All posts for April 2021

Music: Mutator (Alan Vega)

The first of the posthumous releases from Alan Vega (of Suicide)'s vault, and it's a good 'un.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2021-04-30 08:00:00-04:00 No comments

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Two of my favorite musical artists are now gone from this world, and both of them have massive archives of unreleased material slowly making their way out into the world. One, we all know: Prince. The other is nowhere nearly as well-known to the general public, but influenced many as part of the hidden history of 20th and 21st century music. Alan Vega was half of the proto-techno, transistor-punk duo Suicide, and even minus what's languishing in the vaults, he released far more material under his own name than he did with his collaborator Martin Rev. Now comes the first of those vault releases, Mutator, recorded in 1995-1996, around the time he was putting together the Dujang Prang album. It's a good Alan Vega record, which means by anyone else's standards it's a very good one.

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Tags: Alan Vega Suicide (band) electronic music industrial music review

If You Hum A Few Bars I Can Fake It

Ersatz Vangelis and fake Tangerine Dream, coming up! And maybe something more original after that.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2021-04-29 08:00:00-04:00 No comments

Another new toy arrived in the last month or so that I haven't said much about yet — an Arturia KeyLab 49 Essential, a MIDI controller that came with a ton of assorted software. I'd been mulling teaching myself to play keyboards for some time now, and so I dug into my remaining technology fund and splurged. In truth it wasn't that expensive; there's actual keyboard keyboards I've bought for my PC that were about as much.

My synth keyboard

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Tags: Tangerine Dream Vangelis composition electronic music music

Science Fiction Repair Shop: Larger Than Life And Twice As Unreal

How not all fiction has to be "realistic" to be affective, and how new aesthetic standards can follow from that.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2021-04-28 08:00:00-04:00 No comments

My good buddy Steven Savage and I recently (re-)watched Equilibrium — the Christian Bale dystopian gun-fu movie, about which I ought to say something more expansive in these pages — and had a useful insight worth expanding on:

Equilibrium seems to be built on a simplistic premise, but many people base their own lives on shallow ideas. That is what haunted me about Equilibrium – the idea people would hate their own emotions and claim to build a rational world is too real.

I take this as a reminder to be careful when judging fictional settings. They may seem too simple – but forget that some people hold very simplistic views. They may seem overly complex, but life can be complicated. The question is neither simplicity nor complexity, sophistication or crudity – but do they help us think and feel.

Most works of SF&F, for all their worldbuilding details, are not ultimately intended to be forensically realistic. They're essentially thought experiments, what-ifs. This what-iffery can be made more emotionally grounded by having good characterization and thoughtful attention to moment-to-moment detail — "what the air in the airlock smells like", as a friend of mine once put it. But like all of fiction outside of it, they are not supposed to be absolute distillations of life.

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Tags: Science Fiction Repair Shop realism storytelling

Infinimata Press: Projects: Cleanup In Aisle 1

The remaster of 'Summerworld' is on the way, with as many deletions as additions and changes.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2021-04-26 17:00:00-04:00 No comments

Last night after too damn much procrastinating I sat down and began the work of remastering the first of the former Genji Press (now Infinimata) titles, Summerworld. I'd already assembled cover art for it, as shown here, but hadn't yet started work on cleaning up the interior. This is the first of the remasters where I find myself removing as much from the original as I find myself adding new things.

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Tags: Infinimata Press Summerworld

Science Fiction Repair Shop: Move Fast And Publish Things

Here's a good article about the way novel lengths have been influenced by technology and marketing, with an except I found particularly enlightening:

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2021-04-25 17:00:00-04:00 No comments

Here's a good article about the way novel lengths have been influenced by technology and marketing, with an except I found particularly enlightening:

Novels and Novellas and Tomes, Oh My! - Counter Craft (

... One might think that ebooks would encourage even longer novels. Instead, in the ebook market short books started to dominate to the degree that self-published authors publish a single average length novel as multiple “books” and call it a “series.” Many self-published “novels” are barely longer than a short story. Then when an author makes the jump to the print market, they often publish the “series” as a single novel. For example, Wool by Hugh Howey was originally sold as several books before being grouped as one print novel.

