment:  live on WWII rations and recipes.  She did two runs — one four months long and one year long — and blogged about the experience.  Her blog is great:  she describes the budget she worked with, listed each recipe, talked about how each one turned out and any tweaks she made, and, most importantly, talked about how the food tasted and how her family (including that most picky and touchy of in-home pets, the Angsty Teen) received each meal.  It’s really fascinating reading.  I’ve not yet tried the recipes myself yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

BTW:  she apparently lost a bunch of weight on this experiment, well over 120 pounds.  Everything I’ve read said the British ration diet was incredibly good for you, and apparently they weren’t wrong!

Next up, and on a similar vein, there’s this YouTube channel I stumbled across about  year ago:  Great Depression Cooking.  Seems this little old lady named Clara Cannucciari, 98 years old and feisty as you please, did this online cooking show back in 2010, showing the recipes she and her family fixed during the Great Depression.  I’ve watched all the videos on her channel and found them fascinating.  She talks about why they fixed this food instead of that, talks about how they stretched their budgets and just generally how they made a little bit of food go a long long way.

My dad would have been about ten years younger than Clara, and he used to talk about the way they lived during the Depression.  Clara is a city girl, and my dad was a country boy, so their experiences were very different, in some ways.  Daddy grew up here on the farm in the darkest jungles of Appalachia (same farm I live on now!); by the standard of the day, they were pretty prosperous, having plenty of food and enough money that they could employ farm hands.  They were a commercial chicken farm.  I never saw my dad eat chicken.  Seems they had chicken a LOT, and he never wanted to see a chicken on his dinner plate again; burned out in a big big way.  He also never ate eggs; after growing up eating eggs still warm from the bird, store bought eggs tasted stale to him.

But, despite the difference in experience, Daddy’s and Clara’s experiences had similarities.  The most obvious was the constant awareness:  nothing must be wasted, “use it up and wear it out.” I heard that phrase my entire life, and the experience of the Great Depression is what taught it to them (okay, that’s always been the mindset of Appalachians, but you see where I’m coming from).  Anyway, if you’re interested in the lives of people in the earlier days of Dieselpunk/Pulp, this cooking show might something to check out.  She also has a blog and a cookbook.

Finally, and most oddly, I stumbled across this webpage earlier this week, and I’m still scratching my head.  Apparently in some parts of the Steampunk community, there is something called “Tea Dueling,” and this webpage (part of a larger, though now defunct blog)  describes it.  Seems the whole duel is a contest to dunk a cookie/biscuit into tea for a prescribed amount of time, then eat it without dribbling on your clothes or losing part of the cookie into the tea.  No.  I’m not joking. There are even rules and referees (called a “Tiffin”)!

Honestly it sounds like a giggle.  Check out this video, it’ll make you smile.  If anybody has seen this or participated, please contact me, I’d love to hear more.

Okay, I think that’s it for me today.  You know the drill:  share, tweet, comment below, or email me at the addy listed on my About page.  If you have a Fun Friday contribution to share, send it along, I’d love to see more.  In the meantime, take care, enjoy your weekend, and I’ll see y’all on Monday!

Categories: DIY, Fun Friday, History, Steampunk | 2 Comments

October Flurry: Fun Friday Steampunk Goodness

Hi, guys.  I know it’s Fun Friday, AND it’s still October.  But I have a busy day ahead of me, things to do, people to do them to, world domination to plan, you know the routine.  So it’s gonna be a short post from me today.

First off, let’s look at The Gatehouse.  When I first stumbled across this page, I thought it was merely a blog.  And it is that.  But there’s more to it than that.  They bill themselves as a “Dieselpunk and Steampunk Magazine.”  They have some really interesting discussions of the genres, they have forums (they’re not very active, but there are lots of archives to read).  They have the Gatehouse Gazette, a now-defunct ‘zine with fiction, artwork, you name it.  But what got my attention was the blog. I really enjoyed it.  Definitely worth checking out.

Second:  Every once in a while (okay, a lot), I run across articles online that are related to our beloved genres, but are not substantial enough to really merit a separate write up.  But I WANT to write them up.  But then I remembered that this is my blog, and I can do it if I wanted to.  So here goes. I found this article a few months back, called, “The Weirdest Unsolved Mysteries of World War II.” It talks about, well, yeah, just what it says.  The Battle of Los Angeles is one I’d heard of before, of course.  And the business with Rudolph Hess.  But the Flight 19 one was new to me.  I love mysteries like these, and reading the article prompted me to go looking for other articles on the same subject.  I found a couple; there are some overlaps, but still, here are the links so you can check it out.  This one I found particularly interesting,  There’s also some stuff on YouTube.

okay, last one, and this one is a doozy!  The Dictionary of Victorian London is a website that I found several years ago, and promptly lost the link for.  I’ve looked for it off and on ever since. It is simply the most comprehensive source on all things Victorian that I have ever EVER seen.  You name it, there’s something on the page about it, from clothing to food to occupations to crime, everything.  And not only are all these subjects discussed at length, but there are maps, pictures, photos, documentation, links, and quotes to back it all up.  In a word, it is FANTASTIC!  Definitely check it out, but be careful; the last time I looked at this page, I got lost to a week-long archive binge.  It was terrific.

