Tag: Adam Garcia

Creator Spotlight: Adam Garcia

adamOne of the best authors in the New Pulp movement is Adam L. Garcia, whose name has become synonymous with the classic hero, The Green Lama. Adam first burst onto the scene in 2009 with a novella reviving The Green Lama, “Horror in Clay.” The story was written as a gift for his father and went on to garner a Best Short Story nomination in the New Pulp Awards. The very next year saw Adam’s reputation continue to grow as his novel Green Lama: Unbound won two Pulp Factory Awards: Best Novel and Best Interior Art (for his collaborator Mike Fyles).

He’s continued adding to the legend of The Green Lama with works like Crimson Circle, The Heir Apparent (in which the hero teams with Sherlock Holmes), Scions and Day of the Destroyers. While several companies use The Green Lama, Adam is one of the very few that has the official sanction of the creator’s estate and it’s clear why they gave it: Adam is not only a tremendous author but he’s also a huge fan and advocate for the character.

Adam has branched out in other directions, as well. He contributed a story to The Peregrine Omnibus Volume 3 featuring the third Peregrine teaming up for a night on the town with Kayla Kaslov; wrote a graphic novel called Sons of Fire with artist Heidi Black; and most recently contributed to the bestselling The Obama Conspiracy.

lamaholmesAdam’s one of my favorite creators in the realm of New Pulp right now. While he understands what made the classic pulp stories work, he’s not wedded to the past. He pushes the characters and their situations forward with a very modern way of thinking. I encourage you to check out his Amazon Author Page and check out some of his work if you haven’t already. You can come back here later and thank me for the recommendation!

Guest Blog: The Need for Pulp Literature

adamWhen I first began giving thought to inviting someone to do a turn on this blog, the very first person I thought of was Adam Lance Garcia. Adam is one of the most innovative voices in New Pulp and his work on books such as The New Adventures of Richard Knight and The Green Lama: Scions has rightfully earned him a growing legion of fans. I’m proud to say that Adam will be contributing to the second volume of Tales of The Rook. Adam not only has a distinctive voice as a writer, he also sees New Pulp with fresh eyes. Though a fan of the classic material, Adam is not afraid to break free of the trappings of the genre. His feelings about what pulp is and what it could — and should — be are quite clear and very interesting. I hope you’ll enjoy his viewpoints and I encourage you to leave behind comments as I do think these kinds of conversations are great ones to have. If you’re interested in learning more about Adam, please follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and stop by his website.

Without further ado, I give you Adam Lance Garcia and The Need for Pulp Literature:

A few weeks ago I started a bit of flame war with one of my publishers over what is—or isn’t—pulp. The argument began after I posted the following statement on my Facebook Page: “There needs to be more character development, more gay characters, less reliance on the “formula,” and less “good to be good” in pulp stories.”

My publisher took great offense to this suggestion, commenting: “No, there does not. What you are describing is something else…but not pulp.”

But perhaps it is time for “something else.”

Now, full disclosure, this wasn’t the first time I’ve been embroiled in this sort of conversation, (nor is it this first time this sort of conversation has been had) though it definitely was the most public, and apparently, the most blood boiling one I had been involved with in some time.

Generally speaking pulp, or for that matter, New Pulp, is defined as: “…fast-paced, plot-oriented storytelling of a linear nature with clearly defined, larger than life protagonists and antagonists, creative descriptions, clever use of turns of phrase and other aspects of writing that add to the intensity and pacing of the story.” (newpulpfiction.com)

Since I started my writing career I’ve often found myself on the edge of what many people consider “pulp.” I write stories that don’t follow a set formula, that feature a diverse cast of complicated characters that make mistakes, grow, and change over time. Originally these decisions weren’t conscious, I just wrote the stories that I wanted to read. But the more I wrote, the more the conversation of what is and isn’t pulp began coming up, and the more often my work was cited as an example of one or the other. Personally, I don’t like to define my work, partially because I’d rather let the story define itself. I enjoy mixing genres, but I’ve made my name in pulp, so let’s talk pulp.

While this is a generalization and certainly doesn’t apply to every author, I feel a recurring weakness with New Pulp movement is the stringent dedication to the style of the original pulps. This isn’t to be confused with keeping canon with the original tales—I work very hard to tie my Green Lama tales directly with Kendell Foster Crossen’s stories. Rather, many writers are so in love with the idea of pulp that they are writing stories for a 30s audience. I’m not implying that these writers aren’t producing good work, or that there isn’t a place for these kinds of stories. They are and there is, and when they work, man, they really work, but the problem is these sort of stories only really appeal to a very narrow section of the reading audience—the folks that are already reading pulp. It’s not speaking to a larger, much more refined literary audience who want more out their stories. If the format, the genre, the style, whatever you want to call it, is ever going to survive, expand, and gain relevancy, it needs to change.

There needs to be a “something else.”

