Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Story Behind The Story: "Voodah of Thunder Mountain"

If you’re on social media at all by now you’ve no doubt heard about LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION. It would be damn near impossible for anybody interested in New Pulp to have escaped or avoided seeing the news about it. After all, it’s a totally unprecedented event in the New Pulp Community. And an event that I believe once and for all establishes that the new Pulp Community is a Community in every sense of the word.

Last year Tommy Hancock (and if I have to tell you who he is then you’re in the wrong place) had to be hospitalized due to congestive heart failure. This was a source of horrendously bad news to everyone in New Pulp. You know that game; “The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”? It’s based on the Six Degrees of Separation concept which puts forth the notion that any two people on Earth are six or fewer steps apart. Well, Tommy Hancock is kinda like that. Just about everybody and anybody in the New Pulp Community can be connected to Tommy in one way or another. Just follow the steps and I guarantee that somehow, someway, whoever you name can be hooked up with Tommy Hancock.

It was Jaime E. Ramos and Ron Fortier that came up with the brilliant idea of a benefit anthology to assist in defraying the medical costs Tommy’s treatment would incur and sent out the call for writers and artists to submit stories and artwork. Sixty writers and thirty-six artists answered the call, including Yours Truly.

So now that I was in, what exactly was I going to write? I didn’t want to contribute a Dillon or Fortune McCall story. That would have been too easy. And in keeping with the title of the book I wanted to write a story about a pulp legend/archetype. One that has fascinated me for a very long time: The King of The Jungle.

The best known one is Tarzan, of course. Everybody knows him. Marvel Comics had Ka-Zar, Lord of The Savage Land who himself was based on a Classic Pulp hero, Ka-Zar The Great. There was Bomba the Jungle Boy, Polaris of The Snows who basically is Tarzan raised in the Arctic (the stories are actually pretty good and well worth looking up) Ki-Gor and comedic versions of Tarzan; the best known and most beloved being George of The Jungle. There were even female versions of Tarzan: Sheena, Queen of The Jungle, Jana of The Jungle, Rima and Shana The She-Devil.

But no matter how high or low I looked, I couldn’t find a black King of The Jungle with a pack of bloodhounds and a search warrant. As a kid discovering Classic Pulp during what I refer to as The Big Pulp Boom of The 1970s, I had gotten used to not finding any black pulp heroes so I didn’t hold out any hope I would find a black King of The Jungle. Even though that would seem to be a natural, wouldn’t it? I mean, in Africa you expect to trip over black Kings of The Jungle every ten feet or so.

The best advice my father gave me when I started out writing came about during one of our conversations about James Bond where I asked him why wasn’t there a black James Bond. My father replied; “Well, when you become a writer I guess you’ll have to make one up.” And in the spirit of that simply yet brilliantly profound wisdom I decided that my story for Legends of New Pulp Fiction would feature a black King of The Jungle.

Here’s where Lou Mougin enters the picture. He’s written for number of prominent comic book companies including Marvel where he wrote what stood for many years as the definite origin of The Swordsman in Avengers Spotlight #22. But that’s far from his only professional credits. Observe: View a chronological list of Lou's work

Lou and I bonded over our mutual love of fan fiction years ago. He’s written plenty of it and I read as much of it as I could find. I didn’t know he was Lou Mougin then. I knew him under the name he used to write fan fiction and its probably a good thing I didn’t as talking to professional writers makes me nervous as hell. By the time I knew who Lou was, we’d become good online friends and nervousness didn’t even enter into our conversations. Lou is also an astounding historian and is always steering me to fascinating characters and creators that I have never heard of and I’ll always be thankful to him for pointing me in the direction of Matt Baker and Voodah.

Matt Baker (1921-1959) is generally acknowledged as being the first successful African-American comic book artist here in America. The majority of his work was done during the 1940s and 50s where he took over the Phantom Lady, redesigned her into the incarnation we best know her for and drew her for about until a dozen issues until it was cancelled. Matt Baker was the foremost artist of what was then known as “Good Girl Art”: artwork depicting gorgeous women in sexy, skimpy outfits and often in provocative poses and situations. Much of his Good Girl Art is highly sought after today as collector items, particularly his Phantom Lady work. He also drew a significant amount of romance stories and the adventures of Sky Girl, an aviation heroine.

