Thursday, August 7, 2014

THE INFLUENCE OF ANIME ON ART

Anime is a beautiful artistic representation of unique ideas and amazing storytelling; it’s an entertainment medium that continues to grow, especially as Netflix begins to pick up exclusive shows, exposing the genre to a new audience. Popular bizarro writer and poet S. T. Cartledge, author of House Hunter and Day of the Milkman, incorporates vivid storytelling that is heavily influenced by Anime and Manga. S. T. stopped by the blog to talk about some of his favorite shows, including some recent hits. 



So a couple of years ago I got into watching anime and reading manga. I love it. It's so vibrant and imaginative and wild. In the same way that anything is possible in bizarro, anything is possible in anime and manga. And the volume of content is just incredible. Here are a few of my favourite anime series:

Cowboy Bebop

It's a classic. Bounty hunters in space set to a wild jazz soundtrack. It came out in 1999 and it's still the benchmark for cool. There's plenty of action, gunfights, fistfights, wild spaceship flights and big explosions. And the characters have enough mystery to them that the backstory teased out over the 26 episodes and one movie keeps you emotionally invested. And Radical Edward. Yeah, at times she's annoying as fuck, but she's also one of my favourite characters around. You should also take note of the director, Shinichiro Watanabe, and the composer, Yoko Kanno. Their work together really sets this series apart from other sci-fi anime. I'd recommend Watanabe's other series, Samurai Champloo, Kids on the Slope, and Terror in Resonance. The latter two also feature fantastic soundtracks by Kanno, and Terror in Resonance is currently only a few episodes in, but it already seems to be something special.


Neon Genesis Evangelion

Some fan favourites are fan favourites for a reason. This series is unforgettable. I watched the last 6 episodes of Evangelion right before I went to work and I spent my shift in a shellshocked daze. Evangelion is about a post-apocalyptic world where earth comes under attack by outer space monsters called 'angels'. They fight back using children piloting mechas called 'Evas'. The main character, Shinji, struggles with the responsibility that the entire human race is counting on him to not be a fuck up. Combine that with the fact that he's working for his estranged father and has never known love and acceptance in his life, the poor child has no idea how to process his emotions. Evangelion is a manic spiral into the darkest spaces of the human psyche. And the thing I love about it, is that it teases at resolution. It teases you into thinking maybe things will turn out okay. Maybe Shinji will learn how to be a normal child saving the world time and time again. Be prepared to face a world without closure or resolution. The rebuild of Evangelion as a film series was meant to make the whole thing more accessible. Three of the four films are out now, and all I can say is that Evangelion is hellbent on tormenting you. The films definitely aren't more forgiving than the series. Evangelion plays with your emotions in ways you could not imagine. It is truly unforgettable.


Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Brotherhood is a remake of a series simply called Fullmetal Alchemist, which in turn was based on a manga series. At the time the original series came out, the manga was still being written. By the time Brotherhood came along, it was complete. The original anime was brilliant in its own right, but Brotherhood is a more faithful adaptation, and as such, it captures that artistic vision just that much clearer. The scope is much bigger. And it is pulled off expertly. The basic concept is this: When their mother dies, Ed and Al try to bring her back to life using alchemy. They fail. Ed loses his leg and Al loses his body. Ed sacrifices his arm in order to bind his brother's soul to a suit of armour. As a result of playing with death, they find that the world is populated with homunculi, powerful creatures embodying the spirit of the seven deadly sins. The story itself has a lot of complex ins and outs, a brief summary just can't do it justice. But at the core there is the existential struggle between life and death, the ethics of trying to bring people back from the dead, and facing the monsters which plague such decisions.

Kaiba

This anime is a strange one. It's a colourful sci-fi story where people have memory chips stored in their heads. They can buy good memories and delete bad ones. They can remove their memories from one body and put them in another. The story revolves around a mysterious character who doesn't quite know who he is. The world is corrupt, and people are hunting him down, thinking he's some sort of mastermind behind a planned rebellion. This series is surreal, it's abstract. It's sad and beautiful and overwhelming. Storytelling is minimal and the animation style is strange. It's a visionary masterpiece.




