Our Stars, Our Memories (Or, a YA Reminder)

“So, why do you write YA fiction?” is a question I get often.  “What is it about YA that inspires you to write in that genre?”

I suppose the question is natural enough.  After all, The Eye-Dancers is a YA sci-fi/fantasy novel, and its sequel, The Singularity Wheel, due out late this summer, is as well.  But the truth is, I’m not a YA writer–at least, not exclusively.  Prior to The Eye-Dancers, in fact, I had rarely ventured into the YA waters.  For years, I wrote short stories–dozens of them.  And nearly all of them are mainstream/literary.

 

Even at that time, though, there was an occasional appeal to write about younger protagonists.  One story in particular, called “Marbles,” about a teenage boy who has a moment of epiphany causing him to realize and fully embrace that he’s no longer a child, and that he must look forward and prepare for his life as an adult, stayed with me.  It wasn’t long after writing “Marbles” that I began working on The Eye-Dancers.

 

It’s odd on the surface.  I am a long way from being a teenager myself.  The days of junior high and high school, for me, reside in a previous century, back when smartphones were unheard of and the personal computer was only just becoming mainstream.  When I was in junior high, Larry Bird was the three-time reigning NBA MVP, postage stamps cost 25 cents, and Tiffany was topping the pop charts with “Could’ve Been.”

 

It was a long time ago.

And yet . . . are we ever truly beyond our formative years?  Do we ever “outgrow” our first date, our first rejection, our first triumph?  Experiences from our past do not disappear like smoke upon an autumn breeze.  They linger.  Sometimes they hide in the shadows, buried beneath the layers of intervening years.  Other times they rise to the fore, reminders of an experience decades gone, remarkably vivid, as sharp and vibrant in our mind’s eye as the day they happened.

 

But still.  Why revisit the old haunts of adolescence on purpose?  Why write an entire novel (or two!) about teenage protagonists up to their chins in angst and insecurities?  Why walk the perilous path down memory lane that retouches old wounds and scabs?  It’s something many writers, as well as readers, do.  In fact, a 2012 survey concluded that 55 percent of YA readers are adults.  Again, the question of why resurfaces.

 

I can’t speak for others, only myself, and for me, writing The Eye-Dancers–and now, finishing up The Singularity Wheel–has been a labor of love.  The characters of Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, Marc Kuslanski, and Ryan Swinton were all inspired by neighborhood friends from my childhood, and then merged together with sprinklings from my own life.  When, for instance, I describe Mitchell’s enjoyment of his favorite comic book in chapter 1 of The Singularity Wheel, I am, in essence, remembering my own discovery of that same issue when I was a teenager . . .

 

“He refocused on Fantastic Four number 51.  It was a remarkable issue—the first appearance of The Negative Zone, an alternate universe composed of negative, rather than positive, matter.  In the story, Reed Richards, Mr. Fantastic, has just made the discovery and resolves to explore this new and dangerous place.  He journeys through the void, bridges the gap between dimensions.

“Just like I did once, he thought.  Like we all did.  Five years ago.”

Of course, I’ve never traveled across time and space, as Mitchell has, but the appreciation he and I share for old comic books is real–and a reminder for me of what it was like when I was Mitchell’s age.

 

Not all of my adolescent memories are positive. Some of my most humiliating experiences happened in school.  Like so many others, I was at times the butt of jokes, the object of derision.  In high school, I struggled with acne and was overweight.  Believe me, I was made aware of both on a weekly, and sometimes daily, basis.

 

But I was lucky.  Even on the worst days, I understood that.  I had a strong, stable family life–my parents never moved.  Many of our neighbors remained the same through the years.  Friendships in the old neighborhood ran deep.  The real-life inspirations for Mitchell, Joe, Marc, and Ryan would all get together with me–especially in summer.  We’d hang out on the driveway, shooting baskets; we’d invent games and spend entire afternoons arguing about the ever-evolving rules, having a blast the whole time; when we grew a little older, became teenagers, we’d talk about the things adolescent boys talk about, and we’d compete in sports and play strategic board games that lasted for hours.

