Showing posts with label Charles Saunders. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charles Saunders. Show all posts

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: MILTON DAVIS

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Milton Davis?

Milton Davis: I’m a part-time speculative fiction writer and publisher. I write speculative fiction about African Americans and people of African Descent. I’m the author of seven novels and editor or four anthologies.

DF: Where do you live and what is your profession? Besides being a writer, that is.

MD: I live in Metro Atlanta with my wife and two children. I’m a research and development chemist.

DF: When did your love of science fiction, heroic fantasy and speculative fiction begin?

MD: I began reading science fiction and fantasy in college at the urging of one of my English instructors. She thought I was wasting my time majoring in Chemistry and should be pursing and English degree. I guess she decided to share science fiction with me because of my major. Once I read it I was hooked.

DF: How long have you been writing?

MD: Off and on, about thirty years. I took writing classes soon after college and went through the submission rejection cycle for a while. Then the children came and I stopped writing for a long time. I resumed about eight years ago as a self-publisher.

DF: What’s your philosophy of writing?

MD: I think writing should be fun. I’m not one to deal with deep issues, at least not intentionally, because that’s not what I like to read. My only constant is Black main characters. As a reader I was well aware of the absence of such characters in speculative fiction and I seek to rectify that in my own way. I also like the good guys to win.

DF: What writers have influenced you?

The two biggest influences on my writing are James Baldwin and Frank Herbert. James Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room” was the first fiction novel I ever read. I was 16 and home sick for a week. My sister, a big reader of fiction by Black writers, dropped a pile of her books for me to read. It was the first book I read and I was fascinated on his eloquent and economic style.

Frank Herbert’s “Dune” was the first book I read that involved serious world building. I was stunned at how someone could make a fictional world seem so real. Dune is the blueprint I use for every world that I build.

DF: What is MVMedia and what are its goals?

MD: MVMedia is my publishing company. Its goals are to develop speculative fiction novels that highlights African American and African descent characters and to develop this material into other media forms such as graphic novels, animation, movies and video series.

DF: For the few who don’t know, tell us what Sword and Soul is.

MD: Sword and Soul is heroic or epic fantasy based on African culture, traditions, history and spirituality. It was created by Charles R. Saunders in the late seventies with the release of Imaro, the first sword and sorcery character of color. The phrase ‘Sword and Soul’ was coined when Charles was asked to describe his form of writing.

DF: As a genre, Sword and Soul has grown tremendously in the past few years. To what do you attribute the growth of the genre?

MD: I think a number of factors. Charles R. Saunders, the creator of Sword and Soul, has built on his cult following over the past few years by releasing new Imaro and Dossouye books. I believe the release of my books and the Griots Sword and Soul anthology has contributed as well. But most of all I think it’s due to the power of social networking. Information spreads so much faster these days and we have been able to build a network of writers and readers interested in what’s happening.

DF: Tell us about MEJI.

MD: MEJI is a duology about twin brothers Ndoro and Obaseki. They are born to a royal family then separated because their birth is considered an abomination by the father’s people. The novels follow both brothers as they grow into their unique abilities and discover there is a reason for their birth.

MEJI was my first novel. I consider it my homage to my African roots. I tried to convey the diversity of the Continent and its people while delivering an exciting tale.

DF: Tell us about CHANGA’S SAFARI.

MD: CHANGA’S SAFARI is a historical fiction action adventure series. Changa Diop is the son of a deposed Kongo ngolo (king) who was forced to flee home at a very young age. The series begins with Changa as a successful Swahili merchant determined to build enough wealth to raise a mercenary army then return home to claim his father’s kingdom. His adventures are told through a series of kitabus (books), novellas that take the reader throughout the Spice Trade World and the African continent during the 15th century.  The series will consist of four books. The first two books are complete; books three and four will be released in 2014.

DF: Tell us about WOMAN OF THE WOODS.

MD: With WOMAN OF THE WOODS I return to the Meji universe. It’s my first book with a woman main character so I was a little nervous about how it would be received. Sadatina is the child of a Shosa, women warriors trained to fight demons that are threatening her people, the Adamu. Sadatina eventually grows up to be a warrior herself, aided by two female lions she raised from birth. It’s an exciting story that follows Sadatina from birth and expands the world of Meji. 

DF: You’ve recently written a children’s book: AMBER AND THE HIDDEN CITY. Why a children’s book and will you be writing more?

MD: Amber came from my interactions with readers at conventions. I was constantly asked by parents if I was going to write books for children and young adults. Many of them told me how their children were reading books like Harry Potter and wishing there were books like that with Black main characters. So I came up with Amber to help fill that void. My wife, a teacher, was also a major reason Amber was completed. She would light a fire under me whenever I got distracted. Amber will be a trilogy so there will be more. I have ideas for a few more YA books as well.

DF: You’re also a mover and shaker in the field of Steamfunk. Tell us about this genre.