Knights of Sidonia

I have been waiting for something like this for a long time. Tsutomu Nihei is one of my favourite manga artists. Knights of Sidonia is his latest manga, yet it's the first one to be picked up as a proper anime series. I haven't finished season one yet, but the adaptation is brilliant. His style of storytelling is fairly minimal, and the action and sprawling landscapes are things you need to pay close attention to in order to fully appreciate and understand the story. The anime does a great job adapting it, making it easy enough to follow, while also doing justice to the elaborate architecture of his worlds and detail of his monsters. The things which make his stories stand out. Knights of Sidonia is about a space ship carrying what might be the last of human civilisation through space infested with shape-shifting monsters known as 'gauna'. The humans pilot mechas to fight off the gauna. Plenty of action. It's hardcore sci-fi mechas vs kaiju in space, with the characters inside the space ship Sidonia driving the story along.

Attack on Titan

This is the big one people are all over right now. For a while, it slipped through my radar, but while I'm still only about 11 episodes into the anime, I'm much further along into the manga. The story follows a human settlement living within a series of walls built in concentric circles, keeping out giant naked human-eating humanoid creatures called titans. They're pretty much giant, brutal zombies. There is an elite military network trained to fend off the titans, killing them by propelling themselves into the air using some form of grappling hook system, and slicing the back of the titans' necks. I don't want to give away plot details, but what the humans know about the titans is kind of hazy, and what they find out throughout the series turns those assumptions on their head and really ratchets up the action. It's intense. The anime is directed by the same guy who did Death Note and Highschool of the Dead. The action is awesome. The animation is slick and visceral. From what I've seen of the anime and what I've read in the manga, I think it looks better on the screen than it does on the page, which is saying a lot. You want to check this series out. It's ridiculously entertaining.

Eden of the East

This series is probably the least insane one on this list. A lot of series I like tend to pump up the action or drama so much it ends up blowing apart and going into unreal proportions (Dragonball Z, anyone?). Eden of the East is an incredible anime because it doesn't have to resort to that. After Japan comes under missile attack for unknown reasons, a select few citizens are chosen to participate in a game where they are given an incredible amount of money and resources and are given the job of fixing Japan by any means necessary so that it doesn't find itself carelessly under attack like this again. The series is a bit of a mystery/thriller/drama. An innocent bystander gets caught up with one of the participants of the game, and with each participant trying to achieve the goal their own way (or not) and trying to keep tabs on each other (should they fail or run out of funds they will be hunted down and killed by one of the participants), Eden of the East is as much about survival as it is about understanding the game, and understanding how things have changed so much in such a short amount of time. The animation is crisp and clean, the story is brilliant. You think of what anime typically is, and this series undercuts it and produces its own captivating vision.



S.T. Cartledge is an Australian writer of action/adventure Bizarro fiction, often bordering on the fantastical, with rich world-building and fast-paced action sequences inspired by anime, manga, and the works of D. Harlan Wilson, Carlton Mellick III, and Cameron Pierce. He lives in Perth, Western Australia, where he studied creative writing at Curtin University. In 2013 he graduated with first class honours. Visit his blog at: 
http://themanifold.wordpress.com/


Check out S. T. Cartledge's books: 

In a world dominated by the milk industry, only one milkman remains after a terrible storm sinks all the ships and throws the Great White Sea out of balance. The storm has left HiLo, the last milkman, to endure the memories of a world that left him behind. Adrift upon a lonely sea in a lonely world, his search for food, drinkable milk, and survivors is soured by the ghosts of those he lost.

But World Milk, HiLo’s former employer, left many secrets in its wake; with the company of a ghostly hologram woman, HiLo’s quest for answers might resurrect the once-glorious milk industry and return the world to creamy freshness. 

The day of the milkman is upon us. 




Finding a good house is a house hunter's job. If you want a great house, you need Imogen. She's the best at capturing young houses and training them to be homes. But all of her skills will be tested when the Association goes after the mythical Jabberhouse in order to breed houses in captivity. With a mysterious helper, Imogen and her house fight to stay alive and keep houses free.

