This has been edited to add a link to the comic on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07JVSL8CH
My new comic is going to launch this weekend. Hounds of God pits werewolves against all the creatures of hell. The premise is based on a court trial in Jurgensburg, Sweden in 1692 in which a man name Theiss of Katenburg was placed on trial for blasphemy. He claimed to be a “hound of God” a werewolf in the service of good who fought the minions of hell. This comic updates the story bringing it into our modern mythology of zombies and vampires. What can a defender of good do when the armies of hell are unleashed on the world. Read the comic and find out.
You can find the e-comic at my author’s page on Amazon http://amazon.com/author/jonathanbaird or come see me at cons for a physical copy. I will post direct links when the comic is available.
The Last Jedi fixes the problems with The Force Awakens and returns it to the hero’s journey. While there are parts of The Last Jedi that could and should have been cut out of the movie. The Poe Dameron comedy hour along with the entire Finn and Rose adventure did nothing to advance the plot and needed to be expunged. The movie was also too long. Other than these two problems the movie is not only worthy of the name Star Wars it returns us to the original vision which was the hero’s journey. Joseph Campbell wrote his seminal work on that journey in 1949 with the publication of his book Hero with a Thousand Faces. George Lucas has stated many times he used this as the template for Star Wars.
Rian Johnson has fixed the scattered mess that had broken the journey in The Force Awakens and has firmly placed Rey back on the path. One of the criticisms of the movie is that Rey is a Mary Sue. A Mary Sue is a character that can’t fail. The Mary Sue possesses knowledge and power that is unbeatable. This may have been true of the previous movie but Johnson has given us a character with flaws and fallibility. Rey constantly fails. She is not able to persuade Luke to return and lead the rebellion. She is unable to defeat Snoke, who treats her like an ineffectual rag doll (no Mary Sue would stand for that). Her greatest failure was her inability to bring Ben back from the darkside or at least from the middle ground where he seems to thrive. It seems the complaint is really that Rey is a natural at fighting with the light saber and at using the force. The problem is that a hero is necessarily heroic and gifted with skills. Like all heroes who have taken the journey they must be special in some way. Gilgamesh has the strength of the gods, Odysseus was unnaturally cunning, Arthur had a magical connection with the land that made him King. Rey has the ability to become one with the force. It is all the same on the journey.
If we look at the hero’s journey Johnson has reset Rey and placed her back on the correct path to adventure. Rey answered the call to adventure in The Force Awakens and then sought out training from a Jedi Master (mentor). Luke has rendered his supernatural aid. The movie has her firmly facing the “threshold guardians”. Snoke and Kylo Ren represent the guardians of power and knowledge. Defeating them and learning her heritage becomes a transforming event. The movie ends with the rebellion shattered and the new Empire rising. Rey has shown she has become confident with the force, she has been changed by the events, will Rey complete the hero’s journey?
This next part is speculative
Here is how I believe the Hero’s journey will play out in the next movie(s)
I have been doing research for several years on the influence of Native American culture and genetics on early frontier European culture. At some point I mean to write a book detailing my research into just how important this influence was on America and how it created a very unique culture from that of the European mainstream.
The most important thing rarely mentioned by historians when writing about American history has to be how deep the influence of Native Americans has been on American culture. Across the American landscape everywhere you look there are words in the local native languages. Parks, buildings, roads, cities, and even the states themselves bear the mark of our native history. It may surprise the modern reader when historian Jill Lepore concludes that, “most colonists considered the native language barbaric, even satanic.” This seems antithetical to the notion that so much of the country is named with native words. Even in New England the name of the state of Massachusetts comes directly from the native language. The state was named after the very people that the Puritans seemed to despise. How does the European colonist go from racial hatred and distrust of a people to venerating them on such a scale? This disconnect would suggest that the answer lies in a cultural cognitive dissonance. American society both embraced and rejected native culture and out of this mental aberration was born the duality of enshrining natives as both noble and savage. Could this veneration be the reason most American’s claim native ancestry, or is there something deeper?