Okay, I told you it was gonna be short today.  Sorry about that.  You know the drill:  tweet, share, comment, email.  I’ll see you again as soon as I figure out how to get the electrodes to stay hooked up to this corpse’s neck while the storm is blowing…. wait, did I say that out loud?  Never mind; I’m all about the flower arranging today!  Sure, that’s it……


Categories: Dieselpunk, Fun Friday, History, October Flurry, Steampunk | 2 Comments

October Flurry Fun Friday: Scary Movies

hmmm… let me see.  It’s October, the month of spooks and spectres.  My own kids are past school age, but I have my nieces here, and they’re off school for the day (in service day for teachers, I think).  It’s cold and rainy, definite pillow fort weather.  So how can the clan celebrate this particular Fun Friday in the treehouse lair?  Isn’t it obvious?  Order in some pizza and watch some scary movies!

But I still owe y’all a blog post for Fun Friday, and I hate leaving you out of the spooky movie fun.  So here are a trio of flicks available online to spice up your punky, pulpy Halloween.

First, a bit of visual stimulation:

Yeah, the picture is apropos of nothing.  But I saw it online, and found it deliciously creepy.  I thought y’all would enjoy it.  You’re welcome.

Next, did you know that the first real Frankenstein movie was made by Thomas Edison?  For real, it’s true!  It was made in 1910, at Edison Studios in the Bronx, and starred established actors Augustus Phillips (Dr. Frankenstein(, Charles Ogle (the Monster), and Mary Fuller (the Doctor’s fiancée.)  It’s a silent film, obviously, and was shot in only three days.  It was written and directed by J. Searle Dawley, and while there is no documentation, it’s generally agreed that Thomas Edison himself was the producer.

Most important for our purposes, it’s in the public domain, and therefore free for anybody who wants to own it or show it. And, the Internet being what it is, naturally it’s on YouTube (or you can download it here) It’s only about sixteen minutes long, and, in my opinion, not all that scary; the directors made a point of bowdlerizing the more lurid parts of the story.  But it’s an important piece of film history, and therefore worth the watching.  In my opinion, it belongs here among us because the setting and tech sits right on the border between Steampunk and Dieselpunk.  Plus I just think it’s cool.  Here, take a peek for yourself.

Next, ever hear of The Crimson Ghost?  No? Okay, you ever seen this logo of the punk band, The Misfits?

Ever heard the song “The Number of the Beast” by Iron Maiden?  Yeah.  The logo was inspired by the appearance of The Crimson Ghost; the Ghost made an appearance in the music video for the Iron Maiden song.

“So quit being so damned coy and tell us who the Crimson Ghost is already!”

Yeah, yeah, I hear you, keep your knickers on!  The Crimson Ghost is a Republic serial from 1946.  I think we’ve already established that I’m a shameless fan girl of the old Republic serials, so you should have seen this one coming.  This one is considered one of the best serials of the time, and was directed by William Witney, who even in his own time was hailed as the best there was at making serials.  It’s another one that skirts the borderland between subgenres; it’s solid New Pulp in its approach and settin, but the plot is early Atompunk:  the eponymous character is a villain trying to steal an atomic device called the Cyclotrode, which is kind of like an EMP machine; the heroes are trying to stop him, obviously.

It deserves its reputation; it’s a fun show.  Serials faded out as a viable storytelling format because, by the time Ghost came out, they had started to become very trite and contrived.  But this one escapes the worst faults of the medium.  It works.  Here’s where you can watch it on YouTube.  I’m giving you a link instead of an imbedded video because I want you to see the entire playlist; all 12 episodes in order, unadulterated and at your fingertips.

Okay.  I know I’m running a bit short on the blog today. But that’s all I got for you today. Two movies, one of them a serial, should keep you out of mischief for a goodly portion of the day, right?  So I’ll be back tomorrow to continue The October Flurry.  In the meantime, tweet, share, comment, and email if you have any recommendations for Fun Fridays.  Be good (and if you can’t be good… yeah, you know the rest.)

Oh, yeah, just because I can (and because it freaks me out every time, even after all these years) another picture off the InterWebz:

Categories: Classic pulp, Dieselpunk, Fun Friday, Horror, October Flurry, Pictures, Pulp, Steampunk, Video | Leave a comment

Fun Friday: Deadlands and Pretty Pictures

Wow, non sequitur title much, Batman?  Hi, guys, another Friday has rolled around, and the blessed weekend is staring us in the face.  I have big plans:  Greek Festival.  One of the local Greek Orthodox churches hosts a big festival every September, with lots of music, dancing, tours of the church, vendors and food — GLORIOUS FOOD! — on offer for the general public.  Big Sister and I make a point of going every year, mostly because of the food.  Gyros, spanikopita, moussaka, keftedes, dolmades, you name it, I’m in favor of it (And hummus! Oh God, I love hummus!).  Sadly, money is very tight this year in the Clarkson treetop lair, so I won’t be able to do my usual practice of buying a box or two of Greek pastries to enjoy at home (delicious, but expensive).  Sigh.  Maybe I’ll post pictures on my Facebook account, so you can grind your teeth in envy at all the delicious food I’ll be enjoying.  Or, if you’re near the darkest jungles of Appalachia, you can join us; here’s a webpage.

