Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pulp Perusals: Discovering Wold Newton

A long time ago in a country far, far away (well across an ocean anyway) I sat thinking about a movie that had just blown my teenage mind. A movie of iconic heroes and villains. Sure: it was set in space and had jaw dropping special effects; but on a basic gut instinct level it all seemed so familiar. As thoughts and ideas percolated I slipped a piece of paper into my trusty typewriter and jotted down some notes along the lines of "All heroes are connected--Luke Skywalker, James Bond, Robin Hood, King Arthur... There's a story here?" That piece of paper was filed away, and (when I subsequently heard about Joseph Campbell and his hero of a thousand faces) forgotten and eventually lost.

Then a few weeks ago, in a moment of madness, I signed up to write a new Allan Quatermain novella for the fine folks at Airship 27. I had this insane idea for a story with Quatermain in search of a mythical great white ape who turns out to be a certain vine swinging British aristocrat whose trademarked name will not be used.

As I started to do some background research in preparation for plotting the story I mentioned the basic idea to my buddy, and Raven co-writer, Rick Klaw. In the course of the conversation he casually asked me a question, "You know that Philip Jose Farmer proposed this idea that they are related?"

"What? That's cool."

Before I knew it I was diving deep into Farmer's idea and drawn into what is referred to as the Wold Newton universe.

For those, like me, unfamiliar with Wold Newton: it is based on an idea postulated by Farmer in two fictional biographies of Tarzan and Doc Savage that the historical event of a meteor strike in the region of Wold Newton in Yorkshire, England in late 1795 was the catalyst for a new generation of heroes. Farmer’s idea was that the meteor was radioactive and that the occupants of a passing coach were affected, subsequently serving as progenitors of generations of descendants with exceptional abilities, intelligence, strength, and a general tendency to perform extraordinary good (and in some cases, evil) acts.

These descendants would serve as the real life inspiration for plethora of fiction's greatest adventurers.

Researcher and writer Win Scott Eckert expanded on Farmer’s Wold Newton Family idea and developed both an online and print Crossover Chronology placing many fictional characters in a shared Wold Newton Universe.

The list of Wold Newton descendants and participants is a long one and covers almost every subsequent generation of British adventure hero; but what really caught my attention was the inclusion of Allan Quatermain as well as the aforementioned Eighth Earl of Greystoke. As well as a whole new (well, new to me) universe of ideas to explore, I suddenly have a whole new subtext layer to my novella.

Seems that the germ of a concept that passed through my mind all those years ago might just get to see the light of day in what I'm currently writing.

And while I focus on the task at hand, please sit back and enjoy the next part of THE RAVEN: NAMELESS HERE FOR EVERMORE by Rick Klaw, and myself.

Part 1 - http://www.newpulpfiction.com/2011/10/pigskin-pulp.html
Part 2 - http://www.newpulpfiction.com/2011/11/pulp-perusals-3-brit-pulp.html
Part 3 - http://www.newpulpfiction.com/2011/11/so-which-ones-black-bat-anyway.html
Part 4 - http://www.newpulpfiction.com/2011/12/pulp-perusals-5-what-hollywood-can.html

(Part Five)
By Alan J. Porter & Rick Klaw
Finn replaced the receiver and smiled.
“It’s on?” questioned one of the goons standing on the far side of the room.
“Its on,” Finn confirmed. “You all know what to do. Just make sure that whatever happens you bring him here.” Finn gestured to the large mirror on the wall behind him. “The Boss is waiting.”
The goon who had spoke up looked at the mirror and gave an audible gulp. “You mean he’s here, watching now?”
Finn smiled, “You never know when he is watching, so make sure that you don’t ever mess up. Get it?”
“Yeah, I got it,” muttered the goon.
“Good, now get out of here!” shouted Finn.
The various goons scuttled out of the room.
Finn turned and smiled at the mirror. “Won’t be long now, Boss.”

Vandemeer sat at his regular table with its panoramic view of the park. Similar to the countless times during the past seven years since the Tavern on the Green opened, he enjoyed the company of a beautiful woman. The venue and vista usually relaxed him. But not tonight. Lala's thoughts centered on another man, not on one of New York's most eligible bachelors, an altogether unfamiliar sensation for the playboy.
Additionally, an almost palpable tension hung in the air. Something momentous was about to happen, but what he couldn’t place. Like a half forgotten fact, it niggled at the back of his mind.
Consequently, the dinner conversation was strained. Both of them wanted to get away as soon as it would be seemly. For once passing up on his favorite dessert, Vandemeer called the valet for his Dusenberg.
The maître-d shuffled up to the waiting couple and gave an embarrassed cough. “I’m sorry, sir, there seems to be some delay in retrieving your vehicle.”
Vandemeer smiled knowingly. In fact he suspected that the valet boys often enjoyed a quick spin in the sports car, counting on the fact that Vandemeer customarily enjoyed a lengthy dinner. He normally humored them—assuming they didn’t add any dents or scratches to his car—but not tonight. “My good sir, Miss Ward and I will walk once around the park. I fully expect the Dusenberg, cleaned and gassed, waiting for me upon our return.”
Not waiting for a reply, Vandemeer turned to Lala. “Let’s stretch our legs while we wait.” She gave him a withering look. “It’s a crisp evening. Perfect for a stroll.”
“Sure, why not.” She sighed.
As the couple turned the first corner on the park path, hidden from the restaurant, six men, dressed in all black, appeared. Without a word, the nearest one swung his fist into Vandemeer’s stomach.
Appearing to collapse, Vandemeer toppled forward. Just before his head hit the ground, he swiftly pulled his arms away from his stomach, reached forward, and placed his palms flat on the pathway. Pushing himself up and over, the playboy flipped, landing neatly balanced on the balls of his feet in a fighting pose. He then pivoted on one foot, stretched his other leg straight and spun, using his limb almost as a scythe to mow down the three rushing assailants.
Vandemeer positioned himself between the girl and the remaining thugs. Without looking back, he spoke to her, but not in his usual foppish tones. Cold and commanding, a deep baritone voice rumbled, “Run, woman. Take the car. Tell Malone the trap is sprung.”
“What?” Puzzled, Lala just stared at this strange creature in front of her. First Edwin and now Raymond.
“Move! Now! Malone will know!” boomed the voice. He quickly glanced backward and looked straight at her. She gasped. Vandemeer’s eyes, always a comforting sparkling blue, now peered back at her in an unsettling blood red hue. The smiling face replaced by a cruel mouth. “Go!” he commanded.

The Raven scampered up the access ladder to the roof. Stealthily running across the rooftop, he reached a skylight. Looking down, he saw a man he recognized as Finn, right hand man and fixer for the crime lord known simply as The Boss. Everything was falling into place. After defeating the men in the park, The Raven forced them to reveal their plans. He now knew they had laid a trap for him. Knowing this, he decided to use this information and turn the tables on the villains. He now wielded the element of surprise.
Standing straight, The Raven leapt forward, smashing through the skylight with his booted feet. Amidst a shower of falling glass, he dropped quickly and neatly to the ground right behind the surprised Finn. Before Finn reacted, The Raven delivered a forearm blow to the back of Finn’s neck. The big man staggered, regained his footing, and spun hoping to land a right hook on his assailant. Moving deftly to his right, the Raven easily dodged the flailing Finn. The Raven stepped in and delivered another blow, this time to the side of Finn’s head, hoping to further disorientate the big man. Finn dropped like a stone, crashing to the ground like a sack of potatoes.
The Raven stopped and took a breath, then rose to the balls of his feet, taking a defensive stance in anticipation of the arrival of more of The Boss’s hired help. None came.
“Bravo, sir!” came a voice, “I congratulate you on subduing Mr. Finn so quickly.”
The Raven did a quick 360-degree check. Save for him and the unconscious Finn, the room appeared empty. Across from him stood a couple of heavy draped curtains that threw the far wall into deep shadow.
He looked harder, his red eyes straining. The curtains parted ever so slightly and the dim outline of a man’s head and shoulders could be seen.
“It was too easy. I expected more of you.” The Raven responded as he inched closer to the curtain.
“In what way have I disappointed you?” countered the voice from the shadows.
“You have a reputation for trickery and deceit. Ruthlessness to both your victims and your own men. I expected more of a challenge.” He slowly continued moving toward the outline.
“I think that's far enough, Raven. Or perhaps you prefer Raymond Vandemeer?”
“Raymond Vandemeer no longer exists. That is just a name. Names can be such temporary things. So what do I call you? Is it just ‘The Boss.'’’?
“Ah,” came the voice “We are all nameless here for evermore.”
“Poe,” said the Raven,” how appropriate.”
“So quoth The Raven.” chuckled the voice.
“I assume that you have Edward Sparrow somewhere on the premises?
Where is he?”
“That’s an excellent question Raven, and one I think that you can answer just as well as I.”
The Raven paused, a fleeting look of puzzlement flashing across his face. “What the hell do you mean by that?”
“Perhaps I can answer that old chap.” A familiar British accent spoke from somewhere behind The Raven.
The Raven answered without turning around, there was no way he was taking his eyes of the shadowy figure of The Boss. “What the hell are you doing here? It wasn’t part of my plan.”
“It may not have been part of your plan, my dear boy, but some of us had other plans in mind for this evening’s tête-à-tête. Isn’t that right Captain Malone?”
The voice from the shadows chuckled, “Well it seems that after I dispose of you I will have a few others to entertain me this evening.”
“You’re outnumbered,” said the steely voiced Raven. “You can’t hide in the shadows any longer.”

