It’s been a couple of days since I’ve heard of Charles Saunders passing away. In those couple of days I’ve had a few well meaning people ask me if I were going to write something in reference to his passing and while I fully understood why they would ask me that, I also didn’t feel as if it was my place to do so. And here’s why:
There’s this psychological pattern commonly known as “imposter syndrome” where an individual constantly doubts their talents and refuses to believe that they deserve their success, popularity or achievements. They fully expect to one day be exposed as a fraud and live in fear of the day that happens. You find it a lot among writers. Oh, yah…a whole lot of writers, trust me.
My imposter syndrome manifests in me through my relationship with a number of professional writers that thanks through the Internet I have met, worked with, met in person and even become friends with. The very notion that these accomplished men and women whose writings I have read and enjoyed for many years that treat me as a fellow professional still blows my mind and I often feel that somehow, I’ve tricked them into thinking I’m far more intelligent and talented than I actually am.
Which brings me to Charles Saunders. When people asked me if was I going to write something about Charles, I felt that Ron Fortier, whose friendship with him goes back to the 1970s and Milton Davis, who worked quite closely with Charles in recent years were more qualified to speak about Charles and that I would be stepping on toes by being presumptuous in claiming a relationship that wasn’t there.
But after talking with my wife Patricia and re-reading some of the letters Charles wrote me, I realized that there indeed was a relationship Charles and I had for a long time even though we had never met in person. I wouldn’t be the kind of writer I am without Charles Saunders. Don’t get me wrong…I would still have been a writer. It’s what I’m hardwired to be. But it was Charles Saunders that expanded my notion of what a black writer could write about. He, along with Octavia Butler, Chester Himes, Ishmael Reed, Samuel R. Delany and Langston Hughes helped me to have the courage to write what I wanted to write, instead of what I was “supposed” to write or what I “should” be writing.
I discovered IMARO sometime during the 1980s when I spent a lot of time on weekends hanging out in Manhattan’s used bookstores. At that time, I was hip deep in Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lin Carter, Fritz Leiber and the sight of a Heroic Fantasy/Sword & Sorcery paperback with a black hero on the cover was enough to drive all the air out of my body. I bought the book on the spot, asked the guy behind the counter if he had any more books like that. He gave me that; “Get outta here, man,” look and so I took the book home and during that weekend read it two times. Next weekend I read it two more times. It was that much of a revelation to me.
You have to understand that I didn’t get much encouragement from black folks as to the stuff I liked to write. Even other black writers didn’t have much respect or liking for my pulp influenced action adventures or Science Fiction or Sword and Sorcery. “That’s stuff for white people” I would be told or, “You need to write books that will educate. Our kids don’t need that.”
So when I found Charles Saunders it was akin to Indiana Jones finding the Ark of The Covenant. Here was proof that what I liked to write could be published. I could write what I liked to write and it would find an audience. As this was pre-Internet I had no way of knowing the setbacks and indignities Charles himself had to struggle with and like most visionaries he was not accepted or appreciated the way he should have been because he truly was ahead of his time. He is now known as the Father of Sword and Soul, but man, did it take him a long time for that acknowledgment. It’s not an easy thing to be the founder of a genre. But that’s what it means to be a trailblazer, leading the way for others to follow. Quite often, it’s the scout that returns to the wagon train with a lotta arrows in his back. But because he went on ahead and found a way, the wagon train gets to where it’s going. And all of us who have loved Charles for the characters he created and the stories he told are still on that wagon train, because it’s not the destination. It’s never the destination. It’s the path you create and the journey you take, the pushing of boundaries further and further out so that the ones following you know where to go because you made that road easier.
Charles Saunders expressed an appreciation and enjoyment of my work that still sustains me when I hit those days when the words struggle to flow the way they should. I consider myself blessed that for a time we exchanged letters and communicated not just as writers but I also hope with all my heart, as friends.
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!
Derrick Ferguson: It has been a really long time since we’ve done this so we have to bring folks up to speed. Let’s start off with The Basics: Who is Lucas Garrett? Where do you live and what do you do to keep the bill collectors away?
Lucas Garrett: I am a 40-year-old Marine Corps veteran with over twenty years of experience in the security industry, and one year of experience in building engineering. I currently reside in the Lawrenceville, Georgia area where I have lived for close to 9 years. I am a security professional working in the Midtown Atlanta area for a notable security company for the last 8 years.
