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.

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.

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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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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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!

 

Slipstream… it doesn’t suck nearly as much as you might think.

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First off, I want to thank Barry P. of Cinematic Catharsis for asking me to join the Nature’s Fury Blogathon!  The subject matter this go ’round is Nature vs. Mankind.  In the words of Barry P., “…this is a blogathon about our eternal struggle with flora, fauna, and the elements.

I decided to go with a film that has a bit of a fan following… 1989’s Slipstream.

Maybe not a “cult classic”, (you know what, screw it… it IS a cult classic!) but there are those of us who actually really dig it.  It pits man against good old planet Earth and let me tell you… she is PISSED!!!


Oh, and hey… I’ve never participated in something like this before, so be gentle with me… it’s my first time. 😉

Alright then, let’s get to the movie!


From the depths of the Earth.

To the edge of existence.

The hunt is on…

 

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By the end of the century, man’s destruction of the Earth’s environment turned the forces of nature upon him.  There are many stories about the converging earthquakes that split continents apart – mixing civilizations together… about the floods that buried the cities and the emergence of a river of wind called the Slipstream that washed the planet clean.  Those stories all happened years ago, but this story is about a fugitive, traveling the Slipstream, who needed a friend.


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 First off, Slipstream was blasted by critics and generally despised upon its release.

 Why do I tell you that from the get-go? Because for me it was one of those movies that, after you watch it, you say to yourself – “Why did everyone hate this thing so much?”

To which I reply… “I dunno… it’s really kind of awesome.”


Slipstream is a post-apocalypse movie, or perhaps more specifically, a post-cataclysm movie.  Sometime in the future (we’re not told when), the Earth decides to rebel against mankind’s abuse and issues forth great calamities… earthquakes, floods, etc.

These events became known as The Convergence.  The Earth cracked and continents shifted.  Mountains rose and fell, oceans drained and flooded areas that had never seen water.  Cities were buried.   Our way of life was forever altered.

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Life goes on and people once again established communities.  People found residence within cave-ridden canyon walls.   They now shared their new home with others who were at one time thousands of miles away.

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The only real mode of transportation anymore is flight.  A massive river of air, aptly named the Slipstream, circles the globe and is used by folks to get from point A to point B.  You can often see scratch-built airplanes and hot air balloons overhead.


 

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Our story begins with a law enforcement officer (or what passes for one in this primitive landscape), Will Tasker (Mark Hamill) and his partner Belitski (Kitty Aldridge), hunting down an escaped murder, Byron (Bob Peck).  He is quickly captured and taken to a nearby settlement where we are introduced to Matt (Bill Paxton), a free-spirited bounty hunter.  Matt sees an opportunity to make some quick cash and makes off with Byron to claim the bounty as his own.  Tasker and Belitski soon give chase and the adventures ensue.  The group ends up battling the elements at every turn, getting caught… escaping… running into a religious cult that worships the wind as though it is some kind of God… and finding a sanctuary of lost art and knowledge.

Yes, there is most definitely a story here.  Each character is on a mission…

 

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Matt… the young, headstrong, free-spirited bounty hunter who knows there is more to life than what he’s been dealt, but lacks the maturity to fully realize it.  His is a tale of growth.

 

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Byron… the man who wants nothing more than to dream and find others of his kind.  Although considered a murderer, his is a confusing tale and may well be worth the admission price alone.

 

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Tasker… Living life by the book and bringing justice to the wasteland of the old world.  Almost Max Rockatansky’esque,  he will use any means necessary to capture his prey.  There are no grey areas with him, only black and white.

 

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Belitski… She tags along with Tasker, but things aren’t so cut and dry with her.  Secretly she hopes for something better.  By the end of the film, you find out if she finds it.

 


 

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The film was produced by Gary Kurtz and directed by Steven Lisberger (who also directed TRON).   Kurtz was, at one time, the second half of the George Lucas team… producing both Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.  Kurtz and Lucas split before Return of the Jedi and Kurtz went on to produce The Dark Crystal.

Hoping that Slipstream would be his “Star Wars”,  for one reason or another the film ultimately failed and ended up bankrupting Kurtz.


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Made in 1989, it wouldn’t be until 1992 that I would finally get to see this.  I went into a Blockbusters (remember those?) and saw it sitting amongst the other “straight to video” SciFi movies.

