Apocalypse Guy and the 10,000 Covers

As ubiquitous in publishing as the Wilhelm Scream is in film, Apocalypse Guy is on a hell of a lot of book covers. Not just books out there for sale right now, but books yet to be born, books yet to even be conceived.

There are a number of websites where authors can licence pre-made book covers that have been cobbled together by many talented (and some untalented) Photoshop wizards from stock photo sites that are brimming with hundreds of thousands of images. So far, I’ve only ever bought one cover like this, because the odds of finding a pre-made that sufficiently matches the contents of one of my books are pretty low. It’s not that I’m super-picky, but usually when I see one that could work, it’s either shitty from a design perspective, or too generic to get me excited about adding it to my author shelf. Nevertheless, I like to browse, hoping to one day stumble across something perfect.

Over the weekend, I binged and ended up looking at nearly 10,000 different covers. That’s right, 10k. I did the math. Of all those, I bookmarked 27 for future consideration. I’ll probably end up pulling the trigger on zero of them. Still, compared to how many images I’ve looked at on the various stock sights, that’s a drop in the ocean.

After a while, you come to recognize certain key images that get used or incorporated over and over again. Photo shoots with specific models leap out, and you’ll know exactly where that image came from. You’ll feel intimately acquainted with Brunette-Chick-With-Sword, even while you’re cheating on her with Blonde-Chick-With-Sword. Some photo shoots are so overused, I wouldn’t touch a single element from any of them. They’ve been around, they’ve been loose with their evocative imagery and, worst of all, they’ve become sad, used-up clichés in the book-cover biz.

bigstock_42159622The biggest tramp on the block has to be Apocalypse Guy. This one is from an instantly-recognizable photo shoot of an unrecognizable model in full-body gear and a gas mask. Sometimes he’s carrying a gun. Sometimes he’s sitting in a chair. Always he seems to be looking at you through his dark lenses, indifferent or accusatory, as though asking, “How could you let the world come to this?” Insert various backgrounds of ruins and decay and there’s your generic cover for your dystopian-future novel. Sixty bucks, please.

I can’t even calculate how many covers I’ve seen him on at this point, both published and proposed. I’ve stumbled upon the original photo shoot many times as well—plain, modified, mangled, but always that same guy.

Now that you know his face—or lack thereof—you’ll never fail to notice him if you browse enough virtual bookshops. Like the survivalist he represents, he’ll outlive us all.

Speaking of apocalypses, how was your Valentine’s Day? Are you sick of that shit yet?

If so, check out the Anti-Valentine’s eBook giveaway for a bunch of novels, novellas and short stories that aren’t about all that icky romance stuff. You can grab a free copy of my book, Filmography, which does have some romance stuff in the mix, but not of the usual icky variety. This is the kind of romance that will make you feel dirty, and not in the good sexy sort of way. More in the used and abused sort of way. Like real relationships.fb-antival-thrillerhorror-xpromo

If you’re paying attention to the minutia of the website (and I know you aren’t—I barely do), you’ll see that there’s a newsletter you can now subscribe to on the right-hand sidebar. Two issues in, it’s still early days for regular readers here to climb aboard. Subscribers will receive additional news about discounts and giveaways, and will also have unique opportunities to get previews, exclusive content, advanced copies, and other goodies. Fill out the short form, and you’ll get irregular emails from me. I swear to never, ever send you offers for boner pills, or account notices that pretend to be from your bank. But no promises about soliciting you for fake funeral insurance.

Rogue Gallery

So apparently I’m an internationally renowned artist. Again.

Longshot Comics will be making an appearance in Talking Pictures Blue (Voices Rising) at the Songwon Art Centre in Seoul, South Korea this coming month, from June 12 to July 12.

I just wish someone had told me.

The only reason I know about it is that it came across my Facebook feed today. Nobody linked me to it, sent me an email, gave me a call or, you know, comped me plane tickets and a hotel stay overseas. It just sort of came up. I would have scrolled right past it if I hadn’t recognized some very familiar word balloons I toiled over twenty-two years ago.

songwon

The bottom right hand corner called out to me from the morass of Facebook updates about babies, pets, politics and the dumb meme-de-jour.