MD: Steamfunk is subgenre of Steampunk. We incorporate the trappings of steampunk, such as steam-based technology and other concepts such as aether but our main characters are people of African descent. We also incorporated the history and culture of people of African descent during the time period which most Steampunk focuses on, the 19th century.

DF: You and Balogun Ojetade have formed quite the extraordinary partnership. How did this come about and where is it going?

MD: I met Balogun when searching for a source for indigenous African martial arts. Little did I know he was a renaissance man; writer, director, rapper and fight choreographer. Balogun and I have a similar vision when it comes to speculative fiction, which is why we work together often. We both have our separate endeavors, but we do come together often to work on projects.

I believe we’ll be working together for a long time. It’s our goal to move forward into speculative fiction movies and animation.

DF: You’ve been very vocal in promoting Black Speculative Fiction. What do you see as the major obstacle to Black Speculative Fiction being accepted by the larger reading public?

MD: Exposure. The last few years have proved to me that there is a demand for what we produce. The challenge is making people aware of it. Because I don’t have the funds to support widespread marketing my efforts have been more localized and more focused.

DF: Should writers of Black Speculative Fiction be seeking acceptance by the larger reading public?

MD: The reality of writing is that you won’t please everyone. Any writer pursuing any form of writing should realize that. The goal, in my opinion, is to find YOUR audience. As you write and promote your work the readers who like what you do will come forward. That’s the best you can hope for. And if you happen to be that lucky writer where your work appeals to the larger reading public, all the better. No one can predict that.

DF: You are seen (at least by me) as a major inspiration to those who are working and writing in the related fields of Black Speculative Fiction, Sword and Soul and Steamfunk. But how do you see yourself at this stage of your career?

MD: I’m still learning and hopefully growing as a writer, but I’m comfortable where I am right now. I’ve accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish in my first 5 years doing this, and I’m looking forward to the next five years. I’m inspired by the folks that have supported my work over the years and I hope I stay in their good favor in the future.

DF: How important is it to you, personally, that Black people be represented in the fields of speculative fiction and heroic fantasy?

MD: It is vitally important. Entertainment is such a large part of our life these days. The images that we are exposed to on a daily basis have an effect on what we think of ourselves and the world. For so long we have been flooded with negative images about us and our history. Some people seek inspiration from fiction, so it is essential that they find positive images if fiction as well as real life. So I personally believe that we have to be represented and we have to be represented well.

Derrick Ferguson: What’s A Day In The Life of Milton Davis like? Anything else we should know?

Milton Davis: It’s rather routine. Wake up, write, go to work, come home, write, repeat. Not much else to share unless we want to put folks to sleep. I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the chance to read my work and especially thank those who continue. If you keep reading I’ll keep writing. Thank you Derrick for the interview.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Black Pulp Gets PULPED! Featuring Walter Mosley!

In the latest episode of PULPED! THE OFFICIAL NEW PULP PODCAST, Tommy Hancock rides herd on the contributors to the historic best selling BLACK PULP from Pro Se Productions! This collection contains stories running the gamut of genre fiction that feature Black Lead Characters!  Westerns, Mysteries, Supernatural, Folklore, Pirate tales, Jungle stories and so much more fill the pages of BLACK PULP! Some of the most noted writers working today fill the volume as well!  Hear from Gary Phillips, Idea Originator and Co-editor as well as contributor to the project, as he discusses where the concept came from and reasons for it as well as his story.  Also, PULPED! co hosts Ron Fortier and Derick Ferguson appear as guests, each talking about their tales in this tome!  Authors Michael A. Gonzales, Gar Anthony Haywood, Christopher Chambers, Kimberly Richardson, D. Alan Lewis, and Mel Odom join in to discuss their stories as well as their viewpoints on the concept and the comments BLACK PULP has received, both negative and positive! This fantastic episode closes with Best Selling Author Walter Mosley contributing his thoughts on Pulp in general, BLACK PULP in specific, and what this thing we call Pulp, this style of writing, truly is and should mean to all of us.  The largest, best episode of PULPED! ever!  Listen, enjoy, and even learn as Pro Se's BLACK PULP gets PULPED!

Monday, April 15, 2013

From the "Victory Lap - The End of the Big Project" File...

Since this is my blog you’re used to me running off at the mouth in this space here that I’ve carved out for my thoughts and updates and news on my projects. But this time I’m turning it over to Sean E. Ali. He’s the extraordinarily talented cover designer for Pro Se Press and the genius behind so many of their covers that readers and fans of Pro Se have salivated over. He also did the artwork and designed the cover for “Dillon And The Pirates of Xonira.” He’s wonderful at his job and his latest project is yet another important milestone in his career.

But it’s also important to Sean in a very personal way and I thought it was only fitting that he be allowed space here to express how important this project is to him. He originally posted it on his Facebook page but it’s so heartfelt and so touching I felt compelled to re-post it here along with the front and back cover of BLACK PULP so that it will hopefully be seen by a wider audience and not lost in an avalanche of FB posts that come after it.