Anyway, enough talk about my fixation on delicious food.  On to Fun Friday!  First, behold the pretty pictures!

Isn’t that cool?  Somebody over on Imgur took it into his head to take modern webpages and make Dieselpunk/Pulp style magazine advertisements for them, apparently just for the lulz.  Normally I don’t do Imgur or Instagram; I’m not a terribly visual person.  But I was searching for something else, and ended up here instead.  And they’re great; the art is well done and spot on imitations of the vintage magazine art.  The text sounds like period ads.  They just rock, and they’ll put a smile on your face.  Go check them out here and give the artist some love.

Some more pretty pictures.  Check this out:

How cool is that?  Seems there’s been a lot of recent attempts to portray superheroes, especially from the DC Universe, as WWII era pin up girls, fighter nose art, and art deco portraits and ads.  Just this morning I’ve found five different sites showing various images like Wonder Woman above.  All of them are terrific.  Here’s Number One, Number Two, and Number Three (my personal favorite) Number Four, and Number Five.  Now if only I could find one of the guy superheroes, I’d be a happy girl.

Okay, enough with the eye candy.  On to the brain candy.  So I was surfing YouTube the other day, and I stumbled across this video called “Deadlands Noir:  Hardboiled in the Big Easy.”  It was a four episode animatic-illustrated short story about a private detective in a Dieselpunk New Orleans.  Before I go any further, here’s the first video so you can see what I’m talking about.


So far, so good.  I liked the videos and I thought I’d write them up here.  So I go to do my due diligence and research the creators of the video.  And discovered there was a lot more information than just some cool videos.  Turns out these four videos were created as part of a Kickstarter campaign for something called Deadlands Noir.  Which is itself a spin off of something simply called Deadlands.

Okay, confession time.  I used to be a hardcore role playing gamer.  I used to write and edit for a gaming magazine, back in my misspent youth.  I would love to be in a group right now, but time, the vicissitudes of life, health, money and the inability to find a group have cut my gaming down to, well, nothing.  So I’ve sadly fallen out of touch with the latest RPGs and trends out there.  Which is exactly what happened here.  Like Weird War, which I wrote up a while back, I’d totally be playing Deadlands if I’d heard about it before and could coerce my friends into playing it with me.

So what’s Deadlands? It’s a series of RPG’s put out by Pinnacle Entertainment Group.  According to their webpage, Deadlands is a horrific journey into the “Weird West.” Mysterious beings called the Reckoners have given life to monsters and magic, causing history to divert from July 4th, 1863 forward. The South has won its independence, California has shattered into a labyrinth of flooded sea-canyons, and a mysterious super-fuel called “ghost rock” has spawned as much war and strife as it has “steampunk” devices.  Sounds promising already, right?  Players can play gunfighters, sorcerers (called hucksters, and using card-based magic!), shamans or native braves, mad scientists, etc, and go up against all manner of baddies.  The game has won no fewer than eight Origins awards for the setting, and has appeared in classic, d-20, GURPS and Savage Worlds versions (the Savage Worlds version is called Deadlands Reloaded)

Moreover, there are any number of spin off games:

  • Deadlands:  Hell on Earth.  The setting is shifted forward to an alternate future, where the Reckoners (one of the serious baddies) has turned the world into a hellish wasteland, combining the Wild West with Mad Max.
  • Deadlands:  Lost Colony.  This is the Hell on Earth concept, only shifted further forward and time, and set on an offworld colony.  It adds SF concepts to the already eclectic mix.
  • Deadlands:  Noir.  Again, the same basic concept, only shifted forward into a pulpy New Orleans setting.  This is the game that spawned the videos that started this whole search for me.

That’s not to mention two different MtG type collectible card games, three variant tabletop / miniatures war games, two traditional board games, and one video game that unfortunately was never released.  According to the Wikipedia entry on the game series, in 2014, Microsoft announced they were trying to make a TV series based on the game, and to be aired through the X-Box.

I want to play this game.  If you have, give me a shout, tell me how it plays?  In the meantime, I’ll just have to read up on the game, and watch the videos again.

Okay, so that’s it for me.  You know the routine:  share, tweet, comment, email if you have any suggestions for Fun Friday.  Monday we’ll have another installment of Fortuna’s “Cat Like Tread.”  Wednesday is the first of October!  Yay!  Until then, be good, and if you can’t be good, don’t get caught!


Categories: Dieselpunk, Fun Friday, Games, Pictures, Pulp, Steampunk, Video | Leave a comment

Fun Friday: samples of everything

And yet another Friday slips up on me and hits me over the head with a sap.  Sigh.  First up:   apropos of nothing, here’s a shout-out to an old friend, Richard B.  We went all through school together, first grade on, but I hadn’t spoken to him since we graduated (I’m SOOO not a social creature, and would pay good money to forget my high school years ever actually happened; it was tough being a nerd back in the day).  He found me last night on Facebook and we spent a good couple hours catching up.   Good to talk to you again, Richard.