But it’s his King of The Jungle character Voodah that interests us. Lou asked me if I’d ever heard of Voodah and I replied that I had not. As he is wont to do, Lou obligingly sent me links so that I could download copies of Crown Comics, which is where Voodah appeared. The truly fascinating thing is that while Voodah was depicted as being a black man in the stories themselves, on the covers he was portrayed as being white. Indeed, after a few issues, in the actual stories Voodah suddenly switched from being a black man to a white man.

After reading the stories and letting the character marinate around in my brain cells for a few days, I got the notion of re-imagining Voodah for a modern day audience (as he’s a public domain character now) and perhaps in that way honoring the memory of Mr. Baker’s original character. It would also fall in line with my idea of presenting a Classic Pulp archetype in the Legends of New Pulp Fiction anthology.  

And that’s the long and short of how “Voodah of Thunder Mountain” came to be. On so many levels it’s one of the most satisfying stories I’ve ever written and it’s such a pleasant surprise that to date I’ve had at least half a dozen readers contact me to tell me how much they enjoyed the story and Ron Fortier has asked me if I’m going to be writing more Voodah stories. At this point I don’t think I have a choice in the matter. Am I right?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

And I Got Three More Examples of Today's New Pulp

A team of highly trained individuals, each with their own special talents and skills are led by a mysterious man of intimidating demeanor. This man displays a near superhuman emotional discipline that makes him appear cold and unfeeling. He is an exceptional physical specimen who has superior ability in physical combat and with weapons. He is driven by a need to see justice done at any costs and does not stop in the pursuit of evildoers until they are caught and/or killed. His past is a secret even to his closest friends and he only reveals details when he has to. His team is fiercely loyal to him. His team is notable in that they are all significantly eccentric in habits, traits, interests and speech.

Now, just on the surface that description could be applied to Doc Savage and his Iron Crew. Or The Avenger and Justice, Inc. Or The Shadow and his aides. But since this is New Pulp I’m talking about, the team I’m describing is NCIS, led by Leroy Jethro Gibbs, played by Mark Harmon.

Gibbs himself is a former Marine sniper, one of the best who now commands an elite Naval Criminal Investigative Service team, all of the members he himself handpicked. And quite the crew they are. His right-hand man is former Baltimore police detective Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) whose goofball, juvenile attitude disguises a keen, even near brilliant investigative mind. Abigail “Abby” Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) is the team’s resident all-round genius as over the course of the show’s 12 seasons has displayed her proficiency in ballistics, traditional forensics, computer forensics, DNA analysis and hacking. She shares with Gibbs an addiction to caffeine and is a dedicated Goth.

Caitlin “Kate” Todd (Sasha Alexander) was a former Secret Service agent who left that position at the suggestion of Gibbs himself to join his team. Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard (David McCallum) is the team’s chief medical examiner and if Gibbs has a best friend, then it’s Ducky. He’s also a trained psychologist and has a habit of talking to the dead as if they can hear him while performing autopsies on them.

Timothy “Tim” McGee (Sean Murray) is the team’s computer/techno geek. He and Tony DiNozzo have a relationship that is extremely similar to the Monk/Ham relationship and like Mon and Ham did to Doc, the bickering and insulting between McGee and DiNozzo quite often exasperates Gibbs. Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) is a former Mossad agent trained in at least half a dozen martial arts, espionage, counter-terrorism, assassination and speaks ten languages fluently.

That’s quite a crew and for the first couple of seasons, the show really didn’t give them a solid workout of their talents. It wasn’t until in later seasons that they got involved with weirder and wilder mysteries (such as the case where a modern day smart phone is found inside a Civil War coffin that’s just been dug up. Or the case where a woman digs herself out of her own grave with no memory of who she is but she knows that a bomb has been planted on a Navy ship somewhere) and once the team’s missions became more international and started dealing with shadow government conspiracies and supervillain-level terrorists it really took off. Chances are that you’ve seen an NCIS episode. USA runs all day marathons at least once a week it seems. But if you haven’t, all 12 seasons are available on Netflix.

If I haven’t said it before, let me re-iterate: I love The Internet. There’s tons of stuff that I read and loved back in the 1970s and 1980s that I either lost, lent out and never got back or just threw away that I thought I’d never be able to find again. One of those things is the DOCTOR ORIENT series by Frank Lauria.

I first read the books when they were originally published back in the 70s and they were the perfect books for that time. Reincarnation, Satanism, psychic powers, astral projection, astrology, transcendental meditation, ESP, all that stuff was hotter than fish grease back then and Frank Lauria gleefully strip mined those concepts and more for his Doctor Orient adventures.

