It’s time for another new release announcement. While the last new release announcements were all parts of existing series, this story is a true standalone. It’s also something for those of my readers who enjoy the lighter and funnier side of my writing.
Blasters of Forever is another story to come out of the 2017 July short story challenge. One of the big challenges of the July short story challenge project – beyond writing a story every day – is coming up with ideas for a whole month worth of short stories. So I sometimes need a little help to generate story ideas.
And so I found myself looking around the various generator sites on the Internet, while doing the 2017 July short story challenge, and eventually came across something called the merchandiseable toy generator, which generates names for the sort of toy franchises that come with tie-in cartoons. I played around with the generator and wrote down the best names I got, hoping that one of them would spark the inspiration for a story. In the end, however, I liked the various titles so much that I thought, “Why don’t I use all of them and write a story about someone who writes toy tie-in cartoons for a living?” And this is how Simon St. John and his many creations were born.
Now I have a deep and abiding love for cartoons, particularly for the toy tie-in cartoons of the 1980s. Of course, I know that they were basically just advertising, even though the toys they were advertising often weren’t even available in Europe. What is more, toy tie-in cartoons or indeed almost any kind of action cartoons were hardly ever seen on German TV in the pre-private television era, when only the most harmless and wholesome fare was permitted and even Porky Pig was cancelled as “too violent”. As for cartoons meant to advertise anything, including toys – forget it. That sort of thing was far too commercial and would never have been permitted.
However, in the 1980s my Dad worked in Rotterdam in the Netherlands and lived in an apartment which had cable TV, at a time, when cable TV was still a distant dream at home. Via cable TV, we received about ten different channels, which was a huge number in the three channel world of the pre-private TV era. Four of those channels were Dutch and Belgian TV (mostly dull, but sometimes it had cartoons and music), then we got the regular three German public channels (dull as usual) plus two German language private channels (much better, since they had soap operas and US TV shows).
But the very best TV channel available was the earliest incarnation of Sky, back when it broadcast nothing but music videos, 1960s US TV series and cartoons, lots of cartoons. The cartoons were broadcast in the context of a program called The DJ Kat Show, hosted by Linda de Mol and a puppet called DJ Kat. I loved The DJ Kat Show and in particular, I loved the cartoons. And the best cartoons were the many toy tie-in cartoons such as M.A.S.K., Jem, Transformers, Go-Bots, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra – Princess of Power, Bravestarr, Galaxy Rangers, Defenders of the Earth, Dungeons and Dragons, Thundercats, Care Bears, Rainbow Brite, My Little Pony and many others. I already homaged The DJ Kat Show in Cartoony Justice. Blasters of Forever is an homage to the cartoons I loved so much back in the day.
Rewatching some of these cartoons as an adult shows that much of what I loved about them existed merely in my head (and that I totally missed all the hints that many of the characters are gay – well, they had to be, considering how very few women there were), because frankly they are not very well made. The animation is jerky, the stories often make little sense, any depth the characters have existed primarily in my mind and the “morality bits” at the end are as patronising as I remember them. However, you cannot help but admire the enormous inventiveness displayed in stories whose main purpose was selling some pretty silly toys to children.
Regardless of their actual quality, the toy tie-in cartoons I watched as a kid had a huge influence on me and also on my writing. These neon-coloured adventures embedded themselves in my subconscious and bits and pieces of them quite frequently emerge in the stories I write today. And yes, it is kind of embarassing, when you realise that some of your best ideas can be traced to some rather silly cartoons whose main purpose was selling stupid toys. Therefore, Blasters of Forever is also a story about how – to quote Captain Chronos – inspiration can be found in the strangest of places.
Now we are living in an era where we regularly see big budget Hollywood adaptations of things none of us ever expected to see on the big screen, whether it’s a whole series of Transformers movies or the Marvel movies which give even the most obscure superheroes their moment in the spotlight. When they created the Marvel universe in the 1960s, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko et all could never have foreseen that these stories and characters would one day become bid budget movies and that they would break box office records. And whoever created the Transformers probably never expected to see a live action version on the big screen. Just as Simon cannot imagine the lasting impact his own throwaway creations will have.
I’ve noticed that stories about writers and their creations are one of the themes I keep coming back to. After all, I already wrote a story bringing a creator face to face with his creation in the “Crisis” portion of Muse and Crisis. And come to think of it, the Silencer stories also fall under the broad umbrella of stories about the relationship between writers and their creations, except that Richard Blackmore actually is the character he created or at least cosplays as the Silencer to fight crime.
The reunion of Steve, the protagonist of “Crisis”, and his character Channa is exactly a happy one – well, Steve does write dark and gritty comics. Meanwhile, Simon’s meeting with the Blasters of Forever is a much happier and lighter story, even if it is interrupted by a time travelling assassin. But then, the Blasters of Forever come from the generally goofy world of toy tie-in cartoons, where even the villains are not too villainous.
None of the toys and cartoons described in Blasters of Forever ever existed. However, they are not all that different from many that did. 1980s toy tie-in cartoons were full of cyborgs, dinosaurs, time travellers, talking dogs, teen pop stars and characters with very silly names. The voice chips, the colour-changing and transforming action and the infrared targeting were all used in real toys of the period, too. And yes, most of them never really worked as advertised. My lone Transformer has been a sportscar for ages, since no one can figure out how to safely transform him back. Coincidentally, Simon’s magnum opus People on a Bridge never existed either, for which we can be thankful, for it’s easy to imagine just how awful that movie would have been.
Designing a cover for Blasters of Forever was something of a challenge, because 1980s cartoons had a very distinctive look that’s not easy to capture. Luckily, I came across the striking pop art inspired graphics of Valeriy Kachaev, which were perfect for my purpose. The character depicted is clearly Amy Extreme – dancer, cyberneticist and Kung Fu blackbelt – because Felicia Galaxy, the other female member of the Blasters of Forever, is black. The typography and the garish and clashing colours are also inspired by real cartoon logos of the 1980s.
So let’s step back in time and prepare to meet the Blasters of Forever, time cops with superpowers, as they meet their creator and inspiration Simon St. John. But of course, mayhem ensues, for the evil Doctor Chronos never rests…
But one night, when Simon has just come up with his latest creation, a group of time travelling cops known as the Blasters of Forever, a portal opens inside his living room. Out of the portal hop none others than the Blasters of Forever or at any rate, people who look very much like them.
The Blasters explain that they are from the future, where Simon is considered not just one of the greatest creative minds of the twentieth century, but also the inspiration for the time travel program that eventually led to the formation of the Blasters of Forever.
However, not just the Blasters of Forever are real. The villainous Doctor Chronos, sworn enemy of the Blasters of Forever, is real as well. And so is his cadre of time travelling assassins.
Length: 5500 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
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