Arguably this has already happened, just take a look at the best sellers list. Let me tell you, James Patterson, Clive Cussler, JK Rowling, Dan Simmons, Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon, and Stephen King are pulp writers. Big plots? Big characters? Linear storytelling? Check, check, check. They even have gay characters, complicated characters, and absence of formula.

The difference between those writers and “New Pulp” is that “New Pulp” is broadly defined by the Hero Pulps, the men in masks, the big damn heroes running around saving the world from destruction. There are exceptions, of course, but if you look at what’s being published under the “New Pulp” banner, the majority of them have someone in a mask or a ripped-Doc Savage shirt. It’s to these sorts of tales that I’m speaking, lest there be any confusion.

So, let’s break down my original post and start explaining things.

More character development.

A lot of writers seem to confuse character traits with character development. Character traits are useful to help build the basic structure of a character, but they’re only surface deep. So often we meet characters that are little more than two-dimensional placards moved from action scene to action scene. We never really learn to care for these characters, as if putting them into danger should be enough to make the readers worry whether or not they’ll make to the end of the story. We need to spend time learning who these people are, give them flaws, make them grow. Let them talk, let them argue. Have them make mistakes and learn from them, and not just the mistakes made during the action sequence. We need to believe in these characters. Perhaps my biggest issue with New Pulp stories is the fact the characters either stay stagnant, learning all of nothing by the end of the story, or if they do, they’re effectively reset at the start of the next tale. Indiana Jones, perhaps the best, most popular modern “pulp” character, is a hero, as my most gracious host, Mr. Barry Reese pointed out, “who is established to have had sexual relations with someone who was underage (Marion) and who later abandoned her at the matrimonial door. He’s still a heroic figure but he’s very nuanced.”

More gay characters.

I’d actually like to expand this point to more diversity in general. Pro Se Productions’ Black Pulp anthology was a huge step in the right direction, (it deserves all the accolades it receives) but we shouldn’t stop there. We live in a pluralistic society and our stories should reflect that. One of my favorite additions to the Doctor Who canon was Captain Jack Harkness. Harkness, played by John Barrowman, is the immortal leader of Torchwood and a hero in his own right—incredibly flawed, but a hero nonetheless—who just happened to be openly bisexual. Shocking, I know. Our heroes shouldn’t all be straight white men, and if they are something else they shouldn’t fit into some archaic stereotype. It is why Green Lama’s Tibetan “assistant” Tsarong is always treated as an equal; he is eloquent and intelligent, and never subservient. It is why I was so eager to write Emma Davies for Barry’s upcoming Tales of the Rook: Volume 2. A lesbian hero? Sign me up.

Less reliance on the “formula.”

Lester Dent, the man behind Doc Savage, is noted to have created the “golden plot,” a strict point A to Z storytelling mechanic that was meant to guide all the other house writers working on the Doc Savage tales. That’s all well and good when you need to pump out a story to make your monthly deadline, but there’s a reason why shows Breaking Bad is winning awards and CSI is… well, CSI. Working within a formula prevents you from surprising the audience. I admit to sometimes finding myself hitting similar beats in my stories. These are never intentional and when they do happen I make sure to have the characters acknowledge the similarities and then work at subverting your expectations as to what will come next. A teacher once told me every conversation you write has to be the most important conversation these characters have ever had. Obviously he was speaking in hyperbole, but this line of thinking is true not just for the characters but the stories themselves. There needs to be something fundamentally special about every story you write—especially if you’re writing a series—there needs be change, there needs to be loss, there needs to be something that takes your characters to places they’ve never been before. Keep your readers on their toes, not just waiting for the next beat to arrive.

Less “good to be good” in pulp stories.

I’m not advocating we should all start writing our own Walter White, but a character without any believable motivation is just poor writing. Take a look at Chris Evan’s Captain America as example of how to do a “good to be good” character. Steve Rogers was bullied his entire life, so when he was asked why he wanted to join the army his answer isn’t “to kill Nazis,” it’s because he “doesn’t like bullies.” His life experiences helped make him into a hero. We need to start asking why the hero is doing what he’s doing. Maybe it’s more than childhood trauma; maybe it’s guilt; maybe it’s for money and fame; maybe it’s because of their own sociopathic nature; maybe it’s because they’re bored; and maybe, just maybe, he doesn’t have to be the shining white knight. Sure, this is escapism, but so many of the heroes in our world—the people who inspire us—are flawed human beings. Great men and women have cheated on their spouses; have experimented with drugs; have done morally questionable—if at the times personally justifiable—acts. Our heroes should reflect that, because what is more heroic than a person overcoming their flaws?

And if I were to add one more thing to this conversation let me add this:

Stronger women.

