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!

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