The Raven took a couple of determined strides towards the heavy curtains. “I don’t think ye want to be doing that laddy,” Malone’s voice was almost a plea.
“No, Captain.” The British agent laid a restraining hand on the police Captain’s arm as he made to move forward and stop the vigilante. “Let him see this through to the end. He must face his nemesis before the night is out.”

Ignoring the conversation, the man known as The Raven reached the heavy drapes. He grasped one in each hand and swiftly and dramatically pulled them back to reveal the bloody and beaten body of a man lashed to a chair. The Raven crouched down, cupped the lifeless chin in one hand and gently raised the man’s head to get a better look at is face. The face was gone. Brutally beaten, and slashed, as if his attacker had been hell-bent on erasing any trace of his victim’s identity. “They say he was the man of a thousand faces,” laughed the shadowy voice, “I just reduced the count to zero.”
The Raven took a step back. He stared at the disfigured remains slumped in front of him. “Oh my God, Edwin.”
Enraged, The Raven’s gaze swept up to the mirror mounted on the wall above his friend’s body. “A one-way mirror won’t protect you. You are mine.”

The Raven drew on of his Colt .45s, took a steady and careful aim, and gently squeezed on the trigger. The mirror shattered into a thousand shards.

The Raven stared in disbelief at the solid brick wall behind the shattered mirror frame.

With a horrible realization of the truth of his existence, the man known as The Raven was suddenly nameless. Unable to process this new reality, he threw his Colt in the direction of the wall and then collapsed to his knees, an incoherent racking sob emanating from his throat.



Sunday, February 26, 2012


Tommy Hancock, Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions and Pulp Ark Coordinator, announces that voting has closed for the 2012 Pulp Ark Awards, the first awards given in association with this inaugural Pulp creators' conference/convention.

The Winners of the 2012 Pulp Ark Awards are-

BEST NOVEL-Yesteryear by Tommy Hancock (Pro Se Productions)

BEST COLLECTION/ANTHOLOGY-Four Bullets for Dillon (Pulpwork Press)

BEST SHORT STORY- The Devil’s Workmen by Barry Reese-The Avenger: The Justice Inc Files (Moonstone)

BEST COVER ART-Hugh Monn, Private Detective-by David Russell (Pro Se Productions)

BEST INTERIOR ART-The Adventures of Lazarus Gray-George Sellas (Pro Se Productions)

BEST PULP RELATED COMIC-All Star Pulp Comics #1 (Airship 27 Productions)

BEST PULP MAGAZINE-Pro Se Presents (Pro Se Productions)

BEST PULP REVIVAL-The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage by Will Murray (Altus Press)

BEST NEW PULP CHARACTER- John Blackthorn Created by Van Allen Plexico (White Rocket Books)

BEST AUTHOR-Teel James Glenn

BEST NEW WRITER-TIE Sean Taylor And Chuck Miller


The awards, 8X10 engraved wooden plaques, will be awarded in the middle of Pulp Ark, the evening of Saturday, April 21, 2012. Hancock stated that all winners as well as nominees are encouraged to attend, but any winners who could not would receive their awards by mail. Pulp Ark thanks all who nominated, all who voted, and congratulations to all the nominees and especially to the winners of the Pulp Ark 2012 Awards!

For any questions concerning Pulp Ark, contact Hancock at proseproductions@earthlink.net or follow Pulp Ark news at www.pulpark.blogspot.com

Friday, February 24, 2012


Review by Nick Ahlhelm

Airship 27 is probably the best company currently in the new pulp field when it comes to reviving classic pulp heroes. And while they have introduced several new heroes in their two Mystery Men (& Women) anthologies, classic characters have always seemed to be their focus.

Challenger Storm: Isle of Blood is one of several novels that looks to change that. Challenger Storm is something of a Doc Savage sort, a heroic adventurer with a crew of allies and a desire to help those in need. He’s an exceptional man, a talented pilot and an all around Renaissance man.

His first adventure takes him to La Isla de Sangre, the Isle of Blood mentioned in the subtitle. He’s there to rescue a kidnapped young woman from a guerilla force, but he quickly finds he’s in the middle of an all out war. Ultimately, he and his men must take on the murderous Villalobos brother, would be conquerors of the entire island.

Don Gates develops a solid tale for the first adventure of his new hero. Challenger seems like a genuinely interesting character to lead the story. Unfortunately the tale sometimes feels like it gets bogged down with too many viewpoint supporting cast members. While reading, I couldn’t help but yearn for more Challenger in the book that carries his own name!

While this is Gates’s first novel, his artistic collaborator is far from a rookie. The book features a painted cover and interior line drawings by the legendary Michael Kaluta. Kaluta’s fantasy art is almost legendary in the field, but long time pulp fans might remember his classic, and gorgeous, work on both the 70s and 90s incarnations of the Shadow.

To be honest, Kaluta’s art is worth the price of the book alone. But Gates keeps up as best as he can with the superstar artist and delivers a solid adventure yard. While Challenger Storm: Isle of Blood walks little new ground, it is a rip-roaring adventure yarn, well worth a look by any new pulp reader.

The book is now available for $14.99 in print or for a cool $3 as a PDF download from the Airship 27 Hangar.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Take A Bow, Or Take You Lumps, And Get Back To Work

It’s awards season here in the New Pulp ranks, when the crème de la crème of the last year’s published pieces draw their share of peer and fan recognition. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement and the hopeful feelings that this time, I might get nominated for something… I might actually win one!

When it does happen, boy what a feeling!

When it doesn’t happen—especially year after year—it’s easy to feel crushed and unappreciated. Boy… what an ugly, lonely, unloved, forlorn feeling. How can I work so hard and not be recognized for it? Why do I even bother writing in the first place? I want to just curl up in a corner and grumble and moan. Maybe hang up my writing fedora and superhero keyboard and go fishing instead.

Sound familiar? Yeah, me too.

Well, don’t do that to yourself. Awards are wonderful; like icing on a cake, they make it so much sweeter. It’s a great feeling to know a bunch of folks chose to recognize you for your talent, and those trophies sure look great on the shelf, but they’re not why we write. The idea is to entertain people while expressing ourselves, remember? You’re supposed to be building a fan base, and every time you turn out another story, you add another brick to that. So have fun, but don’t get too wound up in the glory chase. You need to be realistic, and look at the competition first. Lots of big names with plenty of established work, right? That means those folks have been around a while, and they have the industry chops. As for the newbie awards… well it’s a big field. And that’s a good thing, because we want New Pulp to continue to grow. So take a deep breath, step back, and realize that the odds are against you, unless you’ve had some sort of breakout piece of work in the last year that sold like hotcakes and was praised from here to kingdom come. Which means of course, you now have a big name too, at least for the moment. Otherwise, just cheer on the other contenders; clap long, loud, and heartily for the winners, and get back to writing. Because that’s what they had to do to get where they are, bunkie.

