Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Thursday Thirteen: Podcast Fantasies


The Thursday Thirteen is a recurring feature here at Plan D in which I post a list of 13 items/movies/books/etc. of any given category.  This time around, I'm thinking about podcasting.

I love producing Mail Order Zombie, and 1951 Down Place has been a blast.  I've put together segments or submitted material for The B-Movie CastDisney, Indiana; and other shows.  A few years ago, I did a Countdown to Halloween podcast series.  It's a lot of fun for me (especially the editing part!), and I've joked with friends that if there was more time in the day and I didn't have to rely on things like steady income, employee benefits, and quality time with my wife (not necessarily in that order!), I'd set up shop behind the microphone and podcast a lot more.  For this Thursday Thirteen, I'm going to allow myself to daydream a bit and imagine what other podcasts I'd produce in that imaginary land of more-free-time-etc.-etc.-etc.

In no particular order . . .

- A Spaghetti Western podcast.  Years ago, I would have been shocked to know that I enjoy Westerns as much as I do now.  I seem to recall telling a group of fellow students during a class presentation in the mid-90s that I can find something to enjoy in nearly every type of movie except Westerns.  (One student approached me after that class to tell me that I shouldn't avoid Westerns because Western storytelling was as valid as storytelling in any other genre.  I just nodded and smiled.)  Over the years, my views have broadened quite a bit, and while I still don't get too excited about a lot of Hollywood Western product, the Spaghetti Western screams enthusiastically at me.  I love the colors, the storytelling, the music, the action . . . How much fun would it be to produce a regular podcast celebrating my love of this sub-genre?

- A Robert E. Howard podcast.  This is a no-brainer for those who know me as I've been citing REH as my favorite writer for years.  There are already podcasts devoted to the literary work of Howard's fellow "Musketeers of Weird Fiction" H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, so why not?  (The only downside is that I couldn't call it the Crom Cast as that name's already been taken.)  How much fun would it be to get into the nitty gritty of Howard's literature in a podcast?

- A horror film music podcast.  I collect film scores, and I love my horror movie music.  This would ultimately turn into a podcast in which I just play my favorite music, but I can't imagine something like that working legally for very long!  Even then, how much fun would it be?

- A post-apocalyptic movie podcast.  We've danced pretty close to this territory on Mail Order Zombie, and have even devoted an entire summer on MOZ to the sub-genre, but how fun would it be to do this on a regular basic?  With my wife, even?

- An H. P. Lovecraft podcast.  This wouldn't necessarily unique in that there ARE other Lovecraft- and Cthulhu-flavored shows out there.  But wouldn't it still be fun to do?

- A Universal Monsters podcast.  One of my absolute favorite podcast experiences was producing Episode #170 of The B-Movie Cast.  Being able to share my love for all things Creature from the Black Lagoon was a lot of fun, and it's led to some conversations with listeners of the B-Movie Cast as well as some new friendships.  I love my zombie movies.  I love my Hammer films.  And I also have a mad love for the Universal horror classics.  I typically find myself falling firmly in the 40s as my favorite Universal monster decade when I have to think about my go-to-movies, but I love them all.  I'm super excited for the upcoming Blu-ray release, and hope that some day Universal will finally release some of their lesser known monster titles (Captive Wild Woman, for example) on DVD (honestly, I'd prefer Blu-ray, but I'm trying to think realistically here!).  There's no question - it WOULD be fun to produce a podcast like this!

- A Creature from the Black Lagoon podcast.  This would spin out of the the Universal Monsters podcast.  And, yes, I think I could sustain a regular podcast devoted to my favorite film and its franchise.  And, yes, I think it would be fun!

A writing podcast of some sort.  I subscribe to a lot of writing podcasts, and I enjoy them quite a bit.  I enjoy the interviews with writers, the sharing of writers' tips, the progress updates, and the knowing I'm not alone in the indie-writing-game.  I've learned about self-publishing, about different subgenres, about audience expectations, and about different markets.  And, honestly, producing a writing podcast of my own would help further my own writing and publishing goals in that it would broaden my own audience while further representing the genres in which I find myself most (important since I've noticed that most writing podcasts tend to stay away from the dark horror material unless it's flavored by urban fantasy elements).  It would be fun, wouldn't it?

- An odd film history podcast.  I've become more and more interested in the history of Hollywood as of late.  I spend a few hours every week going through the listings on TCM looking for the odd short films, making-of specials, public service announcements, etc.  I don't know what a podcast devoted to covering this sort Hollywood cinema scraps would entail in terms of research, etc., but it could be fun, couldn't it?

- A Peter Cushing podcast.  Listen to an episode of 1951 Down Place and you know why this would be fun!

- A John Agar podcast. Mr. Agar is another one of my favorite actors, and while he's most known for his B-movie work, he had a career spilling into other genres as well.  After reading his autobiography and interviews with his family, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy, and it would be a lot of fun to really dive into this man's filmography.

- An audiodrama of some sort.  Post-production is often times my favorite part of podcasting, and putting together an audiodrama would force me to flex those muscles while giving me an opportunity to spin some slightly different writing gears.  What kind of audiodrama would it be?  I don't know, but it's fun to think about!

- A podcast devoted to B-movies.  I hear what you're saying right now.  There's already The B-Movie Cast.  And it's a damned fine podcast.  It's one of the shows I listen to as soon as I download it to my iPod.  I love what Vince, Mary, Nic and company do every week on that show . . . and I love it so much I want to do it, too!

