Friday, 26 April 2013

Writer's Update - Death of a Writing Nook.

In terms of writing progress it wasn't a very good week and a half I'm afraid. Didn't get much writing done thanks to a whole lot of time spent training for future employment so, while productive in one way, it was completely unproductive in the other. And to make matters worse I'm in the middle of a huge edit where I have to restructure one of my stories to cut it in half, all thanks to a character who selfishly stole the spotlight and made the story all about her (you will meet her one day and see what I mean). This situation has taught me that writing is a bazillion times less satisfying when you're adding words, not just remaking words you thought you had already finished a long time ago. A bazillion times worser!

But that's not the worstest part. The worstest part is that on Friday my favourite cafe for writing shut down!!!

Now, I have to admit, the 'my favourite writing cafe' and 'shutting down' are probably connected. One of the best parts about my favourite cafe was the lack of customers. That and there was also an air-conditioner, comfy chairs, decent music that was either a) too quiet or b) not that annoying, and most importantly, there was plenty of sugar and caffeine on tap made by people who already knew what I wanted. Apparently it wasn't very good coffee but I'm coffee illiterate so as long as there was plenty of sugar and caffeine in said coffee-related beverage then it was fine by me. Which helps when you're looking for a quiet cafe with few customers.

But now it's gone. And I have lost my writer's nook.

: (

In other writing news the Dieselpunk Showcase is quickly approaching 4,000 downloads. We're getting about 80 downloads a week which is pretty awesome. Now I need to get my finger out and write something else as a follow up. Which is a good segue into...

Short stories. Last writer's update I said I'd mention the Tales of the Aether Age collection I'm putting together to release at the same time as the Tommy Thunder books I'm writing. It's going to be an eclectic mix of at least four stories that fleshes out the Aether Age world.

I'm still going to be a bit sketchy on the details but there will be some familiar espionagists, a mad scientist whose secret lair is under attack from one of those annoying cloaked vigilantes, an automobile-equipped gin runner with more than her fair share of moxie, and maybe even an origin story for a most stylish character that will become important later on. All stories laced with as much 'punk as I can possibly distill into my typewriting fingers, not to mention plenty of pulpy fun ('scientifiction' pulpy fun).

Now all I've got to do is finish writing the things...

However, it's not all about me. Often... it's about Superman. The following clip is important. If you haven't seen it yet then you should. Because it's important. And awesome. So very very awesome:


Hope you have an awesome pulpy week    : )

Grant: the guy trying to edit old stuff so he can go back to writing new stuff.

Pulp Cover of the Week - Captain Future.

I have to say - Captain Future is fighting with Planet Stories to be my favourite source of pulp covers. Fantastic stuff:


Dieselpunk Song of the Week - Zoot Suit Riot by The Cherry Poppin Daddies.


Art Deco Poster of the Week - Japanese Propaganda Poster about China.

Not sure what this poster is saying but if it's a message of impending triumph for the Japanese it can also be read as a sinister and looming threat of a possible future for the Chinese.If anyone can read it I would be interested to know what the poster says.


Saturday, 20 April 2013

ePulp Review of the Week - Spinward Fringe Boradcast 0: Origins by Randolph Lalonde

Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: OriginsSpinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins by Randolph Lalonde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*E-Pulp Warning* All my e-reading is e-pulp so I review to that standard. Reader beware :) *E-Pulp Warning*

Overall: 4 stars (Recommend)

I stumbled across a recommendation for this series and I'm really glad I did. Spinward Fringe is a fantastic example of space opera fiction with an incredibly detailed world, fantastic technology and a great concept that allows us to explore them both. While it can suffer the usual pacing problems inherent in the genre it is a quality start to an e-pulp series that shows plenty of promise.

Pacing and Action: 3 stars.

Like all the best space opera the battles in Spinward Fringe are fantastic. Epic in scope yet still allowing for the brilliance of amazing fleet tacticians, anyone who's a fan of the genre will feel well at home with SF's grasp of epic confrontation. But the action isn't limited to space as the crew finds themselves in all sorts of sticky situations from bounty hunter chases to jail breaks. The author's use of sci-fi technology definitely helps here as the characters are set up well for the sort of Star Wars-esque running and gunning that makes for great action-adventure storytelling. It's all excellent, fun stuff and the first two stories rip along.

