Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: RUSS ANDERSON JR.

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Russ Anderson Jr.?

Russ Anderson Jr.: I'm a 30-something father of two who likes pie, bicycling, and writing stories.




DF: Where do you live and what do you do to keep the bill collectors away?

RAJ: I live in the suburbs of Baltimore. By day, I'm a technical writer for a company you've probably heard of.

DF: In the interest of full disclosure we should let the good folks at home know that we’ve known each other for quite a long time now. Care to tell the readers the circumstances of how we met and our past creative endeavors?

RAJ: You and I were part of a distinct wave of fan-fiction writers back around the turn of the century. We ended up writing at the same sites because we both have the same fantastic taste in source material (Marvel and DC Comics, mainly). I think the first time we talked was when I wrote a favorable review of a series of stories you'd written about a Legion of Super-Heroes character named Mon-El, but I might be misremembering that. It's been almost 15 years, after all.

We really started working together-together when you co-founded Frontier Publishing, which was a site that used the model of monthly serial releases we'd all been using for fanfic, but applied that to our own original works. I came along a couple months later and was one of the lead editors on the site until Frontier finally folded a few years later. One of the things I got to do at Frontier was be the main editor on Dillon and the Voice of Odin, and to help get it into print the first time around. Nowadays we're both part of the Pulpwork Press collective.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, you became a close friend. I've been to your house, you've been to my house. I've met your wife, you've met my wife. Also, we were in a zombie movie together. There's nobody else in my life I can say all those things about.

DF: When did you know that you were a writer?

RAJ: When I was in first grade, I wrote a short story about Spider-Man saving me from the Green Goblin, and then giving me a radioactive spider so that I could be his sidekick (because of course he just carried them around in his pocket). My first story AND my first fanfic! I showed it to my mom, and went and hid behind a chair while she read it, sure that she was going to tell me it was stupid. Since my mom isn't a monster - she's pretty great, actually - she did not tell me it was stupid. She told me she loved it. My course was pretty much set after that.

There were some dry spells between then and my early twenties, most of them having to do with girls and my discovery of various aspects thereof, but what really brought me back to writing was the fanfic community you and I were lucky enough to be a part of. Fanfic is a great training ground for original writing - it gives you a premade pallete to work from so that you can concentrate on things other than creating, things like dialogue and pacing and characterization and putting your butt in the chair on a regular basis. In my case, it also introduced me to a community of like-minded writers that helped me stay focused and motivated. I haven't written fanfic in over ten years, but I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now if I hadn't been part of that group back in the day.

DF: What’s your philosophy of writing?

RAJ: My favorite quote is by Pablo Picasso. "Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working."

Basically, no matter how much of a "pure" artist you are, sometimes you have to show up for work when you don't feel like it, when your muse simply isn't talking to you. I think this is especially true for writers, because I don't care how inspired you are - inspiration alone is not going to carry you all the way through writing an 80,000 word novel.

Waiting to be in the mood is the best way to never finish anything. I think this is the case for pretty much anything in life.

DF: What’s Anderfam Press?

RAJ: Anderfam Press is an LLC my wife and I started to encompass all of my writing activity. It's also a creator-specific imprint that I can use for things that don't necessarily fit at other publishers.

DF: You’ve published a number of short stories as Ebooks. Tell us about them. And why as single Ebooks? Why not put them all in an anthology?

RAJ: A couple of years ago, I made a resolution that I was going to publish something new every month. If I didn't have something coming out from another publisher in a particular month, I would just self-publish one of my short stories as an Ebook. The resolution only lasted until April - I was working and going to school full-time that year, so it was a classic case of biting off more than I could chew. It did leave me with four short stories with my name on them in the Amazon store, though.

They were published singly in order to keep up with the resolution. I never collected them because they don't really fit together thematically. WE KEEP THE CARS RUNNING is sci-fi noir, A BEER AT THE END OF THE WORLD is drama with a pinch of Where's Waldo-style humor, THE NURSERY is mystery-horror, and THE ORIGIN OF FLIGHT is a straight-up teen superhero adventure.