And I think I’ve spoken quite enough. Mr. Ali, the floor is yours…

Now that it's done, I can talk about the latest project I've done for Pro Se, BLACK PULP.

In advance this is more of an op ed thing that's just for me. You're not obligated to read it.

To give you the highlights BLACK PULP is a volume of fiction being published by Pro Se Press which features stories with an African American focus and features stories by : Joe R. Lansdale, Gary Phillips, Charles R. Saunders, Derrick Ferguson, D. Alan Lewis, Christopher Chambers, Mel Odom, Kimberly Richardson, Ron Fortier, Michael A. Gonzales, Gar Anthony Haywood, Tommy Hancock and features an introduction by WALTER MOSLEY!

Yeah "Devil In A Blue Dress - Denzel was in the movie version" Walter Mosley…

Which made this the biggest damn deal name wise this side of Barry Reese's Rook as our first major licensed property. So that's the short version, you want to slog through the longer part below, think of it as the unofficial afterword for BLACK PULP from my point of view…

Here endth the disclaimer.

Some time ago, long before the vast majority of us were born, the public entertained itself with cheaply produced fiction magazines called pulps, that pretty much took them from the Great Depression and the prospect of a second World War into hidden civilizations, steamy underworlds where masked vigilantes dealt out two-fisted justice and literally hundreds of other variations on genres that explored fantastic situations populated by extraordinary people.

It was an amazing time in popular culture. Literally, people were on the verge of the first real wave of mass produced popular media. It was entertainment and escape packaged behind luridly illustrated covers that beckoned to its potential audience with a promise of a story that you'd lose yourself in and, while it wouldn't solve your immediate problems, you'd be satisfied knowing that your heroes came through for you and made their corner of the fictional universe safe for all until your next visit. The best part? You had heroes who were usually from the people, they were special, but for the most part, they were just like you...

Or at least that's how it was for the vast majority of the population.

In most of the minority communities, the representation of race in those early days of the 1930s, 40s and into the 1950s was less than flattering. Given the times and the publisher, African Americans, or (for the sake of accuracy) let's go with the more diplomatic terminology of the day using either Negros or Colored People, found themselves represented in most media of the day as slow witted or under educated clowns and buffoons - caricatures which were holdovers from the old minstrel shows where bugged out eyes, incredibly huge lips and flaring nostrils were pretty much the standard and actually kinder than the bone through the nose, grass skirt wearing variation or the stooped over monkey/ape variant (that still enjoys a certain amount of favor among some classes of the ignorant, bigots and racists today). The surge of graphic entertainment with the emergence of comic books in general and superheroes in particular turned those stereotypes into standard fare for readers, projecting perhaps some of the views of the creators involved as well as reflecting society's view of race at that time.

The one major possible exception may have been in the pages of a particular pulp that clamored for attention on the newsstands.

One of the best examples of diversity from that time in pulp fiction was an organization called Justice, Incorporated. The group was fronted by a swashbuckling adventurer in the form of Richard Benson, known to the public-at-large as the Avenger. He formed a group of like minded individuals in a war against crime which included a Negro couple, Josh and Rosabelle Newton, who were both accomplished academics with college degrees (from Tuskegee Institute, now University) who actually used the stereotypes of their race to infiltrate the underworld and relay information and assistance to their chief as the story needed them. If Benson hadn't shown up in their lives, they probably would've continued on with their lives after their initial appearance in "The Sky Walker", but thankfully someone in the editing department didn't have an issue with the Newtons coming on board as a part of the team. 

Justice, Incorporated was unique even among the pulp hero set, with the possible exception of Diamondstone the Magician who had a Negro sidekick, in giving these two not only equal status, but one that ran counter to the current perception of race at that time. The Shadow had a guy in the ranks of his agents, and while Doc Savage didn't have a Negro cast member, he was generally respectful of the ones he encountered along the way. Josh and Rosabelle were about as close as I got to an African American version of Nick and Nora Charles in detective fiction, or Jonathan and Jennifer Hart from TV's Hart to Hart.

Which is around where I came in.

As a kid I literally went on safari every weekend in used book stores. In downtown Oakland near 14th and Harrison there was this huge used bookstore, which has long since gone away (to this day one of the biggest losses from my childhood), where I had my first encounter with the like of Conan, Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Avenger and Justice, Inc. All of these heroes were caught in a distilled reprinted form and repackaged as paperbacks. I would fill my weekends with these guys who were an extension of the comics I read then and the old time radio shows that I would encounter in the near future and had a fondness for the Avenger in particular because of the diversity of the group and the respect they showed one another despite their different backgrounds.

For the time that the stories were originally written, the Avenger was pretty progressive stuff. In the context of a child growing up in the near post Civil Rights era, it was a good thing to see heroes who looked like me even if they were supporting characters, contributing to the solution of the crisis and serving in a capacity that spoke of their intelligence and their ability to take the limitations tossed upon them based on their race and turn that to an advantage. They basically were a preview of the world to come, in a series that was ahead of its time. So, I went in search of other characters from that time because there had to be a "Negro Pulp Adventurer" series where people who looked like me were actually the lead characters and not just assistants or comedy relief, right?