A bizarro adventure, with cockroach people, spider-cars, assassins, house-fights, and a big-ass castle stomping into battle against an ancient temple. House hunting has never been so weird.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

THE CHORUS OF THIEVES

Our submission to years trembles the fitful breeze
Bloodprints of the tremulous headlines
Torpid peace collapses the chorus of thieves

The lords of the innocent surrender to withered knees
Look yonder for the pale twilight of forgotten graves
Our submission to years trembles the fitful breeze

The labrythine crimes absolve fragments, disease
March the anarchists through purgatorial mountainslides
Torpid peace collapses the chorus of thieves

Those lamentations, those sailors, those erasured degrees
One million gold doubloons for the triumphal arch of Babylon
Our submission to years trembles the fitful breeze

Gods and damn the youths of wasted streets and needs
Electronic templar knights vote to lick the pregnant tombs
Torpid peace collapses the chorus of thieves

Laugh at the truth of sorrowful men in Christ’s shattered bazaar
Populations have plugged the lines of nations
Our submission to years trembles the fitful breeze
Torpid peace collapses the chorus of thieves


(from VISIONS OF A TREMULOUS MAN, forthcoming)
Vincenzo Bilof-2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

MEET THE CAST OF TOXICITY: COMING TO THEATERS SOON!


On the edge of hilarity and terror, Toxicity challenged how I should approach a novel. Quentin Tarrantino is the master of mundane dialogue while presenting despicable characters who remain interesting, with an infusion of dark humor that is borderline silly in a different context. While reading Max Booth III’s first novel, I struggled to understand why I didn’t like it, and why I continued to read it. Halfway through the narrative, I suddenly realized that I loved it, and finished the rest of it in one sitting. 

The first time I had watched Pulp Fiction, I was apprehensive and curious until the infamous “Bonnie Situation.” I felt the same way about Toxicity, and all the humor and dialogue began to make sense within the framework of the novel. None of it seemed out-of-place or inconsistent. This is an accurate depiction of a book that would be a Cohen Brothers-directed movie with Tarantino penning the screenplay. Instead of providing a convoluted review, I decided to track down the author and ask him about the film version of his book, which should be coming to theaters sometime in 2019. Max Booth III is the rare author who has been afforded the luxury of choosing the cast himself before he sells his stake in his intellectual property. Booth promised we wouldn’t be forced to watch an Anne Rice-style bastardization. 

SOMETIMES, THE BOOKS IS BETTER THAN THE MOVIE. CLICK HERE TO READ IT, FIRST!


What is the title of your latest book? 

Toxicity.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was a 12 year-old kid bored out of my mind. I wanted to write. I'd written before, but never anything I felt (at the time) was worth a damn. I wanted to write something I truly understood. So, I picked up a notebook and pen and began writing about a dysfunctional family. The family was basically my own family. Each character was a doppelganger of someone I already knew. I made them win the lottery, because at the time, I would daydream about winning the lottery and escaping the suburban ghetto. So, the initial idea came from my own attempt to predetermine a ridiculous yet fantastic future for myself and my family. I realized not too long into the story that my family would never spend their lottery winnings wisely, so that is where much of the humor and absurdity originally sprung from. 

After so long, I also realized I had no idea where to go with the story, so I brought in gangsters with guns. They came into the family's house mean and blood-hungry. These gangster characters were largely underdeveloped and stereotypical, so I went back to the beginning of the story, and told it through the gangsters' POV, what they had been up to while the family won the lotto and destroyed their newfound fortune. Just by exploring these other characters I was able to discover a whole new plot to intertwine with the existing lotto story. I made these characters breathe and, as one crazy thing after another occurred, the overall plot showed itself to me. 

I rewrote the book many, many times throughout my teenage years. I’m 21 now, and the book was published this April. It's been a long road, and the book is nowhere like what it once was back when I first started writing it. I know each character inside and out. I am proud of them. None of them are flawless, and that is what makes them beautiful. 

What genre does your book fall under?