So Indian summer is in full swing here in the darkest jungles of Appalachia, and I’ve run out of audio drama to listen to.  So I’ve switched to … brace yourself! ….reading comic books!  I know, right?  I have stated here before that I almost never read comic books. But somebody loaned me a couple of titles that I have been interested in {the 2013 run of Constantine by DC, all the Hellblazers, and a selection of Tank Girl installments (1991 is when the run starts)}.  I only started the Constantine ones last night, and am enjoying them.  (I was already familiar with Constantine from back in his Swamp Thing days, and I was one of those who seriously disliked the movie; it had some interesting moments, but Keanu Reeves?  Really?) I have seen the trailer for the promised TV show (see it here)  and it looks like it COULD be good, if NBC doesn’t screw it up.

Tank Girl could possibly be seen as something vaguely resembling Dieselpunk, if you squinted just so (and added a little something-something to your hookah).  But Constantine less so, unless you remember that Occult Detectives are a part of the late Victorian/early Edwardian “literary” scene, and continue right up to today.  But I will not get into this right now; I’m saving it up for next month.  Which reminds me…..


Much as I despise colder weather, October is my favorite month of the year, containing my all-time favorite holiday of the year.  You tinsel and Santa types can keep your HanuChristmaKwanzaa mess.  Give me Halloween every time!  Screw Rudolph, I want ghosts and kaiju and the hungry undead!  I have big plans for my first October on ClarksonPunk; be prepared for extra doses of steamed/dieseled/pulped stuff from me.  So keep an eye out (and don’t look behind you!)

But alas, it’s not October yet, and I have a promised Fun Friday to deliver.  So let’s press on, shall we?

First, a quick image and link for you.  I don’t know how I got this link, but whoever this is, I just love their creativity:  a Rocketman cosplay, complete with fifties style vacuum cleaner conversion to a jetpack.  Check it out!

Next: So when I’m surfing the Internet, I have times of being seriously bookmark-happy.  I stumble across something that I don’t have time to look at now, so I bookmark it for looking at later.  And then I forget why I bookmarked that page, and it gets deleted.  (I live a busy life, don’t judge me).    This is one of those times.  I was looking at my collection, saw one that said, “Dieselpunk Industries Television,” and thought, “huh?”  So I clicked, and it was like a TV channel, playing one old flick after another.  I did a little searching and found their Home Page.  They have all sorts of stuff on this page, noir movies, science fiction, old Republic serials  (I’m SUCH a pushover for Buster Crabbe’s Flash Gordon).  And I like the way it’s presented.  When I clicked on that link, for a second it really did feel like I was tuning in the favorite TV channel of some Dieselpunk metropolis.

Next up:  Beat to a Pulp magazine is a free webzine:  “Offering stories in a variety of genres (from noir and hardboiled crime to Westerns, from science fiction to the undefinable), BEAT to a PULP is sure to have something for every pulp enthusiast. ”  They also offer ebooks at pretty good prices.  The stories I’ve read on the webzine are well written, and short, with a max of 4000 words.  They boast of posting at least one story every week, and best I can tell, they mostly live up to that promise.  Check it out, tell me what you think.

Finally, I know I’ve been kind of neglecting the Steampunk genre the last few weeks.  I’m sorry about that; my reading/watching tastes tend to run in streaks, and right now my brain has been focused on New Pulp.  But fear not!  I have not forgotten my Victoria-philes.  Here is Exhibition Hall, an online ezine hosted by, focused on all things Steampunk.  What I’ve read so far is pretty well written (though at times it feels like an overly formatted blog rather than an ezine).  There are discussions of cons, art, book reviews, interviews with various personages in the Steampunk community, you name it.  Alas, the last issue was posting last September, so it looks like Exhibition Hall is on a semi-permanent hiatus.  But there are 26 issues to keep you reading for a bit.  The files are in PDF format, so obviously you can read them on your browser or you can right-click download them and convert them to e-reader (though I personally find this gives a spotty result; double columned stuff doesn’t convert to Mobi very well).  Do go check it out.

And that’s about it for me for this Friday.  Did you have fun?  I certainly did.  Next time we meet, I’ll have a new installment of Fortuna and crew for you.  Until then, don’t forget to share, tweet, comment, and send along anything that looks good for Fun Friday!  Enjoy your weekend!

Categories: Classic pulp, Dieselpunk, Fun Friday, Steampunk | Leave a comment

Fun Friday: Is it wrong to go all fangirl over superheroes and hard boiled detectives?

Oh, it’s a rainy Friday here in the darkest jungles of Appalachia, and I’m hunched over my computer, mixing audio for a new radio drama episode.  It’s been a wet, cold week, and surprisingly little has happened.  No adventures, no sudden disasters, even my bills have been boring. I’m just biding my time until October.  So, as my readers know, I have been on a mad audio drama kick all through the past month or so.  I’ve listened to everything I can get my hands on, old stuff, new stuff, you name it, I’ll give it my ear.  And that’s what I’m going to be talking about today:  audio drama.

So there’s this audio drama company called Decoder Ring Theater.  According to its Wikipedia entry, it’s a Toronto based company founded by writer Gregg Taylor (who also plays The Red Panda; more on that in a bit).  Taylor wrote some radio shows in a comedic imitation of 1940’s radio shows (like the Shadow), in hopes of landing on traditional radio.  That didn’t quite work out, but it eventually led to the two shows I’m about to talk about, which go out as online podcasts.  They have won Parsec and Podcast Awards, which is quite the accolade in the podcasting world.