To be honest, I thought it was just pretty good;  until right about 15 minutes into it.

There was a song – more particularly, This Big Area by Then Jericho.  To understand why it affected me so much, we’d have to got back a couple of years and spend some time in a hot and dry part of the world full of nothing but sand, blood, and fear.

At the time, I was stationed in Germany.  A couple of days before we left for Iraq, I went to the PX and tried to think of any last-minute items I wanted to grab.  On a whim, I found an album by a group I’d never heard of to provide companionship to my Planet P Project, DEVO, and Rocky Horror Show soundtrack.

I took a chance and loved it!  That was one of four albums I took with me to the desert.  When I heard their music in this film,  I became flooded with nostalgia.  To this day, when I hear that music, it takes me right back to 1991.


The acting is damned good – as well it should be, considering the names involved… Mark Hamill, Bill Paxton, Kitty Aldridge, Bob Peck, Robbie Coltrane, Ben Kingsley, and F. Murray Abraham.

I mean, c’mon… look at Hamill for instance… what a badass!  Bob Peck is simply incredible.  Paxton is… well, Paxton, and Coltrane… I bet you’d hardly recognize him.

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So , maybe you’ve asked yourself at some point “Why should I bother with this thing”… or “I’ve seen it, it sucked… why should I watch it again?”

To which I’d reply, there’s a story here… there’s more than one in fact.  Forget the special effects… each and every character has a story and a damned good one at that.

From a young hothead looking for a quick buck to finance his dream… to a cop who is trying to make the world a better place by following the word rather than the spirit of the law… to an android who wants nothing more than to be with his own kind… to a woman who doesn’t really know what she wants until she see’s it right in front of her…

Yes, there is more to this movie than what meets the eye.  If you’ve never seen it, try it out.  If you’ve already watched it, give it another chance… it might not suck nearly as much as you thought…

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But wait!  There’s more!  As a special added bonus… here is a video of the making of Slipstream.  Enjoy!

 

 

A Corporately Sponsored Apocalypse – Guest Blog by Joe Turk…

I’m often contacted by authors who ask if I wouldn’t mind reading their work and posting a review.  I try not to make a habit of this as it makes me uncomfortable, so my answer is usually “I’m sorry, but no.”

But once in a while, one will come along and my gut tells me to do it.  Such is the case with Joe Turk and his book, Making Monsters.  Joe seemed a bit apprehensive about asking me to take a look at it as he worried it wasn’t something that fit perfectly into my preferred genre.  After taking a quick glance at a sample on Amazon, I found that it looked incredibly interesting and Joe seemed like a very talented fella.  In fact, I was so impressed with his writing, artwork, his quick wit and personality, that I asked if he’d write a guest blog.

I’m really glad he said yes.

I’m a big fan of knowing the why’s and wherefore’s of apocalypse tales.  Joe does an amazing job of painting a picture (Ha!) of a world that reminded me of Dr. Strangelove meets the Lovecraftian Mythos.  The thing is… he is using real-world events – things that are actually going on right now, that may very well result in a very, very unhappy ending.

So, with no further ado, here’s Joe Turk…


 

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Dystopian humor with an apocalyptic chaser…

Since the start of things, doomsayers have walked dirt paths, ringing bells and warning all within shouting range about the end of days. Over time, these harbingers of doom became part of our literary and cinematic history. I can’t think of an apocalyptic story that doesn’t have a character sounding an alarm and warning everyone to prepare for disaster. So when I sat down to write a predictive tale about the last days of man on earth, I knew I wasn’t writing a new story. This made ask, why bother writing it all? Does the world need another cautionary tale? There are enough novels about the apocalypse. Why don’t I just order a pizza and level up my warlock?

And then my house started shaking again. Stuff would fall off the walls and I could hear the wood structure above my ceiling popping and creaking. Here’s the thing, we have ‘manmade’ earthquakes where I live. Before 2008, we had two or three a year. (Magnitude 3.0 or bigger) Then we became ground zero for hydraulic fracking. Two years later, in 2010, we had 45 quakes. Last year we had 857. Yes, from two or three per year, to 857 earthquakes in a single year.

