In this podcast, Jason Pargin talks about Zoey Is Too Drunk for this Dystopia, writing a book series, TikTok creation strategies, and much more.
About Jason Pargin
Jason Pargin is the New York Times bestselling author of John Dies at the End and the Zoey Ashe series. He is the former editor of Cracked.com. He’s just released his new book Zoey Is Too Drunk For This Dystopia.
Thanks for Listening!
Help out the show:
- Support This Is Horror on Patreon
- Listen to This Is Horror Podcast on Apple Podcasts
- Listen to This Is Horror Podcast on Spotify
- Rate and review This Is Horror on Apple Podcasts
- Share the episode on Facebook and Twitter
- Subscribe to This Is Horror podcast RSS Feed
Let us know how you enjoyed this episode:
- Buy Jason Pargin Books
- Watch video versions of This Is Horror Podcast conversations on YouTube
- Watch the video version of the conversation with Jason Pargin on YouTube
Cosmovorous by R.C. Hausen
The debut from R.C. Hausen, available now.
Hail Santa by John McNee
The ultimate Christmas story. Out now.
Michael David Wilson 0:07
Welcome to This Is Horror, a podcast for readers writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson, and every episode alongside my co host, Bob Pastorella. Week out with the world's best writers about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Today I am counting to Jason Pargin for the second in a two part conversation, and we continue to get a little bit deeper into his strategy in terms of tackling TikTOk. We also talk about his new book, so he is too drunk for this dystopia. We get some general write in and life advice. So there's a lot to delve into as there always is when we have Jason on the show. But before we get to the conversation, a quick advert break the
John McNee 1:28
The town of St. Nicholas in northern Canada, our community in decline until it's purchased by a Chinese American corporation intent on turning it into a luxury ski resort that what neither the residents or their new benefactors realize is a Nicholas already has an owner something strange and inhuman which has long held the town in its Thrall and won't give it up without a fight. The children call it Santa Claus. Blood bone books proudly presents hail Santa by John McNee. This Christmas season reject God worship Santa
R.C. Hausen 1:59
Cosmo Horus the debut cosmic horror novel from Marcy Houser Esmeralda has lived on the fringes of society for as long as she can remember. Until a Halloween night gone wrong. Oh Lux a cache of nightmarish memories. Visions of a bizarre desert town images of a mysterious woman the pain of an ultimate betrayal and the shame of a bargain made in blood. Now she must travel back and learn the true nature of the ravenous Cosmos cosmic horror is available everywhere books are sold.
Michael David Wilson 2:28
Okay with that said here it is. It is Jason Pargin. On This Is Horror. So we've been speaking a lot about TikTok and social media and experimentation. And I mean, I think it's something that is at the forefront of a lot of writers and creatives minds, particularly with the uncertainty overlaps formerly known as Twitter. And I mean, it's something that I think about a lot too. And I think more people are going to be thinking about TikTok after this conversation. But I, I do wonder about, you know, we've actually, they've now got the ability, if you become premium, you can put out an entire video podcast. So it's something I keep considering doing, just just to see what would happen. I mean, there's a little bit of a moral dilemma there too, that I don't really want to go premium. But if I try it for a month, and then it results in, you know, 10s of 1000s more views, it would feel like it's money well spent, even if it's going to somebody who is not ideal.
Jason Pargin 3:59
That's the dilemma for anybody who wants to have a platform anywhere because it is hard to find in Oh, either you don't know who owns the platform. Or else there's something terrifying about it, you know it good because like saying that TikTok is partially owned by the Chinese government effectively. I don't think it is being bigoted or whatever to say that. That's a little weird. Right, you know, because it a lot of the regulations and things that you would expect to be in place for something that powerful are kind of not it is a very contentious issue. You know, before Tik Tok came along before x came along, I was mainly reaching people on Facebook. That's Facebook has directly participated in multiple genocides around the world, because this was where they staged the genocide. And I don't know they didn't do it on purpose, but they also did not try as hard as they could have to stop it. Mark Zuckerberg is not any more of an angel than Elon Musk people seem to like him. Now, I think that is having a very short memory. Yeah, all of these people, if you told them that your platform is bad for society, but also you can become a billionaire, if it grows big enough, I think would take the billion dollars, I think most of them, the guy that started blue sky is a former Twitter guy. A lot of these techno tech people are either some form of weird libertarian, or they're crazy, or else they're just very fascist adjacent. And that is a very ugly thing to sort of just get used to like, oh, well, they're all like this. But they are kind of all like that to a degree. And I don't know what to do about it, because they are standing in between you and the people you want to speak to. And you obviously believe you have good things to say to the world. You if you are a creator, you're doing it because you you believe there is beauty that you can bring into the world. But in between you and the eyes and ears that would perceive all that stuff are a series of very wealthy weirdos and psychopaths.
Michael David Wilson 6:15
Yeah, yeah. And I mean, you said in terms of making your TikTok videos, I mean, the the entry, the barriers to entry are incredibly easy, because you can effectively just make a video on your phone. I'm wondering logistically, how you go about making these videos? Are you doing them all on your phone? Do you sometimes make them on your computer and then you kind of upload it to Tik Tok from there? Are you using any third party apps? Is it recorded beforehand and then uploaded to Tik Tok? And has your approach changed since you started out?
Jason Pargin 7:04
I was told very early on that tic tock prefers videos made in its own app that it can tell. And there are plenty of high end creators where it is clear they are using a professional camera and a professional setup with professional sound. And then they're putting it onto a PC and editing software. And then they're uploading it. I've been using the amp because I was told that it wants that. And I've just continued to use because that for people have never use Tiktok, all the editing tools and all those effects and stuff that's all in the app. Like you record it. And then from there, you take it into a little editor and you can clip out bits you don't like you can rearrange, you can insert clubs too. It's the whole editing suite is in the app. It's very primitive. It is set up so that any 12 year old can use it in theory, although it took me months to learn how to use it. And then there are other apps that you can get that are owned by TikTok one called cap cut that has a little bit if you've seen a slightly fancier videos with cool graphics effects around the text, things like that. They probably did it in Capcom, but it's all done on your phone. You record it with your camera, and then it's you go through and then you upload it in that step and it's all one step. I suppose the day may come where I have a fancier setup, but I think the audience and their algorithm wants that raw kind of guy talking into a phone vibe because they did not want Tik Tok to be YouTube. They didn't want it to be a bunch of high definition like clips from TV shows and stuff. They don't want to be a person with their face or their dog or whatever talking into a vertical that's why it's all vertical video cuts like holding up the phone. It's not something shot in widescreen on a beautiful expensive 4k camera. There's somebody talking on their phone making a joke. They'll need something funny from their life they want to be a social media network not a video network that makes sense. Like people shooting you know student films and uploading the whole thing. So no, I do it just straight into straight into the phone. And I think the roughness like like even the poor quality, the audio everything that people could point out the lighting isn't great because it's just room lighting. That seems to be what it wants. And so now I'm kind of afraid to mess with it. I'm afraid if it becomes too polished then they won't seem like it's just a guy talking to them anymore, which is why I think they like about it. That it is just a guy in his bedroom sharing some interesting stuff with them. But if it seemed too corporate or too slickly promoted, it would start to it would lose its underdog nature would be like, Oh, this is a production. I'm watching not just a guy talking to me. Right.
Michael David Wilson 9:47
So you're not using any sort of external microphone. You're not setting various lighting. You just it's the phone. It's the mic built into it. Phone is there. Can
Jason Pargin 10:03
I have a lav mic because the phones I think the phone's microphone is too echoey for this room but that's about it. So $20 just a little you plug it into your phone and copy it to your shirt and that's it. Amy and again it's you can spend a lot of money to get very minor upgrades but some people again, I the professional influencers, they've got whole setups they use. I'm worried about making my videos look too much like a professional influencer did I think that's not my vibe other people where their whole thing is making their home look like a palace, in capturing the beauty of their Lamborghini, or whatever, or the tropical vacation they took. There. They want a camera to fully capture the majesty that is their life. That's not the nature of my that's not the main nature of my my channel.