So the show that more or less started it all is The Red Panda Adventures.  The Red Panda takes place in pre-WWII Toronto, and details the adventures of Shadow expy, The Red Panda.  (to tell the truth, I didn’t know what a red panda was, and looked it up online.  It’s a real creature — see here — and not just a colorful version of the Asian bear).  Like the Shadow, the Red Panda is a rich man-about-town August Fenwick (though they play very coy about his name for several seasons), who has turned his money and his skill at hypnotism toward fighting crime.  At his side is his girl-sidekick The Flying Squirrel (her dayjob is as his chauffeur, Kit Baxter).  The two of them have nine seasons of flirting (LOTS of flirting, all very fun), witty banter, and butt kicking on organized crime and lots and lots of mad scientists and other villainous types. After season four, WWII started, and our heroes find themselves embroiled in the machinations of Nazi supervillains!

What I like about this show is that it captures the flavor of classic pulp radio drama, complete with music, the overwrought delivery of the announcer, and really REALLY fun (and funny) dialogue and acting.  The chemistry between the two leads (creator and head writer Gregg Taylor plays The Red Panda, and Clarissa Der Nederlanden Taylor — the last name is no coincidence — plays The Flying Squirrel) is palpable and delightful, the acting is spot-on, and the writing just makes me smile.

There are nine seasons so far, and still going strong.  They have their own page on TV Tropes.  Moreover, there are several novel tie-ins, also penned by Taylor, comic books and some YouTube videos.  But you can find that all on the Decoder Ring webpage.  For me, it’s the audios first and forever.  I’m just crazy that way.  Here, give it a listen; they don’t have a promo to play for you, so I’m just linking to episode one.  (it won’t let me put a player here on the page, so just follow this link)

Next, also on Decoder Ring Theater:  Black Jack Justice.  Now you don’t often see me talking about the Hardboiled Detective genre here on ClarksonPunk.  Nothing wrong with that genre; it’s just my personal tastes run more toward the fantastic, rather than straight crime stories.

But for Black Jack Justice, I’ll make an exception.  BJJ is also written by Gregg Taylor, and it has his same light touch with dialogue and banter.  Just love that.  In this one, the setting is not so clear; just some Americo/Canadian urban center.  The main characters are tough-as-nails P.I. Jack Justice (played by Christopher Mott) and his business partner, lady P.I Trixie Dixon (played by Andrea Lyons).  The two of them are as hard-bitten as they come, and a delight to listen to.  Again, this show rates its own page on TV Tropes.  It hits all the classic Chandleresque tropes, but with fun modern twists.  Like the fact that they practically never get bopped on the head (which annoys the crap out of me, even when I end up writing something like it myself), and that Trixie rescues Jack about as often as the other way around.  What I also like is that there are real plots and mysteries to follow; nowadays people sometimes forget that it’s still supposed to be a mystery, not just a pastiche of setting, character and attitude.

Again, because of the way Decoder Ring Theater has their page set up, I can’t just put a player on my page, so here’s a link to an episode, so you can hear what I’m talking about.  Granted, I’m less familiar with this show as I am with Red Panda, but I’ve listened to about half the shows available (they’ve been going for eight seasons) and enjoyed them all.  Which is saying something for somebody who doesn’t go for the hardboiled genre if there’s something Lovecraftian to be had instead.  Give it a listen.

One more thing about Decoder.  On their “Shows” page, they have a section called Showcase.  This is just what it says, a showcase for other writers, alternate takes on existing shows, behind the scenes stuff, etc.  It’s not as comprehensive or as consistently gripping as Red Panda or Black Jack Justice, but still definitely worth a listen.

And I think that’s it for me!  Next week, Monday will bring us a new short story, with some wild outer space adventure:  space pirates for the win!  Until then, you know the drill:  share, tweet, comment, email.  If you have any suggestions for Fun Friday, you can contact me on Facebook or, more reliably, through the email addy listed on my About AJ page.   Until Monday, be good!  And if you can’t be good, then don’t get caught!  Ta!

Categories: Fun Friday, Pulp, Radio | Leave a comment

Fun Friday! Dishonored, Dazed and Discombobulated

Wow, it’s late!  I should have posted hours ago!  Bad, bad AJ!  But the fact is, I almost didn’t post at all.  I went to brunch with my sister and my good friend, fellow writer Stanley Ford. Then I got sick in the restaurant parking lot.  Then I came home and was sick again.  Decided I wasn’t up to posting and was just going to post an apology here, and say I’d catch you next week.  But, foolish me, I checked my email first.  An email there led me to a really TERRIFIC conversation on the Dieselpunks forum (check them out; they are one of my treasured go-to’s for Dieselpunk info).  Between reading, writing, and contributing to the conversation, I get distracted from the post and next thing I know, it’s creeping up on three o’clock!  Wow, time flies here in the darkest jungles of Appalachia!

But, cool conversation or not, I’m still pretty sick.  So today’s Fun Friday is gonna be short and sweet.  I’ll give you more next Friday.

Okay, on to the fun.


So I know this really cool writer named Sarah Hendrix.  She’s a blogger (her blog, “the darker side of the fire” is right here), and a purveyor of fantasy and SF short stories (her most recent story, a flash piece called “The Fadeaway,” was published by  You can read it here).  So I was talking to her about our favorite subject, writing, and she suddenly said, “My oldest introduced me to a game that would fit your steampunk/dieselpunk theme I think. I might even play it some next week. It’s called Dishonored.”