We need to move away from the female character defined by male characters. Perhaps one my least favorite moment in a pulp story ever is when the hero burst into a woman’s home, unannounced, and she happily agreed to go with him because he “looked trustworthy.” It is face-palm worthy writing, sloppy, and honestly, offensive. Women should be treated as more than a damsel in distress or a sexy villainess. This doesn’t mean more women with guns. Guns don’t make people strong. Guns are stupid, violent things and if anything they limit the hero, but that’s a conversation for another time. Nor do I mean more female villains. People seem to think if you have a female villain it means she’s a strong female character, more than anything she’s a stereotype highlighting what men feel is “wrong” about women. Nor does that necessarily mean she should be made masculine, or for that matter, more feminine. Nor do I mean she should be half naked all the time. Apparently, every female hero needs to be falling out of her clothing to be considered a hero. This isn’t to say female shouldn’t be sexy, or for that matter, have sexual desires. If anything the idea of portraying a heroic woman as pure and metaphorically virginal ignores the fact that women are human beings (the same goes for the male heroes by the way, God forbid our heroes have sex). What we need to see are female characters that are just as well rounded as the male characters, with their own opinions, wants, and desires; who can have another conversation with another woman about something besides a man.

Maybe what I’m ultimately arguing for is Pulp Literature; something that tries to do something more than just emulate what’s come before, that tries to elevate the standard and says “there’s more we can do here.” It doesn’t mean we need move away from what makes pulp “pulp,” but we should take the risks to explore the grey area between the very restrictive “golden formula” and “something else.”

But here’s the thing. All of this stuff is already being done right now. Everything I’ve stated above—that “something else”—is often heralded in pulp fiction review sites as brilliant, modern, and, perhaps most importantly, as New Pulp. Take for example, Michael Patrick Sullivan’s The Auslander Files, which was hailed for it’s “modern sensibility devoid of the melodramatic romances of the early pulps. The Auslander kills, both the guilty and the innocent, to accomplish his missions and foil the saboteurs. It’s a morally ambiguous line he is willing to cross time and time again.” (http://www.pulpfictionreviews.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-auslander-files.html)

But, then again, bemoaning an idea in the abstract and loving it in the execution is essentially the core of modern fan culture.

So call it pulp, call it New Pulp, call it Pulp Literature or call it “something else.” All that matters is if it’s good.

And Lo, There Came A Tuesday…

RU Ad smallerWelcome back to ye olde blog! As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be attending the Middle Georgia Comic Convention, which is something that I’m very excited about. I’m also continuing to work on the crossover novel, which is slowly (oh so slowly!) approaching the 10,000 word mark. Since I’m aiming for a 60,000 or so novel, that means I’m getting close to the 1/6th mark.

Yeah, I know. I really shouldn’t focus on the word count but it makes me happy and I feel like I’m making progress by tracking it… so there!

Anyway, I’m really enjoying what I have written so far and I think the fans will appreciate it. So far, I’ve been mainly introducing all the heroes (the main cast will be The Rook, Lazarus Gray, Gravedigger, Catalyst (note: this isn’t Nathaniel Caine, who doesn’t become Catalyst until the Forties. This is his predecessor, who will be introduced in Lazarus Gray Volume Five) and The Dark Gentleman. There might be one or two others, as well, but we’ll keep them as surprises for now!

Tales of The Rook Volume Two is now available in print so if you don’t own a Kindle or a Nook or any other tablet, you can get the dead tree version and enjoy the rollicking works of Adam Garcia, James Palmer, Russ Anderson, David White and Sean Taylor! You’ll also get a sneak peek at a script for an animated adventure of The Rook — Pro Se was actively shopping this around at one point but as so many things do, it didn’t come to fruition.

Yet! You never know, after all….

Anyway, I hope everybody has a great day out there and we’ll be back with more pulpy goodness tomorrow.

 

From the Vault: The Need for Pulp Literature

adamWhen I first began giving thought to inviting someone to do a turn on this blog, the very first person I thought of was Adam Lance Garcia. Adam is one of the most innovative voices in New Pulp and his work on books such as The New Adventures of Richard Knight and The Green Lama – Unbound has rightfully earned him a growing legion of fans. I’m proud to say that Adam will be contributing to the second volume of Tales of The Rook. Adam not only has a distinctive voice as a writer, he also sees New Pulp with fresh eyes. Though a fan of the classic material, Adam is not afraid to break free of the trappings of the genre. His feelings about what pulp is and what it could — and should — be are quite clear and very interesting. I hope you’ll enjoy his viewpoints and I encourage you to leave behind comments as I do think these kinds of conversations are great ones to have. If you’re interested in learning more about Adam, please follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and stop by his website.

Without further ado, I give you Adam Lance Garcia and The Need for Pulp Literature:

A few weeks ago I started a bit of flame war with one of my publishers over what is—or isn’t—pulp. The argument began after I posted the following statement on my Facebook Page: “There needs to be more character development, more gay characters, less reliance on the “formula,” and less “good to be good” in pulp stories.”

