Monday, December 28, 2015
Sunday, December 27, 2015
Everything You Wanted To Know About Derrick Ferguson But Were Afraid To Ask (Well, Not Quite But It's A Catchy Title, No?)
The effervescent New Pulp writer D. Alan Lewis was good enough to interview me for his blog. See, sometimes the tables get turned. It's a pretty good interview if I do say so myself and you can find it here
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS
LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION
Earlier in the year we learned that New Pulp writer/editor/publisher Tommy Hancock was suffering from congestive heart-failure. A relatively young family man, this was a dangerous condition that threatened not only Tommy but his entire family. Almost immediately after this news was made public, several members of the New Pulp community began putting their heads together to see if anything could be done to help the Hancocks.
“Jaime Ramos proposed the idea of doing a benefit anthology,” says Airship 27 Productions Managing Editor, Ron Fortier. “It was such a great idea, I realized it needed to get done and we began planning such a project.” The first thing Fortier did was bring aboard his partner in Airship 27, Art Director Rob Davis. “There was no way this was going to fly without Rob handling the book’s overall artwork and design.” Fortier then went to Hancock and informed him of their plans. With Hancock’s blessings, he then posted an ad on Facebook explaining the project and seeking submissions from both writers and artists. “It was always our intention to do this as a traditional pulp tome and thus artwork would be a major element in the final product.”
Much to Fortier’s surprise, and delight, the first creator to volunteer his assistance was Douglas Klauba, one of the finest artists in the field. Klauba volunteered to paint the anthology’s cover once the book was assembled. “Honestly,” Fortier confesses, “I was in shock. Doug is an amazing artist and his offering to do the cover was very much an omen that we were about to put together something truly unique.”
Within 48 hours after posting his recruiting ad, Fortier had received 57 commitments by New Pulp writers while 36 artists in the field signed on to do the illustrations. Amongst these creators were some of the most popular New Pulp writers and artists in the field. In fact, getting so many promised stories in just two days, Fortier begrudgingly realized he and his associates were being handed a giant book and he publicly closed the admission call. “It was crazy,” he recalls. “Fifty-seven stories in just two days! Of course there were naysayers who warned me we’d never get all of them. They were right, we got 62 instead.”
And so the project began with Fortier reading each entry and then assigning it to an artist to illustrate. Each tale features one black and white illustration. Ramos acted as his assistant editor proofing teach story after Fortier with them. Then, months into the project, Ramos, who suffers from diabetes, found his own health in jeopardy and after having handled half the stories, was forced to sideline himself. What looked to be a major set-back was averted with writer/editor Todd Jones, a protégé of Fortier’s, volunteered to take on the task of finishing the proofing.
And so, after months of ups and downs. Airship 27 Productions is extremely proudly to present LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION. A giant treasure chest of some of the finest New Pulp fiction ever produced in an 830 page collection. Representing the varied genres of pulp tradition, this volume features tales of horror, mystery, horror, suspense, pirates, fantasy, private eyes, crime-busting avengers and westerns to name a few.
“Rob and I kidded during the long months of production that we had everything pulp save for a romance story,” quips Fortier. “Then in the final days of story submissions, we were sent a romance. No lie!”
LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION is now available at Amazon.com in both hard copy and on Kindle. All profits earned by this amazing book are going to Tommy Hancock and his family. Sure to become a valued collector’s item, LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION is a one of a kind title pulp fans young and old, will cherish in years to come.
AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!
Available now from Amazon and on Kindle.
Thursday, October 1, 2015
It’s been awhile since the original Kickin’ The Willy Bobo Interview with Chuck so I thought it way past time we caught up with what he’s all about and what he’s doing 23 MONTHS LATER…
Derrick Ferguson: Have there been any major changes in your life personally and professionally since we last talked?
Chuck Miller: Nothing major, though I have been a little busier in both areas. I've been branching out and doing some different things, like Sherlock Holmes, and a character called Zero that I've done some stories about for Moonstone. I had a few health issues recently that slowed me down a little, but I'm getting back on track now.
DF: How do you feel your writing has developed since we last talked?
CM: I think it's gotten a little smoother. I'm starting to develop a better sense of what should be left in and what should be cut out. I'm slightly less neurotic about it. Usually. If I'm having a good day.
DF: The universe of The Black Centipede has certainly expanded and grown larger since CREEPING DAWN: RISE OF THE BLACK CENTIPEDE. Was this by design or has the character’s popularity added fuel to your creative fires?