Michael David Wilson 10:52
Yeah. Yeah. And, I mean, it occurs to me, you know, I've experimented a little bit with TikTok even to say experimenter, given the lack of what I've really done sounds a bit grandiose, but I mean, I typically just put clips from the podcast on but it sounds like you know, from what you're talking about, that's not really what they're after. That's more content for you to possibly for eggs now that they're branching into video. So I think I just need to go old school and I need to just use the mic, record it in the app and see what happens. I
Jason Pargin 11:34
mean, every big podcast is now on TikTok, but they've got to have video of like the of them talking into the mic. They can't just be like the graphic of or something like that. Like they want to see a face TikTok is very, very big on seeing a face. And I probably said this, you know, this time last year, I tried not doing that. It's like, well, I can surely still remain mostly anonymous, it'll be my voice. I'll just point my camera at an image to show what I'm talking about. Nope. The algorithm wants a face. Or if you're, if you're shooting scenery, it's got to be spectacular. Otherwise, if it's hearing a voice, it wants a face generally. So that's the thing. And this is what again, if I could have it some other way. I I would How are you guys both? How are you on doing video stuff? Bob Do do you do video stuff in your life?
Bob Pastorella 12:29
Now, I don't like it. The the few times that I've actually been on television and seen myself on wasn't very happy with the results. And so, and it's May I can count them on one hand and still have fingers leftover, which is you know, usually it's like, Hey, would you like to be numb? Like, no, no, I don't want to be on it. Um, but I can see because you're talking about niches and so if I if I did TikTok, I wouldn't have to have some type of niche. Were it would be something different, you know, but I mean, I would also probably be so against it, that it would be something repulsive, like book reviews in the bathroom, you know, something like that. sitting on the toilet in it with a flush. Hey, this is a good book five stars. Oh, you know?
Jason Pargin 13:29
Probably somebody's already doing that. I can tell you right now, there's probably somebody already. I'm sure I'm
Bob Pastorella 13:37
gonna be like, damn it. That was such a good idea. You know? But it would I just I don't see for myself. I don't see any any reason to be on there at this moment. Mainly because I'm kind of, you know, I've got a I've got a project out that subbed. I've got stuff I'm working on. So I don't have anything anything new to promote. I can promote when I have. And I feel like that that could be you know, I wouldn't want to do it that way. Because that's just not me. I I'm not very, not very good at self promotion, I'm good at promoting other people's stuff. I need to get better at self promotion. I always feel like I'm bugging people, you know, things like that. And so I just need to get better at it. But I feel like that if you gave me a you know, a video and sent a shot in the video, that sounds like dude, it'd be like, hey, get They're Watching now, you know, and, and so I don't know if, if that would if that would work. You know, I'd probably get frustrated with it and the linked app. So that's that's usually how things go with me. Yeah,
Jason Pargin 14:56
yeah. How are you with videos? Do you like it?
Michael David Wilson 14:59
I mean, first of all, I will do whatever is necessary to try and promote a book or a podcast. So you know, I'm open to kind of hearing any ideas. I've found a few times where I've tried to record a TikTok video, just me pointing the camera at me, it kind of feels too artificial or too contrived. Whereas if, if I put something up from the podcast, then it's obviously more organic. So I'm just trying to work out well, how can I do that in such a way that will then be kind of appropriate for Tik Tok? Because I think, you know, as you're saying, what they really want is they want fresh and they want original content rather than me, redistributing existing content. So I'm kind of thinking about that. And obviously, this conversation is making me think about it more. And I suppose there's like several niches or directions that I could go in. I mean, obviously, like there's writing, but I think I mean, that that has quite a limited audience in general. There is a lot of humor in my work. So the humor direction is something I could look into. Then also, there's living in Japan. I'm also interested in fitness. So it's almost like I have to choose a niche. Sure, I at least have to choose a couple. Otherwise, it's it will probably be too random. But yeah, I think as well doing the video, podcast has definitely made probably both me and Bob more comfortable with the video format anyway, just because we're doing this every week now. But I mean, yeah, there were many motivations for doing it. I mean, that the world as we've said, Before, it is moving more towards video. And when now we're have horrific fiction podcasts doing video, it would feel like we're missing out on an opportunity. And, you know, we're gonna get far more views if we upload it to YouTube. And you're seeing the faces of the people rather than just an image and, and the audio that's not really what it's designed for. Citing. Yeah, I've got to work out what what can I do for TikTok and what will be kind of authentic. And then the other problem is, I'm a bit of a perfectionist. So it's like, right, well, if I'm doing TikTok, then I want to have the lights, I want to have the microphone set up. So which takes a lot of time because I then want to edit it in a third party piece of software, but actually talking to you today, you know, finding out that that's not what they want. So it's like, Okay, we'll go more old school or just, we'll just record in the native app, and we'll see what happens.
Jason Pargin 18:10
This is, this is kind of important for anybody listening to if you're not somebody looking to be a content creator, the issue you're going to find out as you start doing that, if you dedicate yourself to doing it every day, and it really wants you to upload every day. I know there are some huge creators that do like once a week once every two weeks. If you're not a superstar if you want to build a following it kind of wants you to do it every day and the emotional and mental energy that you devote to it. It's not just a matter of the logistics of microphone camera, making time coming up with a topic. The the thing that's going to make your stuff unique. And again, I'm talking to anybody out there is your personality, because there's only one of you whether you think you're interesting or not like just your situation for example, you living in Japan, you know from I don't know where you came from before but there's like a lot of channels I watch where it that's the only thing it's like, you know, guy from Germany, who's moved to Japan and the cultural differences and shown the cool restaurants and here's some stuff in Japan that the people living in Japan don't notice because they've been there their whole lives but somebody from outside does. And it's fascinating because they're able to observe little differences and, and habits and things that are different about the culture. But what you find is you are giving that part of yourself to the machine because the people watching if you show up with a little cut on your face all the comments want to know about why you got the cut in your face and so now that's content. Now me banging my head into the cabinet this morning. That's what my video is going to be about. They'll notice if you have a ring on your finger, they will notice changes in the background of your room. They will notice what you're wearing. They will notice if he's sound different? Because what they want is a human connection. And if you're somebody like me, and you think well, no, I'm I will just produce for them some fun trivia, or some interesting facts or some jokes. It's not what the machine wants, the machine wants you, the machine wants a piece of your soul. Because what it does to you to expose your own being to the world, and open yourself up for a perception does weird things to the brain. And where it seems like it's just well, this is something I gotta do for work, I gotta get some video out there, I gotta come up with some content that I can make myself visible. To really do it. And to build an audience, it's going to require more than watch the podcast did, because once they attach a face to the voice, and now it's not just about the show, it's about like, it doesn't matter what you make your ID about, like, you could just do a book reviews every week that you will find that any book talker, book, book, review, book, caulk, any of those people, they're now on there talking about their, whatever their childhood trauma, their eating disorder, their anxiety, their divorce, their, whatever the surgery they're about to have, that all becomes part of the content, because that's what the machine wants. And it's what the people want. And so when I talk about this being taxing, I don't just mean, like, I got to think of something interesting to say today, I got to comb my hair and make sure it looks right for the video, because otherwise the hair will be distracting, and they'll only be talking about my hair, you will find out that what it wants from you is more than that. And it takes a lot out of you more than what you think to the point that as I keep saying over and over again, I cannot imagine being say a teenage girl trying to do this and trying to find some sort of a name for herself or gain influence or whatever. Because I am coming at this as somebody who is a fully formed adult, I was already a fully formed adult before I got on the internet for the first time, I did not have to grow up in the public eye. You have to be a very mentally healthy person to take that on, and add that to your life because it asks in terms of energy in terms of everything, it's asking a lot from you.
