Saturday, April 23, 2016

R.I.P., Prince (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016)


Friday, April 22, 2016

BOOK REVIEW – The Asin Adventures: The Lands of Darke



Although officially labeled a horror/sword & sorcery work, in this self-published introduction to an intended multi-book epic, Brian Colding crafts a tribute to an eclectic wide-ranging mixture of pop culture genres. Strongly appealing to the inner fanboy in this 40-something reader, it didn’t take me long to find myself engrossed in the building tale of The Asin Adventures: The Lands of Darke (Darkayne Kingdom Book 1), especially enjoying Brian’s descriptions of battles between powerful super beings. The author was clearly fondly influenced by properties that included Dungeons & Dragons (both the RPG and the ‘80s cartoon show), J. R. Tolkien’s works, favored stories from DC/Marvel comics, Godzilla films, classic martial art films & lore, as well as mythological elements from cultures around the world, and probably a whole lot of others.

Taking place in a magic-based Other World, built loosely upon a template familiar to Robert E. Howard fans, incredibly powerful, melee weapon wielding super warrior kingdoms jockey for dominance in what very well may be the final, apocalyptic battle of their violent, war-torn “civilization.” Unlike most other works similar to this, Brian’s story has a strong empathy for the superhero fantasy sub-genre, with this beginning of his wildly eclectic multi-genre epic being a delight to all of us Gen-Xrs who are fond of engaging in equally epic “What if XYZ fought ABC?!” fanboy debates! This first novel was truly great good fun. I found the battle descriptions so potent, that I wished it was a lavishly illustrated graphic novel instead of prose. This kind of work deserves that treatment since that same type of visual feast birthed it in the first place.

In addition to the battle descriptions, and his ability to play fanboy sensibilities like a finely-tuned instrument, another one of Brian’s strengths demonstrated here is his gift for turning a phrase. “Boy, you SURE talk pretty!” Often within his pages he’ll describe landscapes, or a potent being’s design to reveal the artful poetry in Colding’s soul, making me wish he did it more consistently throughout the tale. Then the book would easily transcend the tribute to genre stage into real art.

Another interesting trait I would’ve loved to see more of (and perhaps I will in future volumes!) was Brian’s generosity in allowing black-skinned, African-derived characters share the stage of high power, and even in some cases eclipse their fellows. As an African-American myself this is important to me, since poor representation in epic fantasy is one of the genre’s well-known shames. Good on you, Brian, with sincere thanks.

On the negative side of this review we have two items… one I’ll label as subjective opinion to of course take with a grain of salt as the reader likes, and the other more objective/technical. For the former, Brian reveals himself to be old school conservative in his depiction of villains, so you can tell they are the bad guys (in a story full of murderers & fiends, mind you) by their acts of sexual deviancy. Brian is quite graphic in his description of these creatures’ habits, and if the would-be reader is of the type subject to over-sensitivity when it comes to such concepts, you should prudently pass on this book. For the latter negative item, this book suffers from what self-publishers typically do: Not enough proofing/editing before it goes into distribution. I can certainly imagine the excitement and eagerness he must have felt trying to get the first title of a long-time gestating epic work finally out to the masses, but it is very important to devote publishing resources towards professional proofing/editing services to make sure the work is RIGHT before it gets into reader hands. It’s not too late, of course. Now that the novelty of being published has worn off, I would suggest tweaking the text by paying a fresh set of eyes to comb through it, and then re-upload the file to the printer. Too easy, and well worth the effort. Better late than never, too.

In closing, I am very impressed with The Asin Adventures: The Lands of Darke thus far, and was highly entertained throughout. I genuinely look forward to the next exciting part in the saga. Keep ‘em comin’!


See Also:

HeroTalk: Master Spy Files

Artifacts of the Black Superheroes

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Truth About "Islamic" Slavery



Kirb Brimstone - Facinating! Thoughts, Muhammad Rasheed?

SLAVERY IN ISLAM & ITS HISTORICAL ROOTS

Muhammad Rasheed - Do you really find it "fascinating?" lol Why?

Kirb Brimstone - Never heard this articulated like this in this format. What are your thoughts?

Muhammad Rasheed - Well, I hear these arguments a lot actually. They lack depth and insight into the material, but their strength is that the body of Muslim scholars ALSO lacked depth and insight in the material. The latter' opinions in sharia rulings, combined with the fraudulent hadith, and the problematic practices of the body of believers themselves, seem to give support to the arguments.

My counter is that, the problem ISN'T in Islam, but in the "Muslim World." They need to re-evaluate their understanding of the message of Allah and His prophet, and calibrate themselves to the Path. They do this by studying the Qur'an according to the BEST meaning in it -- with 'best' defined from a righteousness perspective, not a perspective of greed/lust which seems to have been the norm, especially into the modern day.