Unfortunately the third story does fall back into the bad habits of the genre. Anyone who loves this genre tends to get used to the tendency of stories to get bogged down in the technology as the author tries to illustrate just how much thought they've put into their sci-fi tech tree (I'm looking at YOU Honor HarringtonOn Basilisk Station). As space opera that's fine but as e-pulp it can turn into a grind about rail cannons and refit schedules that will bore you to tears. There's also some structural problems with the third story where there doesn't seem to be any stakes or narrative motivation until about half way through the story. Considering this is a first novel that one mistake is not bad but it did bring a rip-roaring sci-fi romp to a bit of a crawl which was disappointing.

But if you like your action full of fleet battles and laser blasters, you'll get something out of this for sure.

Pulp Concept: 5 stars.

Brilliant. The world of Spinward Fringe is well thought out and we get a good sense of just what's happening out there in that big old universe. The technology opens all sorts of potential and the wider political machinations make you want to return to the universe to see what happens. Good stuff.

The ship and tech for the crew also helps. If you've ever dreamed of exploring the galaxy with the sort of hardware that allows you to break the Prime Directive with impunity then this is your sort of exploring. Gunboat exploration with the chance to nuke dirty corporate thugs? What could be better than that?

Perhaps the only drawback may be the stories tendency to fall into wish fulfillment - a lot of really convenient things do tend to happen for the crew to function the way they do - but that's kind of the point. If you're super-sam-serious about your sci-fi this may in fact be a turn off but if you're like me and you want to just shoot up corporate stooges with impunity then this is a story for you. And what could be more pulp than that?

Character development: 3.5 stars.

I'm not going to say the characters are brilliant, nor memorable, nor do they go through any sort of development that may merit a PhD thesis. But there definitely is character development there. Maybe it's the wish fulfillment aspect but the characters do tend to blend into the background, subsumed by the cool stuff. They do however exist and do have a story arc. But it's not why you'll be reading this.

Production: 4 stars.

Good editing make it a very readable book. I didn't notice anything that kicked me out of the story. The story was also free as the first in the series which is always big points for production.

The only real drawback would be the fairly unmemorable cover. It does clearly state which 'broadcast' in the series this is (unfortunately a nice surprise for a lot of e-pulp) but it's still fairly forgettable.

Series Potential: 4 stars.

This series is already selling like hotcakes so the concept is sound. It's also six or seven books strong already so if you enjoy this one you can keep reading safe in the knowledge that there's plenty more where that came from.

On its own merits though you can see why there's such a following. The world that has been imagined begs to be explored further and the impression that we've just started this journey is palpable. About the only thing preventing it from being 5 stars would be the characters. At no point was I desperate to see what happened to them even if I was interested in seeing what happened to their ship. But still, there's definitely gold in them thar hills and I look forward to returning to the Spinward Fringe universe.

Wrap Up.

Excellent sci-fi space opera pulp with fantastic potential for the future. If you're into space opera and into reading e-pulp then this is definitely a story for you. With plenty more where that came from...


Grant.

For more e-pulp be sure to check out my other Good-Reads reviews as well.

View all my reviews

Thursday, 18 April 2013

1920s Mugshots of Batman Villains.

The Clown Prince of Crime, Dieselpunk style.

This is awesome! An artist named Jason Mark has done up a series of 1920s-style mugshots for several Batman villains post-Batman encounter. There's also an Australian connection as the original mugshots that inspired the series is from our glorious little convict country. So I have 1920s (my favoured part of the Diesel era), superheroes (as pulpy as you can get, thank you very much) and Australia (Aussie Aussie Aussie...), all in one awesome, Dieselpunky package. How do you get better than that?

Click the piccy above to see the artist's website or check out Design Taxis website for more info on the original inspiration pics. The rest follow.






Pulp Cover of the Week - Air Wonder Stories, August 1929.

Oh the humanityyyy....


Dieselpunk Song of the Week - Bad Habits by Billy Fields.

Having only my childhood memories of this song, I honestly thought this was sung by one Mister Armstrong until I went searching for it. Turns out it's an Australian song from 1981. So there you go.

Be warned though: this song has been getting stuck in the heads of Australians for several decades now. You've been warned...


Saturday, 13 April 2013

Pulp Manifesto - Crimson Skies and fan fiction gone horribly wrong/right.



Thought I’d talk about one of the major inspirations for Tommy Thunder this week on Pulp Manifesto. For those with a passing knowledge of the source material you’ll have a much better understanding of the sort of world the Aether Age is, while other people might be interested in my sordid tale of fan fiction gone horribly wrong/right.

