Friday, November 15, 2019

The History of Time Travel

"If you think Hitler with an atomic bomb is bad, imagine Stalin with a time machine."

In 2014 The History of Time Travel was released, a fictional documentary about the creation of the world's first time machine, the government's Indiana Project, the men who created it, and the unintended ramifications it had on world events. Created by Ricky Kennedy, then a student filmmaker at the Stephen F. Austin State University, this independent film was brought to my attention from a friend who said, "If you love time travel movies, this is one you might find amusing." 

Presently streaming on Amazon Prime for free, this documentary is a novel approach by taking a few moments to clarify (and simplify) the various theories of time travel. From the multiverse theory to the paradox theory, every potential consequence of traveling through time is explored -- all of which are featured prominently through the documentary through show and tell. As questioned by author Kevin Ulrich in the documentary, "We experience time as we perceive it. But if time could be altered and was being altered, would we perceive that?" Apparently not so to the individuals who are portrayed in this documentary, adding to the fun.

What made this documentary unique is the execution -- as Dr. Richard Reenactor creates the breakthrough that allows him to travel through time, the repercussions are evident with subtle changes as the documentary progresses. The moon rock in the glass case is replaced with a historic newspaper, the scientific equations on the chalkboard have changed, and other unique twists and turns that are better left unrevealed for fear of spoilers. Basically, as time is being altered, so does the documentary itself. The History of Time Travel did not disappoint. If you have Amazon Prime, this 72 minute documentary comes recommended. Just keep your eyes and ears glued to the screen...


And as if the novel approach is not enough, the film even provides us with a moral: "The Indiana Project teaches us what is truly important about time, and that is making every second count."

Friday, November 8, 2019

The Return of BLOOD N' THUNDER Magazine

Between 2002 and 2016, BLOOD 'N' THUNDER was the premier journal for devotees of adventure, mystery and melodrama in American popular culture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This award-winning magazine, written by enthusiasts for enthusiasts, eventually expanded its readership to include casual fans of vintage storytelling mediums: pulp fiction, motion pictures, and Old Time Radio drama.

BLOOD 'N' THUNDER, moribund for three years, has now returned in a new format but with the same excellence of writing and research. The articles and essays are scholarly without being dry or academic in nature; no publish-or-perish hackery here.

This revival issue (promoted as Volume Two, Number One) is now available on newsstands and Amazon.com and covers a variety of subjects, all related to pulp fiction. Most notably in the recent issue is recent archival digging from Brian Hochberg and David Kalb. David documents the history of the long-lost 1941-42 radio series featuring Street & Smith's The Avenger; he compares recently uncovered scripts to the novels from which they are adapted. 

David Saunders, whose father Norman was among the most prolific painters of lurid pulp covers, profiles the forgotten publisher J. Thomas Wood. Novelist and pop-culture historian Will Murray weighs in on pulp pulchritude—an appreciation of artists whose covers sported alluring women. Indefatigable researcher Rick Lai offers a detailed chronology of the Jimgrim saga, a multi-novel series penned by pulp-fiction giant Talbot Mundy. BLOOD 'N' THUNDER editor Ed Hulse celebrates the Zorro centennial (he first appeared in a 1919 issue of the legendary ALL-STORY WEEKLY) with a behind-the-scenes account of the making of Douglas Fairbanks' 1920 swashbuckling hit THE MARK OF ZORRO. Ed also supplies a look at HAWK OF THE WILDERNESS, a 1938 cliffhanger serial adapted from the popular imitation-Tarzan novels that appeared in the venerable pulp BLUE BOOK.

The second issue was released this week and should be available now.

You can also order a copy of the recent issue and all back issues from Murania Press at www.muraniapress.com

Friday, November 1, 2019

Amazon is Not Stealing Your Business

Full disclosure: I am not a full-time marketing consultant, nor do I claim to be an authority on the subject. But I read much through the years about marketing and business to know more than the average consumer. Twice in the past month local businesses closed doors and on the evening news, on both instances, the owners of said stores publicly claimed "Amazon killed our business" and "Amazon stole our customers." For the record, this statement is an opinion and not a fact. For the record, no one at Amazon phones customers to encourage them to stop buying from the competition. Fact: Many companies give customers a reason to stop shopping with them and instead go to Amazon. I see this all the time. Every day.