My publisher took great offense to this suggestion, commenting: “No, there does not. What you are describing is something else…but not pulp.”

But perhaps it is time for “something else.”

Now, full disclosure, this wasn’t the first time I’ve been embroiled in this sort of conversation, (nor is it this first time this sort of conversation has been had) though it definitely was the most public, and apparently, the most blood boiling one I had been involved with in some time.

Generally speaking pulp, or for that matter, New Pulp, is defined as: “…fast-paced, plot-oriented storytelling of a linear nature with clearly defined, larger than life protagonists and antagonists, creative descriptions, clever use of turns of phrase and other aspects of writing that add to the intensity and pacing of the story.” (newpulpfiction.com)

Since I started my writing career I’ve often found myself on the edge of what many people consider “pulp.” I write stories that don’t follow a set formula, that feature a diverse cast of complicated characters that make mistakes, grow, and change over time. Originally these decisions weren’t conscious, I just wrote the stories that I wanted to read. But the more I wrote, the more the conversation of what is and isn’t pulp began coming up, and the more often my work was cited as an example of one or the other. Personally, I don’t like to define my work, partially because I’d rather let the story define itself. I enjoy mixing genres, but I’ve made my name in pulp, so let’s talk pulp.

While this is a generalization and certainly doesn’t apply to every author, I feel a recurring weakness with New Pulp movement is the stringent dedication to the style of the original pulps. This isn’t to be confused with keeping canon with the original tales—I work very hard to tie my Green Lama tales directly with Kendell Foster Crossen’s stories. Rather, many writers are so in love with the idea of pulp that they are writing stories for a 30s audience. I’m not implying that these writers aren’t producing good work, or that there isn’t a place for these kinds of stories. They are and there is, and when they work, man, they really work, but the problem is these sort of stories only really appeal to a very narrow section of the reading audience—the folks that are already reading pulp. It’s not speaking to a larger, much more refined literary audience who want more out their stories. If the format, the genre, the style, whatever you want to call it, is ever going to survive, expand, and gain relevancy, it needs to change.

There needs to be a “something else.”

Arguably this has already happened, just take a look at the best sellers list. Let me tell you, James Patterson, Clive Cussler, JK Rowling, Dan Simmons, Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon, and Stephen King are pulp writers. Big plots? Big characters? Linear storytelling? Check, check, check. They even have gay characters, complicated characters, and absence of formula.

The difference between those writers and “New Pulp” is that “New Pulp” is broadly defined by the Hero Pulps, the men in masks, the big damn heroes running around saving the world from destruction. There are exceptions, of course, but if you look at what’s being published under the “New Pulp” banner, the majority of them have someone in a mask or a ripped-Doc Savage shirt. It’s to these sorts of tales that I’m speaking, lest there be any confusion.

So, let’s break down my original post and start explaining things.

More character development.

A lot of writers seem to confuse character traits with character development. Character traits are useful to help build the basic structure of a character, but they’re only surface deep. So often we meet characters that are little more than two-dimensional placards moved from action scene to action scene. We never really learn to care for these characters, as if putting them into danger should be enough to make the readers worry whether or not they’ll make to the end of the story. We need to spend time learning who these people are, give them flaws, make them grow. Let them talk, let them argue. Have them make mistakes and learn from them, and not just the mistakes made during the action sequence. We need to believe in these characters. Perhaps my biggest issue with New Pulp stories is the fact the characters either stay stagnant, learning all of nothing by the end of the story, or if they do, they’re effectively reset at the start of the next tale. Indiana Jones, perhaps the best, most popular modern “pulp” character, is a hero, as my most gracious host, Mr. Barry Reese pointed out, “who is established to have had sexual relations with someone who was underage (Marion) and who later abandoned her at the matrimonial door. He’s still a heroic figure but he’s very nuanced.”

More gay characters.

I’d actually like to expand this point to more diversity in general. Pro Se Productions’ Black Pulp anthology was a huge step in the right direction, (it deserves all the accolades it receives) but we shouldn’t stop there. We live in a pluralistic society and our stories should reflect that. One of my favorite additions to the Doctor Who canon was Captain Jack Harkness. Harkness, played by John Barrowman, is the immortal leader of Torchwood and a hero in his own right—incredibly flawed, but a hero nonetheless—who just happened to be openly bisexual. Shocking, I know. Our heroes shouldn’t all be straight white men, and if they are something else they shouldn’t fit into some archaic stereotype. It is why Green Lama’s Tibetan “assistant” Tsarong is always treated as an equal; he is eloquent and intelligent, and never subservient. It is why I was so eager to write Emma Davies for Barry’s upcoming Tales of the Rook: Volume 2. A lesbian hero? Sign me up.

Less reliance on the “formula.”

