Atlanta, GA—In the wake of Georgia’s shelter in place order, many folks find themselves at home looking for ways to occupy their time without spending a lot (or even any) money. For readers and fans of sci-fi and fantasy conventions who normally get their fix of meeting their favorite authors and listening to them do readings during the con, that stay at home can be doubly difficult during what is normally a strong and busy convention season.
That’s why Lawrenceville-based writer Sean Taylor created Indie Authors Read, a website devoted to providing video “convention reading” for those stuck at home. “Panel readings are one of my favorites things to take part in at conventions, both as a writer and as a fan. Knowing I’m not alone in that, I asked several fellow writers from my ‘convention family’ if they’d be interested in helping out with a project where we could just sit at home and read our stories as if we’d been at the big shows at the local convention center. The response has been humbling, and many have joined the group,” said Taylor.
Although the project has its creation in the closure of sci-fi and fantasy conventions, the stories included on the site will include various genres beyond just those two. Fans can expect action stories, thrillers, drama, horror, romance, and everything in between.
“I love this idea and am honored to be part of it. Especially now, when the arts are more essential than ever,” said Bobby Nash, whose story “Beyond the Horizon” actually does fall into the fantasy category.
The website launches April 6, and fresh readings will be added weekly.
“All that oohing and aahing, that cringing and crying, that laughing and wowing you’re expected at the con is missing from your life. This is a taste of it,” said Robert J. Krog, who contributes a Cthulhu-themed tale to the site’s launch.
Sean Taylor is an award-winning writer of stories. He grew up telling lies, and he got pretty good at it, so now he writes them into full-blown adventures for comic books, graphic novels, magazines, book anthologies and novels. He makes stuff up for money, and he writes it down for fun. He’s a lucky fellow that way. For more information visit his website at http://www.thetaylorverse.com.
Every field of work, every career, every fandom, every anything that catches peoples’ interest and involves creative types producing works comes with its own mysteries. Obscure players and disregarded pieces that get lost to history and end up nearly completely forgotten, except for whispers of ‘Do You remember…?’ and tales of ‘Someone told me about…’
Such are the rumors of Vincent St. Germain and his nearly literal flash in the pan self-named pulp publishing company-St. Germain Publishing. Pro Se Productions announces that after exploring the nearly unknown stories and whispers about this extremely short lived publishing outfit, it has licensed from the owner and potential creator’s estate all characters featured in five apparently and two unpublished magazines.
“As little is known about the man St. Germain as is about his alleged almost momentarily St. Louis, Missouri based magazine publishing concern,” says Tommy Hancock, Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions. “I have uncovered no written records confirming his existence, except potentially a few pieces of paper held dearly by reclusive collectors of such ephemera. No copies of signatures, of his own handwriting, not even of checks issued by his company. This last matter has led to speculation among the few who still discuss St. Germain that he may not have had many employees beyond what it took to physically publish magazines. In other words, there is a belief that Vincent St. Germain, ‘Vinny’ to a very few apparently, may himself have written every story that his company published, all of them under a variety of pen names. This is further potentially supported, based on lists of the works he published, each story by an author that had not published before or since St. Germain Publishing’s one month rise and fall. It is curious, though, that a Vincent St. Germain died in New Orleans, Louisiana in late 1938. Also, other than supposedly eyewitness encounters with the man, the only possible proof that he ever lived are two images, taken a few years apart apparently, that, based on my own personal deductions, are likely Vincent St. Germain.”
“There is even less available evidence of the five single issues, each one the first of a hopeful magazine within the St. Germain line, that the company allegedly released on the same day in the first week of April 1938. I have been allowed access to information and such surrounding the characters and contents of each magazine, six stories in each issue, all intended to be the first in series within each title. If the magazines ever existed, actual issues are either in the hands of the very protective collectors I mentioned earlier or hiding possibly in someone’s basement in a box thrown in the corner. Fortunately, the creator, if St. Germain, or creators, if multiple writers, made detailed notes and character descriptions and synopses, all supposedly at the direction of St. Germain, another way that he stood out from other Pulp publishers of the era.”
Also, there were allegedly two magazines prepared to debut the month after the first five. Though they were reportedly never published, Pro Se does have access to purported notes and details of these two books, and they will also be a part of this project, meaning that there will be seven anthologies featuring new stories starring these characters alleged to have appeared in St. Germain’s works.
The magazines that were supposedly published included ENDLESS MYSTERY, EVERLASTING TERROR, IMMORTAL ACTION, FOREVER WESTERN, and TIMELESS TALES. UNDYING LOVE and ETERNAL FANTASY were the two unpublished magazines. All these titles indicate that Vincent St. Germain was aware of the folklore associated with his surname and the infamous Comte de St. Germain, possibly a relative.
Based on a few notes left by St. Germain, it was intended that every story in each magazine would continue as a series. This did not occur, however, because there was no second issue of any of the five periodicals, or anything else ever published by St. Germain Publishing. The characters in St. Germain’s magazines at least on the surface resembled types made popular in other Pulp magazines. But, upon closer review, it turns out that Vincent was not only revolutionary in how he chose to do business, but he attempted to be tremendously forward thinking in both style of storytelling and crossing certain boundaries.
This has been,” Hancock states, “more than just a research project for a curious publisher, though. In the weeks I’ve invested in putting together the scarce remains of St. Germain Publishing, I have made progress that I did not expect. Pro Se Productions has licensed the characters believed to be included in St. Germain’s seven magazines from the person who currently owns them. To this end, Pro Se intends to bring all seven magazine titles back initially, each one as a book, an anthology. Each will feature a story for all the characters that reportedly debuted or would have debuted in the original pulps in the order in which they first appeared. The intent is to publish these seven new collections over the next twelve to eighteen months, twelve being the target. Following this ‘re debut’, we would then most definitely do novels, anthologies, digest novels, and even standalone digital short stories of the characters and expand them in their own series, hopefully as St. Germain might have intended.”
Pro Se Productions proudly announces that artist Kristopher Michael Mosby has agreed to provide a cover fore each anthology, each one bearing the title of a St. Germain magazine. Also, 42 writers have signed on to be a part of this project. The writers involved are-
Ron Fortier, Melinda Lafevers, E. W. Farnsworth, Adrian Delgado, Ariel Teague, Joshua Pantalleresco, Troy Osgood, Atom Mudman Bezecny, Andrew Butters, Rich Steeves, Raymond Embrack, HC Playa, Davide Mana, Quenntis Ashby, Paul Brian McCoy, Richard B. Wood, Colin Joss, Mark Bousquet, Derrick Ferguson, Sean Taylor, Neal Litherland, Susan Burdorf, Gary Phillips, Barry Reese, Frank Schildiner, Rob Howell, Gordon Dymowski, Richard C. White, Ernest Russell, Thomas Fortenberry, David Farris, Barbara Doran, Aaron Bittner, David White, Erik Franklin, Mike Hintze, Guy Worthey, Emily Jahnke, Mandi M. Lynch, Derek M. Koch, Aubrey Stephens, and Dewayne Dowers.
The reinforced door of the Chief’s main laboratory was thrown open with a resounding WABOOM! and the entire cavernous room shuddered with the force of the impact. Cliff Steele stood in the doorway and he cranked his voice amplifier all the way up as he shouted; “This had better be really important!”
He stalked across the concrete floor. The sight of a robot dressed in ragged jeans with shiny metal knees showing and a sleeveless Miskatonic University sweatshirt might have been bizarre anywhere but here in The Doom Patrol’s headquarters. Robotman teammates were used to Cliff’s habit of dressing in human clothing on his days off.
Cliff stopped in front of Niles Caulder’s wheelchair. The red-headed scientist intently read his Palmer Technologies computer tablet and seemed oblivious to the imposing orange-gold robot towering over him.
“Bad enuff you an’ Will Magnus gotta be scannin’ and examinin’ me all up the wazoo and whatnot. I finally get you to finally give me a day off to try an’ watch a lousy ball game in peace and the priority alert goes off!” Cliff whirled on his teammate Larry Trainor who stood off to one side, quietly amused. “An’ what’re you smirking about, mister?”
