Thursday, March 31, 2016

Old Growth Forest Video

I have spent pretty much the entire week being very, very, very sick. I didn't realize how sick I was at first because I thought it was just a bad bout with allergies. It was only after the misery became overwhelming that I discovered that I had a nasty viral infection in addition to the allergic reactions through which I was suffering.

Live and learn. Barely.

Well, here is a recent video log I concocted from an old bushwhacking trip into the Pisgah National Forest to see some old growth forests that live on the slopes of Mackey Mountain. Enjoy.

An old forest, showing off.

The slopes are like some gigantic sponge radiating moisture.

And big trees all around.

Water, rich earth, and amazing green forests.

Monday, March 28, 2016


Well...I finally read a decent self-published novel. As all who read my blog should know, I am not a fan (to put it mildly) of the self-publishing scene. To me, it's like a gigantic slush pile with nothing worthy of my attention and time. I used to be first-reader for a literary magazine and going through the slush pile was agonizing, frustrating, and annoying. Almost everything sent to the magazine was utter trash and after a while I lost patience with the authors of the crap that was coming across the threshold every day. The world of self-published novels is like that. 99.9% of everything that I sample is of such low quality that I find myself wishing that there had been a first-reader to prevent it all from ever seeing light at my online booksellers.

And so, for years, I have been looking for a decent self-published novel. It didn't even have to be great. All it had to be was competent. Aside from some self-published short stories, I was denied even competent fiction. I was beginning to think that there was no such thing as a good self-published novel.

At last, however, I have found one.

THE COMPUTER HEIST by Michael P. King.

With most self-published books I can tell within a few lines (sometimes just one!) whether or not the author knows what he's doing and if the book is going to justify dedicating several precious hours of my leisure time to processing the material. THE COMPUTER HEIST grabbed me from the first paragraph and so, of course, I read on. The entire chapter was good stuff and I continued to read, waiting for the inevitable moment when I realized the self-publisher was not a true writer and that I was just wasting my time.

That never happened.

King introduces the readers to "the Traveling Man and his wife" currently going by the names Joe and Tess. Joe and Tess are a married couple (not sure if they're legally married, but with this pair that's not a problem) who are not just grifters, but criminals without the problem of moral ambiguities or feelings of real guilt. We meet them at the point where they are being interviewed by a prospective employer (Samantha Bartel) who wants them to run a scam against her software corporation employers.

Joe and Tess are similar to some archetypal characters of the anti-hero from older works, but without the glow of a heart of gold seen in most of their literary predecessors. These guys are not Leslie Chateris' Simon Temlar, and they're not even Jeff Lindsay's Dexter Morgan. If you had to compare them to a modern  pop criminal, it would be Walter White from the "Breaking Bad" TV series. Yeah, they're bad guys, but not quite as bad as some of the people around them.

The scam in this well-built novel concerns wrecking a computer program in the development stage at a software company, while stealing a copy after the source material is fried. As we who read crime novels know, the situation is all not quite what it seems even when it's a criminal act. Many and varied characters are eventually tied into the plot and their actions end up weaving a sticky web of spaghetti code that would give pause to even the most brilliant of hackers. The straightforward task begins to go awry very quickly and soon all involved find themselves stuck in a nasty situation.

Can even a pair of grifters like Joe and Tess, free from the weight of conscience, work their ways clear of the grasping tendrils of criminal fate? As they try to massage the situation and tinker with the outcome and babysit the amateurs around them, we are left wondering what will happen and who will end up with the nasty end of the stick.

Pick up the novel. If you like crime fiction, if you enjoy excellent characterization, then you will get a kick out of THE COMPUTER HEIST.

I've now bought THE TRAVELING MAN, the first in the series. And to answer your question: no, you do not need to have read the first novel to understand and enjoy the second one.

THE COMPUTER HEIST by Michael P. King.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Quiet Hiker Videos

Some more videos from my Quiet Hiker YouTube channel. Enjoy.

Waterfall on Scotsmans Creek.

Winter Backpacking trip, Panthertown Valley.

Chattooga River hike, waterfall search.