To quote the mission statement for this particular exhibit, “With its point of departure in the world-wide image industries of the 19th century, this exhibition focuses on a mythical structure in contemporary thinking about mediatised images: According to this myth, artists’ pictures must ‘talk’ by themselves, or they will be considered secondary, derivative, or even irrelevant.” There’s plenty more where that came from.

So, uh, I guess if you’re in the Buk-Chon neighbourhood in the coming weeks, drop by. Take some pictures. And email them to me so I can know what I’ve gotten myself involved in this time.

My Twitter project, 140 Fantastic Characters, wrapped up recently and is now collected on its appropriate sub-page. This past week has seen the next leg commence with 140 Super Characters – just in time for summer blockbuster season when we get swamped with superhero franchise films and news about what other superhero franchise films will be clogging up screens by this time next year.

It, too, will be collected on its own page bit by bit. Or you can read the daily thread by following me on Twitter.

“Come Back, Shane!”

A line from a movie I’m named after keeps haunting me. Mostly because it gets parroted by people of a certain generation whenever I’m introduced – as happened again just last month. Serves me right for attending a party dominated by baby boomers.

But, yes, it’s true, I’ve been AWOL, AFK, Gone Baby Gone for the last little while. Working on finishing stuff and letting my blogging duties slide. Important and laughable stories have gone by without me offering my own take on them. I’ve had to fill my usual quota of snide, condescending remarks by directing them at friends instead, which is always so appreciated. But perhaps it’s better not to have added to the endless onslaught of jabs and disinformation over the whole Sony-Hacking-Interview-International-Incident fiasco. One or two more articles might yet tip the balance of web content away from cat videos and porn and break the entire internet. And not just for North Korea this time.

It’s too late in the year to try to make up for missed opportunities, so better to concentrate on accomplishing more in 2015. Until then, I’ll mention that my Twitter project 140 Horrible Characters has been concluded and collected. I’m now on to 140 Fantastic Characters which will carry me well into next year. What genre comes after that? Follow me and find out.

A photo from earlier this year where I was, apparently, walking point along the Ho Chi Minh trail. Or maybe it was just an overgrown path in Montreal. Yes, come to think of it, I don’t remember travelling to south-east Asia or participating in the Viet Nam war lately.

A photo from earlier this year where I was, apparently, walking point along the Ho Chi Minh trail. Or maybe it was just an overgrown path in Montreal. Yes, come to think of it, I don’t remember travelling to south-east Asia or participating in the Viet Nam war lately.

Raw Halloween Treats

It’s the happiest time of year for morbid ghouls like me! Halloween is an autumn celebration of horror movies, chilly weather, dying leaves, and Christian fundamentalists getting their tits in a knot over the pagan roots of the holiday – which is totally different from proper holidays like Christmas and Easter that have absolutely no pagan roots whatsoever *cough cough* Soli Invictus *cough cough* rabbits and eggs *cough*.

I always like to add what I think of as proper Halloween content to the website around this time of year. Past entries include Hot Pennies, my short story based on my own totally true childhood memories, and Monster, the Frankenstein comic story I wrote for an anthology years ago.

On the Twitter front, I’m 40 characters into my series of 140 Horrible Characters, timed to coincide with this time of year. All the related tweets are collected on Eyestrain as they currently stand with more to come. For the hell of it, I also contributed a few ideas to the fad thread #ScaryStoriesIn5Words, which may be taking minimalist fiction a step too far.

As far as something new and substantial (as opposed to merely new and trite), I’ve decided to dump my novelette, Raw, here for you to look at and be disgusted by. Lengthier than what usually qualifies as a short story, this is a crime fiction yarn that takes a slow slide into horror and features material that my long-suffering proofreader (also known as my long-suffering wife) found too horrific to read. No, seriously. She has to live with me and gets the Shane-Simmons experience unfiltered, but she still had to skip some paragraphs before resuming her duties as copy editor.

So, um, yeah. Enjoy that. If you can. I guess.

If you’re in the mood for something lighter, here’s a completely arbitrary Halloween-safety film from 1977 called, creatively enough, Halloween Safety.

I didn’t get to see this as a kid (neither did many of the kids who actually appeared in it), but I was the right age to be the target demographic in 1977. I certainly remember that era of costume-and-candy paranoia designed to strip all the fun out of trick-or-treating. Of course we ignored that crap and went back to running around in the dark in black costumes, getting hit by cars, and dodging hot pennies and other kid-maiming traps.