 

Through it all, there was a camaraderie that was resilient, strong, enduring.  We still keep in touch today–not that often, not like we used to.  But whenever we get together, special things happen.  The years peel away, and the memories merge with the present day, creating a synchronicity in the space-time continuum that can only be described as magic.  And I am taken back to a simpler time, a time when forty was still decades hence, when, despite setbacks and doubts and insecurities, opportunities still seemed endless and all things were possible.

 

Maybe that’s why we write, and read, YA fiction, even as we get older.  Maybe as we take on the burdens and responsibilities of adulthood, as we perhaps feel trapped in a career we don’t love, a situation we can’t extricate ourselves from, a diagnosis we can’t pretend away, we need a reminder.  We need to remember what it was like when we were young.

 

As I look back through the lens of memory, I remember those summer evenings, lingering in the driveway, leaning against the car, talking with my friends as we swatted at the mosquitoes in seek of our blood and watched the fireflies dance and glow in the dark.  We’d talk about nothing, and everything.  We weren’t in a hurry.  Just being there was enough.

 

And we’d look up at the night sky, feel a sense of awe, and wonder.  I hope that sense of awe, that desire to probe and question and discover, that willingness to wonder and to believe in the so-called “impossible,” remains always.  I hope it never grows old.

 

“The stars are yours,” Ray Bradbury once wrote, “if you have the head, the hands, and the heart for them.”

 

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

“One for the Angels” (Or, Win a Gift Card, Any Gift Card!)

In an early Season One episode of The Twilight Zone titled “One for the Angels,” sidewalk salesman Lou Bookman is confronted by Mr. Death.  Death tells the personable, well-liked pitchman that his time has come–he will die at midnight.  Bookman pleads with Death, asking him to postpone his demise until he makes his one last great pitch–“one for the angels,” he calls it.  While he’s made sales all his life, Bookman tells Death he’s never made that big splash, that monumental transaction.   He yearns for the opportunity.

lou2

 

Death grants him his request, but then Bookman tries to outsmart him.  He retires from the sales trade; therefore, the deal with Death is null and void.  If he’s no longer a pitchman, he can’t make that exciting sale he just waxed poetic about.  He will live on indefinitely.  Death has been defeated!

Not so fast.  It turns out that Death needs to take someone–if not Bookman, then someone else.  Mr. Death selects a little girl–a girl Bookman adores.  She lives in the same apartment building as he does, and the two have become friends.  That’s not unusual for Lou Bookman–children always seem to take a liking to him, and he to them.

loubookman

 

The girl is hit by a truck, and Bookman feels responsible.  He seeks out Mr. Death, pleads to make a deal with him to spare the girl’s life.  She is in a bed, lying comatose, barely holding on.  He asks to be taken in her place.  But Death refuses.  They had an arrangement.  Bookman broke it, and a new deal was struck.  Death will need to be in the girl’s room at the stroke of midnight to take her with him.

outsmartdeath

 

As midnight approaches, Bookman finds Mr. Death on the street and attempts to distract him, knowing that if  Death fails to show up in the girl’s room at midnight, she will live.  Bookman flies into a sales pitch, frantic, determined to succeed.  He shows Death everything he has to sell, and captivates him.  Mr. Death, overwhelmed, finally says, “Give me all you have!”    Midnight comes and goes.  Death has missed his appointed round.  The girl will live.

dealwithdeath2

 

Lou Bookman has done it–he has made his last great sales pitch–“one for the angels,” indeed.  Now Death will need to take him, as per the original agreement.  In saving the girl’s life, Bookman has sacrificed his own.

**********************************

The promotional pitch I am offering here cannot compare with the one made by Lou Bookman in The Twilight Zone fifty-four summers ago.  But I hope it will top a similar Eye-Dancers promo I ran back in April.

annemannequin

 

The concept is the same–during the promotional period, anyone who purchases The Eye-Dancers will have an opportunity to win a gift card.

But the specifics are different.  This promo, for one thing, will last longer–allowing for a possibly much higher gift-card amount to the winner.  Also, the current promo will not be strictly an Amazon affair, as the last one was . . .