One thing I’ve learned in this business over the last 20 some odd years, is persistence is everything. It’s not what happens at those once a year contests that matters the most, though it certainly isn’t going to hurt your career any to have earned some public kudos! What brings you through the ranks of neophyte writer to published author to fan magnet is what you do every day. Sit down and pound something out.

The other end of the public accolade or anonymity spectrum is that capricious creature called a review. Yeah, just writing it puts the hair up on the back of my neck, because you never know how they are going to go. I’ve had a few good ones, a passel of no responses at all, and some that blistered my soul for years. I even quit writing for a while based on one that said, “Don’t give up the day job just yet!” Technically, that was a editorial comment red penciled onto a rejected manuscript. I was crushed anyway. This was an ‘expert’ opinion, and my ‘day job’ at the time was homemaker and mother to two young boys, so I desperately wanted to be known for something more than housework and mommy stuff. That one line convinced me I was wasting my time. But, I got over it… eventually.

I hate to tell you folks, but if you are going to put your work out there, it’s going to get read and reviewed at some point, and it might not be favorable. Unless you self publish, the first stage review is always the submissions editor, whose job it is to make sure the company gets the most publishable stories possible. So your brainchild might get rejected outright, sent back for revision, or if it’s something already published and this is an independent review, panned.

So, how do you deal with that?

You read what the people say, and then you step back, either celebrate for a day or go kick an inanimate object, cry, whine, snarl a lot; but then you get your butt back in the chair, your fingers on the keyboard, and you go back to work. Because just like awards, reviews have to be put in perspective.

First of all, you have to remember, this is ONE PERSON’S OPINION. You need to inscribe that on your subconscious, because it is so vitally important, even if it was a favorable review. So read it, digest it, get over it, learn something from it, and go on. If it was a particularly bad review, and you’ve had more than one opinion that was similar, it’s time to do some hard thinking about what was said, and possibly why. Was the story really that bad? Was it edited poorly, or did it ramble too much and never hit the point? Wrong market maybe? Or does this person just not enjoy your style or genre? Time to pass off what you wrote to a fellow writing pal that you trust (come on, you know someone) along with the review and ask for honest feedback. It’s a learning experience.

Notice I didn’t say you can’t be upset about a bad review. Of course you’re going to be torn up, you’re not made of amazing wonder putty; you’re a human being with feelings and it seems like a personal attack. It’s perfectly normal to down in the dumps over something that you poured your heart and soul into when it gets steamrolled by some lofty authority. What makes the difference between a newbie amateur and a professional writer is how you channel that feeling. If you delete all your files and toss the computer out the window, that’s not going to solve too much. You still got a poor review, you can’t play Angry Birds anymore, and now you don’t have the rest of your material either. So when you get over your hissy fit, you’re going to have to rewrite everything, If you go all attack dog and snark right back at the reviewer publically, now you have a reputation as someone who can’t take criticism. Might as well paint a target on yourself!

I couldn’t speak so eloquently about this if I hadn’t been there. Never tossed my PC, but I have snapped long enough to delete things or write scathing replies. I wound up feeling like a jerk. I look back on those pieces now, and while a few were unfairly chastised, the rest were basically anywhere from not so hot to embarrassingly baaaad. I still have those days when it seems like I can’t do anything right, but I set the thing that’s bugging me aside until I can get over my snit, and go on with my writing life. If someone is particularly vile in their criticism, where it feels like a personal attack, I don’t have to respond in kind. They might get written into a story as a character I’ll enjoy killing off though…

That’s how you have to handle it. Your sanity depends on it. It’s a big world out there, and not everybody is going to fall all over themselves when they read your stuff. Be grateful for the ones who do, because they keep the motivation going, and treat them well. Writing is hard work; it’s a job all in itself. Handle yourself like a pro, and never let them see you sweat.

So, then it’s OK to celebrate the big wins? Hell yeah! But try and get your feet back on the ground somewhere along the line. It’s important because you can’t let one award or glowing bit of praise for what you did make you think you’re invincible and automatically an expert. That’s when you do stupid things, like stop learning from your mistakes. After all, if I won the ‘Best Emerging Subterranean Unknown Talent’ one year and ‘Most Prolific Genius In A Looney Bin Full Of Caffeine Guzzling Keyboard Jockeys’ the next, I don’t need any editing suggestions because I’ll never write another bomb! Ah… no. Even the best known writers out there turn out a dog now and then. They get published because their well known name on a laundry list sells stuff. You’re not that big a deal. So take your award, humbly thank the people who gave it to you, and acknowledge the others out there who had very worthy nominations too, because they deserve it. Then go have a happy day or three, but get back to the real world of typos, bad grammar, and scenes that don’t work, because not everything you do from now on is going to be golden.

Same thing with a positive review. Oh yeah, that’s something to celebrate and share, because you want other people who might not know your work to see that someone out there thinks it’s worth reading. But when the buzz is over, do realize that the writing industry as a whole is huge, and our little pulpy corner of it is tiny. There are many worthy pieces of fiction to read and the public at large has an attention span the size of a flea. The next shiny thing is going to come along, and they’re going to forget about your awesomeness and go chase it. And that’s okay! Because you need to stay grounded and focused. It’s about writing, not awards, not reviews, but getting words on pages that people want to read. The more you do it, the better you’re going to get. So the less celebrating or grieving you’re doing, the more time you have to write. See how that works?

I get up every day with the idea that I am going to sit at this keyboard and write something that someone else might want to read and could enjoy. That is all that motivates me. I know I am privileged now to actually have a means of getting published, and a chance to reach those readers I always longed for back when I couldn’t give my stuff away. No matter how the day goes, I never forget how close I came to giving up writing altogether. What a shame that would have been, because I can’t even begin to describe to you the thrill I felt the first time I saw one of my stories in a magazine, or the cover art of my first novel. To hold that in my hands, to realize that decades of work had come to fruition at last, was one of the most awestruck moments of my life. A lot of people dream of doing these things. I actually did it. And I’ll do it again and again, until they pry my cold dead fingers off the keyboard. As long as there are people who want to read them, I’ll keep writing stories for them, awards and reviews notwithstanding. Because that folks, is what this writing life is all about.

Now go make something pulpy happen today!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012



Pro Se Productions, a leading Publisher of New Pulp, proudly announces its latest release, a three story collection crafted by a Trio of Top Talents, all about a Supermarket Tabloid where all the Stories within its pages are true!  GLOBAL STAR delivers tongue in cheek pulpy goodness, satirical wit, and more weirdness than you can shake an alien cabana boy at, all thanks to the wonderful storytelling skills of R. A. Jones, Mel Odom, and Michael Vance.

Want to fly headlong into Alien Abductions? Ready to hunt Mysterious Monsters in the Bowels of Your City? Curious about what Elvis has been up to since He Got Laid Off? Find the Story Behind the Stories, the Truth too True To Print in the GLOBAL STAR! Jones, Vance, and Odom relate the exploits of the finest editors, colorful reporters, and raucous staffers working on the world's one tabloid where every word is true! Follow these pen and paper pushers as they go anywhere, do anything, and stop at nothing to bring you the news that makes the Global Star the greatest newspaper on-and off- Earth! Get the whole story in this tongue in cheek satire riddled New Pulp funfest from Pro Se- GLOBAL STAR Is the paper for the best news you’d never believe!

GLOBAL STAR, with fantastic cover and interior design by Sean E. Ali, is available via Amazon as well as Pro Se’s own site (www.prosepulp.com) for $12.00 in print and can be snatched up from Amazon for the Kindle, Barnes and Noble for the Nook, and in various and sundry digital formats from www.smashwords.com for $2.99!  Don’t wait for the werewolves to babysit your babies born with bowling balls in their stomachs!  Read all about that and more now in GLOBAL STAR, the latest book from Pro Se Productions!

For Author information and interviews or any further press release information, please contact proseproductions@earthlink.net and find Pro Se at www.prosepulp.com!

Table Talk: Questions From Readers IV


Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Table Talk, the column where three New Pulp authors talk about whatever questions happen to teleport through the quantum pockets of their nebulous imaginations. This week, Barry Reese, Bobby Nash and Mike Bullock dig into the mailbag and respond to more questions from you, the readers. 