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Dick Move

There are all kinds of outdoorsmen. Fishermen, hunters, hikers, kayakers, backpackers, canoeists, boaters, swimmers, climbers, runners, joggers, etc. I've met just about all of them in my rambles though the mountains and my trips kayaking down rivers and springs. And for each group there are sub-groups. For instance I have met hikers who specialize in things like orienteering and bushwhacking; that is, traveling where there are no trails by way of map and compass (or GPS device). And hikers who only go into the mountains to bag a list of peaks--for instance, only mountains in the South that are over 6,000 feet in elevation; or only summits that are the highest in a county or state. You run into some weird, specialized stuff. But it's all okay. Whatever makes people happy.

One group that I have encountered and even hiked with are the waterfall wanderers. These are people who only go into the forests to seek out waterfalls. An admirable endeavor that I very much enjoy myself. And I've spoken about how some of these guys are intense assholes. One of the things that I would encounter when speaking or interacting with them is that they would share photos of "secret" waterfalls that they had located by exploring on steep mountain slopes that have no trails, or scampering down into deep gorges to find waterfalls that were unknown to most people. These guys are among the most annoying and bothersome of outdoorsmen. "Look what I found! See these gorgeous photos? I'm not telling you where it is! HAHA!". Yeah. Real pricks.

On the one hand I can understand that they want to keep a place untouched by crowds a secret. They want to enjoy it in an unspoiled, uncrowded state. My problem, then, is with these jerks who brag about finding such a spot and then taunting their fellow hikers with the fact that they will never spill the beans. Such an act is, as they say, a dick move.

I have never discovered a waterfall that I wanted to keep secret. If I did, I'd do just that and never mention it and never show photos of the damned place. What I'd do is never tell anyone and go there from time to time to enjoy solitude. Similarly, I have found out of the way spots where I have not encountered other people and found great natural beauty. Sometimes part of me wants to keep these places a total secret. I watched as the once secluded Panthertown Valley has become a Mecca for hikers and backpackers and horseback riders and waterfall seekers and fly fishermen and whitewater enthusiasts and photographers and...well...crowds. For a while I was sorry that I'd ever mentioned the place in any of my blogs. But, of course, it wasn't my fault that the place became crowded. It's a beautiful spot and the National Forest Service promotes it and wants people to see the place and to use it as an outdoors destination. It's no one person's fault that the word got out and that so many people want to go there and see the beauty of it.

So I will continue to find beautiful wild places and brag about them. If that causes me to lose a little bit of solitude the next time I visit that spot...all I can say is that this is a big world and there are still a lot of wild corners of it where I can find some peace and quiet and some of my precious solitude. And when I do, I'll tell you about them.

View from Salt Gap, Panthertown Valley, North Carolina.

Bushwhacking near Montreat, NC.

Rowland Creek Falls, Virginia.

Rock Jock Trail, Linville Gorge.

Green Knob, Middle Prong Wilderness.

Talus field at Sherando Lake Recreation Area.

Frolictown Falls, Panthertown Valley.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Quiet Hiker Videos

Just some of my more recent video that I'm running on my newly-formed YouTube channel.

Typical scene in Yellowstone National Park.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

I Give Up!

One thing that I long ago noticed about ebooks in general and self-published ebooks in particular is that they have a very, very, very short shelf life. Generally the ones that make a little money do so for just a few weeks to a few months. Then they are completely forgotten and stop selling.

Some of my friends who got into the self-publishing game claim to have made money at it. (Very few of them--a couple.) I've met a few self-publishers who made what I would call a killing at it. They sold enough copies of their books that they were able to quit their day-jobs and create self-published content full time. Of course most of those people later came to regret that decision as it was a short-lived phenomena. I've spoken to more than a few such who found themselves unable to pay their bills after a few months when those impressive sales dwindled to nothing and could not be rekindled. Lightning rarely strikes twice, they say.

But one guy I met (I refuse to call him a "writer" because he can't write) continued to do well at it for some time. He was able (somehow) to build a clientele of people who kept going back to his poisoned well to dip into his shit volcano for a continuing serving of his extrusions. Why? I have no idea as I would never develop a taste for such. But there are all kinds of people out there, some of whom will pay a self-publisher $3 or $4 every so often to read crap that would never make it beyond a slush pile in the old days.

In addition, I'm convinced that Amazon artificially creates some of these "success" stories just to fuel the fires of the self-publishing scam. Where would a pyramid scheme end up without a few people making money at it? You have to show someone making a few shekels or else you can't generate a steady stream of suckers.

