Sunday, May 26, 2013

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: ERIK FROMME

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Erik Fromme?

Erik Fromme: In the simplest words that I can put together: Erik Fromme is highly critical, highly opinionated and passionate about the things he loves be it his family, work, entertainment or hobbies. Though, family and work tend to take the most of my time at the cost of most other things. Which, I guess, is the way it should be.

DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS you do for a living?

EF: I currently, and pretty much have always, live in Buffalo, NY. Yes, that means I’m cursed to support sports teams that have done very little to earn that support in recent decades, but it is what it is.

As far as what the IRS needs to know about how I earn an income I would say that I’m a drafter for a Mechanical Contractor. What does that mean? Well, I basically design either process systems for Industrial facilities like 3M - you know, the place that made the sponge you use to clean your dishes with - or Praxair for liquid gases. Other times it’s for heating and cooling systems for Schools, Hospitals or other Commercial buildings. I mostly work in pipe, but I’ve recently expanded my talents into sheet metal.

As far as what I don’t tell the IRS I do to earn an income... Well, if I tell you I’d have to kill you. And I do know where you live.

DF: What writers have influenced you?

EF: Truthfully, I don’t have a good answer for that. I guess I could say that - looking back on it - I can point to authors like Peter David as being an influence, but that’s because I’ve been exposed to his work throughout all of my likes from Star Trek to comics. When I grew up I never paid attention to whose work I was reading as I cared about what I was reading, and whether it fit into what I liked. It was simply just about the story. Where the characters acting like the characters I knew? Was the universe the universe I knew? When it came to those works, I knew that authors changed every book or every few arcs so I never got attached to anybody in particular. Their names weren’t likely to draw me to other works.

Sure, in hindsight, it was probably a shitty way to deal with it, but I didn’t care as I didn’t know better. I was never that hardcore a fan. I never took it that seriously. Over the past few years, I’ve learned that quality tends to follow quality authors. Author’s like PJ Parrish whose detective novels really showed me how to structure a mystery over the long play. Not just how to develop clues, but to build them into the structure of the story to when these clues came up later as the story unfolded it was organic and not alien to the story as an afterthought or leap in logic. I was forced to think about the story as a whole and what I wanted from it.

I will go back to Peter David who has penned over dozens of titles and has managed to give individual voices to the many characters he’s either created or taken over in his time. To be able to get into the various mindsets of all those different people and understand their motivations is a strong skill to have and to do that in all of the landscapes is a very strong skill to have.

DF: Let’s get right to it: why Fan Fiction?

EF: Well, Fan Fiction was the natural evolution of the PBeM’s I was playing at the time. 13 years ago, RPG’s were all the rage. But, building on pieces of a story as they sporadically dropped into my e-mail started getting tedious with the one or two paragraphs I was responsible for at a time when all I had to work with was a lame three sentences from somebody who wasn’t putting in the effort I was. When I was presented this new option, I liked the appeal of building whole stories directly from my own mind with just my own input. It forced me to consider new factors I hadn’t before like ensemble casts and how to juggle them all. I was responsible for me and the freedom I had with that responsibility couldn’t be equaled.

The easy part to that answer is: the world was already there - in this case being Marvel - and I’ve been reading comics for years so my mind already occupied that space. I knew these characters and their universe. All I needed to do was move them like pieces in chess and focus more purely on story structure and I could let the character development follow. I guess part two to that answer was the collaboration. I didn’t have to explain my world to somebody for them to get it. It was already gotten. So the world building - which I love the most - could start immediately.

DF: How long have you been involved with Fan Fiction?

EF: I started with Marvel Anthology in ’00. It was a very young site with a handful of titles and a lot more available for proposals including the one I was interested in the most: Daredevil. Since then I’ve developed a few more titles across a few more sites, and morphed into the role of EiC for both Marvel and DC Anthology and have been in that position for about 12 years now.

DF: How long has DC Anthology and Marvel Anthology been around?

EF: Marvel Anthology started in April of ’00 and DC Anthology was launched in October of ’01. I’ve been affiliated with both sites for pretty much their entire existence. There have been some sketchy moments when I doubted the longevity of the sites, when production slowed to almost nothing or when I thought the bottom would drop out as people realized that they’re writing ‘fanfic’ and could ‘do better’. But, I’ve been blessed with some very bright and dedicated authors who wouldn’t let either site die. And right now - even through various purges and reboots - both sites boast a combined number of over 1,000 issues.