My personal interests include all things pulp fiction (anything considered Classic Pulp and New Pulp), superhero comic books and movies, action flicks. I am an Afrofunk, Steamfunk, and Cyberfunk book collector. I highly recommend Dark Universe by Milton Davis and Gene Peterson.
I love cutting edge science fiction books like “Killing Time” and “The Labyrinth Key,” television shows “Fringe” “Eureka” and “Warehouse 13” and movies like “Dark City”, “The Thirteenth Floor” and “The Matrix.”
I’m a fan of Tokusatsu series like Go Go Sentai Boukenger and Kamen Rider Black, and I love Mecha and mature anime series like Mobile Suit Gundam 0079,Guyver, and Golgo 13.
Most importantly, I look for crossovers found in various forms of literature, television shows, movies, cartoons, anime, and video games.
DF: You are an astoundingly knowledgeable and enthusiastic fan of Comic Books/Movies/Science Fiction/Classic Pulp/New Pulp/The Wold Newton Universe. How did your interest in all things fun and fantastic come from?
LG: My love of reading goes back to the sixth grade when I read Isaac Asimov’s “TheFoundation”. That book did a lot to open my eyes to the imaginative worlds of literature and possible sciences on the horizon.
And I also had my love of superhero and action comics like Ron Fortier’s and Jeff Butler’s TheGreen Hornet comic book series for the now defunct NOW Comics line, as well as “Classic X–Men” that reprinted old issues from Uncanny X-Men for Marvel Comics.
I still remember when Nick Fury disbanded S.H.I.E.L.D. and Steve Rogers became Captain America again back in the late 1980s. And I remember when Bruce Wayne met Tim Drake after the tragic events of Death In The Family that saw the apparent death of Jason Todd and his mother at the hands of The Joker around the same time.
All of these characters and their stories helped to shaped my young mind.
And by the time Chris Claremont and Jim Lee revamped the X-Men in 1991 that many have come to remember and revere, I was all in.
And in 1992, I was introduced to Black Panther, the Warrior King of Wakanda, and member of The Avengers, when I saw his profile on one of the Marvel Comics trading cards my brothers and I collected in the early 1990s. And I found my hero. King of the most technologically advanced society on Earth in the Marvel 616 Universe. Yes, I was definitely all in.
And I stayed in for 18 years.
I took my first hiatus from mainstream superhero comics around the time Jeph Loeb’s Ultimatum concluded, and came back in 2010, for six years, with the release of Cable and X-Force. My current hiatus is in response to Nick Spencer’s Steve Rogers Captain America #1 and Ta Nehisi Coates run on Black Panther. You don’t make Steve Rogers a member of Hydra and you don’t turn Wakanda into Rwanda. Two big no-no’s in my book.
Now I just keep up with the latest shenanigans and story-arcs that are “so original and so edgy” from online articles that I read, and whatever praise or rants my friends post on Facebook and Instagram.
Nevertheless, there are three books that I consider required reading, and I highly recommend finding, if you want to understand the evolution of superhero comics: Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross, Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, and Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday.
And it was around the time of the release of Planetary that I realized that there was more to the modern mythology I had been reading and watching. There were stories yet to be uncovered that led to the creation of the stories I grew to love.
And as time went by, I became aware of the Wold Newton Family and Wold Newton Universe initially through websites articles by Jess Nevins, that led me to the Philip Jose’ Farmer Wold Newton Universe website ran by Win Scott Eckert. The Wold Newton Family concept was developed by the late great science fiction writer, Philip Jose’ Farmer back in 1972 and 1973 when he wrote Tarzan Alive: The Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke (1972) and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (1973).
The premise of this concept concerns the real-life exploits of the men who would inspire the fictional Lord of Apes and the Man of Bronze.
And here’s the thing: these men were part of an illustrious family of heroes and villains descended from a group of noteworthy historical characters who happened to be riding in two carriages in Wold Newton, East Riding, Yorkshire, England on Friday, December 13, 1795, when a bizarre event occurred that would have lasting effects for the world of literature and popular fiction.
I went in depth in my last interview, however, I would much rather have new readers find and read these books than spoil them.
