Let Enjoyment Be Your Guide – A Ramble

Well, although today’s article won’t directly be about creating things, it will be about all of the culture and/or entertainment that inspire us and drive us to create things of our own. So, yes, this is another article that is mostly about being a member of the audience.

A while ago, I started to think (yet again) about how I’m completely and utterly “out of date” with modern computer and video gaming- or, rather, more out of date than I used to be when I was younger.

I started to think about how I prefer single-player gaming to modern online multiplayer, how all of my knowledge of gamer culture is either first-hand knowledge from the early-mid ’00s or second-hand knowledge from modern Youtube videos etc…. How virtually all of the computer games I play these days are older games or more low-budget modern games. How the “newest” game consoles I own come from the early 2000s. And… I love it!

Although this used to make me feel like I was losing touch with a key part of who I am and made me worry that I wasn’t “cool” any more, it doesn’t really do this any more. Because, I realised that the whole point of gaming is to have fun. It isn’t to show off or to be part of a “culture” or whatever. It’s just sitting in front of a computer (or a console) and relaxing for a few minutes to a few hours.

The same is true for so many other things too. For example, I’ve always just listened to the music that I enjoy, regardless of whether it is considered “cool” or not. Whether it’s various old and new heavy metal bands, various 1990s punk bands, various gothic rock songs, a few pieces of rap music, various acoustic musicians, various pieces of old 1980s/90s pop music, a few classical pieces etc.. I listen to music because I enjoy it rather than because it happens to be trendy at the moment.

So, why am I rambling about all of this stuff? Well, it’s because the best approach to modern culture is simply to let enjoyment be your guide. If you worry too much about being “up to date” or being what other people consider to be “cool”, then you’re missing the point. The whole point of entertainment and culture in general is fun and relaxation. It’s meant to make us feel positive emotions, to expand our imaginations and to make us relax.

If you’re a creative person, then this also has another cool side-effect too – originality. If you focus on the things that you enjoy, then you are probably going to end up with a more distinctive and unique mixture of creative inspirations. This will make your creative works look a bit different to those produced by people who are eager to be “up to date” with current trends.

But, most of all, you’ll have fun. And this sense of fun will remind you why culture and entertainment matter so much. There’s a famous quote from Alan Moore, where he talks about how “art is magic”, because of the way that it can affect how people think and feel. So, if you focus on the parts of culture that you enjoy, then you will get to experience this a lot more often. And, if you’re a creative person, then this can also be a great source of motivation too.

So, yes, let enjoyment be your guide.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Storytelling And Seriousness- A Ramble (With A Comic Preview)

2016 Artwork Seriousness and storytelling article sketch

[Edit: I write these articles fairly far in advance, so I’m proud to say that something vaguely similar to the cyberpunk comic project I discussed in this article will end up being posted here. Albeit not for quite a few months (check the ‘2017’ section of this page for more details), due to a few other failed attempts at similar projects, that I’m sure I’ll end up talking about in future posts]

Even though this is another article about how the types of stories you enjoy telling can change over time, I’m probably going to have to spend most of this article talking about my own creative processes. If you’re not interested in reading about them, then feel free to skip to the last few paragraphs of this article.

I’ll also be talking about comics again for a few paragraphs. This is mostly because my experiences with planning an upcoming comics project (and then making another comic instead) was one of the things that gave me the idea for this article.

Anyway, I had a rather strange realisation when I was preparing to make the fifth mini series of my long-running “Damania” webcomic (the previous four can be found here, here, here and here and the fifth one should begin on the 3rd August).

At the time, I was more than in the mood for making a comic of some kind, but I couldn’t decide between making another webcomic mini series or starting a new and original “serious” narrative cyberpunk comic. I made a few quick sketches for this cyberpunk comic – mostly to try out an interesting panel layout – until I suddenly realised that I not only didn’t have a good enough idea for an actual story, but that I wasn’t that interested in telling a “serious” story.

Sure, I liked the idea of it. I liked the idea of making a “serious” cyberpunk comic, filled with cool-looking limited palette artwork. But, when it came down to the practicalities of actually making it, I felt extremely reluctant.

So, naturally, I chose to make the mini series instead. However, it’ll contain some small hints of what my unmade comic might have looked like. Here’s a preview:

It's a glimpse of what could have been (this preview is a detail from "Damania Resurrected - Electric Dreams", which will be posted here on the 5th August)

It’s a glimpse of what could have been (this preview is a detail from “Damania Resurrected – Electric Dreams”, which will be posted here on the 5th August)

This whole experience reminded me a lot about how my attitude to storytelling has changed within the past few years. Back when I thought of myself as a fiction writer, I used to revel in writing dark, nihilistic and/or horrific fiction. I loved to write about bleak dystopian futures, gratuitously gruesome deaths, wearily cynical protagonists and all of that gloriously melodramatic stuff.

