Spending Time in Sovereign City

nakam_bw_largeMy personal life has been topsy-turvy lately and I was really struggling with my writing as a result. I kind of sputtered my way through 20,000+ words on a Babylon sequel and about 3,000 on a Gothic-style story. I was still sad, though, and unhappy with what I was producing.

So I’ve done what I always do when nothing else seems to work: I go back to Sovereign City. A joint creation of myself, Tommy Hancock and Derrick Ferguson, the Sovereign City Project was going to be home to several characters as part of a shared universe. Tommy delivered Doc Daye, Derrick brought in Fortune McCall and I had Lazarus Gray (and, later, Gravedigger). Me being me, I also tied in The Peregrine and everything including the kitchen sink.

Writing about Lazarus and his companions brings me peace – it always feels like coming home and the words come easily. The book I’m working on now is the 11th volume… books 8-10, plus a Lazarus/Nightveil book, are already in Pro Se’s hands. Volume 11 will bring back Nakam, a character I introduced back in book 6. I may be living on my own now after twenty-three years of marriage but Lazarus and I will hopefully be spending many more years (and volumes) together.

It’s funny that fictional characters can become so real that they’re like family. I need them more than ever and they haven’t let me down yet.

The art accompanying this post is by George Sellas.

Riffing On the Classics

dillon-piratesOccasionally, I’ll see fans of classic pulp dismiss New Pulp as being nothing more than a bunch of pastiches (or, less kindly, “rip-offs”) of the original heroes. “Oh, all they’re doing is changing the names — Doc this-or-that. How come they can’t do anything NEW?”

Well, pardon my French, but if that’s what you think of New Pulp, then you’re a freakin’ idiot.

Are there are pastiches out there? Of course! Many people grew up wanting to write Doc Savage, The Shadow, Tarzan, etc. Those heroes made them pulp fans to begin with — and, with the exception of Doc Savage and a few of the heroes who have fallen into public domain, most of the classic heroes are not getting new prose stories right now. So if you want to see new adventures of, say, The Shadow, in prose… then you’ve got to create your own version. Some people adhere to the original template more than others. I don’t begrudge anyone for doing a pastiche — I’ve done more than a few myself. If I have a kick-ass Doc Savage story and I know I’ll never get the chance to write that character for real, why not make a few changes and go from there? Hell, Brendan Fraser’s character in The Mummy is only a few degrees from being Indiana Jones — but both sets of movies are great in their own right.

Sometimes a pastiche can be mighty fine reading.

And if you don’t care for pastiches, don’t read them. There’s plenty of NEW, ORIGINAL concepts in New Pulp.

How about The Black Centipede? You can’t possibly tell me that there was anything like that character in the original days of pulp. It’s a heady brew of PJ Farmer and HP Lovecraft, along with a dash of pure inventiveness.

Derrick Ferguson’s Dillon may have its feet planted in classic pulp roots but it’s also so different and unique from those that it’s light years away from being a pastiche.

To me, it’s like saying “I don’t read comics anymore because when you get down to it, all superheroes are variations of Superman, Batman or Spider-Man.” Well, most of them sure — they’re archetypes for a reason, moron. Those characters are primal and speak to us on a basic human level — that’s why people go back to them. Also, it’s writer shorthand… if you see a Superman analogue, you automatically have a set of expectations that I either want to reinforce or turn on their head. But you need to READ it to find out which. I get the feeling that a lot of these guys don’t do that. They see “Doc Daye” and go “Oh, another Doc Savage clone. How boring.” They never bother to read the actual stories and see that, name aside, he doesn’t have much to do with Doc Savage.

Look, if you’re one of those who refuse to try New Pulp because “I haven’t finished collecting all these stories from 100 years ago!” then I can’t help you. You’ve chosen your fandom and you’re just plain going to miss out on new stories that you’d probably enjoy.

But if you’re going to call New Pulp as a whole derivative and a rip-off, then you look like a fool. Are there derivative and rip-off concepts out there? Sure. But I would say that number gets less and less every year.

Why people who should be embracing the things we all love and share try to put up barriers between each other is beyond me. Celebrate what you love! If you really dig urban avengers, try some of the new guys… if you think nobody could possibly ever top Walter Gibson, stick to the classics. But if you’re not going to read Lazarus Gray, don’t call it a rip-off of The Avenger. Because all you’re doing is showing your own ignorance.

Our accompanying artwork today is from Dillon and the Pirates of Xonira, one of those rip-off books that some folks are too snooty to have read.

Doc Daye is in the house!

ProSeToday we’re doing something a little bit different — we’re going to be showcasing someone else’s writing! As most of you know, Lazarus Gray and Gravedigger are my contributions to The Sovereign City Project, a shared universe where Derrick Ferguson’s Fortune McCall and Tommy Hancock’s Doc Daye also take place. The first Fortune McCall book is a tremendous read and Derrick is hard at work on the sequel. For my own part, the third book in the Lazarus Gray series is about to be unleashed on the world and I’ve had one Gravedigger installment out so far.

But where’s Doc Daye? Well, Tommy’s one of the busiest people in New Pulp but his hero is soon to round out the Sovereign scene. I’ve been told that you can expect the first Doc Daye book to arrive in September 2013.

Last year, Tommy shared a preview of Doc Daye’s debut adventure – “Death Means Little.” I’m going to point you in the direction of that so you can get an idea of what Daye will be like when he finally arrives. I think you’ll agree that he’ll be a worthy addition to the Sovereign scene!

So… go and and enjoy! You can find the sneak preview right here.

Our image today is by the late, great David Burton — it’s the only image so far that brings Fortune McCall, Doc Daye and Lazarus Gray together!

Sovereign City Musings

Work  is proceeding on Gravedigger — I’m slowly introducing the cast of the ongoing series and I’m having fun doing that. In fact, one of the supporting characters that I’ve just brought into the story is already one of my all-time favorites. She’s a spunky kind of character, whose fearlessness borders on the foolish. It’s fun to have her involved — most of my main characters are super-people, in terms of skills and motivation. But to have a “normal” person actively involved is a fun twist. I think she’ll stick around as a major player in the Gravedigger storyline.

At the Shindig get-together last weekend, there was some talk about the long-awaited Lazarus Gray/Fortune McCall/Doc Daye crossover… I’m definitely looking forward to that, though its still a ways off. It was also mentioned that Tommy Hancock is throwing open the doors to Sovereign City, allowing in five new writers (people can make pitches to him). One of those newcomers will be the talented Tom Deja. I’m interested to see what these new folks do with the setting but at the same time, I remain a bit possessive of it. I’ve appropriated huge swathes of it for inclusion in my Reese Unlimited universe and with my own new addition (Gravedigger) coming next year, I don’t plan to leave the city behind anytime soon. On the unlikely event that the project were to fall apart or I was to leave Pro Se, I think my stories could stand on their own — just remove references to other peoples’ characters and replace Sovereign City with another name. It’s a delicate line to walk… on the one hand, you want to be committed to the shared universe, on the other you have to be realistic and know that your stories must stand on their own merits… just in case!

With all that said, I’m loving the opportunity to work in the setting and think that the addition of new writers has the potential to expand the Sovereign City fan-base.

Will Meugniot, who will be doing the art on the Gravedigger book, is currently reading through the story (I’m over 16,000 words into it) and will begin making sketches soon. I might share some of them with you… if all of you want to see them? 😉