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.
Seems like it was just last month that I was shoveling snow off the sidewalk in front of the house and Patricia and I were popping the cork on a bottle of bubbly to celebrate New Year’s Eve. I honestly think this must be a symptom of getting older as just about everybody around my age says that it seems as if time is speeding up. All I know is that years ain’t lasting as long as they used to so I better stop being lazy and get busy.
How have you been? This is another one of my updates which are supposed to be a regular thing but usually end up being in the nature of me doing it when I look at the date of my last post and go, “Holy shit…has it been that long?” So here I am to catch up to date on what’s going with me and what you should be on the lookout for as far as my work goes. So let’s dive in, shall we?
Hopefully by now you should have your copy of STRAIGHT OUTTA DEADWOOD, the Weird Western anthology edited by David Boop. The story I have in there; “The Relay Station at Wrigley’s Pass” was one that I originally had written for my collection of Sebastian Red stories; “The Trail of Sebastian Red” which will collect the following stories:
“Of All The Plagues A Love Bears”
“The Tale of The Baron’s Tribute”
“Storms of Blood and Snow”
“Sorrowful Are The Souls That Sleep With Gold”
“The Cost of Employment” by Brent Lambert
“The Bloodstained Trail”
Most of those stories have appeared in the “How The West Was Weird” anthology and most of you guys reading this have read them. I wanted to have at least two or three new stories in the book to make it worth getting for those who already have all the “How The West Was Weird” volumes. Brent Lambert was good enough to offer to write a story as he’s a huge Sebastian Red fan and a marvelously talented writer so I’d have been worse than foolish to not take him up on it. The downside is that it’s taken me so long to get this book together the brother has probably forgotten he wrote it. But never fear, I’ll make sure I do the right thing.
So anyway, I had “The Relay Station at Wrigley’s Pass” all done and was in the process of finishing up “The Bloodstained Trail” which is definitely going to be the longest Sebastian Red story to date. At least until I get around to writing “The Seven Guns of Sebastian Red” which is going to be a “Magnificent Seven” homage. Don’t ask when I’m gonna do that one. I’m trying not to lie to you guys. David Boop contacted me and asked me would I like to contribute something to the anthology and I jumped at the chance. I actually had to cut the story down considerably due to word count restrictions and that took me about a week.
So now my dilemma is this: should I go with the stories I have ready and publish “The Trail of Sebastian Red” or write another story in place of the one I gave David Boop?
By now I hope you’ve discovered SUPERHERO CINEPHILES, the podcast I’m co-hosting with Perry Constantine. If not, look to the right and you’ll see a link there in the sidebar that will take you there. We’re going to be talking about, dissecting and debating about our favorite superhero movies. So far we’ve tackled “Superman: The Movie” 1989’s “Batman” Wes Craven’s “Swamp Thing” from 1982 and “X-Men” is coming up soon.
Already I’ve got people asking me via email and on Skype; “Why aren’t you guys doing the MCU or the DCEU movies?” There’s a simple answer to that: we didn’t want to. At least not right away. You can find hundreds of podcasts about the current wave of superhero movies and eventually Perry and I will get to them. But we wanted to have some fun with revisiting old favorites that essentially laid the foundation for the superhero movies we’re enjoying now.
As for myself, I’ve been having more fun than I thought I would have and that’s a good thing. For awhile now I’ve had the urge to get back into podcasting but I had no idea what I wanted to talk about or what my podcast should be. It was a blessing that Perry came along at this time so that I could ease back into podcasting and exercise that particular set of creative muscles. I’m still thinking about doing my own podcast and my wife Patricia and I have talked about doing one together as well. I’ll keep you posted on that as well.