DF: I have to ask you how you came up with “The Nursery.” That was a story I couldn’t get out of my mind for two or three days after I read it.

RAJ: Innsmouth Free Press was taking submissions for an anthology that year, the theme of which was "fungi" (that also ended up being the name of the book). That theme intrigued me. I had no idea what I could possibly do with it... until the moment came when I knew exactly what I could do with it. I mean, you're probably not going to write a romance story about fungus, right? You're going to make it a horror story. So I started wondering what the most messed-up thing I could do with that theme was, and the answer is in the last thousand words or so of THE NURSERY.



In order to get to those last thousand words, I created Arnold Cheek, a private eye on a missing persons case, a black man living in New York in the 1970s. (I don't usually share in-progress work, but I remember that I sent one of the opening scenes to you to see if I got the feel of Times Square in the '70s right.) Arnold's world is a lot like ours, but the fungus is a lot more aggressive there, bursting up through concrete and taking root in human skin if it's not carefully controlled. I added that setup to the punchline I'd already developed, and there was my story.

Innsmouth passed on the story, but I thought it had merit, so I self-published it. I'm really glad you liked it! I'm still pretty proud of that one.

DF: Tell us about the HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD anthologies.

RAJ: Back in 2009, I had just started going to school full-time on top of my regular 9-to-5 job. My oldest daughter was also born that year, so 2009 started a 4-year drought for me writing-wise. I recognized that I wasn't going to be able to write anything substantial for a while, but I still wanted to be part of the fun with you and Joel Jenkins and Josh Reynolds over at Pulpwork Press, so I decided I'd put together a themed anthology. I could contribute a story under a pseudonym and fill the rest of the pages with other peoples' work.

I was reading a lot of Joe R. Lansdale at the time, so weird westerns were kind of on my mind. I also didn't see the genre being serviced much, so I thought it might be suitably different to find some sort of toehold in the market.

Getting a good cover is probably the biggest challenge of being a publisher. For the first How the West Was Weird, I decided I was really going to invest in the covers, and I approached one of my favorite comic artists, Jim Rugg. Fortunately, Jim was game. He was completely professional, and speedy like you wouldn't believe. Later, he came back and did the cover to volume 2 (one of my favorite covers ever... I still feel like we got robbed at the Pulp Ark awards that year), and he's signed up for volume 3 too. All three volumes will have a cohesive look.



DF: What’s been the most rewarding thing about working on those anthologies?

RAJ: The first collection was basically an excuse for me to work with my friends. It was invite-only, and since I wasn't in the mood to have to reject anything, I only invited people that I knew could turn out a quality story. I've often said that I didn't edit the first volume of HTWWW so much as I hosted it, and I still think that's true.

With the second and third volumes, I opened the submissions up, and that has surprisingly been the best part of the experience. I enjoy the process of editing, of working with a writer to find the best way to tell their story. It means that I've had to reject some stuff that wasn't quite ready - never fun - but it's also introduced me to a bunch of new writers and allowed me to be part of their journey through that work.



DF: The rumor is that the next HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD is going to be the last. True?

RAJ: Yes. The series was originally conceived as a way for me to be part of Pulpwork Press without actually having to write very much. Now that I'm finally finished getting my degree, and therefore have time to write, it's time to focus my energies on getting my own words out there. So we're going to wrap it up.  Also, I think three volumes is a good stopping point for this sort of thing.

DF: You’re going to drop a novel on us soon: MYTHWORLD. Tell us about it.

RAJ: Mythworld was my contribution to Frontier Publishing back in the days of yore. It's about a young architect named Charlie Reese who ends up working for a billionaire businessman who turns out to be the Greek god Hermes. Hermes wants to return the worship of the Greek gods to the world, and he's enlisted the help of Aphrodite and Pan to get it done. Along the way, Charlie meets a handful of other gods and goddesses in their modern aspects, learns the true nature of the world around him, and finds out that Hermes' motives might be a little more far-reaching than the messenger god is letting on. It's a little bit “AMERICAN GODS” and a little bit “THE MATRIX.”