I’ve been marketing it as a dark comedy crime novel. It’s much more than that, I think. “Insanity” is not a genre, though, but it totally should be. A lot of reviewers like to compare it to Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers, so I guess Toxicity has the same sort of ultra violence/absurdity/humorous style.  

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?   

Maddox Kane – Timothy Olyphant 

Maddox is one of the three main characters of Toxicity. He’s an ex-con trying to reconnect with his daughter, Addison, while dealing with his massively idiotic and annoying brother, Benny. Things quickly go bad for Maddox in the novel, and only get worse as the story progresses. Timothy Olyphant would be the perfect actor for this role. I’ve been a big fan of his for a while now, but his strength in Justified fully…uh, justifies his ability to play the badass tough protagonist that is Maddox Kane.






Addison Kane – Tatiana Maslany
 
Addison is the 17 year-old daughter of Maddox. Early on in the novel, her and her boyfriend, Connor, find themselves into some deep shit involving a corpse decomposing in the woods behind a local drugstore. They do whatever they can to scavenge up enough cash to skip town, even if that includes taking advantage of her father, who until recently she thought was dead. Tatiana Maslany would be a good fit, I think. She’s in her late ‘20s now, but she still could pass for an older teenager. I recently started watching Orphan Black, and she is goddamn amazing in it. 


Johnny Desperation – Evan Peters

Johnny is the third main character of the novel. He’s a teenager stranded in the ghetto with his trailer trash family until, one day, his mother wins the lottery and they become millionaires overnight. Johnny quickly progresses from “punk rocker” to “snob” as his new surroundings corrupt him. He also becomes addicted to a new drug called “Purple”, which allows him to see the Fly, who is quite possibly the second coming of Jesus Christ. I am a huge fan of American Horror Story and I’ve always thought Evan Peters kills each role he’s given. He plays the disturbed teenager well. Plus he looks exactly how I pictured Johnny when writing him. 


Benny Kane – Steve Buscemi

Benny is Maddox’s younger, stupider brother. He’s pretty much Steve Buscemi. I don’t think I need to explain much more than that. 







Connor Murphy – Robert Sheehan

Connor is Addison’s boyfriend. Typically immature, his heart is in the right place. He would defeat the universe if it meant saving Addison’s life. But he would be cracking dick jokes pretty much through the whole battle. I used to love the show, Misfits, and Robert Sheehan’s character on it is a strong comparison to Connor. He’d do this role justice. 






The Fly

The Fly may or may not be an omniscient being who has arrived on earth to convince Johnny to jumpstart the Apocalypse. The Fly knows all. The Fly is you and the Fly is me. Do not fuck with the Fly. Obey the Fly or all will die. Obey the Fly or all will die. Obey the Fly or all will—oh, wait, anyway. Yeah. Jeff Goldblum. 





What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

The world is shit but sometimes it is not. 

Is your book self-published or represented by an agency?

Toxicity was released by a small press called Post Mortem Press. 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

 I’d say anything by Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard. 

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The flies, baby. The flies inspired me. 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I don’t know. The pages give you a decent paper cut if you hold them a certain way, if you’re into that sort of thing, I guess. 



Bio

Max Booth III is the author of two novels, TOXICITY and THE MIND IS A RAZORBLADE, along with a collection of flash fiction called THEY MIGHT BE DEMONS. He is the co-founder of Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and the assistant editor of Dark Moon Digest. The editor of numerous anthologies, he has studied under Craig Clevenger and award winning editor, Jennifer Brozek. He writes columns for Litreactor. Raised in Northern Indiana, Max currently works as a hotel night auditor somewhere in San Antonio with his dachshund and life partner.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Werewolves, Booze, and Zombies Podcast


I stopped by the Books and Booze Podcast and talked about the writing process, werewolves, zombies, and of course, werewolves vs. unicorns.


or:

Here's the URL (just so you know I'm not sending you to Virus Land)



You can also check out this interview I did with THE NEXT BIG BOOK CLUB, in which I talked about the types of alcoholic beverages my characters would 
favor...



I'm finishing up the Zombie Ascension trilogy right now. I just discovered SKYRIM, so you have to give me a break... I know the game is old, but I couldn't get into the hype when it was popular. So yeah...

