An Interview with Wil Magness… Creator of the post-apocalyptic indie film, The Manual.

The Manual – a film by Wil Magness

 

I was recently contacted by filmmaker Wil Magness, asking me to check out his post-apocalyptic film project, The Manual.  After watching it (and getting a pretty bad case of “leaky eyes” more than once), I just had to talk to him about it.  Here is that conversation…

 


 

Wil, thanks for taking the time and talking to me today.  Let me start off by asking, who are you? Where do you come from? What was life like as a child? Have you always been a fan of science/postapocalyptic fiction?

My parents were paranoid about the public school system so I was home-schooled. We moved every three to four years as my dad got different jobs so I didn’t grow up with any long-term friends and spent most of my childhood doing things that didn’t require a lot of people, so reading books, playing video games, watching movies. My mother had us focus on art as much as possible I think because she loves it herself. So school ended up being a lot of painting, drawing or playing music.

I credit my dad for planting the seeds of sci-fi. Mondays were “Star Trek” night at the Magness household and he was always ready to see the next Star Wars. Though I think my interest in sci-fi surpassed his early on.

 

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The Machine reads from The Manual

 

Very interesting!  How long have you been telling stories?  Is film the only medium with which you’ve done so?

Does staging fight scenes with ninja turtles count? That would be the earliest I think. I remember focusing a lot on painting and getting bored with it so I shifted to writing, then getting bored with that and playing music, then back to painting, etc. I think I love film so much because all varieties of artistic expression go into it. Writing and directing a project lets you wade into so many different realms of craft and I’ve been lucky to work with so many talented people. I’ve fallen in love with the aspect of world-building and creating intricate backstories and working with actors to get the right performances for the story. It’s something I’d never considered as a viewer but it makes a huge difference.

 

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What sparked your decision to create The Manual?  What are you hoping to bring to fans of the genre and does The Manual give something to everyone?

Since it isn’t out yet, we probably need to explain what it’s all about. The Manual is the story of the last human on Earth. His parents die when he’s very young and he spends his childhood being raised by the family robot. The robot has a handheld device called The Manual that contains the sacred text of a composite religion combining a lot of religions we have in our world today, with a new spiritual twist in that robots also have souls and will join humans in the afterlife.

I think one of the greatest opportunities in science fiction is the ability to place a character in a world that purposefully emphasizes and punctuates an aspect of the human condition. In modern society, people struggle with loneliness and isolation while being surrounded by devices ironically meant as means of connection.  We took these feelings to a literal place by making our character the only person left on Earth struggling to connect with his origins through a machine.

In this environment, The Manual explores the transition that many of us make from a worldview shaped by parents and religion to a worldview of our own construction, based on personal experience. This perspective shift in my own life involved an existential struggle that completely changed me and it felt important enough and relate-able enough to translate it into my favorite genre.

In The Manual there isn’t a lot of the classic post apocalyptic tropes like zombies or human vs. human survival. I think we’ve made something refreshing that the genre hasn’t seen before.

 

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Indeed, it really is a new and refreshing take on the apocalypse.  How long have you been working on The Manual?  What has the process been like?

I’ve been working on it for three to four years now, I think. It started as an animated project and evolved along the way. It’s been really fun for me because this is what I love to do, and from the beginning I’d wanted to build a world from scratch. My wife, Sara Magness, has been my film-making partner for a long time. We sort of took a hiatus to get our professional careers off the ground and start a family, so it was really good to get back to our roots with this film.

 

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An animated film?  I’m always amazed at how projects evolve over the course of their creation. What is the one thing you remember from making the film? Anything you’d rather forget?

The first thing that pops into my head is on our second day of shooting. Our plan had been to shoot all of our indoor stuff on day one, then outdoor stuff on day two and it rained all day long. It was cold and it was just pouring rain. We were shooting in an area where we’d dug out two huge holes and it was so muddy and wet that you’d lose your boot if you stepped in the wrong spot.

I was working with J.J. on probably the most difficult scene of the film, where he really had to go to a dark place and I think we were on the fifth take. He took his sweater off and wrung maybe a gallon of water out of it and he was shivering. I looked around at the whole setup and I was just struck by the dedication and passion of all of these filmmakers that surrounded me. I felt like we were really making something amazing.

 

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JJ Johnston as “James”

 

I can tell you that as a viewer, the pain and sorrow of those scenes were palpable.  I completely lost my cool more than once.  JJ really was amazing!  What plans do you have for The Manual?  Will you be entering it into any festivals?  When do you plan on releasing the film to a general audience?

We had our U.S. premiere at the Rome International Film Festival in Georgia. I wasn’t able to attend, but people have contacted me that saw it and they say it was well received! We’ve also been nominated for nine awards at the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival and I will be able to attend that because my parents live around there so it’s an excuse to visit with them. We have just started the festival game so we have a large amount that we are waiting to hear back on.

After festivals we are planning on releasing it online for a dollar or something. It’s half an hour long, so I kind of want a commitment from viewers to just relax and watch it for the full half hour. I think with a dollar on the line I can get that commitment!

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Nominated for nine awards at the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival.

 

If you could give one piece of advice to independent filmmakers, what would it be?

What everyone says is “make movies”, which is good advice. I’ll get more specific and say that if you are just starting out, do not spend a lot of money on your movies because most likely they will be bad. Write a ton of scripts, shoot them on your phone and get all of your bad movies out of you for cheap. When you have a script that you think is going to be fucking amazing, give it to your harshest critics and have them pick it apart. Please do not rush your script, take your time and make it perfect. It’s a real shame to spend a ton of time and money on a script that isn’t worth it.

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Wil Magness directs The Machine (Lauren Emery)


 

Wil, that is some great, straightforward advice!  I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to me about your film.  I very much look forward to seeing its release and I’m excited to see something different in the post-apocalypse genre.

Where can folks go to stay up-to-date on The Manual’s progress?

We’ve got a website (http://themanualfilm.com), a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/themanualfilm), Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/themanualfilm) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/themanualfilm).

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An Interview with Nathan Riddle, Director of Acid Reign and Enter the Fringe…

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I recently had a chance to sit down and talk with Nathan Riddle, director of the Acid Reign Series and the short film, Enter the Fringe.  For those not familiar with these film projects, sit tight… it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

Just about three years ago, I stumbled upon an indiefilm project called Acid Reign.  I followed them on twitter and was anxious to see where it was going.  Shortly after, they seemed to go radio silent.  I thought “Damn… another cool postapoc project that won’t happen.”

Flash forward about a year and here it comes… like a thirsty V8 screaming across the wasteland.  There was a short film produced, Enter the Fringe, and it looked like this project was back up and running.

After seeing the trailer and short film, I just had to scavenge Nathan’s brain and get the wordstuff on this.  What follows is that conversation…

 


 

Acid Reign Series – Enter the Fringe

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Nathan, it’s a pleasure to talk to you today.  Please, tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you? Where do you come from?

My name is Nathan Riddle. I’m the director and co-creator of Acid Reign. I grew up in the small western town of Kanab Utah, which was once known as Little Hollywood, because during the golden age of cinema, many of the classic western films and TV series were shot there. So growing up with the stories from all the locals who had worked as crew or extras really inspired me and put me on the course I’m on today. In addition to film making, I also work as the lead animator for a video game company in Salt Lake City, UT, making the popular kids game, Animal Jam: Play Wild. And I’m an accomplished Actor on both stage and screen.

Nathan Riddle directing.

 

Film maker, animator, actor… dang, that’s amazing!  So tell me, what is Acid Reign?  What’s the story behind it? Tell us about the genesis of the project.

How did Acid Reign begin? Several years ago, I had a desire to make a quick turn around film, so I looked to see what resources I had available to me. Another film making friend of mine had an old mustang he was restoring that he said I could use and I started thinking about what I could do and of course Mad Max came to mind. At this time there hadn’t been a Mad Max film for a while, and the new one hadn’t been announced yet. So I started brainstorming ideas that were very Mad Max-like and came up with some initial concepts that I was really liking.

Then they announced the new Mad Max, Fury Road… I about fell out of my chair. The whole look and feel of that film was what I was imagining for Acid Reign. I felt the wind leave my wings. So I took a look at my story and changed some of the world elements from being such a direct mirror of Mad Max to a more hybrid concept that incorporated a lot more sci-fi/cyberpunk elements, but still kept the overall feel of the Wasteland that had initially captured my imagination.