For example, God lists "freeing the slave" as a Great Good Deed, one of the most potent of righteous acts. Shouldn't it be common sense that to do the literal opposite action -- to take a slave -- would be the exact opposite of a righteous act, i.e., a sin? So why would they think that it was okay to do so? That Allah would actually encourage it? The "Muslim World" slave trade is driven by greed/lust and is not supported by the Qur'an. He said you aren't going to get into paradise without believing in Him, avoiding evil, and doing good deeds. Freeing the slave is a good deed, and taking a slave is a sin. This is a 'no brainer' and slavery should have been wiped out in the "Muslim World" a thousand years ago just by following the SPIRIT of the Book and the prophet that walked it out "in the best example."

So yeah, I disagree that it is an "Islam problem," as that is a shallow and quite inaccurate claim. The problem is actually, as usual, the fault of those who follow their sin/greed/lusts instead of the Word of the One God. It's even worse when they lack insight and pretend that the practices have the sanction of God.

Kirb Brimstone - Why?

Muhammad Rasheed - Because it's easier to be lazy, and follow your lusts, than study and raise yourself up to the highest ideas of whatever ideology you claim to follow. People being people. It's the reason the Word is on earth in the first place as a guide to correct behavior, but if the people don't USE it...

They will not be wronged on the Last Day when they find themselves being dragged towards the Pit for their lifetime of foolishness on earth.

Kirb Brimstone - No why do you say it's an Arab problem not a Islamic problem? Do you not recognize the hadiths?

Kirb Brimstone - Also what branch of Muslim are you?

Muhammad Rasheed - 1.) I recognize the hadith that are backed by the Qur'an as authentic.

2.) I don't follow any sects/branches because of what God said about it in Qur'an. I'm wary of any hint of "sect-ism."

Adam Thompson - Kirb, have you seen this? What does the Quran really say about Jesus

I know it's a bit off topic, but thought you'd appreciate the perspective.

Muhammad Rasheed  - My response to that is here: Wait... You Converted to Christianity Because of What the Qur'an Said About Jesus??? ...and continued here: Mario's Conversion Revisited - A Dialogue

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Creating From the Right Side of History



Inspired by Brandon Easton’s Eisner Awards nomination last year, I decided to submit my own original works for the 2016 contest. Over a year of building excitement heralded the eventual disappointment I felt this morning when I discovered that the first 6 of 10 titles of my Tales of Sinanju: The Destroyer graphic novel series didn’t make the nominees cut.

I’m proud of my story, developed from the love of a True Fan’s sensibility, in the mode of skilled writing talents like Kurt Busiek and Alan Davis. Readers appreciated that I was able to capture the essence of the mainstream pulp fiction novel series and its main characters, as was my goal. “This should be the guy to write the new movie screenplay!” one Amazon reviewer remarked and I liked that, too. lol  A True Fan’s sensibilities certainly weren’t used during past efforts to translate the property into different mediums, with it often falling victim to the infamous corporate executive meddling into the creative process that genre works are traditionally abused by. But now is a different day! Today the most successful movies took the fans of the translated properties VERY seriously, which really validated the decades-long fanboy grumblings.

In addition to this, I also brought my own sensibilities as an African-American to my story. Since the novel series has always be written from the Caucasian-American point of view, there were many times when I frowned reading the author’s treatment of my people between the pages. My graphic novels presented an opportunity to calibrate the Destroyer-verse’s racial dynamic to a more balanced center. Racism is EVIL, and the only people who should engage in it at all in this story are the bad guys. Some can argue that Master Chiun has shown racist traits within the mainstream novels, but that was clever projection from the authors that made little sense from the storyverse’s perspective. ‘Racism’ as we know it is a Western world invention, birthed from the unprecedented practice of delegating a specific racial group to permanent chattel status. Someone like Chiun would have no reason to be racist; his prejudices would be ethnic group and national origin based, not physical racial group based. The House of Sinanju has worked for powerful empires throughout history, and all over the world – seen world leaders of literally every skin tone. His character would know above all others that “race” doesn’t mean anything, and I've always found it unbelievable that he would continuously harp on Remo’s “whiteness.” I left that out of my books, and instead had Chiun zero in on Remo’s Western-American birth for his teasing.