Our journey starts with a little miniatures table top wargame called… Crimson Skies.




For those not in the know, the Crimson Skies world is a setting developed for a tabletop wargame, but is probably better known as a popular computer game that launched with the first X-Box. The tabletop game revolved around air combat set in an alternate universe 1930s setting where zeppelins dominated the sky and whacky planes with strong Art Deco styling either protected or raided said airships with swashbuckling audacity. The X-Box game followed suit with caper-filled air adventures that took you from Hawaii to New York as you followed the exploits of a daring squadron intent on… doing adventurous things.

In terms of pure Dieselpunk style the game is one of the best examples of a self contained Dieselpunk world. And, while the games are no longer being made, what material was produced still serves as many an innocent’s gateway drug to the world of Dieselpunk. More than a few people who received this dose of distilled Dieslpunky goodness have been left hankering for more.

I was one of these un/fortunates. I can’t remember all the details but at some stage during my sordid wargaming past I stumbled across some images of this crazy new world and its completely different take on fantasy or sci-fi or whatever it was. I didn’t know what genre it was and I never actually got a good look at the game itself (tabletop or X-Box) but I saw two things that immediately had me hooked and fantasising about my own adventures in this crazy new world.

The first thing I saw was the retrotech planes. Have you seen them? Here are some examples:


I LOVED the whackiness of these designs. My first exposure to the world was the miniatures and although I was never able to buy any myself I immediately fell in love with the idea of retroteching past eras. And can you smell the adventure? Nothing says adventurous swashbuckling like a push prop, Art deco-styled, pre-jet fighter plane. Nothing! These things dug deep down into my psyche to where that ‘Indiana Jones’ button was and started banging away saying ‘Here! Here! We’ve found something else that’s exactly like this! But with planes!’

The second thing I found – the thing that had me hooked for life – was this image:


 That there is a beautiful thing. It’s a map. Of a balkanised America. A map that provokes adventure and imagination and possibility. And not a single dwarf or elf to be seen anywhere. The minute I saw that thing my imagination was never able to let go of that obscure little world I had glimpsed but never directly experienced myself.

So I imaginated. A lot. As I am want to do. I daydreamed about a world in which I could suit up my whacky fighter plane, deck out a zeppelin and take to the skies in a deadly dance to the death with other similar fighter pilots. A world full of jazz and that cool 1930s styling (I had no idea what Art Deco was, but I liked it). A world of Indiana Jones style hijinks but with the added awesomeness of planes. A world of distinct characters and groups clashing in a world of fun instead of the usual gritty, serious and repetitive worlds that I kept encountering elsewhere in my wargaming and reading wanderings.

Fast forward several years and my Crimson Skies imaginating had joined the catalogue of other alternate worlds sequestered away in the back of my brain archives – there but lying dormant. Every now and then I would take the world out and play around with it, maybe scratch out some ideas or pipedream about being allowed to write a novel or something set in that world, but that’s all it was – pipedreaming. I even went so far as to start writing a comic. It was more an experiment in how to convey air combat in panels (the bane of all air comics – it’s really hard to do) with a Crimson Skies background but it worked really well, giving me more heartbreaking confirmation that I was on to something, but something that breached someone elses copyright. So  I put it back in the imagination archives and got on with my first novel, a novel set in a fantasy world with no magic (yep, I’m one of those people who can never do things the ‘normal’ way).

Then two things happened. First, I ran into some problems with my novel. I hit a wall and discovered that I’m a super detailed planner when it comes to writing. I couldn’t pants a plot to save myself. And I was pantsing my way to a standstill. My solution was to break the story down into smaller sections, a technique I’d been looking at with my newfound interest in old-school pulp writing and movie serials. But then I realised that, structurally speaking, I would be changing the novel and that if I was going to continue doing so I’d need to get more practise. Probably on other stories that were pulped from the beginning. So I sat down and scribbled out ideas for three different pulpy series that I could experiment with. My Crimson Skies idea was one of these ideas and the pulpiest of the lot.

The second thing I did was have a look around for Crimson Skies stuff now that I had this thing called the internet. It had been so long since I first discovered the idea that I wondered if there had been anything else written or wether a new game was coming out etc etc. What I found was a website where they recorded people playing the game so you could watch how each of the levels played out…

You know that thing where your memories of something are cruelly and brutally shanked when you actually go back and see it again as an adult?