Today, for instance, I got an ad in my email box from Amazon suggesting a new science fiction novel. I looked at the graphic. It looked to be the cover of a very crappy self-published ebook. But I was curious--not even Amazon would promote the kind of shit that I see in the world of self-publishing...would they?

I clicked on the ad. It took me to the book's spot on Amazon. I'd never heard of the author. The cover was pretty awful. Military sf. I then decided to at least "look inside". I read a couple of paragraphs...

Oh. My. God.

Indeed, Amazon had sent me an email promoting a self-published  pile of shit. As with every self-published novel I have ever tried to read, this one was a stinker. It smelled. The stench was overwhelming. If I needed any more proof that Amazon feels bound to promote crap for the sake of furthering the destructive scam we know as self-publishing, this was it: all the proof I needed.

For the love of English literature, cut it the fuck out. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Still Searching...

One of my old acquaintances (a writer) used to tell me not to criticize other writers. He never quite explained just why, but what I took away from his position was that writing is a tough enough task as it is without having fellow writers on your back.

And, I agree with that.

Despite what some people may say or think, I go out of my way to avoid specifying any writer whose work I dislike. On the one hand it's as my old pal hinted--the job is hard enough without being hamstrung by another writer pointing out the obvious. Second, it's just often cruel.

And the cruelty aspect of it lies in the fact that some work is so overwhelmingly awful that to bother criticizing the author in question would be akin to turning a paraplegic out of his wheelchair and kicking him in the teeth. Yeah, attacking some of it is that bad and that plain. What's the point?

For years now I have been tasting self-published books from time to time and looking for one that is well written. These days I don't even bother to look at the so-called "five star" reviews they garner, most having been bought and/or written by the close friends and relatives of the morons who self-published. Sometimes I will allow myself to be suckered into reading one of these travesties by someone--usually that someone being a self-published writer, or someone who inexplicably supports the self-publishing (crime) scene.

This week I located a self-published book on my own and downloaded it. I'm not even sure how I happened upon the author's website, but his blog seemed mildly amusing which hinted at a certain level of intelligence and perceptiveness on his part. And he was offering a free download to one of his books via Amazon. So, I bit.

I found that the book had a good hook. The first few pages were decent. He showed the level of humor and insight that I had figured from his commentaries at his website. The first chapter had some problems, but I have read traditionally published novels with similar quibbles that I enjoyed despite the flaws. Thus, I continued to read. Maybe, at last, I'd found a self-published novel that at least measured up to a competently written traditionally published book.

Alas, it was not to be. After a few more chapters the writing began to fail, as if the prose was suffering from some kind of cancer that was causing it to waste away, along with the logic of the plot. I struggled on to the mid-point before I finally gave up, skipped ahead to the final chapter and realized that I had not, in fact, located my first well written self-published novel. This one was garbage like all of the rest of them, even if I didn't encounter the stench and the rot until I'd unwrapped the unspoiled layer.

So it goes. I don't actively search for good self-published novels, because I realize that mathematically I'd hit the Powerball lottery before I'll find one. But I'm still willing to take a look now and again when I find myself in a good mood and with the necessary time to risk the whiff of shitty prose.

In closing, two examples of writing that I've actually read recently in self-published fiction:

"She was gladder and gladder that she'd met him." (That's actually a line from a self-published crime novel I tried to read. I got two pages in. It got worse.)

And the self-published science-fiction novel that had an evil alien race called "the Caca-dasians". (You can't make this shit up. Or, you can, but you have to be a dumb-ass shitty writer to do it.)

"I'm gone self-publish my novel. You c'n read it."

Friday, March 18, 2016

Hanging Rock State Park.

My last trip to Hanging Rock State Park. I've been there twice. There's a lot to see and many miles of trails to hike. I need to return.

The ancient Sauratown Mountains.

The park's namesake: Hanging Rock.

There are a number of significant waterfalls in the park.

I am a rambling man.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Short Story Decisions

Like most writers, I started out by creating short stories. I actually started writing them when I was eight years old and continued to pen them for all the rest of my life to this day. It's a rare week that I don't at least have an idea for a short story (both good ideas and crappy ones) and feel compelled to jot down those ideas and scribble out a plot.

Sometimes my stories make me feel good enough about them that I'll send them out to seek publication. And sometimes those manuscripts will knock on an editor's door and find acceptance and then even see the light of print.