Lester Dent, the man behind Doc Savage, is noted to have created the “golden plot,” a strict point A to Z storytelling mechanic that was meant to guide all the other house writers working on the Doc Savage tales. That’s all well and good when you need to pump out a story to make your monthly deadline, but there’s a reason why shows Breaking Bad is winning awards and CSI is… well, CSI. Working within a formula prevents you from surprising the audience. I admit to sometimes finding myself hitting similar beats in my stories. These are never intentional and when they do happen I make sure to have the characters acknowledge the similarities and then work at subverting your expectations as to what will come next. A teacher once told me every conversation you write has to be the most important conversation these characters have ever had. Obviously he was speaking in hyperbole, but this line of thinking is true not just for the characters but the stories themselves. There needs to be something fundamentally special about every story you write—especially if you’re writing a series—there needs be change, there needs to be loss, there needs to be something that takes your characters to places they’ve never been before. Keep your readers on their toes, not just waiting for the next beat to arrive.

Less “good to be good” in pulp stories.

I’m not advocating we should all start writing our own Walter White, but a character without any believable motivation is just poor writing. Take a look at Chris Evan’s Captain America as example of how to do a “good to be good” character. Steve Rogers was bullied his entire life, so when he was asked why he wanted to join the army his answer isn’t “to kill Nazis,” it’s because he “doesn’t like bullies.” His life experiences helped make him into a hero. We need to start asking why the hero is doing what he’s doing. Maybe it’s more than childhood trauma; maybe it’s guilt; maybe it’s for money and fame; maybe it’s because of their own sociopathic nature; maybe it’s because they’re bored; and maybe, just maybe, he doesn’t have to be the shining white knight. Sure, this is escapism, but so many of the heroes in our world—the people who inspire us—are flawed human beings. Great men and women have cheated on their spouses; have experimented with drugs; have done morally questionable—if at the times personally justifiable—acts. Our heroes should reflect that, because what is more heroic than a person overcoming their flaws?

And if I were to add one more thing to this conversation let me add this:

Stronger women.

We need to move away from the female character defined by male characters. Perhaps one my least favorite moment in a pulp story ever is when the hero burst into a woman’s home, unannounced, and she happily agreed to go with him because he “looked trustworthy.” It is face-palm worthy writing, sloppy, and honestly, offensive. Women should be treated as more than a damsel in distress or a sexy villainess. This doesn’t mean more women with guns. Guns don’t make people strong. Guns are stupid, violent things and if anything they limit the hero, but that’s a conversation for another time. Nor do I mean more female villains. People seem to think if you have a female villain it means she’s a strong female character, more than anything she’s a stereotype highlighting what men feel is “wrong” about women. Nor does that necessarily mean she should be made masculine, or for that matter, more feminine. Nor do I mean she should be half naked all the time. Apparently, every female hero needs to be falling out of her clothing to be considered a hero. This isn’t to say female shouldn’t be sexy, or for that matter, have sexual desires. If anything the idea of portraying a heroic woman as pure and metaphorically virginal ignores the fact that women are human beings (the same goes for the male heroes by the way, God forbid our heroes have sex). What we need to see are female characters that are just as well rounded as the male characters, with their own opinions, wants, and desires; who can have another conversation with another woman about something besides a man.

Maybe what I’m ultimately arguing for is Pulp Literature; something that tries to do something more than just emulate what’s come before, that tries to elevate the standard and says “there’s more we can do here.” It doesn’t mean we need move away from what makes pulp “pulp,” but we should take the risks to explore the grey area between the very restrictive “golden formula” and “something else.”

But here’s the thing. All of this stuff is already being done right now. Everything I’ve stated above—that “something else”—is often heralded in pulp fiction review sites as brilliant, modern, and, perhaps most importantly, as New Pulp. Take for example, Michael Patrick Sullivan’s The Auslander Files, which was hailed for it’s “modern sensibility devoid of the melodramatic romances of the early pulps. The Auslander kills, both the guilty and the innocent, to accomplish his missions and foil the saboteurs. It’s a morally ambiguous line he is willing to cross time and time again.” (http://www.pulpfictionreviews.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-auslander-files.html)

But, then again, bemoaning an idea in the abstract and loving it in the execution is essentially the core of modern fan culture.

So call it pulp, call it New Pulp, call it Pulp Literature or call it “something else.” All that matters is if it’s good.

Guest Blog: The Need for Pulp Literature

adamToday is a special day at Ye Olde Blog — for the first time ever, I’m running a piece that’s entirely written by someone else. When I first began giving thought to inviting someone to do a turn on this blog, the very first person I thought of was Adam Lance Garcia. Adam is one of the most innovative voices in New Pulp and his work on books such as The New Adventures of Richard Knight and The Green Lama – Unbound has rightfully earned him a growing legion of fans. I’m proud to say that Adam will be contributing to the second volume of Tales of The Rook. Adam not only has a distinctive voice as a writer, he also sees New Pulp with fresh eyes. Though a fan of the classic material, Adam is not afraid to break free of the trappings of the genre. His feelings about what pulp is and what it could — and should — be are quite clear and very interesting. I hope you’ll enjoy his viewpoints and I encourage you to leave behind comments as I do think these kinds of conversations are great ones to have. If you’re interested in learning more about Adam, please follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and stop by his website.