Now I’ve been known to play video games, but I’m very much stuck in the 1990’s and 2000’s.  I like RTS and platform games.  Boring, I know, but they make me smile.  Obviously this means I am not up on the newer games.  So I went to my game guru, my younger son Levi.  Not only was he familiar with the game, it turns out we have a copy (shows you how video game savvy I am!)!

Okay.  So Dishonored was developed by Arkane Studios, and was published by Bethesda Softworks in October 2012.  It’s available for PC, Playstation 3 and XBox 360.  It has a star-spangled cast of voice actors:  Susan Sarandon, Carrie Fisher, Brad Dourif, Lena Headey, etc.  The musical score was written by Daniel Licht (who also scored the TV show Dexter).

The game is a first person stealth action adventure (okay, mostly first person; sometimes it’s in third person).  You, the player, are Corvo Attano, a resident of a fictional city of Dunwall, and the Lord Protector of the Empress of the Isle.  At least until the Empress dies ten minutes in, her young daughter is kidnapped, and you are imprisoned for the crime.  You escape almost immediately thereafter, and the rest of the story is about trying to find the killers, rescue the girl, and clear your name.

The setting, the technology, the vibe of the city (which you get to see as you travel by boat to the palace) is deeeeeply Steampunk, lots of clockworks, lots of sweeping architecture; you’ll love it.  I was watching a Let’s Play video of it, to get a feel for it, and the Let’s Player (Markiplier, one of my favorites) pointed out something I hadn’t made the connection to.  It also has a very Third Reich feel to it.  The palace guard uniforms look like modified SS uniforms, there are those long red banners hanging everywhere, like you see in videos of Hitler, or that movie V for Vendetta.  So the atmosphere is almost a Dark Steampunk, which is very cool.

Now, I haven’t played it yet.  It’s on my system, so I’ll probably end up playing very soon.  Right now I’m just watching the Let’s Play of it.  I’ll report back when that happens.

Okay.  Still sick.  So I’m going to leave off there.  I know, I know, I’m giving you short shrift.  I’ll make it up to you when my tummy stops rebelling on me.  In the meantime, comment, tweet, share, email.  Monday we get the thrilling conclusion of Errand, and Wednesday…. well, Wednesday is gonna be interesting.  See ya then!

Categories: Dieselpunk, Fun Friday, Games, Reader Contributions | Leave a comment

Fun Friday! Online fiction

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!



Categories: Dieselpunk, Fun Friday, Pulp, Steampunk | 2 Comments

Let’s Play….

Smile!  It’s Friday!  The weekend is nearly upon us! We’ve had a busy, busy week here in the darkest jungles of Appalachia.  But I’ll get into that later.  First, on to the Fun part of Fun Friday!  So I was surfing the Interwebz yesterday, and stumbled across this image:

My first reaction was, “What the hell?”  But it looked cool, so I investigated further.  Turns out, this is part of a collection of miniatures for a Warhammer-type game called Secrets of the Third Reich.  Now I’m not into that sort of war gaming, so, aside from the cool miniatures, I was unthrilled.  However!  While researching SotTR, I found something called Weird War II, which is more my style.  Weird War II is a role playing game set, obviously, in World War II.

Now Weird War II is not a game I have personally played, so I can’t say too much about the gameplay or how good the reference materials are  (but it’s totally on my wish list, though!  Here’s a link to the first book).  But here’s what I found.  Weird War is a horror game published by Pinnacle Entertainment in 2001, and consists (so far) of six books:

  • Blood on the Rhine – Core rulebook
  • Afrika Korpse – Sourcebook for Africa and Egypt
  • Dead From Above – Sourcebook for aircraft and several flying monsters
  • Horrors of Weird War Two – Bestiary
  • Land of the Rising Dead – Sourcebook for the Pacific Theatre
  • Hell in the Hedgerows – three adventures
  • Hell Freezes Over – Sourcebook for the Russian Front

Players play through the settings and battles of World War II, only with the added element of the supernatural:  mages, haunted places and vehicles, zombies, ghost, you name it, the Nazis and Allies are dealing with it.  According to what I’ve read, the set up tends to be low-magic/high-cost (which means spells are not hugely powerful, and cost a lot to make them happen, and they’re operating on the idea of The Masquerade (that means that magic and the supernatural are hidden from the general public).  I approve very much.  Low magic means that your magic users can’t overpower game balance.  And I’ve always been a fan of the Masquerade concept.  If the general public knows about magic and the supernatural, then you have to incorporate them, in some capacity, into the culture, and, in my experience, this is tedious to do, and results in a world that is so removed from the original setting context that it’s essentially useless (I know others feel differently, and that’s great; this is a personal opinion).  Besides, having to find ways to do wild stuff and still preserve the Masquerade is a fun challenge to players (and readers).

Weird War is using a D20 system.  Yay!  I was a gamer when HERO and GURPS came out in the late 1980’s.  The idea of a generic RPG system was revolutionary, one that I approved of.  However, I found the point pool system wwaaaaaaaay too complicated.  When I was playing HERO system, the only person in our group who could set up a functioning character without requiring a day or two of hard labor was our GM, who had a master’s degree in mathematics.  So I was pleased when the D20 system came out.  Dice based instead of point-pool based is a good thing; any slob with some dice can jump in with both feet.  No calculus degree needed.