“Admiring your choice of wardrobe. You think you might want to take up modeling for a career?”
“Gentlemen, please.” The Chief sighed and placed the tablet in his lap. “Cliff, I’m truly sorry to have interrupted your day off, but a pressing matter that needs our immediate attention has come up.”
Cliff folded his long arms and his hinged square lower jaw dropped open an inch as his artificially created voice grumbled; “So what? Jeez, ain’t there anybody else out there who can handle these things? It ain’t like they’re shy when it comes to takin’ bows in front of the cameras.”
“Cliff, I think when I tell you what’s going on, you’ll agree with me as to the importance of this mission.”
Larry interrupted, rubbing his freshly bandaged hands together. “Chief, if this is a mission briefing, then where’s Rita?”
“She’s not going on this mission.”
Cliff’s jaw dropped all the way open and Larry’s face under the bandages twisted in alarm and dismay. “What’s happened to Rita?”
“She’s fine, Larry, she-”
“Lissen, Chief, you tell us straight and fast what’s happened to Rita. Is she hurt? Did Dayton do something to her?”
The Chief was rapidly losing patience with his teammates which they plainly heard as his voice became sharp and clipped as he answered, “Rita is just fine. She is attending to a personal matter that she consulted with me about a few days ago and I assured her she had my full support. Unfortunately, this matter has come up and we shall have to deal with it without her.”
Larry shook his head. “It’ll be weird with just Cliff and I going into action….”
“You’ll do no such thing.”
“But you just said-”
“I said that we would deal with this situation without her. I never said you and Cliff were going alone.”
“Hiya boys,” said a familiar, most unwelcome voice from the door. Cliff and Larry whirled to see a wickedly grinning Steve Dayton standing there, his newly redesigned Mento helmet in one hand and his costume thrown over a shoulder. “The kid and I figured we’d lend a hand since the missus is tied up elsewhere.”
From behind Dayton, a green kangaroo bounded into the room and in mid-bounce turned into Gar Logan who landed in Cliff’s arms. “Didja miss me, Uncle Cliff?”
Rita Farr Dayton looked at the address on the card in her hand and matched it up to the one on the door. 119 MASTRION DRIVE.
Rita rang the bell and shortly it was answered. The slim dark-haired woman with a rather narrow face ending in a pointed chin and wearing granny glasses perched on her small nose smiled. “Mrs. Dayton? So glad to meet you at last. I’m Dr. Jacqueline Ascher. Please come in.”
Dr. Ascher led Rita through a small foyer and a modest waiting room into her office which boasted a fireplace and a view of nearby Oceanside Park. The thick brown French carpeting and rich dark wood of the walls made Rita feel more at ease and she was beginning to think maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.
“Would you like some coffee, tea?”
“Only if it’s decaffeinated, please. Either one will be fine.”
“I’ll join you. And while I’m making it, perhaps you’ll start by telling me why you feel you need psychoanalysis.”
“Oh NO!” Cliff roared, dropping the startled youth on his butt. Gar yelped in shocked surprise as he hit the floor. In a burst of emerald energy, he changed into a green rabbit and hopped out of harm’s way. “There’s no way I’m goin’ anywhere with him!” A long metal finger stabbed in Dayton’s direction. ” Chief, what the hell’s comin’ off here?”
“Niles, I’m with Cliff on this one.” Larry said firmly. “First to tell us Rita’s not coming with us with no warning or word of explanation and then to hit us with Dayton as a partner…”
“Don’t forget me!” the green rabbit squeaked. Beast Boy was ignored as the four men argued.
“It’s not like Dayton hasn’t gone on missions before, Cliff,” Niles Caulder said.
“Yeah, Cliffy…you’re treating me like a red-headed stepchild when I’m practically a bonafide member of the team. A member who’s saved your shiny metal butt more than a few times as I recall…”
That was enough for Cliff. A quarter ton of furious Robotman lunged at Dayton. Hands powerful enough to rip a tank in half aimed right for his throat.
Fast as Cliff was, Dayton was faster. He clapped his Mento helmet on his head. The helmet amplified Dayton’s latent mental abilities, such as telekinesis, to incredible levels.
Cliff stopped as if he’d slammed into a solid titanium wall. He fell backwards, sounding like a dump truck unloading scrap metal as he hit the floor. Dayton stood behind his invisible mental shield and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Want to try again?”
“That’s enough!” Niles Caulder roared. “Dayton! Take that helmet off and Cliff, get up and control yourself! I swear, the boy acts more like an adult than the pair of you!”
“Wow…thanks, Chief!” Gar said from Larry’s elbow. Larry bent down and whispered in Gar’s ear, “Don’t push it, kid.”
The Chief rolled his wheelchair in front of Mento and Robotman and his booming basso voice echoed in the huge lab like the rumble of a war chariot’s wheels. “I don’t remember inviting debate or discussion about who and who isn’t a member of this team. I say who goes on a mission and who doesn’t and I will not have my decisions questioned by any or you at any time! Is that crystal clear to all of you?”
There were quiet nods of assent. Eve in a wheelchair, Niles Caulder could command attention like few men could. “Then I want everyone over by the conference table right now. Dayton, I’ll want a word with you in private right after the briefing.”
Larry fell into step next to Cliff. “You okay?”
“Hell, no…Larry, what’s going on around here?”
“Your guess is as good as mine, pal. All I know is, Rita’s got some explaining to do.”
Rita put down her empty Duvynchy china tea cup and sat back in the leather chair. “I suppose that’s all I have to say, Dr. Ascher.”
The psychoanalyst tapped a red-nailed finger against her chin. “So. You wonder why it is that even after achieving a measure of fulfillment and success as a member of The Doom Patrol and marrying a wealthy and handsome man, you still feel…’freakish’…that is your term, is it not?”
“Yes…yes…I just want to understand what it is I’m feeling about all this. I’m practically still a newlywed and while I should be building a life with my husband, I’m gallivanting around the world with my friends fighting all manners of bizarre enemies….”
“You love your friends very much, don’t you?”
“I consider Larry and Cliff my brothers and Niles…under that cold intellectual shell, he’s got a heart warmer and more caring than anyone could imagine. I can’t picture leaving them…but is there any reason I should stay?”
It was three hours later when Larry Trainor landed The Doom Patrol’s customized Summers XM5 helicopter on the landing pad of the NovaTech BioResearch Complex located some ninety miles north of Midway City.
Spread over two hundred acres, the research complex boasted cutting edge work in the rapidly growing field of nanotechnology and its applications in medical procedures.
The main building was a dome some fourteen stories high and the foursome walked toward the main entrance.
Steve Dayton yanked at the tight collar of his Doom Patrol uniform. Both Cliff and Larry insisted that he abandon the garish purple costume he normally favored and wear a Doom Patrol jumpsuit like Larry and Gar. Steve was beginning to think maybe this was a bad idea after all. He’d never gotten along with Trainor and Steele and maybe he’d been a fool to think that he ever would. If Rita hadn’t made him see how important it was to her and Garfield, he wouldn’t even be here.
They were met at the door by a smiling, barrel chested man with thinning blond hair atop his blocky face. “Hi! I’m Dr. James Fynes. I’ll be your liaison while you’re here to help us with our little problem.”
Larry made the introduction and after hands were shaken, he got right to the point. “Dr. Caulder said that you were afraid some experimental nanobots had infected some of your test animals?”
Fynes nodded. “Come along, we’ll head for the animal habitat and you can see for yourself. Mr…Mento? Or do you prefer Mr. Dayton?” They all stepped on a slidewalk that took them deeper into the complex.
“Whatever,” Steve grunted.
“Could I please ask you not to use your mental abilities until asked? We’ve got literally trillions of nanobots of many different kinds and we’re still not sure how many of them react to psychic talents.”
Fynes seemed a bit perturbed by Steve’s attitude but he appeared satisfied enough with the answer and started his explanation.
“About eleven months ago, we created a totally new breed of nanobots using alien technology brought back by a member of the Justice League, The Atom. Not only was this technology alien, but it was also from a microscopic culture that only he has visited. Well, to say that we were excited is putting it quite mildly. Using this technology, we’ve made extraordinary leaps that might have taken us another seven or eight years to reach.”