In Lepore’s book, The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origin of American Identity she attempts to find the answer to the question of what it means to be American through analysis of both sides of King Phillip’s War. While it is an interesting premise, there is some creative license taken with presenting the native side of a war in which very few written records exist. This means that the majority of the written records must come from the colonial viewpoint. Something that is interesting to note is the inability of the average colonist to write. Lepore suggests that while many could read a little that writing was beyond most of the colonists, “and as many as 40 percent of men and 70 percent of women could not even sign their name .” This suggests that even the colonial side of the conflict is not adequately chronicled. We see a skewed view of American character, a view from the top down rather than across the board. So can we know what the average colonial really thought about their native neighbor or are we seeing in this history what the elite want us to see and what they wrote about their native neighbors? Theirs is a narrative that fits the expansionist governmental viewpoint rather than touching on the view of the common man and even the common native.
Another of the problems of looking at this from the perspective Lepore takes is that New England, while long held as the cultural epicenter of America, is only seen that way from within. While popular culture places the Puritans at the very heart of the founding of America as a nation, nothing really could be further from the truth. Their influence while pervasive in academia and as the progenitors of the American university system lacks the true character that makes America unique. The Puritan character is static and unforgiving a people who seem to revel in conformity. This is not the America of the frontier, which so influenced the works of historians such as Frederick Jackson Turner. While Lepore makes some valid points, her thesis is flawed. The American character is not to be discovered in names, in the Puritans, or in wars against the natives. The American character is found on the frontier and the people moving with the frontier. The American character is a product of constant change and evolution. A character that must embrace individuality and face adversity through action and flexibility not static conformity. Each step into new territory brings a new tribe, each different from the last, and each language confronted for the first time. The American people were forged from a union of native culture with European outcasts. The elite for all their words did not forge the American character. The American character was forged through cultural conflict on the most basic level and that character was often tempered by blood. Ship loads of men were coming from Europe into the newly opening frontier. Those same ships were not as packed with women. Yet most of these men end up married with families. Is it possible that the real forging of America was a union of blood as much as a conflict of shed blood?
Historian Ned Blackhawk is right in concluding that, “violence both predated and became intrinsic to American expansion.” However, Blackhawk and to an even greater extent Lapore overlook some of the more culturally important narratives that were going on behind the scenes. While Lepore and Blackhawk both concentrate on the big picture of empire and war, these same Native Americans who would later succumb to war, by whatever name it would be called, had also been in contact with European colonists. Many of these natives especially on the East Coast had been in contact with settlers for centuries. The common colonist had no interest in war or conquest. These Europeans would often take native wives and learn native skills to deal with the frontier. In Sixteenth and Seventeenth century America it is the mother who does most of the early child rearing and it is quite possible that the number of native wives in the early colonial periods have been vastly under-counted. Current DNA data suggests that Native American ancestry among people of European descent in the United States is more common than had been previously thought (I myself have been tested and discovered I have Native American ancestry). It may be interesting to note that many of those men counted as European in early American society may have had grandmothers who were full blood natives. This would suggest that the culture that fought against the natives for conquest of the frontier was not fully European but a mélange of native and white. Does blood quantum make you a native or does culture? That is probably the most important question to ask. If most Americans whose ancestors have been on this continent for over a hundred years have one or more native ancestors (usually female) does that mean they have at least in some small part native cultural holdovers? What does this mean for American society and our view of how we came to be? It may suggest that the cognitive dissonance which plagued Americans in the first years of the Republic, seeing natives as savage and as noble, was not a conflict between competing ideas about Native Americans, but a cultural conflict in which we see ourselves embodied in those that went before. Were we actually a nation of European colonists or a Native American Nation? Cotton Mather might not like the answer.
Blackhawk, Ned. Violence over the land: Indians and empires in the early American West.
Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2006.
Lepore, Jill. The name of war: King Philip’s War and the origins of American identity. New
York: Knopf, 1998.
Three days of non-stop sword fighting action at the World Championship of Medieval Combat. There is no other sporting event that compares for sheer brutality.