But in the meantime, I’ve been doing some 20-30-minute audio posts on my Patreon. I’ve done three so far and there will be more to come. There’s no real structure to any of ‘em. They’re just thoughts I have about my stories and my work. Just some insights into how I think about what I do. If you’re interested, again, just look to the right. And the three serials over at Patreon are still going strong; “Dillon and The Island of Dr. Mamuwalde” “Shadows Over Cymande” and “One Night In Denbrook”
Speaking of Dillon, there just might be a new Dillon Christmas story this year. It’s an idea I had last year but it involves another character belonging to another writer and I had to get his permission to use him. We’ll see. I’m also thinking of giving the Dillon website a whole new facelift and update. There’s information there that badly needs updating and the best time to do it is when I’m in the mood. And right now I’m in the mood. So there.
What else? Oh, I’m also working on a new Bass Reeves story for the latest volume in Airship 27’s BASS REEVES-FRONTIER MARSHAL anthology series. I missed Vol. III but Ron was good enough to invite me back for Vol. IV so be on the lookout for that.
I guess that’s it for now. All my contact information is over on the right if you want to get in touch with me as well as links to everything I do online so feel free to check out everything else I’m doing. As always, I thank you with all my heart for your kind attention and support. It sustains me in more ways than you can imagine. Until next time, watch some good scary movies and be good to yourself and others. Take Care and God Bless.
Derrick Ferguson: We haven’t done one of these in years so we have to get the obligatory introductory stuff outta the way: Who is Mark Bousquet and why are you being interviewed here?
Mark Bousquet: I was tempted to go back and grab whatever I wrote for an introduction to the last time we did that and just paste it here, but I suppose that would be cheating, eh? Who I am is a writer. Why I’m being interviewed here is because I’m a published writer.
As we do this interview in mid-2019, I’ve recently relaunched my Gunfighter Gothic series in six new shiny editions, and just released THE MASKS OF SATURDAY MORNING, which is the first Spooky Lemon Mystery.
DF: Where do you live and what do you do to keep yourself in cheese and crackers?
MB: I’m as Assistant Teaching Professor at Syracuse University, teaching writing. Not the fun writing that we’re gonna talk about in this interview, but the obligatory writing classes that students are forced to take. I try to make it fun and try to open up the student’s eyes as to what “writing” is: it’s not just the 5-paragraph research or opinion essays they likely got burned out on in high school. I try to give them assignments that have them create visual projects like comic books or infographics and “beyond writing” projects like podcasts and documentaries, where writing is a tool to get you to the end product.
I’ve recently moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania, so I’ll be looking at a 2-hour commute to and from work this fall. That sounds rough, but the nice thing about teaching college is that I’ll be able to work from home 2 or 3 days each week.
DF: How’s Darwin doing these days? What is he up to?
MB: Darwin is still going strong. He’s 12 and a half years old now, and while he can be an old man inside, he’s still his old energetic puppy dog self when we’re outside. Moving to a new city means everything is new to him and he loves little more than going someplace new. We’ve got a nice public park that we walk in most mornings that always gets his day started right.
DF: You’re still writing but it seems as if your output has decreased. Why is that?
MB: A combination of factors. My current job is way more intensive than my previous jobs, so there’s less time to write, and I found that when I made time to sit down, the stories just weren’t flowing like they used to. Some of that was because the job was leaving my brain extra tired, but it was also because I didn’t know who I was as a writer, anymore. I got myself into trouble by creating series instead of stand-alone stories and so even in creating something new, I was adding another brick onto my back, committing me to writing some future project. I needed to take some time to clear the decks and while that’s an ongoing process, I feel good about putting an editing shine to the Gunfighter Gothic books.
I’ll write more Gunfighter Gothic stories but it’s also good, as is. I haven’t left anyone hanging. I need to do the same for ADVENTURES OF THE FIVE and STUFFED ANIMALS FORHIRE, two kids’ series that each have 2 books published but need to have a third to close those stories off.
DF: In what direction do you see your writing career going?
MB: A greater balance between writing things that I’ll publish through Space Buggy Press and submissions to outside presses. I like having the control over a project that Space Buggy affords me, but I also like to be challenged by trying to write for different editors and publications.
DF: You wrote some of the best movie reviews I’ve ever read. Why did you stop? And are you ever going to start writing them again?