Okay, maybe more of a "not really".

The closest thing to an African American, Negro pulp magazine at that time was probably more like a version of Reader's Digest called the Negro Digest. Created by John Harold Johnson, founder of the Johnson Publishing Company (who publishes the magazines Ebony and Jet, among others), put together a magazine with a focus on information, opinion editorials, and artistic content relevent to the Negro community but solicited from a diverse number of contributors regardless of race. In fact a column called "If I Were A Negro", where prominent non Negro guest writers were invited to offer opinions and solutions to racial issues of the day led to the magazine's high note with a piece from then First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt which doubled the magazine's circulation overnight. But for me as a kid reading adventure fiction it wasn't quite the same thing as locating a "Black Doc Savage". There wasn't a hero to call my own from that era of pulp adventure outside of glorified sidekicks.

Granted, away from pulps, I came up during a time of great fictional Black heroes. A byproduct of the militant era, mixed with a healthy (or unhealthy) dash of Blaxploitation media, I had heroes in my day by the score, Shaft, Luke Cage Power Man, Black Panther, Storm of the X-Men, Cyborg, Green Lantern - John Stewart, and my personal favorite: Black Lightning. I also saw a surge of multiethnic characters that culminated in a whole comic book universe as the one bright shining moment in comics that I called "The Milestone Era".

Milestone, with the late great Dwayne McDuffie leading the charge, walked the walk on the page and behind the scenes. Their characters were bold brilliant and multi-everything. I had Black heroes, Latino heroes, Asian heroes and even some White heroes. It was everything I wanted to see in fiction in graphic form, in the media content I digested, in examples to my nephews and nieces of four color warriors who leapt tall buildings and saved the day and were accepted for the content of their character more than anything else. 

It was also an era that came to an end pretty quickly with the usual excuses of not having the readership or using the fact that a book where a minority lead was the title character just wouldn't sell. Which killed brilliant titles like Icon, Static, Hardware, Xombi, The Shadow Cabinet and the Blood Syndicate in Milestone and books outside of Milestone like Black Lightning or El Diablo (the series about a Latino City Councilman who wears a mask to fight crime but also deals with racial identity, political intrigue and illegal immigration that ran just under a year and a half) at DC or the brilliant, but barely seen in the mainstream, independent series, Brotherman. All of these being series that I recommend highly if you ever decide to go on an excursion to a comics shop and dive into a quarter bin or seek online at sites like Mile High Comics.

"Hey that's great, Ali," you say, "but what does this have to do with this BLACK PULP book?"

The answer is everything and nothing.

BLACK PULP is the fulfillment of personal dreams and goals that I set out to do "as a young designer more years than I want to remember" ago, which was to make a positive contribution at some point to the body of work displayed by creators that created what I playfully refer to as "content of color". In this book are a lot of creators whose work I've admired over the years: Walter Mosley, Ron Fortier, Joe Lansdale, Gary PhillipsCharles Saunders and Derrick Ferguson, and they are in this volume doing pieces that are not necessarily racial in content, but they have African American leads carrying the action and plot of these short stories. They're retroactively giving nine and ten year old me what I had been looking for then:positive examples of people who look like me, making their neck of their fictional worlds a better place by being who they are.

Granted this book is not going to change society at large in any noticeable way, shape or form. We won't read BLACK PULP today and wake up tomorrow joining hands singing "We Are The World", but I'm hoping you'll read it for the stories and enjoy it enough that you won't opposed to a Black Pulp 2 or a volume with an Asian focus, or a Latino focus, or a Female focus, or an LBGT focus, or a volume where all diversity in our culture is the focus, there's such a wide field of themes and subjects to be explored. It's my hope that this book will take you off your beaten track and make you curious about the possibilities we have yet to tap into, the richness of the larger diversity creative individuals can bring to you. 

In a very real way, this diverse group of writers are providing an example of that with characters of color, yes, but they're also characters with content, complexity with compelling stories to tell. The efforts of this group of authors, and the personal weight of being a kid who didn't have those kind of heroes readily available to him, fueled my own efforts in the design of the book to make sure that a person looking for a hero in the mirror would find one.

It's my hope that reading BLACK PULP will make you hungry for heroes that look like you and more importantly that you find the imagination and will to create those heroes if none exist. And that in doing so, you not only give yourself something to look up to, but by sharing that perspective, you contribute to the greater appreciation of our greater diversity by everyone. Yeah it's a little "We Are The World"-ish, but at least it has the virtue of being a sincere hope.

I appreciate what Tommy Hancock has brought to the table here. I'm thrilled that Gary Phillips put the concept together and I'm impressed that such a wonderful array of talent came together in response to it all. And more importantly, I'm lucky to have been a part of bringing it to you. It's on my short list of works I'm really proud of. I hope it shows in the package we've put together.