Between today (July 11) and August 22, if you buy The Eye-Dancers, wherever it is sold, please notify me–either with a comment on this website, or via email at michaelf424@gmail.com.  I will keep track of  each person who buys the book during this time frame and then, on August 23, the day after the promotion ends, I will randomly select one winner.  The selected person will be awarded a gift card–to anywhere!  If you’d like an Amazon gift card, by all means . . .  Or B & N.  Or even something non-book-related.  Pizza Hut, perhaps?  Your favorite department store?  The choice will be yours!

giftcard

 

The amount of the gift card will be based on the number of overall purchases of The Eye-Dancers during the promotional time period.  For each purchase, $2.00 will be earmarked toward the gift card.  So, for example, if there are thirty purchases during the promotion, the gift card would be for $60 (30 purchases x $2.00 per purchase).  The gift card amount, in other words, will be determined by you!  The more purchases, the higher the amount on the gift card.

I’ll draw the winner’s name on Thursday, August 23, and will immediately send an email notifying them of the good news.  And please just remember that if you do purchase The Eye-Dancers during the designated period to make sure and contact me so I can enter your name into the gift-card contest.

The Eye-Dancers is available for purchase at the following online retail locations . . .

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Eye-Dancers-ebook/dp/B00A8TUS8M

B & N:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-eye-dancers-michael-s-fedison/1113839272?ean=2940015770261

Smashwords:  http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/255348

Kobo:  http://store.kobobooks.com/books/The-Eye-Dancers/nKFZETbWWkyzV2QkaJWOjg

This promo may not quite be “one for the angels,” but I hope you’ll take part!

oneforfinal

 

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

A Simple (and Complex) Question, A Complex (and Simple) Answer

It was just one of those questions that sometimes pop up during the course of a conversation–unplanned, spur-of-the-moment.

“Why do you write?”

I was having lunch with a friend, an accountant who had just confessed to me that he’d never so much as attempted to write a short story in his entire life, let alone a novel.  What motivated me to create fiction, to invent stories and situations and then share them with others, he wanted to know.

I opened my mouth, then closed it.  It was such a straightforward question.  And yet–no one had ever actually asked it of me so plainly, so baldly.  Why did I write?  On the surface, it seemed, I should have had an answer ready.  After all, writing was my passion, and always had been.  I could remember writing stories as far back as the second grade.

write

 

But I wasn’t sure how to respond.  Did I write because it was fun?  Sometimes.  When a story flowed, when the words spilled out of me so fast I couldn’t type quickly enough, when characters spoke lines that seemingly came directly from them, supposed figments of my imagination, and not from me at all, it was a rapturous experience, a high like no other.  But other times, it was brutal, as I dissected, edited, and picked apart my work.  Was it rewarding?  Yes, of course.  But that, in and of itself, didn’t capture the essence of why I write.

My friend’s straightforward question suddenly seemed more complex.

Drawing a blank, not certain how I could adequately answer it, all I could think to say was, “You know, I’m not sure.  It’s just something in me, that’s all.  Writing is  something I have to do.”

My friend had a thoughtful look on his face, and I expected he’d follow up with more questions.  But then he just nodded, and changed the topic of conversation.

That night, I lie awake, thinking about it, and the exchange bothered me.  My answer seemed too pat, too simple.  My need to write, and to share my writing with others, went deeper than that.  I just wasn’t sure how to express it.  It was like trying to lasso a passing summer cloud, high overhead, force it down to ground level, and then jump inside, hoping it would float away again, taking me along for the ride.  How was I supposed to put something like that into words?

That conversation happened twelve years ago. . . .

**********

The question of why I write is not unrelated to another question I get often:  “Where do your story ideas come from?”  On the surface, the two questions are different–but in actuality they are linked, two sides of the proverbial coin.  Ideas, I have found, cannot be “forced.”  I cannot wake up one morning and state, boldly, “Today I will think of a new short story and write it.”  It doesn’t work that way–at least not for me.

In my experience, ideas come when I least expect them–while I’m out mowing the lawn, running an errand at the store, taking a walk along a quiet country road.  Sometimes ideas come when I’m at a large gathering, even while in the midst of a conversation.

And sometimes they come in my dreams.