Trust me, for anyone who is a fan of fictional biographies, and television series like “The X Files”,“The Pretender” and Heroes, and if they are a fan of crossovers, they owe it to themselves to read these two books, and then seek out other books in the Wold Newton series.
Part of the fun is the hunt for these books and seeing how they connect to one another. You will not be disappointed.
DF: You hit the lottery and win $100 million. What’s the one movie you would make and why?
Because it’s long overdue. And the movie will shake things up a bit. However, it will need a director like Zack Snyder, Matthew Vaughn, or Christopher Nolan to make Planetary work on the big screen or small screen.
A lot of new directors and producers will find a lot in Planetary to be problematic from their point of view. They will not have the stomach for it.
And I would have the films stream on Amazon Prime or Google Play as a series of six 90-minute films. The scope of Planetary is too big to contain in the theaters. At least, for what I would do with that particular project. And I would have Warren Ellis and John Cassaday as Executive Producers on the film series.
Unfortunately, Warner Bros. and Hollywood would need to strike the iron while it’s hot. The actors I have chosen the project are not getting any younger. And the superhero comic movie bubble is bound to burst in the near future. Many don’t want to believe it, but it’s coming. That train will not be late. So, for now, it’s best to get out as much superhero live action content as possible. Because it will be on the decline sooner than many think.
DF: What are your favorite Comic Books; past and present.
LG: Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday remains my favorite comic book series of all-time, with the recent run of The Ultimates by Al Ewing and Kenneth Rocafort, and the always on hiatus S.H.I.E.L.D. (2011) series by Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver coming in as the second and third tier series I love to read. Right now, Mark Millar’s Prodigy series might be joining that exemplary group of excellent comic book series. The jury is still out. But it’s looking like it might be.
DF: You’ve been reading Comic Books for a long time. What’s wrong with them? How can we fix them? And does the Comic Book industry as a whole have a future?
LG: To be frank, half-ass political posturing and pandering, and the need to reboot comic book universes are becoming the death nails for superhero comic book industry at the moment.
The writer’s personal political agenda should service the story, not the other way around, as it currently is. And right now, that’s a lot of comics these days. Furthermore, I don’t think that these writers actually care for the characters they are writing about.
And sadly, I don’t see this changing anytime soon. The current crop of writers and artists are riding the wave of outrage culture, and the bandwagon they are riding on has been losing traction and is about to go over a cliff. And instead of fixing the mess they started, they reboot.
That’s why I hate trends. And I hate to say it, but it needs to be allowed to go on until it’s no longer a thing. When the readers become completely immune to these trends, then matters will correct themselves. But we aren’t out the woods yet. We have a way to go before we are in the clear. But we will get there.
The future of comic book publishing resides with the independent publishers.
Disney is going to eventually shut down publishing at Marvel Comics, and Warner Bros. will follow suit with DC Comics. And it will happen in the next few years. It’s no longer profitable for Disney and WB to keep their comic book publishing divisions going. They are losing revenue yearly, and from a financial standpoint, it is better for Disney and Warner Bros. to maintain control of the licensing for their catalog of characters than to continue publishing comics that are being bought by retailers who are having a hard time selling those comics to readers at the price tags they are currently selling them at.
That’s why smart readers, like myself, wait for the trade paperbacks of the series that interest us.
DF: Why does it seem that the Comic Book industry and Hollywood has such a problem getting Classic Pulp right?
LG: It comes down to present day prejudicial mindsets about Classic Pulp.
Some of these mindsets are justified, while others border on juvenile.
There’s a rugged no-nonsense masculinity that Classic Pulp has that, for the most part, has little traction with current generation. Some get it, while others will not only not get it, but will refuse to even look at it.
Mostly, because if it hasn’t been a thing for the last forty years, then why bother looking at it? It’s a sad way of looking at pop culture enthusiasm, or lack thereof, but that’s the world we live in at the moment. And that’s why we had a Doc Savage film planned by Shane Black who had Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the actor who would have played Doc Savage, thinking that Doc Savage is a “weirdo.” Apparently, Shane Black and Dwayne Johnson don’t understand The Man of Bronze or the world he and his colleagues inhabit.
Therefore, what they can’t relate to, they lampoon. Because lampooning is allowed and encouraged. That seems to be acceptable behavior in Hollywood for some reason. Just look at the recent Sherlock Holmes film with Will Ferrell, The Lone Ranger film with Johnny Depp, or The Green Hornet film with Seth Rogen. There’s definitely a pattern.