Once I had that film outlined I reached out to my good friend and screen writer, Ben Wray, to see if he would be interested in helping me with the screenplay. Again, expecting to do a low-budget, stand-alone film. He was completely on board and we started fleshing things out.  It wasn’t long as we were world building and making sure the story was interesting, that we realized the story was one that was too big to tell in one film, so it soon became three features, and then with more story to tell we chose to make it into a series where we could really dig our teeth into this interesting world we were creating.

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I understand that you’ve released a short film that takes place in the world of Acid Reign, titled Enter the Fringe. Tell us about that.

The Fringe! Beyond the city of Nucrea is a holocaustic, irradiated wasteland where nothing can survive. But along the edge, between the life of the city and the death out beyond, is the Fringe. A place where men are sent in exile or escape seeking refuge from an oppressive regime. But in either case, they don’t last long as the radiation eats at their minds, turning them into feral creatures, running and hunting in packs.

In Early October, the head of the Red Giant Film Festival invited me to participate in his 10 minute film making competition. At first I wasn’t interested until he said I should do something from Acid Reign. Then I’m like “YES”! This is exactly the kick in the pants and hard deadline I need to get something produced that actually moves the series forward.

The short film script was a compilation of a couple scenes that Ben and I had developed for the series but in the end had cut for various story reasons. So the script came together very quickly. We reached out to cast and crew and put a team together that we were confident could pull of what years of testing had taught us.

We only had 10 days to make the film, and all of our cast and crew had limited availability. The stars aligned and everyone’s schedule opened up just in time for the first day of the competition. In fact, D.L. Walker who play’s Gus was nearly written out because of a scheduling conflict which miraculously changed only day’s before shooting, which allowed him to come on set for the one day we had planned for production. We were so lucky. I can’t imagine that this film would have been so successful with the loss of D.L, or any of our cast or crew for that matter. We filmed all the scenes in one day. Then over the next 9 days, I edited in the evenings, created all the VFX and worked with our composer, Cody Crabb on music to finish the film. All the while getting feedback from Ben and the rest of the team.

We submitted with time to spare, but then I immediately went to work on the film prepping it to show to a world wide audience. The version we submitted didn’t have any of the color correction done and the editing was a little sloppy. So I polished that up, and worked with my composer again to take another pass at music and sound effects that were missing. And now I’m excited to release to the world, the finished version we have today.

This short film, Enter the Fringe, is both literal and metaphoric. A man who is being experimented on is trying to escape to the Fringe. Ripp, Lilly and Gus, enter the fringe as paid bounty hunters to bring him back. And we finally entered the fringe in order to give Acid Reign the Series some momentum.

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Gus, Lilly, and Ripp. Click above to watch the trailer.

 

I saw that it recently won some awards… tell me about that.

I can’t tell you how nerve racking it is to sit in a dark room surrounded by an audience made up mostly of your peers, who can be the most critical of your work, and watch your film premiered for the first time. Then only to watch all the competitor’s films, and wonder how your film is being received and hoping you did enough to stand out. Well stand out we did and with the exception of only three categories (which mostly didn’t relate to us anyway) we walked away with nominations in all categories. “Holy Crap” is what our composer said! It was truly an honor. But winning would have to wait another week until the award ceremony.

Having been nominated more than any of the other films gave me some early confidence, but at the award ceremony I began remembering the other films we were up against. I said to Ben and the others, that I had a feeling that all these nominations would be like a hand full of sand, that just slips through our fingers.

Right out of the gate we won Best Makeup and Wardrobe. This was important to me because my daughter, Mikaylee, not only played Lilly in the film, but is also the head of our make up FX and did a lot to help with wardrobe. So as a Dad, I was super proud of that.

Mikaylee Riddle as “Lilly”.

But then the losses started rolling in. An under dog film I hadn’t even thought was competition started to get the early awards. A few other films picked up an award here and there. And I just sat there. Happy for the others, but nervous. Just watching the sand slip from my fingers. Then it happened and things started turning around. Best Cinematography? Enter the Fringe! Yes! Finally. Then, bam, bam, bam; Best Director, Best Film and the honored Audience Choice Award.

It was a relief and an honor to have won these particular awards. But for me this wasn’t just a film festival win. It was validation.

For the previous years of development we’d been producing a series of short test films. None of which were turning out very well. They were teaching us a lot about how we wanted to shoot and what style we wanted to used to tell our story. But for all our fans who were excited about the project, we really didn’t have much to show for ourselves. And I really couldn’t bear to show something that wasn’t at least good content. The property and our viewers deserved more than that.

But now I feel confident moving forward. We have a film; a story and characters that people want to watch and that looks great. And we are now award winning film makers with an award winning property.

 

Have you been involved in other projects?

As an actor, I’ve had varying roles in lots of other short films, theatrical stage productions and television shows. I’ve produced (directed, shot and edited… etc) several ultra low budget documentaries. And I have an off-road adventure show called KrawlZone that has taken me across the U.S. filming extreme off-road and rock sports events.

I’ve also directed, animated and edited short animated stories for Animal Jam and a hand full of commercial projects. But Acid Reign is by far the largest and most robust project I’ve been a part of and best of all, I get to do it all, from prop and set building, to wardrobe and lighting, to editing and VFX.

I must admit though, building the mustang has probably been my favorite task. I find the balance between working with my hands and working digitally on the computer is really nice. Too much of either gives my A.D.D. a stroke.

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Nathan Riddle is Mr. KrawlZone.

 

The car…. You’ve gotta tell me about that car!

I call her Azrael. The angle of Death. We wanted her to be a character in her own right. And Unique. I was creating what could potentially become the next famous movie car. To join the ranks of the General Lee, Kit, the Delorean, Elanor and of course the Mad Max Interceptor. So my goal was to create something truly iconic. I think I’m close, but There are still a few things I’d like to finish if budget allows.

A 1966 Mustang coupe, Azrael was rescued from a junk yard when I realized that all the modifications I’d want to do to my buddies car was out of the question. She really is a rust bucket though. Otherwise I’d have felt too bad about just not restoring the old thing.

Her name is Azrael.

Luckily the body work it needed really worked in our favor of making a Dystopian Hot Rod. The car came complete and with a little tuning and cleaning, she fired right up. I knew it couldn’t be a road and track car to drive in the Fringe. It needed tires that made it feel capable of going off-road. To my surprise, I discovered that 14′ tires off of a UTV/Razor fit the wheels perfectly. That gave the traction the Fringe would require. I scavenged about to find elements to make it look armored, yet remain somewhat sleek, which will be in contrast to the other vehicles we’ll be introducing in the series.

The Armor is made from compressed masonite, I cut out the wood for the side and back windows to look like armored plating. With some creative painting It looks like rusted steel. I’m a bit scared that it won’t last long, and in the future I’d like to replace this with something more durable long term.

Having really no budget I was trying to modify the hood to look mean, but I couldn’t find anything that would work. Then I was visiting a friend who builds off-road buggies, and he had this old hood from a newer mustang, just sitting in the corner. We’ll after a little negotiating, I brought the hood home. It took some serious trimming, but I got it to kinda fit the original hood. I did a little fiberglass work to finish the seams. After adding a few rivets and some paint and I was happy with how iconic it turned out.

Another stroke of luck was the under bumper. My little brother had just upgraded to off-road steel bumpers on his Toyota Tacoma. After standing there staring blankly a light bulb went off. I scavenged the parts he took of of his truck and went to work. I cut up the old Tacoma Bumper cover to create the current under bumper on the mustang. The side steps on the car are also from his Tacoma.

Then it was down the details. The chains, the straps, the spoiler. Those were just things I either had laying about or found at the local thrift store.

Though there is still a lot to be done I’m happy with how the ol’ car looks and how it’s turning out. And it seems others are too. I get a lot of complement every time we post images on our social media pages.

 

What does the future hold for Acid Reign?  I noticed that it’s the Acid Reign Series… will there be more films?