Michael David Wilson 22:30
Do you find that in terms of what you're creating? Are you creating the majority of things in your home? Do you ever go out for a kind of walk about and create and what's the kind of percentage in terms of content with a background superimposed to what's actually in the background because a lot of the things that I've watched, it's you talking in front of a superimposed background kind of back because
Jason Pargin 23:03
the app doesn't require a green screen, I can sit here and turn on that effect. And it will just cut me out and then it just asks you to put a picture behind it. You just put your picture off your phone that's now your background. So every video I do, I'm either sitting right here, or I blocked it out with a photo. I don't show people the rest of my house. I don't show people my wife. I rarely show them my dog. I never show the exterior of the home. I don't want people showing up here. I don't go to the park and walk around. Now other people do totally fine. I don't show them my kitchen. I don't show them my bedroom. I don't show them my bathroom, they get to see this little spot in my in my office. And usually I block it out with the screen behind me that is the boundary I've set. I don't let people see my lawn my neighborhood. I don't want people looking it up. Or showing up here hoping to run into me and you do not have to be very famous before you have people who want to do that. Now Yeah, first person who ever showed up at my house trying to track me down was Jesus. A long, long time ago. 2009 I don't know long, long time ago, and I was not very big at the time doesn't matter. The you don't have to have an enormous audience before people want to come find you. So plenty of people do go out and do walkabout content. There are people who just you know, there's one hugely popular account where she lives somewhere in England and her little town everybody knows her because she does tons of viral videos about their little town and that's fine. That's not me. You have to decide for yourself where you want to set those those boundaries. Now, for example, I do not approve of people putting their kids in their videos. Yeah, I don't approve it. I think they're willing to do that when they've turned their toddler into content. And the funny little fit their toddler is throwing in now that is a video that is going to live on the internet forever. The toddler cannot consent to them. If I was a parent, you would not know that I had kids.
Michael David Wilson 25:04
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah, I feel exactly the same on that point. I mean, people know that I have a daughter, I have said that, but I don't put photos over on the internet does not videos that, you know, that's it. In terms of, you know, you said that TikTok it once over one over one minute now, which is obviously a shift in the way that it used to be, do you find that there's an upper end in terms of the length of video that you'll put out, if
Jason Pargin 25:40
cuts you, the app will only allow up to 10 minutes, and you have to earn that if you're a new user, three minutes is your max length, if you've been using for a while it will expand it to 10 minutes, my most popular video ever, I think is six minutes long. So it's clear, it intentionally pushes longer stuff, and they must have metrics that shows it people stay on the app longer if they're willing to watch longer videos, and they are more likely to pay attention to the ads if they stay for a longer video, that kind of thing. Because otherwise I don't understand why what used to make TikTok so addictive is what it was just 10 seconds, 10 seconds, 10 seconds, just a joke, a striking image, you know, a weird, a funny dog doing a trick, just boom, boom, hundreds of them just a stream. But they must have metrics that show that people stay in the app longer for longer content, which from my point of view, it's like, hey, fine, I'm going to take advantage of that and do a little bit of a deep dive into a subject, I'm going to give them a little bit more, I'm going to take them on a little bit of a journey. And again, that's how I justify to myself that it's like no, I'm the good tech talk. I'm one of the good parts of content. Other people may completely disagree that I am just feeding evil machine no matter what, bitch no, it actually, the stuff that I do that is long for TikTok as like a five minute video on Tiktok is the equivalent of making a movie that's seven hours long, like it's that feels incredibly long on TikTok, but their algorithm is intentionally skewed toward, if you've made something compelling this a little bit longer, they will feed massive audience to that. So I try on purpose to do 345 minute videos. I've never done something that's like nine or 10. Or I've never gone right up to the limit. But you run into those videos all the time where somebody is there, they're doing like a woodworking thing. And they've got time lapse for making something from scratch. I don't know if you watch those kind of videos very satisfying. But we're going to turn this log into a carved wooden bone, we're going to go and put it in the lathe and we're going to go through the whole process. And there'll be eight, eight or nine minutes that end with huge traffic numbers. Like it's got, you know, it's got 20 million views. And probably most of those people did not sit through the whole thing. But from tiktoks point of view. If half of them sat through two minutes of it. That's a huge win, and they will reward that creator for it. Yeah,
Michael David Wilson 28:07
yeah. And with those longer videos you're making, how much are you scripting them.
Jason Pargin 28:12
I don't script mine at all. I just I just do tons and tons of takes it away when I mispronounce a word. But again, I when I'm reading from a script, you can tell I'm reading I'm not a natural enough performer to do. Because lots of people do use script, there's like they all have it all scripted out. And they've got custom sort of a teleprompter app they can put on there where it scrolls on their PC, while they talking to their phone says or looking past fun into like they've got a teleprompter thing. I've, if I tried to do that it was just sound robotic. I don't I'm not a performer of any kind. So my I just have the idea. And I will have like notes of what broad notes of what I want to talk about. And then I just do it. And it will take me three or four or five tries to get through a single sentence, because I will mispronounce seven or eight of the dozen words in the sentence until I redo it. Or if my phrasing is weird, I'll just keep redoing it. And I've got it down now where I can pretty rapidly just because again, the app makes it very easy. You just hit a little back button and it wipes out your last clip and then you just just pick it up and and go and it's not like it's not like real video editing for TV or something where if you're cutting from one tape to the next you've got it like kind of B roll or something you could just cut from your face to your face, then people are used to that kind of jump cut from from YouTube. So if I mispronounce a word, and I can just stop and say it again and just clip out that little stoppage and it's fairly seamless. Yeah,
Michael David Wilson 29:42
yeah. And probably the final tic tock question which some people may be relieved. It's like bloody hell is really stretched the mileage on this one but you're a you're talking about having the video kind of handheld old school. Are you literally Are you holding your phone for five minutes? Or do you have some sort of stand? I
Jason Pargin 30:04
own a stand again, it's I just hold it. Because again, I feel like that it's clear, that's what people are used to, that the view you get from a person holding the phone in one hand and gesturing with the other. Like, that's a very natural thing. It's an unnatural thing to do in real life. on people who are used to watching video, it's just a very natural angle that we're all used to now that a video that was quarterly shot by somebody doing this, but lots of creators have a little stand, they put it on, and he holds it more still, but all of the flaws you get from holding it, that it's kind of shaky that the angle is weird all that it's just what we're used to now it's you know, we anybody's been watching YouTube, or Snapchat or any of those, it all looks like that. So it doesn't come off as awkward or or weird. Yeah,
Michael David Wilson 30:54
yeah. Well, of course, you've got the new book out now Zoe is too drunk for this dystopia. So what was the origin story in terms of this specific book?