The reason for this is, yes, economic. The model that seems to work best for the self-published ebook market is providing a very cheap or free first entry, then once the reader is hooked charge them again and again for the rest of the story. Basically, the ebook market has returned to the Victorian serial model.

This makes complete sense given the vast majority of what's indie-digital published in the SF&F space. It's fast-moving stuff that owes more to the world of light novels and old-school serialized SF than standalone works where the author's name is the chief selling point. They're designed mostly to keep people reading, even if what they eventually end up reading is merely being perpetuated for its own sake.

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Tags: ebooks science fiction self-publishing

Infinimata Press: Projects: Behind The Scenes With 'Flight Of The Vajra', Pt. 6: The Supporting Cast

A rundown of the supporting characters in 'Flight Of The Vajra', and the roles they play.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2021-04-25 08:00:00-04:00 No comments

With the re-release of my novel Flight Of The Vajra, I'll be making a series of posts to serve as an extended introduction to the book — its origins, its influences, its themes, its setting and characters. Enjoy.

(See all entries in this series here.)

In my previous installment in this series, I talked about the major players in the cast of Flight Of The Vajra. Now it's time to look at the supporting characters for the story.

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Tags: Behind The Scenes: Flight Of The Vajra Flight of the Vajra Infinimata Press characters projects writing

Science Fiction Repair Shop: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Else

Why not propose something truly new, instead of just taking the old and rejugging it?

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2021-04-22 08:00:00-04:00 No comments

One of the nastier, if somewhat accurate, criticisms I've seen levied at certain things follows this pattern: "This work hasn't invented anything new, it's just recreated what we already know in a new form." I think I originally encountered this in a discussion of Firefly: why go all the way out into space, the critique went, only to rediscover all the moribund clichés of Westerns in years past? Why not propose something truly new, instead of just taking the old and rejugging it?

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Tags: Science Fiction Repair Shop science fiction

The Leftover Effect

Many of my books owe at least a little something to their immediate predecessors, chiefly because whatever it was I did with the idea the first time didn't use it all up.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2021-04-21 17:00:00-04:00 No comments

After having done this for about a dozen times in a row (write books, that is), I'm starting to see a few patterns. One of them is how many of the books tend to end up owing at least a little something to their immediate predecessors, chiefly because whatever it was I did with the idea the first time didn't use it all up.

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Tags: creativity story ingredients

Crosseyed And Painless

Good thing I set aside all that money for PC upgrades, right?

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2021-04-19 08:00:00-04:00 No comments

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Good thing I set aside all that money for PC upgrades, right? Last week I noticed something funny about my desktop monitor, a 22" Samsung flatpanel that I'd had since 2011. Yes, 2011. The face of the display now had a whole smattering of little discolorations in it that couldn't be wiped off — they were actual abrasions in the surface of the panel. Figuring I might as well upgrade now, I picked up a Gigabyte M27Q 27" 170Hz display. It was a little like going from a little forty-seat community arthouse theater to an IMAX. It took an entire day of staring at it to get used to it, and I'm still not used to it. But it was absolutely worth making the jump.

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Tags: computers technology

Death By A Million Brands Of Toothpaste

On choice paralysis in creative work and how to avoid it.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2021-04-16 08:00:00-04:00 No comments

Early last year I wrote about creativity and the toothpaste paradox, the latter being the cognitive breakdown many of us experience when we go into the toothpaste aisle at the store and can't choose between the umpity-dozen-zillion different varieties of the stuff presented there. It's all the funnier (for some definitions of funny) when you realize the vast majority of toothpastes have virtually no difference in terms of their efficacy; it's almost all marketing and picayune personal preferences.

Choice paralysis is, as you can guess, a major issue in creative work. Because you have complete control over what you put into a story, that can manifest as being stranded between too many choices, and you end up in a Toothpaste Meltdown, goggling at the screen and drooling into your keys.