DF: What are the goals of DC Anthology and Marvel Anthology?

EF: They should be the same goal as anybody else who wants their stuff read: to put forth entertaining and quality stories that builds a cohesive world. That’s the simplest answer I can come up with. We want to be good. Which, knowing the slams that go around when people see shitty pro work and goes ‘that reads like bad fanfic’, might sound ridiculous when applied to fanfic, but I take what we write serious. Otherwise, why do it?

DF: Why should we be reading DC Anthology and Marvel Anthology?

EF: Because we have some really talented authors working for us who deserve to be read. Everybody treats their title and genre inside the universe - like horror or sci-fi titles - with genuine effort. Characters, personalities, relationships and story structure all get attention. And I like to think that DCA and MA offer a bit of a community feel. That these stories don’t just exist inside a vacuum to each other, but that you can tell the authors collaborate to not just strengthen their own books, but each other’s and they show that by crossing over with their titles and building little interconnecting circles that flow from title to title. Despite, obviously, not being paid professionals we all act like we are. These are all characters we love and it would be a disservice to treat them without respect simply because we’re ‘fanfic’.

DF: One of the criticisms about Fan Fiction is that it’s either poorly edited or not edited at all. Your response?

EF: Considering the amount of shitty Fan Fiction out there I almost can’t blame that perception, but when it comes to the Anthology’s - and a few other sites out there inside the community - that couldn’t be farther from the truth. We have a serious of checks that are in place to help insure quality. Firstly, every title on site starts with a proposal that is examined by - at our site - about a half dozen people. Any concerns that are raised in that process get addressed with the proposer and, hopefully, swiftly taken care of to help keep the acceptance process quick. It then gets voted on and it has to have a majority vote before it’s accepted.

When it comes to our monthly releases our editor has a rather thankless job of proofing every single issue before it gets posted to the site. Every issue gets checked for grammar, continuity errors or other concerns that might be raised in the story around the characters and what we might feel be a detriment to the story. Sure, we’re not perfect but we do our best to ensure that any potential reader that stumbles upon us wants to come back, or better yet, spend some of their time offering feedback on things they like and don’t like so we know how to be better.

DF: Detractors of Fan Fiction will claim that those who write it are wasting their time they could be better using to write original stories. What do you say to them?

EF: They might be right, and there have certainly been a lot of people in our immediate community who have moved on from Fan Fiction to pursue professional careers to the detriment of fanfic. But, for me Fan Fiction is writing for the sake of writing. It’s pure. It just is what it is: an exercise in bettering my talent and have fun doing it. Maybe it’s a cop-out on my end for not pursuing a shot to be published and not deal with the hassle that comes from it and if I did who knows, maybe I could be good at it but for me personally I like the built in knowledge that comes with Fan Fiction because you’re working with like minded people. They’re all there to share the same goal. When it comes to world-building, you don’t have to hold back ideas for fear of infringement and you don’t have to explain your work in detail for somebody to get it before you develop new ideas with them.

At the end of the day, I just like to write. I don’t need an agenda or a paycheck to motivate me. And I applaud and have given as much support as I can to my friends who have pursued a professional career. Sure, part of me might feel a little jealous of them being a professional, but I’m also jealous of the fact that I’ll never be called ‘doctor’ or ‘astronaut’ or ‘archaeologist’ as I love space and history too.

And when it comes to wasting my time I know that, ultimately, I’d rather waste my time writing if for nothing but to write than watch shitty reality tv show. If some asshole can watch ‘American Idol’ and yet point the finger at me for wasting my talent and being creative then who’s the one really wasting their time?

DF: Tell us about some of your writers. What is their motivation for writing Fan Fiction?

EF: If I had to judge their motivation for writing Fan Fiction then it would be for one thing: to tell a story about the characters they love. That maybe they want to do more with Superman than just read about him. The secondary motivation would be to share that with somebody else who loves it just the same. It’s fun.

DF: What’s the best advice you can give someone who wants to write Fan Fiction?

EF: To: Just Do It. And, no, I paid Nike no royalties for that slogan. Who gives a damn? Maybe it’s silly to somebody else, but I don’t think so.