Jason Pargin 31:12
Why as these books have gone along it each time, it's Zoe dealing with some aspect of her of her power. So the first book being futuristic violence and fancy suits, it's kind of an origin story. And so you see her where she's come from. And then over the course of the book, she kind of reluctantly assumes this power and basically gets roped into it, she kind of can't extricate herself from the situation. And then the second book, is her heavy to genuinely deal with the fact that her actions have consequences, that she can't, she does not outside of the game anymore. She is part of the machine, she is partially at the controls of the machine. And so it is her realizing how much power she actually has, and what it means and kind of how to wield it. And this is to me what science fiction is, it's asking, like, it's thought experiments, can I think most of us have thought, what would we do with a billion dollars? Or what would we do if we were in charge of the world? What would we do if we were president? But the answer those questions is not as much, it's not as easy as you think it would be. And so it's her finding out that yes, she is enormous ly wealthy, yes, she can order people to be hired or fired or whatever. But she just has different challenges in her life, and the dealing with the fact that now there are all these people who depend on her for their safety, and their income, or, and everything else. And the kind of crushing realization of that. And so this third book, is where you start to enter. They're in the book. They're having a, an election in the city. And it's the kind of election that can only happen in this very ridiculous fictional city that this book takes place in. And she is not running. But she is one of the big money power players who kind of determines who wins. And then she is having to pick between one candidate that is corrupt, and one candidate that isn't an authoritarian, possible future dictator, and her having to deal with the fact that no matter how much power she has, there's always a level of things that you can't control. And how frustrating that is because she at this stage of her life, is starting to embrace the fact that she does have some power, she is as deserving of that power as any of these other fools. But finding out the limitations of it's like, Well, why do we still have to choose between two bad candidates? Why can't the machine itself be changed? And it is her trying to come to terms with the fact that at that level, you have associates that you have to deal with a release that people tell you you have to deal with, or you are making deals with the devil all the time. And she is having to choose which devils she wants to deal with. And it is her like, again, asking it again and again. Why is it all devils like why? Where's the good politicians? Where's the good business owners? Where's the good? And the answer is that everybody who has elevated themselves to that position got there because of certain personality traits. And certain things they were willing to do that other people rent. So it is a book about an incredibly tangled situation she gets into where, once again, she can't run away. From her responsibility, she can't say we're I'm just an innocent powerless victim and all this, she objectively can't say that, but at the same time is realizing how intractable this system is. To everyone, that everyone in it that this is why you could have in our real world, you can have Donald Trump who probably thinks of himself as an innocent victim, even though he's a billionaire, and was President like, you'll listen to him talk. He talks like he is an innocent victim of the system. This system makes everybody feel like that. And that's what she's she's slowly finding out in this book. Yeah, I
Michael David Wilson 35:35
think a lot of us will say that we can't affect or we can't change, a kind of made your problem in the world. But I think if we're honest with ourselves, whilst we can't solve it, we can always do a little bit more. And it's this dilemma, I suppose that we were faced with in terms of what will we do? What won't we do? And in doing stuff, and indeed, in not doing stuff? How much is it going to affect us? What is it going to take from us, and it's, you know, a deeply personal choice.
Jason Pargin 36:11
And we even talked about earlier in the show about having to, for our jobs to survive, we are having to use platforms that are run by, you know, these sociopaths, or Yeah, I don't know, if I'm using that word too lightly. I've not diagnosed Elon Musk, but he's clearly not a normal person, or someone that I would trust with anything in my life. But that's where the power lies. And it's a case of where it's almost like you can just voluntarily not play the game. But if you play the game, you're playing ball with some very dark personality. So in Zoe's case, you know, her situation is what all of us face only it's cranked up to 11, because that's the nature of fiction. But all of us how many of the people listening to this? How many of you have jobs where you're pretty sure the company you're working for is evil, or that your CEO is evil? But what's all of the competing companies are also evil? It's like, which, you know, which internet service provider is the good and holy one? Is it a TNT? Is it Comcast, which is that? Is it Verizon, which is the goodhearted ISP, it's like, Oh, come on. That's not. That's not how this works. It's like, well, this is my area of expertise, this is where I'm going to, so to be a part of the machine, you at some point have to be okay, with, well, I'm going to be the good part of the evil machine. And so what Zoe is facing, I hope it's relatable to everyone, because she basically this she is someone who has grown up in poverty, her mother was poor. And never thought she would even be participating in the machine like she was cut out of capitalism entirely. And that now she's one of the people in supposedly, in the cockpit of the capitalism plane, supposedly, at the joystick and still doesn't feel like she's in control. I think all of us, you know, if you're someone who has moved up in your field and become very successful, you will still feel like I'm at the mercy of currents that I don't understand. So that's, that's what these books are about. It's about someone trying to deal with a world where they feel powerless, no matter how powerful
Bob Pastorella 38:25
they get. No, yeah, I definitely relate. That's why I don't even try for manager jobs anymore. Because it makes me part of the machine that I despise so much, I have a corporate and I work for a large corporation, and then the money is good, and the benefits are good. And that's it. That's, that's where I'm at. It's not my passion. And so I know, I know that feeling. It's, you know, people who aren't Why do you? Why don't you go in management? Because it's not gonna make a difference? Sorry, just it's not. But
Jason Pargin 39:05
I think that you have people who would say that, well, for example, I like well, I work for, you know, it's a guy who worked for just a small company in our family owned business, and would have said that, that these people were bigger scumbags. And in the company I've worked for, because they may have say, well, like, well, with a big corporation, at least we were union, you know, at least I had a union rep, or at least you had some, you know, they had an HR department to complain to were some of the worst job situations I've ever heard of were people that were working at small startups where it's only like five people working there. And there's no HR department because it's five guys. So it's you and like five bros who all knew each other from college. So even when you think by staying small or working for a more independent organization, you're you're like staying out of the corporate nightmare. That depends on where you work. Like some of those people are immersed in, because there's nobody to keep them in check. They're not part of an organization. So it's like their own personality and their own weird ideas about what you know about how a company should be run, you're just at their, at their mercy. So yeah, it's I think every single person listening this every single person in the world has to justify to themselves unless you're working for some, some charity, but even then, like how many of the charities of the world when you find out how much money they spend on their CEO versus how much they give to the for people? That's like, Oh, that's interesting, only 20% of the money actually makes it to the poor people, all the rest of it goes to paying very high salaries for people who arranged those salaries for themselves that kind of seems like you're stealing from the charity. But then they would say, Well, no, this is what CEOs pay. You can't run a charity the size without have hiring the guy making $2 million a year. And at every stage, everybody's trying to rationalize their place in, in the machine. At the end of the day.
Bob Pastorella 41:07
When I years ago, I sold cars, and I did work for some family owned dealers, and, you know, with no HR department, and we thought that was really, really cool. And he's, you know, some of these dealers had, you know, a couple 100 employees. And then you go, and you work for a company that doing the same type of job that's corporate that has an HR department, and you start to realize, man, God, damn, they were really, really bad as felt like I was working for the fucking mafia, you know, compared to this, you know, because some of the stuff that you saw with your own eyes that you thought was part of the business was actually like, No, that was actually illegal. Oh, wow. No, I was actually part of that deal. Okay, you know, and so it's now the corporation I work for, they have to have an HR department, and then they have a, another department now, that actually handles grievances and things like that. So HR is like, if you have to talk to HR. Now, it's like, their job is to fire people. That's what they do. They're not going to protect you. They're gonna protect the company. And then we have this other company that we work with that protects us. And we're non union. So it's, it's, it's just weird.