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Superhero Prose Genre, or How Harmon's Ruminations Informed My Own

Earlier this year, I started reading superhero fiction. I used to read a lot of comic books regularly/obsessively, but I've drifted away from most of them over the years and the current crop of comic book movies just don't seem to be directed at me, but I've been reading comic book adventure-style stories in prose form. I stumbled across Wearing the Cape by Marion G. Harmon, and loved it. I read its follow up - Villains Inc. - and now I find myself eagerly awaiting his next story set in his universe. While waiting for that to happen, I've checked out other superhero prose by authors like Van Allen Plexico or collections like George R. R. Martin's Wildcards series. A handful of superhero anthologies litter my Kindle right now, and while I'm also regularly reading horror, dark fantasy and non-fiction, I'm finding myself dipping into the capes and tights quite a bit.

I'm really enjoying it, and while I do have some favorites (like Harmon's works), I'm excited to see that more and more authors are springing up with superhero stories to tell. (I'm even finding myself writing some of my own stories. The once-put-to-rest notions of writing comics suddenly seems possible again since I don't have to worry about drawing the books; I can just write them!)

I follow Marion Harmon's website, watching for news of the next WtC novel, and last week I read Mr. Harmon's blog entry in which he ruminates on the superhero genre. First, he expresses his belief that the superhero movies are going to be with us for "the foreseeable future" thanks to advances in CGI and the merchandising possibilities. I agree with him, especially since most Marvel movie properties are going to have Disney money and marketing behind them (although I find Disney's decision to develop Big Hero 6 as an animated feature a bit odd).

He goes on to break down the three basic modes of superhero storytelling: deconstructive, cinematic, and realistic.

I've read some superhero prose that I haven't enjoyed as much as some of the others, and I've not been able to put my finger on what it is that I like versus what I don't. I think Mr. Harmon helped me to figure it out.

I'm not a huge fan of the deconstruction of the genre. I mean, I get it. It's kind of fun to dig into the more "silly" elements of superheroes (Harmon mentions secret identities as being physically or socially impossible, for example), but for me, if I'm reading a superhero story, I'm ready to accept some of the hyper-reality that goes with it.

This kind of bleeds into the realistic superhero story. I might want a little justification or explanation as to how things work the way they do (a special branch of law enforcement being set up to handle superpowered heroes and villains, for example), but I don't need to break down these tropes to really enjoy a superhero story.

My own preference apparently is (mostly) the cinematic superhero story, but I don't need the heroes to win every time. Those who know me know that I like my stories a little more dangerous and dark, so I don't mind the heroes losing or characters dying (when it serves the story). I don't believe that these kinds of stories have to be aimed at the YA-market exclusively.

I have found a trend in a lot of superhero fiction, especially long form fiction, in which the main character is someone just discoverig their superpowers and joining an established superhero group or community. While I do appreciate the existence of established superpowered groups in my superhero prose (it makes the world seem more "real" to me somehow), I don't know if we always need that newcomer to piggy back with to really get into the story. I'm not saying that this is an instant turn off for me - Wearing the Cape does this, and does it engagingly well - but do we need an origin story for our viewpoint character right off the bat?

(Something I'm outlining right now actually does follow this set-up and pattern. I hope I manage to pull it off as well as Mr. Harmon!)

Another trend? Snark. Now, don't get me wrong. I enjoy snark as much as the next guy, but I don't always need that anti-establishment-the-man-even-if-he's-wearing-a-cape keeping us down approach in my superhero stories. It's just off-putting to me. Maybe it's my age or my exposure to years and years of comics (both mainstream and indy) in which this element wasn't needed to tell a good story.

As much as I love my horror fiction and my zombie stuff and my monster movies and all things kinda-sorta dark and scary, sometimes I just want a straight up cinematic superhero story without the deconstructive-snarky-through-the-eyes-of-a-teenage-newcomer lead character.

(Although I do reserve the right to work some twisted magic and supernatural boogey-ness into the mix!)

(I also reserve the right to be proven wrong.  If there's some superhero prose out there that anyone would recommend, whether it's deconstructive, realistic, cinematic or some mix of all three, please shout out the title and I'll check it out!)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Word Count Wednesday - 7/4/12

This past week was a bit more stressful than normal, which led to a diminished word count increase.

TGEoBD (New non-fiction) - 1,500 / 40,000-50,000
Non-fiction-ish project - Chapter/section breakdown - 3-out-of-6 completed
KFRDZM (New fiction) - New outline/chapter breakdown - 5-out-of-11 completed

Monday, July 2, 2012

About bloody Blu- time . . .

I don't care how many of my friends email me, forward me links, tag me on Facebook or @ me on Twitter.  I can't get enough of hearing about Universal FINALLY putting some of their classic monster films out on Blu-ray.

"Some of their classic monster films?"  Excuse me . . . I mean, some of their BEST classic monster films.

This particular collection of Universal classics have already been assembled once before in a DVD collection back in 2009, but I already had these titles before either as part of their Legacy collection or their Legacy series or whatever.  I have double-dipped for these titles before, and I'm eager to make this Blu-ray collection the last time I have to.

Besides, Creature from the Black Lagoon is going to be presented in 3D.  3D.  How cool is that?  I've been fortunate enough to see the film in 3D a few times over the years, and to know that Universal spent some time and money to clean this print up has me salivating!

They're billing this as an 8-movie set, but in truth, it will contain 9 films as the Spanish-language version of Dracula (filmed concurrently with the Lugosi-film) is included as a special feature on the Dracula Blu-ray disc.

Now, I am a LITTLE disappointed that most of what I'm finding online about this release seems to indicate that only Dracula got the full-on restoration treatment.  I'd love to see all of these prints get a good once over, as I've played some of the DVDs of these films on my Blu-ray player, and the upconversion doesn't always pan out for the best.

That said, I'm still REALLY excited.  Universal seems to be giving these films a bit of attention right now, and that's always a good thing.  (I'd love to see more, of course, but I'll take what I can get for now!)