DF: Since you’re involved with Marvel and DC Fan Fiction it can be safely assumed you’re a DC and Marvel fan?

EF: Yes. Comics were part of what introduced me to serialized story telling. Beyond that, I liked how it challenged everything. It wasn’t just GI* Joe or the A-Team doing neat things with guns, it was guys flying unprotected through space, performing incredible feats of physicality that would put most people in the hospital. It allowed for anything to be possible and it was exciting to see where a story without any real limits could go. ‘Guardian’s of the Galaxy’ - the new one that the movie will be based on - is a perfect example of that.

DF: What’s your opinion of DC and Marvel these days?

EF: I would guess its pretty low. Frankly, I haven’t read much of either just because I don’t have the money to spend on them. When I did I got very tired of the constant string of events that Marvel and DC forced themselves in. Every event was sure to ‘change things forever’ and it just got boring. There were few books that just told a story that didn’t have to blow up 9 planets and kill about 437 people to be ‘awesome’.

DF: Is Fan Fiction a viable alternative for those readers dissatisfied with DC and Marvel?

EF: I would say both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Sure, we’ve all asked ourselves ‘How could I do that better?’ or ‘If I did that, I bet I would have done that this way?’ and Fan Fiction can be an answer to that question. But, if you’re there to just do DC and Marvel better than DC and Marvel then I’d think you’d run out of excitement quick because you’re not telling your own story. You’re re-hashing somebody else’s for your own satisfaction. I’d rather people come to the Anthology’s to tell a story that they’ve always wanted to read themselves, but was never written until they did it.

DF: Why not just write original superhero fiction?

EF: Maybe someday I might. I just haven’t had that strike of inspiration on an idea that really pushed its way out of my head. I’ve thought about it, but have always dropped back on Fan Fiction to scratch that itch. Maybe I find it safe. Maybe I just find things too derivative to be happy with it.

DF: Do you yourself have any aspirations for professional writing or editing?

EF: Given my position at the Anthologies I’ve been doing a lot more editing than writing lately with coordinating groups of titles together, helping flesh out ideas that authors come to me with and applying my own touches to those books with direction - when asked - to help maintain a certain vision and direction for the site as a whole. I do genuinely enjoy building whole universes.

DF: Do you enjoy editing more or writing?

EF: I enjoy writing more than editing, which might sound contradictory to the previous question. I do editing to help the health of the site as a whole, but writing allows me to creative for my own ego. I get to toss down my own ideas and build them as I see them without loaning them out for others to develop.

DF: What’s a typical Day In The Life of Erik Fromme like?

EF: Typically, I wake up every Monday thru Friday at 6:00 am and get to work by 7:00 am where I’m expected to do my duty and deal with about 30 interruptions in that day. Which, is pretty much like day at home when I roll in at about 4:30. I don’t get much time to myself and the things I wish to do as my children demand pretty much every waking moment. I’ve got about 20 or so different projects around the house to do: kitchen renovations, basement renovations, landscaping and what not that also demand my time.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know about Erik Fromme?

Erik Fromme: Not really, I would think everything about me is spelled out here. I appreciate the time everybody spent reading this and not closing it out after the 3rd question. And I especially appreciate Derrick’s thought for wanting to interview me for his blog. I’m always fascinated when somebody thinks they need my opinion, but I’m clearly not opposed to giving it.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Derrick Ferguson Flies With THE WARBIRDS OF MARS!

Edited by Scott P. Vaughn and Kane Gilmour
Paperback: 476 pages
Publisher: Quickdraw Books (April 25, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0984954813
ISBN-13: 978-0984954810
Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.1 inches

Here’s the thing; I love The Internet. I truly do. Yes, there’s a lot crap out there that gets in the way of the good stuff but the good stuff is there. It just sometimes takes me a while to get around it. Take for instance the webcomic WARBIRDS OF MARS that has been around for a goodish amount of time now. I, however have been woefully ignorant of it until I was made aware of the anthology WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT and while it’s a hefty introduction to the situation and principal characters at the heart of the series it is one well worth reading due to the interesting mix of talent involved.