So everything is rattling around and I’m sitting on the couch thinking, somebody should really do something about this. This is craziest thing I’ve ever experienced. There’s a group of people sitting around a conference table, orchestrating manmade-natural disasters for profit. If this were a movie, there’d be an arch villain behind an ornate desk, tenting his fingers and counting his gold coins. Except this isn’t a movie. This is really happening.

I was getting very upset about my house getting twisted apart by people I can only assume are trying to break some kind of record for wealth collection. So I started writing down ways I might find and murder those at the top of the responsibility ladder. At first, I had no plans to publish anything. It was anger management therapy. A vent for my earthquake related anxieties. I had to purge the rage so I didn’t end up like Ted Kaczynski, eating wild berries and taping matchsticks together. But the earthquakes kept happening. At this point, I started restructuring my murder notes into a story and researching details about other environmental disasters.

K8Es2LBOThis fiery sinkhole was created almost fifty years ago by a Russian drill rig in Turkmenistan. The ground collapsed and methane gases started escaping. They lit the hole on fire, thinking it’d burn off the gas in a few days. It’s still burning. You can see it on google maps right now.

 

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This is a 750 yard long crack in the ground that opened up overnight in Wyoming last October. They do a lot of fracking out there in Wyoming. It’s hard not to think this spontaneous canyon is related to the practice of exploding chemicals beneath the ground.

The more nonfiction I read, the more I believe in the possibility, or inevitability, that we will create bigger and more catastrophic disasters as our technology advances. If you believe in the butterfly effect, it’s easy to think we’ve already set off a chain reaction of catastrophes that will eventually make the newly named ‘Anthropocene era’ the shortest, and perhaps last, era on the planet earth.

For reasons I probably shouldn’t detail publicly, this idea pleases me. If I’m honest, I root for the disasters in disaster movies. I watch the hero disassembling the nuclear bomb and quietly pull for it to explode. Sure, the practical, homeowner side of me wants the earthquakes to stop. I’m pro-environment. Let’s save the world! But I’m also pro-apocalypse. And the irresponsible kid in me that loves apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories wants to see the spectacle promised by the collapse of a civilization thought too big to fail. Who knows, it might be a good thing. Maybe a reboot is the catharsis the species needs. If nothing else, it’ll provide answers to the questions posed by artists, musicians, and writers for centuries now: will human beings stay civilized if our infrastructure collapses and people are forced out of their automated, daily routines? Or will the sophistication peel off as we return to a more animalistic nature. How will we behave if the buildings come down and we have to live off the land again?  The apocalypse and post-apocalypse promise to teach us something about ourselves.

Until that day, I’ll be over here yelling about environmental catastrophes and ringing my doomsday bell. Forgive me if I do this with an excited smile on my face.

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So there he is… Joe Turk.  Remember his name – I bet you’ll be hearing more of it in the coming years.  You can find him on Amazon , Twitter, Goodreads, and DeviantArt.

I highly recommend his book, Making Monsters.  It is, in his own words, “More like dystopian humor with an apocalyptic chaser.

Before we go, I’d like to showcase some his artwork.  Joe is an incredible artist and his style is amazing!  He posts his artwork on DeviantArt and Twitter, often showing the varying stages, from concept to final product.  Awesome stuff!

This painting is about being tethered to multiple, sometimes incompatible, personalities. “Knots” — Oil on canvas…

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“The Complainer”…

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This painting is about pretending to be something you’re not and ending up with something you didn’t want…

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BIRTH PANGS: Interpreting Our Post-Apocalyptic Nightmare… a guest blog by Tyler Bumpus

I came across Tyler Bumpus early this past winter of 2016 (February, more specifically) when I read the first book in his Swallowed World post-apocalypse series, The Eternal Season.  I was enthralled… I was amazed… this was one seriously kick-ass PA story.  You can read my review here.

There have been two postapoc stories that have captured my attention this year – this is one of ’em.

I recently asked Tyler if he’d like to write a guest blog for me.  I was pleasantly surprised when he said yes.  Writers are often very busy and I feel very lucky when there are those who take their precious time to write for my blog.

So, without further ado… here is Tyler and his thoughts on  the interpretation of our post-apocalyptic nightmares…

 


 

BIRTH PANGS: INTERPRETING OUR POST-APOCALYPTIC NIGHTMARE…
by Tyler Bumpus

Now stop me if you’ve heard this one:

The world as we know it is gone. Poof. It was nuclear bombs. It was a virus. It was a meteor. Or the living dead, or aliens, or damned dirty apes, or maybe just the slow decay of time. The cause is mostly irrelevant. What matters is that thousands of years of civilization have been scrubbed; the human race left scrounging through the wreckage of its former splendor.