I wandered off to Soapbox World there for a second.  Sorry.  Anyway!  Weird War II is on my list of games that much be checked out.  It looks like pure Dieselpunk fodder to me, and I’m an absolute junkie for anything weird war themed.  Follow the links above, see if it’s up your street.

Onward and upward!  How’s about another game, a video game instead of an RPG.  “Valiant Hearts: The Great War” is a puzzle adventure game released for the X-Box One by Ubisoft just this year.  The game starts out at the beginning of World War I (and it’s chock full of little factoids about the war), and the player alternates, playing one of four characters involved in the conflict.  Game play seems pretty straightforward.  The characters go through the process of being conscripted or volunteering to join their respective armies and going to war (one character is female, and serves as a battlefield nurse).  Along the way, they must solve various puzzles, which vary from things as simple as figuring out how to get the military band to play together, to as complicated as running through no man’s land without getting shot (like playing the old Frogger game, only with explosions added).

Unlike Call of Duty or other war video games, the graphics on these are much less realistic.  Honestly, when I first saw it, it reminded me of the artwork from the Madeline picture books from my childhood. Check it here:

The animation is very nice, the controls are easy (and there’s an unobtrusive tutorial to help you learn button mapping, etc).  Looks good.  The only thing is that it’s not very Pulp or very Dieselpunk.  It’s a pretty straightforward WWI setting, with no particular changes rung on it, other than the children’s picture book graphics.  Still, worth checking out.

Seems we have a game theme going here, so here’s one last tidbit for you in that same theme.  I heard about Fortune and Glory a few months before it got featured on Wil Wheaton’s TableTop web series (you can check out that episode here).  This one makes no pretense:  it is all about the pulpy goodness.  Yay!

Fortune and Glory is a board game for four to six players.  Each player takes on a pulp era persona (mad scientist, British Lord, race car driver, tomb robber, etc).  They are in a race around the map to collect various Indiana Jones style artifacts, all the while collecting a fortune, claiming immortal glory for themselves, and periodically fighting off Evil Nazis (as opposed to what?  Morally-neutral-but- we-mean-well Nazis?  Umm…. Probably don’t want to think about that one too much).  All these give you Hero points; the one who gets their requisite number of Hero points first (the number varies from character to character, and on various random factors in the game) is the winner.

The gameplay is pretty open ended.  You can go any direction you like, which I like, there’s no set pattern.  You can refuse to go after a specific artifact if, for whatever reason, you decide it’s not a good idea.  I like that it’s not simply a matter of picking up the artifact when you arrive in Paris, for example; you have to run a gauntlet, a la Raiders of the Lost Ark, that is determined by card draws and dice rolls.  But what I like best are the artifacts.  Instead of having a set number of items to be collected, the artifacts are determined by special card draws.  There is a card for the actual artifact (gauntlets, chalice, ruby, etc), and then there is a card for a descriptor of the artifact.  You draw two cards, and voila!  You have The Gauntlets of the Pale Moon, with a new backstory.  I like that; it improves replay value in my mind.

If there’s anything that might detract from this game, it’s the lack of backstory and motivation.  I like to know why my characters are doing what they’re doing.  Then again, that’s probably why I ended up a writer instead of a game designer.  That aside, this game is fun.  Check it out!

Okay, I think that’s it for me.  But before I go, remember I said we’d had a busy, busy week, here in the darkest jungles of Appalachia, and I said I’d explain later.  Well, here’s why.  My daughter worked a little harder than the rest of us:  she gave me another grandson.  Give welcome to Jesse Denver Lyons III (also called either Little Jess, Jesse3, or Little Squeaker).  He was born in the early hours Thursday morning, and weighed five pounds 7.5 ounces.  He was slightly early, which is why he’s a little underweight.  But he’s a pleasant, quiet baby, and a voracious eater so far.  And he’s beautiful!  Take a look!

Anyways, that’s it.  Don’t forget to share, tweet, comment, email. I’m always looking for new Fun Friday material, so if you know of any, be sure and let me know.  Now, I’m off to go get my fix of Grandbaby Number Three!

Categories: Dieselpunk, Fun Friday, Games, Pulp, Review | Leave a comment

Fun Friday: Tune in to thrilling days of, well, not yesteryear….

Howdy!  Y’all come in and sit a spell!  Sorry I wasn’t home when you came visiting on Wednesday; an old schoolmate had returned for a short visit to the darkest jungles of Appalachia and Big Sister and I — thoughtful, self-sacrificing people that we are — were generous enough to let him buy us lunch.  We had pizza, talked about everything under the sun, and fought off an evil cult that was trying to reanimate the dead in a vain attempt to take over the world, and needed the blood of a lawyer to complete the magical Elixir of Evilness.

Okay, maybe not that last bit.

But anyway, we missed out on Wednesday. But today is a new day, a Friday, in fact.  So what fun are we looking for today?  How about radio drama?  I’ve made no secret of the fact that I write for modern online radio drama  (if you want to check out my shows, look here, here, here and here).  I don’t want to get into a lot of discussion of history of radio drama right now; I’m planning to do a much more comprehensive talk later on down the line.  Today I just want to point you toward some fun shows that’ll whet your appetite for more!  My biggest problem is there are just so many fun shows out there on Teh Webz that it’s difficult to narrow it down to just three!