The set-up is fairly easy to get hold of: Invaders from outer space attack The Earth while it’s engaged in World War II. The alien invaders actually aren’t Martians but what the hey, WARBIRDS OF MARS is a great title so let’s not spoil it with minor details. The Martians have chosen this time to invade as for years they’ve had agents on Earth, half-alien/half-human fifth columnists that have been working behind the scenes to make the invasion easier. And with the world powers fragmented and not able to work together it’s not long before many major cities and nations are conquered and under control of the invaders. But there’s still hope: human resistance forces are fighting back with every weapon and resource at their command to take back the planet.

The core characters of WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT! are an elite cadre of resistance fighters known as The Martian Killers. The leader is Hunter Noir, a fedora wearing, trenchcoated man of mystery who keeps his face bandaged. Jack Paris is your typical wisecracking, two-fisted pilot/adventurer. Josie Taylor is the team’s femme fatale and Mr. Mask is a human/alien hybrid who has joined the resistance, proving to be a valuable asset to the the team due to his having been trained by a samurai master.

These characters all get plenty of time to strut their stuff both in solo stories and in stories where they all work together but WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT! also takes the opportunity to show what is going on with other people trying to survive in this hellish brave new world in various locations around the globe and through the eyes of characters both human and alien.

“Hunter Noir” by Scott P. Vaughn leads off the anthology with the origin of the leader of The Martin Killers and how the invasion began. It’s a good origin story with the only bump in it for me is the sudden decision by the protagonist to become a masked man of mystery while being hunted by the enemy and whipping up a costume and new name for himself in no time flat but y’know what? That’s just me. It’s that kind of story and you either go along with it or not. It wasn’t enough to make me stop reading the story and that’s the main thing.

“In The World Today” by Megan E. Vaughn is one of my favorite stories in the anthology as it concerns a small-town movie date and the effects the Martian Invasion has on it. It’s a short slice of small town American life kind of story but it doesn’t skimp on the characterization.

I love the weird western comic book “Desperadoes” written by Jeff Mariotte so it’s no surprise that I loved “Southern Cross” even though it wasn’t set in the Southwestern United States as I might have expected. (Ron Fortier takes care of that part of the country…we’ll get to it soon…be patient) No, Jeff takes us out to the South China Sea for this one as Jack Paris gets involved in Oriental skullduggery.

“The Deadly Triad” by Alex Ness is a nifty little look into what’s going on with the Chinese and Japanese and I greatly appreciated the break from the slam bang adventure of the previous story to take the time out to see what was going on elsewhere in the beleaguered world.

Sean Ellis has long been one of my favorite writers who never fails to disappoint and he doesn’t do so with “The Farmboy’s Adventure” which has an ending that I truly did not see coming and when it did I immediately went back to the beginning of the story to see if there were any clues that I had missed. I’m betting you’ll do the same.

“The Bitter Edge” is by Kane Gilmore and is another origin story. This one concerning Mr. Mask, so called because he wears a German gas mask constantly. He’s a lot of fun to read about as I kinda get the idea that Kane’s inspiration for the character was G.I. Joe’s Snake Eyes. But with Mr. Mask being a Martian/Human hybrid training how to be a samurai warrior brings an added dimension to the character that moves the story into an exploration of identity and self-respect that lifts it a notch above just another action/adventure entry.

As promised, Ron Fortier serves up a wild west romp with “The Monsters of Adobe Wells” which takes The Monster Killers way out west to team up with Sioux warrior Charlie Three-Feathers, a character I wouldn’t mind seeing more of if there are future WARBIRDS OF MARS anthology. And again, the changeup in setting provides readers with another aspect of the war against the invaders. The international aspect of this anthology is one of the best things about it and a western story fits in here just fine.

Megan E. Vaughn returns for “The Skull of Lazarus” which is a story that makes me wonder if Megan is a “Thunderbirds” fan as her Lady Doyle and Jerry reminded me strongly of Lady Penelope Creighton and her bodyguard/chauffeur Parker. This is an adventure built for nothing but sheer thrills and like Ron’s Charlie Three-Feathers, I hope to see more of Lady Doyle.

“Red Sky Phoenix: The Rise of Free Russia” is another snapshot from Alex Ness as to what’s going on in yet another part of the world. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have even more of these prose postcards in future anthologies (you think they’ve gotten the hint yet?)