But, these days, it seems that I just can’t tell “serious” stories any more (the last time I really tried was in an unfinished sci-fi comic that I tried to make in early 2014).

Even when I briefly got back into writing prose fiction just before Halloween last year, I ended up writing a fairly comedic horror story rather than the more “serious” horror story that I might have written a few years ago.

Whenever I even think about writing a serious story or making a serious comic, it just feels “heavy” and dull in a way that it never used to. When I think of writing a story or making a comic that contains serious drama, it just feels contrived and “too earnest” in a way it never really used to. When I think of a “serious” story or comic idea, it can just seem more depressing than dramatic.

But, when I try to write comedy or add a lot of comedy to a ‘serious’ story idea, it just kind of comes alive. My mind latches on to the idea and refuses to let go.

I love finding sneaky ways to add subtle comedy to things, I love the idea of using things from the horror and sci-fi genres in comedic contexts, I love the idea of making something that will make me (and some of the people who read it) laugh. I love the sense of sheer freedom that comes from writing comedy. I love making parodies. I love cynical satire. I love dark humour (which is also about the closest thing I can get to “serious storytelling” these days).

Another surprising thing is my emotions and state of mind when I write comedy these days are fairly similar to what they used to be like when I wrote horror. When I write comedy, I feel the same gloriously inspirational sense of inventiveness and energetic sense of mischievous glee that I used to feel when I wrote horror.

I’m sure that I’m not the first comic maker or writer to have ever experienced something like this (and it can happen for a multitude of reasons). For a while at least, I was kind of annoyed about it. After all, I couldn’t tell the kind of stories that I used to really enjoy telling. I didn’t feel like I could really take anything I made seriously any more.

Then I finally realised that, if I tried to keep making the kind of things that used to inspire and thrill me, I’d probably end up losing interest in creating things altogether. This change in my creative sensibilities had been quite a surprising one, but I found that I could actually produce more things (and enjoy producing them) if I just let it happen.

So, although I’ve probably given this piece of advice before, don’t worry if you gradually feel like telling radically different types of stories to the ones that you used to tell. It isn’t the end of the world.

Whilst this doesn’t happen to everyone, there are plenty of examples of famous writers who have switched genres after becoming established in one genre (eg: like how Clive Barker used to write horror fiction and then started writing fantasy instead). This has annoyed some of their fans, but at the same time, these authors probably wouldn’t be anywhere near as prolific if they hadn’t gone along with the changes.

So, if you suddenly find that a genre that you used to love writing in doesn’t appeal to you any more, or that you’re suddenly interested in a very different genre, then just go with it. Yes, it might be a bit weird at first. But, you’ll probably end up having more fun and telling more stories than you would if you doggedly try to stick with the genres you used to enjoy.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Splatterpunk Ain’t What It Used To Be – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Splatterpunk Ain't What It Used To Be

[Note (26th November 2018): This article was written during a time when I wasn’t reading much and, for various reasons, had gone off splatterpunk horror fiction slightly. It doesn’t reflect my current views about the genre or about Shaun Hutson’s “Erebus” either.]

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The night before writing this article, I was binge-reading a really cool blog about old horror fiction that I’d found a few days earlier. Naturally, I skipped to the parts about my favourite horror authors and my favourite sub-genres of horror fiction – and I’d never felt geekier (in a good way) in my life.

To see actual serious articles (and lots of them) about the genre that I used to read regularly when I was a teenager was absolutely amazing. I mean, the splatterpunk genre was already kind of old hat by the time that I found my first second-hand 1980s/90s splatterpunk novel in a market stall at about the age of thirteen but, to me, it was the coolest genre ever.

There are lots of reasons why splatterpunk no longer exists as a genre and I’m sure that I’ve talked about them before (eg: the most prominent reason is probably that everything that made splatterpunk splatterpunk has now been absorbed into mainstream horror fiction), but one of the annoying things about splatterpunk fiction is that it was too recent and too obscure to really be of historic interest to magazine journalists etc…

Literally, the only splatterpunk fiction-related thing I saw in the surrounding culture when I was younger was ( when I was an older teenager) this excellent parody of 80s/90s splatterpunk authors on TV.

Although there was an abundance of actual splatterpunk novels in second-hand bookshops and charity shops for my teenage self to read, there was no real surrounding fan culture to go with them.

So, finding a blog with lots of articles about the genre – filled with both critical commentary and nostalgic pictures of wonderfully lurid splatterpunk cover art was amazing. Even though the creator of the site isn’t a fan of one of my old favourite splatterpunk authors or the type of splatterpunk I liked when I was a teenager, it was still really cool to see a retrospective of this writer’s works and to hear someone else talking knowledgeably about him.