“According to The Chief, ” Cliff said, “these new nanobots have somehow taught themselves to shrink like The Atom does? How’d they pull that off?”
Fynes shrugged and spread his hands. “That’s what we were hoping you could tell us. Mr. Dayton has the best chance of finding them with his considerable mental abilities and you, Mr. Steele can be able to confine them within your robot body. I believe Dr. Caulder has incorporated nanotechnology into your systems?”
Cliff nodded. “The Chief’s reprogrammed the nanites that act as red and white blood cells for my artificial nutrient fluids. Once Mento here locates ’em and zaps ’em into my system with his TK, my nanites will latch on and reprogram ’em to behave.”
“Quite…quite…” Fynes fished for a keycard and slipped it into the lock. The door irised open and the slidewalk continued on.
“Now how exactly do these animals fit in?” Dayton asked. “Seems kinda screwy to have these nano things near animals that can be infected by them.”
Fynes turned around and the change in his face was frightening. His skin had suddenly turned a shade of purple and his eyes bulged out as if about to pop from the sockets.
“Quite…quite…” he said just before he exploded.
Steve Dayton didn’t know exactly how long it was before he regained consciousness. His Mento helmet was gone and he lay spread eagled on a metal table, held down securely with metal binders. “Garfield!” Dayton turned his head frantically from side to side. On identical metal tables on either side was Larry, unconscious as was Cliff and Garfield.
“You worry for your friends?” a screeching voice like rusty tin cans rubbing together asked from above. Steve looked up and wondered if he had lost his mind.
A giraffe was talking to him. But not like any giraffe he’d ever seen. This was was covered in greyish, moldy skin with patches of nanobots that moved and writhed with independent life. The giraffe had triangular metal teeth that gnashed and rubbed against each other with painful sounds.
Between the animal’s front legs, Dayton could see a transparent section where something moved in a thick golden liquid. Even as he looked on in horror, rubbery golden hued three fingered hands flowed from the transparent section to pick up Dayton’s Mento helmet and hold it before him.
“What in God’s name are you?” Steve asked.
“Call us Te Ukiri…and if you do not do exactly as we say you can call us the executioner of your friends.”
This is the first run-through of the “city planning bible” for Frontier’s shared-world imprint. I haven’t done any editing. You’ll notice a lack of things like: “Monkey City: A place where monkeys RULE!!” I want it to come across as much like a real city as possible. As I see it, there aren’t any superheroic/supernatural/science fiction elements in this world until we introduce them in the actual series.
It’s about the size of Chicago. Like Chicago, it’s unofficially divided into halves – here, it’s a matter of the West and East sides. The Union City Bridge – a bridge not unlike the Golden Gate (albeit smaller) – connects them: The West end spills you out into a seedy little neighborhood called with apparent irony Greater Denbrook, and the East leads you to downtown.
Don’t ask me why a city called Denbrook has a bridge called Union City. It makes sense if you think about it, but only then…like a lot of things in Denbrook.
Anyway. Before we get into that. The Union City Bridge stretches over Hopkins River…it’s a sheer hundred-foot drop into some very cold waters. Hopkins feeds into Lake Erie, accessible from Denbrook’s north shore. Cross the lake, you’re into Canada, which is useful info if you’re the kinda guy who does things like flee from the police. Business types use the lake for fishing, off-shore coal mining, things like that…there are some pretty big boats out on the water, though fewer yachts and the like. Denbrook isn’t the kind of city that attracts folks with disposable income, and that water is too frigid and choppy even in summer to be all that much fun. Still, there are sparsely populated beaches here and there – the lake is fine to swim in, though no one trusts the river. That current’s a bitch and toxic dumping made it poison for decades. It’s clean now, but…
Okay, remember the bridge? Cross it headed east, but instead of going downtown, take a left and head back the way you came…this time headed down a downward-slanted street called Hopkins Drive. This’ll lead you into the Barrens. There used to be a lot of industry here in Denbrook, and this is where most of it was located – on the banks of Hopkins River. The burned-out shells of factories, ancient rusting hulks of iron mining machinery…it’s all still here, and picturesque in an urban decay sort of way. But this isn’t why you’re here.
See, you have to drive a mile or two before you come up on the old industrial sites. Between you and them, you have what citizens think of when they think of The Barrens – which is to say, bars, night clubs, strip joints, the whole nine yards. The river runs alongside all of it. People come here to party. During the week, it’s kinda nice; Friday through Sunday, The Barrens are flooded with weekend warriors, a lot of them kids from the suburbs. Every now and then, someone gets drunk, hits their head, and falls into the Hopkins. Sometimes they get pushed.
Motor back up Hopkins Drive and you find yourself on Superior, a great big street that takes you straight through downtown Denbrook. I’ll point out some stuff along the way…
First, to our left, a street branches off Superior at a right angle to The Barrens, Matheson Avenue. Matheson is the gateway to the Warehouse District, which is –you guessed it- composed of warehouses. Most of those have been converted into apartment buildings. This is a fairly high-income area, but the give breaks to young professionals and the like. You find a lot of yuppies, a few bohemians and a scattering of senior citizens who are not pleased by the weekend activity in the slightest.
Head up Superior another three blocks and on your right you’ll spot Denbrook Tower. You can’t miss it. It’s the city’s second tallest building. Built in 1902, it was home to several department stories in its heyday. That heyday was back in the ‘50’s when the subway got put in…see, the Tower was conceived as Denbrook’s hub, and the crisscrossing subway trains that traverse West and East Denbrook are all accessible from a train station in the basement. But more and more folks tended to (a) drive and (b) stick to the suburbs, so the Tower went to seed.
But in the late ’80’s, some billionaire industrialist or other bought the place, gutted it, and more or less turned it into a seven-story shopping mall. Thirty stories of offices above that mall are still mostly unoccupied, but the shopping center thrives. The train station and the two floors above it are both underground, which means the stuff on the fourth floor is actually at street-level. Anyway, you’ll find a lot of chain retail/restaurants on the lower floors, and swankier stuff the higher up you go.
Drive up Superior another block, and you’ll see the main branch of the Denbrook Public Library. I know, you’re like, what the hell? But check it out: We’re talking one gorgeous, ornate building constructed in 1905, connected to a 1999-era glass-and-steel monster by means of an underground passageway. Kinda really fucking huge for a library, don’tcha think? The ’99 leviathan was built out of necessity: Denbrook’s collection is among the largest in the country, probably on the planet. If you can’t find what you’re looking for here…friends, it don’t exist. The newer stuff you’ll find the new building. The old stuff…some of it quite old indeed…you’ll find in a variety of collections scattered throughout the other one. You want a library card.
Six blocks up, we come to Cathedral Street, on our left. The Cathedral of Saint Paul the Apostle, built in 1855, jumps out and says hi. Look past it a block or so, and you’ll see a glass-and-street enclosure that looks a bit like a hothouse: This is City Center. Every bit as appropriate as calling a slum Greater Denbrook. Basically, City Center is yet another big shopping mall, built in 1987. But when the Tower re-opened a month later, that was effectively the end of City Center as a profit-making entity. City Center does a brisk lunch trade, but that’s about it. Its four stories contain about eight businesses, and all of them struggle. City Center cost about fifty mil to erect. This is what’s known as a white elephant.
So who goes there for lunch? Folks who don’t wanna walk all the way down to the Tower. .. i.e., folks who work here, in the business district. The side streets from E. 10th to E. 22nd are all banks, office buildings, corporate headquarters, etc., etc., ad infinitum. Scattered in there you’ll find a few pizza shops, a bar or two, but for the most part…Corporate America.
From E. 23rd to E. 26th, we’re in the Theatre District. Like the Tower, the Theatre District is yet another tale of resurrection: Denbrook’s grand old movie palaces were the rage for decades, but fell into disrepair in the ’60’s and ’70’s. The last of them – a third-run movie house by then – closed its doors in 1983, as a result of roughly 875 firecode violations. But in the late ’80’s, all of the old places were bought up, renovated to a state approaching their original magnificence, and were re-opened as playhouses (and one opera house) in the early ’90’s.