(Question from Mark Holmes) In light of the recent SCOTUS decision concerning foreign public domain copyrights, are you guys seeing a threat to a good part of your ability to
use characters in the public domain created in the U.S. ?

Bobby: In all honesty, I’ve not really given it a lot of thought. Yet. I’m also not that well versed in the decision so I can’t really say exactly how it will impact my work. When I write public domain characters it is generally for a publisher so the possibility of certain writing assignments going away is a very real possibility. I enjoy writing stories with characters like Domino Lady, Secret Agent X, and the like, but if and when they become unavailable then there are characters I’ve created or will create to fill that void. Not to say I won’t miss those characters. I’ve grown quite fond of a couple of them, namely Domino Lady and Secret Agent X.

Public domain characters are fun to play with in stories, but if they become unavailable then I’ll move on to new characters I can write about. It’s just like Spider-man. I love the character of Spider-man, but I don’t have the authority to write the character so I don’t. It would be the same difference, I think.

Barry: I’m not very concerned about it, either. I’ve used several public domain heroes in The Rook series but I don’t have any plans to use any of them in the future – and like Bobby, most of the time recently that I’ve been asked to write PD characters, it was at the behest of some publisher. The PD heroes that I’ve enjoyed writing the most are fairly obscure ones (like Ascott Keane) but if I had to stop using them entirely, it wouldn’t be hard to create new versions that filled the same roles.

Mike: I guess I'm with my colleagues on this one. Honestly, aside from say Phantom, John Carter and Moon Knight, I'd die happy if I only wrote my own characters for the rest of my life. Sure I love Captain Future, Black Bat and many others, but in the end, I get the most enjoyment from playing in my own sandbox with my own toys.

(Question from C. William Russette) Do you believe in writer's block? What do you do to make yourself face the blank page when the block has been raised? How do you overcome it?

Bobby: I don’t believe in writer’s block. Are there days when the words won’t flow right? Absolutely. However, I’ve found that I can step away from the project where I’ve stalled and work on another story just fine. That tells em there is a problem with either my story that I need to work through or that I simply need a break from that story.

The writer’s block question is one I hear at conventions a lot. I’m going to borrow the answer that my convention traveling buddy, Sean Taylor often gives. “Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, do they?” While it is apples and oranges, it is a valid point. Writing as a job is a lot different than writing as a hobby. As a hobby, you can wait until the muse hits you. When writing is your job, your livelihood, then you don’t usually have that luxury. There have been many days where I’ve typed “The End” on one story and immediately started on the next to meet deadlines. Deadlines are a great cure for writer’s block.

The hardest thing for me is getting started. It’s so easy to get sidetracked by other things that keep me from putting my butt in the chair. Cleaning the office, Facebook, Twitter, updating my website, etc. are all important, but sometimes you have to push those aside and just start writing. Once I get started, however, I’m usually good to go.

Barry: I’ve never had a really bad case of writer’s block. I mean, sometimes I just can’t get the motivation to write but it only lasts a day or two before the compulsion drives me back to work.

The best thing to do, I’ve found, is to take some time to step away and watch or read something that inspires you. Then you come back to the computer and start banging away. Even if it’s not perfect, you have to work through things and put words on the paper… you can always clean it up later. You just keep chipping away and eventually the block will crack.

Bobby: I absolutely agree, Barry. I was on a panel at a convention once and a writer commented that part of writing is staring out the window. He was right. As a writer, sometimes we have to work through plot issues away from the keyboard. For me, taking a walk, going for a drive, and mowing the lawn are some of things I can do that allows my brain some freedom to explore story elements. Sometimes walking away for a bit is very helpful to the writing process.

Mike: I don't believe in it either. Justin Gray once said that writer's block is a myth. What actually happens is you just run low on fuel. The imagination needs fuel just like everything else, so if you never take in anything (such as news, science, other stories, etc.) then eventually you'll run out of gas and fall into a lack of inspiration that many call writer's block.

(Question from Mark Holmes): I'm following this mess with Gary Freidrich and Marvel over Ghost Rider. Do you guys own the complete rights to characters you create or are they shared with the publishers?

Bobby: It varies. I have done work for hire where I created characters for a series that I do not own. For example, outside of the title characters and the villain, I created most of the characters in the Yin Yang graphic novel. I knew going in that anything I created for this book would belong to the company. The thought of trying to sue to get those characters has never occurred to me. I went into the project knowing that I was doing work for hire.

I own all of my novel characters outright, except for the adaptation of Fantastix, which was a company owned property. I also own, or co-own in some cases, characters created for original comic projects. The artist and I generally co-own the property since we’re both doing it pretty much on spec.

The rights issue is a lot less messy than it once was. Back in the 60’s and 70’s there was very little thought given to movies, TV, and other media that hadn’t even been created at the time. The rights issues are a little more clear these days and spelled out in contracts. Sometimes that means the publishers want a cut of movie rights and others. It is up to the creators of the project to decide if giving up a portion of the rights is in their best interest or not. Every publisher is different. You have to do your research before signing.

As for the Gary Freidrich issue, I’ll refrain from comment, as I’m not directly involved.

Mike: I can't comment on the Ghost Rider/Friedrich scenario as there are just too many variables I don't know anything about. On the topic of things I do know a lot about, I own most of the characters I've created. Granted, there are exceptions, like Manuel Ortega, a villain I created to combat The Phantom, but for the most part I make sure I own them from the get go. It's not like today's publishers are paying the kind of money that makes giving away your creations a wise trade.

Barry: As Bobby says, there are varying degrees with each publisher. I own all rights to The Rook but I also have a contract with Pro Se that says that any new Rook material I do has to be done through them for the next couple of years. So the character is mine but I have a contract that dictates where it can be published for the terms of it. Likewise, Lazarus Gray is mine but he’s part of a shared world called Sovereign City so while I could take him elsewhere when my deal was up, I’d have to edit out references to other people’s characters, etc.

I’ve also done a lot of work-for-hire, where I own none of it. The work I did for Moonstone was all like that, as well as the stuff I wrote for Marvel or the various role-playing games I’ve been associated with. I’m okay with that – it was very clearly spelled out in the contract and I knew what I was doing going into the project.

Bobby: I guess the important thing to remember here is that if you plan to write, draw, or do any creative job for a publisher, know what the terms of employment are before signing a contract. I know what it’s like to be on the wrong side of a bad contract, especially early in my writing career, but I learned from my mistakes (I hope) and moved forward.

Friday, February 17, 2012

ERB Inc. Sues Dynamite Entertainment Over John Carter and Tarzan

(Originally posted on Comic Book Resources):

The family-owned company that holds the existing rights to the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs has sued Dynamite Entertainment and Dynamic Forces, accusing the publisher and collectibles producer of trademark infringement and unfair competition with the release of "Lord of the Jungle" and "Warlord of Mars" comics.

In the lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court in New York City and first reported by The Wall Street Journal, Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. claims the comics were published without authorization after Dynamite Entertainment President Nick Barrucci was told that Dark Horse held the licenses for the "Tarzan" and "John Carter of Mars" novels. The complaint insists the comics "Lord of the Jungle," "Warlord of Mars," "Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris" and "Warlord of Mars: Fall of Barsoom" are likely to "deceive, mislead and confuse the public" about the source or sponsorship of the content, causing "irreparable injury" to ERB Inc.

Established in 1923 by Burroughs and now primarily owned by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, ERB Inc. owns the trademarks to "Tarzan" and "John Carter of Mars," as well as the common law rights in the "Tarzan Lord of the Jungle," "Dejah Thoris" and "Barsoom" marks. Although Burroughs' earlier works, like "Tarzan of the Apes, "The Return of Tarzan," "A Princess of Mars" and "The Warlord of Mars," have lapsed into the public domain in the United States, the complaint notes that they remain under copyright protection in the United Kingdom.

Presumably to bolster its claim of "irreparable injury," ERB Inc. takes specific issue with some of the covers and interior art for "Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris," insisting they "border on (and in some cases are) pornographic": "On some covers -- covers which defendants refer to as "Risque Nude" exclusive covers -- Dejah Thoris appears topless."

The lawsuit doesn't specify damages, but seeks the recall of the comics distributed in the United Kingdom, and the surrender of profits from the infringing works.