There are all sorts of places where a writer can sell a story. Professional magazines. Semi-professional publications. Websites. Anthologies. I tend to prefer anthology sales because I've been paid the most money there. And, at heart, I'm a capitalist and I like to make money from the sweat of my brow.

However, there have been a  few times when I have let flattery and ego get the best of me and had sold stories to markets that I later wished I had not. And these have all been to anthologies. Sell to a magazine and the publication is there one day and then gone in a month or two. You get paid, you see it in print, you have a copy for your shelf. The same is true with an anthology. However, anthologies stay around a very long time. They stay in print for years sometimes and will continue to generate buzz of one type or another. This is good if you have some kind of royalty deal tied up in your contract. But if not...

There have been two distinct occasions in my career when I have sold short stories and then never seen another dime from the fiction even though the anthology stayed in print and continued to sell. In one case I was fairly offered a fee with no royalties and for some reason (it must have been ego) I took the editor up on the deal and delivered an excellent story that generated much good will for me, but which never earned me another dime. This despite the fact that the anthology remains in print and sells steadily. I actually hate seeing it sell because I know that I'll never receive another dime for it. My bad.

The other case where I sold a story that has gotten me a fair amount of praise is one in which the anthology stays in print and must be a steady seller for the publisher. However, I have never received a single penny in royalties. The editor (who is still alive by all counts) went to ground and never has coughed up a penny to me of the royalties that I am told he receives from the publisher. The publisher apparently has no obligation to me and has never returned any request for information as to sales or the whereabouts of the editor. Alas.

The conclusion for me has been to be careful when selling a story to any market. On the one hand I know never to sell a story again for a flat fee. I'll never do that again (unless it's for a truly giant wad of cash). And the other is to try my best to steer clear of dodgy editors. That one is just mainly going to be luck of the draw, but I will do my utmost to do my homework where that is concerned.

"Beware ye Editor."

Monday, March 14, 2016

Linville Gorge

I think I may have shot more photos and video in and around Linville Gorge than anywhere else in the southeast. It is a unique place, easily the most rugged territory I have witnessed here on the eastern side of the continent, and that includes places such as the White Mountains of New Hampshire and Katahdin in Maine. It is a seriously huge chunk of wild and jumbled mountain scenery.

Since I have been experimenting with my basic video software I decided to create a longer piece on one of the more unique day hikes I have ever taken. This was into Linville Gorge on February 7, 2010. The North Carolina mountains had just had a snow storm which was followed by a brief icing event and subsequent sub-freezing temperatures which locked in all of that icy beauty for a day. This is what we encountered when we parked my truck and hiked up Shortoff Mountain in the southern end of the Linville Gorge Wilderness.

I could describe the hike, but I'll let the photos and video do the talking.

High on Shortoff Mountain with the bulk of the Linville Gorge Wilderness behind me.

Video montage of a truly special day hike.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Weminuche Continued.

And here is the rest of the video footage of our seven-day journey into the vast Weminuche Wilderness Area of Colorado. So far it's been a learning experience to edit and develop the video and to combine them with animated photos. I'll get better at it as I proceed, I'm sure.

I'll never forget the scenery and sense of solitude we experienced.

As the trip progressed I became concerned with battery power and disk memory and shot briefer bursts of video.

The last days on the trail were fantastic. Finally I had acclimated to the altitude. It took all of the trip for me to do so, and when I weighed myself on my return home I found I'd lost twenty pounds. Basically over the course of the seven days in the Weminuche Wilderness.

Friday, March 11, 2016

A Brief Conversation.

Writer: "You're going to do what with that?"

Self-pubber: "I'm going to self-publish it."

Writer: "Really? I always flush those down the toilet."

Dump it! Don't publish it!

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

YouTube Video

Lately I've been experimenting with my YouTube channel. Originally I just got it as a place to post brief videos I'd shot on various trips so that I could embed the images here on my blog. But some of them began to get a lot of hits just from being on YouTube, and some people had encouraged me to do longer, more details videos and video montages.

So, I started to connect some of the short videos I'd made on various camping, hiking, and backpacking trips. In the past I was always constricted by how much video I could shoot by memory cards and primitive cameras. But now I can quite actually shoot three to four hours of video with the cameras and SD cards they use.