On E. 28th, you find Howard Phillips University. Huge. A college with a host of controversies, it’s really the only game in town for those who’d like to obtain a four-year degree. The campus occupies four blocks and has a student-operated radio station – WHPC, at 88.3 FM. Its student paper is the Vanguard.
Hop on the shoreway and let’s buzz through the East Side real quick …
Coming off E. 55th, you’ll notice a ghetto that looks a little more like Beirut. If we were gonna slow down a minute, you’d notice that no one seems to be on the street. That’s because this whole area of town was bought out by corporate interests. Eminent domain, though I can’t imagine the residents were really all that sad to go.
You run out of East Denbrook at E. 185th. Out past here, you’ve got Denbrook Heights, a suburban community that gets richer and more lily-white the farther you get from the city. If you’d left East Denbrook and gone northeast instead, you’d have found yourself in Ruckerville, a pretty dilapidated community that’s high-crime, low-income. Neither Ruckerville nor Denbrook Heights are part of the city proper, but a lot of Denbrook’s workers commute from these areas.
Cross through downtown Denbrook, back over the Union City Bridge, and now here we are, back in Greater Denbrook. Denbrook’s west side is more blue-collar, homier, and (as far as its East Siders are concerned) totally devoid of culture. Greater Denbrook’s homes date back, most of them, to the early 1900’s, and this whole section of town has the Historical Preservation Society all over it like white on rice. Brave yuppies have moved here for the architecture and because Greater Denbrook is cheaper than the Warehouse District, and the neighborhood is a sometimes uneasy mix of races and incomes, of newcomers and those raised here. The wealthy tend to head to the suburbs when they have kids…but not all of them. This can be a rough place to live, but it’s more welcoming.
But let’s back up for a minute. If you leave the Union City Bridge headed west and keep driving straight down Superior, you’ll take in Greater Denbrook in its entire splendor; but instead, let’s turn left and head down W.25th. This is a long block of pawn shops, secondhand stores and mom-and-pop retail. It terminates at the W. 25th Market, a lovely old brown brick building erected in 1911. On the street, there’s an open-air fruit and vegetable market. Head inside, and you’ll find various meat-market stands. The yuppies get a real kick out of how quaint it all is; the longtime residents have shopped here for generations.
Head past the Market, make another left, and trundle downhill over a few small, rundown bridges with no names. The main street is Violin Road; somehow that became the name of the whole place. This little community – just a few miles around, and still a part of the city – was once populated by folks who made their trades in the factories and mines. Now there’s nothing left but the bars … at least four on every block. The current population is a mix of old-timers who barely get by and young bohemian types who’ve come in from other communities. Wild dogs roam the overgrown park at night, and homeless people and runaways live under those bridges.
Turn around and head west. The neighborhoods between W. 25th and W. 117th are mostly unremarkable: Largely poor, all pretty much the same. At W. 117th, we enter Blackwood – not quite another town, not exactly an official part of Denbrook proper. Middle-class, mostly white but increasingly integrated, Blackwood does curiously have its own police force…a police force that is notoriously unfriendly to “outsiders.” But in fairness, Blackwood is a safe place to raise families, and quiet; a slightly more urban alternative to a truly suburban community. And it doesn’t completely lack for excitement.
Downtown Blackwood is a haven for Blackwood’s youth culture scene, mostly an odd combination of kids into hip-hop and the kind of kids who look like the ones who shot up Columbine. Both types congregate at Ground Zero, a large coffee shop. There’s also a smallish venue for (mostly local) music: The Arcade. The Arcade’s second floor is a concert hall; its ground floor (accessible through a back door) is a goth dance club called the Mausoleum. A ton of smaller clubs and bars dot the landscape, as well as an occult bookstore or two.
Head further west. The paved streets will lead you out of Blackwood, but take a right at Hiassen Road. This isn’t a shortcut – this is the scenic route. Hiassen runs downhill into the Valley: Several miles of forest. Officially, the Valley is a public park, but there’s no real question about it – you’re in the woods. By day, there are hikers and picnickers and bicyclists; by night, you can be arrested if you’re seen wandering around outside of a moving vehicle. But even in Blackwood, that’s not much of a concern … you aren’t too likely to encounter a cop down here. Your headlights are reflected back at you from animal eyes in the trees: There’s a gigantic deer population, despite the seasonal efforts to hunt them down to a more manageable level, and an unusually high number of owls make the Valley their home.
It takes about ten minutes to get from one end of the Valley to the other. The road leads uphill to Bankcreek Lane, and now you’re 1n Westfall. Like Blackwood, Westfall is a semi-urban area, but this is definitely a suburb. This part of Westfall is also youth-oriented, and not much different from the place we left previous to our journey through the woods, albeit a bit more … dirty.
Beyond Westfall, the cushier suburbs – but you don’t want to live there. Not really. Not when you’ve got the city…
Since his arrival on the fantasy adventure scene back in the 70s, Charles Saunders has been recognized as one of the most successful African American writers in the field today. His action/adventure hero Imaro has been featured in a half dozen novels all of which went on to inspire generations of young black authors.
In 2011 Saunders wrote “Damballa” the first ever black pulp hero for Airship 27 Productions. Operating out of Harlem in the 1930s, Damballa employs unique African magic to battle gangsters and crooked politicians. Two years later Saunders introduced the Jungle Witch Luluma in his short story “Mtimu” which appeared in the Pro Se Production’s bestselling anthology, “Black Pulp.” At the start of the tale, the beautiful Luluma is a servant of a villainous hunter but by the story’s end she realizes his true nature and regains her independence thanks to the hero, Mtimu. Atypical of Saunders talent, she is a powerful character worthy of her own series.
Now Airship 27 Productions is proud to announce their creation of two new on-going book series, “Charles Saunders presents Damballa” and “Charles Saunders presents Luluma.” Managing Editor Ron Fortier elaborates. “In recent years, Charles Saunders has been extremely busy working on a truly unique black fantasy saga. So much so that it became impossible for him to devote any time to his other creations. When we suggested the possibilities of continuing both Damballa and Luluma with other writers, he was very excited about the concept and gave us his approval. Have no fear, he will be overseeing each series as they progress.”
Writing the first ever Lulama novel will be writer/publisher Milton Davis of MVmedia LLC. “I’ve known Charles Saunders for eleven years and had the privilege to work with him on a number of projects. I’m excited to have the opportunity to develop a novel based on one of his characters. It’s a dream come true.”
While Pulp Factory Award winning writer Derrick Ferguson will write the all new Damaballa adventure. “One the things that has always overwhelmed me in my New Pulp career is that I have gotten to meet with so many professionals whose work I have enjoyed and to my utter astonishment and joy I have found myself embraced and welcomed as a fellow professional.
“To say that I am honored to be given the opportunity to write a character created by Charles Saunders with his blessing is truly an understatement. Charles Saunders is one of the reasons I am writing today and to be working with him is an opportunity I never would have dreamed could have taken place. I pray that I do justice to the magnificent character of Damballa.”
At present there is no specific time set for the release of these new books. “Our plan is to move forward with full length novels first,” Fortier continues. “Later, if there is an interest, we may also produce anthologies featuring both Damballa and Lulama. We’ll leave that up to our network of pulp writers and the response of our readers. We see some truly amazing possibilities in the future for both characters and are greatly indebted to Charles’s faith in us.”
AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!
This is a work of fanfiction. It has not in any way been authorized by DC Comics, DC Entertainment or Warner Brothers. The characters in this story are the property of their respective creators and there is no intent to make any financial profit whatsoever from this work. It has been written for entertainment purposes only. If this work is deemed an infringement of copyright by the legal owners of said copyright, contact the author and distribution of this story will cease and desist in accordance with the wishes of the copyright holder.
In other words, folks. It’s just for fun. Enjoy.