By Barry Reese
Pro Se Productions
230 Pages

Review by Ron Fortier

As much as most writers enjoy creating new series characters, eventually many of them, after writing the adventures of the same cast multiple times, start to feel the burden of familiarity. Add to the fact that each new volume often builds upon the fictional cast from allies to recurring villains so that eventually the poor writer is saddled with a huge ensemble that he or she feels compelled to include in each new story. These moments of repetitive angst seemed to be evident in Reese’s last volume of his Rook series. For the uninitiated, the Rook is a masked vigilante created by Reese years ago as his entry into the new pulp community and was an instant success among fans; this reviewer included.

Still, by the sixth volume of that character’s exploits, the sheen of newness had faded and the Rook stories started becoming more about the supporting cast rather than the central hero. Like Arthur Conan Doyle’s ultimate dissatisfaction with his own creation, Sherlock Holmes, Reese somehow to be struggling to keep the Rook afloat. It was clearly time for him to move on to something new and with this collection, he has done just that in a most triumphant way.

Lazarus Gray is Reese’s new hero and is an homage to the classic Avenger series, wherein we have our mysterious leading man aided and abetted by a team of loyal assitants; in this case a trio. Together they are known as Assistance Unlimited. Although Gray’s creation was part of a shared world that included two other heroes, Reese clearly found his old muse with these new characters and has produced some of his best, most energetic and enjoyable fiction to date. These stories move at a breakneck speed and are filled with memorable characters and well delivered action to match anything done in the days of the old pulps.

At the beginning of the volume, we meet an amnesiac washed ashore on the beach of Sovereign City with a strange medallion around his name on which is embossed the words Lazarus Gray. Within minutes of awakening, an assassin dressed as a police officer attempts to kill him, but Gray is more than a match for him and is the victor. Perplexed at his background, he assumes the name on the medallion and sets about creating a new life for himself as a champion of the underdog, the lost and impoverished while at the same time investigating his own unknown past.

Along the way he acquires three unique followers: Morgan Watts, a once time crook, Samantha Grace, a blonde debutante with both brains and beauty and Eun Jiwon, a Korean martial artists. All three are fiercely loyal to each other and Gray for various reasons and always eager to go into battle with him. Reese’s ability to define this trio and breathe life into them is deft and although they do represent classic iconic pulp figures, he also injects original personal touches that sets them apart in a truly refreshing way.

Having been a fan of the Rook series from the start, I had come to expect a certain level of quality from Reese. That this collection totally blew those expectations out of the water was one of the best surprises this reviewer has had in a long while. “The Adventures of Lazarus Gray” is by far the best work Barry Reese has ever produced and I predict will soon build an even larger fandom than that of his Rook tales.

One point does require mentioning and that is the last story in this volume appears in print for the second time. It was first printed in “The Rook – Volume Six” and is a team up between the two heroes. I have no problem with the publisher reprinting the story, but a notice of such should have been made in the book’s indicia. Which brings about a minor goof because this story was clearly written before the others, although chronologically it appears last. In this book Gray discovers his true identity as being one Richard Winthrop, yet in “Darkness, Spreading Its Wings of Black” we are told he was Richard Davenport.

Finally let me add this book is a gorgeously designed package with a wonderful cover by graphic artist Anthony Castrillo and superb interior illustrations by George Sellas. So what are you waiting for? Go pick up “The Adventures of Lazarus Gray,” you’ll be happy you did. You can thank me later.

Moonstone offers Comixology Exclusive Spy Thriller

MOONSTONE is proudly offering a brand new comic…never published before…as an exclusive to COMIXOLOGY!


Team up in this one-shot, 60pg, super groovy spy thriller!

Vertigo’s crime writer Gary Phillips (Angel Town, Cowboys) presents this oversize comic one time event!

For the first time ever Zen freelance spy Derek Flint, the cool curvaceous
private eye Honey West, and the mysterious secret agent super-hero Captain Action team up in a story in swingin’ sixties L.A. to battle hippie robots, mobbed-up, ray gun totting gangsters, a wigged out mad scientist,brainwashed GIs and an alien menace we could only called DANGER A-GO-GO. Dig it!


This book CANNOT be seen anywhere else!

The print version would retail at $6.99, but the digital version is just $3.99!


Review by Nick Ahlhelm

Among the pulp community there is often talk about pulp and literature. Even some of the best modern pulp writers out there sometimes express doubt that a novel can both be pulp and be literature. Other authors have set out to prove it’s possible.

While no one was looking, someone did. And her name is Katie Kitamura.

Kitamura isn’t a name famous to pulp circles, but she isn’t all that well know out of them either. Kitamura has only written a handful of books, but it is her MMA tale The Longshot that shows that she not only gets pulp, but is an expert at writing it.

Clocking in at under 200 pages, The Longshot is sports pulp at its finest. It tells the story of Cal and his trainer, Riley, two men that are on a quest to bring Cal back to the top of professional MMA. In order to do it, they travel to Mexico with a fight against the legendary fighter MMA. Cal is the only man that ever took Rivera the distance, but in the process he nearly ended his own life.

Kitamura details the days leading up to the fight in taut, hard-hitting prose. The fights are narrated with simple, straight-forward power. Never is a word wasted as the story barrels ever forward towards the inevitable make or break fight for Cal and Riley.

The Longshot isn’t the happiest novel you will ever read. In the finest tradition of strong literary fiction, not everything comes up roses at the end. But for page after page, Kitamura gives one of the finest sports tales you will ever read. Recommended.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bold Venture Bulletins #6: Golden Perils

Golden Perils

I’m currently behind in writing several things, but making haste in catching up with my commitments -- a couple of short stories, a couple of scripts. In between writing, I make time for reading, since that’s my best method of “feeding the muse.”

Watching movies and television can be fun and entertaining, but it doesn’t necessarily pay dividends for writing in the short story format. If you want to be a better author, you must write often, but you should also read other good authors.

Right now, I’ve been chain-reading Parker novels by Richard Stark, alias Donald Westlake, about the remorseless professional criminal of twenty plus novels. They’re exciting and well-written, but occasionally I feel guilty that I’m not pushing myself to read other material, to get outside the so-called comfort zone.

Then again, I get on obsessive pop culture kicks, and I only want to discuss one subject for weeks or months.

But how does this affect one’s writing?

When Moonstone Books was assembling The Green Hornet Chronicles, I developed an original story (which borrowed the title of an episode of The Untouchables) about the illegal lottery in Detroit. “You Can’t Pick the Number” had several false starts, not the least of which was my admiration for Dashiell Hammett. I had been reading The Glass Key, a novel of corrupt big-city politics, when work began on The Green Hornet.

Eventually, the story stalled somewhere in the middle. Joe Gentile asked that stories average somewhere around 5,000 words, and my first draft was nearly 12,000 words. My narrator meandered from one scene to another, waiting for something to click, and very deliberately avoided making judgments on characters. Gestures and unconscious habits were described in excruciating detail. Scenes dragged on and on.

Finally, I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t write in Hammett’s style – not for this particular story, anyway. Ned Beaumont’s both-ends-against-the-middle approach worked in The Glass Key, but Hammett had several thousand more words at his disposal. The story dealt with corrupt politicians making back-room deals; The Green Hornet deals in that milieu, for certain, but readers are expecting a certain amount of blood and thunder. I was eager to deliver.

Then, I began reading an issue of The Destroyer, the long-running adventure series created by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir. In many respects, you can’t get much different than The Green Hornet. In one series, a respected newspaper publisher dons a mask and begins dismantling the underworld and corrupt politicians, a masked vigilante posing as a master criminal. The Destroyer recounts the exploits of a former policeman turned government assassin, the disciple of an overbearing Korean master of Sinanju, the sun source of all martial arts.

Murphy and Sapir allowed their protagonists to thwart all manner of evil – corrupt politicians, terrorists, vampires, renegade robots, all against a Cold War backdrop. They also brought political satire to their series, and the narrator unabashedly smirks and sneers at the hypocrites and criminals on Remo Williams’s hitlist.

I might have been reading The Destroyer #26: In Enemy Hands when I said, “The hell with it,” and revised the Hornet story with a vengeance. Descriptions of criminal types, which had been impartial, now reflected my general disdain for those who better themselves at another person’s expense.

