Thievin poser filmmaker Arya Ghavamian

Arya Ghavamian Plagiarized Film by M dot Strange

One of the most fucked up things I’ve heard in a while: Arya Ghavamian (not linking to content thieves, use Google)–ostensibly a filmmaker, although one must wonder what HE has actually created, given everything that has come out–has plagiarized the film “Heart String Marionette“, one of M dot Strange‘s bizarre and amazing creations. He made a few edits, ripped out and replaced dialogue and audio, and then claimed it as his own, going so far as to submit it to film festivals such as local event Cinequest…which is located in M dot’s own stomping grounds.

Cinequest will instead be showing “Heart String Marionette” (if I could get over there from Santa Rosa easily I would go just to see it on the big screen), but that doesn’t change the fact that this thief has attempted to opportunistically steal credit for the work of one of the most interesting and creative minds I have run into.

To M dot: I’m sorry this has happened to you, man. Keep the faith, been enjoying watching your gamedev vids.

To Arya Ghavamian: I hope that you learn from this, but I also hope that this never dies down and your reputation is eternally stained, marking you as a plagiarist and thief of creative work.

You can find out more by reading M dot Strange’s post on his studio’s main blog. You can learn more about M dot and his work on his About page, and you can watch Heart String Marionette in it’s entirety here. Please consider supporting his work, and please consider supporting the work of independent artists like him (and myself)…drama like this is only skimming the surface of the bullshit we have to put up with just to do our thing.

Be Excellent To Each Other

The “Injustice-Hack”, and How It Will Destroy Us If We Let It

Humans will kill people for anything, once they can come up with a justification for adopting a dehumanizing out-group dynamic about it. Dr. Seuss was right…it’s Butter-Battles and Sneetches (with star-bellies and without) all the way down.

And that dehumanizing trick is almost always some variation of the “injustice-hack”, a social and psychological manipulation that invites both designated victim and interested onlookers to believe that an injustice is being committed, thus hijacking our empathy and getting us to adopt the one mode of thinking that, to humans, justifies any obvious atrocity: “doing the right thing”, “righting a wrong”, “fighting the good fight”, “being a hero”.

And we LOVE those situations. Shows like 24 are all about getting us high on “hard choices”, where we are invited to be monstrous and indulge all of our cruelty, but it’s really “good”, and instead of being bullies, we feel like heroes for doing the horrible thing our monstrous little ids wanted us to do anyway.

Think about the entirety of the SJW trip and methodology, consider both sides of GamerGate doxxing and swatting each other, etc…both are firmly convinced they are the victims and that their own victimizing actions are therefore justified. And people are getting high off of it…the joy of “justified” cruelty and battle is what has driven much of the culture of the online world, and the only thing that can explain that is that people get off on it. Even without governments, we’ll “go to war” at the drop of a hat…just convince us that someone kicked a puppy, and we will cook a million puppies alive to “right the wrong”.

We are invited to ignore every normal ethical boundary we observe the minute the injustice-signal is sent up. As long as we can convince ourselves that we’ve–or the object of our “support”–has been “hard done by”, ANYTHING, up to and include massive wars and the murder and torture of innocents, can and has been justifiable to most people’s minds.

Right now, ISIS/ISIL are using the inujustice-hack to gain support all over the Middle East, as did their forebears, while the US government and that of ally nations post-9/11 did the exact same thing, using the injustice-hack to get most of the country–and several other countries–to finally sign off on things they had wanted to do anyway for decades. Neither side are good, and in fact have committed most of the injustices in the situations they have been involved in…but goddamn, that injustice-hack just seems to make it all go away, doesn’t it? All those facts just disappear in the warm glow of feeling like a hero.

IRL, almost nothing is ever so simple. Almost no situations that ever exist have heroes and villains, victims and victimizers. Most stuff is just people doing their own things, and most of that consists of behaviors that are orthogonal to the entire paradigm of victims, heroes, and villains. Worldviews–and they are many–that attempt to break down all of history and human life to exploitation, war, and struggle are being disingenuous in an effort to use the injustice-hack for themselves.

It will win few friends and lose many to refuse the tribalism implicit in adopting one victim group or another, but if we are interested in stopping the damage caused by these sorts of conflicts, we must forgo the natural highs of responding to an injustice with more injustice. We must maintain that the same ethics apply to defense as offense, because as long as we let them differ in practice, we will just keep up the constant wars, cultural and physical, until that really is all we do…commit new injustices as get-backs for old injustices.

Book Review: The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage: Queen of Pulp Pin-Up Art

English: Cover of the pulp magazine Weird Tale...

English: Cover of the pulp magazine Weird Tales (March 1938, vol. 31, no. 3) featuring Incense of Abomination by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Disclosure: As you might guess from the last name, J. David Spurlock is my uncle. While I love him dearly, we try to maintain a family value of honesty and we all share a respect for literature and art, so read this review with no worries: I’m being honest, honest!

