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.

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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!

 

The Future Drift…Guest Blog from Drew Avera

It’s been at least a couple of years since I first met Drew Avera (real quick – his last name is pronounced “averee”… yeah, I know… I screwed it up too).  I’d read a few of his books (in fact, a couple of them were some of the earliest ebooks I had downloaded) and then ended up running into him on Facebook and Twitter.  We’ve often conversed about various story ideas and I’d pick his brain about his indie-author career.

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Drew’s been writing for a while now and has quite a library of stories.  It’s pretty crazy to see this much work come from someone with a full-time military career.  Drew is a Navy Veteran and that is one of the things that drew (Ha!) me to him.  One of the things that amazed me about him is the fact that he wrote his first book on an iPhone… yes, an iPhone.  How cool is that!

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Drew has recently been involved with some amazing anthologies… in fact, I remember when he just had a few books under his belt  – looking at his Amazon page today, it’s amazing to see how his library of work has grown.

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Let’s let Drew talk about his time at sea and how those experiences may well qualify him to crew a deep space starship one day…


One Hundred Days…

That’s the roundabout number of days it takes me to start shutting down on a deployment. It’s at this point when everyone around me starts getting on my nerves, the feeling of being a sardine packed tightly into a can makes me feel claustrophobic, and mild depression starts setting in. One-hundred days. It is a threshold learned over the course of four combat deployments on US Navy ships and it is part of the reason I write science fiction.

It is Memorial Day, at least right now it is, as my fingers strike the keys of my keyboard. A bit of laziness causes a typo, but it isn’t pure laziness, it is the exhaustion of almost two-hundred days of not being home. I’ve had eighteen days off out of the last two-hundred and only two or three more scheduled out of the next forty days. To say my “cycle” is a little off is an understatement, but I’m actually used to this lifestyle in a way a sick child is used to the needles injecting into his/her arm every day. It hurts, but you know it hurts, and then you just don’t care that it hurts.

I sleep in a coffin, six feet long, three feet wide, and three feet high. It’s open on one side, though the blue fabric curtain offers something like privacy. It’s low-tech in a high-tech world. I’m drifting on a war vessel capable of destruction the world hopes to never see and I am so numb to it that I barely recognize it for what it is. It’s the future exposed in the modern world. The confinement, the isolation, the stress, all of it will carry forward into the future drift as humanity expands its reach to the stars. We learn and we adapt to our surroundings. Sometimes it hurts, but eventually the pain of it dissolves, or we grow numb to it. This is how mankind will be taught to traverse their way into the unknown.

Deployments have extended, my own is no exception, the blow of knowing you will not be home on time tears a hole in your soul. The patchwork of moving past such heartache is the same as the numbing agent of making it one more day, followed by the next, and the next, and the next. Eventually, the days all stream together into an incoherent mass, indistinguishable from one another. It makes you feel a bit crazy to lose the concept of time, but eventually you are grateful for it, to not have the mark of individual days weighing on you like a burden you can never drop. It is a skill, in and of itself. Mostly, it is a learned trait that will be necessary to take us beyond our solar system, where the light of Sol is only present as a pinprick of light on the monitor feed of a generational spaceship.

The future drift is coming. Space exploration is becoming a privatized industry as governments fall out of competition and let the common man take over. I think it is better this way. Governments only serve to get in the way of expansionism, to use politics to say why we can’t do something. Instead, we will figure out how we can do it and then break those barriers down as we carry ourselves further into the expanse. Mars will be our neighbor, followed soon by the moons of the outer gas planets. Before long, the solar system will not contain us, though we will still be contained. The point when everyone starts getting on each other’s nerves, the feeling of being a sardine packed tightly into a can making them feel claustrophobic, and mild depression starts setting in. and then we will do it all over again, relearn new traits to deal with the pain, the isolation, the subjugation of captivity in the vacuum of space.

