Showing posts with label Milton Davis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Milton Davis. Show all posts

Friday, May 29, 2015

32 Months Later With Balogun Ojetade

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 fiancĂ©e, 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.
And then…

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 

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

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.

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 ...