Chapter One: “ALL TOGETHER NOW”
The bars in Midway City’s downtown area were soon packed on a Friday afternoon promptly after 5PM. Filled with the workers from the multitude of office buildings and shops in that bustling, hustling business district. The mood in those bars were usually that of merriment and celebration as the end of another work week was celebrated. But not this Friday. The bars were packed as usual, yes. But the mood in each and every watering hole was that of grim tension. Every eye focused on the huge flat screen televisions. Drinks were ordered quietly and every boisterous newcomer that entered was promptly admonished to shush and take a seat.
The popular Feria Bar located on the corner of Davis and Nero Avenues was well known in Midway City as the favorite watering hole of the city’s artistic and entertainment community. Novelists, playwrights, actors, directors, poets and various practitioners of the arts gathered there on a regular basis and on Friday it was a place of grand storytelling and good times. The usual crowd was unusually quiet, hanging onto every word of the pretty, petite blond woman on the 40-inch television screen.
“…and we’re into the third hour of the hostage situation here at the opening of the new Midway City Technological Center. Quite frankly, it seems to this reporter that the police are stumped as to how to take the building without jeopardizing the lives of the innocent hostages within. To recap for those of you who have just joined us: The Midway City Technological Center has been taken over and everyone inside held hostage by the notorious international terrorists known as Monsieur Mallah and The Brain.”
The picture split-screened showing Monsieur Mallah on the left, a savage looking giant gorilla with bristling, spiky silvery black fur and The Brain on the right. A human brain suspended in a clear tank of nutrient fluids atop a tombstone gray pedestal disturbingly fashioned in the shape of a cylindrical skull.
“Monsieur Mallah is an African mountain gorilla whose intelligence was increased to genius level thanks to genetic modifications performed upon him by The Brain. There’s very little information on The Brain’s origins but it cannot be disputed that its intellectual power has few rivals on the planet. The pair have been wanted for years by law enforcement agencies in just about every country on Earth as their crimes are too numerous to mention here.”
The picture returned to the woman and the logo at the bottom of the screen read:
Channel 6 BSY NEWS
“The opening of the Technological Center was attended by the cream of Midway City’s political, artistic and scientific communities. Among the notables here; Mayor Matthew Bell and his wife. Members of the Vauciss family. The publisher and Editor-In-Chief of the Midway CityHerald, Gregory Dunn. Carter Hall, world renowned archeologist and curator of the Midway City Museum of Natural History. Dr. William Milton Magnus, creator of The Metal Men. And Dr. Niles Caulder, the founder and organizer of The Doom Patrol, that world-famous team composed of whose members have all suffered terrible accidents that in the eyes of some have made them ‘freaks.’ The genius of Dr. Caulder enabled The Doom Patrol to utilize the abilities they acquired in these accidents in the service of mankind. The Doom Patrol is based right here in Midway City so it isn’t too far of a stretch to surmise that the attack by Mallah and The Brain has something to do with Dr. Caulder’s presence here at the Technological Center.
“The entire building is encased in a strange, transparent substance that to my eye looks for all the world like…well, like Jello. All efforts by police to break through the substance and enter the building have been futile. Repeated requested for assistance from The Doom Patrol have not been answered and although contact has been made with both The Justice League and The Justice Society, they have informed authorities that they continue to monitor the situation but will not take action as yet until all options have been exhausted.”
The five hundred hostages were gathered in the Reception Hall of The Technological Center. Only three hours ago they had been dining on lobster and caviar, steak and shrimp, sipping the finest champagne and cognac. Now they were a cowed, terrified mob, shrinking in fear from the hideous creatures surrounding them.
The beings were humanoid in shape, five feet tall all of them. Their transparent limbs and torsos rippled as they walked. In consistency they appeared to be constructed of the same jelly-like material that encased the entire building. Inside some of them could be seen half-digested flesh, bones and clothing which were the remnants of the few poor damned souls who tried to put up a fight. There were maybe seventy of these beings. After the initial demonstration of their deadly speed and abilities nobody else wished to test them.
A small group of special hostages were separated from the others and sequestered at the end of the hall furthest from the exits. They were guarded by four gibbering chimpanzees brandishing AK-47’s anytime the humans made even the slightest move.
One of these special hostages sighed, removing his unlit Dunhill pipe from his mouth. “If the situation wasn’t so desperate, I’d probably give myself an aneurysm from laughing so hard.” He whacked his pipe against his right leg, provoking a shriek of alarm from one of the chimps. It scrambled closer, thrusting the muzzle of its weapon upwards at the man’s groin. Dr. Will Magnus frowned and said; “Take it easy, Cheetah. I’m not doing anything.”
The tall man standing at Magnus’ side cautioned, “Just don’t make any sudden moves, Will. It’s a sure thing they’ve had their intelligence modified by The Brain but not to the degree of Mallah’s. That makes them dangerous and unpredictable.” Carter Hall looked positively regal in his black tuxedo with a paisley vest, his golden hair slicked back tightly against his head. But then again, Carter Hall always looked like royalty, no matter what the circumstances. Six foot six and impossibly handsome with diamond blue eyes and the hawkish, well-sculpted features of a prince, he appeared completely unruffled by the events of the past couple of hours.
Magnus stuck his still unlit pipe back in his lipless slash of a mouth. “Forgive me for not wanting to be stuck up by a band of refugees from ‘Planet of The Apes’, Carter! If Mallah hadn’t taken my communicator, my Metal Men would have been here by now to deal with this.”
Another of the special hostages spoke. This man sat in a custom designed wheelchair capable of smooth independent movement simply by moving his finger on the left armrest’s touchpad. Swept back virile red hair crowned his slightly larger than normal head and he favored wearing a thick crimson beard and mustache. All of which gave him a majestic, leonine aspect. His eyes were deep pits of lethal genius that burned with laser intensity.
“Unless I’m way off the mark, William, that would be the last thing you would want to do.” Niles Caulder said. “You’ve been careless again or I’m no judge of your work.”
Magnus frowned at Caulder. Few men were as close as these two. They’d been friends for years, way before the set of freakish circumstances that had deprived Caulder the use of his legs. But they were also professional rivals.
“How so?” Magnus demanded.
Caulder gestured at the transparent creatures. “Unless I miss my guess, these things are constructed of a variant of the polymer you used to create your Metal Men. Look at the neutronic filaments running through their limbs. Look at their throats and midsection…aren’t those biostatic carrier arcs?”
Magnus bit down on his pipe so hard Caulder heard it crack slightly. “Dammit, Niles…do you honestly think I’m that careless or that lazy? Biostatic carrier arcs have been a standard component in commercial robotics for the past dozen years or so.”
“Yes, but your unique innovation on that technology is unmistakable to those familiar with-”
“Gentlemen,” Carter Hall said softly but forcefully. He had been associated with the two of them for more years than he cared to admit and knew that if allowed to go on, they’d argue even as innocents were being machine gunned to death around them. “You can play your private game of Can You Top This later. We can’t count on The Metal Men. Will’s got them too intimidated to take independent action without his say-so. And both The Justice League and Justice Society are going to wait for Niles’ team to take action.”
“Why is that?” Magnus asked.
“An agreement among what the press has dubbed ‘the superhero community.'” Hall’s lips quirked as he said the phrase. Superhero. The word always sounded so juvenile to his ears. “The Doom Patrol and Hawkman are based here in Midway City, therefore they have jurisdiction here. Both The Justice League and The Justice Society will wait a few hours before they move in.”
“But they’ve killed people already!”
“Nobody on the outside knows that. But once that information is made public or if a significant amount of time has passed and they hear no word The Justice League will move in and take charge of the situation.”
“How can you know that?”
Carter Hall smiled. “A little bird told me.”
Back in Malachy’s, discussion on who would save the hostages inside the Technological Center raged in various passionate tones.
“Hawkman and Hawkgirl will show up anytime now and give them the what for. You’ll see”
“Isn’t she called Hawkwoman now?”
“If she isn’t, she should be. Did you see that picture of her in NEWSTIME? Man, if I was partnered with her, I wouldn’t need wings to fly.”
“The Doom Patrol will take out the monkey. They fought before, right?”
“Prob’ly. The Doom Patrol always gets to fight them weirdos…but, hey, birds of a feather, right?”
