Of Monsters and Men is here!

ofmenandmonstersMoonstone Books has just released this book, which contains a story by me featuring Richard Knight. The aerial hero is someone I’ve written before and in this tale he goes up against some zombie pilots that are possibly more than he can handle!

The book also contains work by Bobby Nash, Tommy Hancock, Adam Lance Garcia and many more!

OF MONSTERS AND MEN HC
300pgs, grayscale, 7” x 10”, squarebound, $24.99
ISBN: 978-1-936814-82-4(52499)

This special Hardcover features all the stories in the Soft Cover as well as 100 extra pages that reprint the previously published “Domino Lady vs Mummy”, Black Bat vs Dracula”, and “Phantom Detective vs Frankenstein”! If you’re looking to save a few bucks, the softcover edition retails for about ten dollars less.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

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.

Monday Morning Stuff

Howard Chaykin's The Shadow
Howard Chaykin’s The Shadow

A new week begins and with it comes the hope that things will take on a clearer shape. Cross your fingers for me, if you would.

I have been continuing to add to the crossover novel and I’ve passed the 5,000 mark on it. Since I’m aiming for a 60,000 word tale, I’ve still got a ways to go. But it will all add up in the end!

I also managed to released the 62nd episode of The Shadow Fan’s Podcast this morning. It’s our first episode since December 18! Sorry for the amazingly long delay.

Joshua Pantalleresco was kind enough to interview me for his blog. Please check it out here if you’re so inclined!

About to crack open a reference book about one of pulp’s most successful characters — this character will be playing a large role not only in Götterdämmerung (the crossover novel) but in future works set in my shared universe, as well. I’m appropriating this public domain hero and taking ownership of him. I do plan to switch him up a bit, which won’t please everyone… but I think I’ll stick with the core of the character and hopefully revitalize him along the way.

Also, please don’t forget to check out Tales of The Rook Volume Two. It features stories by Adam Garcia, James Palmer, David White and Sean Taylor, all of whom are awesome writers. It also features a spiffy cover by the legendary Grant Miehm! Right now it’s a kindle exclusive but it will be available in print soon.

Tales of The Rook Volume Two Is Here!

tales2TALES OF THE ROOK VOLUME TWO DEBUTS EXCLUSIVELY ON KINDLE FROM PRO SE PRODUCTIONS

A leading publisher in New Pulp and Genre Fiction, Pro Se Productions announces the debut of its newest title exclusively on the Kindle for a limited time.

The Rook Lives Again! Well known Genre Fiction author Barry Reese created one of the seminal characters of New Pulp when he penned ‘Lucifer’s Cage,’ an engaging adventure story starring Max Davies, troubled millionaire who also fought crime of all colors as the masked vigilante, The Rook! Once more Reese opens the doors wide into the rich, varied universe of his best known character and welcomes a host of authors to tell their own takes on Max Davies and company in TALES OF THE ROOK VOLUME TWO from Reese Unlimited and Pro Se Productions!

Compelled through dark dreams to hunt down and destroy evil wherever it might hide! Assisted by loyal friends and a vast array of allies from the annals of Classic and New Pulp as well as Comics of a bygone era, The Rook’s escapades have been a hallmark in the world of New Pulp!

TALES OF THE ROOK VOLUME 2 features stories by David White, Sean Taylor, Jim Palmer, Russ Anderson, and Adam Lance Garcia, as well as a new interview with ROOK creator Reese, a script for an unproduced ROOK cartoon short, and an updated timeline of the Reese Unlimited Universe. TALES OF THE ROOK VOLUME TWO takes Reese’s original creation to all new heights, to places not even The Rook has gone before.

“The TALES OF THE ROOK concept,” Tommy Hancock, Partner in and Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions, “was born out of Barry’s desire to see how others would handle his character, how other writers would play in the Reese Unlimited sandbox. I thought it was a fantastic idea and still do. The batch of writers Barry has brought on this time to tell their own tales of Max and company are some of the best in the business today and take The Rook in some really fun directions. Different styles on an established character are always fun.”

TALES OF THE ROOK VOLUME TWO is debuting as a Kindle exclusive initially and will be available in print in coming days.

“We are seeing,” says Hancock, “a great number of sales in ebooks, particularly Kindle, so debuting the latest Reese Unlimited book as a Kindle Exclusive for a while as well before the print edition makes a bit of sense. It also gives us the option to offer a special promotion or two along the way and Amazon Prime members can actually borrow the book for free, which is a neat thing.”

TALES OF THE ROOK VOLUME TWO features a wonderful cover by Grant Miehm, logo design and print formatting by Sean Ali, and Ebook Formatting by Russ Anderson. Get Your Kindle Copy today for only $2.99.

For review copies of this title, interviews with the authors and creator, and other information concerning this book, contact Morgan Minor, Pro Se’s Director of Corporate Operations at MorganMinorProSe@yahoo.com.

For More Information on Pro Se Productions, go to http://www.prose-press.com and like Pro Se on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ProSeProductions.

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.

Odds & Ends — Plus: Tales of The Rook Volume 2’s Cover!

ROOK Cvr_FNThe weekend is fast approaching, which means that my talk at the Crossroads Writers Conference is starting to sneak up on me. I’ll be talking about the growth of New Pulp and the many publishers that fall into that category… giving people an idea about who to submit to and how to get accepted. It’ll be more thrilling than it sounds (hopefully)!

I was interviewed by the amazingly talented Rachel Helie for the Crossroads website — you can find out my responses by clicking right here.

The Adventures of Gravedigger Volume One picked up a nice little review on Facebook yesterday, courtesy of Mark Beaulieu. This is what he said: I don’t think I’ve mentioned this here yet, but I read Barry Reese’s GRAVEDIGGER vol. 1 and enjoyed it quite a bit. It was a fun, action packed pulp tale. Easily some of his best writing and that’s saying something since his Rook vol. 1 got me reading New Pulp stuff and eventually got me editing for Pro Se Productions (You can like their page). Really fun stuff. And the cover is fantastic. But I’m always partial to Nazi villains. I blame Indiana Jones. (Kindle edition only $2.99)

Thanks, Mark! I’m really pleased that you enjoy the book — hopefully you’ll get just as much enjoyment out of the second book, which should be coming your way in early 2014.

Because I had a sick son yesterday, I wasn’t able to add on to the Pulse Fiction tale I’m currently working on. I did write one hell of a great scene on Tuesday so hopefully I’ll be able to continue that momentum as I head into the second half of the story. I’m looking forward to typing THE END on it.

Pro Se has a number of things in production at the moment – the new edition of Rabbit Heart, Liberty Girl and Tales of The Rook Volume Two are all on the way. Tales of The Rook Volume Two will feature stories from Adam Lance Garcia, Russ Anderson, James Palmer and David White… all behind a gorgeous cover by Grant Miehm! Grant’s work first came to my attention back when he was doing Legend of the Shield for DC Comics and I’ve been a fan ever since. That’s his cover adorning this blog post — and I think it’s a real beaut! I hope you agree!

Take care out there, folks!

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.