DF: Do you think that New Pulp is doing a good job in terms of addressing issues of race, sexism and stereotypes that Classic Pulp gets criticized for?
LG: In my opinion, New Pulp is the avenger and saving grace of Classic Pulp, cleaning up the outdated customs, practices, and prejudices that gave birth to that genre, all the while providing more depth and gravitas to Classic Pulp. Especially when you look at anthology series like BlackPulp and Asian Pulp.
People of color were more than racial stereotypes seen as either servants, savages, or nefarious. We were adventurers, explorers, inventors, detectives, soldiers, sailors, and spies. We were there when America and the world needed us. But very few back then were mindful or brave enough to translate real life heroism as pulp adventure fiction for the people to read. Finding a Black Pulp hero back then was like finding a needle in a field of haystacks. Good luck finding one.
These anthologies redress those issues and correctly brings them to light, and inspired the creation of Pulp heroes and adventurers who could have stood shoulder to shoulder with Tarzan, Doc Savage, The Avenger, The Shadow, The Spider, G-8, Operator #5, and Secret Agent X back in the Golden Age of the Pulps. No joke. I am very serious.
And some of the strong female characters I have read come from New Pulp. They are not to be underestimated. Do so at your own peril.
My advice to new readers is to search online for New Pulp books, read and enjoy these books, and go back and read the book series that made up Classic Pulp. And include international titles as well so that you understand the world of Classic Pulp. America wasn’t the only country producing pulps back then. France and Germany were big on pulp literature for a while before the Second World War.
DF: Where do you see New Pulp right now? And where should it be going?
LG: New Pulp is in Phase 3 of its development. This is an important time for the genre and the movement that brought it into existence. Where it goes next is the key.
In order for New Pulp to thrive in the new age, New Pulp needs to expand into graphic novels, comic books, video games, and tabletop RPG’s. Continue to publishing amazing stories, however, the future of New Pulp will be boundless and have a lasting impact when it branches out into these markets.
And now is the best time to start this transition.
DF: I’m still waiting to see your name on a book/novel. Are you working on anything now? What are your plans (if any) for a writing career?
LG: Projects are in the incubation phase right now.
But it’s not over. Not by a longshot.
I’m working on something that combines my love of espionage pulp, spypunk, cyberpunk, Tokasatsu armored heroes and villains, and Mecha. And it will all be set twenty-five years from now.
It’s a Hail Mary opportunity. But it’s one I have to take. And it’s a story I have to write. Now I have to make the time to truly start and finish it. And that is why, other than sending Birthday greetings, and prayers for those in need, my time on social media will be limited substantially very soon.
DF: What’s a typical Day In The Life of Lucas Garrett like?
LG: Mostly working, there’s a lot of hours to go around at my worksite because someone either got fired, quit, or had to take medical leave for personal or family medical emergencies.
What free time I have is spent writing, editing, researching, and assembling Mecha plastic model kits for frame of reference, 111and Facebook. I’m about to use Facebook a lot less. It’s a time waster. As much as I love using it, that’s what it is.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?
Lucas Garrett: I think that about covers it.
You can check out my WordPress website: Luc’s Speculations – https://garrettluc.wordpress.com/ for my fan fiction head canon crossover theories and analysis. And like my writing, I need to post something new in the very near future.
And you can find me on Facebook and Instagram.
Thanks again for interviewing me, Derrick. I appreciate your friendship and support.
I suppose that out of the many reasons that I’m not yet rich and famous, the fact that I’m notorious lousy at promotion is either #1 or #2. I seem to have this unreasonable faith/belief that those who want to find my work will find it, one way or another. That includes my Patreon site. And while you may know I have one you may not know exactly what content is available to you there and if it would be worth your time and money. Okay, we can take care of that right now and hopefully the information I’m about to impart to you will assist you in making an informed decision as to you becoming a Patron of mine or not.
