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

 

The Zero Hours Joins Forces with From The Wastes

I’d like to introduce a fellow wastelander friend of mine, Gabriel Zeros. One of the kindest and well-rounded wanderer’s of the wastes I have come across.

He’s asked me to help him a bit with his blog and FB page when I can. I hope you’ll take a look at both. The man is a veritable plethora of information when it comes to current news and tidbits about the latest in postapoc media…

A long time no see my fellow Wastelanders. This is a small update to let everyone know this blog is undergoing some minor changes. For starters we have a brand new Admin named Evan who will contribute when he can. He has been blogging about post apocalyptic media for a long time now, in fact he has his own blog called From the Wastes which is absolutely awesome. He has agreed to give me some pointers and help out on occasion which is really nice of him.

Also we have been very active on the Zero our facebook page. Some of us have become friends with podcasts like ZEDD Radio and Zombie Radio Network. All of them have been very encouraging and kind to my page and I am very grateful for all of the kind words. In fact The Zero Hour has joined the Zombie Radio Network and is…

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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 of the Killer B’s…

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Back in 1992-1993, I was stationed at Ft. Carson, CO.  Assigned to a small Cavalry Squadron, attached to the 4th Infantry Division.

While it was normal for us to party on Friday nights only as soldiers can, my Saturday nights were dedicated to sitting in front of my TV with a pint of New York Super Fudge Chunk and a can of Pringles Cheezum’s (the daily running and PT kept the pounds off).

There was a late-night show on PBS that came out of Pueblo… Attack of the Killer B’s.  It was along the lines of Svenghouli, Elvira, etc..  Three guys (well, two guys and a skeleton hanging by manacles on the wall)… Dr. Reek A. Mortis, Sonny, and Skelvis.

They’d offer what you’d expect – campy humor and lots of banter, but the best thing they did was sing a song that was based on the movie.  It was just so damned ridiculous and fun.

Time counts and keeps counting…. as the years passed, I’d often think of that show, but the name escaped me.  I’d try searching the web for anything about this show and could just never find any information.  I had a few VHS tapes full of the shows, but the quality was so bad (due to aluminum-tipped rabbit ears), that they were hardly watchable after a few years.

A couple of days ago, I was talking to a friend of mine, telling him about this silly show I used to watch.  Lo-and-behold, the next morning, he sent me a couple of links to the songs on youtube!  At which point I immediately created a playlist and added them.

I wonder what ever happened to that Mad Doctor, his singing assistant, and that desiccated corpse of a fairly famous rock star?  Maybe someone out there who reads this will let me know.

So, here are just a few of my favorites from these guys.  Grab yourself a pint of ice cream, a can of your favorite Pringles, and have a little ridiculous fun…

 

 

 

 

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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There was nothing left, just dust and stars…

The man who I called a friend even though we’d never met… I miss him terribly.

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A dear friend, David, passed away on the 22nd of November, and the days since then have been a slow calming of the disquiet. A yawning void has been growing, and it’s difficult to come to terms with the fact that there will no longer be any words sent when inspired, no more sliding in on lightbeams, or dialing in from the Sky Bunker. No more tales and photos from his travels. No more exhilarating surprise of finding a hand written letter in the mail, with his (sometimes hardly legible) scrawl and doodles. He was brilliant, kind, and funny. I would swear that he could make a friend out of anyone who crossed paths with him. The outpouring of love, and happy memories shared in the wake of his death are proof of that.
He will be missed by all that knew him, and remembered always.

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I dabble with Tarot from time to…

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You like me! You really like me!

I was just recently notified by S.C. Flynn that I have been nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award.  Imagine my surprise!  Thank you, Mr. Flynn!  This month marks my one year anniversary of this blog.  I’m not even sure that what I’m doing could be considered as real blogging.  I’ve never learned how to do it properly, I just created a WordPress Blog and started writing about stuff I like.  I still really have no idea what I’m doing.


 

I believe it is at this point where I need to tell you a few tidbits about myself…

  1. I grew up on a dairy farm in western Montana, a child of the 70’s/80’s.  Mornings started at four a.m. and the day ended around nine p.m..  I hated pretty much every moment of it.  I found that reading offered a much-needed escape from the shoveling of manure.
  2. I joined the U.S. Army, expecting to do my time and get out.  That was briefly interrupted by a little skirmish called Desert Storm.  I’m proud of being a combat veteran.
  3. I spent two years stationed in Germany. The closest town (Bindlach) had been the home of the composer, Vagner.  I used to go to McDonald’s, buy some Pommes Frittes (french fries) and feed ’em to the ducks at the Vagner Estate.
  4. I have absolutely zero interest in sports – any sports (well, except for perhaps Jugging).
  5. I’m not a writer.  I have never written, nor do I plan to ever write, a book.  I get my enjoyment from reading.  A man’s gotta know his limitations.
  6. My fascination for science fiction, more notably that in the post-apocalypse genre, borders on obsession.  Actually, it crossed that border long ago.
  7. I’m not a “people person”.  I have terrible social anxiety.  My best friends are electric, comprised of ones and zeros.