CM: Most of the characters I've been introducing have been around (in my head and notebooks) as long as The Black Centipede has. I came up with them for a comic book I wanted to do back in the 80s and 90s that never got off the ground. Vionna Valis comes from that, as do Jack Christian and Dana Unknown. Jack, Dana and Vionna are the main characters in "The Optimist," a novel I wrote five or six years ago. Nothing much happened with that either, but I decided to use some of the supporting cast in solo short stories, and thus The Black Centipede developed into whatever he is now. I've been planning to rewrite "The Optimist" to bring it in line with the continuity changes I've made. I need to do that because the events in that story are constantly being referred back to in my new stuff. Jack was originally supposed to be the central character in my little universe, but The Centipede has stolen his spot. Still, he is going to be more of a presence in future stories. He is the narrator and central character in The Return of Little Precious, and that story leads into other things.
Aside from that, I knew that The Centipede would need a supporting cast. I came up with Percival Doiley and Stan Bartowski. I have also made William Randolph Hearst and Amelia Earhart into regulars, though that wasn't my original intention. But the character needs to be grounded a little bit, and the supporting characters do that, and they also give him different personalities to play off of. He has a particular kind of relationship with Percy, another kind with Hearst, yet another with Stanley, and so on. There is a lot of potential for humor in all of these interactions, and humor is an essential component. Really, the inspirations for the way most of my characters interact are old sitcoms and comics like Little Lulu. You have characters with well-defined personality quirks, and they play off of one another in ways that are predictable in a good way.
DF: Didn’t I read some time ago that Hollywood was interested in The Black Centipede? Or is that just an unfounded rumor?
CM: I hope it isn't unfounded, but it's difficult to know who is serious about what. I think The Centipede would make a great TV series, something along the lines of "Boardwalk Empire," a period piece with lots of real people showing up.
DF: Tell us about THE BAY PHANTOM
CM: He started out as the subject of a humorous short story I wrote a while back called "The Return of Doctor Piranha." Set in the present day, in my old hometown of Mobile, Alabama, it was about a down-and-out pulp adventure hero from the 1930s. The magazine I wrote it for ended up never being published, so I just posted it online for free and forgot about it for a while. Later on, I started thinking about doing a new series, something totally separate from the world of The Black Centipede, and I remembered The Bay Phantom. So I took him back to the 30s, came up with some backstory, and introduced a cast of supporting characters.
He's a different kind of character from any of my others, and I use him to tell different kinds of stories. He's actually a rather complex character. He is competent and can be ruthless when he has to, but he is also rather naive, and even innocent in a strange way. He has inner conflicts, but he doesn't let them get in the way of what he's doing, though he goes to great lengths to understand or resolve them. We'll see more of him grappling with his "dark side" in the second book, The Feast of the Cannibal Guild. That is still a work in progress, but I'm hoping to finish it up before the end of October, or at least by Thanksgiving, if not Christmas or Groundhog Day. In it, he will be separated from Mirabelle for a while; she is off on a "secret mission" of her own, which is basically the other half of the story. I like the way they work together, but I wanted to see how they would fare as solo acts. Mirabelle is also a complex character, and we'll get into more about her past and what motivates her.
DF: Tell us about VIONNA AND THE VAMPIRES
CM: It started out as a simple little novella in which Vionna Valis and Mary Jane Kelly encounter Professor James Moriarty, who has for many years now been Lord of the Vampires. It seems he was "rescued" by Dracula after he took his plunge off the Reichenbach Falls and turned into a vampire. Vionna and Mary encounter him when he starts bedeviling a young man named Scudder Moran, a descendant of Moriarty's old lieutenant, Colonel Sebastian Moran. With a little help from the ghost of Sherlock Holmes, the girls deal with him. When I decided to make an official novel out of it, I needed a lot more material to fill it out.
Since the main story was complete, I decided to do some background stuff, showing how Moriarty got mixed up with Dracula in the first place. What I came up with was a middle section in which Vionna finds herself transported to London in the year 1888-- a sort of telepathic time-travel dream thing of an uncertain nature, induced by the ghost of Holmes, who has been trapped in Vionna's head. She takes the place of Watson as Holmes is engaged by the still-human Moriarty to track down Jack the Ripper. The Ripper being one of the main villains in The Black Centipede saga, I took the opportunity to fill out a little bit of history there, and it builds on some of the events in Blood of the Centipede.
DF: Do you think you have found an audience or has your audience found you?
CM: A little of both, I guess. But I'm hearing more and more from people I don't know and don't have any connection to, which is good. I do a lot of self-publicizing on social media, and I sometimes sell books one at a time to people I come into contact with. I really need to start getting out to conventions and things.
DF: Where do you see Chuck Miller in five years?
CM: Wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice, more popular than the Beatles, able to bend steel in my bare hands. Either that, or the same place I was five years ago, which is basically right here. But five years older than now.
DF: How do you see the New Pulp community these days? Is it a community?
CM: I think it is. Maybe not as much of one as it seemed to be for a while. Whatever the definition of New Pulp is, it is nebulous enough to accommodate all manner of things, and certain writers and certain kinds of stories which could fit within those boundaries are not identified as such. There are lots of gray areas around the edges, and any number of things could fit in.