The genesis for The Eye-Dancers came to me over twenty years ago when I dreamed of the same “ghost girl” Mitchell Brant dreams of in the first chapter of the novel.  But when I woke up, I didn’t know what to do with this strange, haunting girl.  I knew I wanted to write about her–but I had no story in which to place her.

It took two decades until I did, when, once again, I dreamed of her.  But this time, upon waking, I had the basic concept of the story in place.  And despite the fact that it all began with the ghost girl, the story would really be about four boys who ultimately go on a dimension-busting journey, where they not only have to overcome the otherworldly dangers they are confronted with, but also the insecurities and hang-ups that plague them.  I knew right away, as soon as I woke up that morning–this was a story I had to write.

It was an exhilarating feeling–it always is when an idea strikes, takes hold of me and won’t let go–not until it forms into a living thing, with flesh and bones and cartilage, heart and mind and soul, right there on the page.  Whenever it happens, I am reminded of a quote from Ray Bradbury:

“Write only what you love, and love what you write.  The key word is love.  You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.”

bradbury

 

For me, there is no other way.  I can have–and have had–grand ideas, rich concepts, fantastic plotlines that never will see the light of day.  The reason?  I don’t care deeply enough about them.  The idea, in and of itself, might be interesting, but it doesn’t grab me by the throat and demand a life and vitality of its own.  It just sits there, like a Victorian gentleman sipping his afternoon tea, pondering the benefits of a nap.  If I tried to write about it, it would come out dull and drab–and it would, indeed, inspire a nap!

With a novel, in particular, you have to love your characters, love what you’re trying to create.  It is too long, too formidable of a project to accomplish otherwise.  There were days while writing The Eye-Dancers that I honestly didn’t know if I could continue.  The task seemed too large, too hard, too daunting.  But then, when apathy threatened to take over, I would think of the themes the story delves into–themes I care deeply about:  the essence of childhood, the art of discovery, the struggles and joys of growing up, the curiosity to wonder, the daring to believe in magic, the exploration of the universe, and of what we term “reality” itself.  And perhaps most important of all, I would think of Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, Ryan Swinton, and Marc Kuslanski–four characters inspired by friends I knew growing up.  The Eye-Dancers is their story, and I wanted, needed, to tell it.

universe

 

And maybe that’s the best way I know to explain why it is I write fiction, and why I desire others to read what I have to say.  I write to explore and further awaken pieces of me, and I want nothing more than to share those pieces, those memories and truths, those fears and loves, with you.  It is my hope that The Eye-Dancers accomplishes all of that, and more.

When it’s all said and done, I look back at this and smile.  Because maybe, just maybe, the answer I gave my friend all those years ago is, ultimately, the best answer of all.

Why do we do what we do?  Why do we follow our passions?  What makes us driven to write and sing and dance and act and garden and play and cook and paint and love, and do those things we were put on this earth to do?

Why do I write?

It’s just something in me, that’s all.  It’s something I have to do.

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

Eye-Dancers Amazon Gift Card Opportunity, a Twitter Announcement, and . . . Mannequins?

In the first-season Twilight Zone episode “The After Hours,” Marsha White, a customer at a large department store, asks where she can find the store’s selection of gold thimbles.

marshawhite

 

She is told the ninth floor, and she is escorted there by the elevator man.  Once dropped off, a saleswoman approaches her–an odd person who makes Marsha uncomfortable.

saleswomanafterhours

 

Stranger still, there is only one item for sale on the entire ninth floor–the exact gold thimble Marsha is shopping for.  She purchases the item, unaware that this transaction is not the end, but rather the beginning of a spooky, unnerving, and ultimately self-revealing adventure.

anneafterhours

 

By episode’s end, Marsha realizes she is a mannequin–one of the many on display throughout the store.  Each month, a new mannequin is “awakened,” and able to experience life as a person.  But at the end of the thirty days, they must return and let the next mannequin in line have their chance.  Marsha, drunk on life, as it were, had suppressed the knowledge that she was a mannequin.  The peculiar dealings in the department store serve as a reminder, and eventually show her that her time is up.  She must return to her inanimate existence.

annemannequin

 

Now, what does all this have to do with The Eye-Dancers Amazon gift-card promotion that begins today?  I’m not sure!  Except to say, this promotion is very straightforward, and I promise, no one will be turned into a mannequin upon its completion.