That film was spectacularly dated the same year it was released. I guess that’s why, only eight years later, a sequel was produced called, extra-creatively enough, Halloween Safety (Second Edition). It was geared for a whole new generation of trick-or-treaters (no doubt because all the kids in the earlier film had been wiped out, Final Destination-style, by a series of tragic Halloween mishaps), and addressed pressing current issues such as produce-bashing hate crimes, Quaaludes in the candy (it was 1985 after all), and, apparently, animated vomiting ghosts.

But we’re past all that. These safety films seem like quaint reminders of a bygone era now. Today, obviously, we’re living in such a nanny state that kids are barely allowed out of the house without an armed escort, and are frequently banned from having any fun whatsoever by municipalities and school boards alike because fun is dangerous. And culturally insensitive, as evidenced by the big kids who go to McGill University and must keep their costumes politically correct and inoffensive enough to be allowed into the party. Damn! And I was planning to strip my shirt off and go in full-body blackface as a Mandingo fighter. McGill, you’re no fun anymore! I expect this uber-lefty bullshit from Concordia, but not you. You’re where the people with money go to learn how to make more. You should know better than those assholes on the hippie campus!

On that note, I’ll sign off by wishing you all a very dangerous Halloween, filled with unfortunate accidents, Emergency Room visits, tainted candy, and wildly offensive and inappropriate costumes. Please get yourself kicked out of at least one party. For me.

The Last Chapter

Chapters on the corner of Ste. Catherine and Stanley in downtown Montreal isn’t just closing anymore. It’s all the way gone, shuttered and empty – soon to be replaced by the second largest Victoria’s Secret outlet in the world. Because sex sells. Oh, I’m sure Chapters moved its fair share of copies of Fifty Shades of Grey, but that’s nothing compared to the mark-up to be had on the lacy contraptions ladies wear next to their most private of parts. Thoreau can’t compete with a thong. That’s a fact.

People have been quick to point to this as a sign of the demise of the physical bookstore and the dominance of ebook sales online. The numbers don’t bear this out – not yet at least – but that’s the conclusion many will jump to. In reality, the loss of this cornerstone of Montreal book sales has more to do with mishandling, a confused business model, a hobbyist approach to management, and a foolhardy attempt at monopoly. The whole sordid tale is a matter of public record for those who wish to dig beyond the surface of a fanciful comedic blog, but if you look at the provided photo closely enough, you’ll see a key piece of evidence.chapters1

It’s there on the second level of the three storeys (plus basement) that housed Chapters. Those are café tables you can see through the windows. I knew it was the beginning of the end years ago when so much of the floor space was devoted to seating and the selling of coffee instead of books. The idea was that customers were welcome to sit down – for hours if they wished – and read books for free as they sipped coffee. Does that sound charming to you? Well, it sounds idiotic to me. It means if you shopped there, you were buying supposedly new books at new book prices that had been pawed at and sipped over by freeloading hipsters who couldn’t even be trusted with a library card. If I want dog-eared, manhandled books that have been eyeballed to death by strangers, I’ll go to a second-hand bookshop and buy a scarcer, more interesting edition for a fraction of the price.

The space wasn’t always a Chapters, but it’s been a bookstore my entire life. I’ve attended launches and readings there, bought many books, discovered many authors. I’d lament it more, but these days I can browse online, find just about anything I want in or out of print, and have it delivered to my door with free shipping within a few days, often less. I can’t say I miss swinging by in person, hunting through the various sections, trying to guess if the author I’m looking for qualifies as a wordsmith worthy of the literature section or has been dismissed as just another hack and delegated to one of the genre ghettos, and then finding they have copies of all his other books, just not the one I need.chapters2

Once the café idea was introduced, it didn’t take long for much of the rest of the store to get clogged up with all sorts of other merchandise that had little, nothing, or absolutely zero to do with books. It would never occur to me to go to a bookstore for candles, or a clock, or some goddamn gift basket. I think towards the end they were gambling on impulse purchases by making the cash counter a maze of shit you don’t need but might buy on a whim. They rolled the dice (on sale, half-off, aisle four, next to Dickens) and they lost.