That being the case, it isn't as much of a community as, say, Star Wars fans or Batman fans or anything that has a very clear-cut definition. I don't hear the term New Pulp used as often as I used to. But there are still these core people who identify with it, so it is a community, albeit a rather small one. Maybe some sort of big event is needed to draw more people in and generate more interest. I don't know what form it would take, though.
DF: Do you think that New Pulp will ever have respectability?
CM: It might! I mean, it's respectable already, but in terms of gaining a wider audience-- which we'd all like to see-- I think the potential is there. The popularity of the superhero genre is ongoing, and may hold out for a few more years. Since that is closely related to what we're doing, a little door is standing open. The question is, how do we get through it? I don't have an answer for that. I don't know a lot about marketing. It may come down to dumb luck on somebody's part. The right book making its way into the right hands at the right time. I don't know of any way to force that to happen.
We're not really tapping into even the comic book/sci-fi community the way we ought to be, but I don't know what the solution is. That would certainly be the first step, before trying to break into any kind of mainstream recognition. But there are a lot of talented people working in the New Pulp field, and if their work could find its way into the hands of enough people, I think it would really take off. After all, the most popular book series in recent memory is Harry Potter, and those stories could easily fit under the pulp umbrella.
DF: What are you working on now?
CM: I've got several things coming out over the next few months. As I mentioned earlier, the next installment of The Black Centipede and his pals' adventures, The Return of Little Precious, is coming from Pro Se Press. This one stars Doctor Unknown Junior, and it wraps up the Moriarty trilogy. There's also the return of a villain from one of the early Centipede books. That's already done, and it's in the editing stage now. I'm currently working on the second Bay Phantom novel, Feast of the Cannibal Guild, the next Vionna and Mary, Into the Void, and sort of tentatively sketching out the next Black Centipede. I'm also doing things for Pro Se's Single Shot line, including new Centipede and Vionna short stories, and a new character called the Red Dagger. He is a sort of spinoff from Blood of the Centipede. Lancelot Cromwell, the hedonistic actor who played The Black Centipede in the movie decides to become a masked crime-fighter for real. It does not go smoothly.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?
Chuck Miller: Well, a couple of "bucket list" projects have been done and are working their way toward publication. One of them is a Sherlock Holmes novel I've done for Airship 27. Sherlock Holmes: The Picture of Innocence is a reworking of The Sign of the Four and A Scandal in Bohemia. It guest stars Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde, and was also inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray.
The other one is something I've been wanting to do for a very long time. My absolute favorite TV show ever is Kolchak: The Night Stalker. I recently had the opportunity to do two Kolchak novelettes for Moonstone Books, and those are set to be released in February of 2016. Penny Dreadful and The Time Stalker are going to be published in a single volume. I don't want to give too much away, but I'll tell you that one of them features the return of a monster from the small screen, while the other deals with Carl Kolchak's encounter with one of the most notorious real-life psychopaths of all time.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Derrick Ferguson: Who Is Frank Schildiner?
Frank Schildiner: Oh jeez, start with a hard one why don't ya? That's something I've been wondering for 49 years and I'm still figuring it out. Well, I was born in Queens, NY, raised in New Jersey and at night I fight crime under the name...oops, slipped into my own reality for a minute there...
DF: What do you tell the IRS you do for a living?
FS: Senior Probation Officer for the State of New Jersey, Martial Arts instructor for Amorosi's Mixed Martial Arts and writer. They also wonder if I have time to sleep.
DF: Tell us a little something about your background.
FS: That'd take a while, but I think I can sum up. I had amazing parents who managed to deal with a slightly demented child by channeling him (i.e. me) into useful areas. I grew up reading classics, both the fun variety like Burroughs and Doyle, and the serious kind you were forced to read in school. They loved all types of films and I got to see some of the best and worst old films as I grew up. This fostered my imagination and made me the rather crazy person I am today. But it wouldn't have gone anywhere if I hadn't been encouraged to take up martial arts in my mid-thirties. There I learned discipline and so much more, channeling what was inside me into a more productive direction.
DF: How long have you been writing?
FS: All my life, but I wasn't published until I was 40. This was a good thing. I look back at my earlier work and shudder. I was really bad and it took me that long to learn the basics of storytelling. But thanks to some amazing teachers/editors, I'm slowly getting there (I hope).
DF: You a plotter or a pantser?
FS: Pantser, totally and completely. I tried forever to be a plotter and all my stories were horrific, stilted and stiff. Then I read Stephen King's “On Writing” and he explained he wrote his books the way I wanted to do it. I figured if one of the bestselling authors on Earth, one of my heroes, did it that way, I could avoid outlines.. .
DF: What writers have influenced you?
FS: Oh man, so many! Lovecraft, Howard, Ernst, Jack London, Walter Gibson, Bram Stoker, Jack Kirby, Harlan Ellison, Philip Jose Farmer, Will Murray, Win Scott Eckert, JM Lofficier, David Gerrold, Clark Ashton Smith...I could be doing this for a very long time...