There’s a part of my soul that wishes to experience this, but I know I would hate it, and love it, and hate it. We romanticize what it would be like to explore the universe. We experience it in short duration as we watch television and movies depicting the dreams of mankind on a screen, the adventure laced with drama unfolding before our eyes. Those depictions leave out the innumerable moments of mere existence that carried the crew to the uncharted worlds they discover. Were they frozen in time, sleeping away relentless years without stirring, or were they awake for the ride, trapped in their own coffins to sleep away their lonely nights after a long days work? And what happens to day and night when the light of stars is too dim to distinguish one from the other? Will mankind care or will it become the numbed pain of learned association, the mind dealing with existence in a way that disassociates the person from reality, if only for a short while?

The future drifts, requiring us to learn what is necessary to take the next leap forward. Space exploration will not be abridged, shortened to eliminate the dull moments; the ones that make you feel alone in a sea of people, the ones where you miss home. The guarantee of adventure is as weak as the guarantee of immortality. Some lives may pass with nary a moment of exhilaration as other lives are bent and molded by new worlds, the challenge of adaptation forbearing in a way we can only imagine with weary eyes before we drift to sleep at night.

I’ve thought about it as I’ve been lulled to sleep by the gentle crash of waves against the ship. What would it be like to be anywhere but where I am now? What if I could change time and put myself in the future, in the drift of space, carried forward by momentum gained years prior? That is how we will explore, on the thrust of the generations who went before us. Can I count myself as that generation, or am I part of the world of forgotten scientific advancement? Are our achievements capable of being measured because they are important now? Or will the future nullify all we know in order to accommodate new sciences that will fit into their view of the universe? It’s hard not to want to know the answers, but what if they are disheartening? What if we never reach towards the stars? Is it a bigger crime than being forgotten by the sands of time?

Maybe, I just think about it too much. As the future drifts, so do I, upon the sea that countless generations sailed. There is a brotherhood of the sea, where men like me missed their families too. Perhaps they dared to dream of a future like I do, or perhaps they longed for the seas to dry and negate the need for ships that drive wedges between them and their families. Both are hopeful and hopeless, a duality, like a double-edged sword you are cut either way. Instead, I won’t think about the pain of the cut, but on the hopefulness of the future, drifting further away while being close enough I deceive myself in thinking I can touch it, to taste it, to smell its existence.

We will be among the stars again, because it is the stars from which we were born. Perhaps not our bodies, but in our dreams; born for more than the universe as we know it, but as we want it to be, and more.


Drew Avera, author of The Dead Planet Series, is a science fiction author and active duty Navy veteran. He lives in Virginia with his wife and children. You can learn more about Drew by visiting his website at www.drewavera.wordpress.com

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Please take a moment to check out Drew’s Amazon page.

I want to thank Drew for writing this guest post for my blog.   Thanks, Drew!

Oh, did I mention that Drew has recently been absorbed into The Collective and chosen to be a Scribe for The God Machine?

No?

Huh…

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You can find Drew at the following locations when he’s not tethered to an omnipotent machine or sailing the seas…

Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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

 

Finding Hope on a Cold, Dead World… guest post from Jesse Mercury.

A dear, late friend of mine once said, “Sometimes you just get the measure of somebody online. A consistent vibe that “this is a good person”…

That is precisely how I feel about Jesse Mercury.  We started following each other summer of 2015.  I had  visited his website and youtube channel and when I saw that his songs were 1) science fiction in theme, and 2) synthpop, I was enthralled.

The first one I listened to was “Elliott“, and I swear (and if I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’) I don’t recall a song ever having an effect on me like that one – ever.  You can read about that mind-blowing experience here, if you’d like.

Jesse is not only an incredible musician and synthpop artist, but he’s also one of the most interesting SciFi fans I’ve ever met and someone I’ve come to consider a friend.  He lives and breathes science fiction.  The way he’s incorporated the genre into his music is simply amazing.  His songs run the gamut from humor to pain, from loss to love.