Jason Pargin 42:37
Well, it for example, and this is an extreme example. But in these books, part of the crime organization, as Zoe inherited, they employ a lot of sex workers, which is a thing that she doesn't oppose on moral grounds, because her mother did that work. So she doesn't like look down on it. But the question of well, is this. To what degree can a woman give consent? In that situation? If a woman is working for you to feed a drug habit? Is she actually giving consent? Or are you simply facilitating her getting assaulted every hour, every day? And there's no clear answer to that. Because her first impulse is like, I don't want to be in that business. I don't want to be a pimp, basically, because it takes place in a city where prostitution is effectively legal. There's nobody enforcing any kind of those, whatever state laws would be against it. But then, her advisers are like, Okay, if you cut all these women loose, some of them will simply become homeless. Some will go to work for a much grimy or organization that is not going to protect them the way you would. Some of them will go independent and work for a pimp and some of them will just die on the street bike. Are you sure they're worse off working for you? Versus you saying, well, it's not my problem anymore like that? Yeah, they may, they may have it worse, but at least I won't be a part of it. She can't she finds out that she can't actually just wash her hands of people like that, that she could if she wanted a clean conscience. It's like no, I will divide divest myself of all of that. It's like, okay, but you're putting these people out of work. And if you actually want to solve the problems that led them into sex work unwillingly, that is not a simple thing. Because yeah, some of them you have some people who are doing it willingly and making a lot of money doing it. Yes, some people who are only making enough money to, you know, to enforce reinforce their drug habit. So what do you do and she is not ready to answer that question, but it's her company, they're on her payroll. She is responsible for them and how you operate in a world where there are certain things that people want. And, for example, I personally here in the real world I hate, hate how much of sports coverage is now about gambling. I hate the fact that when I watch a football game, I see an ad for DraftKings, or some other sports book or gambling app, like that stuff ruins lives. Millions of people like when you've got an app on your phone, where you can just live bet your entire paycheck away, where you don't even have, you know, a cheap casino buffet to make you feel better after losing your entire paycheck. And you're sitting there on your sofa gambling away on an app. I think that's evil, I think it shouldn't exist. Zoey feels the same way about the casinos. But people want to gamble. She's running the nicest, most ethical places that Miss casinos are still about preying on people's hope and taking their money. There's no easy answer to that, because the demand for gambling will still be there. If she gets rid of the casinos, they will be bought by someone else, and they will remain open. Or if she blows up the building, they will build another one next door, there is demand for the product. So how the only way you could completely wash your hands of it is if you got out of it and then somehow prevented everyone else from doing it. But now that's just prohibition. And so now you're okay, so am I wanting to fund a police department that arrests everyone and chases around all of these underground, you know, card games and all that. There's no easy answer. And there was a time in this character's life when she was not tasked with making that decision. So she winds up waking up every day and making lots of money from casinos and sex work. And God knows what else vice and her people around her have talked her into like, all you can do is try to one the best, illicit businesses you can. And she doesn't fully believe that, that also feels like she's boxed in. And I think everybody who participates in an economy in capitalism feels like that to some degree. Because your phone has minerals in it that were mined by a child, probably on the other side of the world. And if you bring that up to somebody, it's like, well, you know, what am I gonna do? I've got to have my phone, I can't, what do you want me to do? I it's, it's not up to me, it's like, your dollars supported it. And we'll continue to support it. And every day, we kind of just eventually convinced ourselves, Well, if I didn't buy the phone, somebody else would. And you know, if we didn't have those minds, then the Chinese would open would just buy up those those minds. And they would probably treat the workers even worse. So you can tell yourself whatever you want to tell yourself, but at the end of the day, we are all participating in it to some degree or another. And I think as you rise to the ranks, and as you make more money, and as you gain more power, you go from working for a business to owning a business to owning multiple businesses. I think you never stopped dealing that way. I think the guy that owns the used car dealership tells himself that, well, if I didn't overcharge on these cars to the sucker somebody, they just the dealership down the street would do it. It's either me or somebody else. And if somebody walks in, they've got too much money. They don't know what they're looking at. They're willing to over to overspend on an on a Jeep that's not going to be worth anything in two years. If I don't take their money, somebody else will. Everybody tells themselves a story that lets them sleep at night, right?
Michael David Wilson 48:46
So true. I wonder what do you think your ethical hard lines are? Is there anything that if you found out Tiktok was doing that, that you'd be like, Okay, I need to pull my content over things where if your publisher started doing certain things, you'd be like, I've got to separate myself from the publisher, cuz it's good. And it's easy to say like, you know, these are the ethical limits, but when it's your own money, your own livelihood at stake, I wonder if there are any hard lines for yourself. And
Jason Pargin 49:27
especially if you're a creator, and you feel like your work is bringing good into the world, like I'm not pretending that my novels are saving lives, but I do think that they are thought provoking. I think that if fiction can make a person better in some way or elevate their mind in some way, or just provide them a distraction for a while, I try to write books that will leave people mentally in a better place than when they started. So if you believe that your work is doing good, you can excuse almost anything because it's like Yeah, at the end of the day, somehow the books have to get into the world. And if it's not this publisher, it'd be another one. And if you're looking for dirt, like if this publisher also published a books by some extremely controversial, you know, political figure or whatever, you can say, okay, but at the same time, people are picking up my books in a public library that also has a copy of mine Kampf by Adolf Hitler. I wouldn't boycott that library, because they also have Hitler's book on the shelves. And if my publisher is publishing some book by I don't know, somebody I don't approve of like, some extreme right wing political figure, whatever it's, it's like, okay, but that's, you know, if my, if my book is being sold at Walmart, and my last paper paperback was, you could sit there and talk about oh, Walmart is driven all these mom and pop stores out of business, and they don't pay their workers enough. And they, you know, the God knows the damage they've done to multiple small towns economies, because now that's the only place where they can shop and on and on and on. But also, some towns don't have bookstores. Most towns don't have bookstores, but they got a Walmart. So if your paperbacks, a Walmart, you're reaching people, if the only place they can find the book. So if you believe the work you're doing is good and your product is good. You can kind of justify almost anything, almost anything, because it's the same way we justify being on these platforms that are carried by you know, like, for example, there was people tried to do, I can't remember which artists but they wanted their work pulled off of Spotify, because Spotify did a huge deal with Joe Rogan. And they're like, Well, I don't want my work on the same. And I think it was Neil Young may have done it, but it's like I don't want the exam to to exist on the same app that has this podcast. I think most people were like, it kind of I don't connect the two of you just because you're coming out of the same piece of software. I don't see I don't imagine, you know, Neil Young and Joe Rogan at the same party at Spotify are in the Spotify house hanging out together, you just built of your work as being sold on the same shelf at a market. So if you're asking me to only produce work that is completely, morally clean, from production, to printing, to distribution to the store shelf, and make sure that not a single person at any stage of that has ever done something terrible in the past. It's probably impossible for anyone to do that in any field. But in terms of like asking me, what would I mean, every day I asked myself, is it ethical to still be on Twitter? And right now, the justification for anybody still being on Twitter? Is it right now? That's still where everybody is. And so I think most of us are waiting for everyone else to leave before we leave. But it is completely rational, in my opinion for somebody to say, yes, Elon Musk sucks. That why do we lose this community we formed? Because he sucks. Like we're not on here for him. I don't even see his tweets. I've had him blocked since he arrived. So my friends are on there. The people I follow are on there, these great thinkers, and they have inspirational posts, and they've got great insight into the news and all that I come on there to connect with them. We have a connection with each other. All of these people I follow all these people follow me. Why does this guy get to come in from the outside through a single stock deal? Get to dissolve that. Like, don't we get? Shouldn't we get to continue having our community and exchanging our ideas and trying to make ourselves smarter and better. Regardless of this of a scumbag owning the platform, and you would be equally justified to say no, you're enriching the scumbag. You're creating content for free for the scumbags platform because he's selling ads against your posts. You can make the argument either way. And if you say that ultimately it's just being very self serving that you're on there because it advances your career. That is also very, very fair. I do not doubt there's a line that will be crossed with Twitter where I will finally just walk away as of today. I'm still on there a week from now. I don't know. I honestly don't. And I don't know the right thing to do. And I don't know this there's not exactly an existing like moral code for this because Twitter existed before Elon Musk showed up and it was always bigger than him but it's so he's turned it into such a reflection of his own personality and his own the weird part. As his personality is now, where it's all about just trying to trigger the LIBS at every stage. I hate going on there, I spend less time on there than I ever have. There's more toxic stuff being elevated into my feed than ever before. If I leave, it probably will be less of a moral or ethical walkout or protest and more just that.
Michael David Wilson 55:26
I hate it. Yeah, yeah. And, I mean, like, like we said before, in the first hour, you know, I'm not convinced that Elon Musk is necessarily much worse than any of the other owners of any of the other social media platforms. So I feel if I left Twitter based on that, then to not be a hypocrite, I'd probably have to leave. I would, I would expect every single social media platform I mean, I'm not sure that I see Elon Musk to be worse than Mark Zuckerberg, for example.