 

These are just fifteen of the many bloggers that I follow and enjoy reading.  I urge you to visit each one of them.  I hope they will post a little something about themselves as I have.  They are all entertaining and some of the most interesting people I have come across…

  1. SCy-Fy: The Blog of S.C. Flynn
  2. Jetstream Reviews
  3. Alex Kourvo
  4. Scott Whitmore
  5. JL Crews Writes
  6. Books Are Delicious
  7. Post Apocalyptic Media
  8. Author Jamie Dodge
  9. Adam Dreece
  10. The War of Alien Aggression
  11. David J. Rodger – Science Fiction & Dark Fantasy
  12. The Dystopian Nation of City-State
  13. E.T. Hourihan
  14. Drew Avera, Author
  15. Jeffrey Goff

 

Again, I’d like to thank S.C. Flynn for nominating me!  For those bloggers I have nominated above, here are the rules if you would like to participate.  I’d like to know more about you. 🙂

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. List 7 interesting facts about yourself.
  3. Nominate 15 other bloggers and inform them by posting on their site.
  4. List the rules and display the award:

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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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My Favorite Post-Apocalypse Movies of the 1980’s – Part 2…

Here it is… Part 2 of my Favorite Post-Apocalypse Films of the 1980’s.  Its taken me quite some time to cull the herd down to these ones.  A warning… some of these are considered terrible – but that’s their charm.  Hell, most folks think most of these suck.  That’s ok.  I thought Guardians of the Galaxy sucked.  See how that works?

Don’t forget that just because these are my favorites, that doesn’t mean they are the best.  It also doesn’t mean this is a list of all of the postapoc movies out there – these are just the ones I enjoy and have been able to watch more than once. 😉

Don’t forget to click the movie poster to see the film, trailer, or scene.

 

Endgame – The Running Man meets 1984… In the year 2025, a nuclear holocaust has left New York City an irradiated, but not abandoned, wasteland. The ruined city is inhabited now by scavenger packs and telepathic mutants, who are persecuted by the elite survivors. Keeping the people happy is the reality television program Endgame, where hunters and gladiators fight to the death…

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Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome –  The third installment in the original trilogy.  Often cursed by fans, I thought it was brilliant.  We get to see a slightly lighter side of the wasteland and watching Max come to grips with his humanity is wonderful…

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Miracle Mile – I owned the soundtrack to this before I ever saw the movie. I was a huge Tangerine Dream fan and got my hands on every album of their’s I could.  When I finally watched the movie, back in the late 80’s, I absolutely fell in love with it.  I’ve seldom run into folks who’ve even heard of it, but after seeing it, they tend to love it as well.  It’s a bit tense and you may feel tired at the end.  Please, please, check this one out…

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Night of the Comet – Can you believe I watched this in my English class back in high school, 1987?  I don’t recall in what context we watched it, but it was PA and it was friggin’ awesome!!!  The tail of a passing comet engulfs the world and those it doesn’t kill outright, become changed to “zombies”.  Apparently only those who were protected by some kind of metal structure were saved from this fate – enter our two sisters and a couple of fellas making their way through this nightmare.  This one is a fantastic example of 80’s nostalgia…

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Slipstream – The Earth has finally succumbed to an unknown ecological disaster simply known as “The Convergence”.  The landscape and weather has changed.  The “slipstream” has become the main mode of transportation in this changed landscape.   Producer/director Gary Kurtz (remember him?  He had a hand in a couple little-known films called Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back) had hoped that this would be his meal ticket.  Unfortunately, it drove him into bankruptcy due to it being a considerable flop – something I don’t quite understand as I feel it is a fantastic film full of some incredible actors ( Robbie Coltrane, Ben Kingsley and F. Murray Abraham)… Oh well, such is life.  It’s got Mark Hamill as a baddass and Bill Paxton as a whiny…. well, a whiny Bill Paxton…