To nutshell Doctor Orient himself, let’s put it this way: imagine if Doc Savage was a psychic investigator. Dr. Owen Orient is a wealthy New York physician/psychologist who yearns for a simpler, more spiritual way of life. To this end, while he was studying conventional medicine of the body and mind he also studied the occult and is quite a formidable adept in several mystical disciplines. This naturally leads him into conflict with practitioners of Black Magic, some of whom lust after nothing less than world domination. It’s up to Doctor Orient and his team of students who he himself has taught and trained to use telepathy, telekinesis and astral protection to stand between these evil forces and mankind.

It’s also fair to say that Doctor Orient is a hipper, sexier version of Dr. Strange. The eight books in the series are not only full of supernatural action but sexual as well. Now, back in the 70s, the kind of sexual perversions that go on during the course of Orient’s adventure were considered quite titillating indeed but nowadays you can see far more daring sexual hijinks on any given episode of “Scandal”. Still, it makes for highly entertaining reading and I highly recommend the series. Frank Lauria was one of about a dozen writers who during the 70s were writing New Pulp decades before it was ever given a name. I would read what these guys were writing and say to myself; “Self, I dunno what this is but I know I want to write it.” The first seven DOCTOR ORIENT books are available only as ebooks from Amazon, all with brand new covers. The eighth book; “Demon Pope” you can get either as an ebook or in paperback. 

This third example of New Pulp I was going to include in a separate post with two other movies of the 1980s that I think it has a lot in common with: “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension” and “Big Trouble In Little China.” All three movies were ahead of their time and each one of them contained multiple elements and mixed genres in a way that audiences really couldn’t grasp at the time they came out but now we can appreciate.

But due to the recent passing away of Denise “Vanity” Matthews I felt that a mention of THE LAST DRAGON would be appropriate now and a more in-depth look later on when I get around to writing that other post (which knowing my slothful ass should see print sometime around August)

THE LAST DRAGON is a delightfully goofy mash-up of martial arts, glitzy musical numbers, Kung Fu mysticism right out of a Marvel comic book (I’m convinced that The Glow is related to The Iron Fist somehow) comedy, romance and satire. The movie follows the quest of Leroy Green (Taimak) a young black man who lives in Harlem and studies Kung Fu with your typical wise old Kung Fu Master. Leroy’s expertise in the martial arts is so great that he is known as “Bruce” Leroy. This doesn’t sit well with Sho’Nuff, The Shogun of Harlem (Julius J. Carry III) who sees “Bruce” Leroy as the only thing standing in his way of being the supreme Kung Fu Master of Harlem. But all “Bruce” Leroy wants to do is achieve such a sublime state of spiritual and physical perfection that he acquires “The Glow”, a mystical energy that only a true Master can control. “Bruce” Leroy’s quest is sidetracked when he meets the gorgeous dance club hostess and pop star Laura Charles (Vanity) who has gotten on the bad side of video arcade mogul/petty gangster Eddie Arkadian (Chris Murney)

Most of the comedy in the movie comes from Leroy Green himself. Although he is indeed black, he acts, talks and dresses as if he’s in a Shaw Brothers movie. His little brother is a streetwise hustler and it’s a nice contrast. Julius J. Carry III as Sho’Nuff is one of the most memorable bad guys in movie history, wearing this really funky and bizarre outfit that looks like something a modern day Shogun would wear. The scene where we first meet him and his outrageous posse when they take in “Enter The Dragon” at the same 42end Street theater where Leroy Green is watching the movie while eating his popcorn with chopsticks is downright hilarious.

And Vanity is nothing less than stunningly gorgeous. As well as talented in both singing and acting. She and Taimak have a genuine chemistry that lights up the screen and they sell their characters and the story. If I don’t stop now I’ll easily write another 1000 words just about THE LAST DRAGON because it’s one of my favorite movies of all time and a movie I consider a solid example of New Pulp. Besides, if I write everything I want to write about it now, I’ll have nothing left for the other essay. Just let me say that if you haven’t yet seen it, I highly recommend you stop what you’re doing right now and hunt up the Blu-Ray. There’s a 30th Anniversary Edition available on Amazon. Enjoy.

And that wraps this entry up. When I think of three more examples of New Pulp, you’ll be the first to know. Peace!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With....BRENT LAMBERT

Derrick Ferguson: Who Is Brent Lambert?

Brent Lambert: He’s a guy just trying to succeed and make his way through this world while still maintaining some decency.  I never think I work hard enough and that mentality is both a blessing a curse.  Writing, reading, family and friends probably the easiest words to sum me up.