At least if I’m looking for music, there’s still HMV across the street – if I can find which corner they swept the music into. The last time I was there, I almost had to stop one of the staff to ask them if they sold anything other than DVD movies, bobbleheads and novelty pint glasses.

On the subject of books I’ll be appearing in, but will never be for sale at the downtown Chapters location, there’s been some news.

The release of Locked and Loaded: Both Barrels Vol. 3, with my story “Young Turks and Old Wives,” has been pushed back to a February 17th release for technical reasons, and has been renamed Shotgun Honey Presents: Locked & Loaded for branding purposes. No cover yet, but I’m going to make a bold guess that the final imagery will include a lady with an eyepatch and a shotgun – loaded of course.

The cover for The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir has been revealed. Still subject to change, it might not be the final version that will arrive on bookshelves. But if this is what they go with, it will instantly become THE single most homoerotic cover my work has ever appeared under. Or maybe I just have a dirty mind. Given the name of my story is “Choke the Chicken” (I’ll mention that this is an old and popular euphemism for male masturbation in case you’re one of the rarified innocents) perhaps I do. Still, I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb mentioning that guns are often phallic symbols and the dude on the cover is puckering up for something.exilecanadiannoir

Oh? He’s just blowing gun smoke out of the barrel?

Of course he is.

My Twitter project, 140 Notorious Characters, is complete and collected on this site under the appropriate sub-page. 140 Horrible Characters has commenced in time for Halloween and will run through till nearly Christmastime. You can keep current with these postings by following me on Twitter.

Social Media Frenzy

Astute readers will have already noticed the buttons to the right, offering links to my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Despite my better judgement, I’ve allowed myself to be slowly but surely drawn into social media. First blogging, then Facebook, now Twitter. Before you know it, I might send my very first text, and then you’ll know my corruption is complete. Even now I’m resisting the urge to type this on a full-sized keyboard with my thumbs.

Following me on Facebook will allow you access to the amusing, albeit briefer, things I say there. I use that space to spout off about everything I don’t have a whole blog post worth of gripes to purge. And I also post links to cute cat videos like every other goddamn person on Facebook. All my posts are public, so hitting the “follow” button will allow you to read everything without the inconvenience of “friending” me. You don’t want to be my friend anyway. I’ll only curse in front of your children, leave the toilet seat up, and blame my farts on the dog – even if you don’t have one.

Twitter, I’ve discovered, is where I can say even briefer things that contain as much amusement as you’re likely to squeeze out of measly 140 characters. They’re like witty brain farts in a hurricane. To my horror, I’ve found myself preparing a vast creative project to throw out into the Twitterverse that will debut with little fanfare, less attention, and no financial compensation whatsoever. You’ll be able to experience it from the very first tweet. Why am I working so hard on this when I have so much other work to do? Procrastination. Nothing helps me avoid one project quite so well as starting another.

Follow me now and I promise to lead you nowhere enlightening or good for you. But it might be worth a giggle.

The Morbidity Before Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve, and is there ever a time when it’s more appropriate to give a gift? Especially if that gift is the wrong size and colour and can’t conveniently be returned to the store for a cash refund? Well I have a very special gift just for you (and whoever else in the world happens to have an internet connection – but really, this one’s expressly from me to you). That’s okay, you didn’t have to get me anything. I’m hard to shop for. An envelope stuffed with cash will do in a pinch, or you can always go hunting for my well-camouflaged donate button, hidden and misnamed at the bottom of my About page where no one will ever stumble across it, even accidentally. No pressure, no guilt.

The present? Oh right, the present. I wrote you story – my new-to-the-public short story, It’s the Thought That Counts – a heartwarming family history that begins, conveniently enough, on Christmas Eve.

Crickets? Do I hear crickets? It’s freezing cold and the snow is ass-deep out there. It seems terribly unseasonable for crickets. I’ll have to look into that.

Before you go diving under the tree for another gift-wrapped box with your name on it, hoping against hope that the next present in line will be way more awesome – something along the lines of socks, underwear, or a tie perhaps – take a closer look at what I just gave you, you ungrateful asshole. It’s free internet content. Okay, it’s not a YouTube video of a cat trying to act cool after pulling down the Christmas tree on top of itself, or your adorable second-cousin’s nephew belching “O Holy Night” after downing three Red Bulls in less than thirty seconds. It’s a bunch of text, which requires much more intellectual heavy lifting to appreciate than a video you can stare at and zone out to. Reading is hard, vegging to viddies is easy. But engaging with the written word is so much more rewarding. And after all, how likely are you to find something as troubling and morbid as one of my stories by randomly surfing YouTube or following the links of your Facebook friends? Well, I guess that depends on your friends. But if you’re looking for some more of that Eyestrain-brand gallows humour for the holidays, it’s only a click away, right here, right now.

