I have been grossly negligent of my blog lately, even by my own lackluster standards. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing things!
I participated in the second round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge last month, and I’m very excited to share my entry once the scoring comes back in a couple of weeks. I placed decently in the first round, so I’m hoping to get enough points this time to move on to round three in November! Round two threw me a curve ball, and I ended up with an assignment in one of my most dreaded genres… Comedy!
Terrifying, I know.
But with the help of some fantastically funny friends who didn’t mind giving me hard crit–and putting up with my argumentativeness *cough* defensiveness *cough* while I tried to process, at lightening speed, how to actually make a comedy piece work in 1000 words (it was an ugly grieving process, guys)–I actually ended up with something that I’m really proud of. I’ll be able to share it with you all shortly!
Something else I’m really excited to share with you is my piece in this year’s CPOP/Monolith collaboration project, “Corrogatio: The Midnight Massacre.” This is my first time writing within an existing fictional universe and I had SO MUCH FUN! I’ve reviewed some of their stuff before (here and here) and done an interview with the madman behind it all (here). It was amazing to be able to contribute something of my own to the world of GROMM. I hope you’ll check out if you’re into horror or grimdark fantasy.
I’m hoping to be more active here in the coming months with some reviews and short fiction pieces to share. Please stay tuned! Thank you for reading.
So I sat down for a virtual chat with Neuicon, the Editor-in-Chief and creative brain behind Crushpop Productions and the Monolith (whose work I have reviewed here and here) to dig into how the companies evolved. We did this interview in early December, but it’s taken me this long to get organized enough to format the thing, and for that I am sorry! I’d blame the holidays, but I think I might actually just be disorganized. Thank you all for reading and for being patient with me. Especially Mr. Neuicon!
S: Thank you, Neuicon, for taking the time to talk to me today. Can you tell me what CPOP is and how it started, and how you got into the gaming side of things?
N: I have been a big gamer all my life, really. I started designing rules for existing tabletop games back in 2008. I worked on these with friends. I also created games that revolved around established game universes, like Warhammer 40,000 and Starcraft.
It was in 2010 when I decided that it would be interesting to try and establish my own games. I began with GROMM, which was originally free, a Dark Fantasy universe and was created under the influence of another great game at the time, Shattered Verse, by Adam Isherwood. I was given his blessing to use the rules as a platform, and GROMM was born. This lead to me wanting to create a brand that would look over this and future games, leading to the creation of Crushpop Productions, later nicknamed CPOP. GROMM become our flagship title.
S: That’s perfect! Does GROMM stand for something, or is it just the name? And how does Goremageddon come into play?
N: GROMM is the name of the world. You need a little bit of reference, here, too. GRAXX is the name of the planet in Goremageddon, after the fantasy world of GROMM phased out, it was named GRAXX. Essentially, GROMM evolved with our real planet Earth in an alternate reality. So they’ve got computers, iphones, the United States, North Korea, etc. It’s the same world, but with fantasy races like Elves and Orcs alongside Humans. This is why places like Los Angeles, New York, San Bernardino, etc. are all mentioned and referenced.
S: Cool! Okay, so when did you start thinking you wanted to expand into fiction? How did that come about?
N: I have always enjoyed writing. I really began diving into that during Junior High when creative writing had me hooked. I remember creating this wild Sci-Fi universe with various races vying for control of the galaxy. It was insane, but I loved writing it, and reading it over, again and again. So, the passion for creativity has always been there.
With the success of GROMM and the first two editions of Goremageddon, it became apparent that people were really hooked by the theme and story. I was getting so many emails about expanding the story and adding more to expansions so that people had more to read, because they found it so entertaining. The first two editions of Goremageddon were really niche, but the second edition started to gain traction. I decided to launch the Monolith upon the success of Goremageddon and just how much people loved the universe.
On Free Comic Book Day 2015, I unveiled “Ling Ling Conquers GRAXX” as a teaser for what to expect from the Monolith (Ling Ling is a popular character in Goremageddon, based entirely on my wife.) It went over incredibly well and again, emails poured in about seeing Ling Ling in her very own mini-series.
It was a huge decision. I invested heavily in our first ongoing mini-series and brought Tom Haswell on board to write Absolute Valentine, a series based on the Synthwave musician of the same name, and a good friend as well. I was terrified at the start of the launch, and was overwhelmed by its success. It later led to my moving forward with a full brand, entirely dedicated to fiction—not only revolving around the universes of our games, but unique fiction, as well.
S: That’s really cool! Okay, so how does 80’s synth tie into all of this? I’m really fascinated by the cross-genre and cross-medium world you’ve built. Can you describe how one inspires another, or is that “too big” a question?
N: I am a big fan of the music and theme. The first edition of Goremageddon was more raw and heavily thrash metal-based. Then I decided to indulge in the glamour of the synthwave movement as, to me, it really captured the 80’s style of things and Goremageddon is truly like stepping into a badly produced Italian post-apocalyptic film in the 80’s.