DF: Are you interested in critics or professional/amateur criticism of your work?
FS: In a small sense, I think we all are to a degree. I hope everyone likes my work, but I'm not going to worry about it overly. I do prize and listen to my editors and friends who give me honest constructive criticism, that’s how I learned to become a better writer. But a bad review doesn't shake me. A writer needs to be immune to worries like that one.
DF: What audience are you trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience for Frank Schildiner?
FS: Hmm, that's a good one. Well, I think my two audiences are pulp and occult/horror adventure. My main work is, surprising to me, very much in the weirder end of the horror universe. My latest novel seems to cover both areas, but time will tell if I actually have anyone reading me LOL!
DF: Do you consider yourself to be a New Pulp writer? If so, why? And if not, then why not?
FS: Very much a New Pulp writer. That's where I got started, writing French pulp crossovers for Black Coat Press and Secret Agent X for Airship27. I love that period of writing and the fact that it returned to the publishing world in the last ten years or so was a gift from heaven, so to speak.
Also I love the amazing work New Pulp writers produce regularly. There are so many great new characters coming out these days, Pat Wildman, Dillon, the Royal Occultist, Sgt. Janus...it's an incredible time to be a writer or a reader.
DF: How important is it to follow your instincts while writing?
FS: 100% importance. At times I find myself writing entirely different directions than I imagined a scene or a chapter would go in a book. It’s a surprising moment, an internal and unconscious decision that makes the writing process all the more enjoyable.
DF: Tell us about THE QUEST OF FRANKENSTEIN.
FS: This is the story of the French version of the Frankenstein monster. The creature is a lethal and terrible monster, an evil being who meets up with the American monster maker, Herbert West, in his quest for a mate. To get his mate, West requires a list of items, most living and terrible beings themselves, and the creature, known as Gouroull, wanders around the world to obtain these items. It’s a sweeping story, introducing monsters, many of whom were forgotten by horror/occult fans.
DF: This is a different Frankenstein Monster from the one that most of here in America are familiar with. Can you go into the origins of this Monster and why you chose to use him for your novel?
FS: Oh yes, this is a truly amazing story. Back in the 1950’s a French pulp paperback publisher had on staff a man named Jean-Claude Carriere. He was asked to write a series starring the Frankenstein monster, though he remade the creature. This is not the tormented Byronic monster of Shelley, the allegorical Whale version or the brutish version that followed when Whale stopped making the films. The creature, named Gouroull, is a giant, chalky skinned, yellow-eyed, nigh-invulnerable fiend. He’s nearly bulletproof, unafraid of fire and possessing an alien intelligence.
Carriere wrote Gouroull in a series of novels that ended in 1959. He then went on to become an Academy Award winning screenwriter whose work with Luis Brunel and others has made him one of the legends in the film world. In 2014 he was also given a lifetime achievement award by the Academy, which is quite a heavy legacy to follow.
I learned of Gouroull through my friend and mentor, JM Lofficier and his company, BLACK COAT PRESS. I’m proud he accepted the book and thus THE QUEST OF FRANKENSTEIN was born!
DF: Tell us about TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN and how you got involved with that anthology series.
FS: TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN is a yearly publication by the amazing JM Lofficier and his company BLACK COAT PRESS. In these anthologies, a writer takes a French character and writes them in a story with heroes or villains they normally would not have encountered. It’s a marvelous idea, a mean of introducing the world to the vast French literature unknown to many.
Characters like Doctor Omega, Fantomos, Judex, Lemmy Caution, Harry Dickson, Nyctalope and so many more have become popular thanks to this incredible series of books. Major writers like Michael Moorcock, Brian Stableford and Terrence Dicks contributed and writers like myself and many others got their fiction writing start in these anthologies.
I was brought in because I wrote a short story for JM, an archaeologist named Jean Kariven who was involved in ancient alien adventures. I’ve written Kariven several times and also wrote my first Gouroull tale in the Shadowmen books.
DF: You’ve written quite a few Classic Pulp heroes such as Thunder Jim Wade, The Black Bat, Secret Agent X and The Avenger among others. Which one was your favorite?
FS: Thunder Jim Wade has become my favorite over the years. He was a Doc Savage knockoff that was done by a great writer, Henry Kuttner (best known for the short story, “The Graveyard Rats”). Kuttner, though an excellent tale spinner, didn’t seem interested in the character or action hero pulps. He created a great origin for Wade, being raised in a lost city in Africa, but the stories were bland at best. I’ve taken the character a unique and fun direction and really love the plans I have for the hero in the future.
DF: Any other Classic Pulp characters you’d like to write?
FS: Operator #5. Love the idea of a spy fighting lethal hordes who are trying to take over the United States. I doubt that I ever will write the hero, but we all have dreams.