Mood-setting clip art in the sidebar aside, the story is, admittedly, a solid block of prose. If you want something with more pictures – of a sort – you can also check out The Awfuls under my new Comic Strips section. I stealthily threw that up on the site a few weeks ago and never made an official announcement here. More strips will follow just as soon as I can be bothered to dig them out of deep storage and fire up the scanner.

When looking for some well-earned time away from your family, their awkward drinking, and their baseless alcohol-fuelled accusations this holiday season, feel free to seek a brief respite here at Eyestrain Productions. Because I’m not going anywhere. The gears of western commerce may have ground for a halt for the Christmas-to-New Year stretch, but I’m still working away late into the night – even though I’m owed money and everybody who can sign their name to my cheques has gone on vacation. The chains to my desk remain locked and my bony fingers still scratch away at the keyboard, day after day. Who has the time for such trifling things as seasonal cheer?

Call me Scrooge if you must, but I’m really only one gimpy kid away from being Bob Cratchit.

Pie In the Sky

I was fooling myself when I thought I could simply post a story about the anniversary of my aged apple pie and move on to the next bit of grim, gallow-humoured business here at Eyestrain Productions. It seems that at least one follow-up will be necessary to address some of the comments, backlash and statistics that have come out of this global unveiling. Questions have been posed, figures have been requested, and answers must be forthcoming.

I’ve never really seen anything go viral first hand – except maybe my tonsils when I had mononucleosis. I have to say, it’s an unnerving, frightening sight. What started as a simple Facebook update at nine in the morning last Thursday exploded into an all-time high of visitors and views by the end of the day. The numbers didn’t just beat out the time I mentioned Rob Ford on the blog (people can’t get enough of him, and there’s so much to go around), they shattered the record. This is what a disgusting story about fast food will get you in the blogosphere. It almost makes holding onto a McDonald’s apple pie for twenty-five years seems like a worthwhile endeavour. And not crazy.

Rob-Ford day is the blip on the left, dwarfed by the outing of The Pie a couple of weeks later.

Rob-Ford day is the blip on the left, dwarfed by the outing of The Pie a couple of weeks later.

After the first couple of days of Facebook mania, there was a bit of a drop off. The post, McApple Pie of My Eye, was earmarked for mention on WordPress’ Freshly Pressed, but there was a delay when a timely bit of news was held static at the top of the page for a day, blocking the cycle of new inclusions. Despite Nelson Mandela’s attempt to steal my thunder, my apple pie finally usurped him and the hits kept coming. Yeah yeah, I know. You ended apartheid and ushered South Africa into a new era of democratic reform without resorting to violence or retribution, thereby becoming a shining beacon of peaceful transition from tyranny to freedom and all. But do you have a twenty-five-year-old McDonald’s apple pie? No, you DO NOT! Checkmate, sir.

As of this writing, the post has had 6888 views since it first went up, with some of the visitors actually bothering to read other content on the site as well. Thanks to the stat features on WordPress, I’ve been better able to track the numbers and where the visitors are coming from. It was with some measure of geographically geeky delight that I got to watch much of the world map fill in, and witness some strange anomalies. I can’t even guess why I have more views from Singapore than the entire U.K. combined, but I’m at least pleased to be able to exclaim: Welcome single Negara Brunei Darussalam visitor! I’m glad you stopped by because, honestly, I don’t see your neck of the woods coming up in my vacation roster any time soon.

Greenland has provoked my ire by being the largest piece of unfilled real estate. Surely somebody there has Wi-Fi and a Facebook account.

Greenland has provoked my ire by being the largest piece of unfilled real estate. Surely somebody there has Wi-Fi and a Facebook account.