Let’s start with the crown jewel of the lot, shall we? I always have a brand-new Dillon adventure serial running as the main attraction and the one currently going full steam is Dillon and The Island of Dr. Mamuwalde. I beg your kind indulgence for a few minutes while I go into the backstory of this one:
Remember when the SyFy Channel was doing all those weird monster movies with outlandish creatures fighting each other? Like “Dinocroc Vs. Supergator”? “Piranaconda Vs. Frankenfish”? “MegaPython Vs. OctoShark”? Don’t front. You know you watched them. And if I can ‘fess up to watching them, you can. Anyway, I’m watching one of these movies one night with my wife and as I often do, I say; “I could write a better movie than that” And Patricia responded as she always does; “So why don’t you?”
And I did plan on doing one. I even had a title for it; “Flying Great White Shark Vs. Albino Amphibian White Tiger.” But outside of jotting down notes and characters sketches, I never got past the planning stages. One thing I did know that I wanted to have in the story was a mad scientist. And I wanted him to be black. I absolutely love mad scientists and since there were no great black mad scientists in popular fiction, I decided to create one in the grand tradition of Dr. Frankenstein (Peter Cushing version, natch) and Dr. Fu Manchu. I would model his physical appearance, demeanor and voice on the Great, Great Man, William Marshall and in further tribute, name my mad scientist Dr. William Mamuwalde (students, fans and scholars of Blaxploitation will know where the Mamuwalde name comes from) Clear so far? Okay. We move on.
The idea for “Flying Great White Shark Vs. Albino Amphibian White Tiger” stayed in my notebooks and subconscious for an obscenely long time, lemme tell you. The concept of Dr. Mamuwalde was one that wouldn’t go away and in my development of the character he gained a son who is a master of over 100 Martial Arts since because Dr. Mamuwalde was in part a homage to Dr. Fu Manchu then he needed a son who is a homage to Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. He also gained a nagging, shrewish, alcoholic wife always scheming behind her husband’s back to sell his inventions on the black market simply because the idea of a mad scientist with a nagging wife tickled the hell outta me.
But still, I just could not find the right story for Dr. Mamuwalde to make his debut. The problem was I was not happy with none of the protagonists for the story I had in mind. None of them were formidable enough to present a challenge to the character I conceived and I definitely wanted to have Dr. Mamuwalde to have a worthy challenge to his intellect and his talents. I knew I wanted to have a film crew stumble upon his island (in homage/tribute to 1933’s “KingKong”) but the characters that presented themselves to me didn’t turn my crank. They weren’t alive. They weren’t vital.
Until I happened to re-read “Dillon and The Bad Ass Belt Buckle.” One of the major characters in the story is Jenise Casile, an actress who has won an Academy Award and when Dillon meets her, she is in the middle of filming an epic science fiction trilogy directed by the eccentric director/producer Rigoberto Orr. Dillon and his partner Eli Creed have been hired to rescue Jenise from kidnappers and that’s all I’ll tell you about the story. You wanna know more, go read it.
Anyway, switches clicked in my brain and I realized that I could marry Jenise, Rigoberto and their current film project with my Dr. Mamuwalde character. In addition, by throwing Dillon in the mix I could satisfy my desire to have Dr. Mamuwalde go up against a foe worthy of him. And what better way for a character in my universe to make his debut by going toe-to-toe with Dillon?
There’s some other things thrown into the mix of the story such as Dr. Mamuwalde experimenting with African Cryptids which came out of when I had planned on doing “The Island of Dr. Mamuwalde” as an “Island of Dr. Moreau” homage for the “Cryptid Clash” project my good buddy Josh Reynolds is associated with and briefly talked me into it. And yes…that most definitely is a whole other story.
But once I got Dr. Mamuwalde, Dillon, Jenise and Rigoberto and the whole idea of Dillon rescuing a film crew from a war zone where they were trying to shoot authentic footage and then finding themselves the captives in a “Dr. Moreau” like situation in my brain…everything just sorta fell into place. And this now concludes my long winded Behind The Scenes of Dillon and The Island of Dr. Mamuwalde
One Night in Denbrook is a work in progress going back to 2009. The origins of the story are mainly because I wanted to see if I could do a prose version of a 1980s Action Movie. That’s all. My aspirations as a writer on this particular piece really don’t go any further than trying to put a movie on paper. Most of you who have been following me for a while and know that I usually say that I consider myself a frustrated film director so One Night in Denbrook is my shot at writing a story visual as I possibly could, throwing in all kinds of off-the-wall characters and situations.