He has also created and hosts two podcasts… SciFi with Jesse Mercury and SciFi on Trial.  I strongly urge you to take a listen – I bet you’ll subscribe.

So, with no further ado, here he is… the man from the year 3000, trapped in ‘modern day’. Making SciFi Synthpop and hosting podcasts to pass the time until holodecks are real and he can finally find a way back home…


Finding Hope on a Cold, Dead World

I was young when I started writing songs. It was an unintentional byproduct of teaching myself guitar and having no idea what to play. I made up three chords and felt a moment of pure rightness as I began to weave word and tune together. My burgeoning repertoire began to grow, and I realized how much there was to say about the seemingly insurmountable troubles one might experience as a suburban teenage boy. Growing pains, crises of self, and the myriad Shakespearean tragedies of my first breakups. Songwriting was my therapy, and the music reflected that. I found perfection in the process, the crafting of a simple phrase to encapsulate the powerful emotions I was growing into, learning to handle them as I matured. It was a blissful exercise in creativity, vital to my emotional development. The results were varied in listenability, but invariably personal. From the outside it must have seemed like listening to a diary made audible, which in retrospect may have been uncomfortable to anyone who knew me personally.

Then something truly difficult happened. My health mysteriously and violently vanished shortly after my 24th birthday. One day I was biking across my native San Diego, jogging and playing racquetball to my heart’s content, the next I was in the emergency room with inexplicable muscle spasms, cognitive issues, intense body weakness, and vision flashes. It seemed like i had dived into a strange alternate reality nightmare, in which my worst fears regarding degenerative health were coming true. My symptoms were so strange that the doctors thought I was having a stroke or manifesting some auto-immune disorder, or just faking for pills. For the next year I lived on the couch, sustained on a steady diet of science fiction television as I visited countless doctors in search of that elusive diagnosis.

My symptoms were myriad, but it was the cognitive issues and muscle spasms that were the most frightening. There were days I couldn’t walk down the hall on my own because my legs would be shaking so bad, or even worse were the days where I couldn’t get my brain to convince my legs to move at all. I vanished from my job, my social circles, and the life I had built for myself after college came to an end. My doctors casually dropped small terrors such as viral brain infection, multiple sclerosis, guillaine barre, and a multitude of other horrifying conditions that could be causing my bizarre physical manifestations. Perhaps most frightening of all were the doctors who threw up their hands in exasperation, proclaiming that their inability to come up with answers could only mean one thing: that I was making the whole thing up.

Songwriting had been my greatest outlet up until that point, and one day in the middle of this confusion and pain I decided to write. For the first time I had something truly terrifying to write about, something that had shaken me to my core and upset the balance of my existence. I sat down at my workstation with my close friend Dan manning the bass, whipped together some drum samples and digital synthesizers, and started a song about a time travelling hero who came from the past to end a future war. The first movement of Gustav Holst’s seminal work The Planets thundered in my ears, “Mars, The Bringer of War”. Suddenly I was outside of my body, flying through the cosmos in a universe full of possibilities. A new sonic landscape presented itself to me, one in which my deep need to create music and my lifelong obsession with science fiction converged into a tangible soundscape of synthesizers and dance beats. My imagination was captivated by cosmic potential, all thoughts far removed from earthbound ailments. The song became “Timechild,” and the SciFi Project was born.

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Eventually I would discover mold in my house, and my doctors suspected mold poisoning. The only real way to test environmental factors is to change environments, and a few short months later I found myself living in Seattle. My health improved to a degree when my environment changed, which felt like swimming up from a great depth but not quite reaching the surface. I was still hindered by constant pressure in my head and occasional relapses of my more violent symptoms. I continued to pursue an explanation, and was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia and chronic ocular migraines triggered by mold overexposure. While that diagnosis seemed anti-climactic and left many questions unanswered, it also prompted behavioral changes in diet and exercise that brought my health most of the way back. In many ways I was lucky, I gained an intensely valuable perspective on the relationship between health and happiness. My understanding of self bottomed out, and a new awareness started to form in its wake.