Without further ado, I give you Adam Lance Garcia and The Need for Pulp Literature:

A few weeks ago I started a bit of flame war with one of my publishers over what is—or isn’t—pulp. The argument began after I posted the following statement on my Facebook Page: “There needs to be more character development, more gay characters, less reliance on the “formula,” and less “good to be good” in pulp stories.”

My publisher took great offense to this suggestion, commenting: “No, there does not. What you are describing is something else…but not pulp.”

But perhaps it is time for “something else.”

Now, full disclosure, this wasn’t the first time I’ve been embroiled in this sort of conversation, (nor is it this first time this sort of conversation has been had) though it definitely was the most public, and apparently, the most blood boiling one I had been involved with in some time.

Generally speaking pulp, or for that matter, New Pulp, is defined as: “…fast-paced, plot-oriented storytelling of a linear nature with clearly defined, larger than life protagonists and antagonists, creative descriptions, clever use of turns of phrase and other aspects of writing that add to the intensity and pacing of the story.” (newpulpfiction.com)

Since I started my writing career I’ve often found myself on the edge of what many people consider “pulp.” I write stories that don’t follow a set formula, that feature a diverse cast of complicated characters that make mistakes, grow, and change over time. Originally these decisions weren’t conscious, I just wrote the stories that I wanted to read. But the more I wrote, the more the conversation of what is and isn’t pulp began coming up, and the more often my work was cited as an example of one or the other. Personally, I don’t like to define my work, partially because I’d rather let the story define itself. I enjoy mixing genres, but I’ve made my name in pulp, so let’s talk pulp.

While this is a generalization and certainly doesn’t apply to every author, I feel a recurring weakness with New Pulp movement is the stringent dedication to the style of the original pulps. This isn’t to be confused with keeping canon with the original tales—I work very hard to tie my Green Lama tales directly with Kendell Foster Crossen’s stories. Rather, many writers are so in love with the idea of pulp that they are writing stories for a 30s audience. I’m not implying that these writers aren’t producing good work, or that there isn’t a place for these kinds of stories. They are and there is, and when they work, man, they really work, but the problem is these sort of stories only really appeal to a very narrow section of the reading audience—the folks that are already reading pulp. It’s not speaking to a larger, much more refined literary audience who want more out their stories. If the format, the genre, the style, whatever you want to call it, is ever going to survive, expand, and gain relevancy, it needs to change.

There needs to be a “something else.”

Arguably this has already happened, just take a look at the best sellers list. Let me tell you, James Patterson, Clive Cussler, JK Rowling, Dan Simmons, Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon, and Stephen King are pulp writers. Big plots? Big characters? Linear storytelling? Check, check, check. They even have gay characters, complicated characters, and absence of formula.

The difference between those writers and “New Pulp” is that “New Pulp” is broadly defined by the Hero Pulps, the men in masks, the big damn heroes running around saving the world from destruction. There are exceptions, of course, but if you look at what’s being published under the “New Pulp” banner, the majority of them have someone in a mask or a ripped-Doc Savage shirt. It’s to these sorts of tales that I’m speaking, lest there be any confusion.

So, let’s break down my original post and start explaining things.

More character development.

A lot of writers seem to confuse character traits with character development. Character traits are useful to help build the basic structure of a character, but they’re only surface deep. So often we meet characters that are little more than two-dimensional placards moved from action scene to action scene. We never really learn to care for these characters, as if putting them into danger should be enough to make the readers worry whether or not they’ll make to the end of the story. We need to spend time learning who these people are, give them flaws, make them grow. Let them talk, let them argue. Have them make mistakes and learn from them, and not just the mistakes made during the action sequence. We need to believe in these characters. Perhaps my biggest issue with New Pulp stories is the fact the characters either stay stagnant, learning all of nothing by the end of the story, or if they do, they’re effectively reset at the start of the next tale. Indiana Jones, perhaps the best, most popular modern “pulp” character, is a hero, as my most gracious host, Mr. Barry Reese pointed out, “who is established to have had sexual relations with someone who was underage (Marion) and who later abandoned her at the matrimonial door. He’s still a heroic figure but he’s very nuanced.”

More gay characters.