MB: Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say! I stopped because it was taking up too much of my writing time. When I was really cranking out the reviews, I was living in a new city, with only a few friends, no social life to speak of, and no car. I spent most of my time between walking Darwin and working. I didn’t have cable. I was doing Netflix by mail. So I had enough time to write creatively and write reviews and do some travel writing, but as the workload increased, as I bought a car, and entered into a fantastic relationship, there just wasn’t the time to produce the same amount of words. Something had to give and it was writing reviews. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to writing them full-time, but I still love talking about movies and TV shows.
DF: Speaking of movies, what are some of your favorite movies you’ve seen in 2019 so far?
MB: With the move, I haven’t watched as many movies this year as I normally do and I don’t have any lesser-known gems to herald. In fact, looking at the Top 50 films of 2019 through mid-July, I’ve only seen seven of them: “Avengers: Endgame” (loved it), “Captain Marvel” (liked it), “John Wick 3” (liked it), “Shazam” (blah), “Godzilla: King of Monsters” (loved it), “Alita: Battle Angel” (awful), and “Fighting with My Family” (pleasant enough).
I have spent more time reading for fun this year than I have in recent years. I’ve just worked through a run of Robert Parker (Pale Kings and Princes), Ace Atkins (The Redeemers), Clive Cussler (The Chase), Ace Atkins writing as Robert Parker (Lullaby), and I’m currently reading Jo Nesbo’s The Devil’s Star.
These were not random choices. Between February and a week or so ago, I binged all 20 seasons of “Midsomer Murders”, which is the kind of detective show that’s cozy instead of hard-boiled. I got the idea that I wanted to write a cozy mystery set in Middle Earth but as I started to develop that idea, I realized that I already had a main cozy character in Spooky Lemon. I also had a novel finished that had been sitting on my computer for years. When I started self-publishing, I let too many books out too quickly but in recent years, I’ve held on to them too long, tinkering endlessly with them.
I decided to get Spooky out and work on that as my cozy and then take that other character and keep it in a fantasy setting, but write it more like a crime novel than a cozy mystery. I devoured the Robert Parker Spenser books as a teenager, so I started there and reread Pale Kings and Princes (I chose it for the simple fact that it was the oldest Spenser book my local library had on the shelves). Then I read Ace Atkins’ The Redeemers because I knew he’d written a bunch of Spenser novels. Then I took The Chase off of my shelf to read Clive Cussler’s historical pulp before coming to Lullaby, to see how Atkins adapted his style to Parker’s Spenser universe. And now I’m reading Nesbo, for a touch of non-American crime.
I noticed several things that have helped inform me about my current WIP. For instance, in the Spenser novels, the focus is always on Spenser. Atkins doesn’t put that weight on Quinn Colson, and in Redeemers, he spends nearly as much time with the bad guys as he does his main character. Cussler spends the bulk of his time with Isaac Bell, but isn’t afraid to leave him out of chapters and spend time with the bad guys and (to a lesser extent) secondary characters. Atkins’ Spenser book is written in the Parker mold — in other words, it’s not Ace Atkins’ take on Spenser, it’s Atkins channeling Parker’s take.
Who to spend time with is a critical decision because it will inform what kind of crime book you’re writing. In the Colson and Bell stories, there is no mystery, at all. We know who the bad guys are. And the main characters quickly figure out who the bad guys are, too. They might not have all the pieces to the puzzle, but they can see what the puzzle is gonna look like when it’s finished. They aren’t mysteries, at all. They’re pursuits. (With a healthy dash of subplots about the protagonists’ personal lives thrown in, too.) With the Spenser stories, there is a mystery to solve, but the emphasis isn’t on solving the crime nearly as much as it is simply hanging out with Spenser and Hawk and Susan. There’s a case to solve, but I’m always amazed how much time is devoted to following Spenser doing ordinary things: making dinner, sitting in his car on a stakeout, talking with Susan, driving around Boston.
The treatment of the protagonists’ masculinity was also telling. Spenser is completely comfortable with who he is. Colson knows who he is, but isn’t entirely comfortable with it. Isaac Bell is almost comically old school masculine. Nesbo’s Harry Hole is an emotional and physical wreck.