The highlight of my story was Patrolman Pat O’Brien, an aging beat cop who blamed the world for his under-achievement. He was introduced as a minor character, gobbled up a large portion of the text, and was slated for the proverbial cutting room floor. Fellow author and pal C.J. Henderson implored me not to excise him from the prose, stating he was the best part of the story.

So O’Brien’s scenes remained intact (after heavy revision), and a certain amount of improvisation took me further away from my synopsis. Officer O’Brien became a more prominent character, with his wavering allegiances, and played out the final denouement.

The Glass Key pointed me in the right direction – I wanted to make my Hornet story a little more hardboiled, and nobody boiled their prose harder then Hammett. But reading Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir’s prose reminded me that it’s alright to pass judgment on characters, and to get inside their heads and their histories.

Hammett’s prose is very linear. He believed in allowing a character to act tough, rather than telling us he was tough.

Murphy and Sapir often poked and probed the edges of their prose. Plots in The Destroyer are usually linear, but the narrator often elaborates on a character’s history, even incidental characters that only appear in one scene. And they aren’t afraid to point out that the emperor has no clothes – even when, occasionally, the emperor in question is the hero of the series.
Once I stopped trying to be an impartial narrator, I turned a 12,000 word lump into an eight-thousand word action yarn. Ironically, the leaner prose carried more substance, in the form of character back-story and plot twists, than the rambling first draft.

So that leaves me wondering what I should be reading while writing fiction. I read somewhere (God knows where) that one author (can’t remember who) makes it a point to avoid fiction when he’s writing. Nonfiction feeds his prose with interesting factoids and opens the doors to other plot possibilities. Also, he fears that another author’s fiction may exert its influence over his unique voice.

As I’ve learned, that can be good or bad.

For the present, I’m trying to ration my fiction reading. Gobble up as much of it as you can, but once I begin work on another story, the fiction gets put away until the project is finished. That’s not easy, since I don’t retain nonfiction as well – a mild OCD that shields my brain from anything that smacks of education.

Nonetheless, until these stories and scripts are finished, I’ll be reading books about the history of Union Square in New York City, the memoirs of a Trenton prison guard, and a book about Hitler and the personality quirks that make psychopaths tick.

If only the history and science books had been written by Donald Westlake, I might have done much better in school.

Rich Harvey is a New Jersey-based writer and graphic designer. www.boldventurepress.com

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Table Talk: Turning the Table

Those of you who follow this column know we run a regular "Questions from the Reader" segment every few weeks. Well, the guys like the interaction so much (let's face it, sitting in an office with nothing but you and your imaginary friends can make a writer very lonely) they decided to try a new spin on it. 

This week, Barry Reese, Bobby Nash and Mike Bullock decided to turn the tables on you, the reader, and pose questions for you to answer. Please pick one (or more) question(s) and respond in the comment field below. When responding, please let the guys know which question you're replying to with your answer, so as to avoid confusing them more than life in general already has.


Question #1 (Bobby Nash): There has been a lot of discussion lately on the appeal of pulp and new pulp  to modern audiences? What makes you, the reader, want to pick up a classic pulp or new pulp book? Is it characters, publisher, creators, cover art, or something else? What are you looking for in your pulp tales?

Question #2 (Mike Bullock): What do you prefer reading, existing characters in all new stories, or all new characters in new adventures? Or, a mixture of both? Please explain why. 

Question #3 (Barry Reese): Are there any genres you feel are currently being neglected in New Pulp? If so, what would you like to see and in what format?

Please reply using the comment feature. And, as always, if you have queries you'd like to submit for the "Questions from the Reader" segment, please use the Contact form in the upper right corner of the site.

Monday, February 13, 2012

PULPTACULAR | New Babel Books

According to its website, “New Babel Books exists because there are authors out there who have extraordinary projects that don’t fit easily into the pigeonholes of today’s industry.” Elsewhere, it describes itself as “the champion of the hard-to-classify book.” As tough as that makes it to…well, classify and pigeonhole, I appreciate publishers that are brave enough to take chances on creators with very clear, uncompromised visions. Comics publisher Archaia is like that and it’s made for an excellent line of high quality, artistic books. So, right away New Babel has my attention. The trick is to learn if any of the visions they provide a home for are something I’m interested in reading. Spoiler: they are.

As diverse as New Babel intends to be, there’s a strong emphasis on genre fiction, which is how they end up in a column like this. They note that their fiction titles “run the gamut from literary romance to hard-hitting science fiction and magical realism.” They also publish “poetry, speculative fiction, mystery, horror, and adventure.” A quick look at their catalog reveals several superhero novels so far, but also a zombie tale and a fantasy romance. Oddly (because “fantasy romance” isn’t a genre combination I’m immediately drawn to), it’s this last one, Seven Times a Woman that first catches my attention. Author Sara M Harvey’s novel covers multiple lifetimes as a reincarnated dragon-tamer battles an evil dragon in order to reunite with her true love.

Wanting to get a better handle on New Babel and its mission, I talked to publisher and author Frank Fradella about the company.

Michael May: Hi, Frank. What’s the short history of New Babel? What was missing in the publishing world that you wanted to provide?

Frank Fradella: Originally, I created New Babel as a home for my smaller, private works. A book of poetry here, a collection of old, short stories there. Nothing I wanted to spend a year of my life pitching to other houses. I’d already landed a six-book deal for my fantasy novel series, but New Babel was the perfect fit for those hard-to-classify works. A couple of years later, a fellow author friend of mine was bemoaning the state of her short story backlist. Suddenly, it seemed like New Babel had a larger purpose to serve. I knew her work was good. I knew it deserved to be seen. It was something I could do. So I did. Things kind of snowballed from there!

Michael: What differentiates New Babel’s books from those published by other pulp-inspired publishers?

Frank: We started off by publishing superhero fiction back in 1999. A year later we'd won the Writer's Digest Grand Prize in their ‘zine publishing awards, and I was invited to join their staff as a consultant on the future of electronic publishing. Look where the world is now! Superheroes are everywhere and books and magazine in electronic form are commonplace. If there's anything that differentiates us, I'd say that the tone and style of our work is very unique. We're not trying to "find our feet." We didn't invent superhero fiction, but I'd be proud to say that we helped define the genre over the last decade.

Michael: Where did the name New Babel come from?

Frank: It's actually the name of a fictional city in our superhero (iHero) universe. I've always been fascinated by the story of the Tower of Babel, and the city to me represents a place where the city planners set out to try to unite people the way they had once been before our language got "confused."

Michael: Is there a New Babel book that you’d recommend to someone who’s never read one of your books?

Frank: I think Swan Song is a good start, if you'll pardon the self-promotion. I am perhaps more proud of that book than any other I've written.

Michael: Let’s say someone has somehow enjoyed every New Babel title available and is still craving more like it. What classic literature would you suggest he or she read that would be comparable to yours?

Frank: Wow. That's a tough one. Our authors all have such unique voices. Someone once told me my writing was like the love child of Robert B. Parker and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Sean Taylor often gets described as the Pulp Hemingway. Sara Harvey's Seven Times a Woman is unlike any other book I've ever read! I wouldn't even know how to relate her to another author. But if you're looking for just a short list of great pulp authors I'd recommend, you simply cannot go wrong with Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs. There's a reason why we're still making movies about their works. They are the stuff of legend.

Michael: Thanks so much for talking with me!

Frank: My pleasure! Thanks for the opportunity!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Press Release: Airship 27 is Touched by Death

Airship 27 Productions announces the release a brand new fantasy novel by noted comic book writer, R.A. Jones; “Deathwalker.” Jones is best remembered for is early work for Malibu Comics where he created the adult action series, “Scimitar” along with artist Rob Davis. Now he turns his imagination to a different kind of hero, this one inspired by a certain Robert E. Howard barbarian.

While on his vision quest, the young Cheyenne brave High Bird encounters the spirit of Death. The powerful wraith recruits the boy as his new agent in the world and High Bird returns to his tribe altered forever as Deathwalker. When the Cheyenne become the target of a vengeful Pawnee Shaman, Stands Alone, only Deathwalker can stand between this evil sorcerer and the total destruction of his people.