DF: Tell us about BIG OL’ SCORPION.
FS: BIG OL’ SCORPION harkens back to my upbringing. I was blessed with parents who loved old films, good, bad and otherwise. They showed me the old 50’s sci-fi films when I was young and I fell in love with the ones starring giant monsters rampaging across the USA. “EARTH VS THE SPIDER” “THEM!” and oh so many more were available on weekend TV when I was growing up, so I got to watch them and imagine a world where this happened for real. I always wanted to write short stories or novellas on these creatures, even did a few team up tales when I was little. Happily none of those embarrassing efforts survived, but I came up with the idea of a rockabilly guitarist who encounters a giant scorpion in a town in the Midwest. It was a major pleasure to write and seemed to work for many readers, I’m happy to say.
DF: What are your plans for your writing career? Is there anything you’re working on now that we should know about?
FS: I’m working on a Thunder Jim Wade novella for Pro Se Publishing right now and have a possible series of novellas in the pipeline with another publisher. I’ve also got two possible short story collections in works as well as a pulp novel series. Also coming soon is a short story collection I’m in called THE LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION with Airship27. It’s an anthology book with a total of 62 writers and 38 artists and being used as a fundraiser for Tommy Hancock and his health problems.
Derrick Ferguson: What’s a Typical Day In The Life Of Frank Schildiner like?
Frank Schildiner: Up at 6am, at work by 8. Work until lunchtime, where I do a little writing if I can. Work until 4:30 and then rush off to my dojo, AMOROSI’S MIXED MARTIAL ARTS. I train and teach until 9 or so, then home and write a couple of hours before bed. It’s a non-stop life, I’ve turned into a triple A personality at nearly 50, which is shocking for me to say the least!
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
If you’ve been reading BLOOD & INK on a regular basis (and if not, then whyain’tcha?) The you’ll have noticed that from time to time I’ll post something here that has been written by one of the most extraordinarily talented artists it’s been my pleasure to work with; Sean E. Ali.
Sean has a habit of writing these amazingly perceptive and on point essays on his Facebook wall that should be read by a wider audience. But Sean is truly a modest man and resists all my suggestions that he should start a blog or something where these thoughts can saved and savored and not lost in the blur of Facebooks posts. Sean’s a deep thinker who truly has something worth saying about some very important societal topics affecting all of us today.
Fortunately he has a friend like me who has no shame at all in reposting his insightful words on his own blog.
Okay, I’ve run my mouth far too much already. I now turn the floor over to Mr. Ali…
So let me get this straight...
The people upset most that the President used the word "nigger" in an interview...
...are the very people who have been calling him that in one form or another since '08...
...or wasn't Cornell West using it to describe the President's avoidance of the subject he was confronting when he used the word...
...or are people of color who use it as a part of their daily speech when referring to themselves or people they know who think that tossing a bunch of different vowels and consonants on at the end somehow makes the word something other than what it was?
If that ain't a "nigger moment", I don't know what is...
For the record, I'm going for the Queen's English version of that word which denotes an "ignorant person"...
The word long before it was a racial slur was used to describe a lack of intelligence, an ignorance of things that were obvious.
In short, there is no positive spin for the word.
Sorry, Chris Rock, I know you want to resurrect it after the NAACP did that whole symbolic burial thing, but really it's not the kind of word that meant "Freedom" in Swahili, it's still ignorant even when it's not racial.
For the youngsters and the hip hop community and those folks who think they are down when they use it as a greeting or expression of friendship.
It isn't. It never was no matter how many times you add "az", "uh", "a", "ruh", or whatever else you come up with, you're still calling someone ignorant, you're still insulting someone's intelligence even when race isn't a factor...
But when you do it to one another and then lose your minds because someone who isn't you or yours uses the term...
...then it's racial and stupid, and you're a hypocrite.
If the word is wrong, it's wrong all the way around. You can't pick and choose the moments it's okay to speak a slur or insult, because it's a slur and an insult all the time. You can dress it up if you like, but it is what it is all the time...
At least the President used it as a proper example of the ingrained nature of racism in American culture and the difficulty of erasing nearly six hundred years (if you take in the total time of Africans sending their own to the Europeans who then bound them over into slavery overseas to well, now) of racial inequality in a weekend when it's got that large a head start, is an accurate assessment and summary of what he said.
And FOX Newsertainment wants to act like what he said was somehow the most horrible thing ever uttered by a president...
....despite their long track record of profiling people of certain ethnic groups and hiding behind the new "nigger" trigger word of "thug"...
All of you need to take a breath and listen to yourselves before you start jumping on someone else for using the EXACT SAME WORD YOU USE AND REFUSE TO LET GO OF in a context that offends you...
...probably because what was said is true.
And how Black people can sit around demanding the removal of the Confederate battle flag and not abandon the use of a word which is linked to that flag and that era like a guy with a burning cross and a white hood on his head is one of those things I'm not understanding...