The reaction to the contents of the article were pretty universally a horrified, “Gah!” Such was the sentiment from the hosts of a Radio Canada show that picked up the story, showing my blog and mentioning my mispronounced name on air. Some skepticism was expressed by people who wisely don’t take everything they read on the internet at face value. I was only outright accused of perpetrating a hoax once. I’m all for healthy skepticism, but it’s not the Kennedy assassination. It’s a pie. All I can offer you is my personal assurance of the factuality of the post. If that’s not good enough for you…oh, well. I guess we’ll both just have to deal with it.

Speaking of the facts, “maplesuger” was good enough to point out the true meaning of the ballpoint-pen “12” on the packaging based on a personal McDonald’s slave-wage experience. My speculation was wrong, it does in fact mean “12 o’clock.” It’s interesting that the pie turnover rate was so quick, given its now-obvious epic shelf life. Ah, the illusion of freshness.

Links to the current McDonald’s pie list of ingredients were offered, and swiftly countered by others who pointed out that fast food recipes get changed all the time. This is certainly true. Even Coca-Cola has altered their formula several times over the years, despite the perception that their recipe is written in stone. The New Coke debacle of 1985 illustrates that clearly enough, although other tweaks have been made at various points in the company’s history, like the ones that happened in 1935 designed to make Coke kosher. No, seriously, they did that. Then, of course, there was the earlier bold decision to drop cocaine from the recipe in favour of the less-robust jump-starter, caffeine. I have no doubt McDonald’s has similarly fiddled with all their menu items in the last quarter century. Some may have been made more food-esque, others less so. We may never know the precise details.

Whether it’s cola or burgers or simulated apple pies, my attitude is the same as when it comes to smoking. If you’re still consuming that shit after all the “Don’t touch it, it’s poison!” warnings, anything I write here is unlikely to change your habits. Witness one friend who wrote back to inform me that even after my post made the rounds and circulated all through her office, two of her colleagues still had McDonald’s for lunch. I shudder to think my little essay may have even inspired the craving.

My favourite bit of criticism came from the guy I call the You-Don’t-Know-Science dude. I suppose that accusation is fair. If I get up in the morning and gravity still works, I assume there’s a qualified Ph.D. doing their job correctly at some high-tech gravity factory somewhere. I don’t really think about it much, although my techie friends sure do. I should note that none of the coders and programmers, biologists and geneticists, robotics engineers and theoretical physicists I know (okay, I don’t actually know any qualified theoretical physicists, but I’m slated to have brunch with one this weekend) took issue with what I had to say. Some of them were even in the restaurant with me when the pie was first purchased in 1988 and can vouch for the entire story.

As someone who has been known to occasionally eat food, I have plenty of anecdotal evidence that this is not how food behaves. This is more how something like, say, a brick, or a lug nut, or a novelty coffee cup behaves over the course of a quarter century when left unattended. Nothing much happens. My narrow understanding of science extends far enough to dictate that a warm, moist, fresh apple pie should have turned into a Petri dish, swimming with bacteria, within a reasonable amount of time, provided there were actual nutrients present to interest them. There weren’t.

I’ll let the post mortem rest there. Unless further media attention surfaces (and well it may, the off-line media are notoriously slow on the uptake), the apple pie will return to its place of dishonour in my stationery closet until the next major anniversary. A blog post about pie of another kind will be forthcoming shortly. It can’t possibly hope to get the same number of hits, but with luck it will turn the stomachs of what readers it draws in just as timely and nauseating a fashion.

It’s Alive!

Welcome to the new, and hopefully improved, eyestrainproductions.com – now powered by WordPress, which I understand is an improvement over what I had before because it’s software that’s still supported and not hopelessly outdated. The problem with the old web site was that it was state-of-the-art ten years ago which, in computer terms, is like saying you’re tearing up the highway with your state-of-the-art ox cart.

Although my homepage has probably lost some of its quaintness, its charm, its low-rez, inadvertently retro hipster irony, I now have a lot more toys to play with, and can offer up all sorts of new types of content without having to go beg a web designer to do free programming for me.

Some of the old content is MIA for the time being, but will make its return soon enough. In the meantime, there’s new content I dreamed of adding to the site long before it became practical to do so. Go explore. You’ll no doubt find new insight into some of my obsessions.

Buying things should be much easier now, with multiple opportunities to add stuff to your cart as you read about some of the old comic work I still have copies of. Or you can go directly to the actual store on the top menu, which is currently sparse in design but straightforward.