Writer R.A. Jones has woven a new and exciting fantasy set against the background of authentic Native American lore and culture. He dares to imagine what this wild untamed land would have become had there been no conquests by outside civilizations beyond the great waters. Here is an old world re-envisioned in a bold new action packed adventure worthy of pulp writers such as Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Featuring stunning cover art by Laura Givens with interior illustrations by Michael Neno.

Airship27 is proud to present R.A. Jones’ DEATHWALKER, another original and quality title in the New Pulp movement.

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – Pulp Fiction For A New Generation!

Available at three sites on-line.

Airship 27 Hangar


And Soon From –
Indy Planet

Thursday, February 9, 2012

PRESS RELEASE-Pulp Obscura Adds Two Classic Characters from Pulp's Greatest Creator!

Pro Se Productions, an up and coming Publisher in the New Pulp field and known for original characters, announces today an exciting addition to its first foray into classic Pulp characters, the PULP OBSCURA line.

As previously announced, Pro Se Productions in conjunction with Altus Press, the premier producer of Pulp Reprints as well as the Publisher of The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage written by Will Murray, will be producing collections of New Pulp tales based on characters that Altus is reprinting.  These characters will not necessarily be the better-known Pulp characters, but rather largely unknown and forgotten heroes and villains from Pulp’s Golden Era.  Although many of these characters, such as Richard Knight, the aviator hero featured in the first PULP OBSCURA volume from Pro Se, are currently in the Public Domain, Pro Se reveals today that not only will there be volumes of PULP OBSCURA involving characters requiring permission and licensing to use, but the two characters currently in question were created by possibly the best known and respected Classic Pulp Author ever.

“Pro Se is absolutely proud,” Tommy Hancock, Partner in and Editor-in-Chief of Pro Se Productions stated, “to be able to say that with the sanction of the representative of the heirs of Norma Dent, PULP OBSCURA will include collections featuring brand new tales written by modern writers of two heroes created and originally written by Lester Dent.” 

Later in 2012, Altus Press has plans to reprint the original stories written by Lester Dent of two of his characters, both falling into the ‘gadget detective’ category, a particular niche that Dent often wrote in and one that definitely carried over into his Doc Savage stories.  These two characters, Foster Fade, the Crime Spectacularist and Lynn Lash will appear in Altus reprint editions and will also appear in anthologies of New Pulp tales featuring the characters as companion volumes to the Altus reprints.

“I can’t really express,” Hancock said, “how absolutely cool it is to be able to be a part of bringing two classic Dent characters back to life in a sense.   Although some Pulp Fans, particularly Dent devotees, are aware of Fade and Lash, they are largely unknown characters to many readers today.  To be able to not only have their original adventures in print again with Altus Press, but to also be producing and creating brand new stories to continue where Mr. Dent left off and to bring awareness to not just these characters, but to the wonderful variety of characters that still live from the Pulp Age as well as the lesser known work of Dent himself, its simply astounding for me to even be associated with it.”

Although definite dates for publishing have not been established, Hancock stated that recruiting the writers for the first two anthologies, one featuring each character, would begin immediately and would follow the same standard applied to previous PULP OBSCURA titles.  Anyone interested in having the opportunity to propose a tale for either THE NEW ADVENTURES OF FOSTER FADE, THE CRIME SPECTACULARIST VOLUME ONE or THE NEW ADVENTURES OF LYNN LASH VOLUME ONE simply needs to email Hancock at proseproductions@earthlink.net  Those interested will then, according to Hancock, be given an opportunity to make proposals in the coming days.

“Thanks,” Hancock stated, “to Matt Moring from Altus Press for coming to Pro Se and wanting to bring new life to all these classic characters that have sat dormant far too long. And much appreciation to Will Murray and the Dent heirs for allowing Pro Se and the writers we’ll gather to be a part of something the man many of us consider the best Pulp creator ever started.”

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Horton Hears A Huckster!

“We are here! We are here! We are here!”

Remember that classic children’s tale by Dr. Seuss? That’s what it often feels like down
here in the New Pulp community, where obtaining recognition outside our own little
world is sometimes an exercise in frustration. Yet if we’re going to survive as a viable
entity, we all know we’ve got to get the word out about what we write. It has to go
beyond the narrow confines of our diminutive sphere and out there where the majority of
readers are. How to go about that is where it gets interesting.

There’s no doubt in my mind that pulp is still very much alive and kicking here in 2012.
It’s a time-tested formula for storytelling, with big adventures taken on by larger than life
people facing the nastiest of villains in the most trying circumstances. Since mankind first
told stories while seated around fires and started drawing on rocks and cave walls, we’ve
wanted to share with the world our notions about heroic deeds and great events. I can
imagine, as those stories got passed around and handed down through the generations,
they were embellished upon and added to until a successful hunt with someone getting
wounded turned into an almost supernatural battle between the forces of nature and
mankind. We humans have a long and ongoing reverence for the courageous quest where
the outcome is uncertain throughout, but at the end, the good guys triumphed after all.
There is no reason a greater portion of the mainstream reading audience won’t enjoy
more of that. So why aren’t they beating a path to our books and snapping them up?

They can’t find us… in fact they hardly know that we exist. We’re clinging to the
underbelly wool of the colossal cyclopean entertainment market, and we blend right in.

The New Pulp community is a minority publication source lost in the jumble of the flashy
noisemaking stuff that fills everyone’s days. We’re a quaint retro marching band beating
an antique drum in the midst of a multimedia circus, and unfortunately, that’s not going
to get us to the readers very fast. If Colonial Williamsburg was moved to downtown
Vegas, it likely wouldn’t fare too well. People go to Vegas primarily to gamble, and see
shows. Right on the outskirts of the glamor section though, that’s a great place to put
something both entertaining and affordable. There’s plenty of people roaming around
looking for something different once they’ve tired of the alluringly but costly charms of
the big city.

That’s where New Pulp needs to drag itself, right to the edge of the ever boisterous
mainstream fiction. We need to holler loud and long about offering a less expensive
and meatier alternative, because folks, that’s where the contrast shows the most. This
is something that needs to be played up more—our books are different from what the
big publishers produce because we designed them that way. That said, we can’t only
create content that is viewed as nostalgic rehashes of older work (though there’s nothing
wrong with that), but an entire distinctive class of fiction that is relevant today because
it appeals to the adventurer in all of us. That’s what sells small print books my friends;
offering something a bit unusual but timely; something that stands out in a crowd but
feels homey and familiar. We need to make more whoop-de-doo to get noticed and then
play up those contrasts proudly. Less time spent worrying about our image or defining
what pulp means, but more as a community of writers, artists, editors and publishers
banding together to pitch the very best work we can produce, in the most affordable and
accessible ways possible.

I proudly consider myself a New Pulp writer, though I seldom base a story in that golden
era or even try and emulate characters and settings from that time. What makes it pulp
to me is the breathless pacing in rollicking adventures with characters who are clearly
drawn and plots that resolve something at the end of the story. I don’t compare myself
with what’s already been done, though I will use it as an example of what to expect.
When I talk to people about my writing, I point out some of the classic pulp characters
who have endured, and tell them what made those stories pulp was the interesting
personalities, exotic settings, and page-turning action. I explain that what differs today
between pulp and mainstream fiction is those faster moving plots and lack of long
introspective moments or tedious passages of narrative details. Old or new, Pulp tales
are short, sweet, and to the point, and they take you on a wild ride. Once I have that
framework in place, I can discuss my own work, because now the potential reader now
has some idea of what kind of writing this is.

Now and then I get a curled nostril from a bluestocking reader who will only buy
mainstream fiction, where you supposedly get better quality offerings. I read mainstream
fiction too, and I know it can be technically well written and still seem ponderous and
dull, so that attitude gets nowhere with me. To each her or his own. There is a problem of
negative stereotyping of New Pulp books as amateur fan fiction, or simple pastiches, and
that seems to be coming from a few self-appointed critics. I tend to ignore them, because
I don’t have the time or energy for rebuttals.

We who are the New Pulp community have been putting out an amazing amount of
printed material for small, independent publishers. We work hard at that, and none of
us are getting rich off it. Most of us do this out of passion for the medium without the
resources of the big publishing houses, so there is going to be some variability in quality
control as this infant enterprise sorts itself out. If New Pulp didn’t have a devoted market,
most of us would have gone away by now.