And a shout out in particular to Derrick Ferguson who was my silent co-pilot on this one. his input during the creative process on this one was invaluable and appreciated.

BLACK PULP is here.  Be sure to check it out.

And more importantly, enjoy it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: LUCAS GARRETT Part Two

Derrick Ferguson: Do you ever feel uncomfortable with the rampant racism, sexism and stereotypes in Classic Pulp? Do you ever get questioned by your friends and acquaintances on your choice of reading material?

Lucas Garrett: To be honest, I would rather read fiction of that period because it was so honest in their sentiments about race, sex, and class. There was no “political correctness,” and there was nowhere to run and hide. Granted, I don’t care for the blatant racism in books such as Tarzan, Tom Swift, Hugo Drummond, and Fu Manchu. Moreover, the Spicy Pulps of that period were generally horrible towards women. However, the stories were part of that time period. Right or wrong. And those times were very harsh. That’s why characters such as Dillon, Fortune McCall, Mongrel, Diamondback, Damballa, Changa, and Imaro are very important for New Pulp. I feel that one of the greatest literary tragedies of the 1890’s, all the way into the 1940’s, is that black communities throughout the United States did not have their own dime novel and pulp writers to give opposing viewpoints to what was being published at that time. Try to search “black pulp writers” or “African-American pulp writers” in Google and see what you get. Nothing. Nothing at all. And that is a shame.

And the best time for it to have happened would have been the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s. That’s why having writers such as Charles Saunders, Milton Davis, and you, Derrick, is very important. We are playing catch up for over a century of racial bigotry and prejudice. Better late, than never. As far as anyone knowing about my interest for pulp literature, they equate it with early adventure/action fiction. It’s nice, but it’s not interesting enough to due proper research. If my father were alive, he would understand the history of pulp literature. Moreover, I think he would realize that I was adding my perspective to that genre, and “redeeming” it to some extent. If that’s possible.

DF: Do you feel New Pulp is addressing and correcting the racism, sexism and stereotypes of Classic Pulp?

LG: Yes. I do. In my opinion, New Pulp represents a multicultural melting pot of characters, and civilizations, that approach perils and situations on a realistic and non-biased perspective. Furthermore, New Pulp use issues such as racism, sexism, and other bigotries and prejudices to reveal layered reasons behind them better than Classic Pulp did during the 1920’s. 1930’s, and 1940’s.

DF: In what way does Classic Pulp speak to you?
LG: Classic pulp shows me the mindset of the men and women in the racial majority, and in places of power and prestige, during that time. For a young Caucasian male or female between the ages of say, 10 to 45, the South American, African, Near East, Far East, Arctic and Antarctic continents would appear “alien.” The predominant racial worldview was different back then. Political correctness had not yet set in on a global scale. Therefore, people, who were not Caucasian, were considered subservient, or savages to be subdued. 

Initially, early pulp literature (an outgrowth of the dime novel industry of the Gilded/Victorian period of the 19th century) capitalized on this shared racial worldview. In addition, you had the Physical Culture movements at the turn of the last century in countries such as England, Germany, and the United States that mixed religion with physical fitness, racial hygiene, and perhaps eugenics. Then we have the wartime trauma of the First World War, and the period of Prohibition, and the need for “superhuman” vigilantes and heroes to permeate the public’s consciousness.

When I look at pulp literature during that time, I also look at the period in which the stories are published. And they are very telling when it concerns race, politics, economics, and the infrastructure of societies throughout the world, whether the information in the stories are factual or assumed. Classic Pulp literature, whether it is adventure, action, spy, detective, femme fatale, space opera-based is the mythology based on the racial, sexual, and classist worldview of the early to mid-20th century. Classic pulp literature consciously, and unconsciously, taught the societal mores and ethical systems to generations of children who came of age before, during, and after the two World Wars.

By the 1950’s, the era of Classic Pulp began to wane and was overtaken by other forms of literature and other media. However, the serialized and standalone story structure, and pacing, informed the serials, television series, and films that came after. Therefore, to a certain extent, Classic pulp never went away. When you watch films such as the Usual Suspects, Sin City, LA Confidential, Last Man Standing, The Quick and The Dead, The Rundown, Star Wars, Star Trek, and Serenity, you are watching Classic Pulp. 

When you watch television series such as Mission: Impossible, Alias, Lost, Nikita, 24, Bones, The Finder, Dollhouse, Fringe, Eureka, Warehouse 13, Sanctuary, Heroes, and The Event, you are watching Classic Pulp. Classic Pulp is the truest form of American Mythology because it continues to permeate all forms of media, and evolve with the times. Therefore, Classic Pulp has become New Pulp for a new era.

DF: What do you think of New Pulp?