DF: What do you tell the IRS you do for a living?

BL: I work as a Billing Specialist for a worker’s comp insurance company. I track down why people owe what they owe basically.

DF: Tell us a little something about your background.

BL: I am an Army brat and for those who don’t know that means I was born and raised with my Father doing military service.  I’ve lived all over.  But my roots go back to the Southwestern part of Louisiana so the Cajun runs strong in me.  Gumbo always does my heart good.

DF: How long have you been writing?

BL: I’d have to guess since I was 12 when I tried to write my own fanfic version of The Andalite Chronicles.   Well, sort of fanfic as it was all original characters but just playing out the same plot. 

DF: What’s your philosophy of writing?

BL: It’s a marathon and not a sprint.  Every piece needs to be given the exact amount of time it needs and not a second less.

DF: Do you enjoy writing?

BL: Not sure if enjoy is the right word.  Of course I love it, but it’s a need.  It’s something I have to do and even if I knew I would never get a dime for it, I’d still write.  Story telling lies at the core of me.  I think it lies at the core of most people honestly. 

DF: What writers have influenced you?

BL: There’s a number of them, so I guess I’ll just rattle off a few for the sake of attention spans.

David Anthony Durham – If there is an author I truly want to emulate it’s him.   He’s a black writer who crafted a masterful epic fantasy trilogy full of blackness and black critiques.  The trilogy I’m referring to is the ACACIA series.  It was perfection on the page and if my life manages to produce such a work, I think I can be satisfied calling myself a decent writer.

Nnedi Okorafor – She’s a trailblazer and unapologetically black in her writing.  It gives me a lot of hope to see so many writers like her coming into the publishing fold.  She stands out to me because of just how artful and emotive her work is.  I’ve seen some writers be good at word economy, but she’s just brilliant.  WHO FEARS DEATH is a short novel that is full of worlds and history.  A lesson for any aspiring writer like myself.

K.A. Applegate – ANIMORPHS was the series that made me want to be a writer.  It’s what made me always want to invest in world building because of how she was always good at it. The visuals of the alien races she created still stand out in my mind.  I credit her influence for me always wanting to know so much minutiae about any culture or race I create in my work. 

Brandon Sanderson, Daniel Jose Older, C.S. Lewis, Jesmyn Ward and M.K. Asante are all other incredible people who provide influence as well.

And not to be too brown nosey, but I have always called you my “writing father” and I think that particular title will always stick.

DF: Do you write for yourself or for the reader?

BL: I’m going to give the typical Libra answer here and say that it’s a bit of both.  I want to potentially make a career out of this one day and that means knowing what your potential readership expects.  But you also have to write something you enjoy writing and would want to read.  So it’s something of a tight rope I suppose.   

DF: Are you interested in critics or criticism?

BL: Absolutely.  Criticism is important.  It makes you a stronger writer and allows to view your work from angles that you might not have had to before.  Of course, with most things, examining criticism of your work requires a good degree of discernment.  You need to be able to filter it out and take what you need from it.  Writers too thin-skinned and stubborn won’t take any kind of criticism and on the other end of the spectrum, you have writers who agonize over even the most offhand of comments.   You have to be able pull what you need from it.

I give a strong side eye to any who immediately dismiss any and all criticism.  I’ve seen quite a few writers, some very recently, who suggest that if someone doesn’t have anything good to say about a work then they shouldn’t say anything at all.  This form of thought seems to be particularly prevalent in indie circles.   Let me say that I vehemently disagree with that.

One, if the criticism is coming from someone who paid for your book then you don’t have much option but to shut up and listen.   This person has spent money that they will never get back AND taken time that they will never get back to read your book.  On top of that, they’re taking additional time they’ll never get back to give your ungrateful behind their thoughts and you got the nerve to suggest they should have just kept their mouth shut?  Miss me with that cult of positivity thinking.   If you want glowing reviews, then you better put out work that commands it.  You don’t get a pass because of your gender, race, etc. 

And let me clarify that before the wolves come out.  I strongly believe in supporting and putting my money towards works coming from marginalized groups.  It’s something I’m passionate about and I dedicate a whole blog to.  But being part of that marginalized group doesn’t give you a pass on putting out your subpar work.   Subconsciously, I’m probably more forgiving than I should be but if your story, cover, formatting etc. is subpar then expect me to say something.  On a personal level, I think I’ve had to work to come to this point because I use to be real sensitive about criticizing work by a marginalized author too hard. 