The third book in the trilogy is called SAINT PAIN.  I expect to have this monster of a book done this summer, with a release in August/September. The third book will discuss the effects of PTSD and survivor's guilt on those who have been left behind. Of course, there will be zombies...

I also have another poetry narrative coming out soon called, VISIONS OF A TREMULOUS MAN. In January, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing will be releasing VAMPIRE STRIPPERS FROM SATURN, a sort of horror-satire. 



Friday, June 27, 2014

MOVIE REMAKES DON'T ALWAYS SUCK

My knee-jerk reaction when I hear that a movie I love is about to be remade is typically: “THEY’RE GOING TO RUIN THE ORIGINAL! I LOVE THAT MOVIE! IT DOESN’T NEED TO BE REMADE!” Writing this is going to prove a bit therapeutic for me, because no matter how much I try to think this through, I still start to get a little flustered when I see that a beloved movie is going to be re-imagined.

But allow me to play the role of devil’s advocate (I’m talking to myself here). 
How could movie remakes be a positive thing?

Well, in the end, I think that would depend on the quality of the new film. The idea that these movies are automatically going to be terrible, or they shouldn’t be remade, does need to be revisited. 

1. Most importantly, everything has been remade, and everything will be remade, according to the tradition of Western storytelling. I’m not trying to sound overly pompous here, but the idea that “nothing is original” has a lot of truth to it. The stories that we love typically follow the Aristotleian plot model, and many books we love have a formulaic approach to their presentation. More often than not, we are recycling the same Ancient Greek and Sumerian stories (insert another ancient civilization, throw some parables and myths in there, mix them into a pot, and you’ll see too many similarities, though this may cause discomfort). The Hero’s journey story of Odysseus, the forbidden love-lust young-angst chronicle in Romeo and Juliet; sprinkle some sparkly vampires or pirates or aliens, and you’ll see that simply the presentation is one of the only things that has changed. So if we get over the idea that movie remakes are ruining the original… then we should just stop telling stories and stop making movies altogether, because if it’s been done before, then we shouldn’t do it… and nearly everything has been done before (please don’t throw rocks at me if you’re thinking about David Lynch movies or William S. Burroughs’ fiction, because I said nearly everything).


2.  Movies have sentimental value to us—sometimes we love movies that a lot of people hate because we made an emotional connection to its content. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and you’re entitled to disagree with me on this point: As an educator, I stand in front of a classroom full of people, and once in a while, someone will just shout something to the effect of, COUNTRY MUSIC SUCKS, or, I HATE JUSTIN BIEBER. Meanwhile, someone in the class loves country music or Bieber. If they are a quiet person, they will say nothing and not engage with a stronger personality, but on the inside, they have already developed a negative perception of this person (I’ll explain why in a moment). A more aggressive person will begin to argue with them. Since music and movies have sentimental value to us, it can be offensive to suggest that something someone loves so much outright sucks, because then you essentially attract a group of “followers” who agree with you and want to partake in your art-trashing. Okay, I know we live in a hyper-sensitive culture, but I think if you’re going to announce that something absolutely sucks, then be prepared to have discussion about it, not an argument. I think people typically have a breakdown in the discussion-argument department. I am going to say something that will blow your mind: since movies and music have sentimental value, calling someone out on the things they enjoy on an emotional level is like telling them that their faith is bullshit. Yes. I said it. I’m comparing someone’s love for something to religious faith. I suppose this is another statement that can move tabled for further discussion, but I will say that when we can admit that the movies and music we enjoy while growing up do in fact shape us in some way (we “identify” with it), and if we can admit that love is a variation of worship (especially courtly love…), then I think it’s safe for me to make a connection between faith and art. 