This is the book I wanted to buy and read.
I recently paid a visit to Barnes and Noble, that national chain responsible for selling books -- especially for the relatively smallest of percentage who do not have any other options to buy books because they are not on the Internet. 

As expected, you can tell when you first walk in that they want the customer in and out as quick as possible by having the hottest titles displayed right at the front, with discounted (and damaged) books closer to the check-out line. Worse, half the books I looked at were out of date. One book focused on the future of marketing on the Internet and mentioned Yahoo would become the biggest (and only) search engine, Apple would file bankruptcy if they continued to sell smartphones and not stick with computers, and My Space was supposedly the latest trend. After checking the copyright page I discovered the book was published in 2006 and revised in 2010. Why on earth was that book still being offered for sale in Barnes and Noble? At that point I started browsing the books on that same shelf and discovered half of the books were seriously out of date!

Skimming through the pages of multiple books and spot-checking bullet points to determine whether it was a book I wanted to read, excitedly I found one. At the check-out register, however, I was shocked to discover that they would not price match Amazon. The book retailed $24 and Amazon had the book for $12. "We do price match our own website," the cashier told me. Barnes and Noble's price on their website was $21. I asked why they would not price match the competition and it was explained to me, "That is corporate policy." This might explain why there were only four customers in the entire store at the time. (The coffee shop next door had more customers.) Do not get me wrong. If the book was $14 or $15 at Barnes and Noble, I would have paid for it solely for the convenience.

When I was in the publishing business, I used to sell books to Barnes and Noble. Twenty years ago it was a different market. For every book Barnes and Noble sold, Amazon sold ten. A few years later the numbers had changed. For every book Barnes and Noble sold, Amazon sold a hundred. At present count, I never sold a book to Barnes and Noble in the last twelve years. Today, Amazon buys books by the case, shipped to their warehouses. Seriously, Amazon is truly the 400-pound gorilla in the industry.

Where am I going with all this? Stay with me...

Twenty years ago I religiously visited Borders Books in Towson, Maryland, every Saturday morning to get a cup of hot tea and relax with a book. Their employees were always eager to help assist. I romantically loved the atmosphere. Borders Books truly was my "third place." And for a couple hours once a week I was able to self-educate with whatever subject matter I wanted to read and learn that had my interest at the time. I spent untold amounts of money on books with Borders and even today I have no regrets. [sigh...] How I long for those days again... 

For the record, I had three hours to kill while my car was being worked on and decided to revisit my youth by walking over to Barnes and Noble to buy a book and sit down on a sofa to relax and read. That was the recent trip I referenced above and the same visit to their store that they surprised me with their price-match policy.

What puzzles me is why corporate executives at Barnes and Noble will not price match the competition. I agree that Amazon has low overhead and huge purchasing power, while Barnes and Noble has overhead to deal with such as employee labor and lease agreements. True, Barnes and Noble has a website but they are clearly operating a 20th century business model in the 21st century. It remains a mystery why, at this late date, a company dependent on retail sales has yet to even price match Amazon just to retain repeat customers. One of these days an executive at Barnes and Noble will do what those two local shops cried foul on the evening news, and claim Amazon stole their customers, putting them out of business. But shed no tears for the book store that will one day (probably sooner than later) close doors or sell out to another company.

As for today's scenario, I returned the book to its proper place on the shelf and consulted my iPad (which I happened to have at the time) to purchase the Kindle version of that same book from Amazon for $11.

As you can see by the photo below, I am now sitting here in Barnes and Noble (having never stepped out of the physical four walls of their store), relaxing with that cup of hot Earl Grey tea, reading a book I bought from Amazon (their competition), using Amazon's Kindle app.