Property Andrew Hefter

Property Andrew Hefter

Whether or not you’re a fan of this kind of story, you know the trademarks—sprawling wastelands, derelict cities, haggard survivors driven to brutality or madness, clinging to their last threads of decency. We’re at the point that it all approaches cliché…sometimes even self-parody.

So what’s the fascination with seeing our cozy way of life rubbed out? Precisely what is the value of post-apocalyptic fiction?

(Aside from all those epic wastelander beards.)

The easy way out is to simply label them ‘cautionary tales.’ They warn us about the danger of nuclear proliferation; of biological warfare; of the cruel instincts inherent in human nature. What-have-you. This is, of course, too pat an answer. It doesn’t begin to explain the sheer creativity, the unpredictability, or the thematic complexity the best post-apocalyptic tales have to offer.

‘Morbid curiosity’ is another popular answer. Deep down most of us are sickos, right? We love a catastrophe. Watch us scour the news for the gruesome bits; crowd the barricades at a crime scene; rubberneck on the freeway for that glimpse of gore. It’s our roots. Survival of the fittest. At heart we are beasts yearning to drop the civilized act; return to the simplicity of a world governed by brute survival and the letting of blood. Apocalyptic tales feed those basest urges…

Tickles the cynic in me, but I call bullshit.

Death and ruin are fascinating, of course, but only because of what they mean for us. A species emerging from the chaos of the primordial world with—inexplicably—higher awareness than most life on earth. What use are such faculties to a mere beast? Intellect makes sense: helps us think up all kinds of ingenious ways to beat back our Darwinian competition. But passion? Aesthetics? Conscience? Hunger for meaning? These seem like serious handicaps for an apex predator.

So, surely the human being is a fluke. A clumsy faceplant on the evolutionary stage. A loopy life form suffering delusions of grandeur as it slowly destroys itself. And that’s what post-apocalyptic fiction is all about.

Phew. Glad that’s settled. Goodnight!

But that hunger for meaning…

The idealist says the world is pregnant with meaning. The nihilist says meaning doesn’t exist. I’ll leave that discussion to them because, frankly, it’s less interesting than the simple fact that most of us crave it. And why? There’s no evidence for any particular motive in nature. In earth’s history, what creature before man has hoped to discover meaning? Furthermore, when none is readily available, what creature has dared fashion its own?

If you’re still with me, what I’m babbling on about is the underlying function of mythmaking and storytelling. To entertain, sure. To inspire, to arouse, to enlighten, to transport. But all of these are half-assed ways of saying that storytelling is a concerted effort to imbue existence with meaning. A feedback loop between dreams and stark reality which helps enrich and elevate our outlook and—perhaps more importantly—our actions.

In less hoity-toity terms: the power of stories lies not in their absolute truth, but in their ability to push us to stop gazing vacantly into the abyss. To forge our own truths.

We need fresh myths like we need fresh air.

Wonderful! How uplifting! But where the hell do post-apocalyptic tales fit into this picture? I mean, we’re talking about stories that shatter our cultures, level our cities, rub our faces in the wreckage of human progress. Huge bummers, right?

Hardly. Our best post-apocalyptic stories are some of the most brutally honest, bravest, most optimistic goddamn stories we have. That’s right: optimistic. What other genre of storytelling imagines that amid the chaos and carnage of hell on earth, the human spirit might somehow abide—even transform?

The apocalypse gets a bad rap. It brings to mind fire and brimstone, damnation and extinction. But what about self-discovery? The word apocalypse itself is derived from the Greek apokaluptein, meaning ‘to uncover.’ To reveal. A metamorphosis through deeper insight. This contrast between the word’s roots and its cataclysmic associations is telling: Pain and terror are the gateway to new life.

The birth pangs of a new world.

If this all sounds terribly dramatic, that’s because it is. It’s an enduring motif throughout world religions and mythologies—Gilgamesh, Hesiod, Ragnarok, the Maha Yuga, the Book of Revelation, etc, etc, ETC. Mythically speaking, the apocalypse is less an ending than a traumatic new beginning.