LG: New Pulp is the literary equivalent of the best action, adventure, detective, and espionage films and television series being viewed, or in syndication. It allows the reader to imagine interesting people, cultures, civilizations, and other worlds in their own minds that are as immersive, and engaging, as going to see a film in 3-D. And since I’m an immersive reader and thinker, using all of my senses, I can enjoy novels like Dillon and the Voice of Odin, Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell, and Philip Jose’ Farmer’s Wold Newton-centric novels such as Time’s Last Gift and The Other Log of Phileas Fogg. I am present in those stories, viewing every detail written by the author.

What people get out of virtual reality, video games, television, and film, literature can do as well. And with New Pulp, reader get more for their dollar, because it is time they are taking away from watching a television program, or film, playing a video game, or any other activity. Therefore, the stories had better be worth the time. New Pulp is not an easy literary industry to be in because of the competition coming from other forms of literature such as comic books, graphic novels, and other visual media. However, the material being produced is worth the struggle, in my opinion. That’s why I read New Pulp.

DF: I’ve been separating the eras of Pulp into Classic and New but do you think the two should be spoken of and evaluated as two separate eras?

LG: In terms of Classic Pulp and New Pulp, I see it as being one continuous link that has times of prosperity, and times of extreme setback. Call it Classic Pulp or New Pulp, it’s still Pulp. Pulp literature has evolved to survive, and thrive, through the times. We happen to be living in a time when it is a thriving literary industry. The reason I make this statement is that Pulp literature made a noteworthy comeback in the 1960’s and 1970’s in literature and comics. Then it somewhat fizzled out in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Furthermore, during times of economic downturn, Pulp literature seems to come back, and do well. Usually, because of the rise in criminal activity that accompanies economic downturns in those societies affected.

The thing is, because of how Pulp has evolved throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, I would say that it will survive regardless of such activity. Because it has become the unseen force behind the media mythology of America and the rest of the known world. The entertainment industries that exist today owe a huge debt to Pulp literature. Instead of declining, it has grown in various forms of entertainment. In Internet terms: Pulp has gone viral. We couldn’t get rid of it if we wanted to. It’s completely engrained in our popular culture.

DF: You’re a fan of the Wold Newton Universe. Can you tell us what it’s all about and how you discovered it?

LG: My love of classic/new pulp comes from my love of the Wold Newton Family and Wold Newton Universe, which I discovered online between 1999 and 2000. I am a fan of Timely Comics’ (Marvel Comics’ predecessor) The Invaders, a superhero team that fought in the Second World War, which included Captain America, Bucky, the Human Torch, Toro, Sub-Mariner, Spitfire, Union Jack, Miss America, and the Whizzer. Therefore, I went online to see if there were any articles about them, and I found an article written by Victorian and Pulp literature historian, Jess Nevins. The article was entitled “The All-Aces Squad,” and the premise of the article was that The Invaders, and its predecessor team, the All-Winner’s Squad, were based on “real” individuals that Stan Lee, Timely Comics’ Editor-in-Chief, had heard about while he was a playwright for the U.S. Army. In the article, Nevins identified the “real” members behind the All-Winner’s Squad/Invaders myth, and kept referring to the Wold Newton Family.

Curiosity got the better of me, I typed ‘Wold Newton Family’ into the AOL search engine, and I saw numerous websites that talked about the Wold Newton meteor event of December 13, 1795. The foremost website being Win Scott Eckert’s Wold Newton Universe website, a website dedicated to  expanding the Wold Newton Family concept developed by a writer by the name of Philip Jose’ Farmer, who wrote about it in two fictional biographies: Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke (1972), and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (1973).

The premise of the Wold Newton Family is that on December 13, 1795, a meteor fell in the in a wheat field in the town of Wold Newton, East Riding, Yorkshire, England, and that within a ten-foot radius of the impact zone, there were two coaches carrying a total of fourteen passengers, and four coachmen. This party had several individuals who were written about in the popular literature at that time such as Percy Blakeney, also known as the Scarlett Pimpernel, Fitzwilliam Darcy and his wife, the former Elizabeth Bennett, and the ancestors of the literary figures in popular fiction at the turn of the last century such as Sherlock Holmes, Arsene Lupin, Fu Manchu, Hugo Drummond, Sexton Blake, George Challenger, The Time Traveler, Tarzan, Doc Savage, etc.

The thing is, these eighteen individuals were exposed to the “ionizing” radiation that emitted from the meteor. I put the nature of the radiation in quotation because I believe that there is more to the meteor than meets the eye. Furthermore, I do not believe that what the meteor emitted cannot be considered radiological, and definitely not “ionizing”. I am one a very few who share this belief. One of whom is Dr. Arthur “Art” Sippo, M.D. Nevertheless, the meteor affected the genetic structures of those exposed, and due to intermarriages with the group, as well as other relationships, descendants were born who were slightly more than human.

DF: What is the fascination that the Wold Newton Universe has for you?