An experience like that marks a person. The things I cared about, (and perhaps more importantly, the things I didn’t) shifted dramatically. I used to be obsessed with being the best at whatever I was engaged in, be it songwriting, performing, recording, mixing, mastering, all of it. That’s too damn much for one person, and it was fueled by ego as much as passion. Now I’m obsessed with happiness and fulfillment. I want to spread joy and an ethos of compassionate acceptance through my art. I want to be the ultimate expression of myself, and take each moment of health as a gift to be treasured. I want to take what I’ve learned and apply it as a positive vision of the future towards which I can strive. Luckily, I already found the avenue to accomplish all of those goals: The SciFi Project.

In my estimation, those to whom science fiction speaks the loudest are the dreamers and thinkers that are capable of shaping a better future. SciFi captures our collective imagination, and drives us to reevaluate our own existence through the lens of alternate technology, time, science and culture. By writing songs in the SciFi genre I strive to participate in that noble pursuit, but I’ve also discovered an incredibly powerful form of self expression.

My song, “Elliott,” is a great example, and the reason I’m writing this piece for Evan’s blog. I wanted to retell the story of ET: The Extra Terrestrial through song, finding a way to encapsulate the powerful feelings of friendship and acceptance that I am overtaken with everytime I watch that film. As I worked on the song I realized I was singing about my own desire to be heard and accepted, as well as the powerful bond I share with my dog Miles (a creature as alien to me as ET to Elliott).

Evan and I started chatting on Twitter when our mutual interest in science fiction brought us together, and this song came on his radar. His reaction to it was the first time I have ever experienced the closing of an artistic loop, where a stranger discovered my work and related to it on the level through which it was intended. He posted on this very blog about what the song made him feel, saying, “I have spent this entire weekend listening to this song. It brings a tear to my eye every time. It awakens the child in me. It brings a smile to my face and lets me become that child again, waiting for a stranger from the stars to come down and become my friend…

Reading those words touches me every time, because it marks my first true success at reaching out through music to positively affect the life of someone I’ve never met. If the destruction of my old life is what it took to get there, maybe it was all worth it.

The SciFi Project now includes my continually growing collection of music, videos, and podcasts. I’ve started to amass a body of work that not only delights me, but seems to speak to people without the prerequisite of knowing me personally. I’ve started to tell my own SciFi stories through music, in the hopes that I can deliver emotional messages of similar impact through original content. I believe my first true success in this is my as-yet unreleased song, a post-apocalyptic journey through the wasteland called “Cold, Dead World.”

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My songs often germinate deep in my subconscious, developing into fully fleshed out ideas before I ever attempt to sing or play them. Sometimes, entire backstories will present themselves as I weave a lyrical narrative. “Cold, Dead World” started in my imagination with a hazy vision of a single individual wandering through the bones of a dead planet, sole witness to the destruction of an alien civilization. I started crafting a backstory in which a human on Earth experiences bizarre visions of this dead planet as electronic alien organisms flood his body during a moment of accidental electrocution. Conveying the extreme emotional desolation of being sole witness to a post-apocalyptic wasteland was my goal as I wrote this song, but I soon realized this was born from my need to process my medical breakdown.

Being trapped in a body that has ceased to function correctly is an incredibly lonely and frightening experience. It manifested in violent ways that were readily visible to an outside observer, especially the muscle spasms and inability to process information normally. There was a sort of stripping away of my humanity, to be forced to jerk and spasm in front of someone against my will, having my weakness revealed indiscriminately. Before I was diagnosed I wondered daily if my issues were progressive, if eventually I would become trapped in my own body indefinitely. I don’t know how to express that emotion through simple words, but I believe I had done it through song. Although this song is not yet released, initial reactions from the work in progress have been emotional and extremely encouraging. It makes me feel heard and understood in an intensely powerful way, and my own burden of memory lessens.