“I never did take to them freaks. That girl is a looker, though. She didn’t do too bad marrying that rich guy. What’s his name again?”
“Dayton, I think. How much is he worth, anyway?”
“I dunno, but I hear that him, Bruce Wayne, Simon Stagg and Bill Gates get together to play Monopoly with real buildings. The guy don’t even know himself how much he’s got.”
“That mummy guy’s still on the team, right?”
“He saved my little girl a couple years back. He’s nice enough, but them bandages are creepy as hell.”
“Remember when the robot guy went on a rampage a few years back? Didn’t they drop the charges?”
“You think it’s true he’s got a human brain in there? I never bought that yarn, meself….”
A black Ford Expedition SUV stopped some three blocks north of the police perimeter surrounding The Center and three figures disembarked. All were garbed in identical black leather dusters. The driver got out first. Tall for a woman at about five ten, with thick auburn hair kept back from her narrow face by a white bandana. She had the feistiness and mannerisms of Sandra Bullock and indeed, based on their resemblance, Bullock had played her daughter in one of her last films before her accident. Back when she was a major Hollywood star. An entire lifetime ago.
She sized up her companions. One of the men appeared to be a mummy as his head and hands were completely covered with blindingly white bandages, a pair of stylish nylon frame sunglasses covering his eyes.
Her other companion climbed out of the SUV slowly and as he did so, the vehicle lifted a good three feet higher, the specially re-designed suspension hissing with an almost human sigh of relief as it was relieved of nearly a quarter ton of weight. His feet clanked on the pavement as he took his place next to his friends. As he turned and moved, they could hear the hum and whirr of servomotors and the quiet trill of microhydraulics. The woman spoke to the bandaged man; “Larry, we need recon. That’s your department.”
Larry Trainor nodded and bent his head in silent concentration. His body convulsed as a dark man-shaped figure tore itself free from his body. It stood next to its host. Black as intergalactic night and outlined in a crackling, snapping, fizzing azure aura of electromagnetic energy. It looked at the woman, nodded and flew off toward the captive building.
Negative Man flew into the building, disrupting the jellylike substance as it did so, causing it to flow like water. Negative Man flew through the Center, passing effortlessly through walls and floors, until coming to the Reception Hall, where it stuck only it’s head through the floor, noting the number of creatures, the location of the hostages….
Where was Mallah and The Brain? Negative Man could feel the thoughts of his host, urging him not to allow himself to be seen. But it was vital that they knew where…ah! There they were!
The huge gorilla shambled into view from an office, following the pedestal floating on a doughnut shaped crystal blue anti gravity field. Monsieur Mallah had a red bandana tied around his head with bandoliers of ammo criss crossing his massive, silvery-black chest. A machine gun of his own design, one that no human could possibly lift, let alone fire slung from a shoulder.
The gorilla and his master approached Caulder, Magnus and Hall. Negative Man had seen enough. It was time to return to his host. He could feel the urging of his host to return quickly. Negative Man dived back through the floor and flew at dizzying speed back to where his host lay. Larry looked up at the crackling energy being. He smiled weakly and nodded. Negative Man slipped back into Larry’s body as easily as he left. Larry Trainor, once more filled with vitality and energy, got to his feet. He informed his partners of what waited for them inside. “The Chief and the others look okay. But those Jellymen…there’s an awful lot of them.”
Rita Farr Dayton looked thoughtful as she stroked her chin with a white gloved hand. “Negative Man disrupted the jelly covering the building, right? Then we’ll just have to gamble that he’ll have the same effect on The Jellymen. Cliff, you run interference. I’ll grab Mallah. Once he’s out of the picture, The Brain’s no problem.”
As one, they shucked off their black dusters. Larry and Rita wore form-fitting jumpsuits of red with a white triangle insert on the front. Their partner was revealed as an orange-bronze statue of metal. Cliff Steele, dubbed Robotman by the press was the ultimate product of bionics currently in existence. A living, functional human brain in a mechanical body.
The Doom Patrol moved as one, running toward the Technological Center.
In the SUV, a cat peeked out of the open left rear passenger door. A most unusual cat, since it was lime green in color. It hopped out of the van and in a burst of emerald energy, turned into a fifteen-year-old boy, garbed in a uniform identical to Larry and Rita’s. And his skin and hair were still lime green. Closing the door, he muttered, “And they call me irresponsible.”
The vehicle secured, the boy grinned and leaped into the air. Again, energy burst from his body and now he was a lime green hawk that flapped furiously after The Doom Patrol, striving to catch up before the action started.
“If you’ll end this madness right now, Brain, you have my word I’ll use my influence to make sure you get the help you need.” Niles Caulder, The Chief of The Doom Patrol sat nose to dome with the bubbling tank that contained The Brain.
<Caulder, Caulder, CAULDER!> said the electronically enhanced voice of The Brain. <When will you learn that there is nothing you can offer me that will satisfy my cravings? Except perhaps your life and that of your Doom Patrol?>
“Refuse to end this and you’ll get my Patrol sooner than you expect. I suspect that the reason the lights were flickering a minute ago was due to Negative Man’s disruption of the Center’s electrical systems.”
Carter Hall sighed wearily. The sheer arrogance of the man never failed to amaze him.
“What’s the real reason behind this, Brain?” Caulder insisted. “You must know you’ll never get away with this.”
Magnus rolled his eyes and whispered to Hall, “I can’t believe he said that.”
Mallah roared, “ENOUGH! Master, we have the building and we have the ones here who betrayed us! Let us have done with this useless baiting of Niles Caulder and slay the ones we came to slay!”
<I will say when the time is right, Mallah. And the time has not yet come.>
One of the far windows exploded inwards. A massive white glove hand and arm thrust inside the Reception Hall to grab Mallah in a firm grip. The gorilla cursed in French and tried reach his machine gun.
And the same time, the modernistic glass doors were smashed inwards by the entrance of Cliff Steele. Moving with a speed that belied his metal weight, Cliff grabbed up one of the Jellymen and flung him into his brothers. They slammed together and oozed into one single form that grinned at Cliff.
“Damn,” Cliff said. He turned his head to Larry, who was right behind him. “You wanna call out the calvary before-” a gang of Jellymen swarmed over Cliff, cutting off his words.
Larry took a step back as the rest of The Jellymen advanced on him. Once Negative Man left his body, he was bereft of strength and vitality and would be at their mercy. Larry watched one Jellyman as it reached inside itself. With a disgusting sucking sound, it pulled free a half-digested head and threw it at Larry. He ducked, resisting the urge to vomit. He’d done it before and it was no fun having to walk around in vomit-soaked bandages until he could get back to headquarters and change them.
The hostages dashed for the exit, screaming and stampeding each other in their mad scramble to escape. Magnus and Hall both attempted to push The Chief to safety, but he put the locks on his wheels.
Rita yanked her arm out of the Center. She had expanded to almost three stories tall and Mallah was a toy in her gloved hand. The genius gorilla promised all sorts of dire threats in English, French and now, Mandarin as he tried to reach his gun. Rita sighed and called down to the waiting police. “I’m going to give him to you now. Think you’re ready to handle him?”
Larry decided to make a try at freeing Cliff when a lime green Arabian stallion galloped into the Hall and stopped in front of him. “Get on, Uncle Larry!”
This was no time to wonder just what the hell Garfield Logan was doing here. The irrepressible Beast Boy always showed up where he wasn’t supposed to be, but Larry was grateful for his appearance right now. Larry swung up on the horse’s back and Beast Boy galloped away.
The chimps fired their AK-47’s wildly at any and everything that moved. Several of the hostages were hit and lay on the floor in pools of blood, moaning. “Gar! Put me down somewhere safe and then get those monkeys!”
“Why can’t we ever fight demons or Earth devouring aliens?”
“Okay! OKAY!” Gar bucked, sending Larry flying into a nearby Internet access kiosk. Larry closed the door, concentrated and Negative Man burst forth.
Cliff, thrashing around inside the giant Jellyman, opened a panel on the inside of his left wrist and pressed a button, sending an electromagnetic pulse through his metal skin. As the Jellyman collapsed in a gelatinous pool, Cliff thought that he would never again complain about The Chief’s endless seminars on how his robot body worked.