3. A lot of movies have been books before. Duh! If I wanted a movie that was “true to the book”, I would just read the book. I have my own visuals, I have the story I love… so why I should I care if it’s an exact replica of something I’ve already experienced? I personally love it when films deviate from the source material, or put a different spin on the concept. I’ll never forget when people were upset that Prometheus didn’t have too many of the xenomorphs… if I wanted to watch Alien, I have it on DVD. I’ve read all the Song of Ice and Fire books that have been published so far, and as much as I have loved the books, I think the television show does a lot of things better. I dislike The Walking Dead as a television show, though at first I liked all the differences from the source material (I just started to really hate the show, but that is how I feel about it, I didn’t say IT SUCKS, which kind of indicates that anyone who likes it has bad taste). I can bring up several examples, but let’s remember than a movie is a story, and the story  is often written as a screenplay; if we suggest that a movie remake is another rendition of a story, then it’s no different than a movie that portrays a book. A movie can do something different with the same story, and I think it holds true when we talk about remakes and reboots.

Here are a few remakes/reboots that I personally enjoyed. I looked forward to seeing a couple of them, hence why my knee-jerk reaction has been somewhat hypocritical:

1. Halloween 
2. (Insert movie title) by Quentin Tarantino
3. Scarface 
4. The Ring
5. The Departed
6. Dawn of the Dead
7. Night of the Living Dead (Tom Savini)
8. Evil Dead
9. A Fistful of Dollars
10. The Thing (John Carpenter)

What are some movie remakes you loved? What are some that you disliked? 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Depression and Creativity Collide

Grant Wamack, rapper, writer, and existential warrior of the cosmos, has just dropped his new novella, A Lightbulb's Lament. Since the bizarro genre is a literary phenomenon that uses metaphorical devices to explore our emotions and our society, Grant discusses the role of depression in the creation of a hero so many of us want to be; a hero who is the figurative warrior against personal darkness--Mr. Watts. 


CLICK HERE TO BUY
Blog Postage (Lit Edition)
by Grant Wamack

Let's flashback to my freshmen year in college. I just moved out of the dorms and eased into a studio apartment in the heart of Northern Illinois University's campus. I was getting pretty good grades,  some of my short stories were beginning to be published, I had good friends who made sure I was making moves on the regular, I was finally able to get away from my dad's overbearing presence, but still... there was something nagging at me. Doubts about the future, terrible luck with women (even though I was surrounded by the “hook-up” culture), and most importantly I was still uncomfortable with myself. 

Cue existential crisis and questions. Why the fuck am I an English major?  I don't want to be a teacher. Why am I trying to please my Dad by majoring in English? I'm so much more than that. More than this. These thoughts would go on and on and I would sink into deeper levels of depression, dragging anyone in my immediate circle down with me. Everyone was partying on the weekends and I'd be in my room battling the black dog raging inside my head. 

Late nights spent alone watching Salad Fingers, consuming tons of weird fiction as a form of escapism, recording my first rap mixtape Heavenly Fridges, and lots of cathartic writing. It wasn't enough though. I had to do something to expel this energy. 

I carried a small notebook in my back pocket for ideas (I still do), and one day while working at Home Depot, I was struck with the image of a gentleman with a lightbulb for head and a world full of darkness. It was so compelling that I fleshed out a loose outline over the course of the next week. Earlier that year, I finished my first bizarro novella, Notes from the Guts of a Hippo, which was a major feat for me since I could barely write a 5,000 word short story. However, I had an idea and it had to be written. Not just to prove to myself that I could do it again, but to fix this depression holding me back.

It might be important to note that I've always been interested in magic, rather it be on stage, hoodoo, mysticism, astrology, or numerology. I thought of this as a ritual of sorts. I thought if Mr. Watts, the main character, could bring light to this fictional world that it could possibly bring that figurative light to my world as well. There's this idea if you work on your inner world, it will directly ripple out into the physical plane. 

Did it work? 

In a lot of ways yes; I'm in much better shape mentally thanks to affirmations, better eating habits, good friends, and self love. Mr. Watts represents a turning point in my life; his journey is my journey. All of us have moments of self-doubt and identity confusion, but I know there is a light in the darkness...

You can also check out his lyrical experimentation/exhibition...





Grant Wamack writes weird fiction, raps, and weaves dreams at night. During the day, the Navy employs him as a Mass Communication Specialist, in other words, a "super" journalist

Art: http://artspazm.tumblr.com/