Yeah. That.

The Crimson Skies I imagined wasn’t the Crimson Skies that actually existed out there in the real world. It wasn’t bad (it was still a lot of fun) and, objectively speaking, on the surface it was everything I remembered. But the overall effect I had created in my mind was… completely different.

It turns out the Crimson Skies game doesn’t take itself seriously. In many ways it’s actually a parody of the era. Is that a bad thing? No. The way in which it gently parodies itself is charming in its own way. But how are you supposed to take a story seriously if the characters are just caricatures? More importantly, how are you supposed to get your ‘punk on?

And it turns out that the plane designs weren’t original either. They were all based on real World War 2 X-plane designs, experimental planes that were never put into production because they never made the grade. For some reason seeing real world photographs of these machines hoovered away a lot of the romantic awe I had built up in my mind for the world’s originality. Turns out it wasn’t as original as I thought. Turns out it was based on a whole lot of other stuf that, to be honest, I wasn’t that into.

The Henschel Hs P75.

The Curtis Wright XP-55 Ascender.

The Sacks AS-6.

It also meant that the technology of the game included all sorts of post-World War 2 tech like guided missiles, jet engines on every plane and planes loaded down with an absurd number of machine guns. I knew that this was all for the game and simplifying it for more fun but it made me brutally aware that I wanted to scale the tech backwards, not forwards into the Cold-War era. But that’s exactly where Crimson Skies technology was headed – forwards.

And, weirdest of all, I just couldn’t accept the idea that the zeppelins – the very basis of this alternate world – were able to exist the way they did. Here they were laden down with armour and machine guns and planes, all without nary an explanation as to how they achieved the extra lift required. I was watching a world in which jet-enabled push prop aircraft were launching into battle with wings full of guided rockets but I couldn’t accept the fact that they were launched from a standard sized zeppelin with a Tardis-esque cargo bay full of armoured fighters.

I know I’m weird. But it’s the sort of weird I need to harness in order to write. And my weird was just not gelling with this particular scientific leap.

This then led me on a witch hunt through the alternate history aspects of the Crimson Skies universe at which point I started finding more things I didn’t like. I was now mercilessly tearing holes in the thing that I thought I loved. I was spurned, I was hurt and I was in shock. That thing that I based my fan fiction daydreaming on was not what I thought it was at all. What I was writing was almost in another universe completely…

It was at that time that I started to wonder if I was infringing copyright after all. Maybe I was actually writing my own thing altogether.

Some soul searching and I started going over all the things that I was doing differently to Crimson Skies. I wanted biplanes and trideckers, not guided rockets and jetplanes. That meant a 1920s setting instead of 1930s. I also didn’t know enough about American history to see how that many different groups could spread across the map in a realistic manner and rejected the map as unfeasible. In fact, while I was at it, history would suggest a different fracturing and for completely different reasons. So that was different in my version. And that problem with the zeppelins… that would take a little bit of sci-fi to fix with the addition of another lifting gas, what I would call ‘aether’. And if there was one sci-fi aspect then that would mean I could go super pulpy and start adding  <…spoiler redaction…>!

In the end, while the heritage is clear to those who know where to look, the tone and focus of the Aether Age world has ended up very different to that of Crimson Skies. Most similar is the balkanisation of a post World War 1 America with obvious things like the various power centres of the dissolved United States being similar in their broad sweeps even if they’ve been simplified and changed to some degree (After all, it doesn’t matter what alternate universe you  create, Texas will always be Texas. It’s a rule of the multiverse). But the earlier setting, the presence of aether and other unique sci fi additions, the different alternate history background and the stronger focus on non-aerial material gives The Aether Age a very different destination to all this 1920s American balkanisation.

Thus, thanks to Crimson Skies, Tommy Thunder has been born. And with him a world of aeronautical swashbuckling and pulpy madness, set in a balkanised America where anything pulpy is possible. It started with a Crimson Skies obsession built upon insufficient information. It has become a series of books I hope I can write for many decades to come. And I hope you can all come along for the ride with me.