Acid Reign was originally conceived as a stand alone film, but as the story developed, it out grew being just a film or a trilogy for that matter. To truly engage with this story and world we were creating, it really needs to be done episodically. So yes, it is now Acid Reign the Series. We have the first season written with eight episodes that will range from 25 to 45 minutes. We have three additional seasons outlined (we know where we’re going), but the season finally for season one is still written as the original stand alone film.

We haven’t yet decided whether to break it up into two to three more episodes, or push it hard and release the finally as a feature film and celebrate with a theatrical debut. That will depend on budget and what our fans help us decide. 

 

Gotta admit, Gus is my favorite… what was it like working with D. L. Walker and Dave Bresnahan?

Both D.L. and Dave were wonderful to work with. Both are extremely talented actors and bring so much to Acid Reign that really doesn’t exist without them.
I had a good idea about what kind of character I wanted Gus to be while we were writing. As we held auditions early on, D.L.Walker’s resume and reel came in. He had a link to a comedic barbecue commercial he worked on where he was on hands and knees like a dog, licking up some spilled BBQ sauce. It sounds silly, but his characterization sold me. In such a desolate world like that of Acid Reign, we need a level of lightheartedness mixed with the solemnity of their situation, to give the show balance, and I knew D.L. could handle it. He has exceeded my expectations. And he’s really fun on set as well.

D.L. Walker as “Gus” and Jared Morgan as “Ripp”.

Dave Bresnahan was another actor that had originally auditioned for another character. He didn’t fit that role, but we liked what he was bringing so well, that we wrote in a bit part for him. That bit part has expanded to be a substantial part of the show and plot. Dave has also been a huge help on and off set. When not in front of the camera, he took on BTS photography, and has been helping with our marketing, write press-releases and distributing them nationally. He’s a really great guy.

Both have also been great supporters of the project from the beginning and are really fun to work with. We’ve been at it for a while now and have had a couple of false starts, and they have supported us and stuck with us all the way. Which say’s a lot about them. In fact our cast and crew all fit that mold. Salt of the Earth, wonderful, passionate and talented individuals that have come together to support us and help us bring this story to life.

Dave Bresnahan as “Nun”.

 

You may not be aware, but I’ve been following this project since very early on.  Can you tell me about the time when you went radio silent?  What happened in 2016?

I do remember you being one of our early followers. Our radio silence was a result of creating a world that was ever expanding and soon became more than we could chew. Also, it took longer to get the car, wardrobe, props and sets together than we had initially anticipated.
As I mentioned earlier, our early attempts at filming didn’t turn out so well either. That was disheartening. Those failures, along with the daunting task of finding the funds to produce such a big project almost put the project on a shelf. What had started to be a quick turn around project had become a beast.

We are still not out of the woods in that regard. We are still actively seeking investors to help us fully realize the potential of Acid Reign. But that said. We have some contingency plans to produce the series one way or another.  We are in the process of getting our Patreon set up and we will be launching a crowd funding campaign soon. But don’t have exact dates yet.

 

Is there anything else you‘d like folks to know?  Where can they find you and more information about your film?

Thank you for wanting to know more about Acid Reign and for asking me to share all of this with you. We have a new website in development that should be on-line soon at http://www.AcidReignFilms.com.  Enter the Fringe will be available there as well as on Amazon.
You’ll also be able to enjoy the books. The first book which covers the first three episodes, is currently going through a final edit and should be available relatively soon.

We are excited about this project and look forward to sharing it with everyone that not only likes the dystopian/post apocalyptic genre’, but those that love a good story! Because this is a great story, and we think it will surprise everyone to find out where it takes you.

Ben Wray, D.L. Walker, Mikaylee Riddle, Jared Morgan, and Nathan Riddle.

 

Books?  Did you say BOOKS?!?!  That’s fantastic news!!!  Alright Nathan, I want to thank you for talking with me today and I look forward to watching the film(s) and reading the books.


You can find Acid Reign on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  As soon as their website is up and running, I will update this post.  Stat tuned to Amazon for the short film, Enter the Fringe.

Attack of the Killer B’s… catching up with the creator, 25 years later.

In a previous blog post, I spoke of a public access television show I used to watch called Attack of the Killer B’s.

Back in 1992, my Friday night ritual was to run to the gas station just off base and grab a pint of Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk and a can of Cheezums.  I’d then get back just in time to settle in and watch the most glorious Public Access Television show ever created… Attack of the Killer B’s.  It was like some kind of mad experiment resulting from a twisted tryst between Elvira, Svenghouli, and a voyeuristic MST3K poking its head in and seeing just what the hell was going on.

I ended up with about 8 VHS tapes filled with static’y episodes (all I had was rabbit ears and tin foil!), but I’d watch those tapes over and over again for the next decade.

Dr. Reek Amortis and Skelvis, circa 1992.

Let’s flash forward 25 years… a friend and fellow classic sci-fi/horror fan, @CultCredentials , sent me a message that he may have well found the man himself… Dr. Reek Amortis, Bryan Sisson.  I immediately got in contact with Mr. Sisson and lo-and-behold, Mr. Credentials was right.  I now know how Chewbacca felt.  Thanks Mr. Credentials for your black belt Google-Fu.  I am forever in your debt!  If you are a fan of cult and horror media, please check out his blog full of reviews of movies, TV, comics, and books.  You can also find him on Twitter at @CultCredentials.
So now… two and half decades later, I am finally able to bring you the man himself… the Mad Scientist of the Macabre, the Hero of Horror, the Champion of Camp!  Let’s give it up for DR. REEK AMORTIS!!!!

… er, BRYAN SISSON!!!!

Bryan Sisson, aka Dr. Reek Amortis, and Skelvis. Circa 2017.


First off, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to me, Bryan.  It’s been 25 years since I watched your television show on Pueblo Public Access.  Could you tell me a bit about your passion for classic horror and why it appeals to you so much?

I have had a deep and consistent horror/sci-fi obsession for as long as I can remember. I have tried to figure out exactly when and why this happened… I think I liked the thrill of “safely” being scared; the excitement of being scared yet knowing that everything was going to be OK… the monsters will not win and goodness will triumph.

When I was growing up I would scour the TV guide looking for every horror, science fiction, and fantasy movie and marking it so I could try to watch it.  If you missed a movie then you never knew if you would ever see it again! The Classic horror movies were from a time where kids could watch and not be bombarded with realistic ultra-violence or nudity like most of the modern era relies on. There was a good scare, creative monsters, and they usually had the morale of good win out, which was comforting. Today’s movies are much more mean-spirited and rely on the one-upping of gore and cruelty. Not really what kids should watch.

One of my favorite memories was sitting with my mom on the couch watching Invisible Invaders during a huge thunder storm! I was watching torrents of water flow down the street with lightning flashing, all while the invisible dead tried to break into the underground laboratory!!! Exhilarating!!!!

 

Wow, very interesting!  I really appreciate how you feel about the effects of today’s horror on children.  I see that you’ve met some very well-known and amazing folks that have worked in the Horror genre. Care to let us know who they were? What was it like meeting them?

My brief venture into film making, while leaving me “underemployed”, did give me some experiences I will never forget! I and the director of our first feature film, “Curse of the Blue Lights”, were out in California trying to find a distributor for our completed film. We sent promotional materials out to every studio and distributor, big and small. We had meetings with 20th Century Fox and Universal even!

They would all eventually say “too bad, you didn’t have a big name talent involved that could sell it”.  Truth is it was way too small for them and frankly not good enough!! Thank god for the then huge VHS direct to video market as we would eventually get worldwide distribution with Media Home Entertainment.

Well, during this month-long trip to Hollywood, we were able to go into Amblin Studios after following up on an invitation from Steven Spielberg’s personal assistant!  Amblin is buried deep in the Universal studios lot.  After going through the second set of security gates, we pull up in the Amblin lot right in front of the building.  Mark Marshall, who was Spielberg’s assistant, is standing outside to meet us when the two kids, Short Round and Chunk from the Goonies, come running up to greet Mark as they also just arrived on a visit. It was a very surreal experience indeed!

We got to tour the entire Amblin studio, including a meeting room with TV’s that would rise out of the tables and saw the theater he had set up to watch any format of film possible.  As we walked down a hallway in the Mexican style compound, we passed an indoor paseo area where only 10 feet from us a photographer was taking pictures of Spielberg for a magazine. While we did not meet him, he did turn and smile at us as we passed!  Again exhilarating!