We’ve all heard the old adage that artists need pain in order to create. As a youth my pain was personal, and in a way I needed drama and conflict to maintain a creative output. Now I experience a small degree of physical pain every day, but I have started to view it as a gift. It fuels my creative output, and channels itself into the bizarre and fantastic. It gives me a deep well to pull from, to fuel my passion and give meaning to my work. I’ll always have something to sing about. Maybe I’m lucky in ways I’m only beginning to understand.

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If you’d like to support Jesse Mercury and his SciFi Project, you can visit his Patreon page.

When he’s not riding the pulse of a quasar, you might run into Jesse  at the following coordinates…

SciFi with Jesse Mercury

SciFi On Trial

YouTube

Twitter

Facebook

Bandcamp

Attack on Titan… a guest post from author A.D. Bloom…

Attack on Titan (live-action 2015), Kronos Eating His Children, and what it takes to fight giant monster cannibals.

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First, the answer is yes. See it. For the record, I’ve only tasted bits of Attack on Titan’s previous incarnations. This is my first real Attack on Titan story and it was great. The detail put into sets and costuming consistently maintained the illusion that the world I saw extended far beyond whatever slice of it we got to actually see. The acting worked for me. The Titans turned out to be pretty satisfying giant monsters and I dug the story.

Right. Now that that part is out of the way, let’s talk about monsters.

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Okay, this is Goya’s painting of Saturn (Kronos, a Titan from ancient Greek mythology) eating his son (painted on the walls of Goya’s house with other pics between 1819 and 1823). Why is he eating his son? If I recall, he ate all his kids for fear they’d overpower him at some point. The horror in this painting has been haunting me for a long time. Cannibalism freaks my shit. I DON’T like cannibals. (It’s hard to like people that feed on other people). Make this figure in the painting bigger in relation to its snack, give him the coloring of a corpse and a vacant, eerily amused, and ravenous stare and you’ve got a live-action Titan. And they’re actually pretty terrifying the way they munch down on crunchy, juicy humans. They’ve got a distinctly Japanese flavor that evokes recollection of Japanese ghosts, spirits and cannibal demons depicted in classical Japanese painting and printmaking (also Butoh dance).

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But it’s the cannibal part that produces the most horror in my mind.

What gives? They’re not human. How can the Titans be cannibals?

OK. You’re right. Technically, Titans can’t be cannibals because they’re not eating the same species. BUT they look exactly like giant naked humans without nipples or genitals and they bite normal-sized humans in half and eat them. That’s cannibal enough for me, especially considering the context of this story.

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Spoiler free context: Walls high enough to keep out giants surround and protect (and imprison) the endangered humans and their town. Outside the walls there are Titans and they will eat you. Inside the humans seem safe, but they’re not.

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As far as I’m concerned, Titans are giant people eating other people. (This strikes a nerve with me as an allegory of something we humans do all the darn time in more roundabout ways.) Hold that thought.

So there I am, a third of the way through the movie, reeling from the cannibal horror that began before I thought it would and all I’m thinking is, “Dammit! Someone has to fight the giant cannibal kaiju!”

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But the humans seem terrible at it. This movie presents two kinds of humans – the ones that seek safety, and the other kind, the kind that are maybe more like the monsters. These are the ones that fight monsters, of course. And this is my favorite part of the story. You can fight the Titans and win, but only after paying a price. There’s always a price when you become a monster to fight one.

But I bet you knew that. In a way, you already know Attack on Titan. The same story has been retold for thousands of years. There’s a reason for that. It’s an important story. It’s one of our collective myths. This time around, the players are humans dying in a walled world and heroes that fight the terrifying man-eating Titans. Awesome.

A.D. Bloom is the author of the War of Alien Aggression and other books. His characters fight monsters.

Fury Road – Action is Truth…. a guest post from author A.D. Bloom.