If you want to know why so many people love Goremageddon, the game is heavily inspired by: 80’s Italian horror, gore, post-apocalyptic films, synthwave, cyberpunk, noir, crime drama, 80’s action films, thrash metal and even includes fantasy themes (magic, vampires, werewolves, orcs, elves all in the post-apocalyptic setting.) It’s really one of the only places you will see such a massive mash-up of ideas and themes.
S: I love that. So what are your main series’ right now? And where do you foresee the Monolith going in the next 5-10 years?
N: Absolute Valentine is still our best-selling series. Tom really blew it out of the park with that one. He turned an idea I had into this massive story with twists, turns, action and an incredible writing style. Fans of the Monolith have been asking for a Ling Ling Conquers GRAXX series, too. But I’m massively busy, and it’s going to take time. I am currently writing it, but a release date is still TBA. Chinatownis another popular title and fans are already looking forward to another season. Chris Reynolds has agreed to it, and I am so stoked to get that up and running soon!
We also offer other titles in conjunction with other brands, such as Super Chibi Clash, from MidKnight Heroes. We currently are scheduled to release another mini-series for that publisher in the near future.
S: Can you explain a little bit about how these other titles tie in to the brand?
N: The Monolith is primarily a platform. This is how I view the brand, overall. While the focus is on games and universes of CPOP products, I don’t want it to be all the Monolith is. I hope it will become a platform for indie authors to release their work on. MidKnight Heroes adds to this, as both a friend of CPOP and a brand producing their own games and IP. They have chosen to allow the Monolith to release their fiction; Super Chibi Clash is based on their games’ universe and is presented in a similar way to how traditional Monolith products are released, in seasons and episodes per season.
The Monolith has truly been a dream come true and its success has really blown me away. I would love to see it bigger and broader in 5-10 years’ time, the place more and more indie authors can come to to see their hard work brought to life. I want it to be a place where fans and new readers alike will always find something that they can get into. I think we have the ability to continue doing just that, so all I can do is continue to move forward and this, being such a huge passion of mine, is something I will continue to do with much hard work behind it.
S: I love that idea. So what is your day job? Do you come from a creative background, beyond personal interests?
N: While I have so much going on in the creative world—CPOP, the Monolith, Solitarius (our merchandise brand) and the Nightvine Temple Society (an indie music label)—I am, by day, a Personal Trainer. I have four licenses and absolutely LOVE my job. I am currently in school for a degree in Sciences; I promised my father before he passed away that I would one day acquire a Doctorate in Physical Therapy.
As far as a creative background goes, I did enjoy a short stint working on indie comic books, doing both pencils and inks. I tried illustration again a few years ago, but am pretty rusty; at least I think so, lol. Aside from being a gym enthusiast, I enjoy video games, reading, writing, illustration, painting (both on canvas as well as tabletop miniatures) as well as things like sports. I practice Catch-As-Catch-Can Wrestling and my wife practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
S: You’ve mentioned that you are married. Do you have kids? How do you manage the work/life balance of a full time job and managing this huge creative passion on the side?
N: I am married, yes. I met my wife in 2005 and have been with her ever since. She engages in just about everything I enjoy and is incredibly open-minded. She games, reads comics, loves novels, enjoys tabletop games, watches football and MMA with me and even practices brazilain jiu-jistu. As for kids, no, I don’t plan to ever have kids of my own.
As far as managing all this goes, my sleep cycle is often screwed up and usually, 4-5 hours is all I get or need, really. I am an incredibly busy person, but it keeps me motivated and moving forward.
S: I think I’d die if I got that little sleep! And your wife is the inspiration for Ling Ling? How does she feel about that?
N: She is! She loves the game, the setting, and has fallen in love with her character. Ling Ling is a really complex character to understand. I think it is this alone that really made her so popular. In Corrogatio 2, there is a Ling Ling story that introduces two new characters, Rowena and Marie Antoinette, who are based on my wife’s real-life sisters, too.
S: That sounds awesome! I need to read some more Ling Ling! Okay, now I need some of the business stuff. If a writer is interested in writing for the Monolith and the Goremageddon universe, how do they proceed?
N: Writing for the monolith is easy! The CPOP website has a contact section where messages can be sent to us in regards to various topics. Direct submissions are the best way to inquire about writing for the Monolith. We’re always looking to provide writers with a platform that will encourage them and allow them to see their work published.
S: And what are you plans for the game, now?
N: Goremageddon is finished and is currently being put together, the release for the game should come early 2018 (Q1). It is a tabletop miniatures game. You play on a table, using miniatures to represent the members of your gang, dice to determine the outcome of battles, a tape ruler to determine measurements, and a playing area to represent the battlefield. It features a more rich history, background, an updated set of rules. To date, this is the biggest investment I have made for a CPOP produced game. I am incredibly excited to see it released.
There are other titles the Monolith will be unveiling soon, too. I have finished GROMM: Rise of the Queen, which is being edited right now. It’s a story that takes a look at and alternate history for GROMM. In the original GROMM, Elizabeth succumbs to evil forces and is put to death by her father. In Rise of the Queen, her father and brother fall in battle and she’s forced to rule her nation, and she does.