Of course the ghost writers on the series didn’t echo that opinion, with one in particular going so far as to turn me off of the mainstream books altogether. The character Harold W. Smith is a WW2 era, former OSS/CIA agent, and occasionally the original writers would have him come from behind his desk and kick butt himself out in the field. Tapping into their influences from characters like Steve McQueen or Clint Eastwood, those scenes with Smith would be great good fun! Full of old school macho swagger, and no-nonsense, tough guy stuff from ’60s-70s action films, it fit in with the Men’s Adventure tradition and worked well. Unfortunately this ghost writer didn’t do any of that. He had Dr. Smith frightened and confused as he confronted a group of Black youth, and proceeded to slaughter them all with his revolver. The scene was a projection of all of the “black thug” paranoia directly responsible for the abuse and deaths of unarmed Black people in the news today. I was FURIOUS, and couldn’t bring myself to pick up another novel. What I DID do was seek to address the issue in my comics, depicting my people where they weren’t evil and worthy of being killed in the streets just because they were Black and poor.

When my Remo Williams says he's not a racist, you can actually believe him.

I felt that all my decisions actively improved the Destroyer Universe. As a fan myself, it deserved better than being allowed to become a sounding board for ignorant intolerance and a hateful mindset. Other groups were reading it, too, so why deliberately slight them by sounding like an anti-minority propaganda piece? All of this made me proud of my story, and I talked about it with friends and family enthusiastically. I felt it was a no-brainer I would get nominated for SOMETHING! But then I saw the 2016 Eisner Awards nomination list this morning, beginning with this line:

“The biggest news this year is that 49 women have received a record 61 nominations (compared to 44 last year) and are represented in 27 of the 30 categories.”

That made me pause; took me aback. Instantly I realized that there was no way my six books would get the nod. The members of the Eisner Awards committee were on the right side of history, and ruled from such. For all my personal pride in having carefully excised the vile racism tumor, I deliberately left another one in... one that’s a far worse evil. Misogyny.

The Masters of Sinanju are men trained in a super martial art that makes them kickass better than anyone else on earth. It also makes them irresistible to women, and of course the perfect heterosexual male fantasy projection tools for the readership. “Men’s Adventure!” was the technical category on the book shelves, and the stories featured all that the title may imply. In my books, I refused to allow them to take on the ‘between-the-lines’ true title of “White Men’s Adventure!” that mainstream genre books traditionally fed, but I failed to consider my other sensibilities as an African-American MALE.

I told myself that I significantly softened the misogyny part of the story because, even though I did have women treating Remo Williams like he was God’s Gift to the gender, that because I didn’t show him having hot, sloppy, buck-naked, uncensored sex with them like the mainstream novels would often graphically describe, that my stories were somehow more progressive. That’s literally what I’d been brainwashing myself with all these months, that my books were healthier and better for the woman’s rights movements because I had left out the graphic sex scenes. Meanwhile I actually thought I would have a shot at getting nominated, when I saw the percentage of males in the judges’ box. I was NOT operating from the right side of history, but living and breathing the foulest part of the Men’s Adventure spirit I was channeling to write my tales.

When I saw that line about the record number of women nominees on the Eisner Award page, I felt a tinge of guilt that I even submitted them in the first place, which meant, that my conscience knew better. I love my story, and will always be a True Fan of the property, I just no longer believe that we should be rewarded for creating beloved tributes to properties that hold concepts within them that represent the worst aspects of our society – aspects that NEED to be left in the past to die, and reexamined only as lessons to learn from, not resurrect. I shouldn’t have written the misogyny scenes into the story in the first place, and should've thought about the potential psychic damage as carefully as I thought out the removal of the racism aspect.  Now that I am confronted with the stench of having deliberately overridden my conscience to put them in there, I genuinely regret not doing so, and will withdraw from other contests I've entered as well (When researching the judges for this year's ECBACC, I noticed that one of them has me blocked on Facebook!  I have no active memory of arguing with her, and certainly not over anything feminist since that group isn't my enemy, but I suspect it may be a residual blocking as support for a different opponent she may have felt I disrespected.  Who knows...?)

The bottom line is that I shouldn't have been lazy, and took the time to solve the problem of how to allow Sinanju to super-charge Remo's pheromones, but without taking away the women's dignity as they expressed themselves as sexual beings.  Instead of defaulting to Male Sexual Fantasy Template #2 or whatever.  I am not changing my books; I'll let them stand as a memorial to the Death of the Old in my own personal character, and do my best to do better now that I know better moving forward as a responsible genre creator.  

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Nephew Spelled Backwards is DEATH!!!


I'm kinda pumped right now, people!  We're almost at the finish line.  Just one more TALES OF SINANJU: The Destroyer title in the 10 book series left... and it's the most awesome adventure to date.  Wait till you get a look at "Carbon Copy" by M. Rasheed (based on characters created by Warren Murphy & Richard Sapir)only from Second Sight Graphix!

Now Available for Purchase!