Jason Pargin 56:09
Well, let me put it this way. I have my mortgage through I think Bank of America or one of those. Do you know who the CEO of Bank of America is? I don't know who the CEO of Wells Fargo is? Do you see I'm saying like, the only difference with Elan Musk is that he's he wants to be famous. So he's constantly out there. But the guy that runs any of the huge companies that you deal with, I don't know who the CEO of my internet is through, I think at&t, I don't know who the CEO of a TNT is. It can be a scumbag. He can be an extreme, far right wing, religious, whatever he could, it could be some sort of a sex predator. I have no idea. I don't know. I don't know it was named. Most of the powerful people in the world who control the things in your life. You don't know their names, you don't know their faces. I don't know who owns Walmart. Right now, I know the Walton family, I don't know who actually is in charge of the operation. There's a few big faces that get themselves out there. And when they get out there and spend too much time talking, like the head of Warner Brothers who just keeps giving interviews that David's as off, and he seems awful. For the most part, these people stay behind the scenes. I don't think I've been cynical when I say that most of them are distasteful to some degree. And some of them are probably 10 times worse than Elon Musk. But the difference is they they're not intent on having everybody know their name, the way Musk gets. I know Bobby, sorry to say something. I think I talked right over you. I
Bob Pastorella 57:38
just was saying that the main I left Twitter. And the main reason was as I was getting zero engagement, and literally having to search people I followed, because I guess all the toxic, you know, post and everything like that was just, it was just filling my feed. And it got to where it was work. Whereas before, I could just go there and just scroll, and I could see something that would interest me. And so it's like, man is so and so still on Twitter, and I'd have to actually look at him to see and search them. Even a lot of times, I found that the search engine didn't work. And so I'd have to try to find a mutual friend. And I went through weeks of this. And finally I was just like, You know what, just fuck it, man. I'm done. And you know, and I was getting I got on blue sky, and I got a lot more engagement there. Among among threads a little bit, I had to remind myself to post on threads. You know, it's like, oh, yeah, I had that too. You know, um, there was a time I thought substack was going to be really, really good. And I think that substack has its potential. It's just, I don't use it as much. But I do like the longer form of it. And that's, do I have that too. I have my newsletter through that. I don't do anything with it. But I need to, you know, I have a newsletter, I should use it. So I can rant freely without you know, over 250 characters. But, you know, that was my primarily, my primary reason for for leaving Twitter is because it basically became unusable. I couldn't I couldn't do anything with it.
Jason Pargin 59:23
Yeah, well, it's gotten it's gotten worse since you've left. I'll say that.
Michael David Wilson 59:28
And it's interesting, Cassie, I mean, what Bob's saying it kind of comes back to what you were saying about people on Tik Tok getting their account suspended or permanently banned, and they've no idea why. And I noticed with eggs that you do have some people who their account as was the case for Bob just becomes unusable. They can't search they can't see things. And then for other people. It's kind of ticking along As usual, and you know that there's there's two reasons, there's two possible reasons that I can see for this. And we can't really be sure which one it is, if, you know, we've so many people leaving at so many employees, there are so many bugs that there are just some parts of the machine that now are not working. Or there are accounts that are being banned for arbitrary reasons, and we can't quite deduce why I mean, you know, accounts get shadow banned every minute, meaning you then can't search for them. But it's not always clear why that has happened.
Jason Pargin 1:00:43
Yeah, it often happens, because he said something bad about Elon Musk, or absolutely personally does tweak the machine, because it is about getting attention to himself. That's why he bought it to help promote his own brand, and all of that, in the name of what he's calling free speech. But they've been more aggressive about suppressing certain hashtags and everything else than they ever were before. This just in a different direction. Most people who are very loud about being pro free speech, they just have a different, they want to censor a different group, that and then the POF power currently. But it is fundamentally it doesn't work as well. But basically, you can say that about all of the social media platforms, because once upon a time, Facebook worked really, really well. It's the last time I went on there, like the top post in my feed was somebody's birthday from five days ago. Because again, none of these just feed you the stuff in order. It's like, well, here's what you'll want to see first. And it was an out of date, belated birthday. And I mean, Facebook has worked right in, I don't know, seven or eight years. And it's funny, because with every single one of these platforms, everybody can remember a time when it was good. And then then then they slowly made it worse. And it's fascinating the way technology works. Now we're in theory, the tech is supposed to keep getting better and better with social media, it's like, in the early days, where we're not worried about monetizing it, we're just burning through the investor money. So it's like whatever the people want, they can they can see the feeds however they want, they can arrange them and follow whoever they want. And then after a few years go by it's, but we've yet to squeeze more money out of these people. And the only way to do that is to force them to look at different stuff. So in the case of Twitter, he set it up. Whereas if you pay eight bucks a month, he will show your posts to more people, he boosts you in the algorithm. Well, that means you're not seeing the people you follow. You're seeing a few rare posts from the people you follow. But mostly you're seeing people who paid eight bucks to you on Musk to have their stuff appear in your feed. And it has nothing to do with how compelling or engaging or good it is. It's just that they had $8 Because he made that part of the deal. Like if you pay eight bucks, I will boost you and I will show your tweets to people. So it's a subtle little change that made the platform almost unusable for most things. And for example, if you've tried to follow any big news story on there, like the situation in Israel trying to follow a news story on Twitter right now where the feed is dominated by weirdos who paid Elon Musk $8 It's a nightmare. Because it's elevating the wrong voices. It's not elevating the people on the ground who have Goodheart information or have unique insights as to elevating people who had an extra $8 They were willing to give Elon Musk because it is a certain type of personality who will pay $8 to make their tweets seen by a bunch of strangers that's I've seen so many of the sites that I felt like I got a lot of good out of become useless to me Facebook is only good for reminding me of my family's birthdays. And when they post their pets that once upon a time you could follow creators and everything I now that's unthinkable to try to use Facebook for that. It's it's it doesn't know how to show you the stuff it doesn't know what to show you is almost totally broken. Instagram was never my thing because I'm not photogenic. So having an entire platform that's all just about the aesthetics of your life. I never got into that. Twitter was something that at one time I love because it's about brief thoughts, being concise, sharing interesting little ideas with each other but doing it in a way that's not overly wordy and just you have a brief idea you can throw it out there in the world. Now it is becoming unusable. And a TikTok is now if you've used it, you see tons of like the TikTok shop stuff where half your feed is. It's like cute VC is people trying to convince you to buy some stupid kitchen gadget that they're doing a dropship thing on. So all of these platforms is it as weird as where as time goes on, and they they decide they're not squeezing enough money out of the users, it always makes them worse. And you're kind of just hopping from one to the next. as they as they degrade over time. It's very strange. Yeah,
Michael David Wilson 1:05:22
yeah. Well, I wanted to ask her right in question before we run out of time. And of course, we've Zoe's too drunk for this dystopia, as in fact, I would say is the case for all of your books, they can either be read sequentially as a series, or they can serve as a standalone. So I'm wondering, what do you think some of the challenges are in doing this? And what kind of tips might you give to somebody who also wants to write a book in a series but have it so that people can pick it up as a standalone? Should they wish?