In the future I’ll reveal some more of the inspirations behind Tommy Thunder and the world of The Aether Age but in the meantime, if you were one of those un/fortunates  to get hooked on Dieselpunk or pulp via Crimson Skies I’d love to hear from you. Don’t be afraid to leave a comment below :)

Happy flying,

Grant.

ePulp Review of the Week -

The Adventures of Gravedigger Volume OneThe Adventures of Gravedigger Volume One by Barry Reese
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Overall: 5 stars (Highly Recommend)

Gravedigger is another addition to Barry Reese’s growing stable of old-school nostalgia pulp creations and, as usual, doesn’t disappoint. The Gravedigger leans more to the horror side of the nostalgia-driven dark avenger theme with a bit more gore and darkness than before, while bringing the Sovereign City world closer together with several crossovers and some more historical background to the city. All while providing a read that won’t trouble first time readers to the Sovereign City world. It’s good quality epulp that’s a definite read for those who like their vigilantes up to their neck in the supernatural and don’t mind some gibbs and gore along the way.

Pacing and Action: 4 stars.

The pacing is good with three short stories that introduce us to this new character and plunge us into the supernatural shenanigans that plague Sovereign City. There’s plenty of action, crazy situations and cross-city conspiracy that ensures the book earns its pulpy status. Not to mention a good helping of supernatural bad guys that need to be dispatched by our new hero. It’s all well detailed and fast.

About the only problem with the pacing – and I’m using the word ‘problem’ loosely – is that the book does tend to timeline jump a bit in order to fill in the historical backstory. By any other standard the pace is fine but on a pulpy scale it does tend to haul things up and complicate the read more than usual. It won’t spoil the read but it is less than pulp-ideal.

Pulp Concept: 5 stars.

Very pulpy. If you’ve ever read an old-school dark avenger vigilante story then this is familiar territory but with a few very unique twists. It creates a character with an interesting quandary and plenty of momentum for further adventures, all steeped in the supernatural and dark. The only shortcoming might be for people who like their reading gore free as the book does have a touch of the exploitation film about it – not in a big way but it’s there – and if so you may want to knock a star off the final score, but for everyone else this is as pulpy as you like.

Character Development: 4 stars.

The protagonists’ dilemma and motivation is written well and there’s plenty of supporting characters with their own personalities and motivations. There’s an interesting group dynamic with some really interesting cross-overs with already established characters for readers familiar with them. As pulp goes these are very well rounded characters with a proper internal life that should draw the reader in and get them invested in the story if you’re in it for the action and nothing but.

However, the supporting cast can fade into two-dimensional characters that are more ideas than full blown people. Their behaviour can seem a little inconsequential at times, the risks they take having no ramifications or consequences to the point that they’re untouchable and above what happens to them. It can also cheapen the Gravedigger’s abilities when supporting characters every now and then manifest their own amazing abilities (I’m talking about a certain briefcase throwing incident) and are relatively unfazed by anything around them (they’re awfully chipper and loyal considering some of the things they see). But, considering this is the first story it may be all about establishing a status quo than delving into their own faults and insecurities.

Production: 5 stars.

A gorgeous cover and good price make this 5 stars even though there were a few editorial misses in the third book. Unfortunately the cover hasn’t been posted here on GoodReads (I read the ebook version as well, but that’s not up in time for this review either) but in colour it really is amazing, perfectly capturing the mood and pulpy ‘tude the book has. Very nice.

Series Potential: 5 stars.

Definitive. There’s plenty more action to be had following The Gravedigger and all the pieces are in place for further adventures. Sovereign City is also becoming a more textured and detailed location for all things pulpy so it would be a crying shame if there weren’t more stories in the pipeline.

Wrap Up.

Another quality piece of writing from a trustworthy name in nostalgia pulp. Even though it has its faults I’m still giving this 5 stars as it is as good as anything else out there in epulp land, nostalgia or otherwise, with plenty more story to check out if you want to read more. For those who like their pulp reading gore free you may want to knock a star off but for those who like their vigilantes embroiled in the supernatural this is a must read. I definitely recommend.

Interested in more epulp? Check out the rest of my reviews.




View all my reviews


Here's that cover from another source:
 

Pulp Cover of the Week - Startling Mystery


Saturday, 6 April 2013

My first writer's update.

Hi. My name is Grant. And I'm a writer...

Okay, so I've been avoiding this. Avoiding the need to post a writer's update for a while now. It's not that I have something against writer's updates - far from it, they're the staple of most writer blogs and the reason people show up at writer blogsites - it's just that once I do one update on where I'm up to with my writing then I'm gonna have to keep doing them. For the rest of my writing career.