The world of post-apocalyptic fiction, then, is our spiritual crucible. There is no comfy middle ground here. This place boils away all pretenses, lays bare the human soul in all of its genius and its malady. These stories challenge our self-image. They destroy all the old myths we comfort ourselves with. Strip away our frills, our affectations. Strip us to the bone.

And return us to that primordial chaos from which we first rose.

It’s a terrifying proposition, to be sure. But if nature tells us one thing, it’s that life stagnates in comfort and thrives in risk. In this wasteland, mankind is at last emancipated from tradition, from dogma, from all excuses for our behavior. Each human being is now custodian of their own humanity…and accountable for their own cruelty. The tired old myths are buried. A new human saga begins.

And that, to my mind, is the true value of post-apocalyptic fiction. The dawn of an unpredictable new mythology re-purposed from forgotten fragments of the old; startling new frontiers full of mortal danger and the lingering hope that we may yet rediscover the spark that first ignited our race.

Plus those beards are pretty damn epic.


tylersmall

When he’s not writing or scavenging, you can often find Tyler roaming the wastes at the following coordinates…

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Amazon

 

So, what exactly is the Wasteland?… Guest blog by Carrie Bailey

I was recently contacted by author Carrie Bailey, asking me if she could write a guest post on my blog.  Naturally, my reply was “Absolutely!”.

Carrie is self described as a “Writer. Artist. Coffee drinker. Minimalist. Global nomad. Professional information gatherer. Lover of logic. Conversationalist.

I know her as an author of post-apocalyptic fiction and an excellent example of witty banter on Twitter.  Her current book, The Ishim Underground is the story of a young man and a wild boy trying to find a place to hide in what was once New Zealand, 500 years after the apocalypse.

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Here is Carrie’s take on the Wasteland and what that word might actually mean…

 

Wasteland.

1. Barren or uncultivated land <a desert wasteland>

2. A ugly often devastated or barely inhabitable place or area

3. Something (as a way of life) that is spiritually and emotionally arid and unsatisfying
That’s what Merriam-Webster has to contribute to the world’s collective understanding of the term that post apocalyptic writers can’t resist.

To me, it appears the dictionary lacks a depth of understanding of wastelands. In my post apocalyptic series, wasteland refers to a specific region of both jungle and desert. The people on the other end of island call it a waste, a hopeless place full of hopeless people, whereas the inhabitants love their home as much any post apocalyptic writer loves typing the word: wasteland. Do it again. Wasteland.

Feels good for something barren, ugly and arid, but why is that?

 

THE WASTE OF DEFINITIONS

We can easily apply definition three to a Walmart or television or my favorite pub in Wellington, New Zealand, which was strewn with motionless old men and barren beer-soaked wood paneling. These sorts of horrors drain all spiritual and emotional essence from the strongest of us almost instantly. The metaphor certainly can’t reveal how it inspires us.

I suspect the second definition of wasteland is rooted in and popularized by the early imaginings of worldwide nuclear destruction. Ugly is so harsh. Many of the best twentieth century post apocalyptic authors may have been misguided about how a wasteland could be created and how long it would last.

When the camera crews entered the abandoned buildings twenty-five years after the incident at Chernobyl, they found healthy trees and a habitat where deer and other animals thrived undisturbed by human activity. And just as the deepest fears of environmentalists failed to manifest in Pripyat, Ukraine, nuclear power plants and weapons lost their awe-inspiring terror as a catalyst in fiction.

[Insert climate change discussion here]

Whatever we imagine causing environmental destruction, desert and wasteland are not interchangeable terms. A desert may be a wasteland, but a wasteland does not have to be a desert. So, it doesn’t explain why a wasteland is so bad, but feels so good to write about.

The first definition, deconstructed logically, may be inferred to suggest that a wasteland is either bad farmland OR land that has not yet been farmed. That would be awesome if contradictory. Applying “OR” as an operator for Boolean logic, it means it must be bad unfarmed land.

Thinking too deeply, it’s clear the dictionary provides no firm vision of what is a waste and what is not. A desert may not be barren while jungles can be torturous to cultivate. And while there is room in metaphor for me to justify calling a jungle a waste, none of it explains why we love to fantasize about wastelands.

Where does this term come from?