Not only that, the site also contains wonderfully cynical comments about both Guy N.Smith and Richard Laymon’s horror novels. Finally! Someone else who thought the same way about those two authors as I did when I was a teenager! Unfortunately, I didn’t find any cynical comments about how Stephen King used to almost monopolise bookshop horror shelves in the 00s though.

Naturally, after reading this site for a while, I decided to dig up some of my old splatterpunk novels to see if I could get myself back into the genre again. Although I don’t really read anywhere near as much fiction as I used to, the few horror novels I’ve read this decade have all been modern splatterpunk-influenced horror novels. So, I thought that it wouldn’t be too difficult to get back into the genre again.

After a little bit of searching, I turned up a 1990s reprint of “Erebus” by Shaun Hutson. This was one of the old splatterpunk novels that still stuck in my memory and it was one of the cooler ones that I’d read when I was a teenager.

I remembered the story’s dramatic ending and I remembered how the novel was pretty much almost like a Romero-style zombie movie in all but name. Since gory zombie novels were hard to find when I was a teenager, this was an awesome and memorable surprise.

So, naturally, I decided that I’d take a quick look at it again and read the first couple of chapters. My reactions were very different as an adult.

I found the first scene of the story (where a horse on a farm suddenly turns evil and starts violently attacking everything and everyone near it, seemingly without reason) to be laughably melodramatic, rather than compellingly and rebelliously macabre. From the way that it was written, it seemed more like dark comedy than shocking horror.

Even in the second chapter, when Shaun Hutson describes the setting of the novel, I couldn’t quite take all of it seriously because one line of the description (where he describes the local farms producing “full bounty”) sounded exactly like something that Garth Marenghi could say. I stopped reading after this point.

Maybe I’d just grown up? Maybe now that I’m more than old enough to buy proper horror movies, I no longer need splatterpunk novels to tell me luridly gruesome horror stories? Maybe it’s like the old saying that “you can’t go home again”?

As strange as it is to say, my memories of splatterpunk novels are probably a lot cooler than the actual novels probably were. Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, I guess.

It’s strange that the genre which got me interested in writing fiction and which has also had a subtle influence on my art too, is actually cooler in my imagination than it is in reality.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

One Cool Way To Get Inspired Again

2015 Artwork Combining two cool things article sketch

Although this is a short article about how to feel more inspired when making art, making comics, writing stories etc… I’m going to have to start by talking about music for a couple of paragraphs. There’s a good reason for this that I hope will become obvious later.

A few months ago, I ended up looking at a really cool music channel on Youtube that I’d almost forgotten about. This channel is run by an expert guitarist who often plays heavy metal-style covers of all sorts of things. Anyway, one video caught my attention. It was, quite simply, titled “Blade Runner Meets Metal“.

Since I’ve been a fan of heavy metal since I was about thirteen or so, and since I’ve been a massive fan of “Blade Runner” since I was seventeen – I was absolutely fascinated by this video.

Although only some parts of the cover sound like the end credits music from “Blade Runner”, it was still astonishingly cool to see two of my favourite things being mixed together.

One of the easiest ways to get inspired is to just think of two (or more) of your favourite things and to work out an inventive way to combine them.

However, if you want to make something genuinely creative (eg: something you could theoretically publish commerically), then it’s usually a good idea to start by thinking of your favourite things in a very non-specific way.

In other words, if you’re a fan of – say – “Star Trek” and “Game Of Thrones”, you could make a non-commerical fan art picture combining characters from both of these things. But, since G.R.R. Martin hates fan fiction, how can you legitimately write something that was inspired by both of these things?

Simple. You just need to take a step back and think of your idea as being “military sci-fi meets medieval fantasy”, rather than “Star Trek meets Game Of Thrones”.

Once you’ve boiled your mixture of cool things down to the very basics, then try thinking of original characters, settings, storylines etc… that also fit into this concept.

Yes, your finished comic or story will probably still be vaguely reminiscent of both of your favourite things, but it’ll also probably stand on it’s own feet as an original work too. Not only that, because you’ve combined two radically different things, your story will probably be a lot more creative than you might expect.

To give you an example from my own artistic work – I love the zombie genre and I love 1980s/90s-style noir sci-fi, so I ended up making a series of retro sci-fi noir zombie drawings earlier this year. Here are a couple of them:

"Dead Sector" By C. A. Brown

“Dead Sector” By C. A. Brown

"Balcony Of The Undead" By C. A. Brown

“Balcony Of The Undead” By C. A. Brown

These drawings then ended up inspiring a comic a couple of weeks later:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Dead Sector - Page 1" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE]
“Dead Sector – Page 1” By C. A. Brown

And this was all because I thought that it would be a cool idea to combine two of my favourite things. So, yes, this can be a powerful way to get inspired again.

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Sorry for the short article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