Jason Pargin 1:06:06
Oh, to be clear, it's a nightmare. Because you have to begin every book and reintroduce everybody. But my thinking is, is that if it's been three years since the last book, or four years since the last book, people don't remember what happened in the last one anyway. So you might as well reintroduce everything from scratch, but you can't. It has to equally work for someone who just read book two yesterday, because some people did. Like they heard about this book series. And so they got both of the books, the first two books are on Kindle Unlimited for free if you have that. So they raced through both both of those, and then read book three. So some of the people have all that stuff fresh in their mind. Other people either have read none of the previous books, or they read them years and years ago and have no memory of what occurred who the characters are. So you have to jump into book three and on the fly, establish who these people are, what the relationships are like, and what's the thing that's going on today. And you have to do it in a way that you can't stop and explain it right to the reader and break the fourth wall for the most part, unless the way I do it, you play it as a joke. So you have this thing where in the opening scenes of the book, you have the story, you're starting the story you're telling. But also, in this scene, each of these characters need to reveal themselves were in this very first page, we are reminding you of who this person is not just how old they are, what era they're living in what town and city they're living in. But their personality, their traits, the kind of person they are their worldview, that has to come across in a couple of pages, all of it. And so you are describing the scenery, you are describing the technology, you're doing all of this in a way that establishes firmly in the readers mind. Okay, this is the future, but they don't have flying cars. It's not an apocalypse. Like you have to drop all these hints that you will say she stopped by a fast food restaurant on the wage picker mama pork, well, why do you? Why do I have that in there, because it tells you this is a future where fast food restaurants still exist. It tells you that it's a future where the same some of the same companies are still around, which would be true for two years from now, you know, some of the, they will probably still have McDonald's and Chick fil A, you know, 30 or 40 years from now. So all of those little things that seem like throwaway details, it is secretly reminding the reader and informing the reader of where we are when we are. And then the the first actions you see the character take. They don't have to be heroic, you don't have to open on the character doing something amazing that it has to be something that conveys to the reader what type of person this is. So trying to come up with an opening few pages that does all that is a nightmare is extremely difficult. And I read many books series by some very famous authors that don't do it. Well, in my opinion, that kind of either depends on you already knowing and carrying who they are. Or they're having to basically stop and say previously on where a character will look at the character next to them and say, Well, you remember when we fought those vampires last year? Like it's something that two people would not say to each other. If they both actually remember that thing. So then you're mechanically thinking, Okay, I need a third party to come into the room and have them tell that person but we had to kill some vampires two years ago. That's not something that happens in the zone. novels, if any listeners are confused, they're no vampires and the stores, I just use as a hypothetical of a book series where you can see where the author struggled and becomes very clunky. To get that information out there because writing it for people who don't realize this, when you sit down to write, you have a series of things, you know, you have to tell the reader, and the reader can't know that you've told them that they have to think they're just reading some fun stuff that happened and some fun details that that when you talk about the funny t shirt the character is wearing, they don't realize you are actually trying to tell them what type of person this is, when you describe the character putting on their shoes. If they have some very worn shoes with holes in them, that's not just something you threw when they're you're trying to establish what type of person this is, there's a certain type of person that will wear worn out shoes, there's certain type of person that will only be seen in very perfect white unblemish shoes. Every little choice, you make every single word choice, every single sentence, you're trying to convey certain information that you know the reader is going to need for later. And you're also trying to make them fall in love with this character and with this world, or at least be transfixed by it. All of this is much harder than it sounds. And I feel like I'm making this sound very hard. But I think even if you were writing a serial where it is, you know, book four left off in a cliffhanger, now you're picking up a book five like a fantasy series would do. Even then, I bet if you picked up the third game of thrones book and you looked at the first Tyrion chapter and the first Sirsi chapter, he is very careful to make sure that you are catching Tyrion doing and saying something that is quintessentially Tyrion like this, this is reminding us of who this guy is, like you're getting a real good little snapshot of his personality. He has a smart enough writer that he knows, even if you've read the first four books, and you're now on book five, that you may you're you certainly gonna remember Tyrion, but there's some other side characters where you're not necessarily going to remember which guy they are. So you've got to remind the reader that this guy is the psychopath, which is a lot of the characters in the game of thrones, I guess. But you've got to remind them that this is this is the very this warriors very honorable and uptight when like, you've got to have a little early scene in each new book that reminds them of who these people are. And that's kind of the hardest part of writing a book series that by far. Alright.
Michael David Wilson 1:12:42
Yeah, definitely. Well, I mean, I'm wondering, what is next for you? What upcoming releases Do you have? And what are you working on at the moment,
Jason Pargin 1:12:55
I have a book coming next year that is a brand new standalone novel that is not a part of any, any series. It is not a horror novel, or a sci fi novel. This is the type of thing that they do not advise writers to do. If you if you write this specific genre, I did not want to get pigeonholed into any one genre. So I wrote this book that is a ticking clock thriller, there is actually the first two chapters of it are featured at the end, the ZOE hardcover, the one that just came out. And in the paperback edition of my last book, if this book exists, you're in the wrong universe. In the paperback at the end of it, it also runs there. There's a two chapter Preview of next year's book, the title is, I'm starting to worry about this black box of doom. And that's I we are editing that now we will go into the editing of copy editing. That will be my early year in spring next year, and then it will be out in the fall. And then I will have a two year break before John and Dave book five comes along. And that book currently exists as a pile of notes that I can't even read or remember what they were supposed to mean. It's a series of random phrases that means nothing because I had a dream or a thought in the shower and scribbled it down but did not do a good enough job of explaining it because I have long forgotten what it was supposed to be. So that but both of those books I'm under contract to do this was a three book deal. So Zoey was the first one. So next year's book, The standalone novel that will be my next 2026 God willing that we're all still here. That won't be that will be the fifth book and the John John Dies at the End series.
Michael David Wilson 1:14:48
Yeah, well, I'm greatly looking forward to both of those and particularly intrigued divide a new standalone as well. I want to see what you've come up with for that one. So Yeah,
Jason Pargin 1:15:00
I know that certain people listening this are going to go to the bookstore and just grab a copy of the current book off the shelf just to read those preview chapters and put it back. There's nothing stopping you from doing that. But hopefully, hopefully you will be intrigued because this is, if you're an author who your career depends on selling books in a series, and then you suddenly do go off the reservation and do one like a standalone thing. That is a risky and, and dangerous thing to do, especially if you are known for a certain genre are certain couple of genres. It's good to have a niche. And I, again, I get bored by that. So we will see, we will see how that goes.
Michael David Wilson 1:15:49
Yeah. Was there any pushback or reluctance from either your agent or publisher? I mean, evidently not so much that they didn't buy it.
Jason Pargin 1:16:01
Correct. It's they're very supportive. I have been doing this long enough. I think I've earned a lot of leeway, because I now am. I actually have to stop and count how many books I'm seven books into my career. And they've done very well. So I think other writers would, they would get a little bit more pushback it for me, it's more about how much of an advance are they willing to pay? Like, they'll pay a lot more for another John and a book than for this one. But it's, it's fine. It really is. And keep in mind. I mean, Stephen King, famously, I think, would have preferred to be a fantasy author. But his first book carry was a runaway success. And his agent was like, What do you want your next book to be? And they decided on Salem's Lot, which he had written beforehand, but hadn't gotten published. And he's like, you understand you do another horror novel, you're a horror author now. And he was kind of like, it's like, I think I'm fine with that. Then try to write a fantasy novel eyes of the dragon. And fans hated it. The backlash to that was so fierce. He wrote a book about an author being tortured to death by one of his fans misery, and was gonna write it under a pseudonym. He was gonna write that as a Richard Bachman novel, but that was Stephen King expressing his frustration with the fact that when he tried to do fantasy, his readers turned on him and then finally years later after he had seven or eight bestsellers under his belt, started doing the dark power, but just straight up a fantasy series. I think that's what he would have preferred to have done all along is just want the book that hit first was carrying it happened to be horror. So every author deals with us there there is more. There's always more success and money to be had in a niche because you have certain like, I'm on a podcast called This Is Horror. Like you have a bunch of magazines and influencers and outlets that know your work and public and talk about your work. And if you're part of the genre they talk about you build that relationship and that's what builds you up as like you are known in the horror community you are known in the slasher community or whatever. And the more reliable you can publish just in that genre, the better off you'll be. I just get bored very easily. That's the thing. I could not do just horror or horror comedy the rest of my career. I just got Yeah, I get bored too easily. So yeah, and again, to be clear, it's possible that no one will buy this next book. We you have to you can't live your life afraid of that happening. You have to put your stuff your put your stuff into the world.