For anyone who is thinking of purchasing The Eye-Dancers, the next three weeks offer an intriguing opportunity.  Beginning today, April 2, and ending Sunday, April 21, anyone who purchases The Eye-Dancers on Amazon will be eligible to win an Amazon gift card.  Here is how it works . . .

Between April 2 and April 21, if you buy The Eye-Dancers on Amazon, please notify me–either with a comment on this website, or via email at michaelf424@gmail.com.  I will write down the name of  each person who buys the book during this time frame on a small slip of paper, fold the paper, and place it in a jar.  Then, on April 22, the day after the promotion ends, I will randomly select one of the names from the jar.  The selected person will be awarded the Amazon gift card.

amazongift

The amount of the gift card will be based on the number of Amazon purchases of The Eye-Dancers during the promotional time period.  For each purchase, $1.50 will be earmarked toward the gift card.  So, for example, if there are twenty purchases during the promotion, the gift card would be $30 (20 purchases x $1.50 per purchase).  The gift card amount, in other words, will be determined by you!  The more purchases, the higher the amount on the gift card.

I’ll draw the winner’s name on Monday, April 22, and will email the good news to the winner, and immediately award them the gift card.

Hopefully you’ll take part!  Please remember, this only applies to Amazon purchases.  And if you do buy The Eye-Dancers during the designated period, please make sure to contact me so I can enter your name into the gift-card contest.

The link to The Eye-Dancers on Amazon is:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Eye-Dancers-ebook/dp/B00A8TUS8M

Hopefully, also, the details of this promotion are not as confusing, tricky, or scary as the shopping experience Marsha White endured in “The After Hours”!

A final note:  I have joined the Twitter world!  Please follow me at https://twitter.com/msfedison27.

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

Square Dance

One of my favorite television shows of all time is The Wonder Years.  Few shows have the ability to make you laugh out loud one minute and cry the next.  The Wonder Years is one of them.  And one of the very best episodes is a Season Two gem called “Square Dance.”

The opening scene shows a pair of hands flipping through the pages  of a twenty-year-old junior-high-school yearbook.  The hands belong to the show’s narrator, the adult version of main character Kevin Arnold.  And we hear him say in a voice-over:

“Some people pass through your life, and you never think about them again.  Some you think about and wonder–what ever happened to them?  And then there are those you wish you never had to think about again.

“But you do.”

Now the scene shifts back two decades and we see the twelve-year-old Kevin, in seventh grade.

kevin

In gym class, it’s the first day of square dance.  The teacher is pairing up boys and girls to be dance partners for the week.  Kevin hopes for a popular girl.  But when he’s paired up, it’s with Margaret Farquhar, the class outcast.  Everyone thinks of her as the strangest student in the class.  Kevin groans, and wishes he could escape.  But he’s stuck.  He needs to dance with the seventh-grade pariah for the entire week.

sqdance

Maybe some viewers rush to judgment here.  Why should he be so concerned about what others think?  About how his classmates view him, and what they’ll say about him dancing with Margaret Farquhar?  But of course this is junior high.  Image, as Andre Agassi once said in a commercial, is everything.

Certainly, in The Eye-Dancers, this is something both Mitchell Brant and Ryan Swinton can relate to.  Mitchell continually puffs himself up with exaggerated tall tales and even cheats on tests sometimes to get better grades.  When he’s being honest with himself, he acknowledges that he’s jealous of the popular boys in his class.  He can tell all the stories about himself he wants.  He’ll never be popular like them.  And it hurts.

Ryan, on the other hand, desperately wants to be liked, and he pursues this desire by playing the role of the class clown.  He feels a tremendous amount of pressure to make people laugh, to always have jokes and punch lines on demand.  When he tells a joke and no one laughs, it’s the worst feeling in the world.

So when Kevin Arnold, in “Square Dance,” feels nauseated by his partnership with Margaret Farquhar, I’m sure Mitchell and Ryan would get it.  “We hear you, Kevin,” they’d say to him if they could at the start of The Eye-Dancers.  “We’d feel the same way.”