One of your humble editors (Jonathan Baird) will be participating in Battle of the Nations as a member of Team USA next weekend.We will attempt to put links here on Nuke Mars to the live stream. The Battle of the Nations Web Page
The Book of Unchained Shadows is out now. I only make these promotional posts when a new book comes out, so don’t worry we are not becoming an ad drenched site. This anthology features some very talented new authors. If you like horror, if you like ghosts, the undead, etc you will love this book. The stories are set in chronological order. It starts with a Viking tale and ends with a story in a contemporary setting.
This week Goggles, Gears and Gremlins debuts on Amazon and Kindle.
The Kindle edition is 99 cents so please check it out and if you like it try out one of the other two books in the SteamGoth series… (and if you really love them please leave a review with Amazon)
David Gerrold has long been on my personal list of the best science fiction authors. Other than Robert Heinlein, I doubt there is another writer who had more influence on me during my childhood. David Gerrold was not only the author of the classic Star Trek episode The Trouble with Tribbles, he was also the creative force behind Land of the Lost. If you are a longtime reader of this site, you know I sing the praises of the that show whenever I get the chance. We even have an entire hour long podcast “showdown” explaining why it is superior in every way to the short lived Spielberg dinosaur abortion called Terra Nova… You can listen to the podcast here Prehistoric Hysteria. We are very privileged to bring you this interview.
The Hitchhiker asks…
Question 1. The Star Wolf series and Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda seem to have quite a few things in common. The Morthan Solidarity is very similar to the Nietzcheans. Did you have any input into that?
I have absolutely no information about Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda. I never saw it or anything connected to it.
Question 2. Land of the Lost probably had more influence on me as a small child than anything else I watched. First I want to thank you for creating the show. Second I would like to know if many people tell you that this show influenced them? I became an archaeologist because of my interest in the Sleestaks and the Pakuni.
I always appreciate hearing from people who watched Land Of The Lost as a kid — especially the notes about how the Sleestaks made them wet their pants. Several people have told me that they became interested in science because of my writing, but you’re the first archaeologist.
Question 3. Robert Heinlein seems to have been a major influence for your work and so many others. What do you think our modern world would look like without his influence?
Hard to imagine a world without Heinlein. His hard-science stories demonstrated such a clarity of thought that he may very well have been the most influential author of the 20th century. He wasn’t afraid to discuss ideas and possibilities in a way that made people aware that these were very real things. More than anyone else, I think Heinlein’s work made readers believe that space travel was not only possible, but inevitable.
Question 4. I have been eagerly waiting for the next War Against the Chtorr novel. I believe that Jim McCarthy is one of the first non-heterosexual literary characters I encountered as a teen. In many ways my introduction to him shaped my first impression of all gay, lesbian, bi, and transgendered people. Do you believe that positive literary examples have paved the way for the current LGBT social movement?
Positive literary examples are always the first step in changing the public perception of anything. Look at Mark Twain. Huckleberry Finn and Puddinhead Wilson were subversive novels for their time. The most noble character in Huckleberry Finn is the slave, Jim. Just about everyone else is a scoundrel.
I don’t think there were very many positive LGBT characters in science fiction before the seventies. Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions anthology was a challenge to authors and one of the challenges was sexual issues.
My own book, The Man Who Folded Himself was the first SF novel with an openly gay hero and possibly the first mainstream novel with a positive ending for the gay hero. Instead of brickbats, it got award nominations. Ursula K. LeGuin’s Left Hand Of Darkness made it possible to think about transgender people and John Varley’s stories set on Luna often included gender-fluid characters. Joanna Russ won a Hugo for “When It Changed” which blew up the cliched idea of the planet of beautiful women.
Most readers seemed to welcome honest discussions of sexuality in SF worlds. But some were appalled and even today we still hear the occasional homophobic whine. But I think that SF not only predicted a wider acceptance of LGBT people, but that such predictions also helped turn the possibility into an inevitability.
Question 5. We generally ask a political question. I realize that our site is mostly read by libertarians, but we have often given a forum to people who disagree. Can you give us a brief summation of what you believe and how libertarians can relate to your work even if you don’t relate to libertarian ideas?