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Tags: creativity storytelling

Infinimata Press: Projects: Legal Cheating In The Visual Cortex

How I got the new art for "Absolute Elsewhere" to cover the book's spine without completely reworking it.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2021-04-15 08:00:00-04:00 No comments

My previous post about Absolute Elsewhere's new cover art had a funny piece of trivia with it that was best saved for another post: how I got the art to lap over the spine, as per my other cover designs, without completely reworking it.

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Tags: Absolute Elsewhere Infinimata Press cover art design

Infinimata Press: Projects: The Beauty Of Doing Things Backwards

First design the cover, then write the book? Why not?

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2021-04-14 17:00:00-04:00 No comments

First off, sorry about my silence; it's been a busy few days. But one of the fruits of that busyness, as presented here on the right, is the cover art for a book coming in the somewhat-distant future, Absolute Elsewhere. (Image elements courtesy the always-wonderful Unsplash.)

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Tags: Absolute Elsewhere Infinimata Press cover art creativity design

Infinimata Press: Projects: Factoring In The Lag Factor

I'm behind schedule on Behind The Scenes and the remastering job, but I haven't forgotten about them.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2021-04-07 17:00:00-04:00 No comments

Constant readers might have noticed I'm a little behind on a couple of regularly scheduled things here. One is my monthly Rogress Preports [sic]; I'm cheating and assuming that just getting it up any time at all during the month will suffice. Not a good habit, though. #2 is the Behind The Scenes rundown for the rest of Flight Of The Vajra, pending me excavating my notes. Turns out some of them got slightly trashed at some point — horrific for someone like me, who typically preserves everything from the making of a book in meticulous fashion — so I'm forced to reconstruct my recollections entirely from memory. Third is the remastering of the last (actually, first) three books in my catalog — Summerworld, Tokyo Inferno, and The Four-Day Weekend.

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Tags: Four-Day Weekend Infinimata Press Summerworld 関東地獄 Kantō Jigoku: Tokyo Inferno

A Shot In The Arm

For both myself and others.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2021-04-06 18:00:00-04:00 No comments

Yesterday afternoon I received the first of two doses of The Vaccine, all handled with great efficiency at a location less than a mile from my house. Right now I'm typing this with only a mildly sore forearm, although Mein Frau seems to have gone down for the count with a case of the one-day post-jab bug (body aches, chiefly). Better that than a full-blown case of the COVID Crud. We've even been pre-registered for the next dose in May.

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Tags: these brighter days

Music: The Downward Spiral (Nine Inch Nails)

A look back at the most deliberately frustrating album ever made for popular consumption.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2021-04-05 17:00:00-04:00 No comments

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The key to The Downward Spiral came to me by way of something Roger Ebert once said about a much-maligned but still-valuable Martin Scorsese film, The King Of Comedy. "This is a movie that seems ready to explode — but somehow it never does. ... [T]here is neither comic nor tragic release — just the postponement of pain. ... Scorsese doesn't direct a single scene for a payoff. The whole movie is an exercise in cinema interruptus; even a big scene in a bar ... is deliberately edited to leave out the payoff shots .... Scorsese doesn't want laughs in this movie, and he also doesn't want release."

Emphasis mine, because I think that is exactly what Trent Reznor was also trying to do with The Downward Spiral. What makes this such a tough album to swallow isn't just that it's so noisy or herky-jerky or confrontational, but that it is constructed, track after track and across its whole length, to deny us any real payoff, any real feeling of transcendence or liberation. When we do get it, it's too transitory, too fragmentary, too broken-off to deliver.

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All of that is the point. This record isn't about a journey to an insight, but the experience of being trapped in a psychic holding pattern. Consider it the antithesis to Pink Floyd's The Wall: that album tunneled through pain and broke through to self-revelation and catharsis. The Downward Spiral just tunnels back into itself, like the curled worm on the cover of one of the singles released for the disc, and while it doesn't literally end on the exact same note it started on (as The Wall did), it does something more effective: it makes us realize we could have started anywhere and ended anywhere with the record, and it would have made no difference.

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Tags: Nine Inch Nails Trent Reznor electronic music industrial music review

See previous posts from March 2021

See future posts from May 2021