Any serious writer knows there are really no new stories under the sun, just new ways
of writing them. Mainstream genre fiction is full of copycat books, because if something
sells, others are going to try and cash in on that. I’m sure the original pulp was just as
much looked down upon, yet it sold and was obviously enjoyed and much of it endured
the test of time. So if there’s an audience out there still hungry to read what I write, I
can’t afford to spend my time defending what I do. I’d rather be turning out more books
and short stories to sell. I strive to do the best writing I know how to do, and judging by
the reaction I get, the people who have purchased my books have thoroughly enjoyed
them and asked for more. At the end of the day, that’s all I care about. One thing that does bother me is that New Pulp hasn’t always kept pace with our
potential audience. The majority of readers are no longer blue collar, Caucasian, straight
males, which judging by the old covers, is the audience golden era pulp was intended
to reach. We need more female heroes than victims and sidekicks; more Asian, Afro,
Native American, Middle Eastern, Aboriginal, Gay, and young reader pulp. We need
more stories with a contemporary setting, or that at least reflect the demographics of the
audience we’re trying to sell to. Now I’m not saying lose the old storylines completely
because they obviously still resonate with folks. Nor would I ever change the pace of the
writing, or the more straightforward plotting, because then it wouldn’t be pulp anymore.
However, we should strive to make some of these stories we’re creating to reflect the
world around us now, which is what a lot of classic pulp was doing at the time. Keep
the retro stuff, because it’s amazing to read, but let’s bump some of it into this era, and
beyond too. Write to today’s reader, and not just the nostalgia buffs. And for goodness
sakes, put more of those non-male/Caucasian characters on the covers!

Today’s young adults grew up with all kinds of gadgets and games that allow you to be a
super soldier marine fighting an invasion of bug aliens one moment and part of a heroic
swordsman’s quest to clear out a bunch of rampaging orcs and reclaim the countryside
the next. If you look at the games they’ve been playing, and the reading material that
has sprung up around them, you’re going to have a good idea of what kind of pulp
adventures younger readers prefer. Most of them are based in the future, or some sci fi/
fantasy world, though there’s a lot of wiggle room in there for super beings, car chases,
sports heroes, technology savvy sleuths, and cute little critters that can really pack a
wallop. Yeah, people of all ages love video games, or we wouldn’t have them on our
computers, phones, and tablets, nor would you see studios making (admittedly poorly
done) movies from them. Video games are hot, hot, hot! And kids today, from tykes to
twenty-somethings (and beyond) love that kind of fast paced entertainment. We can tap
into that market, without plagiarizing the actual games themselves. And we should.

The peak of the pulp years was a time of great upheaval, spanning the burgeoning
technology in industry moving people from farms to cities. With that came the
discovery of previously unknown cultures, species, and places; the infancy of worldwide
communication technology and travel, two world wars, and economic booms and
busts. There was a gradual increase in life expectancy as well as improving health and
education amongst the masses of the more industrialized nations. I’m sure it all seemed
overwhelming. So in all that muddle, a simple tale in a bargain magazine purchased on a
newsstand brought the casual reader out of the drudgery and confusion of everyday life,
to a place where good triumphed over evil and you felt better after reading it. That still
works today.

We’re burned out people. There’s so much going on around us, so much news overload,
so many new technologies, new problems, threats to safety and well being… a body’s
just got to stop and wonder, “How do I get away from it all?” With a good read my
friend, in a quiet spot, without blaring televisions playing endless ‘reality’ shows and
news reports trumpeting which celebrity got divorced or what food will likely kill you
next. That is a big selling point—escape with us in our books. The classic pulps that inspired generations of readers were a marvel of timing because they appealed to a
certain world-weary demographic of their era. Today’s stories need to be designed to
appeal to the more diverse and higher educated readers of this era without losing that
wonderfully pulpy feeling. While there’s a good market and audience for retro work
based on the past, there’s even a greater one for pulp stories that resonate with the jaded
readers of the 21st century.

So we have to beat that drum louder, let them know that we are here, and what we
have to offer. But most of all, just ignore the critics and stand proud by what we’ve
accomplished. Because in the end my friend, what they say will go away, and the stories
live on to be read another day.

Come and look, we have books; there’s something for all! And a publisher is a publisher,
no matter how small.

Table Talk: Character Storms

Welcome back to Table Talk. Sorry we're late, we got here as soon as we could. This week, Barry Reese, Bobby Nash and Mike Bullock discuss doubts, storms, characters and lost inspiration.

Question: All writers have periods where they doubt their abilities - how do you weather those emotional storms?

Bobby: Good question, Barry. Self-doubt is one of those things that I think every creative person deals with at one time or another. Sometimes when I turn in a story to an editor I wonder if this will be the one where they realize that I don’t know what I’m doing. 

I don’t have any specific method for dealing with self-doubt other than to just keep pushing forward and keep working in spite of whatever doubts I may or may not have. That’s worked for me. It doesn’t help those moments where I doubt myself go away, but I don’t let them hinder me.

Mike: I teeter back and forth between feeling like I have no business writing anything to feeling like I'm unstoppable. This seems to apply to just about everything in my life, so I've learned to average it and just keep pressing on. Even if I ever did feel like I should never write again, though, I don't think I could shut it off. The ideas, characters, conflicts and stories just never seem to stop marching out of the recesses of my mind…

Barry: Anyone who knows me knows that I have a love/hate relationship with writing. There are days that I enjoy it but mostly, I really don’t. I write because it’s a compulsion that I can’t get rid of. If I go too long without writing, my fingers literally start hurting. I miss the tactile sensation of slamming my fingertips against the keyboard.

So I often have days where I think my work is utter crap. That doesn’t stop me from writing – I often wish it would. But I end up working on something else and the cycle continues.

So how do I get past those emotional storms? I don’t, really. I just allow my ‘sickness’ to keep me going. LOL

People often don’t believe me when I say that I frequently dream of the ideas stopping, of the voice in my head finally growing silent, but it’s true.

I write. I’m a writer.

But I’m not sure it’s completely by choice.

Mike: Exactly.

Bobby: It is a bit like a compulsion at times. There are days where the last thing I want to do is write, but yet there’s a part of me that feels like I have to do it everyday. I guess writing gets in your blood, huh?

Question: Speaking of it never stopping, what do you do when you're involved in something totally unrelated and inspiration strikes? How do you keep from losing the idea, yet still stay focused on whatever you're doing at the time that prevents you from writing?

Bobby: This happens more often than I would like. And it happens at the most damned inconvenient times too, usually when I’m on deadline with another project. Sometimes you just have to break away from what you’re doing and get it written down, or at the very least make a few notes, but then you have to pull yourself away and get back to the project on deadline. When doing novels, I generally get the urge to start something new about halfway through.

I’m very lucky in that I can generally work a plot in my head and not forget it until I can start on that project. The reality is that I have far more ideas than I’ll ever have time to write. It’s deciding which ones to work on and which to abandon that can be tough.

Mike: I just try to scribble and/or type some quick notes with just enough to make sure I don't lose it before I have time to really mold it into something. Every once in awhile I'll go back and read the notes and not "get" what I had at the time, but more often than not it works. However, it also means I have little pieces of paper all over the place with story tidbits, character ideas or scene scenarios scribbled on them…

Barry: I’m suffering from the effects of this right now! I had started a Lazarus Gray story and things were really clicking but then my deadlines for a couple of Pulp Obscura things forced me to set it aside. Now that I’ve done both of those, I’m trying to get back into the Lazarus story and it’s missing something. I’ve lost the handle on it. Usually, I’ll just push onward and more often than not, I get the mojo back. But it is frustrating.

If it’s all my own projects and the only deadlines are self-imposed, then I’ll usually follow my muse and work on whatever is inspiring me at the moment, setting other things aside.

Mike: I actually had that happen (the lost mojo thing) on my Rook/Xander story. But, when I got back into and really pushed on, I think what I ended up putting down on paper was much stronger than what I'd originally had in mind. Sometimes, however, it ends up as something I eventually abandon as I decide to start over from the beginning.

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