Starting on my next couple of trips I'll be able to generate a healthy amount of video footage to fuel and expand my YouTube presence. Currently I'm engaged in collecting all of the video I shot from my 2012 hiking and backpacking adventures in Colorado, mainly in the Weminuche Wilderness Area, the largest wilderness in the lower 48 of the US. I'll embed them here over the next couple of days.

Hiking in the Mount Sneffels Wilderness.

Acclimation hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park after our arrival in Colorado.

Our last acclimation hikes on our way to Durango.

The excellent train ride from Durango to the trail head.

Our first full day and campsite in the Weminuche.

Second day and night in the San Juans.

First Meeting

I've mentioned here several times about the last meeting I had with Ray Bradbury. It was at the 2010 signing event for an anthology in which both of us had stories. He was frail and was obviously not in complete control of his mind at that point. For me, it was a sad meeting because of that, and because he was not the hearty man I had first met in 1986.

Yesterday I stumbled upon some photos that I took of Bradbury (and one obviously taken by someone else because I'm in it with him). This was at the 1986 World Science-Fiction Convention which was being held in Atlanta GA and was called CONFEDERATION. It remains the best science fiction convention I've ever attended. Mainly because I got to see and hear so many great writers I had long admired, and because it was one of the last mostly literary conventions before movies and cosplayers and scumbags took over the shows.

I do remember that Bradbury told me that he was in town not just for the show, but to also meet with the Turner Network people about the possiblity that they would take up The Ray Bradbury Theater which had just been canceled at another network. I don't know how that worked out. But I had a great experience just seeing him.

Confederation remains the single finest science-fiction convention I ever attended. Everything else since has been involved in a losing competition to measure up.

Ray Bradbury in his signature white get up (he did it first, Wolfe!). I don't know who the woman is.

Here is Bradbury autographing a book for me. He then apologized profusely for not having written back to me when I sent him a photo of Ryerson Johnson (who was then in his 80s), one of the first editors who had ever bought a story from him.

And here is a much younger, much thinner me speaking to Ray Bradbury.
Contrasted with a much heavier, older me with a very frail Ray Bradbury in 2010.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Re-Casting the Mold.

I make no secret of the fact that I think most zombie novels are a manifestation of xenophobia, and are a reactionary political impulse. Further, I find that they are largely a kind of racist gun-porn. This realization came upon me slowly but I finally was able to recognize the current phenomena of the zombie novel as those philosophical sicknesses made whole. As I was a fan of the stuff and a writer of such novels I was doubly surprised by my conclusions.
As you can imagine, this is not a popular opinion and I did not create any fans by speaking up about it. In fact, I made a lot of enemies that way and created at least one stalker who is a professional writer who dogs my heels over this matter, making a fool of himself with his sick obsession.
However, at the urging of my publisher (Severed Press) I was convinced to write one more zombie novel. Initially I didn't want to do it, but I decided to take out the notes I'd made for a novel based on my comic book script (and short story) "The New Ecology of Death".
I wanted to do something different. What I wished to do was paint a tale that was not filled with gunfire and with warring factions and thinly-veiled racism and Fascist ideology. I was tired of the same old ultra-violent zombie novel.
So, this is what I did:
Why not tell a novel of a world in which the zombie conflict is over? The humans won. The last zombies are largely harmless and hunted. All is largely well and the Dystopian society that has assembled in the wake of the troubles is mainly safe, if not quite what it was.
But one day, one of the zombies wakes up--he comes out of his zombie fugue and is gripped by the desire to see his child. What then? He has to run a gauntlet of suspicious, destructive humans who want only the end of his existence. Can he fulfill his quest? Can he make his way to his child? And if he does...what then?
THE NEW ECOLOGY OF DEATH: The strangest zombie novel you will ever read.

THE NEW ECOLOGY OF DEATH by James Robert Smith. From Severed Press.

Monday, March 07, 2016


When you're a writer who wants to work in the comics industry, things are tough. The word "tough" doesn't even begin to cover it, really, but it's a start. The competition to script within the larger of the comics publishing firms is fierce. In addition to the competition from writers on the outside trying to get in you also have the added problem of what I learned to call "the editorial circle-jerk". By that, I mean to point out the tendency in those days for editors to hand off (pun intended) scripting jobs for the books they were editing to other editors (most editors are writers in the comics industry). This is a quid pro quo situation wherein they get something for handing off a writing gig: a writing gig of their own from the guy in the next office down the hall.