She was something special, something different. In the early days of Weird Tales magazine, the art featured was often lush, lurid, and deliciously effective, and none more so than that of Margaret Brundage. In an era when women were often forced into restrictive social roles, she defied expectations on multiple levels.

Her work was frankly sexual and sensational, with most covers featuring deep colors and sharply outlined figures of naked–or mostly naked–women, usually in danger and–perhaps counter-intuitively–posing sexily while coping with that danger.

Weird Tales, May 1934

Weird Tales, May 1934; Cover by Margaret Brundage.

Sometimes there were also scantily-clad men, though it was sometimes unclear who was supposed to be protecting whom.

The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage: Queen of Pulp Pin-Up Art
functions as a combination of biographical essays and art collection, combining notes, bits of detail, full essays, and gorgeous, full-color illustrations of all of her Weird Tales covers, along with various other, lesser known, pieces.

English: Cover of the pulp magazine Weird Tale...

English: Cover of the pulp magazine Weird Tales (November 1936, vol. 28, no. 4) featuring Witch-House by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My favorite section, “The Secret Life of Margaret Brundage”, gives us a snapshot of early 20th Century politics and what it was like for Margaret and her husband, Slim (who shared her political and social interests). Here you can find details on their involvement with labor activism and the Wobblies (The Industrial Workers of the World, or IWW), the Chicago activist scene, the Free Speech movement, and the civil rights movement. Some of the issues and views detailed show that while, in many ways, the issues remain the same, the movements themselves have changed a great deal, with the IWW all but extinct and the labor movement demonized by many.

While I don’t want to recount too many details (yes, even historical books can have spoilers!), I do want to say that as an author who owes a great deal to Weird Tales AND as a person who has spent a good part of his own life devoted to progressive and labor activism, the book taught me a lot, as well as collecting some truly beautiful and historically important works of art.

Highly recommended.

One Week Left For “Black Labyrinth: Book II” Kickstarter

Cover of "Bubba Ho-Tep (Limited Collector...

Cover via Amazon

Joe R. Lansdale, Santiago Caruso, and Dark Regions Press working on a new Black Labyrinth, and he needs your help:

PORTLAND, OR. October 25rd, 2013 – Dark Regions Press, a specialty publisher in business since 1985 has launched a new Kickstarter campaign supporting a new book project by Joe R. Lansdale, award-winning author of Edge of Dark Water, The Thicket, The Bottoms, Bubba Ho-Tep, the Hap and Leonard series, Incident On and Off a Mountain Road and many other novels, short stories, comic books and screenplays. The book will be lavishly illustrated by Santiago Caruso, a renowned surrealist artist of the macabre and fantastique from Argentina.

The new Joe Lansdale novella is slated to be Book II in the Black Labyrinth imprint published by Dark Regions Press.

Black Labyrinth is an imprint of ten original psychological horror novels and novellas from the living masters of horror and dark fiction all illustrated by surrealist artist Santiago Caruso. The first book in the imprint, The Walls of the Castle by Tom Piccirilli has been met with wide critical acclaim, and the hardcovers are considered some of the finest that Dark Regions Press has produced.

The Kickstarter campaign for Black Labyrinth Book II: Joe R. Lansdale began on Tuesday, October 8th and will run until Sunday, November 10th. As of Friday, October 25th the campaign has reached 54% of its funding goal. The campaign can be found by searching “Black Labyrinth” on Kickstarter.com or by visiting the campaign page directly at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/chrismorey/black-labyrinth-book-ii-joe-r-lansdale

Join Dark Regions Press in bringing a new novella by one of the most well-respected authors of horror and dark fiction in the world: Joe R. Lansdale. Accompanied by the fantastic artwork of surrealist artist Santiago Caruso, this is going to be a very special book that readers of Joe Lansdale and art lovers will celebrate.

So hit the link in the press release above, the banner below, or the image in the sidebar over to the right and give what you can…it would be a damnable shame to miss out on something like this.

Kickstarter campaign for Black Labyrinth Book II: Joe R. Lansdale

Creators Unite! The Industry Needs Us, Not Vice Versa

Author: notafish - Delphine Ménard Source: sel...

Author: notafish – Delphine Ménard Source: self drawn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning, I ran across this little listing in a writer’s group I belong to on Facebook:

OMNIDAWN is currently reading for the BEST AMERICAN EXPERIMENTAL WRITING anthology (“BAX”). DEADLINE: November 15, 2013. READING FEE: “$9 for three pieces of writing or nine pages (whichever is fewer).”

This enraged me so much, I simply have to call BS. What’s the reading fee for, if not to pay for overhead, which includes paying the actual talent…you know, the writers?

I swear, there is a whole strata of publishers–and I don’t mean the big kids, they have their problems, but at least they understand they need to pay for the product they want to sell–that seem to think THEY are the important part of the industry. To these I have a message:

We DON’T need YOU. Not anymore, and to a degree we never did, we just got slowly conditioned to believe that US making YOU money while you scammed and screwed us was YOU doing US a favor. But that’s changing, and more and more of us are realizing WE DON’T NEED YOU.