My political views are very simple. Be kind to everyone, whether they deserve it or not — or at least until your threshold of bullshit is overwhelmed. Take care of the children, educate them well. Feed the poor, heal the sick, honor the elderly, because that’s how you pay it forward.
The mechanics of living that philosophy are left as an exercise for the reader.
Thank you for taking time out to do this interview. I really appreciate the work you have done in the science fiction genre.
1. I discovered your writing in 1985 with the publication of Cuckoo’s Egg. I really loved the detail you put into the world building, and “fish out of water” stories are my favorite type of fiction. Where do you find your inspiration for these unique cultures?
I’m a linguistics major with a specialty in Roman Law and Bronze Age Greece, and I’ve knocked around the world quite a bit—been IN that position a lot.
2. At the time you first started submitting your work, science fiction was a very male-dominated genre. What was it like being a female in such a testosterone-laden club?
No problem at all. The very earliest meetings in the Ivory Tower in NYC were co-ed, and the field always has been. I found absolutely no problem except reader and reviewer assumptions that because I was female, I’d be writing fantasy.
3. While I agree with what I have read you have said about grouping science fiction and fantasy into one category, why do you think that hard science fiction tales are lagging behind tales with more of a fantasy/horror orientation?
They’re harder to write when science is nipping hard at our heels. And we lost the businessman with the sf novel in his briefcase when we lost Heinlein and Asimov and the industry simultaneously lost Don Wollheim, Lester del Rey, and other editors with hard sf experience. At the very time the industry should have been promoting new ‘hard science’ writers—it was reeling from purchase by oil companies and the stupid decision (Thor Tool) that equated books with other goods in warehouse.
4. The future belongs to those who show up. I seem to see a very disturbing trend in the science fiction community towards fiction that depicts the human race as either degenerate or not worthy of inheriting the future. What happened to the optimism of the genre?
Not lacking in me. I think it’s education that’s let people down—and a push for ‘individual survival.’ Industry takes multiple people, and technology takes multiple industries. The largest sort of organization is what we need, not fragmentation. There’s nothing going on with the climate or anything else we can’t address technologically, but the people grabbing media attention are trying to get the deniers to get their heads out of the sand and waaaay overdoing it in scaring the rest of the public into believing we can’t solve this. We certainly can—but not if we each retreat into our bunkers.
5. The Freehold as a publication is dominated by a libertarian ideology, so we often like to gauge the political leanings of the people we interview. What are your political beliefs, and how do you see your beliefs affecting the future?
I don’t discuss those, out of respect to my readers, who have their own. I am pro-technology but no believer that corporations are always right, pro-history but do not believe it has to repeat unless through stupidity, pro-magic but not magical thinking, pro many things but not pro-abandonment-of-responsibility, and I hold so many opinions on both sides of so many lines I’m not comfortable advocating any single party as right, since none are entirely right.
Thank you for the interview, and I hope to meet you in person at a convention soon.
This week The Enquiring Hitchhiker interviews Chad Byers who is better known as Undead Johnny the host of World of the Weird Monster Show.
The World of the Weird Monster Show is a horror host/sketch comedy show that premiered on Halloween Night 2004. It airs on Comcast Cable in Chicagoland as well as on The Monster Channel (monsterchannel.tv) The show is currently on hiatus on The Monster Channel but will be back soon with all new shows showcasing up and coming independent film makers featuring some of the best new horror short films being made today. The World of the Weird Monster Show also does a Live Show on the Second Friday of every month at the Wilmette Theatre in Chicagoland where they present and shadowcast the ultimate cult film of all time, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The Chicago Sun-Times called The World of the Weird Monster Show “a sketch comedy/horror show that could be likened to SCTV and Son of Svengoolie having a mutant offspring together.”
The Hitchhiker asks…
Question 1. How did you get into the horror host business in the first place?