Also, it's got a sweet cover by my buddy Steve Criado. I've had this book done and stored on various hard drives for almost a decade now, but could never figure out what I wanted to do with the cover. Steve nailed the perfect design after only a couple of phone calls.



DF: You’ve been working on MYTHWORLD for a very long time. What is it about MYTHWORLD that won’t let you go?

RAJ: Mostly that it's finished! I'm not a big fan of writing for the drawer, and even though I would not write MYTHWORLD the same way now as I did ten years ago, I think it's still a good story and that it deserves to be seen.

DF: What other projects do you have planned?

RAJ: HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD VOLUME 3 will be out as an Ebook in May, and as a print book in June.

Starting in August, I have a series of Ebook novellas coming out from Pro Se Press about a female character in the style of The Shadow or The Spider. It's set in the early 1950s, right in the middle of the Red Scare, and called BEWARE THE FURY. That'll run for six monthly installments and probably take up most of the rest of my writing year. BEWARE THE FURY is part of Pro Se's massive Signature Series line of Ebooks, and I'm sure you'll be hearing more about that soon.

I've also got a story in Pro Se's MAN IN PURPLE anthology, which should finally see the light of day in the next month or two.

And I'm sure I'll be contributing to the Pulpwork Press Christmas Special again this year. That's always a lot of fun.

DF: What’s A Day In The Life Of Russ Anderson Jr. like?

RAJ: I have two daughters under the age of five, so my days of chasing terrorists on jet skis and playing Poker for the fate of the free world are, unfortunately, behind me. But that's cool. Being a dad's a lot of fun too.

I generally try to get up early enough to get a half hour or so of writing in before everybody else starts getting up. Then I go to work. I try not to let the job take any more than the requisite 8 hours out of any given day, so that I get home early enough to spend some time with the family before the girls have to take their baths and go to bed. Afterward, if I haven't gotten my word count in for the day yet, I'll get it done, and then spend an hour or so with my wife before hitting the hay and doing it all again the next day.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?


Russ Anderson Jr.: I'd like to apologize to Willy Bobo for all the kicking. I'm sure you're a good person, Willy.




Friday, April 4, 2014

Three Examples Of Today's New Pulp

I’m gonna tell you the main problem us New Pulp writers have when we’re trying to explain New Pulp to folks who have no idea what Pulp is. Much less New Pulp. See, we go on and on with our explanations of Pulp and what it means to us as writers and what it is as a genre…

…and then we’ll get the Classic Pulp crowd chiming in with; “Pulp isn’t a genre! It’s the paper the original magazines were printed on!”

Well, you Classic Pulp guys just hold on. I’ll get to you another time. Believe me. But right now I’ve got more interesting fish to sauté.

Anyway, we try to explain to The Average Reader Who Is Just Looking For Something Good To Read what New Pulp is. And they will listen most earnestly and patiently and attentively and they will then say; “Okay, I get what you’re saying…but why and how is New Pulp different from just plain ol’ Action Adventure? Or Horror? Or Science Fiction? Why can’t you guys just label what you do as that and get it over with?”

And The Average Reader Who Is Just Looking For Something Good To Read does have a valid point. And before you start with that tired old felgercarb about how you don’t like labels and you don’t see why anything has to be labeled…

…tell you what we’re gonna do. We’re going to take all the labels off the canned foods in your local supermarket and let you guess what’s inside those cans the next time you go shopping. Because much as you would like to think otherwise, labelling does have its place. And one reason why it’s so hard to label New Pulp is because over the years there have been so many TV shows, comic books and movies that have adopted the tropes of Classic Pulp that it’s become so ingrained in Pop Culture that most folks don’t even realize they’re watching Pulp. Still don’t believe me? Sit back while I hit you with three examples of New Pulp you watched and enjoyed and didn’t even know was New Pulp.

24 (2001-2010): For 8 Seasons we watched Counter Terrorist Unit Special Agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) defend Our Country against supervillains, terrorist attacks and shadow government conspiracies. Each Season followed Jack Bauer on a Really Bad Day, each episode taking place in Real Time over the course of one hour. Before each commercial break, a clock would appear on screen to show us how much time had passed and each episode would end with Jack Bauer or another member of the cast in dire peril. You had to come back next week to find out how Jack or whoever got out of whatever death trap they had gotten into.