I’d actually like to expand this point to more diversity in general. Pro Se Productions’ Black Pulp anthology was a huge step in the right direction, (it deserves all the accolades it receives) but we shouldn’t stop there. We live in a pluralistic society and our stories should reflect that. One of my favorite additions to the Doctor Who canon was Captain Jack Harkness. Harkness, played by John Barrowman, is the immortal leader of Torchwood and a hero in his own right—incredibly flawed, but a hero nonetheless—who just happened to be openly bisexual. Shocking, I know. Our heroes shouldn’t all be straight white men, and if they are something else they shouldn’t fit into some archaic stereotype. It is why Green Lama’s Tibetan “assistant” Tsarong is always treated as an equal; he is eloquent and intelligent, and never subservient. It is why I was so eager to write Emma Davies for Barry’s upcoming Tales of the Rook: Volume 2. A lesbian hero? Sign me up.

Less reliance on the “formula.”

Lester Dent, the man behind Doc Savage, is noted to have created the “golden plot,” a strict point A to Z storytelling mechanic that was meant to guide all the other house writers working on the Doc Savage tales. That’s all well and good when you need to pump out a story to make your monthly deadline, but there’s a reason why shows Breaking Bad is winning awards and CSI is… well, CSI. Working within a formula prevents you from surprising the audience. I admit to sometimes finding myself hitting similar beats in my stories. These are never intentional and when they do happen I make sure to have the characters acknowledge the similarities and then work at subverting your expectations as to what will come next. A teacher once told me every conversation you write has to be the most important conversation these characters have ever had. Obviously he was speaking in hyperbole, but this line of thinking is true not just for the characters but the stories themselves. There needs to be something fundamentally special about every story you write—especially if you’re writing a series—there needs be change, there needs to be loss, there needs to be something that takes your characters to places they’ve never been before. Keep your readers on their toes, not just waiting for the next beat to arrive.

Less “good to be good” in pulp stories.

I’m not advocating we should all start writing our own Walter White, but a character without any believable motivation is just poor writing. Take a look at Chris Evan’s Captain America as example of how to do a “good to be good” character. Steve Rogers was bullied his entire life, so when he was asked why he wanted to join the army his answer isn’t “to kill Nazis,” it’s because he “doesn’t like bullies.” His life experiences helped make him into a hero. We need to start asking why the hero is doing what he’s doing. Maybe it’s more than childhood trauma; maybe it’s guilt; maybe it’s for money and fame; maybe it’s because of their own sociopathic nature; maybe it’s because they’re bored; and maybe, just maybe, he doesn’t have to be the shining white knight. Sure, this is escapism, but so many of the heroes in our world—the people who inspire us—are flawed human beings. Great men and women have cheated on their spouses; have experimented with drugs; have done morally questionable—if at the times personally justifiable—acts. Our heroes should reflect that, because what is more heroic than a person overcoming their flaws?

And if I were to add one more thing to this conversation let me add this:

Stronger women.

We need to move away from the female character defined by male characters. Perhaps one my least favorite moment in a pulp story ever is when the hero burst into a woman’s home, unannounced, and she happily agreed to go with him because he “looked trustworthy.” It is face-palm worthy writing, sloppy, and honestly, offensive. Women should be treated as more than a damsel in distress or a sexy villainess. This doesn’t mean more women with guns. Guns don’t make people strong. Guns are stupid, violent things and if anything they limit the hero, but that’s a conversation for another time. Nor do I mean more female villains. People seem to think if you have a female villain it means she’s a strong female character, more than anything she’s a stereotype highlighting what men feel is “wrong” about women. Nor does that necessarily mean she should be made masculine, or for that matter, more feminine. Nor do I mean she should be half naked all the time. Apparently, every female hero needs to be falling out of her clothing to be considered a hero. This isn’t to say female shouldn’t be sexy, or for that matter, have sexual desires. If anything the idea of portraying a heroic woman as pure and metaphorically virginal ignores the fact that women are human beings (the same goes for the male heroes by the way, God forbid our heroes have sex). What we need to see are female characters that are just as well rounded as the male characters, with their own opinions, wants, and desires; who can have another conversation with another woman about something besides a man.

Maybe what I’m ultimately arguing for is Pulp Literature; something that tries to do something more than just emulate what’s come before, that tries to elevate the standard and says “there’s more we can do here.” It doesn’t mean we need move away from what makes pulp “pulp,” but we should take the risks to explore the grey area between the very restrictive “golden formula” and “something else.”

But here’s the thing. All of this stuff is already being done right now. Everything I’ve stated above—that “something else”—is often heralded in pulp fiction review sites as brilliant, modern, and, perhaps most importantly, as New Pulp. Take for example, Michael Patrick Sullivan’s The Auslander Files, which was hailed for it’s “modern sensibility devoid of the melodramatic romances of the early pulps. The Auslander kills, both the guilty and the innocent, to accomplish his missions and foil the saboteurs. It’s a morally ambiguous line he is willing to cross time and time again.” (http://www.pulpfictionreviews.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-auslander-files.html)

But, then again, bemoaning an idea in the abstract and loving it in the execution is essentially the core of modern fan culture.