On this same trip I called up “Uncle” Forry Ackerman, whose name and number were listed in the phone book.  I was bummed out that I only got the voice mail as he was off at a convention. Two days later, my phone rings and I can’t believe it but on the other end is Forry inviting me to the Ackermansion that weekend! We pull up and I can see the submarine from Atlantis the Lost Continent just sitting in his backyard! He gave us a wonderful tour of his house when Ron Borst (huge movie poster collector and expert) stopped by, so they invited us to eat lunch at Forry’s favorite place, Sizzler!  Well, I was in heaven as any horror fan can understand.  I treasure my pictures with him in front of Maria the Metropolis robot.

I have since become an avid convention attendee and have had the pleasure to meet and talk to many of my heroes like Barbara Steele, Stuart Gordon, Clive Barker, Bert Gordon, Lamberto Bava, Ruggero Deodato, Dick Smith, Rick Baker, and many others.  I really like getting original posters signed by the cast and crew!  One of which is a Godzilla Vs The Thing one-sheet signed by Godzilla actor Haruo Nakajima!

 

You got to meet Forry and see Short Round, Chunk, and Spielberg?!  That must’ve been a Holy Grail moment!  I’d really like to know about the genesis of Attack of the Killer B’s (AotKB’s).  What was your motivation to create it and was it difficult to get on television?  What was it like to film an episode?  I’ve got an ongoing wager with myself that your name was Dr. Reek A. Mortis, and not Dr. Reek Amortis.  Who wins?  Who ends up being the one who was wrong for two and a half decades?

After trying my hand at film making and finding myself rather unemployed, I went back to the University in Pueblo to get an engineering degree.  I got a work study job at the University’s PBS station editing commercials and TV spots.  One day I was talking to the station manager, Greg Sinn, and found out he was a monster kid too!  He even still had some of the Famous Monsters paperback books from when he was a kid.  I asked him if he ever thought about using the station equipment to make a low budget movie.  That must have gotten his mind going because a month later he called me into his office and said he would be able to get a package of old B horror/sci-fi movies and asked if I was interested in coming up with an idea for a horror host to introduce them. That was all I needed to hear!  I immediately told him that I would and that I wanted to bring a friend of mine, Sonny Theis, in so we could incorporate silly songs into the sketches.

The University had a fairly large TV studio where they would film fund raising events and some student game shows. They had professional grade cameras, editing equipment, and could do large scale green screen effects shots.  I was a kid in a video candy store! This was very small scale… like really small scale… no one was paid and no money was spent.  I had to come up with everything that would be on camera.  The first thing I did was build a small dungeon-like set complete with a small window that we could look out of or just have fog roll in from.

I spent a few days carving,  gluing, and painting styrofoam to give the look.  Next, I had to think of a way I would start each movie, so I built a large switch that I could pull down.  Now Sonny was up for being my side kick and was for doing the music with me, but he was not really one to act very silly, so I knew we would be a little straight man/funny man, Abbott and Costello like.

I was working in the pharmacy at a local hospital so I had access to medical gowns and stuff of that nature so the good doctor was born!  And you lose and win… the name was Dr. Reek Amortis but I have to say I really like the Reek A. Mortis also!

Every Thursday night I would go over to Sonny’s house where he had every instrument and recording device you could imagine. He would start laying down drums, then bass, then keyboard and build a song.  He went over and over it, adding all the instruments to the music I was writing down, the lyrics that would go with the movie.  By the time he was done with the music, the lyrics would be complete and we would then sing and record the song.  Great songs such as Attack of the Giant Leeches, Teenage Caveman, and Atom Age Vampire were born.

I would then have to rummage around my house and find props and go down to Betty’s Costumes for any costumes we would need for the skits.  I would also have to write down a rough script that we would do the very next day!  So right after school every Friday, Sonny and I and whoever else we could coax into helping, would go into the study and in one take we would play the prerecorded music and lip sync to the song.

I still find it odd how hard it was to get people to be involved in something that was so much fun. I always knew I had my family that would come through in a pinch and I was always in a pinch. My son Zachary would play young Dr. Reek and my mom would play one of the Sisters of the Immaculate Constipation.  My girlfriend at the time would play a number of characters, including a cave woman and a car crash victim in one of my favorites… Atom Age Vampire.

We did this every day for a year for a total of 23 episodes (I think).

 

So, I’m a loser and a winner… I’ll take it!  You worked with two other main cast members (well, one alive and one not-so-alive), Sonny and Skelvis.  Can you tell me about working with Sonny?  How did you two meet?  He was a seriously cool cat… did he ever take off his sunglasses?  I remember that you and Sonny would perform a song based on the movie that was to be shown.  It was amazing just how good those songs were!  What was the process involved in that?  Was Skelvis as difficult off-screen as he was on?

Sonny Theis and I met at a number of parties where he would play amazing lead guitar while we all drank massive quantities of beer.  Oh the 70’s!  Sonny was/is an amazing musician and I had played rhythm guitar with him a few times in a band.  Sonny was also attending the University at the time and he was equally anxious to try out this unusual adventure.  Sonny was a cool cat and now that you mention it I don’t think I have ever seen him with his sun glasses off… hmmm.  Did you ever see Not of This Earth??

Being a dungeon setting I thought about what I could do to spice the set up a bit. The music and horror made me think it would be cool to have a dead Elvis as a smartass side kick hanging on the wall to give the good doctor grief.  I had a number of zombie bodies lying around in my basement from the Curse of the Blue Lights film, so I picked one out and made him up as Elvis.  I incorporated a glove in the back of his mouth so it could be manipulated from a hole in the wall.  I tried to find someone that would be committed to doing the voice of Skelvis and someone else to stand on a ladder behind the wall to manipulate the arms, but more often than not we were ready to film with no one to help. This is why in many of the episodes you see Skelvis with his mouth taped shut “so he couldn’t taunt us”

Skelvis is living the life, or is it death, down in my basement and pondering a comeback tour.  I just don’t think he has the guts to actually pull it off though…

 

So you’re saying that Sonny might have egg-white eyes… interesting!  And Skelvis doesn’t have the guts… wait… I see what you did there!   Are you a musician in “real life” and do you still perform?  Any chance on there being an AotKB’s album one day?

I am a middle-of-the-road, wanna-be rock-star musician.  I currently play in a 3 piece band called Playing With Fire.  Interestingly, we all got together when we played in a band with Sonny.  Geniuses’ get tired with things and so Sonny bowed out and we continued on our own.  Sonny and I had often discussed if we should try to do a return of Dr. Reek, but honestly I think it was lightning in a bottle… the time was just right and we were up to the challenge.   

 

Well, I ain’t gonna lie… I’m just gonna pretend that one day there’ll be a reunion and I’ll be ready with the New York Super Fudge Chunk and a can of Pringles.  How many episodes did AotKB’s have?  How long did you plan on running the show?

We really had no idea how it would go over with people and didn’t have much in the way of feedback if people were even watching…. We ended up filming for one year (basically one show for each movie in the Attack of the Killer B’s package he purchased).  They had the right to show it for 2 years, so the second year was re-runs.

 

The first (few? I can’t recall how many) episodes were in black and white.  At some point they became color.  Why did you decide to change it to a color program?  Did that create any headaches?

We really didn’t know what we wanted it to look like at first. We went with black and white since the movies were black and white.  Then we got a knob that I could use to change us to color.  Eventually we just liked the color better and stayed with that.  I also want to mention our cameraman, Ron Weekes.  Ron was a full time employee at the station and really added a lot to the look of the show.  I wanted the cameras locked down on dollies because they had all this cool equipment and I thought that would be better, but Ron chose to grab the camera and move about free style. This really added a lot to the look of the show and really added to its zaniness!

 

I remember that camera work!  Y’all were decades ahead of today’s “queasy cam” stuff!

Any chance that there is some archival footage of the show?  I’ve got two healthy children… they may be small, but they’re strong!  I could maybe trade one for a DVD box set?  Both for the BluRay?

Sadly, I only had some crappy VHS copies but all of the surviving songs are out on YouTube. I had the full broadcasts transferred to DVD, but they’re really bad copies… Arrghh!!!