The plot is simple: Denbrook’s criminal element is hunting for the heart of Toulon The Magician, Denbrook’s #1 crime lord and one of the main characters of “Diamondback” Some characters who appear in Diamondback also appear in this one as the events of One Night inDenbrook take place about a year before the events of “Diamondback.” The heart of Toulon falls into the hands of one J. Cadwallander, a cab driver who turns out to have an eclectic and incredibly lethal skill set that no respectable cab driver should have and he spends one wild night trying to stay alive while everybody and their mother is trying to kill him for the heart.
The city of Denbrook was created by one of the most imaginative and creative writers I know. Mike McGee is flat out brilliant. That’s the best I can say about him. I truly appreciate the fact that he created the city of Denbrook and then just turned it over to a bunch of writers to use as we please.
Shadows Over Cymande takes place in another city, one in South Carolina. And it’s something of an experiment as in this one I’m trying to mash-up my love of Soap Operas with a genre that I personally call The Little Town With A Big Secret. You know what I mean if I mention fictional towns such as Peyton Place, Collinsport and Twin Peaks. These are towns that on the surface seem like such happy, idyllic places to live and raise a family. But strangers come to each one of these towns and discover that they all have frightening, hair-raising subcultures and dark underworlds of crime, madness and even the supernatural.
In Shadows Over Cymande just such a stranger comes to Cymande in response to a very lucrative job offer. Alexandrea Ainsley thinks that Cymande is just another sleepy Southern town but she soon discovers it is home to two enormously wealthy and influential black families; the Jalmaris and the Redferns. Two families who have roots and rivalries going back to The Civil War and maybe even before then.
Growing up I got hooked on Soap Operas such as “All My Children” “One Life To Live” “Days of Our Lives” and “General Hospital” especially during that period in the 1980s when “General Hospital” was a batshit insane daily cliffhanging pulp adventure serial. And of course, I loved “Dark Shadows” which is without a doubt the greatest Soap Opera ever. I wanted to see if I could take the elements of the Soap Opera and throw in horror, science fiction, pulp, black humor/comedy and even vintage 1980s Grindhouse and see if I could make it work. Do I succeed? There’s only one way for you to find out.
So that’s it. That’s what up there right now. From time to time I throw up a short story I dig out of my digital files just as a treat and from time to time I offer a freebie just for the fun of it. By all means, if there’s something I can do that would entice you to sign up and become a Patron of mine, by all means let me know here or by email: DerrickFerguson@gmail.com
And RIGHT HERE is the link that will take you directly to my Patreon page. There’s another link here somewhere right to the right but why aggravate you by making you look all over the joint for it?
As always, I thank you for your time and kind patience. Blessings on you, your household and all that live there and I’ll talk to you again soon.
Kind of a grandiose title, right? And Milton would probably be the first one to knock me upside my head for bestowing that title upon him but I can’t help it. Whenever I think of Sword and Soul I first think of Charles Saunders, that remarkably talented founder of the genre and the man who I consider to be The Godfather of Sword and Soul. At its simplest Sword and Soul is African inspired Heroic Fantasy/Sword & Sorcery . That’s the thumbnail version. For a more in depth and comprehensive overview of the genre I point you in the direction of an article written by Balogun Ojetade who is himself no stranger to the genre:
And Milton Davis is the second name I think of when it comes to Sword and Sword because he’s had considerable influence in revitalizing and reinvigorating the genre, spreading knowledge of it and inspiring a whole generation of brand new writers who have embraced Sword and Soul with a burning passion, elevating and evolving it in exciting and fascinating new directions. That’s why I call him The Godson of Sword and Soul.
“Okay, Derrick,” you say. “I’m sufficiently intrigued to want to know more. But where do I begin? Who should I be reading? What books and writers do I start with?”
I’m glad you asked because Milton Davis has been good enough to compile a list of Sword and Soul books that you can start with. And here it is:
IMARO by Charles Saunders
DOSSOUYE by Charles Saunders
MEJI by Milton Davis
GRIOTS Edited by Milton Davis and Charles Saunders
GRIOTS: SISTERS OF THE SPEAR Edited by Charles Saunders and Milton Davis
ONCE UPON A TIME IN AFRICA by Balogun Ojetade
THE CONSTANT TOWER by Carole McDonnell
ABENGONI: FIRST CALLING by Charles Saunders
SONGS OF THE SUNYA: TALES FROM THE SANDS OF TIME by Mansa Myrie
CHANGA’S SAFARI by Milton Davis
WHEN NIGHT FALLS by Gerald L. Coleman
Many of these I have read myself and heartily recommend and as for those I haven’t read, I trust Milton’s recommendation as to their quality and entertainment value so don’t be wary of diving in and discovering the magic and majesty of Sword and Soul for yourself. Enjoy!