So the pressure is on.

Actually, I was hoping to delay giving writer updates for a while because I didn't plan on blogging until I had most of my writing ducks in a row ie when I actually had something to write about ie when I had things like book covers etc to show. But then the Dieselpunk Showcase opportunity came along and that wrecked everything. I had to dash out there and set up a blog, and apply for one of those GoodReads author accounts, and sign up to Amazon... A whole lot of work. But it did get me out there in internet writer land and for that I'm grateful. And I have a GoodReads author page now. Which is pretty cool :)

And now there are people googling my name. Which means... the pressure is back on. <disconcerted smiley>

Speaking of the Dieselpunk Showcase: we recently passed 3,500 downloads. Which is pretty good for an indie. It's a free book so a percentage of those downloads will be people who wont get round to reading it (they're called hoarders because they like to download stuff for the sake of downloading stuff - apparently it's a thing) but if even half of those copies are read then the project has been a success for our intrepid little band of authors. And with a steady trickle of downloads still coming via Amazon and more reviews and ratings showing up on GoodReads all the time, etc it can only get more successful.

If you have arrived here after reading the Showcase then, yeah, I'm the bloke who wrote the first story in the anthology, That Sort of World. Hope you enjoyed it. I've only got one more story on the web at the moment, a story posted over at Alternatehistoryweeklyupdate.blogspot.com called The More Things Change. It's another free short story set in the Aether Age universe, this time in a little gambling town called Las Vegas. It was a complicated little story for such a small word limit but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.

Which brings me to the important stuff. Tommy Thunder and the Aether Age stuff.

If anyone's interested there is plenty of Tommy Thunder and Aether Age writing in the pipeline, all of which should be released some time this year. At the moment I am working on four separate books that I hope to release all at once some time in the next three months. (The schedule is up in the air until I finally do get around to organising covers and braving the gauntlet of paperwork that is the American IRS application form).

Yeah, that's right. Four different books to be released at once. With several more to follow.

Why four? The plan is to release enough story to get people interested in hanging around for the next issues and I figure if people like the first book then they'll want to read the next book but if it isn't released they may wander off and forget about me :( So I'm going to release four books and people who like my writing will be able to buy as many of them as they like and get properly immersed in the series etc.

Of the four books, three will be Tommy Thunder, Scourge of the Skypirate books (#1-#3) and the other will be Tales of the Aether Age volume #1 which is a book full of short stories similar to That Sort of World set in the Aether Age universe but not directly linked to Tommy's Carribean adventures.

And the names of these books (at this minute, which may change before publication)?

Tommy Thunder in: The Black Vixen of Deadman's Island & The Mystery of the Silent Zephyr.
Tommy Thunder in: The Race for the White Fedora.
Tommy Thunder in: The Big Fight at The Crater.

and...

And I'll keep the names of the Aether Age short stories for another post. I'll also have another post soon about how far I am along the path with each individual book etc etc.

So, if you've just wandered in - welcome to my quirky corner of the interwebs. If you've visited a few times then feel free to ask any questions you have or give any feedback on the website or my writing and I hope you stick around to enjoy the bizarre mix of Dieselpunk, pulp, alt history and other vaguely associated things this blog is turning into.

Cheers,

Grant. The bloke who writes the stuff.

Dieselpunk Manifesto: Art Deco, Bond and the Cool Curve pt 5.



Bond, The First Dieselpunk.

This post is the fifth and final post in my (long) blog essay arguing Bond’s place as one of the first Dieselpunks.

Starting with post 1 I explained how the Art Deco period marked a change in cultural authority. Cultural authority started with the upper classes at the turn of the Century then gradually shifted to the middle classes as technology and consumer discretionary income rose. However, during the Depression of the 1930s an image of the ‘high life’ was conveyed to audiences, a high life that involved fancy suits, glamorous women, dancing, exotic locations and a host of other qualities sourced from the upper class culture of the Art Deco movement. The post War period saw the end of Art Deco and the rise of youth culture, but also the ‘problem’ of the Soviet Union. Both ‘problems’ found a cultural solution in the form of the spy – a jetsetting, dapper gent who rejected contemporary fashion trends for a classy suit, had more than his fair share of charm, travelled to exotic locations and took down enemies of the Free World. Bond was both the reason for the glut of spy storytelling during the 1960s as well as its leading light.