So call it pulp, call it New Pulp, call it Pulp Literature or call it “something else.” All that matters is if it’s good.

New Pulp Recommendations: Green Lama Unbound by Adam L. Garcia

UNBOUNDEvery Friday I focus on a New Pulp work that I think merits your attention. Sometimes it will be something that’s brand new, other times I’ll look at something that’s a few years old. This week, I’m encouraging you to check out Green Lama Unbound by Adam Lance Garcia.

Before we talk about the book itself, let’s see how the publisher describes it:

A brand new, full length novel starring the Master of the Mystic arts, the Green Lama. Written by Adam Lance Garcia, with cover and illustrations by Mike Fyles, this wall to wall pulp adventure pits the Green Lama and his friends against the Nazis of the Third Reich and an ancient evil from beyond the stars. Soon to become a true pulp classic, this is a book that belongs in every true pulp fan’s library. Produced by Airship 27.

Brief and to-the-point, right? I’m always of two minds when it comes to publisher description. I hate the ones that tell you key parts of the book but on the other hand, I’m not a fan of the ones that speak in generalizations, either. Anyway, this publisher description says that the title is “soon to become a true pulp classic,” which is high praise, indeed.

But it was quite accurate!

For those of you who don’t know, The Green Lama was a major pulp and comics character back in the day and he’s been revived numerous times since, mostly by comics companies who take tremendous license with his appearance and motivations. The Green Lama, or at least a version of him, is currently appearing in the MASKS crossover event from Dynamite Comics — but he’s such a cipher there that it’s difficult to even compare him to the version on display in this novel.

The author takes a mostly B-Level character and molds him into something more. Hell, the Green Lama is pitted against the hordes of the C’thulhu Mythos in this one! And Adam displays a deft hand at balancing action with characterization. I particularly liked the supporting characters in this one: Caraway, Jean and Ken all stole quite a few scenes from the emerald-wearing hero. In fact, I’d say that the way they orbited the hero was quite well done and pretty classic, in my opinion. Even in the old Doc Savage series, Doc was pretty staid compared to the bickering of Monk and Ham. Adam makes these characters more than worthy of carrying scenes without the title hero and, in fact, I wouldn’t mind reading stories about the supporting characters.

There are several Easter eggs in the story that made me smile, especially the reference to the rampaging ape in the early chapters. It shows that Adam has a clear grasp on the audience who will be reading this.

The art is quite nice by Mike Fyles and really suits the mood of the story.

This book is a terrific, fast-paced read that features believable characters that you grow to care about. It’s a wonderful introduction to The Green Lama and definitely positions Adam Garcia as a leading voice in the New Pulp movement. Adam has written more stories with the Lama, both for Airship 27 and for Altus Press and I believe he has more in the pipeline. That’s great news because his work on the Lama puts the character into the rarefied air currently occupied by Will Murray’s Doc Savage & CJ Henderson and Martin Powell’s The Spider as being the very best pulp revivals currently going on in New Pulp.

By the way, this book is labeled “Volume Two” but you don’t need to read the first book to enjoy this. The first volume was an anthology but this one is a novel.

If you haven’t read Green Lama Unbound, you need to hurry and do so — NOW!

Windy City News & More!

lg_v3_temple_smallWelcome back! I hope that all of you are having a good day so far — I expect a busy one on my end, so I’m trying to get a lot of things done early in the morning.

I posted The Shadow Fan Episode 20 earlier today so if you’re a fan of pulp’s greatest hero, you can start downloading that one. I spend a lot of time going over Dynamite’s plans for their Shadow books shipping in May 2013 before delving into a couple of novel reviews — I hit 1936’s “The Gray Ghost” and 1945’s “The White Skulls.” As always, it’s fun to chat about The Shadow!

Just started reading through Adam Garcia’s submission for Tales of The Rook Volume Two and it already looks like another winner. I think you guys will really enjoy this book.

It was announced yesterday that the Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention will have its first dedicated slate of New Pulp programming. While I won’t be in attendance, I really wish I could be because I think this is a big deal. A lot of the classic pulp crowd have been very slow to embrace New Pulp, not showing any interest in the new heroes and only a grudging interest in new stories featuring the classic characters. I can understand preferring one over the other but I find it strange the folks who say “I haven’t read all the old stuff yet. I don’t have time for this new stuff.” I read new stories & classic tales in equal amounts.

Anyway, I think it’s great that Windy City is recognizing the growing force that is New Pulp. We’re all fans of the original material and we have far more in common than we do in differences.

Pulp Ark voting ends on March 1 so if you got the email telling you that you were eligible to vote, please do so. I would certainly appreciate your votes but even if you decide to vote for others, get those votes in! It’s a good thing to recognize excellence and there’s certainly a lot of that in the New Pulp community.

Our art today comes from The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume Three and is by the amazing George Sellas. What’s going on in that dusty old temple? Stay tuned….