Blog 2014

Angels or Demons

I both love and hate philosophy.  I enjoy discussing different philosophical thinkings and views of the world.  Sadly, I don’t really enjoy reading philosophy because most philosophers are excessively long-winded that blather on incessantly.  Were I a strong advocate for their specific views, the attention to minutae might be appealing but as a tourist to that realm of thinking, it gets cumbersome.

One philosopher that I’ve been rereading recently, however, is ‘Meister’ Eckhart Hockheim. These days, he’s probably most famous for being referenced at the end of Jacob’s Ladder.  In it, the character Louis Denardo tells the titular Jacob,

“Eckhart saw Hell too.  He said, ‘the only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won’t let go of life, your memories, your attachments.  They burn them all away.  But they’re not punishing you,’ he said.  They’re freeing your soul.  So, if you’re frightened of dying and…and you’re holding on, you’ll see devils tearing your life away.  But if you’ve made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth”

This singular quote has seemed a bit apropo (if more than a little melodramatic) with the recent tragedies that have befallen me and my family.  For example, I lost my computer and all (and I do mean ALL) my files.  That’s years – decades – of writing gone.  Gone and likely unrecoverable.

On the one hand, true tragedy.  My life’s work, up in smoke.  But on the other hand, all of it was and still is in my brain.  All the stories still exist.  Vincent Pierce, Everett Kendall, and so many other characters, still live inside my mind.  And getting them out is as simple as daily visits to the library until I am able to buy a new computer.  Or even just jotting stuff down on a notepad.

A lot has been lost, sure.  Tiny nuances of characters and settings and events that could only be born out of a certain time and place in my life.  But the essence of who they are and what they do hasn’t been lost.  And while I lament what has been lost, I also have the opportunity to rebuild from the ground up.  I can start fresh, of sorts.

So that’s something.  🙂



Speaking of nice, I will be at Anime Mid-Atlantic this weekend, hosting a bunch of panels as well as helping to man some panels for my publisher, Haven Publishing.  And also promoting the print release of my newest novel, Rhest for the Wicked.  I hope to see you there!

Blog 2014

X-Strike Studios, in memorium

After eleven years, X-Strike Studios is closing its doors.

You may have heard of them recently, or you may be a longtime fan.  Or you may never have heard of them.  That’s one of the struggles with being an independent artist.  Sometimes some of the best work goes unnoticed.

I don’t hesitate to apply the term ‘best’ to X-Strike Studios’ catalog.  While their films are definitely low-budget, that hasn’t held back their excellence.  If anything, it’s helped to underscore the talent and skill at play.  These are movies for a niche audience, by that same audience.  There’s no irony, there’s no multi-audience pandering, there’s no attempt to be anything that they’re not.  These are movies for gaming fans and nerds.  And the result is that they are some of the best video game movies ever made, hands down, bar none, damn straight.

But it isn’t some goofy love of games that makes their movies good.  River City Rumble, called ‘the Citizen Kane of video game movies’, is a solid (if low-budget) action movie that straddles the line between being serious enough to be internally consistent but not taking itself too seriously so as to deprive the fans of fun antics.  Silent Horror, and its sequel Resident Horror, are genuinely creepy at points while still providing a tremendous good time in every vein, something that their big budget imitators like the Resident Evil series fail to deliver.  Project Snake is an ambitious action story that some consider more entertaining than the games that inspired it.  Their Off-Campus series, while full of inside jokes, remains some of the funniest segments on the internet to this day.  And their most off-the-wall film P. Rappa’s Nth Mile is…a thing that exists.

X-Strike Studios came along at a time when video game films of pretty much any type were novelties.  The best video game movies available were studio-made behemoths like Street Fighter and the Super Mario Brothers movie, attempts made to appeal to general audiences with the after-thought of tapping into the video game fan market.  With the exception of a handful of Star Wars or Star Trek videos here and there, fan films hadn’t yet taken hold either.  There was no Street Fighter Legacy.  There was no Mortal Kombat Legacy.  No Megaman live-action.  And the idea of a video game-inspired fan film that was feature-length?  The very idea was unfeasible, a pipe dream fanboys talked about but knew wouldn’t happen.

And then X-Strike did it.  And then did it again.

Much like Troma Films, much like Robert Rodriguez’s early work, X-Strike Studios would establish a baseline from which other studios would be able to build their success.  An early pioneer of committed and dedicated fan films, X-Strike Studios would be a harbinger of what we know as the fan film industry today, an industry that continues to inspire and influence mainstream cinema.

It isn’t a surprise that X-Strike is closing its doors.  The assorted members had stated on numerous occasions they hadn’t planned for the company to endure indefinitely.  After all, it’s hard to maintain a consistent artistic vision from your early twenties into your mid-thirties, as most of the leadership has seen.  It’s a bittersweet announcement all the same because they’ve given the fan community so much entertainment.