Bond would go on to become the most successful film series of all time, a title that wont change as new films are made into the indefinite future. And while other properties from the era get the occasional reboot, such as the Mission: Impossible and The Saint movies, Bond hasn’t rebooted for new audiences so much as updated and changed to suit current tastes. Over and over and over again, to the point that the longest stretch the world has gone without a new Bond has been the five year gap between License to Kill (1989) and Goldeneye (1995).

You could say this was the closest Bond got to being cancelled...
So why has the Bond series become the genre titan that it is today? Especially when the rest of the genre had ‘gone out of style’ by the mid 1970s. What is it about Mister Bond, James Bond that has made him one of the most successful stories of all time, reaching more human beings than nearly any other story being told today? And how does this tie into his Dieselpunk tendencies?

I think that Bond embodies a unique set of ideas, a set of ideas that sets him apart from the rest of his action hero peers and makes him more culturally valuable. This was a process that started in the 60s when Bond first appeared on our cinema screens, embodying a hero that looked back to the past in the way he dressed, acting as an argument against current trends in society. In doing so he saved the day from current threats. He embodied the argument for the value of the old way of doing things – the Diesel way of doing things – taking on new threats with old style. And it’s an argument that has been readdressed and remade every time the Bond franchise has added to its roster.

They never stood a chance...
This argument for Bond’s constantly updating retro focus has become more obvious the longer the series has continued, several new breeds of action hero coming and going during Bond’s illustrious reign. From the Western and cop heroes of the 70s, to the Hard Body heroes of the 80s, the martial arts heroes of the 90s and the superheroes of the Noughties Bond has held his own and outlived them all. But I think the unique qualities of Bond – the things that make him a unique idea that outlasts all those other heroes – can best be illustrated by revisiting one of the more famous sequences of the series, the opening scenes from what many consider the greatest Bond film of all time, Goldfinger (1964).

The opening sequence of Goldfinger has everything that sets Bond apart as a hero. The opening shot of Bond is of a seagull swimming towards a dock, a seagull that lifts out of the water to reveal that the bird is actually fake, tied to Bond’s head as camouflage while he scuba dives up to the dock. It’s an absurd opening shot for a hero but clearly illustrates that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. It’s a knowing sense of humour – a wink at the audience if you like – that is repeated later in the sequence when he is asked why he always carries a gun and he replies “Oh, it’s because I have an inferiority complex.”

This ‘knowing’ humour illustrates how Bond is completely self aware concerning his more bombastic and cheeky aspects... and he doesn’t care. In fact he revels in them and invites the audience to do so as well. When combined with his ability to shrug in the face of over-the-top insanity we get a character that wanders into a giant secret underground villain lair, shrugs his shoulders at the absurdity and continues onwards, just to see where it all leads. Bond’s knowing-ness allows his villains to be as absurd as they are (or for the situation to get as absurd as it does) without destroying the audience’s suspension of disbelief because, like us, he wants it to continue.

The second aspect that sets Bond apart is revealed after he has emerged from the water, infiltrated the secret drug lab and rigged it to blow in twenty minutes. He then leaves the facility and removes his full body wetsuit... to reveal that he is wearing a white dinner jacket and bow tie. It is yet another absurd gag played for laughs but it also sums up Bond’s attitude to fashion – he adores wearing suits and will go out of his way to make it happen. The fact that he then walks into an establishment where half the people aren’t even dressed up is irrelevant. Bond is the most over dressed man in the place and he’s quite okay with that. He chooses to dress in a classy way, superseding all other suit wearers around him, he chooses to make a big deal about his cocktails, his watches and his cars (which don’t exactly blend in during his espionage missions) and he chooses to behave in a way that is different to those around him. He’s making a stand, a stand that harkens back to an earlier age of well-tailored suits, fast cars and cocktails and it’s a stand that has become synonymous with the hero ever since. A DIESELPUNK stand.

Overdressed or just making a decent effort?
The scene ends in typical Bond style. He takes a completely unnecessary detour – both in terms of plot and mission – in order to visit his lady friend, the dancer at the bar. While there she waits until he is disarmed then has him ambushed by a random goon. Bond evades the initial attack before knocking the goon into a bathtub full of water, then throws a fan in to electrocute his ambusher. The finishing quip by Bond? “Shocking. Positively shocking.” It’s a joke that is humorous both because it releases the tension at the end of the action scene but also because what happened really wasn’t surprising at all. In the face of a warning not to, Bond went on an unnecessary aside to his mission and found trouble. Exactly where he knew it could be. 