Negative Man streaked around the huge hall, right through the bodies of The Jellymen, collapsing them where they stood.
Gar Logan transformed himself into a lime-green octopus and with all eight arms plucked the automatic weapons from the paws of the chimps and snagged said chimps all the same time. The triumphant Beast Boy held monkeys and guns up in the air, yelling, “Eight is most DEFINITELY enough!”
Rita ran into the Hall just as Negative Man returned to Larry’s body. “The police have Mallah. Where’s The Brain?”
Larry got to his feet. “He’s right over…” His voice trailed off. “Well, I’ll be damned. Where’d he go?”
Cliff walked up to his partners, his metal steps echoing on the marble floor. “He couldn’t have moved by himself. Unless he grew feet when we wasn’t lookin'” Cliff slammed a fist into a palm, producing a sound not unlike a giant gong. “I hate it when he does that!”
Rita looked at Gar, still in octopus form, juggling the chimps and their weapons. The chimps screamed in fear as they arced through the air. “GARFIELD!”
Cliff looked from Rita, running over to the green octopus juggling monkeys, to The Chief arguing with Will Magnus and looked down at the marble floor, now sticky with the residue of Jellymen. He looked up at Larry and sighed. “I’m pretty sure this never happens to the Justice League.”
“…despite the fact that The Doom Patrol did indeed save a majority of hostages, there was loss of life which Mayor Bell states could have been avoided if The Patrol had acted sooner. The Justice League and Justice Society have both refused to issue statements on the incident. Sources have said that Hawkman himself endorsed The Patrol’s handling of the entire matter and filed his report of same with The Committee On Metahuman Activities in Washington.
“However, that still leaves a larger question…what happened to The Brain? I’m Tammy Albright for Channel 6 News. Have a good night and I’ll be seeing you.”
“Off.” The Chief commanded and the 65-inch flat screen television obediently obliged and turned itself off. The Chief swiveled his chair around to face his team.
The Doom Patrol’s headquarters were located in the northern section of Midway City. Most of that part of the city was given over to industrial parks and they made their base there, in a city block of warehouses converted to their use.
“Yes. That’s my question. What did happen to The Brain. Why didn’t one of you capture him?”
Cliff, sitting in a chair designed to support his weight said, “I dunno, Chief. Maybe we were too busy working to save your life. By the way, don’t thank us.” It was amazing how much sarcasm Cliff could put in his artificial voice. But of course, they had all been together long enough that his partners could tell. “He’ll show up again, you know that as well as we do. And when he does, we drop the hammer on him once and for all. Now, if you’re finished with the TV, Larry and I want to watch.”
Larry pushed himself off the couch. “Not me. I’m for bed, man. I’m bushed.”
Cliff waved his shiny metal arm. “Ahhh, c’mon, man…Harris and Roback are fighting tonight. Middleweight belt on the line.”
“I’ve had enough fighting for today, Cliff. All I want to watch is my bed as I climb into it.”
“And you’re not watching any fight, either, Cliff. Will Magnus is staying the night and we want to run some diagnostics on you. Will has some interesting ideas on how to increase the efficiency of your Plasmic Mobilizer by forty percent” Caulder looked at Rita. “Are you staying here tonight, Rita?”
Rita shook her head. “I’m taking Gar back to Steve’s mansion. You know, Niles, you should call him and thank him for using his Mento helmet to disrupt the polymer covering The Brain put over The Center.”
Caulder shrugged. “Once I realized that the polymer The Brain used was similar to Will’s polymer that he used to create The Metal Men, it was only logical that it would be subject to mental commands. And whatever else I think about Steve Dayton, his Mento helmet is the most powerful amplifier of psychic abilities on the planet. And it was only The Brain’s arrogance to think that even though he had taken my communications devices from me, I still wouldn’t have a way to communicate with my Doom Patrol. You thank him for me, Rita.”
The Brain regained consciousness in a room of purest white. He sought information with his sensors and found that all his scans were bounced back, giving him nothing.
The Brain was not given to panic, but he felt fear without his loyal bodyguard Mallah at his side.
<Where am I?> He called.
Silence answered him.
And in a room not far away, General Immortus watched The Brain on a monitor and smiled with his ancient, withered face. He had The Brain. And with the power locked inside of that hideously powerful intelligence, he would achieve two goals: Life Eternal. And the deaths of Niles Caulder and his Doom Patrol.
John Linwood Grant: I’m an old soul, which isn’t a spiritual statement – I only started submitting short stories at the age of 58. My timing may have been a little off, as I suppose I should have tried this slightly earlier. I’m large, bearded, covered in discarded dog hair, and pretty easy going. I grew up next to sheer chalk cliffs and the cold North Sea, and although I have traveled around Europe and North Africa, I’ve basically lived in Yorkshire all my life; I’m rooted to this Northern land of ours. I currently live on the edge of Yorkshire Dales, with dogs – and occasionally a family.
DF: Where do you live and what do you do to keep the bill collectors away?
JLG: I would like to say that the dogs keep the bill collectors away, but unfortunately, they’re far too friendly. So, I survive through a complicated blend of writing/editing income and various small annuities (I have agoraphobia and a panic disorder, which I presume I was given to add some excitement to my life).
DF: What’s your philosophy of writing? Do you even have a philosophy of writing?
JLG: I’m not sure I do – or if I have one, it’s too deeply buried for shallow minds like mine. Maybe I’m trying to present, and empathize with, different aspects of humanity, in its various glories and failings. People are The Thing, and I’m old enough to have met a lot of people. I suppose you might call my writing humanist – some of it I produce to ask questions about ourselves. I’ve made many mistakes in my life, and believe in exploring purpose and redemption – but let’s face it, other stories are only there to entertain.
DF: What keeps you motivated to write?
JLG: The cost of dog food, and a lack of Impostor Syndrome. I write reasonably well, which is the sort of thing you’re probably not supposed to say, and I enjoy doing it. There are always days when I can’t quite grasp what I’m trying to convey, but there’s always something else at the back of my mind which makes me think, “Hey, that would make a great story.” Usually seven or eight somethings at once. Occasionally I accept that it’s not a topic or theme I myself should be writing. Maybe I don’t have enough insight there; maybe there are other writers who are better placed to express the concepts. I hang back on some ideas, and go full steam on others. If I was sitting in an ancient market square, I would just make up stories for anyone who wanted to hear them.
DF: How would you describe your style of writing?
JLG: I suspect I write weird fiction which isn’t quite fancy enough to be in vogue; horror fiction which isn’t gross enough for horror fans, and adventure which isn’t wild enough for many of the pulp fans. You could say my writing is very character-based, often with limited descriptive elements – I try to capture the ‘feel’ of people and situations at a glance. The tilt of a hat on someone’s head is more important than listing the hat’s material, size, manufacturer and all that stuff.
I love strong imagery and use of language – and playing with those- but don’t go for the unnecessarily thesaurus-hugging nature of some ‘literary’ fiction. The well-placed short word is usually better than the uncommon archaism you have to look up. Oh, and I love pithy and unexpected dialogue. And semi-colons.
DF: Have you found an audience yet? if so, how did you do it? If not, why haven’t you?
JLG: I’ve found several audiences, which reflects my utter failure to plough ahead in only one genre. I reached a lot of people by the simple ploy of putting two or three short stories up on Smashwords for free, and then using them as teasers and seed-fiction. They gave a hint of my style, what people might expect of me, and went down well. After that I went straight for paying markets, being a Yorkshireman. I also started greydogtales.com, a website which was theoretically a promotional platform, but which filled up with nonsense, articles on weird, horror and detective fiction, and lots about dogs. I got bored of talking about me and my work, and just went mad on it, which is probably why the site’s so popular.
My online series “Lurchers for Beginners”, which I did because I love lurchers, became a huge hit entirely by accident (if it helps, a lurcher is a British thing, a very fast dog which is a deliberate cross between a sighthound and a working dog, with a long history over here). It’s fun – and occasionally informative – stuff about the dogs. Much to my surprise, some of the dog people also bought my books, and they’ve been great supporters. To make a site work for you, it either has to be a useful resource or a work of genuine enthusiasm. Greydogtales is both – on a good day.