LG: The biggest attraction I have to the Wold Newton Family/Universe concept is the conceit that most literary figures are based on actual people who lived, or are alive in our “real” world. Therefore, using this concept, Doc Savage is based on Dr. James Clarke Wildman, Jr., who is the son of Dr. James Clark Wildman, Sr. who was fictionalized as a young man in the character of “James Wilder” in the Sherlock Holmes story, “The Adventure of the Priory School,” and as an older man, as the character “Daniel Hardin,” in Philip Wylie’s proto-Superman pulp novel, “Gladiator.” It also made the “real” world appear more fascinating than it actually is. Ironically, the Wold Newton concept has inadvertently caused me to delve into other literature, which has broadened my literary horizons. Because without it, I never would have read a novel by Jane Austen. It wasn’t going to happen. Philip Jose’ Farmer changed my mindset. And, for that alone, I am indebted to him.

DF: Do you subscribe to the Tommy Westphall Theory?

LG: No. I look at Pulp literature, Classic Pulp in particular, as being stories based on something that may have happened, or could have happened, if the conditions were right for it during the periods in time in which the stories are published, or set. The Tommy Westphall Universe Hypothesis is both a genius concept, as well as a cop out, in my opinion. Because it shattered the Fourth Wall of storytelling, and caused the viewer to feel that they shouldn’t have invested their time and thoughts in the lives of the characters from St. Elsewhere. 

Personally, I think that the writers just ran out of steam. It was similar to what happened in the television series, Dallas, when Pamela Ewing woke up to find Bobby Ewing alive; after all season seeing her, and the rest of Ewing family, deal with Bobby’s death. You can’t mess with fans like that, and think there won’t be consequences. If you are dealing with exposing the viewer, or the reader, to the fact that the world you are immersed in is not “real”, then it needs to be explained at the beginning of the story, or people will not understand. That’s what made the Matrix film trilogy successful. The first Matrix film established that everything we see is an illusion. Therefore, when things started to look a little bizarre in the “real” world of the Matrix, such as towards the end of Matrix Reloaded, the viewers have that concept to anchor them.

DF: Do you have any ambitions of being a writer? If so, are you working on anything right now?

LG: Yes, I do aspire to become a published writer. I’m working on an outline project for a book about Steampunk-era werewolves set in turn of the 20th century Atlanta, Georgia. The plot revolves around a family of southern Black werewolves who are bred by a certain well-known Victorian literary mad scientist to be ferocious slave catchers before the Civil War. However, this family used their abilities to liberate plantations throughout Georgia and to form “Free Towns” that are patrolled night and day by them. The story starts with the grandchildren of the patriarch who was given the serum by the doctor while in utero in the 1830’s. In fact, the patriarch of the family was born on November 11, 1831, the day Nat Turner is executed in Virginia for his attempted slave uprising earlier that year. I take elements from Philip Wylie’s novel, “Gladiator,” and postulate that there may have been induced superhuman programs, independently funded, and conducted, for nearly a century prior to the First World War.

DF: What’s a typical Day In The Life of Lucas Garrett like?

LG: Working mostly. I work an eight-hour shift from 2:00 PM to 10:00 PM for five days, and the two days I am off, I read for research purposes to help me craft my outlines. I take short breaks, play with my dog, exercise, and I get on Facebook to see what is going on in the Forum groups I’m involved in. And from time to time, I go on dates. Nothing serious. That’s it.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we need to know about Lucas Garrett?

Lucas Garrett: Not at this time. Thank you very much for allowing me the opportunity to share my interest in Pulp literature

Monday, February 27, 2012

Derrick Ferguson Listens To The Tales of The GRIOTS

·  Paperback: 294 pages
·  Publisher: MVmedia, LLC (August 7, 2011)
·  Language: English
·  ISBN-10: 0980084288
·  ISBN-13: 978-0980084283

Before we get into the meat-n-potatoes of this review, it’s necessary that Sherman set the Wayback Machine for 1970’s so we can indulge in a brief history lesson for context: Charles R. Saunders is a writer who like most of you reading this review fell in love with the work of Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan, King Kull and Solomon Kane.  REH is credited with being the creator of “sword and sorcery” a sub-genre of epic fantasy.  Sword and sorcery concerns itself with stories driven by action, healthy doses of sex and violence and strong supernatural/magical elements.

So in love with sword and sorcery is he that Mr. Saunders sets about writing his own stories.  And in doing so he determines to expand the genre by creating a black heroic fantasy character and set his adventures in a mythical Africa just as fabulous and dangerous as Howard’s Hyborian Age.  And with his stories of Imaro, Charles Saunders gives birth to what is now known as “sword and soul” which are fantasy stories with an African connection or featuring African characters 

I’ve been a fan of Mr. Saunders and his work ever since I was a high school student back in the 70’s and devouring heroic fiction at an appalling rate.  And as the Wayback Machine brings us back to the present we can begin this review proper with the good news that sword-and-soul is not only thriving here and now, it is giving voice to a new generation of African American fantasy writers eager to explore the genre and continue to nourish it with their talents.