Okay, quick caveat:  all the shows I’ll be talking about today are amateur production: with a very few exceptions (like only two or three that I know of), there are no professional actors, no professional writers, no professional technicians, etc.  And sometimes it shows in uneven writing, clumsy line delivery, mixing faux pas, etc.  But DO NOT let that dissuade you from taking a listen; 95% of the work is good.  They stumble every once in a while, yes, but it’s surprisingly rare.  And all of them are 100% fun, or I wouldn’t be recommending them to you.  These amateurs are doing all this work because they love radio drama and they love the stories they’re telling.  And that love shows.

First off, the one that got me started in online audio drama:  Tales from the Museum, on Darker Projects.  This show, written by Charles Russell, only ran for thirteen episodes.  But they were the first online audio shows that I ever listened to, and they got me hooked.  The show is about a museum that gets more supernatural visitors than flesh and blood ones, and you never can tell exactly how paranormally dangerous the exhibits are.  Perry Whittle plays our hero, Keith Nash, a former cop who thought taking a job as head of security at this museum would lead to a quieter, less stressful life.  Yeah, right!

What I love about this show, what got me hooked (besides creepy crawlies; I love horror!) is the lighthanded Chandler-esque tone of the writing, and of Whittle’s acting.  It feels pulpy and slightly irreverent,  like a tongue-in-cheek take on The Maltese Falcon with bogeymen added.  Good, fun stuff.

Tales from the Museum promo

Since we’re already at Darker Projects, let’s jump over to probably the most famous of the modern online audio drama shows, The Byron Chronicles.  The Byron Chronicles are the beloved brainchild of Eric Busby, who does most of the writing, producing and directing.  It stars David Ault in the title role of Byron, who may be an avatar of Autumn, may be thousands of years old, and lives in a tower in Portland Oregon.  He has magic which he doesn’t often display.  A greater power for him is his knowledge; he knows waaaaay too much about the supernaturals that secretly live in our world, and they know and fear him.  He uses his knowledge and power to help those around him, and to further a mysteriouos agenda that has never been articulated fully in the story.  The writing in this one is more consistent than the norm in amateur audio, and the acting is much better; David Ault in particular (whom I believe had some formal training) is the best actor in the amateur world, so far, and brings this odd character very much to life.  It’s an addictive show, and I recommend it.  (It even has its own TV Tropes page, here!)

Quick note:  Darker Projects was the host of The Byron Chronicles from 2005 to 2013.  In 2013, Byron Chronicles (and Cascade, another Eric Busby brainchild) was moved to its own website, called Eric Busby Presents.  You can also find them on YouTube.

Byron Chronicles is more grimdark than Tales from the Museum, and Byron himself is a darker, angstier character.  The story mostly reminds me of the The Shadow, a lone man standing against the forces of darkness.  If, you know, The Shadow had been a near-immortal with magical powers, supernatural foes, a serious case of melancholy, and no mafia to fight.  Here’s their promo:

The Byron Chronicles promo: 

Finally we leave Darker Projects to go to Brokensea Audio, where Jake Sampson, Monster Hunter, hangs out.  Rather than try and explain this show, I’ll let them do it for themselves:

“Part private eye, part adventurer…all pulp hero. Set against a 1930’s backdrop, Jake Sampson: Monster Hunter is a tribute to the cliffhanger-laden, classic radio serials of yesteryear.Join Jake and his companions, Texas Holdem and Lucy Carter as they journey to the four corners of the earth to put supernatural evil in its place.”

In my mind, this show is what would happen if Indiana Jones and Sam Spade decided to have a baby, and made Robert Howard the baby’s nanny.  It’s a slightly tongue-in-cheek, pulpy mish-mash of hardboiled detective, Alan Quartermain, The Shadow, and Bram Stoker.  The plot is just what the promo copy says it is:  Sampson and his buddies travel around the world, fighting supernatural evil, righting wrongs, having adventures.  Straightforward, fun, funny at times, never dull.

There are several writers contributing to this show, Mark Kalita and Bill Hollweg chief among them.  They also play the two male leads, Kalita playing Jake Sampson, and Hollweg playing Texas Holdem; they are joined in the lead spot by Lyn Cullen, playing Lucy Carter.  The acting is more than satisfactory, the writing is playful and fun, and the mixing is as close to flawless as an amateur company can get.  BTW:  I LOVE their music choices; delightfully retro.

They don’t have a promo audio on their webpage, so I’ll just link to the first episode instead.:

Jake Sampson Monster Hunter

Whew!  Narrowing it down to just those was hard work.  One of these days, I need to make a comprehensive list of all the shows I think you’ll like.  In the meantime, keep tuning in here, and don’t forget to share, tweet, comment, and email.  If you have a recommendation for a Fun Friday showcase, contact me through the email on my About AJ page.

Drat!  Now the rest of my day is lost.  I’m going to end up archive binging on these radio shows!


EDIT:  08/29/14  I forgot to put in a link for Broken Sea Audio or for Jake Sampson!  Shame on me!  Fixed.

Categories: Dieselpunk, Fun Friday, Pulp, Radio | Leave a comment

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