The blog now has categories and a search field, making it easier to find topics you enjoy and skip all my other inane babblings. For good measure, I reread all my old postings and corrected some embarrassing typos that I was only able to spot with the distance of time. There are, of course, many many links that have died out or changed in the last decade. I didn’t bother to strip out all those urls that withered away over the years. Just keep in mind, if you’re reading the earlier days of the blog, that once upon a time those links used to send you somewhere cool or relevant.

And speaking of links, I’ve completely changed the old link page. To my horror, I realized the nature of one or two of those sites had switched from something I endorsed, to something I held in contempt – namely, crappy sleazy porn. If I’m going to recommend a link to you, the least I can do is point you at some quality porn.

Bits and pieces of the website remain a work in progress, but nothing is going to lead you to one of those annoying UNDER CONSTRUCTION pages. It’s all there, ready to be added to as time marches on. The remake is officially complete, the heavy lifting is done, and hopefully I won’t have to go through this again for another ten years.

Relaunch

The stagnation of this blog and website has been the source of no small amount of irritation on the part of friends and fans, and a heaping dose of embarrassment on my end. My previously mentioned inertia is only part of the story. The rest of the story is composed of words like “apathy,” “disdain,” “procrastination,” “ineptitude,” “boredom,” and “spelunking.” Most of those words are self-explanatory. As for “spelunking,” I haven’t actually taken up cave-climbing as a sport, hobby or pastime. I’m just really fond of that word. Spelunking. I like the sound of it. It’s soothing. It’s probably my favourite word in the English language, followed closely by “troglodyte.” I think if I ever actually encountered a troglodyte while I was spelunking, I’d drop dead of a joygasm.

The real story of what’s going on behind the scenes is that I’ve become aware of several key anniversaries that have altered my behaviour. First, it’s been ten years since the original launch of eyestrainproductions.com-slash-shanesimmons.com. After making a valiant effort to write something new at least once a month, I’ve fallen hopelessly behind, and habits are easy to forget about once you break out of the cycle. Especially good habits. Bad habits, not so much.

The website has also been looking a tad shabby, out-of-date, long-in-the-tooth. It is, after all, a 2003 design. There’s also been a fair amount of neglect that’s entirely my fault — links that became broken years ago that have never been changed or fixed, credits that haven’t been updated, news that hasn’t been announced, bugs that haven’t been squashed. On the plus side for the people who have been ordering my comics, you’re getting a good deal on the postage since I haven’t updated the rates to reflect the inflation that’s happened down at Canada Post in the last decade. I make a mental note to do something about that every time I eat it on another package headed anywhere out of the country (which is pretty much all of them because only eight people live in Canada, six of them already have copies of my work, and the last two don’t read comics because that crap’s for children).

“Re-do website” has been on the project list for a long time now. Lately, I’ve been doing something about it. Finally. Mostly because the software infrastructure of the site got chucked onto the virtual-technology trash heap right next to Windows 8 and the original code for Pong. It was upgrade and transfer files now, or lose it all in translation later.

I’ve decided to abandon the forgotten and unsupported Pivot and switch to the trendy and rather more functional WordPress. WordPress, I’m told, offers all sorts of shiny new bells and whistles and functionality, while helping my homepage look more professional, corporate and soulless.

So be assured, the next time I write a blog post the whole web site will look completely new and different. And you’ll hate it. Because change is bad and websites should never ever change no matter how shitty and out-of-date they get. Ask Harry Knowles.

The second major anniversary is that of Longshot Comics. The original minicomic edition came out an incredible make-me-feel-old twenty years ago. Availability of the comic has been helped along by various reprints in various languages, but someone needs to get all the material back into easily obtainable print. And maybe even offer some fresh pages. That task, if seems, falls to me. Which is a lot of work and entirely unfair, even if I am the sole writer, artist and printing press of the whole endeavor. What did I do to deserve this curse, other than creating it in the first place? Fuck you, karma.

There is a third key anniversary this year. Twenty-five years, the silver jubilee if you will, of something both grand and horrifying. Close associates will know what I’m talking about. The rest of the world will find out soon enough. I’m saving this one for the post-relaunch period, though I will have to discuss it at length before 2013 is up. It’s simply far too important to let slide.

Beware.