I did experiments with children on TV.  I could get away with it because it was “educational”, now they frown on it.

 

I totally understand… I probably would’ve chickened out on the the deal and offered up my autographed copy of Damnation Alley in lieu of my kinder anyway…

You wrote a movie, “Curse of the Blue Lights”.  Would you mind talking about that?  Any other horror projects in the works?  Any plans on an AotKB’s revival someday?

Curse of the Blue Lights was another adventure where we were too stupid to know we shouldn’t be doing this.  This was pre-Dr. Reek.  I  dropped out of the University to help a guy raise money to make a low budget mystery/horror movie.  In the meantime we ended up making a documentary on Zebulon Pike called Zebulon Pike and the Blue Mountain.  Pretty cool little film narrated by Burgess Meredith!

We did not raise the $1 million we needed, but we did raise about $175,000.  Instead of giving up, I convinced them that we should make a low budget horror movie with lots of makeup effects.  I had been doing a lot of foam latex monster make up and knew I could pull enough off enough to have good effects. Very long story short, we made the movie and got it distributed worldwide!  We made the money back, but it was too slow for investors to reinvest in something more.  Hollywood low-balled us and really didn’t give a $h!t if we made another movie or not.  I worked on a few more locally produced films like ROBO C.H.I.C. (Assistant Director) and Elves where I got to work with up-and-coming effects guru, Vincent Guastini.

I am always conspiring something … right now I’m spending time with my band.  There is nothing better that playing on stage and everything just blends.

 

Holy crap, I had no idea you had been involved in so many projects!  Did you ever think that a fan of your public access show would contact you 25 years later?  Is this kind of a cool thing or does is make you freak out just a little bit?

That someone remembers our work from so far back is one of the most awesome and humbling things that has happened.  When we made these, we really never knew if anyone watched, let alone liked what we did.  We did what we did because we had to have a creative outlet.  I was going to school for engineering and then going to the set to be a horror host… How cool was that!?  

I wish I had taken the time to document what we did, but we were so wrapped up in trying to pull off something funny for nothing that we just didn’t even think about preservation.  I had someone from Blood Central just contact me about Curse of the Blue Lights, so it is strange that I would also be asked about Killer B’s in the same month.

Things I did 25–30 years ago and people remember them fondly… It makes me very proud and should be a lesson for anyone that you should go for the impossible… you want to make a movie?  You want to be a horror host?  You want to be a rock star?  What the hell are you waiting for?!

I am so happy you enjoyed our show and took the time to seek out Dr. Reek!

I can dig it.  One last question… You’re in a desert, walking along in the sand when all of a sudden you look down and see a tortoise. It’s crawling toward you… You reach down and flip the tortoise over on its back. The tortoise lies on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over. But it can’t. Not without your help. But you’re not helping. Why is that?

Because I know this tortoise… he has stalked me since childhood. The first time I remember seeing him I was in my crib, unable to utter anything intelligible, I lay in a filthy diaper.  While just outside of my peripheral vision sat the tortoise smirking, planting frightening tortoise visions in my weak mind.  I still remember his taunts as I stood in front of my first grade class unable to solve the equation the instructor had written on the board… and all the while the tortoise, probing, planting false variables and erroneous theorems.  And good god… how can I ever forget our wedding night… my beloved lying disheveled in our bridal bed, the foul stench of tortoise rising from her ivory skin.

I feel him even now in my mind… I feel the shell growing on my back… I lay down next to …it.

My legs flounder in the air as the desert sun bakes down upon my naked flesh…


And there you have it my friends, quite possibly the coolest interview I will have ever done.  This really was a trip down memory lane.  I feel like I want to relate to how Bryan felt when he met Forry.  This really was an exciting experience for me.  I swear I can smell the Cheezums and taste the ice cream.  A megaton of thanks to Mr. Sisson for allowing me to pick his brain (with anesthetic of course) and discover the magic behind Attack of the Killer B’s!

Post-Apocalyptic audio goodness for your earholes…. an interview with Ryan Law of Ash Tales.

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I first discovered Ash Tales a few months ago on Twitter (or maybe it was longer than that… time in the Wastes can be subjective).  In any case, this quickly became one of my favorite accounts to follow.  I happen to love audiobooks and post-apocalyptic fiction (um, duh!) and this was the best of both worlds!  Ash Tales is a podcast that is a reading (complete with sound effects) of a postapoc short story.  Really… it’s like a star was actually listening when I wished upon it!

I recently decided that an interview was in order… I simply had to know more about Ash Tales and the man who created it.  So, with no further ado, here he is… and as always, please click the pics for a taste of Ryan’s fabulous work…

 


 

First off, tell me a little about yourself.  What makes Ryan tick?

  I guess I’m motivated by two core beliefs: Post apocalyptic fiction is more important than most people give it credit for, and it deserves greater awareness.  Writers get a raw deal, and deserve a better way to share their stories with people.

Aside from that, I’m 25, I play a mean guitar, and I have a crippling love affair with dark beer.

 

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What sparked your interest in postapoc fiction?  What is your first memory of something telling you “This is it… this is what I love”?

   About a decade ago I was given a dog-eared copy of The Postman to read. There was something in that story that fascinated me: seeing society crumble down brought out a bit of the frontier spirit in me, and I damn near packed-up my bag to go and live in the woods.  I looked for a few books that captured a similar vibe, and that was how I found The Road – and that magic phrase “post apocalyptic fiction”. Cue the light bulb and angelic chorus.

 

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Is there a certain type of Apocalypse that you favor?  Nuclear Armageddon?  Social Breakdown?  Ecological Disaster?  Dare-I-say-it…. Zombies?

   It’s gotta be the classic nuclear apocalypse scenario – that feeling of living under the gun is just so relateable. Books like Alas, Babylon and On the Beach really hit home for me, seeing how close we’ve come to a real-life cataclysm, and how close we could come again.

 

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Are you a fan of “fantasy” apocalypses or ones based more in reality (Fury Road vs. The Road)? 

  Don’t make me choose man! I guess if I had to come down on a single side, I’d favor realism. I think post apocalyptic fiction can be a powerful form of social commentary, letting you strip away society’s veneer and see what life’s really like at its core. I studied Economics and Sociology, so I’m fascinated by the unspoken rules that govern our world, and I love anything that explores what life would look like without society around to guide us.

 

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Are you a writer yourself?

   Absolutely! Writing was the only thing I was ever good at, so I’ve spent the last decade finding ways to make a living from it. I’m the co-founder of a marketing agency here in the UK, and before that, I was a freelance copywriter. I’ve written all kinds of weird and wonderful things (I’ve even been a beer reviewer – that was pretty sweet), and I’m now turning my hand to writing fiction. I’ve published a few short stories and a novel is in the works (new-found respect for serial authors –  novels are hard work!).

 

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I absolutely love what you’re doing with your Ash Tales project… seriously,  this is a an amazing blending of audio and postapoc fiction.  Would you tell me more about Ash Tales?  How did you come up with the idea?  What would you like people to know about it?

   A couple of years ago, I decided to write a roundup of awesome post apocalypse books – the kind of guide I was looking for when I first discovered the genre. A few thousand words and a dozen cups of coffee later, and I’d written The 50 Best Post Apocalyptic Books. I set up Ash Tales, hit publish – and promptly forget I’d ever written it. I stumbled upon the site a year later, and saw that the post was getting hundreds of visits a month. Now, it’s just crossed 20,000 views (insane!), and as it turns out, my weird little end-of-the-world fascination wasn’t that weird or little.

   The rest of the site grew out of that realization. I’ve had first-hand experiences with literary journals, and I was sick and tired of waiting months just to get a templated rejection letter. So I took matters into my own hands, and created a writer-friendly space to share new post apocalyptic fiction  – no agenda, no qualifications, just great storytelling. The podcast was a natural extension: I had great stories to share, and podcasting felt like the purest form of storytelling imaginable.

Are you a “one man band” when it comes to Ash Tales, or is it a team effort?

   Total one-man band! I count myself really lucky that my day job gives me the skills to run the site, letting me focus on the stuff I love doing: reading and writing post apocalyptic fiction! 