So, getting your foot in the door at Marvel or DC was an almost impossible feat. You had to find that rare editor who wasn't a part of that big circle-jerk.

After years of trying to find work with the big two, landing a few jobs, and then retreating, I decided to hit the smaller presses. I had more luck there because of the fact that those companies didn't generally have that big circle-jerk going on in the mainly one-person or two-person operations. Such companies were eager for outside talent and willing to pay a fair wage for a fair day's work.

But even such jobs as that can be constricting to one's sense of creativity. What I wanted to do was create my own comics and see them find a home. This is where the other huge problem comes in when you're a writer. And that problem is that I am not an artist. Yeah, I can sketch and draw, but I am not trained in the execution of fine sequential art. I never learned it and I never practiced it and it's just far beyond my abilities. Therefor I had to find an artist who was willing to work with me. This is a tough job.

Why is this a tough job? Well, for many reasons. Comic book artists who are really good at what they do are generally steadily employed. They don't have time for a project for which there is no steady paycheck and only the ephemeral promise of part of the creator rights and a future payday. And if you are lucky enough to find such a person, that person might also be a writer who is packed with their own ideas and creations bursting to get free. I have long since lost count of the artists who initially agreed to work with me but who quickly found work at Marvel or DC or Image; or who were inspired to take off on their own projects as writer/artist/creator with no sharing of rights.

As I's tough!

Some years back, though, I finally did manage to get all the pieces in place. I had an idea and created a character. I found an artist willing to take the plunge. We even had an inker lined up. NEANDERGAL was going to happen. The stars were in alignment.

First, though, we did a one-issue spinoff of Budd Root's CAVEWOMAN comics. I wanted to do this to make sure the other other creators would get a paycheck and to show them that I knew how to get the project off the ground and situate us with a small but solid publisher. I wrote a couple of scripts for the issue, Loston Wallace penciled it, and Kim DeMulder inked it. The book came out, sold relatively well, and we awaited our payday from the publisher who was also going to do NEANDERGAL.

And we waited. Finally, the publisher, who proved himself not be so solid at all (unless you consider a turd to be solid) informed us all that the book had not done well enough for a return on our labors. Checking with the distributors, I saw that the book had indeed done quite well and that the writer, artist, and inker were all due a decent sum. None was forthcoming and none ever arrived. The publisher earned his reputation as a cheat and a scumbag.

In all good conscience I dissolved the project. Not that Loston was going to waste any more effort working for a cheating scumbag of a publisher, anyway. No more than I would. The other option was to try to find another small press publisher or self-publish. And those options were no longer attractive. So, all that remains of NEANDERGAL is this promotional flyer Loston and I concocted.

NEANDERGAL (copyright 2016 by James R. Smith)

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Yard Sales

Who says you can't still find cool stuff for next to nothing at yard sales? Part of today's haul. All will be heading to ebay in the morning.

Amazing Spider-Man #12. Lower grade...but hell...#12!

#16...lots of tape. Good filler book.

#17--second Green Goblin! Reader copy...but still...#17!

#34! In really nice shape...very good to fine.

The Ace Double with Conan! Hard to find! In great shape!

Before King's Dark Tower books were books, the first one was serialized in this magazine. One of the early chapters here! Lucked out!

And another chapter from King's Dark Tower. Before it was a novel, it was serialized! 
Just part of the day's haul. I'll be posting all of this stuff on ebay. Vacation moolah.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Not Dead Yet

When I was younger I would often worry over the death of the old pulp magazines. I won't belabor the point again as I have several times. I will remind my loyal readers that there was a time when there were places called bookstores and newsstands and their shelves were thick with what were called "pulp" magazines. Mostly magazines of fiction, and all printed on the cheapest of newsprint that would quickly deteriorate in warm, damp conditions. 

But while their pages may have been cheap and gaudy, the contents were often superior in every way. This was the home of some great writers and the place where people could find dreams and fantasies where they could forget themselves for a while and live in another world. 

The pulps are all but gone, now. Someone once said that the world of self-published ebooks would revive pulp fiction. Alas, this was not so. Instead that poisonous cesspool opened the world of literature open to a noxious infection from which it will likely never recover.