The same goes for the style of prose: Parker is quick and light. Cussler drowns in historical detail. Nesbo is as much literary as he is case-focused. Atkins sits somewhere in the middle, writing a contemporary western inside William Faulkner’s South.
With all this swirling in my head, I sat down to bring my character to life. All I really had was an idea for an opening scene. I knew how the scene would start (“A number of years ago, a green-skinned man walked out of the Wilds to stand before the King.”) and I knew how it would end (“The green man said, ‘I want to be a cop.'”). But that was it. I didn’t know what else would happen and I didn’t know what kind of story he would be in, but I kinda thought I wanted to do a “fantasy western.” But I wasn’t sure.
So I sat down and churned out 2,500 words to find out. I lost the character’s cozy first name (Aldous) and gained a more western name (Bridger). I came up with a basic plot. I gave him deputies and a witch for a pathologist. I built him a world to work in that’s more Scandinavian than Deadwood. I think I know that I want to write a crime story that’s more mystery than pursuit, but I also want to spend time away from the main character.
But that’s what the first draft is for, ain’t it?
DF: What are you working on now?
MB: The Sheriff Bridger Skunk fantasy crime book is where I’m living at the laptop most, but I’m also plotting out the second Spooky Lemon mystery in journals and working through the details of the long-promised World War II book, BLACK RHINOS.
DF: Can we expect to see more of AMERICAN HERCULES?
MB: Yes, but not as the stand-alone episodes that I published last time. I’ll finish off the modern spin on Hercules’ labors as individual episodes, but I’ll just release them all in one collection instead of dropping them one at a time.
DF: Do you have any more children’s books planned?
MB: I’ve been trying to write the follow-up to THE BEAR AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS for a good two years and can’t seem to settle on a story that I like, so that’s back-burnered at the moment. I would like to get one kids book out in time for Christmas, but whether it will be the sequel to BEAR or an ADVENTURES OF THE FIVE book or STUFFED ANIMALS FORHIRE book, I can’t say. I’m hoping one of those stories grabs me and demands to be written.
DF: What can we expect to see from Mark Bousquet in 2019?
MB: I don’t know if I’ll have another novel published this year, but I’ll be writing like mad behind the scenes.
I’d like to do more travel writing, too, but even working on 4 – 6 hours of sleep a night, there’s only so much time in the day.
DF: What’s a typical Day In The Life of Mark Bousquet like?
MB: I used to be the kind of writer who did his best work between midnight and 4 AM, but now my best work seems to come in the 6 AM to Whenever I Take Darwin For a Walk AM or late afternoon. So, it’s usually get up around 6, write, go for a hike with Darwin, breakfast, work stuff, lunch work stuff, errands, reading or writing, dinner, reading or writing, and spend as much time with the partner as possible.
That’ll change once the fall semester starts up again, but for now, I’ve got time to write and I’m taking advantage of it.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we need to know?
Mark Bousquet: ‘ve got a website at themarkbousquet.com where people can sign up for my free newsletters: one for my kids work and another for my genre work. Signing up for each of them gets people a free digital novel as thanks.
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.
Derrick Ferguson: It’s been four years since we did this so we have to reprise the basic question I always ask: Who Is Bex Aaron?
Bex Aaron: Bex Aaron is Bex Awesome – at least, that’s what I tell Siri to call me! I’m almost 37. I’m a Mac person. I can be professional when the situation warrants, but I also have the mouth of a sailor. I’m a master of accents, except for New Zealand (the vowel pronunciations are so different from ours that it’s hard to master). I’m an NBA historian and a Clippers fan. I’d make a great lifeline on Millionaire. I love cats, ice cream and cold weather. I hate Mondays, LeBron James and Texas summers.
DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS you do for a living?
BA: I live in Houston, Texas – born and raised, and I’m itching to get out! I want to live in the Pacific Northwest, namely Seattle. I currently work as a senior case manager for a personal injury law firm but am more than open to other opportunities! 🙂
DF: Catch us up on what been going on with you personally and professionally between our last interview in 2015 and now.