Maybe the Johnny Reb isn't the only thing that needs to be left in the past...
Something to consider, friends.
Monday, June 15, 2015
See, research used to be a whole lot harder back in the day before the Internet. I know there are a whole bunch of you right now clutching your hearts and staggering around like Fred Sanford exclaiming; “No…no Internet? What did people do all day long?” I could tell you but that’s another essay for another time. This one here is about my ruminations and musings on the pitfalls of doing research.
Way back in the 1980s in order to do my research for whatever I was working on at the time what I would do is set aside a day (usually Saturday) to go to my local library and spend the morning just researching. At that time I lived in Ebbets Field.
Which was only a nice little thirty minute walk to the library on Grand Army Plaza. So I got my exercise as well. Once the research was done I treated myself to the rest of the day off.
So now we fast-forward to the Internet Age where I can now simply Google any information about anything at all and do my research in my pajamas in the comfort of my home because now the library comes to me. And that’s a good thing. Maybe too much of a good thing.
Let me explain: the current project I’m working on is set during World War I during what was one of the most important conflicts in the history of warfare: The Battle of Cambrai. Cambrai is a town in France that is distinguished due to the fact that it was first time tanks were used in large numbers in combat successfully. Now, I know as much about The Battle of Cambrai as I do about the dark side of the moon. But that’s where things get interesting.
I go ahead and Google up The Battle of Cambrai and there’s a whole lotta good articles and information on the battle. I breathe a sigh of relief and dig in. The trail of research even leads me to YouTube as there’s a goodish number of documentaries from the History Channel about The Battle of Cambrai. I’m encouraged now, y’see? I hungrily absorb everything I’m learning and putting into the story as now I feel much more confident being armed with dates, names and maps to give my story a solid foundation.
So what’s the problem?
I re-read the first three chapters of the book and it occurred to me that what I had actually done was bury the story under the weight of the dates, names and maps. So intent had I been making sure I had the historical stuff right I sacrificed doing the stuff that I know how to do: dialog, characterization, action. Y’know…the stuff I had been asked to do on this project as that was the reason I had been engaged to work on it in the first place.
And I’ve always been the guy who preached that if facts got in the way of telling a good story then throw the facts away and don’t worry about it. But I didn’t do it this time and after some time I had it figured out as to why I wasn’t doing it. These weren’t my characters and this wasn’t a setting I had chosen. My confidence wasn’t holding me up on this one. And usually my confidence level is ridiculously high. But not this time. This time I felt I needed the facts to prove that I knew what I was doing.
And after a couple of days of burning up brain cells meditating about the situation it got through to me that I did know what I was doing. I was asked to write an action packed pulp adventure full of derring-do, thrills and chills. I hadn’t been asked to write a historical fiction novel ala John Jakes. The historical stuff of World War I and The Battle of Cambrai was just the backdrop for the story.
So what did I do? Why I scrapped the first three chapters and rewrote them, of course. But this time I only used just as much research as I needed to move the story along and that’s all.
So what’s the moral of this story? I guess it’s not to let research get in the way of having fun writing. Unless of course you actually are writing a historical fiction novel and in that case it’s of primary importance that you stick to the facts. Or maybe the moral is that since research is so easy to do now that it’s way too easy to get caught up in research for research’s sake and convince yourself that you’re doing research when you’re actually entertaining yourself swimming in the sea of research.
But you’ll be glad to know that once I got through trudging through that bog, the novel proved to be a lot easier to work on and it’s going faster than I thought it would. What novel is this you ask?
Well, if I told you that now then I wouldn’t have a subject for us to talk about the next time, would I?
Friday, May 29, 2015
Derrick Ferguson: What are the major changes that have taken place in your life personally and professionally since we last talked?
Balogun Ojetade: Personally, I now have two grandchildren (I had one back then), with a third one on the way and my father passed October 16, 2013, a year and a day after our first interview went live.
Professionally, I have published several books, completed a feature film, won a screenwriting contest and participated in several panels around the country.
DF: How have you grown as a writer/editor/publisher in the past 32 months?
BO: I certainly have – physically, at least. I now weigh 220 pounds. Back in 2012, I weighed about 180!
Seriously, I believe I have. I certainly have much more experience in all aspects of the business and the art. I have always worked hard at my craft as a writer, but I am devoting almost as much time to learning the business side of books.
DF: Is the direction you’re heading in now the same as it was 32 months ago?
BO: Pretty much. I have a stronger focus on pushing Black Speculative Fiction to the masses, now and I – with Milton Davis – have produced and / or curated nearly a dozen events since we last talked. These events include The Mahogany Masquerade; Alien Encounters; the Black Speculative Film Festival; the Black Science Fiction and Fantasy Youth Summit; The Black Speculative Fiction Author Showcase and many others. And now we are Co-Chairing SOBSFic Con (“State of Black Science Fiction Con) in 2016.
