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