It’s also important to say that Ash Tales wouldn’t exist without the support of our awesome readers and writers. I’ve been blown away with the response I’ve had from people, and I’m always humbled by talented authors that are willing to take a chance on me, and share their work with the site.

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Is postapoc fiction popular in England?  If so, why do you think that is?  If not, why not?

   It’s always struck me as a pretty American phenomenon, and most of the genre’s classics have their roots firmly in US soil. At a guess, I’d say we have the Cold War to thank for popularizing the genre, and the US was more directly involved than our quiet little backwater. With that said, there are a couple of books my native country has contributed to the cause, including The Children of Men, The Day of the Triffids, and the super underrated The Death of Grass.

 

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I’m not going to ask you the old standby of “What is your favorite postapoc movie and book?”.  So, what are your THREE favorite postapoc movies and books?

Awesome question: 

Movies
1) The Road
2) Children of Men
3) 28 Days Later
Books
1) The Stand
2) The Death of Grass
3) The Road
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Impressive…. most impressive (in my best, yet totally pathetic Vader voice).  I’m going to suppress my elation that you are the only person I’ve ever spoken to who was familiar with The Death of Grass… only because it would be both embarrassing and perhaps a skosh messy.

Ryan, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to ask you these questions and letting our fellow wanderers of the wastes learn more about you and your project.

If any of you writers are interested in submitting your work to Ash Tales, you can submit your tale here… Ash Tales Short Story Submissions.

Ash Tales can be found on Twitter, Facebook, iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, and YouTube.

 

 

My favorite End o’the World Books of 2016…

I know it’s 2017, but it’s barely 2017 and seeing as how I’d (hopefully) be late for my own funeral, I figured it wasn’t too late to talk about my favorite end-of-the-world stories from 2016.

I don’t keep track of how many books I read in a year… I should probably start doing that. I’ve also never made a favorites list for those that were… well, my favorites.  I should probably start doing that too.  I should probably say something to the effect that although some/all of these may not have been published in 2016, I read them in 2016.  They are not in any kind of order – they’re all my fav’s.

The covers are linked to the book’s Amazon page and you can click on the author’s name to go to their website/amazon page.

So, here we go…

 

 

All the Elders Orphans by Melissa Dykes

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Ms. Dykes did an amazing job at making me despise or revere the characters in this book.

There were unbelievably sweet moments and absolutely horrendous ones… something one might expect in a broken world like this.

The female lead was superbly done and I appreciate how Ms. Dykes wrote her. This is a very brutal world and as much as I like to think I’d be some badass survivor, I’m not sure I could be as strong as she is.

I don’t recall there being a single spelling or grammatical error that took me out of the story – a real feat in this day and age.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to those who enjoy post-apocalypse stories.

 

Arch City Apocalypse: The Low Lying Lands Saga Volume 2 by Bob Williams

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A fantastic second book in the Low Lying Lands Saga, and I daresay that I enjoyed it better than the first. Another non-stop romp through the wasteland that was once America.

Prescott is “every man”… totally relate-able. I’d venture to guess we’ve all known a Prescott, or perhaps even been a Prescott. He’s just a great character.

The SciFi pop-culture references are one of my favorite things about these two books and Williams is a master of it here. One minute I’m terrified at what I just read, the next I’m laughing… good stuff!!!

If you’re looking for a fast-paced, action-packed story about a few folks trying to take down a seriously bad dude – I highly recommend this one.

 

Uroboros Saga Book 6 by Arthur Walker

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Once again, Arthur Walker hits it outta the park. Seriously, how does this guy do it?! I would go so far as to say that this may very well be my favorite one so far.

From the opening chapter, I knew that this was gonna be a helluva ride and I was right. There are long-wondered questions answered, but (in pure Arthur Walker fashion) more rise up. That’s a good thing because it means there’ll be more books!

One thing that really struck me in this latest book is the author’s ability to present incredibly fantastic tech as totally tangible, real, and believable. Not only tech, but things that surpass the technological and into the, well – almost magical. He has an amazing way to allow the reader take all of these wonderful concepts for granted – we don’t know how they work, we just know they do and that’s good enough.

This series ventures headlong into hard scifi and I would have no issue placing this author’s books right alongside those of Niven, Robinson, Clarke, and Pohl.  If you’d like to read some insight to the series, you can do so here in an interview back in 2015… Identity Extensive Technology and “Going Delta” – An Interview With Arthur H. Walker.

 

Making Monsters by Joe Turk

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Joe Turk describes Making Monsters as “dystopian humor with an apocalyptic chaser.” I’d say that hits the gnat right in the ass. The humor can be fairly dark, but this is story about the end of things, so that goes without saying. We get to travel along with the characters as the world is being broken right before our eyes. It’s like Doctor Strangelove meets the Cthulhu Mythos. I never once got bored reading Making Monsters and if it wasn’t for this ridiculous thing called being an adult and having to work, I would have read it in one setting.

I absolutely enjoyed the hell out of this book. There’s a cautionary tale going on here and I’m not quite sure if I should pass it off as fantasy or be scared to death that something like this might happen. Ya never know…

I enjoyed this story so much, I asked Joe if he’d write a guest post for my blog. You can read it here if you’d like… A Corporately Sponsored Apocalypse.

Oh, and did you know that Mr. Turk is currently working on an animated web-series based on Making Monsters?  No?  Well, you do now!  Check it out, it’s really great!

 

The Wizard Killer – Season 1: A Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy Serial by Adam Dreece

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I very much favor “Man with No Name” stories and that is one of the reasons I’m so attracted to The Wizard Killer.

Who is this guy? Where did he come from? Where is he going, and what keeps him putting one foot in front of the other?

One of the things that really sucked me into this story was that the main character wakes up with no clear recollection of who or where he is. He’s apparently a man who harbors some kind of magical power… but he just can’t really figure out what the hell is going on.

I felt very empathetic towards the main character. He seems to react the same way I would in his situations… essentially standing there, looking around, and muttering “I’m hungry, I’m lost, I’m pissed off, and everyone keeps trying to kill me… What the hell?!?!”

It is a compelling story. I want (who am I kidding… I “have”) to know what is going on. Who is this guy and what killed the world?

I felt like I was trudging along the blasted landscape with this him, often muttering “What the yig?!” under my breath.

This is like Mad Max meets Lord of the Rings… I mean, we’ve got magic in a post-apocalyptic wasteland…. how does it get better than that!

I highly recommend this post-apocalyptic fantasy tale from Adam Dreece!

 

The Eternal Season (The Swallowed World Book 1) by Tyler Bumpus

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I’ve been wracking my brain for the past 12 hours trying to figure out just how to express how much I liked this book.

There is world building going on here the likes of which I have not seen for a long, long time. A future North American continent that has been laid waste by not only geological catastrophes and apocalyptic weather, but also by war, famine, and disease. All of these things lead to a perfect storm that literally breaks the world. The book was reminiscent of Aftermath by LeVar Burton and The Road.

Amongst all of this ruin, there is incredible technology still being used. It’s an amazing blend of a technological society living in a new dark age. There is also a hint of the evolution of human beings and a hope that something better may rise out of this broken world, although I have a sneaking suspicion that things are gonna get worse before they get better.

The characters of this story…. wow. You’re going to run the range of emotions with them. I very much liked the fact that the main character count was kept low. I often have a hard time following who’s doing what when I’m having to follow a bunch of different characters. Kudos to Mr. Bumpus for keeping it simple and letting me get to really know a select few instead of hardly getting to know a bunch.

This story is for mature readers. There is not a lot of terrible violence spread throughout, but there is one particular part that… well, when you get there, you’ll know it.

The author graciously included a glossary, which to be honest, is worth the price of the book alone. It’s a story in and of itself. Not to mention maps and chapter art. You can tell that Mr. Bumpus put a tremendous amount of work into this story and to say I’m excited to read new books as they come out is an understatement.

Tyler wrote a guest blog for me last year. You can read it here… Birth Pangs: Interpreting Our Post-Apocalyptic Nightmare.

 

Hood: A Post-Apocalyptic Novel (American Rebirth Series Book 1) by Evan Pickering

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Wow…

This is a damned good book.

I’ve read a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction… a LOT, and I have to say that this is a solid five-star story.