GRIOTS is an anthology of sword and soul stories co-edited by Mr. Saunders and Milton J. Davis who himself has long carved out his own territory in the genre.  The fourteen stories in the book are:

“Captured Beauty” by Milton Davis.  It’s a great action story to lead off the book with.  It’s a simple plot having to do with rescuing a beautiful damsel in distress from the clutches of a vile villain.  But what made this story stand out for me were the characterizations of the protagonist Changa and his employer, the merchant Belay and their relationship.

“Awakening” by Valjeanne Jeffers.  It starts out with a little girl who has no desire to spend her adult days sitting around being ladylike and raising squalling brats while the men have all the fun being warriors. The girl, Nandi, grows up and finds out that there’s a supernatural force in her life who also thinks that yeah, her being a warrior is a pretty good idea.

“Lost Son” by Maurice Broaddus is a story I wanted to like a lot more than I do as I like Mr. Broaddus’ style of writing.  But the story just seemed to end without resolution or even much of a point.

“In The Wake of Mist” by Kirk A. Johnson is another story I didn’t get.  Although I liked the imagery the writer evokes, that’s all the impression the story made on me.  A series of wonderfully described images that really didn’t seem to go anywhere or evoke any sort of feeling in me.

“Skin Magic” by Djeli A. Clark kicks the anthology back into action mode with a story that has a healthy heap of horror.  The main character is a thief on the run who has living tattoos on his skin that are portals to a nightmarish limbo through which Cthulhuian creatures can emerge into our world.  The thief, barely able to control this horrible ability is pursued by the fearsome minions of a consortium of dark magicians who desire this power for their own purposes.  As soon as I finished this story, I wanted to read a sequel right away.

“The Demon In The Wall” by Stafford L. Battle is one of my favorite stories in this anthology.  Equal parts high adventure and comedy, it’s an entertaining near parody of the genre.  The sorceress Makhulu and her grandson, the warrior Zende are characters I’d love to see more of.  The banter between them alone is worth reading the story for.

“The Belly of The Crocodile” by Minister Faust is a tale of sibling rivalry.  And that’s all I’ll say about it because it’s not a long story and its emotional punch is best served by reading it yourself.

“Changeling” by Carole McDonnell is a story that works just the way it is but if it were twice as long I wouldn’t kick.  This is about three sisters destined to marry and become queens of their own kingdoms.  But the real prize is their native kingdom only one of them will inherit when their mother dies.  It’s got that ‘Once Upon A Time” feeling as it unfolds it’s ultimately sorrowful tale.  It’s a story of Shakespearean tragedy that has a lot to say about human nature and the ugly power of jealousy. 

“The General’s Daughter” by Anthony Nana Kwamu is a good choice to follow “Changeling” as they have something in common.  Both of them have more than their share of action but they also dig deeper into the emotional core of their characters to reveal who these people really are and why we should care about what happens to them.  I really liked the emotional resonance I felt in both these stories after I finished them.

“Sekadi’s Koan” by Geoffrey Thorne is another story I immediately wanted a sequel to as soon as I finished reading it.  I got a very strong Roger Zelazny vibe in this tale of a gifted martial artist studying her deadly art at a school located…well, I’m not sure where it’s located but I was so entertained I didn’t care.  And unlike some other stories where I got the impression that the writers themselves weren’t sure of where their stories were happening, I didn’t get that impression from Mr. Thorne.  I got the feeling he knew exactly where and when his story was taking place but is saving that for what I hope will be future stories about Sekadi.

“The Queen, The Demon and The Mercenary” is by Ronald T. Jones and like “The Demon In The Wall” is a story that seems designed for nothing but the reader to have as much fun reading it as I’m sure the writer had writing it.  The swaggering warrior Toulou sets out to rescue a suffering kingdom from the demon-wizard terrorizing the people and does it in style.  Highly recommended.

“Icewitch” by Rebecca McFarland Kyle proves that you don’t necessarily have to set a sword and soul story in an African setting.  This story takes place in a frigid realm where a dark-skinned youth struggles to find acceptance among his mother’s people who are lighter-skinned. 

The only real problem I have with Melvin Carter’s “The Leopard Walks Alone” is the ugliness of the names in the story.  I tried saying them aloud and I swear I bruised my tongue.  I realize it’s a somewhat petty quibble but naming is important in fantasy stories.  Difficult and harsh sounding names should be used sparingly. 

And The Master himself, Charles Saunders finishes up the anthology with a tale of Imaro: “The Three Faced One”  If you’ve never read an Imaro story or anything by Charles Saunders, this is an excellent introduction to both.

GRIOTS also boasts fourteen interior black and white illustrations by fourteen separate artists as well as biographical information about the writers and artists and introductory essays by the editors.  The cover by Natiq Jalil is simply wonderful to look at.

So should you read GRIOTS?  Absolutely.  True, a few of the stories didn’t turn my crank but most of them did.  If you’re a sword and sorcery fan looking for some heroic fantasy that takes place in realms other than the Medieval or ancient settings most sword-and-sorcery stories take place in then you most certainly should check this anthology out.  

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 ...