I also have, inexplicably, a lot of fans who just follow the folklorish Weird Wolds stuff, two thirds of which is based around a mad village called St Botolph-in-the-Wolds. I describe it as Enid Blyton meets H P Lovecraft, with a lot of added very British Girls’ Own fun – Mr Bubbles, the slightly psychotic pony who fights evil; J Linseed Grant, the miserly writer, and a troop of feral Girl Guides who go on metal polish and lemonade fueled rampages. I even got a mention from Ellen Datlow for one of the more serious Weird Wolds stories, which was unexpected.
DF: You definitely have a love for Horror, Weird Fiction, Dark Fantasy, Gothic Horror and related genres. Where does that love come from?
JLG: I grew up in a large converted farmhouse full of ominous furniture, in a village too small to have a church or a pub. I was an avid and precocious reader. I devoured books by Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, William Hope Hodgson, Conan Doyle, H P Lovecraft, Saki, and loads of other writers from an early age, and just loved it all. I also wolfed down every EC comic I could find, and the darker folklore stories. I think it all embedded itself, whether I wanted it to or not. I’m not a great one for hack’n’slash horror – I prefer the ominous intrusion of the strange into the real – that shadow in the wrong place on the wall, the woman who says something you don’t understand when you buy the morning paper. Minutiae which form a whole.
DF: What do you say are the main differences in how Brits and American writers view Horror/Weird Fiction?
JLG: Nowadays, I’m not so sure. The lines are blurred. I find it interesting that one of the big yearly events in Britland is Fantasycon, which is in fact a pleasing blend of fantasy and weird/horror fiction enthusiasts. I sometimes get the feeling that Americans see horror as a more specific field, whilst weird is a niche, quite literary zone (in the best sense), and fantasy is something else altogether. The UK can have a wry, nuanced style which I don’t think always travels well, but when it does, it makes a real mark. I’m probably not a good person to ask, because almost all of my work has been published from North America, not Britland. I have no idea why. Maybe Statesiders find my work ‘quaint’ or ‘different’ which is fine if it sells books. Those dog bowls, as I’ve said, don’t fill themselves.
DF: Tell us about OCCULT DETECTIVES QUARTERLY
JLG: We would need a small novel to cover that one. The late Sam Gafford and I co-founded the magazine in 2016, as a mad venture covering the sort of stories we liked, and pretty much everything has gone wrong along the way, though every issue has been well received. It’s again a niche market, hugely popular with its fans and woefully unnoticed by the larger world. The magazine is also not exactly pulp, not necessarily high literature, not quite pure horror, and yet we take all of those if the story’s strong. So you might find a good old-fashioned supernatural mystery right next to a piece of powerful weird fiction, followed by a rip-roaring occult adventure. There must be a mystery, and there must be someone who looks into it, whether that be out of choice, role, or dread circumstance. The lead character might be a world-weary PI, a disturbed young onlooker, a bemused cop, a dubious mystic, an occult expert, or an amateur sleuth – any of those and more.
We’ve been blessed with some very loyal fans, as I say, and some great artists and writers, who have been hugely supportive despite every disaster (our first publisher folded, and then Sam died, for starters). We’re relaunching it this Autumn/Winter from the UK as OCCULT DETECTIVE MAGAZINE, which is still ODQ in all but name and will be our sixth issue – ‘Quarterly’ sounded ambitious, though you never know. Dave Brzeski, a Brit editor and enthusiast who was a vital part of ODQ, is my co-conspirator in keeping the tradition going.
DF: You edit and you write. Which one is harder?
JLG: I find editing interesting but exhausting. Every so often it does bring great pleasure – an exciting project; a completely new writer discovered; a fabulous take on a theme. I prefer Open Calls, to seek out a diversity of contributors and give opportunities to fresh voices, but those do add to the workload. “Hell’s Empire” the anthology I completed earlier this year, was a surprising joy, because the writers were so inventive and co-operative. It’s a terrific and unusual book, though I say it myself.
I’m a writer first, and so it can be hard to be an editor – I see potential in so many stories that aren’t really market-ready, and I often want to do something to help get them across the finishing line. There isn’t usually the time, unfortunately.
Writing itself, on the other hand, is what I do, and there’s a good feeling which comes from every story I finish to my own satisfaction, whether or not anyone else wants it.
DF: Tell us about your upcoming projects. What should be looking for from you?
JLG: I’m pushed in a lot of directions. At the moment I’m finishing edits on a two-volume anthology for Belanger Books – “Sherlock Holmes and the Occult Detectives”. I’m tempted to try another project with my very talented friend writer and artist Alan M Clark – we’ve worked very closely over the last couple of years, and combined two separate novels of ours into the interleaved novel “13 Miller’s Court”, concerning the last recorded victim of Jack the Ripper. It’s not necessarily the take you’d expect, and is very much about the impact on the lives of the woman involved, with little interest in the murderer himself. It also involves Mr Edwin Dry, the lethal Deptford Assassin, who has gained a lot of followers in his own right.
I have an almost finished Tales of the Last Edwardian novel kicking around – murder, madness and the supernatural in the early 1900s. Then a collection of my directly weird fiction is doing the rounds (I might just publish it myself if I get bored). I ought to put out a collection of my 1920s Mamma Lucy hoodoo tales, and maybe a full book of St Botolph’s stuff, which people nag me for. I’ll no doubt write some more Holmes stories, and I want to add to my weird portfolio. It all sounds too complicated and like hard work when I say it.
DF: What is the one novel or story that you would recommend to someone who doesn’t know a thing about you or your work that they should start with?
JLG: If you like strange, cosmic horror type stuff, then “Messages” in Cthulhusattva, from Martian Migraine. If you prefer disquieting contemporary fiction, then “Records of the Dead”, in the recent Haverhill anthology ‘The Twisted Book of Shadows’. My collection “A Persistence of Geraniums and Other Worrying Tales”, from IFD Publishing, is probably the best introduction to my general style, though, and it introduces a number of recurring characters.
DF: Drop some Words of Wisdom on all the aspiring young writers reading this who are thirsting for your knowledge.
JLG: Ha-ha. Perhaps the thing I notice most is that a lot of submitted work simply isn’t ready for consumption, as I mentioned earlier. You can’t see it, and your friends won’t tell you. Develop the ability to sit outside yourself, and read everything you produce as if someone else did it. Read other books and stories a lot, and compare your work to what you read – on the broadest level. Not “Is mine as good as that one by so and so?” but “Is mine actually good enough for the marketplace?” That may sound harsh, but it’s useful. Read outside your own genre to observe craft in action.
Much of what you write will be too long, whether it’s a short story or a novel. Writers indulge themselves. They fall in love with their own ideas, and the pleasure of words and phrases, but some of those just don’t need to be there. I have a terrible habit of drifting into the lives of secondary and tertiary characters, which fascinates me, but sometimes the readers don’t care. They want the story. There are exceptions where the style of delivery is as important as what the story tells, but trimming is frequently in order.
Also, assume lots of things will go wrong in your search to get published. If you start out that way, you get hurt less. Agents will have too much on to give you attention, even if you genuinely deserve it. Editors will not get what you were trying to achieve, or won’t be able to find a slot for you because of other factors. Publishers will merge, go bust, or realize that however much they love your work, their Marketing Department can’t see a way of making money out of you. You will get screwed over on at least one contract, at some point. Once you know these things, they become less personal, and just part of the way things are for many thousands of other writers.
These really apply, of course, if you are deliberately writing to sell and be read by others. I have no beef with those who write purely to express themselves, to get something from their head out onto paper (or screen). You can always write only for yourself, and let the rest of the world do its own thing.
DF: What’s a typical Day In The Life of John Linwood Grant like?
JLG: Extremely badly planned, and constantly interrupted by two large lurchers (the dogs). I spend a lot of time mending the awful plumbing in our house and trying to keep the dogs out of the fridge. In between, I write.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?
John Linwood Grant: Nothing I’ve said is necessarily true. I make stuff up for a living.