What did I like about it? The characters. Mr. Pickering is able to bring these characters to life. They are people that you know… hell, they might even be you! Make no mistake, I like to have some ass-kicking in my wastelands, but it is often rare that I actually end up actually caring about the characters. Mr. Pickering does a fantastic job of making the reader despise a character, yet love them at the same time (and sometimes, just the opposite). They make decisions that, when you really think about it, we might very well make in the same situation.

It is often a rare thing when I feel a book is character-driven, but the author has simply done a wonderful job at doing just that.

I highly recommend this one.

 

After Armageddon (Book of Luka Series Book 1) by Brian Dorsey

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Perhaps best known for this military SciFi series, Gateway, this is actually Brian’s second post-apocalyptic tale (his first, Hope, is available on Wattpad).

This is a brutal and interesting dark romp through the apocalypse.

A speculative take on the theological aspect of Armageddon, the story follows a rather eclectic cast of characters trying to survive the End Times and push back the demons that have laid waste to the planet.

The theological theme may sway some readers, but being someone of an open mind and a love for stories in this genre, I very much liked it. There is some harsh language and violence, but let’s face it, Armageddon ain’t gonna be all daisies and kittens.

 


 

And there you have it!  Thanks for reading and please, check out these authors and their work.

Death Drive, Life Drive… Guest Blog from S.C. Flynn.

I remember first encountering S.C. Flynn around 2014.  He labeled himself as a “…reader and reviser of science fiction and fantasy.“.

I really had no idea that he was a writer as well.  You can imagine my surprise and rather blatant joy to learn that his first published book was going to be post-apocalyptic/dystopian in nature… YES!!!!

Not only that, but it was going to by YA as well, and truth be told,  I have come to enjoy YA literature almost more than that geared strictly towards adults… it tends to be faster paced and does a great job at keeping the reader engaged and wanting to read.  YA lit ain’t just for kids, ya know!  He asked me if I wanted to read an ARC, to which I promptly replied “Hell yes!!!”.  I really enjoyed his story and am very much looking forward to reading more in this series.  You can read my review of Children of the Different here.

So let me present S. C. Flynn – reader, reviser, and now…  a published post-apocalyptic author!


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The roots come out of the earth, fighting back against mankind’s concrete prisons. As if the soul of the world were pouring out again.

These days, a lot is rightly said about the damage done by industrialized human society to the Earth’s environment. Global warming is melting the world’s ice caps; in time, this will raise the water level such that certain coastal areas will be rendered uninhabitable. Rising temperatures in Equatorial Africa will increasingly make agriculture impossible there. These issues and others to come will probably affect the entire planet, even to the point of killing off humanity in its entirety.

We are caught in a self-perpetuating death drive.

termitewingsseparateAs great as these problems are, they are limited to the human point of view. The Earth itself is indifferent to whether or not we exist. If things continue as they are, it will eventually rid itself of humanity – or most of it – and start a new drive to life of its own. A drive back towards growth, cleanliness and diversity. Any humans left would have to make do as best they could in a game where they no longer make the rules.

Nature’s game.

The situation of a vastly reduced human population trying to survive after the collapse of technological civilization lies at the heart of post-apocalyptic fiction. Scavengers – people living off scraps of that previous civilization – are currently very popular, as are zombie-style chaos, but other reactions would also be logical. Trying to rebuild what was lost. Destroying all traces of it as evil. Or trying to forget all about technological civilization and following a new life trajectory, one that involves letting yourself be absorbed in to the Earth’s life drive:

I and the others like me are the human roots left after the Madness. We are like nature’s soul, small as we are.

termiteseparateThat might seem either utopian or dystopian, depending on your point of view. The difficulty of imagining that kind of life stems more from our total dependence on machines than from any real impossibility in living much closer to, and in tune with, nature. After all, our ancestors did so for many centuries. If enough time were to pass, or if the shift in mentality caused by the apocalypse were sufficiently great, it might be possible.

The end of technology and mass communication would mean the end of large ideologies, and various small isolated groups might experiment with different approaches to life, each one “ethical” according to its own rules. Among them, there might even be a group that works to bring back the best of technological civilization, while avoiding the errors of the past.

Literature can – and should – try to imagine these different ways of living and of being. It can help us to understand what to look forward to. And what to avoid.

‘She could feel the life pulsing, life of a kind she had never felt before. Rich but impossibly ancient. She knew that these creatures had seen every kind of being come and go. They had been there long before anything else, and they would be there long after humans were gone.’

[artwork by Eric Nyquist]


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About the Author

S. C. Flynn was born in a small town in South West Western Australia. He has lived in Europe for a long time; first the United Kingdom, then Italy and currently Ireland, the home of his ancestors. He still speaks English with an Australian accent, and fluent Italian.

He reads everything, revises his writing obsessively and plays jazz. His wife Claudia shares his passions and always encourages him.

S. C. Flynn has written for as long as he can remember and has worked seriously towards becoming a writer for many years. This path included two periods of being represented by professional literary agents, from whom he learnt a lot about writing, but who were unable to get him published.

He responded by deciding to self-publish his post-apocalyptic fantasy novel, Children of the Different and, together with an American support team, aimed for a book as good as those created by the major publishers.

S. C. Flynn blogs on science fiction and fantasy at scflynn.com. He is on Twitter @scyflynn and on Facebook. Join his email newsletter list here.

My Favorite Post-Apocalypse Movies of the 1990’s…

The 90’s…. it was only a decade prior to this one that I was just a kid.  Now I was a soldier, a combat veteran, a college graduate, a husband (well, for a year anyway – Gads, what an utter slut!), and working man.  Didn’t stop my inner nerd from enjoying that which I enjoyed most… post-apocalypse movies!!!

The 90’s were known for being the decade in which we moved from practical effects to full-blown CG.  It was amazing how things changed in just ten years!

As always, click the poster to watch a trailer, clip, or full movie.

 

12 Monkeys – Based on a 1962 French independent film called La Jetée, 12 Monkeys was directed by Terry Gilliam.  This is without a doubt, one of my favorite PA movies of all time.  For those who did Terry Gilliam, this is a masterpiece.  For those who may not dig Brad Pitt, this (as well as his role in Se7en) is my favorite role.  He is simply superb.

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Delikatessen – A French film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (he’s also known for City of Lost Children and Alien: Resurrection… two films I happen to enjoy even though it seems everyone else does not).  Starring Dominique Pinon (Jeunet likes to use him in most of his films), the movie takes place at some point in time that is fairly vague.  It is in an obvious post-apoc setting (most likely nuclear war).  The movie takes place almost exclusively within a hotel and is character driven.  I highly recommend this one…

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Escape From L.A. – Ahhh… Snake Plissken is back!  Like its predecessor, this isn’t necessarily postapoc, but rather dystopian.  You’ll either hate it or love it.  I love it.  The original script had been written by Coleman Luck and John Carpenter thought it was too campy, but Kurt Russell pressed him to make the film.  I’m glad he did.

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Fist of the North Star – Sorta, kinda, a little bit based on the manga, the 1995 film was direct to video and when one watches it, one can see why.  That being said, the atmosphere of the movie is just very cool even if the acting isn’t…

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Hardware – This one has become a cult classic and if you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it.  The soundtrack alone is worth it.  There are a couple of cool cameos, Iggy Pop, Lemmy (R.I.P.), and William Hootkins (remember him?  he played Porkins in the original Star Wars film).  Hootkins’ character (Lincoln) is deliciously creepy, as is most of the film.

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The Matrix – I don’t really have to say much about this one, do I?  Is there a person on this planet who hasn’t seen it?  I won’t be talking about the 2nd and 3rd films as the first one is the only one I really enjoyed.  It was new, it was fresh, it was freaking awesome!

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Mindwarp – Now, this one here… this one might not be so well-known.  Starring Bruce Campbell and Angus Scrimm (those two actors oughta catch your attention!), it was one of the few films produced by Fangoria Films (so you know it was good and gory).

The world has fallen to nuclear war.  Cannibalistic mutants thrive on the surface while those who were lucky enough to get underground, spend their time jacked into The System and living their lives in a virtual reality paradise.

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Neon City – Starring Michael Ironside, how could this suck!  Ironside is an ex-cop turned bounty hunter.  The world has been laid waste by ecological disasters and there are often “Brights” (some kind of sun flare that kills people) and Xander Clouds (some kind of cloud that kills people).