The thing is–throughout the week of square dancing, Margaret takes a liking to Kevin, and at one point she even comes over his house.  She shows him her pet bat.  She tells him she also has a pet tarantula and a pet lizard.  Kevin’s opinion of her is solidified.  She’s weird.  But, to his surprise, he kind of likes her company.  The adult Kevin, in his role as voice-over narrator, looking back on the scene from the chasm of twenty years, says, “The thing was, she was interesting.  In a weird way, of course.  But interesting . . .”

margaret

Nevertheless, he is still appalled at the prospect of dancing with or even talking to her at school.  So when, the next day, she approaches him in the hall, all smiles, happy to see him, he tells her they can’t talk anymore.  At least not in front of anyone.  “Maybe we can be . . . secret friends,” he tells her.

At this, she finally gets the message.  All week long, he had been sending her signals that he couldn’t be seen with her, didn’t really want to dance with her.  But she hadn’t taken the hint.  Now she at last sees the situation as it really is.

Secret friends?” she says, on the verge of tears.  “How can we be friends if you don’t want to talk to me?  What’s so bad about talking?”

This causes a scene.  Other students gather around, mock her, pick at her, as they always do.  Meanwhile, Kevin just stands there.

“I wanted to say something,” the adult Kevin says in a voice-over as we watch the scene unfold.  “But I didn’t.”

It was Margaret who did the talking.

“I thought you were different,” she says, and then walks away.

The closing sequence of the episode takes us back to the present day, twenty years later, as the adult Kevin looks at Margaret Farquhar’s picture in his old junior high yearbook.

“Maybe if I’d been a little braver,” he says, “I could’ve been her friend.  But the truth is, in seventh grade, who you are is what other seventh graders say you are.”

“The funny thing is,” he concludes,  “it’s hard to remember the names of the kids you spent so much time trying to impress.  But you don’t forget someone like Margaret Farquhar.  Professor of biology.  Mother of six.  Friend to bats.”

And here the episode ends . . .

This is something both Mitchell Brant and Ryan Swinton must face and wrestle with over the course of The Eye-Dancers.  True, the novel is a sci-fi adventure about parallel worlds and dreams and the interconnectedness of all things.  Hopefully it takes readers on a wild and imaginative ride.  But at its heart The Eye-Dancers is a story about growing up, about adolescence and confronting the struggles that accompany it.

And I’d like to think that, by novel’s end, if either Mitchell or Ryan saw Margaret Farquhar standing across the room, they would go up to her and ask, “May I have this dance?”

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

When Comic Books Were Controversial

It’s an issue that still rages from time to time.  What is “acceptable” content for entertainment geared toward a young adult or teenaged audience?  Even in the 21st century, it’s debated how graphic the violence, sexuality, and language should be.  Where is the cut-off?  Is anything and everything okay?  Or should there be stricter guidelines for YA fiction, for instance, than for fiction targeted for a more general audience?  Whatever side of the fence you stand on, this is an argument that can get heated.  And it’s not new.  Within the comic book industry, it goes all the way back to the early 1950s.

In The Eye-Dancers, Mitchell Brant is a comic book collector.  Even Joe Marma has a few older Spider-Man issues.  Neither of them, though, has what we now call “pre-Code” issues.  Pre-Code issues refer to comic books published prior to March/April 1955.  The Code stamp, back then, was a large eyesore on the upper right of every comic cover.

Marvel_Tales_Vol_1_148

In subsequent decades, the Code stamp slowly decreased in size, as it became less and less of a concern.  But in the mid-1950s, it was all the rage.  In the mid-1950s, in fact, comic books, as an industry, nearly went out of business.

It’s funny to think of old comics as anything but corny.  Certainly post-Code, from the mid-50s on, they were.  But in the early 1950s, there was no industry standard dictating what could and could not be used in a story or on a cover.  And the writers and publishers in the comics industry pushed the envelope as hard as they could.