But we don’t get the best work if we don’t expect the best from each other do we?  And that’s the space I’m in now when it comes to criticism.  See it as a way to add more bricks to your fort.  Take what you need from it, do better and put out a better work next time.

DF: What audience are you trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience for Brent Lambert?

BL: I think so, if only because I am still seeking out writers that write the kind of books I want to read.  The closest I can think of at the moment are some of the influences I detailed above.  So I like to definitely think there is a lane for me and that lane is starting to become a highway that hopefully a bunch of us can all ride on.

DF: How important is it to follow your instincts while writing?

BL: In the process of creating that first draft, I think it is absolutely vital to follow your instincts.  You have to just let the imagination flow off you and go for it.  Now once you go start passing that story around for feedback, then you might want to let your instincts take a bit of a backseat and listen to what other people have to say.  I think in that stage of the process our instincts can work against us because we’re so attached to the story, ya know?      

DF: What’s your biggest obstacle when you’re writing?

BL: Just making the time for it.   No matter what, it always seems like there’s something that can distract you from it.  Heck, even as I’m typing this there are at least five different distractions trying to pull me away from it.  And since I have a tendency to want to try and multitask, it becomes a weakness.  Writing is something you can’t do without focus.

DF: What are you working on that we should know about?

BL: So I’ve got a list of projects I’m working on in one form or another.  I like having multiple projects to bounce between as it keeps me busy whenever I plant my butt down in the chair.

The Cruel Entourage – So this is a novel that originally started off as a serial series on Meriades Rai’s original fiction website.   It languished for a few years with me pecking at it every now and again.   I finally got a full blown draft for it done during this year’s Nanowrimo.   So right now I’m going through and editing the first draft, which has surprisingly been a fun process.

The story is essentially (right now at least) about a group of criminals being hired by a magical equivalent of the CIA to take down a rising dictator.

The Last American- This is a story I just finished plotting out.  Got about three chapters down on it so far.   It’s actually a pretty personal story for me as it evokes myself and my relationship with my two nieces.   How that gets translated into a dystopic superhero story is anybody’s guess…

Zaroffs- About eight chapters on this one and working on finishing out the plot outline for it.  It’s my “sexy monster hunters” story, but I’m trying to take it a little more seriously than the tween romance bit that tends to come with those kind of tales. 

Twisted Vines- This is the beast I’ve been trying to beat for a long time.  Four drafts all in various forms of lengths.  I’m determined to beat it this year.   It’s my epic fantasy tale.   It’s a story about how the past so intimately affects the present so it’s requiring a lot of world building from me.   But it’s going well.   I had an artist do a few character designs for it and it’s really enlivened the process for me.  

Derrick Ferguson: What’s a Typical Day In The Life of Brent Lambert?

Brent Lambert: Work, the gym, writing/reading on a normal day.  Maybe a couple of vacations thrown in over the course of the year.   I’m a simple guy with whole universes rolling around in my head so I spend a lot of time up there. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Sinbad: The New Voyages Vol. I is Now An Audiobook!

The greatest seafaring adventurer of all times returns to the high seas, Sinbad the Sailor!

Born of countless legends and myths, this fearless rogue sets sail across the seven seas aboard his ship, the Blue Nymph, accompanied by an international crew of colorful, larger-than-life characters. Chief among these are the irascible Omar, a veteran seamen and trusted first mate, the blond Viking giant, Ralf Gunarson, the sophisticated archer from Gaul, Henri Delacrois and the mysterious, lovely and deadly female samurai, Tishimi Osara.  All of them banded together to follow their famous captain on perilous new voyages across the world’s oceans!

And now you can hear the adventures of Sinbad as Airship 27 is proud to present the audiobook version of SINBAD: THE NEW VOYAGES Vol. I as read by Jem Matzan!

Inspired by the classic Ray Harryhausen Sinbad trilogy but re-envisioning Sinbad himself as the son of a Moorish prince and a Nubian princess, this is a Sinbad at once refreshingly new and yet as familiar as an old friend.

SINBAD: THE NEW VOYAGES Vol. I contains the following stories:

“Sinbad and The Island of The Simurgh” by Nancy Hansen
“Sinbad and The Sapphire of The Djinn” by I. A. Watson
“Sinbad and The Voyage to The Land of The Frozen Sun” by Derrick Ferguson

So what are you waiting for? Get over to AUDIBLE right NOW and get yours!

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 ...