Don’t let that fool you, it’s actually really good…

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Omega Doom – This one right here…. this is one of my absolute favorite postapoc flicks of all time.  Don’t ask me to explain why… the acting sucks, the effects suck… there’s just something about it.  Definitely one of those “so bad it’s good” flicks.

Starring Rutger Hauer (that’s probably a large part of its appeal), and…. well, that’s about it.  Oh yes, it also stars Anna Katarina and apparently she’s kind of famous, so…

Omega Doom is simply a re-telling of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo.  A “man with no name” tale that we’ve seen many times before… except this time, it’s after a nuclear apocalypse and the characters are androids.  Tempted?  Damned straight!

I liked this movie so much, I wrote a blog post specifically about it.  You can find that here if you’re so inclined.

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The Postman – Loosely based on The Postman by David Brin, this movie holds a special place in my memory as I was living where it was filmed at the time.  From what I understand, Brin had some concern as he didn’t want the film to be too “Mad Max’ish” and wanted to make sure the character retained his soul.  I’d say it was a success.

The movie is just wonderful and the message of hope portrayed is palpable.

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The Postman: The Movie and the Book


Robot Jox – Giant fighting robots after a nuclear war.  Need I say more?

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Six-String Samurai – Man… how do I even describe this thing?  A katana-wielding, Buddy Holly’esque road warrior?

Yeah, that’ll do nicely…

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Split Second – Like Escape From New York and it’s sequal, Split Second is not really postapoc, but rather dystopian in theme.  London is flooded and sitting under a couple feet of water.  Hauer plays a burnt-out cop who discovers a sequence of murders that strike a nerve.  Hauer’s performance is worth the admission price alone. Lots of good actors in this one.  I highly recommend it…

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The Stand – I first read The Stand in 1990, while serving with 1st Squadron, 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment during Desert Storm.  Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that I am not a fan of Stephen King… wait, let me rephrase that – I used to be, but no longer… ever since the late 90’s.  I’m not going to go into the reasons here as to why I’m no longer a fan.  If you wanna know, shoot me an email or ask me on Twitter.

Needless to say, I loved the screen adaptation and I’m fairly certain I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t…

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Tank Girl – Oh man… another one which folks either love or totally hate.  I love it.  There isn’t anything I don’t enjoy about this flick.  I mean, it’s got Lori Petty, Ice-T, Naomi Watts, and Malcom McDowell?  C’mon!!!

It tries to capture the comic, but if you take it for what it’s worth, I bet you’ll enjoy it too…

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Waterworld – Jeez… the hatred and vitriol that followed this movie – it was not deserving of such negativity.  Did it have its production problems?  Of course it did.  Did that affect the storytelling or visuals?  Absolutely not, IMNSHO.

Yet another love/hate flick.  And yet another one in which you can count me in the “love” camp.  This is simply pure, wonderful, fun, fantasy postapoc fiction.  If you keep trying to insert reality into it, no wonder you hate it…

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Mad Max, Death, and Justice … Guest blog from Asher.

I was recently contacted by a fella… a quick fella… who altered my perspective on both art and the way Mad Max (Fury Road specifically) can be interpreted.
First off, let me tell you who this guy is… he is an artist that goes by the name of Asher – he “translates discarded tech into artistic pieces.”  His work is simply amazing and I’ve often said that although I have really no idea how to describe it, I love it.  A super cool blending of goth, cyberpunk, horror and abandonded tech… Please take a moment to check out his website.
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Hex-Station

We follow each other on twitter and out of the blue, he asked if I would mind reading his thoughts on Mad Max.  Of course I said “Yes!”, and after reading his words, I immediately told him that this material HAS to be shared with the postapoc  community.  I asked him if he had a blog, to which he replied “No”, so I asked if I could possibly share his thoughts on mine.  I’m glad he said “yes”.
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Chelsea 405

So with no further ado… here’s Asher and his thought provoking wordstuff about the tragic lone wanderer of the wasteland, Max Rockatansky…

I think you have to start with Stone and not Max. Miller draws too heavily on that film. Hell, half the Mad Max cast is from Stone including Hugh who keeps coming back as the god-man and gets crucified every time.
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I’m fairly certain Miller has always looked at this in a very large picture sense, kinda like Dune from Herbert. If you take the body of the these Aussie post-apocalyptic films as a societal tale, then you have a very slow moving progression and not just some action flicks tied together.

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Stone sets the stage for a society that is imploding upon itself by greed, inability to change, and children who need to kill their fathers as a rite of passage but clings too hard to the old ways. That clinging is brought back up in every single one of his films too. This is why I’m fairly certain Stone sets that stage and he plays upon it.

MM falls apart because they’re using old laws to govern a new form of human society and the hero is stripped of everything he holds dear because he tried to uphold those laws in spite of everything.

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In MM-RW, they’re clinging to the old form of power still (gas) and again, Max only is victorious when he is the harbinger to destroy that dependence.  We’re more or less told that’s the last bastion of gas production.  Without him, Humongous would have taken the refinery and become a king. 

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In MM and BT, both the Kids cling to the old ways as well as Bartertown. The Kids cling to the HighScrapers and the Rivers of Light.  Bartertown exists because they crave capitalism. Max destroys them both.  And in Fury Road, he finally kills the father and puts to rest that old world. More on that…

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Hugh is in all three flicks representational of the Father but he’s also fully aware of Death waiting for him. It’s evident in the script, the actions, and the costumes (in Miller’s pieces). That also puzzles me as to how it’s missed. He didn’t have to use this guy again, but here he is and really in FR he’s passed into a mythical realm already.

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Fury Road… Miller had choices here. BIG ones. He had money and backing, so he had free reign on this. And this is the one thing that I am shocked no one picks up on. Look over Homer’s Odyssey… It’s more or less the story of FR. The River of Lethe, Charybdis, the Sirens, etc., etc., etc.  Max has passed into the stuff of mythos now.

My  proof that this is no longer a reality or part of the world Max was from… the steering columns on the cars and trucks – they are on the left side, the US side. Not Oz, hell not even any former Brit colony. That was a very, very conscious choice. He started production in Oz. They built most of the cars in Oz. Yet why the left side drive?  They actually had to import those vehicles to produce that. Far greater expense and load on the production. This, to me, is a keystone or a cypher that he’s used to give us a clue.

Trust me I don’t really give a shit about uncovering most film or books. I’m really ok with face value since that’s usually how it’s to be viewed/read. But it struck me in the theatre how much like the Odyssey FR was. Then, about a month later, I was welding and replaying the flick in my head, the steering columns really hit me hard.

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Miller’s story boards for FR some 20+yrs ago… I think they are now pretty much EXACTLY like the film. He’s calculating and deeply committed to the story – this is not a man out to make a fortune on an action flick. This is a man creating a classic piece of art that just happens to be couched in the guise of an action flick. He’s not without irony, appealing to a base form of entertainment to tell us a deeply insightful tale of humans – pretty much just like Homer.  I may be totally off base and batshit crazy, but I kinda think I’m close to the bone on this one. I’d imagine when Homer sat in a rotunda and made a couple of bucks reciting his next installment for Friday night entertainment, it wasn’t seen as a classic to them. It was just good adventure and fun.

What I find a thing of pure beauty in FR, as well is how we are shown this, is the realm of Ether and humans are but players for the God’s. The scene that did that for me was where Nux was told by Max to “tie to that thing…”,  “You mean the tree?”. Nux had never seen a tree. And here we are in the land of death, on the edge of the river Lethe, using the tree of life to run from Death/Justice.
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I seriously was just stunned when I saw that.  Max shoots out the eyes of Death/Justice and now it’s blind as it needs to be to exact it’s purpose.
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This is story telling at it’s most epic and sublime. Don’t get me wrong I loved Miller and the Max franchise before. But at this moment he passed to the level of praise and respect very few will ever see from me.
I’m rarely impressed, but Miller has left me kind of speechless. I just hope he lives long enough to finish it.
Because it’s going to be fucking epic when it’s completed.

You can find Asher on Twitter and his website, where he uses flame and steel to create something from nothing.  Please take a moment to visit, I assure you won’t be disappointed!