BA: Well, since we last talked, I took a really long sabbatical from writing (I just released one book between our first interview and now), but I am getting back into the swing of things now! Trying to finish up the long-awaited final book of the series, and planning out what the future might bring.
DF: Has your philosophy of writing changed from 2015 to now?
BA: I don’t know if my philosophy has changed, necessarily, but my style has. I’ve been brushing up on my skills, trying to get better and grow as a writer. I always find that reading material from writers who are better than you is a great motivator. I have a few that I’m enthralled with, and their style and way with words is helps me to be better myself.
As for my philosophy of writing, one of my songwriting mentors said it best, Christine Dente (and this is a rough paraphrase): “My goal as a writer is to create something people can connect to, to make them think and feel…but to do that, you can’t always beckon them from the front door. Sometimes, you have to use the window or the chimney to lure them in more slowly.” I believe very strongly in creating an immersive world people can get lost in, one that they (hopefully!) want to come back to.
DF: For those who are not familiar with your work (and shame on them!) tell us about your INDEPENDENCE DAY series.
BA: Independence Day takes place in a small town called Haven Park, Wyoming (fifteen miles outside of Laramie). Haven Park is quiet, and its residents are, by all intents and purposes, wholesome, god-fearing people…until the night of July 4, 1966, when the walls came closing in and the skeletons began to creep out of their closets.
It started with a murder. Carol Mathison, a lifelong resident and the only daughter of retired police chief Stanley Rogers, was found strangled in the park on the morning of July 5, leaving the community stunned. By all accounts, Carol was vibrant, well-liked, outgoing and cheerful, making her murder all the more senseless. However, as the days drag by, more and more began to be revealed about Carol’s darker side…and the many, many people who might have wanted her dead.
DF: While reading Book One and Book Two I couldn’t help but think that INDEPENDENCE DAY falls into a genre I like to call The Little Town With Big Secrets Genre. It starts out like “Twin Peaks” what with a surprising and horrifying murder that shocks the entire town. Then we move into “Peyton Place” territory. Are you a fan of soap operas?
BA: I definitely was growing up. I was always drawn to that human element, the drama of interpersonal relationships. I’m not keen on some of the more dramatic stunts that modern soaps are prone to pull (like back from the dead, rapidly aging babies and the like), but the classic, character-based storytelling really stuck with me when I was a kid. I haven’t watched a soap in a long, long time…I’m not even sure which ones are still on the air. It’s kind of sad the genre has dwindled down to nothing, but I hope, in some small way, my books can help keep it alive for someone.
DF: I recall you originally conceived INDEPENDENCE DAY as a five-part story. Are there still going to be five books or do you have more to tell about Haven Park beyond those five books?
BA: Yes, BOOK FIVE: THE BIG SURPRISE will be the last. I really hate typing that. I’m not very good with endings, see. This is, in fact, the only one I’ve ever done. Everything else has been open-ended, and I only stopped when I grew tired of it. It’s quite an accomplishment for me to create something with a beginning, middle and an end…even if it tears my heart out to think about having to say goodbye.
There actually is more in the pipeline for Haven Park, though. I am plotting a sequel series, which will be set thirty years into the future. I already have a rough idea of how I want the story to go, just need to sit down and actually, y’know, write it!
DF: Anything else you’re working on we should know about?
BA: There are a few ideas I’m kicking around – one is a sci-fi, time travel love story and the other is more of a futuristic sci-fi horror short – but none have gone beyond planning stages. I don’t tend to juggle projects well. I have to stay consistent and just work on one piece at a time, or I will never accomplish anything!
DF: What are your future plans for your writing career?
BA: Oh, I’d love to have my books fashioned into a Hulu original (guys, if you’re reading this, call me!) But more realistically, I’d love to branch out into other genres and try other things. At the end of the day, I would just like to tell stories people can enjoy.
DF: What keeps you motivated to write?
BA: Keeping motivated to write is so damned hard. I’m probably the wrong person to ask, because I’m still trying to recapture my motivation myself. I would say, probably the idea that I’ve come this far, and I really need to take it the rest of the way. I want to be able to say I did it, and prove to myself that I can.