Michael David Wilson 1:18:49
Yeah, yeah. And to be honest, these days this might as well be called this is cool shit that microloan Bob like but unfortunately it doesn't have such a ring to it. So we are this this alright, but we deviate greatly. You know,
Jason Pargin 1:19:07
Chuck Palahniuk, I guess for the exact same reason like you, you eventually you just you want to pursue what intrigues you? And it's not just going to be the same thing every time you, you, you any creative mind, because this is the thing when you hear about, for example, actors leaving a popular TV show, it's like well, why do they do that? It's like because they wanted to do something else. So I go Yeah, but they that that show, everybody watched that show, it was a goldmine. They should have stayed on there. It's like yeah, but that's not what being a creative is about. You want to do stuff that's that's the whole point. You want to do new stuff. So I'm, I hope that enough readers are along for the ride, but we'll we'll see if there's another again another John David novel, which to be clear, those are a ton of fun to write, but they're a ton of fun to write. Because I write one every four or five years. Enough time has passed and I eat You're to slip back into that world. But if I was cranking those out every year, like everything, like the way that some, you know, there's some writers that write those detective novels for their yearly releases like clockwork, I'm glad they can do that. I can't imagine how they don't feel like they're just punching a time clock doing that. Like, where they just got a formula, like, here's the serial killer. Here's my detective with a drinking problem. Here's my detective having his love interest. Here's my detective realizing that the guy he thought did did it actually didn't do it. And I don't know, are they still haven't fun, or they still haven't done? It doesn't matter?
Michael David Wilson 1:20:39
I don't know. Yeah. And I know that in this conversation, and in previous conversations, you've spoken about wanting to do more experimental things. And I mean, one imagines that if Tik Tok or some other social media platform continues to monetize you, and that money continues to go up, I mean, it is a massive F, because as we've said before, but then that might give you the freedom to do even more of these experimental projects and take some chances. But for example,
Jason Pargin 1:21:15
I love House of Leaves. I love the concept of it more than I love the story of it. Have you both read House of Leaves? Oh,
Michael David Wilson 1:21:24
yeah, yeah. But I love
Jason Pargin 1:21:27
the idea of doing something to some incredibly non conventional format too. And that's not the only example. But there's where the story unfolds in a series of notes and scraps and drawings and sound clips and stuff where like you're an investigator pieces, the picture together and you're finding all this stuff. But then I think well, but how would we do the audiobook? Half my audience is audiobook now? Is audio like, are we disconnected? A totally separate story for the audiobook? How's this gonna work on Kindle? How do you how's the convey is going to be real? where are people going to? It's going to be readable? Are people going to be annoyed to try to read this on Kindle? Like, I would immediately be think, okay, am I am I just sabotaging myself? Because are they going to see this as just me being indulgent, in a way that makes it difficult for them to access the work. So, you know, this was what enthralled me about the internet when it was new, because my early blog wasn't just a it was like a substack post. I had weird animations and hidden links and stuff that you know, in the early editions of John dice, the end, I had little like animations and weird little things, you could little clues, you could follow the links that were hidden in words, you were able to play with the format. Well, you don't dare do that now on the internet, like that's gone. You can't do that on Twitter. So all of these things that I would love to do to play with format, even if financially I didn't have to worry about it, I would be so paranoid about okay, is this gonna be on things where me and 200 Other people think this is very, very funny. And everyone else in the world just hates me, and are just patiently waiting for me to write a normal book again. Because over time you get captured by your audience. And even if money didn't exist, even if we did away with capitalism, and we all started doing things for each other, just for the love of it. I don't know what I feel safe to experiment then. Or would I be too worried that that's not what people want? That that, that it's too weird for them? I don't know. I think every creative person has asked themselves that. Well,
Michael David Wilson 1:23:41
this has been an absolutely fascinating and wide ranging conversation and we really appreciate you spending probably your entire evening on this it's alright so you know thank you as always for being so generous with both your time and your knowledge.
Jason Pargin 1:24:01
Thanks for having me. It is I say this on every show I go to there are so precious few outlets for authors to go on to where there is an audience and there's hosts that ask good questions. There are so few because there is not a great economic model for doing it. Most people who are doing it are doing it in their spare time for the love of it. I don't know it's I'm not speaking for you guys. Maybe you've grew up both grown fabulously wealthy doing this. The most people doing are doing it because they love it. And they love talking to authors. They love just talking about it. They're doing it in their spare time with their spare energy. You have other things going on in your lives and you do it just because you want to. There's not many, there's not many good outlets like this. And it is so crucial for authors. Not even people like me, but up and coming authors people trying to get the word out outlets like this. That's life that's their lifeblood having an audience where they can just Talk, get their own personality out there talk about stuff and convince people listening like, hey, this person sounds interesting. I bet there I bet their book is interesting. So you are doing a service to the author community by having the show because you could be doing other things I'm sure with your time if you if you want it
Michael David Wilson 1:25:19
now, well, thank you very much. And, yeah, we've been doing it for over a decade now. And we've no plans to stop. We've we've seen many podcasts come and go. But we're trying to be the constant in horror fiction and genre oil.
Bob Pastorella 1:25:39
That podcast money too.
Jason Pargin 1:25:41
Of course, money makes its money. Thanks, Robert. Because the sponsorship deals just come rolling in. That I probably told this anecdote on here, maybe even on here before but I used to keep a list of every interview I did with every like, because I used to talk in the olden days, as always blogs, I was interviewing these bloggers and we would interview over email and they posted on the blog. Or these people they'd have their Wordpress blogs or their fates, their Facebook fan pages, all this stuff. And I used to keep a list of all because all these people's like why? Beyond the next book, I want to talk to him again. I still have that list. It's on like an Excel spreadsheet. 99% of them you go, there's just a dead link now. Or the link is still there. And their last update is from 2017. They're gone. Because again, they there was no money to be made. And they got jobs. It's like, don't they? They had children they have families with no I can't spend hours a week doing this. So all of these places I used to go to like you think well, I'm the big famous author. I'll just hit up all these outlets. They're gone. They're all gone. There's so few and if it sounds silly to anybody, I'm rooting my things. I'm always being sarcastic, like thank you for your service. podcaster. No, it's a genuine service. There's not many places like this to go. So you know, I hope I hope you're here for the next five books, I hope 10 years from now you're still doing it. But if you're not, no one will blame you so many have come a con.
Michael David Wilson 1:27:08
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I know that you said before that, you know, you don't do book tours, because you've seen when when you look at it as a kind of economic practice, it doesn't make sense in terms of the audience that you're going to get if you're doing things like podcasts and things like social media. So I mean, I'm wondering when you have a book to promote, are there any other things that you're doing that we that we've maybe missed, or we haven't covered in terms of just getting the word out there?
Jason Pargin 1:27:44
I mean, for this book, I've recorded about 25 hours of podcast appearances so far acquire across I think 22 different shows just in the last six weeks, but no otherwise is TikTok is Twitter. I'm on threads and blue sky and I still I maintain a Goodreads page. I do I am on Reddit so I do a Reddit AMA on release day, I got asked over 400 questions and answered as many as I could. I stayed on there all day doing that. But I also maintain my Instagram account, I still have my old Facebook page, I update I still have my subject newsletter that I update regularly. The only way I know to do it is to be everywhere because the audience is fractured. There are people who never want to look at TikTok, they hate it. They are only on Twitter. There are people who cannot tolerate Twitter, they only want long form blog posts. There are people who don't want any of that they only want to watch videos. There are other people who don't like any of that they only like to hear me on PowerPoint podcasts. Those are people who message me constantly saying Why don't you have your own show? But it's 100 times harder to have your own show than to just show up on somebody else's show. Yeah, I'm not gonna have to edit this I walk away and I'm done. You're the one that has to deal with the platform upload and all that crap the shows that had had advertisers they have to deal with the advertisers do the ad reads the ad breaks all that junk I don't have to deal with any of that. But there everybody out there now because of the way the media landscape is everybody wants something different and the only thing that I don't provide is long form video I don't I have a YouTube I don't I all I do is upload my tech talks I don't sit down and do a two hour long explainer on something that's the only place I'm not otherwise. If you want long form text short form text, long form audio, short form texts, I've got you I'm I've got you I've got all of those and that's 80% of my of my life that my life is 8020 80% promotion 20% writing books and that's doing what appears to be the bare minimum promotion that will get me by and let me do it as a full time job. Because I if I could do more I would but I I have exhausted myself I'm I'm very tired. I've right now because my repo listening my book came out a little more than two weeks ago, so that that period running up to release and immediately after is exhausting. It is mentally exhausting.