Derrick Ferguson: It’s been quite a while since we’ve done this so for the benefit of those who don’t know you (and shame on them!) who is Valjeanne Jeffers?
Valjeanne Jeffers: Greetings sweet readers and authors. I’m the author of nine books, including my most popular Immortal series and Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective series, as well as one nonfiction book, The Story of Eve, which has only been published as articles. I also co-edited, with Quinton Veal, Scierogenous: An Anthology of Erotic Science Fiction andFantasy (Volumes I and II). I’ve been published in a number of anthologies, including: TheBright Empire, Fitting In, Black Magic Women,Luminescent Threads, Sycorax’s Daughters and Blerdrotica (in press).
DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS you do?
VJ: I live in Alabama and I work as a teacher and literary editor. I love editing because I get to read wonderful books, mostly speculative fiction, for free.
DF: So how has the writing thing been going for you since we last talked? You’ve been a busy young lady.
VJ: I wish everything went as smoothly as my writing. There are always marketing headaches when you’re an Indie author. Right now, I’m working on getting all of my books on Barnes & Nobel’s site, and ultimately into their physical stores. I’m hoping that this will be a game changer for my book sales.
DF: Is writing getting easier or harder? Have you made any major changes or adjustments in how you work, where your work or the hours that you work?
VJ: I have to balance my writing with my work schedule, and that part is easier since I now set my own hours. I’ve also found my voice and a ton of support from my writing circle, so I don’t doubt myself as much as I used to. We writers are quirky folks, and it has been so beautiful to find my niche among them.
Yet, writing a book, for me, is like starting journey where you have a general idea of your destination, and no idea how you’re going to get there. It’s like that for me every time. That’s the difficult part. In my latest novel, Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective III, I tackled some issues that were very close to home, and this too made it harder. But I can see my way to the conclusion of my latest journey.
DF: You’ve been doing this for a goodly amount of time now. Have you found your audience? Or have they found you?
VJ: I believe that I have found my audience. Yet a writer’s work is never done when it comes to discovering new readers. I’m working really hard on getting my books into brick and mortar stores and attending events where I can meet and greet folks. Also, cons and author signings are a lot of fun.
DF: What are your thoughts on the role and direction of African-American Speculative Fiction written by Women of Color in the past five years?
VJ: I started this journey back in 2007. When I first began writing and reading the only black female authors I knew were: Octavia Butler, Tananarive Due and Nalo Hopkinson. Since then, black women have made tremendous strides as authors, directors and filmmakers. I’m one of the contributing screenwriters for the “7Magpies” horror anthology film, spearheaded by producer and creator, Lucy Cruell. Lucy decided to bring together me, Tananarive Due, Sumiko Saulson, Eden Royce, Crystal Connor, Linda D Addison, and Paula Ashe together as screenwriters to make this project happen, as well as several female directors, including Rae Dawn Chong. This film project has been in the works for a while, but hopefully we’ll see the finished product soon.
DF: I’ve noticed in the past few years you’ve been writing in the genre of Erotic Science Fiction which I didn’t know was a genre until I read some of your stories. Is this a genre we should all be reading?
VJ: I’ve co-edited Scierogenous I and II, and some of the writers in my circle write erotic science fiction, most notably Sumiko Saulson, Quinton Veal and Penelope Flynn. So, I believe that erotic science fiction may be ascending from sub-genre to full-fledged genre status. It ain’t for the faint of heart, but a lot of folks dig it.