Thank you, X-Strike Studios.

Blog 2014

One More Star In The Sky

This past weekend, the world lost one of it’s kindest and sweetest – and also one of its strongest – friends.

Christine Larson passed away yesterday, after a rough battle with the flu.  Christine was one of the heads for one of the largest anime and Japanese-cultural conventions on the east coast; Katsucon.  The Japanese word Katsu has many meanings (depending on the context and the spelling), but many of the definitions connect to ‘victory’, ‘realizing the truth’ and even just purely ‘living to the fullest’.

For those of us who knew Christine, no words are really necessary.  You remember her smile.  You remember her laugh.  You remember the way she was just the perfect combination of sweet and yet honest, uplifting and yet real.  And she had an amazing knack for motivating people, for making them realize just what they could actually do without pushing themselves too far or too hard.  Christine was a quiet but amazing leader, whom didn’t just inspire others but made them better just by virtue of working with her.

For those who didn’t know Christine, no words will be enough.  No words can convey how wonderful she was, how generous and kind she was, and how loved and admired she is.


The anime community, the sci-fi/fantasy community, the world as a whole, has lost someone truly wonderful.

You are already missed, Christine.


Blog 2014

Changing Television

I was once told a definition of technology was, ‘creates a need that did not exist prior to fulfilling it’.

It’s an interesting idea, that before a technology appears, we have no need for it.  However, after we are exposed and become used to a thing, we need it.  Such definitely seems to be the case with things like cell phones and television.  Many of us today can recall a time we didn’t have those things.  I didn’t have a cell phone until I was in my twenties, and it still didn’t work very well.  Even to this day, I have no idea how to download an app because every time I’ve tried, it’s failed to download properly.  Yet I have friends who almost cannot function unless they have access to over a dozen apps I’ve never heard of.

Television’s that way, for sure.  I love television as a medium.  I’m a huge fan.  And yet, I’ve realized a growing unease with the medium.  As more and more channels become available, surprisingly less is appealing.  I took a moment to study my viewing habits recently – tracking what I watched much like one might track one’s eating with a diet journal – and I discovered I only watched six shows on television: Daily Show & Colbert Report, WWE Wrestling, Jeopardy, Big Bang Theory, and Agents of SHIELD.  Everything else I watched, I streamed online.  I suppose technically Daily Show and Colbert shouldn’t count since I watch those onDemand rather than at the time of their broadcast.  So that would debatably bring the number down to only four.

(For emphasis, I want to reiterate that we’re talking about ‘viewing at broadcast time’, not streaming, not onDemand, not Netflixing)

1500 channels (give or take), four TV shows.
A huge number of those channels are going to waste.

Today, the WWE announced the release of their WWE Channel, a pay-per-view service that will deliver all their (considerable) content live and streaming, with the exception of their broadcast shows – Raw, Main Event, and Smackdown – which will be made available for streaming immediately after their initial broadcast.

If you aren’t a wrestling fan, don’t worry, the point isn’t wresting – the point is a la carte channel and entertainment purchases.  For decades, cable providers have had a strangle hold on their customers, forcing them to buy channels they didn’t want.  If you’ve ever purchased cable or satellite, how often have you looked at the channels available and asked ‘why must I pay for this’?

The WWE Channel offers the potential that you may not have to in the future.  If this bold experiment works, then many other channels will follow suit.  You may be able to completely circumvent your content provider entirely and buy the individual channels you want, and watch anything else you desire later thanks to the likes of Netflix, Hulu, etc.  The potential is mindboggling.

There are going to be pitfalls, to be sure.  Powerful networks like NBC or ABC may band together all their content into one service, thus necessitating purchasing a block of channels rather than each individually.  But purchasing six channels to get two still looks far better than purchasing several hundred channels to get two.  And content creators – especially blossoming, fledgling creators – may have some trouble.  If you want a case study of that, look at the payout rates of Pandora or other music-sharing services.

But for now, let’s focus on the potential.  Let’s acknowledge that today, television may be changing.  And it may be changing sooner than you think.

* * *

I will be a special guest at RoFCon this weekend in Virginia Beach, VA!  Come out and see some of my panels or look for me at the Haven Publishing table where I will be signing copies of my new book, Rhest for the Wicked.

Blog 2014

New Website!

There’s not much of an update this week because I am A) preparing to unveil the new (and hopefully improved) and B) preparing to give a series of lectures at Katsucon 20 as part of their Japanese Cultural Institute. These lectures will differ from the usual panels in that they will be more intrinsically linked to academic discussions and literature, and geared more towards historical accuracy than discussions of a given entertainment medium.

Don’t worry, I’ll still be working in a few Godzilla references.

I will be unveiling the revamped at Katsucon, with new content in the way of serials going live shortly thereafter, but for now, just try to survive your Monday. 🙂