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Steel Dawn – Patrick Swayze is “the desert warrior.  Carving the future with his sword“.  Yeah… Swayze plays a character simply called “Nomad”, traveling the wastes and coming to be in the employ of a woman and her foreman, Tark (played by the late Brion James).  Nomad is haunted by his past as well as hunted by an assassin called Sho (Christopher Neame – fans of Babylon 5 might recognize that name).  Lots of swordfighting in this one…

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Stryker – “The last war began in error.  Who’s error, nobody knows, nor does it matter anymore.  Nothing matters now other than survival.  The nuclear holocaust wiped out all semblance of rhyme or reason.  Cities obliterated, farmlands devastated.  The ecology imbalanced and all that is left is a parched and arid wasteland, a scorched and seething Earth where what little water there is, is hoarded and kept under heavy guard.  For water is power and whoever controls the  water… controls the world.

Sounds awesome, huh?  Check it out…

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2019: After the Fall of New York – In 2019 the world is devastated by an infection that prevents men from procreating. A group of survivors find that in New York there is a community of humans who for some reason has remained immune to contamination. The soldier Parsifal is sent on a reconnaissance mission to save the entire human race…

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Testament – Along the same lines as The Day After, Roger Ebert said… “The film is about a suburban American family, and what happens to that family after a nuclear war. It is not a science-fiction movie, and it doesn’t have any special effects, and there are no big scenes of buildings blowing over or people disintegrating. We never even see a mushroom cloud. We never even know who started the war. Instead, “Testament” is a tragedy about manners: It asks how we might act toward one another, how our values might stand up, in the face of an overwhelming catastrophe.”…

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Threads –  This film was notable in being the first of its kind to depict a nuclear winter. Certain reviewers have nominated Threads as the “film which comes closest to representing the full horror of nuclear war and its aftermath, as well as the catastrophic impact that the event would have on human culture”…

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Warrior of the Lost World – Yet another 1983 Italian Road Warrior ripoff… these never get old.  For your pleasure, I have found the riffed version from MST3K.  Trust me, it’ll make it worth watching…

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Warriors of the Wasteland – Known as The New Barbarians when initially released in 1983, this is yet another Italian post-apocalyptic ripoff of The Road Warrior.  When will it end?  Apparently not yet…

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And as a special added bonus, here’s Rifftrax doing what they do best with this flick…


Warriors of the Apocalypse – OK… this one is special.  This is without a doubt the most terrible postapoc movie I have ever seen – in fact, it may very well be the worst movie I have ever seen period.  Why is it one of my favorites?  Because it’s got cannibalistic mutant midgets and people shooting frickin’ laser beams out of their eyes.  Seriously, how can you not dig that?!  It’s also very difficult to find.  I purchased the VHS some years ago and have never seen it released on DVD.  If you ever get the chance to watch it, please do… and never speak of it to anyone…

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Warlords of the 21st Century – You guessed it, another ripoff, but this one’s a little different.  For one it was filmed by Americans in New Zealand, and two, it’s actually pretty darned good.  It features John Ratzenberger, so yeah, it doesn’t really suck…

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Wheels of Fire – Oh geez.. another ripoff?  Yep…  Ok, fine, it sucks.  But wait a minute… there is just no way I can do this movie justice.  I found an excellent review that you should read…

Million Monkey Theater Movie Review for Wheels of Fire

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When The Wind Blows – This is a very interesting film from 1986.  Using drawn animation and stop-motion animation, it also features an incredible soundtrack – featuring artists such as David Bowie, Roger Waters, and Genesis.  It is sorta-kinda along the same lines as The Day After and Threads.  I strongly suggest watching this one…

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World Gone Wild – Not as blatant a ripoff as most of the Italian flicks, this one is actually entertaining and one of the better postapoc movies of the 80’s.  It stars real actors such as Bruce Dern and Michael Paré.  The mainstay of pretty much every PA flick is either a lack of gasoline and/or water.  The subject of this one is the latter and deals with a community trying to protect it from an evil cult of renegades (which seems to also be all too popular in these movies).  Anyhoo, check it out.  It ain’t that bad…

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And there you have it – the last, best decade, as far this middle-aged scifi geek is concerned.  Most of the movies during this time were simply cashing in on The Road Warrior… hell, most of ’em were made in 1983, most likely within the span of a few weeks.  But while some were just fun and silly, there were a few that really attempted to scare the crap out of us and tell us just how really shitty a post-apocalyptic future could be.

 I can’t help but wonder though, just how much radiation would it take to mutate me to the point that I’d be able to shoot frickin’ laser beams out of my eyes?