DF: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
BO: I see myself publishing other authors, making more films and giving the world SOBSFic Con II. I also see a vacation in there, as I have not taking a vacation (other than working ones) in twenty-five years. My vacation spot of choice is Gabon, in Central Africa, my ancestral home.
DF: Do you think you’ve found your audience? Or that your audience has found you?
BO: My audience has found me. I wish I knew exactly who they were; it would certainly help with marketing. However, in this digital age, people buy books and you don’t know who they are unless they send you a message saying how much they loved, or didn’t love, your book.
DF: Have any of your attitudes about your work or your style of writing changed completely or modified?
BO: No sir. I’m still the same old me. If anything, I am more willing to experiment. Three years ago, I would have been too intimidated to write a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style book. I did that last year with The Keys and I am plotting out the second book in the series.
DF: Tell us about Steamfunk and your place in the genre.
BO: Steamfunk is the Black / African expression of Steampunk, but it is more than that. While steam is the dominant technology in Steampunk it doesn’t have to be in Steamfunk. Most non-European cultures did not rely on steam and saw steam technology as a tool of the oppressor. We deal with that in Steamfunk. We tell the stories of George Washington Carver, Bass Reeves, Harriet Tubman, John Henry and Frederick Douglass – stories you won’t read in Steampunk.
My place in the genre is as an author and screenwriter. Up until this year, I would have been considered the Steamfunk activist. But now I push Black Speculative Fiction in general. I think Steamfunk has grown wings and really caught on, which was my plan. No need for me to keep that as my focus.
DF: Rococoa is a genre that really excites me. For those not in the know can you tell us what Rococoa is?
Where Sword and Soul ends and before Steamfunk begins, there is the Age of Spring Technology and Clockwork. Think Three Finger’d Jack; the pirate, Black Caesar; and the Haitian Revolution. Think the Black Count, Nat Turner, and the Stono Rebellion…that is Rococoa!
A couple of years ago, at the Mahogany Masquerade: An Evening of Steamfunk and Film, I inquired about the era that sits between Sword and Soul – the subgenre of African-inspired epic and heroic fantasy that is usually set before colonization – and Steamfunk, which normally takes place between 1837 and 1901. I asked if anyone had a name for that time because it is a time that fascinates me – a time of revolution (in particular, the Haitian Revolution); a time of pirates and swashbucklers; a time of reverence for art and science. I am a huge fan of The Three Musketeers in all media and Brotherhood of the Wolf, also set during that era, is one of my favorite movies.
No one at the event had a name for the era, however, everyone agreed the time possessed that same “cool factor” found in Steamfunk and Sword and Soul.
Curious by nature and a researcher by choice, I immediately began my quest of discovery, fueled by my determination to find a name for this era that fascinated me so.
After a brief bit of research, I stumbled upon Rococo…and, to my surprise, Rococopunk.
Rococo is derived from the French word rocaille, originally meaning the bits of rocky decoration sometimes found in 16th-century architectural schemes. It was first used in its modern sense around 1800, at about the same time as baroque, and, like baroque, was initially a pejorative term.
Rococopunk is – like Dieselpunk – a sibling of Steampunk, set in the earlier Renaissance era, primarily in the high-class French community of the time. Participants in this movement wear outlandish makeup and hairstyles and sport bold, brightly colored clothing.
Think Amadeus, Pirates of the Caribbean, or The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. For darker Rococo, think Last of the Mohicans, Perfume: The Story of A Murderer, Brotherhood of the Wolf, or Sleepy Hollow (the 1999 film, not the television show).
Okay, I had a name for the era. Now, I needed to come up with a name to define the Black expression of Rococopunk; a name to define the subgenre so that – as author and publisher Milton Davis says of Steamfunk and Sword and Soul – “when you hear or read ‘Steamfunk’ or ‘Sword and Soul’, you know exactly what you’re getting.”
Before I could come up with a name myself, the brilliant Briaan L. Barron, artist and owner of Bri-Dimensional Images, did it for me with her release of the documentary, Steamfunk and Rococoa: A Black Victorian Fantasy. While there is not much talk of Rococo or Rococopunk in the documentary – it is mainly about Steampunk and Steamfunk and features Diana Pho of Beyond Victoriana and Yours Truly – the spelling, Rococoa, was perfect!
At present, I am seeking submissions of Rococoa stories for an anthology I will release in early 2016. It is the first anthology I am publishing and I am very excited about it.
DF: You and Milton Davis won the 2014 Urban Action Showcase Award for Best Action Script for your screenplay NGOLO. How did you guys celebrate when you won?
BO: We celebrated with some great Chinese food and a beer. The next day, we were back on the grind, strategizing our next step with the screenplay.
DF: Tell us about the story of NGOLO and your plans for it. Will we eventually see the movie?