I have a mix-media approach to writing: I write horror, science fiction and fantasy and I adore them all. Derrick, you once referred to my writing style as imaginatively experimental and I love this description. Yet, I don’t consider myself to be an erotic writer. I think of myself as someone who writes stories and novels with erotic elements. Author Milton Davis, when I posed this question to him, told me that if I removed all of the erotic elements from my stories, they would still be solid stories. But, if folks describe me as a writer of erotica, that’s cool. Often, it’s your readers who define your work according to how it moves them. As a case in point, I didn’t consider myself to be a horror writer, until Sumiko Saulson included my Immortal series in “60 Black Women in Horror Fiction” (she has since updated this volume to include 100 writers). I was blown away! And so, I took on the cap of “horror writer” and ran with it. Now, my most popular series is Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective, a horror/steamfunk series.
DF: You are a highly prominent and respected female African-American Speculative Fiction writer. At least I think so. But where do you see your place on the field? What position do you hold?
VJ: I graciously accept both titles. I believe that I have reached the point in my writing career where I am both a well-known and respected author. But there are shoulders that I’ve stood on to reach this point in my writing journey, most notably Octavia Butler. Octavia has always been my writing mentor, although I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet her while she was alive. And she continues to inspire me.
Last summer at Blacktasticon 2018, I sat on a panel with some of the heaviest hitters in the black SF community, to discuss Octavia’s writing and the impact that she continues to have on speculative fiction. I was honored to sit beside them. So, as I writer I have arrived, but there’s still room for growth.
DF: What keeps you motivated during creative slumps?
VJ: Octavia Butler has the best recipe for overcoming writers block: “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.” As writers, we have to keep it moving, even through creative slumps. It’s okay to take some time off, to step back and let things simmer for a while. But when I leave my characters for too long, they become strangers, and then I have to go through the process of reacquainting myself with them.
Also, outlines work best for me, when I find myself writing in circles. Music too, is one of the greatest sources of inspiration for me. I’ve actually created scenes inspired by music. I once wrote a concluding action scene listening to “Rollin Crumblin” and another one listening to “Magic Carpet Ride.” And I listen to all genres of music depending on what mood I’m in: Jazz, Hip Hop, R&B, Blues and Rock.
Lately I’ve been listening to one of my favorite bands (just their music from the ‘70s) WAR
DF: What do you do with your free time when you’re not writing?
VJ: If I’m not writing I’m usually working or reading. I have three books on my kindle that I’m reading (Gerald Coleman’s “Plague of Shadows”, Joe Bonadonna’s “Mad Shadows II”, and Alan D. Jones’ “Blerd Tales”). I’m still working on reading stories from the anthologies I’ve been published in. I recently got my copy of The Bright Empire (edited by Milton Davis and Gene Peterson) and the first story I read was Balogun Ojetade’s “The Transmission of Aragomago;” it’s outstanding. I also just finished reading Nicole Kurtz’s story “Belly Talker” (from the Blacktasticon Anthology edited by Milton Davis) which is also off the chain. And I have a few favorite TV programs that I watch, or I try to catch a decent SF/fantasy movie.
DF: Tell us about your upcoming projects. What can we look forward to from Valjeanne Jeffers in 2019?
VJ: I’m currently writing Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective III: The Case of the VanishingChild. I should be finished by late Spring or early summer. And I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a children’s novel based on my short story, “The Visitor” (which was very well received). But I won’t tackle this until I finish Mona Livelong III. Author and artist Penelope Flynn is releasing an anthology of erotic science science, Blerdrotica, and my story “Aura’s Awakening” will be included, and I am very excited about it.
DF: Drop some Words of Wisdom on all the aspiring young writers out there reading this and thirsting for your knowledge.
VJ: My advice to all new authors is read books in your genre, or just read. Read the authors you admire and don’t worry if your words don’t sound like theirs. Variety is the sugar and spice of life, so find your own voice and write! Once you put pen to paper, you are a writer, no matter what anyone says.
DF: What is the one story or novel of yours that you would recommend that we should start with?
VJ: If your taste is Fantasy/Afrofuturism with a dash of Horror start with Immortal. If you prefer your Horror/Steamfunk straight with no chaser, start with Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective: The Case of the Angry Ghost.
DF: What’s a Typical Day In The Life of Valjeanne Jeffers like?
VJ: Normally my days consist of writing, reading and playing with my grand babies – who are playing with my dog Caesar and my cat Cleo. I usually teach in the evenings, unless I’m editing a novel.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?
Valjeanne Jeffers: I’d like to thank you Derrick, pulp writer extraordinaire, for interviewing me! And I wish everyone love, peace and creativity.