1. Horror Hosts had a huge influence on me growing up in Rockford, Illinios. As a kid I watched Svengoolie (then Son of Svengoolie) from right here in Chicago as well as Rockford’s own Uncle Don’s Terror Theater. And of course Elvira, Commander USA, and Joe Bob Briggs over syndication. I would be a totally different person if I hadn’t been exposed to those movies as a child. Everything from the Universal and Hammer classics to the AIP films to grade Z monster movies….I loved them all. It was a wonderful introduction to film in general and film of all types (color, black and white, foreign, old and new) and just gave me a place to go where my imagination could run wild. Later in life, I had an encounter with William Shatner that really inspired me and thru a series of events, The World of the Weird Monster Show is what came from that inspiration. We premiered on Halloween night 2004 and have been going ever since. It’s a great way to share my love of these types of films and this subject matter with other people as well as a great creative outlet for myself. And it’s been wonderful. The World of the Weird Monster Show has led to so many magical and memorable moments in my life.
Question 2. My favorite episode of World of the Weird Monster Show has to be the one where you parodied Mystery Inc. What is your favorite?
2. Well, I’m a huge Scooby Doo fan so I love the Mystery, Inc spoofs so thanks for saying so. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite. I do have a soft spot for our first Christmas Special. To me it’s exactly what I want a Christmas special to be. I also have enjoyed the three or four El Santo episodes we’ve done as those are just plain goofy and ridiculously silly and over the top. Probably our best episode was the one we made for “Horror at Party Beach.” Where we infiltrated the studio of one of our fake ‘shows within a show’ “The Geek Fantasy Hour.” But my personal favorite? I don’t know. Maybe our “Night Train to Terror” episode. Or our HP Lovecraft tribute, “Pardon me, is that a shuggoth in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”
Question 3. Do you script most of the shows or are they largely improv?
3. The shows are scripted. Pretty much 100%. Once we get on the set, we all definitely play with the words a bit. And we’ll go thru each sketch a few times before shooting and we’ll maybe drop a line here, add a line there. Change some stuff. So there is some improv, but not too much. We use the script as a firm structure, but everyone contributes while we’re shooting.
Question 4. I have to ask about Dementia. I will be honest and tell you that she is the reason I first started watching World of the Weird monster show. Why did she leave the show? Will she ever return for a cameo?
4. Dementia was great (and still is great!) Dementia left the show in the middle of the 5th season. She was a favorite of so many viewers and I think she was definitely one of the reasons for the show’s success. The Dementia and Johnny characters just worked very well together and a lot of that came from the friendship between her and I in real life. She left on the best of terms after four years and five seasons of being on the show. We definitely hope to have her back at some point…maybe a cameo, maybe a whole episode. We’ll see. It’s brought up now and again.
Question 5. Most people hate to discuss their politics in public for fear of alienating parts of their audience, and your show never seems to get political beyond the politics of Viseria, so I will simply ask do you think the country is heading in the right direction?
5. That’s a hard question to answer. I mean, I feel as if there are many things wrong with the country for sure. And our political system. But on the other hand we have a President speaking out for same sex marriage in his inaugural speech and so many states have passed laws for marriage equality. You know? So many things are going right, and are better than ever before, but yet, I can turn on the news and hear a politician….someone who obviously had the people’s support in his area to get elected…blatantly not know something like how a woman’s body works. You hear terrifyingly hateful speeches from public officials and from the American public itself all the time. It can be frightening. But there is always hope. And I think we can be better.
All that being said, I have to say that I don’t think that just because someone is in the public eye (even in such a small way as us) that they automatically need to start talking about where they stand on every topic under the sun. Nor do I think we the public should really care what, for example, our favorite action hero has to say about gun control. The cult of celebrity in this country is ridiculous. If I or the cast of WOWMS has something to say, we’ll say it thru our art. We’ve made plenty of statements on various topics such as religion, politics and elections, commercialism and more on the show thru satire and humor. And we will continue to do so. Our show strives to be more than just your typical one camera/one host talking directly to the audience horror host show. Thru our comedy and the overall feel of the show we strive to be entertaining and also to say something about how we feel about the world we live in. And obviously politics is a part of that. But I prefer to let the show speak for itself. If you watch it, I believe our viewpoints on many topics are pretty clear.
Thank you for the Interview.