EMPTY ETYMOLOGY

A brief search of the internet about the origin of the term does not help as much as it should unless you want to buy Wasteland: A History for a solid 35.00 USD, which does have some intriguing chapters on the human experience of wastelands. I skimmed the google docs sample.

Unfortunately, like most resources, it skips identifying the early uses of the term and separates waste from land then to their respective origins in English. As waste refers to useless and ruined things, this method of understanding wastelands supports the vision of a wasteland as impossible to cultivate. Empty. Barren. A wasteland is empty and barren, because empty and barren things are a waste.

Should we stop searching for answers now that we are hopelessly lost in a semantic wasteland? No, to find who coined the term waste + land, we have to dig. And we find many references to wastelands being cultivated.

T. S. Elliot wrote The Waste Land – using two separate words – in 1925.

However, if we stick to the English usage of wasteland as a combined term of two separate words, we find multiple early uses surrounding Bengal, British imperialism and the Wasteland Rules of 1838. Apparently, the first applications of the term wasteland have to do with cultivating tea. Assam tea. Along the Assam River. And indirectly denying indigenous inhabitants access to the land by creating biased laws.

And as this region is rather tropical, green, prone to monsoons and one of the most densely populated regions of the world, it can be argued that the original wasteland is the opposite of how we envision a wasteland today.

A wasteland was land that invaders believed was being wasted, because no one was using it. And they prized it highly enough to write laws staking their claim to it.

While the first wasteland may have been morally arid rather than physically barren, it appears the readers and writers of post apocalyptic fiction were right.

A wasteland is in its conception a place of opportunity. A wasted land. A blank canvas of soil and air. Miles of possibility. A place to cultivate life, agriculturally or metaphorically.

And that’s the allure of the wasteland whether it’s a desert or a jungle, they are the acres that stimulate the imagination and inspire.

 

Guest post by Carrie Bailey, author of the immortal coffee novels.  You can find her on Twitter, Amazon, and her website.

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Humanicide – a French Post-Apocalyptic Short Film…

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It must be almost a year ago now when I became interested in this project from the French film studio, Algo Studios.  I had followed them on Twitter and their Facebook Page, and although I don’t speak a lick of French, my computer does, so thank God for technology!  Guillaume and I would sometimes have dialogues back and forth and it was rather fun trying to figure out just what each of us were saying to the other (he does speak excellent English as far as I’m concerned).  Did I mention that I completely and utterly failed Spanish in High School?  Did I also mention that I was placed in a turbo-accelerated Russian Linguist course while in the U.S. Army – only to rock out of that sucker in 8 months?  Yeah, my chances of learning French were slim to none. 😉

 


 

Written and Directed by Guillaume Oger, Humanicide reminded me a bit of Falling Skies (without all of the constant yelling and screaming).  The story told the tale of a post-apocalyptic Earth…

40 years after the invasion… the world as we know it is no more.  While Humanicide seems inevitable, some men still try to escape…

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There are three main characters… well, I should say three human characters.  The antagonist  is a very cool, very evil looking (almost insect-like), floating alien robot that administers a “sting” to hapless humans.  It seems that there is an antidote of sorts which is able to counteract this “sting”, but it is obviously rare.  Also, the antidote needs to be administered in a timely manner or something (most likely an awful something) happens.

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The human characters are Paul (played by Audren Lancien)…

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Tripo (played by Florian Gounaud)…

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And a mysterious character I can only guess is called “The Man” (played by Philippe Stepniewski)…

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So today was the big day.  Guillaume contacted me this morning and told me that it would go live at 9:00pm France time.  Did I mention I suck at math as well as figuring out time zones?  Guillaume was kind enough to tell me that it would be 2:00pm here (man, he figured that out much faster than I would have).

So with no further ado… here is the post-apocalyptic short film I’ve been waiting a year for.  I’ve seen a lot of postapoc shorts…. I mean A LOT of them.  This ranks right up there with my favorites and I really hope that it becomes something bigger in the future…

 


 

Oh, and just one more thing.  Not to let things go to my head, but I saw a little something there in the end credits that made me go “Huh?!?!”…  I asked Guillaume what I could possibly have done to get my name in the credits.  He said that I was the first American to ever share and talk about his movie.  I cannot tell you how good it made me feel to see that.   Thanks, Guillaume, you are a seriously cool cat!

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