BO: The basic premise of NGOLO is this:
In the near-future, assassinations are legal, as long as they are carried out by government-sanctioned guilds of assassins, who settle disputes in boardrooms and political offices around the world. One guild – the Bloodmen – is the most skilled; the most dangerous; the most feared…until the day the hunters become the hunted.
Here’s the plot:
When a contract for the life of Senator PATRICK STANTON – a man hell-bent on eradicating the assassin guilds – is issued and taken on by the Bloodmen, it is suspected by the Bloodmen’s Guild Professor (2nd-In-Command), STEPHEN JONES, that the master of the guild, KAMARA KEITA, accepted the contract pro-bono (an illegal practice) in order to force Senator Stanton to vote in favor of the continued existence of legal assassination and assassin guilds at the upcoming vote on the Anti-Assassination Bill.
Desiring leadership of the Bloodmen, Stephen challenges Guildmaster Kamara to combat, with the prize being command of the guild. Kamara defeats Stephen. Ashamed and envious, Stephen leaves the Bloodmen and attempts to turn the other guilds against Kamara. Instead, the other Guildmasters and Guild Professors back Kamara and even encourage him to kill Stephen for his betrayal, which Kamara refuses to do.
Stephen goes to assassin wannabes, the TIGERS and offers them a chance to become a legitimate guild if they help him bring down the Bloodmen. The leader of the Tigers, CARLOS FAIRCHILD, is reluctant at first, but Stephen convinces him that, under Guildmaster Kamara’s leadership, the Bloodmen have become corrupt and they must be stopped before they cause the eradication of legal assassination and all the guilds. Carlos joins forces with Stephen and hands over leadership of the Tigers – and a few street gangs he has influence over – to the former Bloodman.
The Bloodmen throw their annual Founders’ Day celebration. All of the Guildmasters and Guild Professors from around the world attend. Kamara awaits the arrival of his son, MALCOLM and Malcolm’s fiancée, JAMELA RASHON, both top Bloodmen assassins.
Jamela is en route from an assignment in San Diego and Malcolm is en route from a job in Japan. While on his way to the Bloodmen’s guild house, Malcolm is ambushed by the Tigers. At the same time, the guild house is attacked by an army of Tigers and thugs, led by Stephen.
Jamela comes upon the house as it is being attacked.
You’ll have to wait for the movie or the graphic novel to find out what happens next. We are negotiating both right now, so I can’t say much, but a major feature film is going to happen, but man, it is a long process. Hopefully, the feature film will hit the Big Screen in 2017. The graphic novel should drop a bit earlier in the same year or in late 2016.
DF: You and Milton Davis have proven to be quite the formidable partnership. What’s the secret of such a successful team?
BO: Hard work, consistency and courage. When Milton and I first met – to discuss creating Ngolo, actually – I told Milton that I operate from a position of power; not fear; that I get things done and have no time for naysayers. He had the same principles, so we started setting up events and projects together. Of course, we would discuss our stories with each other and that led to us doing some collaboration with Ki-Khanga, Rite of Passage and Ngolo. Now, my final installment of Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman will be set in Milton’s world of Freedonia.
It’s fun working with Milton and we have much more work to do together.
DF: Tell us about the State of Black Science Fiction Convention. How did it come about?
BO: Milton and I have long discussed doing a convention. All of the Black conventions at present are focused on comic books. That’s cool, but we need something more. There are many fans of Black Speculative Fiction who aren’t into comic books. I’m one of them. I lost a real interest in comic books after the last issue of Brotherman dropped, but I never lost interest in novels, films and television. Milton is not a fan of comic books either. I say that, not to bash comic books or comic book conventions, but to say that we need conventions that offer more, so we decided to create our own – one that would feature all aspects of Black Speculative Fiction. After curating Alien Encounters, a four-day Black Speculative Fiction conference (more academic than a convention) and sitting on panels at cons across the country, we know how to do this and it is going to be epic.
We call it State of Black Science Fiction Con because State of Black Science Fiction is the name of our collective. We call it SOBSFic [SAHBS-fik] Con for short. SOBSFic Con is set for June 17-18, 2016. There is already a huge buzz around it and we are expecting to get a great turnout.
DF: What are you working on now?
BO: I am working on Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman: Freedonia now. That will be the only novel I release this year. The rest of my time will be devoted to developing and marketing SOBSFic Con and doing panels at a few conventions.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?
Balogun Ojetade: I am always seeking to collaborate with other authors and artists, so if any readers want to work on something, they can reach me at Chroniclesofharriet@gmail.com.
I also love doing cons, so if you are doing a con and need a panelist or a moderator, let me know that, too. Oh, and buy my books. Word on the street is, they’re pretty good.
For more information about Balogun Ojetade and his work, check out his blog Chronicles of Harriet
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Tommy Hancock interviewed me for his online magazine BIBLIORATI and I think it's a pretty good one that you can read and enjoy HERE . ...
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