24 is one of the primary examples of New Pulp I love to hold up as it’s the Ultimate Saturday Morning Serial. A Serial was extended movies broken up into chapter plays that enjoyed their major popularity in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The chapters were shown in movie theaters in 10 or 15 minutes segments before the main double feature.  They ended with a Cliffhanger in which the hero or another member of the cast found themselves in dire peril. Sound familiar? 24 quite successfully adapted the Saturday Morning Serial in an innovative way. Sure, the episodes were now an hour long instead of 15 minutes but thanks to terrific writing and acting, they kept us on the end of our seats. And as a character, Jack Bauer has a whole lot in common with both Jimmy Christopher aka Operator #5 and The Spider.

Hudson Hawk: Is the most blatantly Pulp of my three examples and maybe that’s why it was the least successful. I dunno. All I know is that the very first time I saw it in the theater, I knew what director Michael Lehmann and screenplay writers Steven E. de Souza and Daniel Waters (based on a story by Bruce Willis and Robert Kraft) were going for. Eddie Hawkins is a master thief known professionally as Hudson Hawk


Upon being released from prison he attempts to go straight but is blackmailed by the CIA, The Mafia, the psychotic Mayflower twins ( Richard E. Grant, Sandra Bernhard) and even his own partner-in-crime Tommy Five-Tone (Danny Aiello) into a complicated series of heists to steal the components of the La Machinnia dell’Oro, the greatest invention of Leonardo da Vinci, a machine that can convert lead into gold. The scene where Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello pull off a heist that is perfectly timed to their singing “Swinging On A Star” is one of my favorites in the movie.


The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004): Wes Anderson is not a director that anybody by any stretch of the imagination would associate with Pulp New or Classic. But I’ve watched The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou three times now and the more I see it, the more I’m convinced it’s a New Pulp Adventure. Bill Murray plays Steve Zissou, an oceanographer/adventurer who sees his best friend and partner eater by a Jaguar Shark, a species of shark that had been previously considered to be mythical. Steve Zissou vows to hunt down and destroy the shark.

Aboard his massive research vessel/home, The Belafonte, Zissou and his eccentric crew, which includes a Brazilian musician who sings David Bowie songs in Portuguese, Anne-Marie Sakowitz who insists on walking around topless and a bunch of college interns from the University of North Alaska he sets out on what may be his last and greatest adventure. The adventure is flavored by Steve having to deal with Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson) who just may be his illegitimate son and the tagalong reporter Jane-Winslette Richardson (Cate Blanchett) who is attracted to both Steve and Ned.

It’s a movie that I consider New Pulp because of Steve Zissou, an aging adventurer who is trying to hold onto his life of adventure even though everybody and everything is telling him he has to conform to the modern world. But Steve believes in a different world. Halfway through the movie it turns into an almost straight out action adventure where Steve and his crew have to dig back into the day when they were badasses in order to track down and take out a band of pirates that have attacked  The Belafonte and taken some of the interns hostages.

Steve Zissou’s crew are just as talented, skilled and eccentric as Doc Savage’s Iron Crew or Buckaroo Banzai’s Hong Kong Cavaliers. And if you have any more doubts about the intention of this movie, check out the end credit scene where Steve Zissou and his crew march to their boat. Wes Anderson himself has said that is a deliberate homage to the Banzai Strut done during the closing credits of “Buckaroo Banzai”



The thing all these movies (and TV show) have in common is that there are various elements of Classic Pulp that the creators adapted successfully for modern audiences. Matter of fact, they did them so well that modern audiences have no idea that they’re watching Pulp.

And don’t get me started on how Scandal is a modern day version of The Avenger and Justice, Inc…we’ll leave that for next time…



Derrick Ferguson Is Trapped In Mike Baron's DOMAIN

Paperback:  342 pages Publisher:  Expanding Realms; 1 edition (July 23, 2017) Language:  English ISBN-10:  1944621164 ISBN-13:  9...