S: Well, this all sounds really exciting, and I can’t wait to follow your progress in 2018. Thank you so much for talking with me!
“Absolute Valentine: Memory Green” is Season One of the first fiction mini-series released by the Monolith, set in Crushpop Production‘s Goremageddon universe. The series was inspired by an 80s synth band by the same name, who teamed up with the Monolith to create the series (check them out on Facebook here!) This is my second venture into the world of Goremageddon; I explored “Chinatown” with Chris Reynolds last week. I’m loving the varied landscapes and characters available in this universe, and I can totally see why the game appeals to so many! Where “Chinatown” was like a gritty hard-boiled detective story set in a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles safe zone, “Absolute Valentine” is a sci-fi tech spin on vigilante justice in a post-apocalyptic New York.
Tom Haswell’s “Absolute Valentine” is anything but sweet. “Memory Green” begins with Valentine after he wakes up in a back alley, blinded, with no memory of who he is or how he got there. Bits and pieces of his old life slowly start to filter back to him as we progress through the episodes, and we learn with him as he meets friends and enemies and discovers who he really is.
The beauty of “Memory Green” is in how seamlessly it blends genres and SF tropes into something truly unique. Military super-soldiers, Re-Newed York City crime-family terf wars, cyborg mercenaries, and twisted medics combine into the perfect storm of ultra-violence and non-stop action. Warning: blood and guts abound!
“Absolute Valentine” is definitely more action heavy than “Chinatown,” though I think there will be some crossover in the audiences. “Chinatown” isn’t lacking in action by any means, but it’s plot is more character driven. Valentine is pushed more by his circumstances. “Memory Green’s” action is plot driven and relentlessly paced as Val is forced to kill or be killed. He must defend himself against an onslaught of attackers and try to stay one step ahead of the one who wants him dead.
While there may not be a lot of time for Valentine’s self-reflection in “Memory Green” I found the ending of season one to be a very satisfying revelation of his true character, and I think that revelation is what is really going to propel the mini-series in future seasons. Revenge is sweet, in the end, but even better is the promise of Valentine’s rebirth and what that’s going to mean for Re-Newed York City.
I, for one, am looking forward to it. If you haven’t gotten on board with serialized fiction yet, either one of the Monolith’s mini-series would be a great place to start. You can read them as they’re released (monthly) or jump in and binge-read them once a season is complete. Either way, it’s a pretty addicting medium to read it, and I’m loving it!
I recently downloaded the entire Monolith catalogue from Crushpop Productions. CPOP is a Los Angeles based indie gaming company that produces tabletop and card games . The Monolith is an indie publishing company that sprang from the CPOP game worlds; it boasts a collection of post-apocalyptic fiction serials and mini-series’ set in the Goremageddon universe, as well as some other unique fiction independent of the CPOP brands. Chinatown by Chris Reynolds is the second series released in this world (sorry, I read them out of order! The first series, Absolute Valentineis next on my list…) I will be reviewing each series and mini-series as I read them, as well as the Monolith debut Ling Ling Conquers GRAXX, and I will be doing an interview with Neuicon, the founder and curator of the Monolith catalogue later this month. Yay!
I’ve been meaning to read Chinatown for a long time. I collaborated with author Chris Reynolds on another project and really enjoy his work. You’ll be seeing more from him here once I start posting his “Combat Clinic For Writers” series as well as, hopefully, the release of our co-written novella once we finish that up.
Now, serialized fiction is a thing I’ve become interested in recently, both as something I’d like to try writing and a fun new medium to read in. My tastes in fiction have shifted over the last few years to include a lot more short fiction, flash fiction, novellas, etc. as kids and career obligations have eaten into my precious free time. I even attempted to release my NaNoWriMo progress in a serial style last month (with marginal success). But Chinatown is the first time I’ve ever actually read modern serialized fiction.
I’ve gotta admit, I’m hooked. The episodes are bite-sized enough that you can just read one when you have a spare half-hour or so, and addicting enough that you can binge-read an entire season a sitting or two (kind of like the readers’ equivalent to Netflix). Chinatown is the perfect introduction to the Goremageddon universe, too. It’s a fantastic genre-blending mashup that will appeal to a wide audience, and you don’t have to have a deep understanding of the world to follow the story.
Chinatown is part post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller and part hard-boiled detective fiction. Episode One introduces us to Slade Tatum, a gritty police detective with the Chinatown Free Citizens Police Department, in a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles safe-zone. The first season follows Tatum as he begins what appears to be an unusually straight-forward missing persons case, and ends up being the most dangerous assignment of his career.
The world that Tatum lives and works in is familiar, but the PA twist will keep you guessing. There are cyborgs, high-tech weapons, complex political machinations, explosions and firefights–not to mention the pithy dialogue and bad-ass characters you’d expect from post-apocalyptic detective story–to keep you clicking your way through to the end.
But the best part is, it doesn’t end. Not yet! There are 13 episodes in season 1 so far, plus a bonus story in the Monolith’s annual Halloween release Corrogatio III (which is free! Download it here). So treat yourself to a new writer, a new genre, a new medium, a new world. Give Chinatown a try!