These days there are only a tiny few pulp magazines remaining. I count five of them. If you know of more, send notification this way. The ones that have stood against the tide of extinction are, as follows:

Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine.

Analog Science Fiction.

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science-Fiction.

Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

As you will notice, there are only two genres remaining in this tiny island fending off the flood of self-published crap. The first three focus on science-fiction, with one mixing it up with some fantasy work. The other two are pretty much interchangeable except for the titles--murder mysteries mainly, detective fiction as a sideline.

And that is pretty much it. From time to time you will see a little magazine appear, struggle valiantly, and then vanish again. They say that Weird Tales is still around, but I don't believe it because all I have noticed from it is a fading web presence with no news of resurrection.

I subscribe to two of the magazines (Alfred Hitchcock and Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction). Likely, I should subscribe to them all. Maybe I will one of these days. I still prefer reading my books and magazine on real paper. Luddite? Probably. I'll stick to it.

Last night I read the latest issue I have of Hitchcock. And I was reminded of why editors are needed in the world of fiction. Self-publishers will argue that they work hard and even hire proofreaders to go over their manuscripts. But the fact is that you can't polish a turd. And when I read one of these last pulp magazines I know that I am not going to run into a poorly conceived story. Instead, I will find professional work that will satisfy me and which almost always pleases me.

So, until these last holdouts die off (I hope not to see it happen), I will support the format, and the last of the dying pulp fiction world.

My March issue of Alfred Hitchcock.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

New Video

I should have created more of these video productions sooner. I can't say why I haven't. I've had the software to make them for several years (the same one I utilized to make my book trailers). But because I've always been too busy working or mucking about with various projects I just haven't done it. And I find it quite easy to do. Currently I'm not doing much more than trimming videos, fitting them together, working in bleeds, fades, captions, titles and such. But I'm sure I'll get more creative as I learn the ropes.

The thing is, the beauty comes from what I'm recording and not how I'm assembling the video.

Anyway, here are two more.

The Black Mountains. The highest range in the eastern USA.

From a July 2015 trip to Van Hook Glade.

Hawksbill Mountain in Linville Gorge Wilderness.

Video taken in a late September 2008 camping trip.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

New Video Type

For a long time I've been meaning to work with the video material that I've been posting on YouTube. Mainly I just post very brief videos of places where I've hiked, preferably with no voice-over and no babbling talk. Mostly videoes from just thirty seconds (sometimes less) to maybe a few minutes in length. But now I have a GoPro which makes shooting POV video very easy; along with audio. So I need to start branching out and creating longer "shows" on YouTube. In fact, I do get requests for longer installments there, so I will begin to comply as I can.

I don't have any trips planned to any of my camping or hiking destinations until later in March. But I decided to try to mess around with creating some off-the-cuff video. One thing that people do ask me from time to time are about my hiking and backpacking equipment. So the first new video I decided to create was a brief bit about the basics that I take with me when I go backpacking. I just winged it. Off the cuff as I went through the stuff with no script. Those of you who didn't know before now will discover that I have a very strong southern accent.

The first one I posted today. If I can find the time I'll add a Part Two in a day or so.

First of two videos featuring my base-line equipment.

In Colorado. Backpack loaded. Taking a break along the trail. My fellow adventurer Bob Johnson conked out alongside me. The creek sang us to sleep.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

A Brief History

Posters seem to be a lost art, these days. When I was younger they were everywhere and available in many shops. I just don't run into them a lot anymore, and when I do it's mainly in the form of photos of pop stars of one type or another. But back in the day there all kinds of graphics sending messages and dreams to people who wished to see them.

My all-time favorite poster was one which I would see on the walls in houses and apartments of some of my friends. For some odd reason I never bought one for myself even though I should have and always got a kick out of seeing when I'd encounter it.

The image listed below is one posted by an old acquaintance on Facebook and I copied it from that source (Jeff Osier). The art and sentiments all belong to Robert Crumb, arguably the finest comics artist the world has ever seen. If the term "genius" can be ascribed to a comic artist, the one I would give it to would be Robert Crumb.

I've seen a later version of this poster done by Crumb which adds some panels that give the viewer a more positive view of the direction of human tendencies. I was not happy to see the newer version as I feel that it defeats the lesson of caution that this original preaches. At any rate, here it is. No truer version of modern society was ever shown.

A Short History of America. By Robert Crumb. Copyright by Robert Crumb.