DF: What do you do with your free time when you’re not writing?
BA: I read a lot and watch a lot of TV. I’m a very boring person, without much of a social life, so I usually just relax at home with my music and my TV.
DF: Drop some Words of Wisdom on all the aspiring young writers reading this and thirsting for your knowledge.
BA: Okay, first thing’s first – if you want to get rich off this, you might be in for a very rude awakening. It’s very important to be realistic when you go into self-publishing, because while overnight success can (and does) happen to some, it is most assuredly not a guarantee.
Also: be true to yourself and your own vision. Everyone is individual, so embrace that. Don’t try to emulate anyone else, just be yourself. Trust your gut and write your stories your way.
DF: What’s A Typical Day In The Life of Bex Aaron like?
BA: During the week, I basically get up, go to work and come home. There isn’t much going on, not that my weekends are jam-packed with excitement! I do tend to get a lot more done over the weekends, though, as far as creativity goes. I’m too mentally exhausted after work to really focus on it, so on the weekends, I try to give it a lot of attention.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?
Bex Aaron: I’m back, and I’m trying like hell to get this final book done for you!
Timothy Mayer: I’m a 61-year-old business owner, novelist, freelance writer, seeker of adventure, husband, father, former armored combat fighter, ex-chemist (or did I play one on TV?), former Zine publisher, past film society organizer, one-time saxophonist in a rock band, expert on obscure cinema, and did I miss anything?
DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS that it is you do for a living?
TM: I live 35 klicks up the Schuylkill River from Philadelphia. I was sent here for my sins, but the place grew on me over the years. I list myself as a chemist for tax purposes because I formulated the resins my company sells.
DF: How would you describe your style of writing?
TM: Direct. I like to get into the plot right away. No reason for long, meandering openings. These days, the reader wants to know in the first sentence why he or she should buy the book.
DF: How long have you been writing?
TM: Professionally? For the past five years. As something I liked to do? Since I was 12.
DF: Have you found an audience yet? If so, how did you do it? If not, why haven’t you?
TM: I’m still working on that one. I think my Code Name Wolfgirl books are a step in the right direction. At least the letters I’ve received from the readers indicate it.
DF: I would say you enjoy writing in a variety of genres. Do you agree?
TM: Definitely. I’ve written in noir mystery, science fiction, epic fantasy, post-apocalypse, and horror.
DF: What keeps you motivated to write?
TM: The knowledge that I’ll be paid when I turn the work into the publisher
DF: What do you do with your free time when you’re not writing?
TM: I work on my yard, read, hike, hang out with some local friends, and read some more. I’m a big reader, always have been.
DF: What is the one novel or story that you would recommend to anyone who doesn’t know a thing about you or your work for them to start on?
TM: Wolf Mountain. It’s the first in a trilogy that I wrote two years ago. Charted on Amazon, too. I was hired to write a litRPG series and this one was the flag ship. I’d wanted to write that book for years. This was my excuse to do it.
DF: Drop some Words of Wisdom on all the aspiring young writers reading this and thirsting for your knowledge.
TM: Get it done. Nobody cares about your inner torment or lack of motivation. Grind that sucker out because you can’t edit a blank screen.
DF: What’s a Typical Day In The Life of Timothy Mayer like?
TM: I get up, read the news, take care of whatever I need to do for my business, and then I hit the keys. I’ll go to a coffee shop, buy some java, plug in my ear buds and start to work. My goal is always to generate 5000 words a day when I’m working on a novel.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?
Timothy Mayer: Find someone who’ll pay you to write. Knowing that the green will be transferred to your bank account for something you wrote is a wonderful feeling. But don’t sell yourself short. Make sure you get your name on the work. It’s alright to play Casper the Friendly Ghostwriter at the beginning for peanuts, but you need to make decent coin to survive in this world.
Want to read Timothy’s stories? I sure hope so, otherwise I’ve put in a lot of work on this interview for nothing. Go HERE to peruse Timothy’s Amazon page.