 Fury Road – Action is Truth

Fury Road is brilliant and here’s (just one of the reasons) why. The action movies we’re all used to are movies that happen to have action sequences in them. Fury Road is a different creature altogether. In conventional terms, this movie is quite nearly a single, unbroken action sequence. Action is the language used here. Action is the medium. Fury Road is not a movie with action. It’s made of action. Character development is still there. It’s there in spades and it’s expressed through what the characters do.

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The film stays true to the idea of Action as a medium right through to the prime motive of the film’s most important characters – redemption. Past transgressions or failures can be balanced out by redemptive acts. It’s what you do that defines who you are in Fury Road. Here, action is truth. And action proves to be a powerful and broad-ranged medium in the right hands. The quiet notes don’t get lost. Subtlety is present as is perceptible complexity and nuance.

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I quietly exclaimed ‘fuck’ about fifty times watching in utter amazement. I slapped my forehead over and over, astounded at how there wasn’t one lazy shot, not a single moment that wasn’t maximized. The folks that made this movie refused to coast for even a second. Fury Road is an effing good time and a rare formal advance that opens up new territory. See it. Buy it. Love it like the work of art it is.

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A.D. Bloom is the author of the War of Alien Aggression series. Fury Road made his day.

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“Eliminate Human Tyranny!”… Guest Blog by Author A.D. Bloom.

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“Eliminate Human Tyranny!”

The excerpt on the The Three-Body Problem‘s amazon page might give the impression you need to know something about Chinese history to enjoy the book. You don’t, other than to understand there was a time in the 1960s and early 70s when China was engulfed in a wave of violent, anti-intellectual reform known as The Cultural Revolution. That historical occurrence frames two other important elements in the book – the idea of a ‘chaotic era’ when society cannot advance and the question of why we would bring disaster on ourselves as China did during the Cultural Revolution (and as some characters do in the story). But now, I’m making it sound like a primarily Chinese sci-fi book. It’s a epic sci-fi book, period. It is, specifically, the ‘blow your mind’ kind of sci-fi with a pleasing sense of scale, full of the sort of ideas that give you a little thrill to think about.

Cryptonomicon and The Three-Body Problem are totally different kinds of books, of course, but for me the experience of reading Three Body Problem felt like the first time I read Cryptonomicon.  Maybe it’s because The Three-Body Problem incorporates physics into the story in much the same way that Cryptonomicon incorporates computers and crypto.  (Knowledge of physics isn’t a prerequisite!)

Reading up on MH317, I discovered the mainland Chinese population spend a lot of time quietly discussing conspiracy theories. Three-Body Problem‘s tough-guy / regular everyman cop character, Da Shi, says several times how any occurrence sufficiently weird must have an intelligence behind it. A number of global trends and events are actually (I now understand) part of the Trisolairan plot.

I read this during a blackout, the urban American equivalent of a Trisolarian Chaotic Era. There was nothing but me and this guy’s story glowing out of my kindle so he had my full attention. I won’t go on about virtuosity in a medium or how this is masterfully written (and translated). It’s evident once you settle into this story that you’re in exceptionally capable hands.

The portraits of humanity painted with the characters are the kind that create empathy in a reader’s heart, but somehow saying that might make The Three-Body Problem sound less attractive. Plenty of people have praised it for things like that. I’m really writing this so I can say something more like “awesome aliens”, “cool-ass shit abounds here”, and “damn good story”.

Yes, 12.99 is too much for an ebook. But it’s really good. Promise.

The Three-Body Problem, written by Cixin Liu (aka, Liu Cixin), translated by Ken Liu

http://www.amazon.com/Three-Body-Problem-Cixin-Liu-ebook/dp/B00IQO403K

A.D. Bloom writes scifi (The War of Alien Aggression) and knows a guy like Liu Cixin doesn’t need his help finding more readers, but he liked the story and sometimes he makes an effort to share what he likes so other people can have as good a time as he did.

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