“Human Guile” by Chris Samson is where I finally hit a major bump. I’ve read this story twice and still can’t quite wrap my head around what the story is about. It just seemed to me like there was way too much plot and way too many characters doing things I just didn’t understand why they were doing them. For me, motivation is a Big Deal in my fiction. It’s not necessary for me to like or dislike the characters but I do demand that the writer establish why they’re doing what they’re doing and I simply didn’t get that here.

“Surprise” by Stephen M. Irvin is indeed that as I didn’t expect to find a hard-boiled noir story in here but I as I continued reading more and more into this anthology it soon became apparent to me that this concept could and did support a variety of genre stories very well indeed such as J.H. Ivanov’s “The Road Out of Antioch” and “Shipwrecked” by David Lindblad, both of which are out-and-out horror stories with “The Road Out of Antioch” approaching Lovecraftian proportions of cosmic dread. It’s that good, trust me.

“Refined Elegance” by Scott P. Vaughn takes us home and if I had to make a choice between this one and “Hunter Noir” I’d have to go with this one, much as I liked “Hunter Noir.” It’s told from the point of view of Josie Taylor. The Martian Killers have been doing that for quite a while now, the war appears to have no end in sight and Josie is starting to ask herself and her teammates some hard questions the dangerous missions they routinely go on.

The stories are complimented by strong, solid artwork from Jean Arrow, Adriano Carreon, Mike DeBalfo, Bill Farmer, Matt Goodall, Christian Guldager, Robert Hack, Rob Hicks, John Lucas, Paul Roman Martinez, Nathan Morris, Dan Parsons, Nik Poliwko, Richard Serrao and Jason Worthington that serve the needs of the stories they were drawn for, successfully evoking the mood and tone of the prose.

So should you read WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT? I certainly think so. One of my concerns about New Pulp is that it not fall into a rut. Masked avengers of the night and scientific adventurers are cool as hell, no doubt about it. But New Pulp can’t survive on a steady diet of those. Stories such as the ones in WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT! that gives us mashups of war stories mixed with science fiction, horror, day in the life, hard-boiled noir and other genres provide a refreshing new dish for the palate of our imagination to taste and savor. It’s a solid package as you get a lot of story and art for your money and time. Enjoy.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Little About Me From A to Z

A=Age: 55
B=Bed Size: King
C=Chore I Hate: I actually like doing chores. While I’m doing them I’m thinking about what I’m going to write next time I sit down at the computer. This way there’s no time wasted staring at the screen wondering what I’m going to write.
D=Domestic Animal Names: N/A
E=Essential Start To My Day: Coffee. A lot of it.
F=Favorite Color: Red
G=Gold or Silver: Gold
H=Height: 6 ft 4in.
I=Instruments I Play: None
J=Job Title: Writer (I guess…some days I’m just not sure)
K=Kisses or Hugs: Kisses
L=Living Arraignments: Three family house. My wife and I live on the first floor & basement and we rent out the other two apartments.
M=Mood: Surly on the best of days.
N=Nicknames: Ferg, Fergie, Big D, D Nice, Tummy Boy, Ol’ Hot Chocolate
O=Overnight Hospital Stays: Lemme see…as a kid I had my tonsils and adenoids removed and as an adult I had two pulmonary embolisms that caused me to stay in the hospital for about a week each time.
P=Pet Peeves: Any unnecessary noise and people who are proud of their ignorance.
Q=Quote From A Movie: “So let it be written, so let it be done” from ‘The Ten Commandments’
R=Right or Left Handed: Right
S=Siblings: Two sisters, Valarie and Jan
T=Time I Wake Up: Usually between 8 and 9AM.
U=Underwear: Yes
V=Vegetable I dislike: Okra
W=Ways I Run Late: Generally I’m not late because I hate to feel rushed or be rushed so I allow myself plenty of time to get where I’m going.
X=X-Rays I’ve Had: My chest has been X-rayed more times than I can count.
Y=Yummy Food I Make: I’ve been told that my cheeseburgers are pretty damn yummy.
Z=Zoo Favorites: Tie between the elephants and panda bears.

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With...BERTRAM GIBBS

DF: Who is Bertram Gibbs? Bertram Gibbs: Husband, father, film, comic book, television, Broadway collector and enthusiast. Researcher of ...