In the 1940s, especially during World War II, superheroes were the name of the game.  Captain America, The Sub-Mariner, The (Original) Human Torch fought alongside America’s soldiers.  Even Batman and Superman got into the act.  After the war, many of these heroes had nothing left to fight.  We think of Captain America as always having been around.  The truth is–Captain America Comics number 1 debuted in 1941, and Cap then went defunct in the early ’50s.  It was only in 1964 that he was “reborn.”  Apart from Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, the post-War years were lean ones for superheroes.  ‘

So what did the comics publish in their place?  Crime stories.  Suspense stories.  And horror stories.  Lots and lots of horror stories.  And they weren’t corny.  They weren’t cute.  They were graphic.  They were much more graphic than any movie out at the time.  In fact, the HBO series Tales from the Crypt was based on the horror stories that EC Comics published in the early ’50s.  From 1950–1954, 1,650 issues of horror comic books made it to the newsstands.  That translates to approximately 25 every month.  And with each passing month, the issues became edgier, the covers more graphic, more daring.  Here is a sample of what you’d have found at your local drugstore back in the early ’50s . . .

shock07

mister_mystery12

crypt28

crisus07

crypt27

lawbreakers

For the most part, until 1954, any controversy about these comics was scattered, not well organized, and in no way a threat to the industry.  But then a book called Seduction of the Innocent, by Dr. Fredric Wertham, was published in 1954, and the death knell on horror in comic books had arrived.  Wertham was a respected child psychologist.  His words held merit to parents.  And parents, for the first time in many cases, were now alerted to what their kids were reading.  And it sure wasn’t Superman.

Parents all across America united.  Entire cities boycotted comic books.  A firestorm anti-comics movement raged.  Even the United States government got involved.  The Senate Judiciary on Juvenile Delinquency basically handed the comic book industry an ultimatum:  Clean it up, or pack it in.  The comic book controversy reached the pages of Time magazine, Newsweek, and the front page of the New York Times.

The end result was the industry self-censoring itself, stripping away much of the “pre-Code” feel of comic books.  Nearly every horror comic magazine went out of business virtually overnight.  They could not continue to publish the kinds of stories they wanted under the new, strict guidelines of the Code.  The industry was on the brink of collapse.  It needed something entirely new–and it would get it.  But that’s a story for another day.

Back in the mid-1950s, when the comic book debate raged, the term “young adult” was hardly used.  “Juvenile” was the preferred term then.  And Wertham, in his book Seduction of the Innocent, made sweeping assertions that the comics industry was contributing heavily to juvenile delinquency.  Many parents agreed with him.

Terms change.  Society moves on and evolves.  But certain points of debate still persist.  They likely always will.

The Eye-Dancers is not a young adult book that would be considered to contain any “objectionable” material.  Hopefully it contains a lot of thought-provoking and imaginative material, though!  But for all the YA books that do indeed delve into or close to the “objectionable”–you’re not alone.  Decades ago, the comic book industry was right there alongside you.

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

Facebook Feedback

These are exciting days in The Eye-Dancers universe (or, considering the locales in the story, maybe I should say multiverse)!

multiverse

The Eye-Dancers has been available for purchase for a couple of months, and a sequel is now in the works.  I plan to begin writing it within the next week or two, and am looking forward to delving back in to the characters’ worlds, and starting a new adventure.

A couple of months ago, I created the Eye-Dancers Facebook page.  But, quite honestly, other than writing a few announcement-style posts early on, that site has remained mostly dormant.  I’d like that to change, and would love to hear your thoughts.

What kinds of things do you like to see on a Facebook fan page?  My aim is for the Eye-Dancer Facebook page to be its own unique place–a fun and interactive site, worthy to be “Liked”!  Thanks to everyone who has visited and Liked the page so far!  And thanks for your patience over these past few weeks while the site has just kind of sat there, without being updated with fresh content.  It’s time to change that.  And your feedback would be most appreciated.

It’s interesting to think of the “old days” before the Internet and the ability to interact so readily with so many people.  Back then, as an author, you could receive postal mail and hear from readers that way (assuming you even had a wide enough audience for this to happen).  But by and large, you existed in something of a bubble.  You wrote what you wrote, hoped people would enjoy it, but rarely received very much feedback from readers, and then you moved on to your next project.  Whereas in 2013, we can all exchange ideas, give each other feedback, and carry on engaging conversations.  It’s a new world, really, and an exciting one.

I’m grateful to be a part of it, and as always I thank you so much for reading!

–Mike

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