But that’s Bond. He jetsets off to locations full of danger and then extricates himself, all with a style that harkens back to the Diesel era which was the high point for his choice of fashion. All with a wry humour that audiences across the world adore. He doesn’t do it dressed in camo and lugging military hardware around, he’s not a cop out to rescue his family, a martial artist out to avenge his slain master, or a superpowered hero with rage issues or a deep psychological need to scare bad guys into obeying the law. Bond saves the world by dressing in the classiest way possible, jetting off to an exotic location to meet up with a classy dame where he enjoys taking down a bad guy with humour in the face of absurdity. A classy method of heroism that can be thin on the ground these days.

Except when people are quoting Bond.

Style + guns. They must be spies.
The further we get from the era where Bond’s style was formed, the more jarring his style choices can be. Now they’re often parodied in cliché or in the movies reserved for those special casino scenes Bond always seems to find himself in. But Bond’s lifestyle choices and sense of fashion still take their cues from a completely different set of cultural products from a completely different era. He hasn’t been retroactively rewritten into a working class bruiser or a government funded superhero experiment, he’s just doing the same thing he’s always done with the same style, but renewing it in the face of more recent trends. He doesn’t wear retro clothing but he still wears modern takes on the suit and tie fashion staple. He rarely drives retro cars for any length of time but he is often driving their newest descendent. He’s still making sure his drinks are mixed a little differently and inventing cocktails like the ‘Vesper’ ala Casino Royale. And he’s still taking down bad guys with an old-school kind of style. A Diesel era kind of style.

And what could be more ‘punk then that?


Ladies and Gentlemen... the first Dieselpunk.

So that's the end of my VERY long blog series/essay on  the Dieselpunkitude of Bond, James Bond. I didn't intend to make it so long but there you go... it's finally finished. If you have any thoughts on the topic feel free to leave your opinion, whether for or against. I'd be happy to chat to anyone who'd like to talk about Bond or Dieselpunk :)

ePulp Review of the Week - Dillon and the Pirates of Xonira by Derrick Ferguson.

Dillon and the Pirates of XoniraDillon and the Pirates of Xonira by Derrick Ferguson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

***Pulp Warning*** All my e-reading is in the vein of e-pulp, so all reviews are pulp relative. Reader beware :) ***Pulp Warning***

Overall: 4 stars (Recommend)

The Pirates of Xonira is a Bond style romp through a modern world setting which makes a refreshing change for pulp. Dillon is great, the action non-stop and the supporting cast fantastic but it's missing that certain something that would make it 5 stars.

Pacing and Action: 4 stars.

One thing about a modern setting for pulp is that there's plenty more toys to play with and Dillon has a garage full of them. Motorbikes, four-wheel drives, drone gunships and submarines are all part of the fun and shenanigans ensue.

The only let down would be the way the story falls into some old Bond cliches with slabs of exposition while characters interrogate each other or the villain explains his evil scheme. It slows things down a little and can feel a little clunky.

Pulp Concept: 4 stars.

A modern setting for non-superhero pulp seems to be a fairly rare occurence but it shouldn't be. The Dillon series is a good exception with a clear Bond influence while putting its own spin on the ideas. It blends Bond with more fantastic elements that provoke Dillon's various high-tech adventures, usually dragging him all over the world in order to make things right. It's a good conept that is well used in this latest installment.

Character development: 4 stars.

This is quite good, helped by the fact that all of the characters are unique with their own motivations and character tics. Over the course of the story we good a very good sense of who is what and why, Dillon is a great character that plays with the Bond cliche by being not very Bond in many different ways and the supporting cast also have histories and stories of their own. Not sure if anyone changes over the course of the narrative but being well-rounded to begin with means that you don't notice.

Production: 3.5 stars.

There were some spelling mistakes and missed words that should have been picked up in editting and the cover is a bit flat and lifeless. But the price is good which means you get plenty of pulp for your buck.

Series Potential: 4 stars.

Three or four stories in I think the series potential has been proven. The pattern has been set and references to Dillon's wider world are always being dropped in to flesh out the world and his character. Plenty of material to mine in the future and the author is no doubt thinking in that vein.

Wrap Up.

Good, fun, Bond-style pulp romp with a great character. Will be interesting to see what happens next in the world of Dillon.


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