And to my fellow actual creators:

STOP subbing to these markets. Exposure does not pay bills and costs the person making money off of our work NOTHING. If a market says they are a “for the love” market, those people don’t know what love is. Love is not exploitation. These publishers are making money on these publications, and asking us to do the most important work for free. THIS IS THEFT. THIS IS EXPLOITATION. STOP going along with it. Accept nothing less than at least a token payment or hard author’s copy (no ebooks), and do that ONLY for small markets who feasibly can’t afford pro rates. Be reasonable, sure…but don’t accept the lie that you need to let yourself be exploited in order to be a “real” writer.

If you’re just starting out, self-publish or post work on your own blog, with your own advertising and/or tipping/donation setup to make SOMETHING off of it and get “exposure” as well. REAL publishers and editors care about the quality of the work, and are looking for good writers, not writers who convinced someone else to put up a story on someone else’s website, or that someone other than yourself put it out on iTunes and Amazon. Please understand: in a world where one person can pretend to run any amount of ezines or electronic publishing houses with little cost to them, it doesn’t matter if you’re the one putting it out there to someone who actually CARES about finding new, good writers. It could always just be the same person, trying their own scam, so all that can matter is the WRITING.

Ignore those who say “any credit is a good credit when starting out”. That made sense in the print days, when you knew that if someone got published anywhere that meant real money was spent. Then the technology changed, and xeroxed/mimeographed zines undermined that basic premise. And from Charles Bukowski to Thomas Ligotti, without that new, even smaller press created by cheap printing/copying, some amazing writers would never have gotten their start. The “gatekeepers”, granted their status by virtue of their operating capital, wouldn’t have LET us read them.

Now, even better technology has made it FREE to “publish” a book or story. The “publishers” of digital markets have very little (if any) overhead, which means your “for the exposure/love” hard work is pure profit for them. From Huffington Post to some random ezine, if you’re writing/creating  for free, you’re getting screwed.

This is why so many tiny publishers and online magazines have popped up into existence, perfectly willing to use the underlying emotional belief that someone “giving us a job” is somehow doing us a favor, rather than making money off of US and therefore needing to pay their bill for services rendered. It’s almost free to “start a magazine” or “electronic publishing house”, and just like the exploitative corporations and bosses who purposely created this implication, these publishers are using us and wanting us to be grateful for the privilege of making them money. THIS IS WRONG. They are not only NOT doing you any favors, they are willfully exploiting you on all levels…emotionally/mentally, physically/temporally, and financially. Some will even go so low as to attack your status as a “true artist” for daring to even mention or expect payment…and they will then laugh all the way to the bank.

And since they aren’t paying you, you also have nothing to lose by saying “no” and submitting with someone who takes the work seriously. No credit with anyone who won’t pay for your work is worth having. The more writers and creators who realize this, who realize that “content”, aka stories and narratives in all media, is the only American industry left, the better for ALL of us. Whether it’s movies, books, video games, or hypertextual interactive media experiences, THEY NEED US. They can’t do what we do. They can’t even figure out what will “work” or be a “hit” versus a “flop”; that’s why they are so obsessed with remakes, franchises, and remixes, because all their bean-counting brains can parse is “what made money last time”. We NEED to start exploiting this powerful position. Nothing the modern economy creates makes real money anymore except entertainment, and the various publishers, producers, and corporations can’t produce that without US.

So stop acting like they are doing you a favor by condescending to make money off of your hard work. They aren’t. The last barriers to entry are slipping away; if you want to write, it makes increasing sense to self-publish. If you want to make movies, it makes increasing sense to stay indie and avoid the Hollywood “system”. The same is true of games, interactive stories, etc. Look at the indie scenes in any field and you find the exciting, interesting, good work. Sure, there are stinkers in there, too; but there is also a greater possibility of unique visions and original creative work, and thus greater art.

This, of course, scares the crap out of industries that have made a fortune from exploiting barriers to entry; not only did they have the cash, they controlled the industries through “gatekeepers”, so nothing they didn’t want to let through got out to the general public. The public and the creators have NEVER benefited by having such “gatekeepers”; all that has happened is the creators were forced to create crap or starve and the public never even got a chance to decide what was “good” or “bad” on their own.

And this applies to everything; musicians need to stop trying to “get a record deal”. You can do just as well with a good DAW and your own abilities as with any record company. You may need to spend a little money on equipment and instruments, and have to master some new skills, but that’s always been a part of music. What you don’t NEED to do is let those who want nothing more than to exploit your talent and inspiration run your world for you, making YOUR money and then leaving you high and dry when you’re not the hot property anymore.

In short (too late!): respect yourself and your work. Our allegiance is to ourselves and our art, and it is an insult to your very own SOUL to allow that self and art to be abused and exploited. We all deserve better, and the sooner ALL of us realize this, the sooner we will GET what we deserve. I’m not saying unionize (though that WOULD be a great idea); I’m just saying respecting yourselves and your work will go far beyond just yourself.

It will help us all.