And actually that title is downright misleading because I’ve been back from Windy City for a week already. So this dispatch isn’t coming to you from Windy City but from the good old Ferguson Ponderosa in Brooklyn.
But this is the first time I’ve had to sit down at my desktop computer since I’ve been back (don’t ask…it’s a long story) since I had to unceremoniously flee from Chicago due to a freak snowstorm on Sunday morning. Which meant I had to miss a panel I was to sit on and for that I apologize to one and all. If I can make it up to you, please let me know.
But I wanted to cap off my Wind City adventure with some final images of the good time I had and share them with you good folks. So please enjoy and as always, thank you for your kind indulgence and support.
Those are lyrics from “Dream Away” The theme song to TIME BANDITS, one of my favorite movies of all time and they occurred to me because of the conversation I had this morning over breakfast with Ron Fortier and Rob Davis.
Oh, we talked of many things. Of family, of our craft, of movies…and if you ever invite Rob Davis to your house, please watch YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN with him, okay? I’ll let him tell you why.
But then we started talking about the art and craft of storytelling. And I told Ron and Rob my theory that if aliens ever did visit us it would be because they would be fascinated by the fact that we humans are a Race of Storytellers.
Think about it. You come home at the end of a long hard day from work or school or whatever. You sit down to dinner with your family and you say to them; “Tell me about your day.”
And then they tell you a story.
Because it is now a story because they have had time to think about it, to process it through their emotional and intellectual matrixes. It isn’t events as it actually happened.
It is A STORY.
And if there is any gift that we have as The Human Race is that we know how to tell A STORY.
Which is what a lot of today was about. I had breakfast with Ron and Rob and we told stories. Then we went to the venue and met up with Tommy Hancock and Aubrey Stephens and we told more stories. Then I met Gordon Dymowski and even more stories were shared. Gordon and I had a really good conversation about how much the subconscious plays in the creative process. Don’t sleep on this guy. I learned a LOT speaking to him in just fifteen minutes than I do in three hours with other folks.
We’re having a good time and I hope you are as well. Tonight, it’s dinner at Fuddruckers, the New Pulp Awards and then the drinking and whoring.
Wait…scratch that last part.
And here’s a picture of Aubry Stephens along with a link to the video of Blues Traveler singing “Hook” for no other reason than every time I see Aubry, this song plays in my Personal Soundtrack:
Whenever I’ve talked about trips I’ve taken in the past (especially to Florida) you’ve usually heard me talk about driving down there. And driving is usually how I do travel. I’ve driven down to Florida and back to Brooklyn at least a dozen times. Which has led some people to think that I don’t like to fly or am scared to fly. Actually, I’m not. I’ve flown many times in the past. Flying’s cool. I just prefer driving because I like to take my time to get to where I’m going and I like to run on my own schedule. I start taking planes and bam! everything is out of my hands. I gotta be here at this time and I gotta do this and I gotta do that. All of a sudden, it’s as if all the fun has gone out of travelling because now it’s more about meeting schedules that others have set for me rather than me just jumping in my car and going wherever I please and doing whatever I want.
So why did I jump on a plane and come to Chicago for the 2019 Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention?
Simple. I thought it would be fun and there were people here I hadn’t seen in awhile and I wanted to see again.
Such as Ron Fortier and Rob Davis, the Captain and Chief Engineer of Airship 27. I haven’t seen these cats since the first Pulp Ark many moons ago and it was high time I hung out with them again.
And I never pass up a chance to harass Tommy Hancock. I’ve been doing it for twenty years. Why should I stop now?
And doubtless there are many more people I will resume an acquaintance with here and those I will meet for the first time. And that’s really what it’s about, isn’t it? Or at least it should be. It most certainly is for me. Making connections. Meeting new people. Renewing friendships with fellow writers, colleagues and enthusiasts of Pulp, be it Classic or New. Talking about the things we love in Pulp and how we can make it better and how we can expand the audience and share it with the world.
I’ll be here in Chicago at the Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention this weekend so get used to seeing these dispatches for the next couple of days. Like those war correspondents you see in those old Black & White WWII movies who went out on the front lines during the day and then at night filed stories about what they had heard and seen? Yeah, this will be kinda like that. You guys know how I be.
Tommy and I have already talked about major Dillon and Fortune McCall stuff. Ron and Tommy are going to be making major announcements tomorrow as Friday is the actual day this shindig starts. We just got here early because there’s a whole LOT of stuff that has to go on behind the scenes before the jump-off jumps off. I may even do a Facebook Live from the floor of the convention. Anything to show you guys how much fun we’re having.
We haven’t even really gotten started yet and we’re already having a ball.
SUBMISSIONS OPEN FOR FIRST IN NEW ANNUAL ANTHOLOGY TO DEBUT IN 2019- ‘NEW PULP UNITED VOLUME ONE’ TO BENEFIT CREATORS IN NEED
Pro Se Productions, a publisher of Genre Fiction, is also a publisher and a leading figure in one aspect of what is considered The New Pulp Movement. This movement focuses on fiction that is inspired and in the style of Pulp Fiction published in the early 20th Century, influenced by Pulp of the past, but written by modern writers with an eye toward the future. New Pulp exists outside this movement, obviously, and many recognize all aspects of this style of fiction as a community. This feeling has been so prevalent in the past that it has led to creators coming together to produce benefit books in memory of other creators or, in the case of Pro Se’s Editor in Chief, Tommy Hancock, to assist during hard times.
“LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION,” says Hancock, “was a project put together by Jaime Ramos and Ron Fortier and Rob Davis of Airship 27 Productions. Over 100 creators threw their talents into the mix to put together the biggest volume of modern Pulp ever to help me after I was diagnosed with a rare form of Congestive Heart Failure. It was the single biggest outpouring of support I have seen in a long time in publishing, especially within New Pulp. And I will personally be forever grateful for it.”
New Pulp Author Sean Taylor noted this very thing recently in
a post on social media, expressing concern about growing divides between writers today, due to politics and different world views. In this post, Taylor made a call to return to the sense of community that existed when collections were done for Hancock or when Pro Se produced “WHEN THE SHADOW SEES THE SUN”, a collection of essays about creatives and depression in honor of Logan Masterson, a writer who lost his battle with depression. Taylor’s post caused many creators to think, including Hancock.
“We don’t expect,” says Hancock, “to replicate LEGENDS or any other collections with what Pro Se plans to do, but the course of discussion Sean started this past week demands that we do something, at least it demands it of me. That’s why Pro Se Productions is now taking submissions for what will hopefully be the first of a yearly collection entitled NEW PULP UNITED! All proceeds from this collection will go into a fund that is aimed at supporting New Pulp creators when there are medical issues or emergency situations beyond normal limitations. A committee will be formed that will oversee the distribution of funds. A website and Facebook page will be established prior to the release of the first volume with more details concerning how a creator may request funds.
“Any creator, be they writer, artist, or editor that wants to contribute can submit a story,” explains Hancock, “to NEW PULP UNITED! With all money made going into the NPU fund, no royalties will be paid and Pro Se will absorb costs that we usually cover with royalties as well. Length of individual stories does not matter, only that the tales are some sort of largely unpublished Genre Fiction with an aim at adventure, action, thrills, and/or suspense. Previously published tales will be considered, but the collection should be more new material than anything else. Also, artists wishing to contribute can provide spot illustrations for stories. Editors wanting to help can also participate. All anyone who wants to be a part of this has to do is email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Writers need to send me a few lines about what they intend to write and/or submit, and if the story is good and meets Pro Se’s standards, it’s in.”
NEW PULP UNITED! Is currently slated for publication in March 2019, and if subsequent volumes occur, they will be published in March of each year. This collection WILL ONLY go to print if the number of stories reaches a minimum of 30,000 words. There is no maximum limit. For a story to appear in the first collection, writers MUST email Hancock to show intent to participate and the final work needs to be emailed to email@example.com no later than November 1, 2018.
Hancock says, “I know people will immediately have questions about how the money will be distributed, how it will be determined who is considered a New Pulp creator, and such things. To that end, all sales figures and earnings on this collection and subsequent volumes will be made public. As to who qualifies as a New Pulp writer, that will in part be up to the Committee to determine and guidelines will be set up to oversee that, although the intent here is to help, not to create a bureaucratic, complicated process. Right now, the focus has to be on seeing if the first collection even makes. If it doesn’t, it does not necessarily mean that there is a divide in the community. It may also indicate, though, that maybe there isn’t a community at all. Either way, Pro Se wants to help its creators and those outside our company who are why New Pulp exists today. This is a small way, but it is our way.”
For more information on this submissions call, please contact Hancock at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re a fan of New Pulp and active on social media then you’ve no doubt heard about LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION and how it came into literary life. It would be damn near impossible for anybody interested in New Pulp to have escaped or avoided seeing the news about it. After all, at the time of its publication in 2015 it was a totally unprecedented event in the New Pulp Community. And an event that I believe once and for all establishes that the new Pulp Community is a Community in every sense of the word.
But for those of you who don’t know the story, here’s what happened. Tommy Hancock (and if I have to tell you who he is then you’re in the wrong place) had to be hospitalized due to congestive heart failure. This was a source of horrendously bad news to everyone in New Pulp. You know that game; “The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”? It’s based on the Six Degrees of Separation concept which puts forth the notion that any two people on Earth are six or fewer steps apart. Well, Tommy Hancock is kinda like that. Just about everybody and anybody in the New Pulp Community can be connected to Tommy in one way or another. Just follow the steps and I guarantee that somehow, someway, whoever you name can be hooked up with Tommy Hancock.
It was Jaime E. Ramos and Ron Fortier that came up with the brilliant idea of a benefit anthology to assist in defraying the medical costs Tommy’s treatment would incur and sent out the call for writers and artists to submit stories and artwork. Sixty writers and thirty-six artists answered the call, including Yours Truly.
So now that I was in, what exactly was I going to write? I didn’t want to contribute a Dillon or Fortune McCall story. That would have been too easy. And in keeping with the title of the book I wanted to write a story about a pulp legend/archetype. One that has fascinated me for a very long time: The King of The Jungle.
The best known one is Tarzan, of course. Everybody knows him. Marvel Comics had Ka-Zar, Lord of The Savage Land who himself was based on a Classic Pulp hero, Ka-Zar The Great. There was Bomba the Jungle Boy, Polaris of The Snows who basically is Tarzan raised in the Arctic (the stories are actually pretty good and well worth looking up) Ki-Gor and comedic versions of Tarzan; the best known and most beloved being George of The Jungle. There were even female versions of Tarzan: Sheena, Queen of The Jungle, Jana of The Jungle, Rima and Shana The She-Devil.
But no matter how high or low I looked, I couldn’t find a black King of The Jungle with a pack of bloodhounds and a search warrant. As a kid discovering Classic Pulp during what I refer to as The Big Pulp Boom of The 1970s, I had gotten used to not finding any black pulp heroes so I didn’t hold out any hope I would find a black King of The Jungle. Even though that would seem to be a natural, wouldn’t it? I mean, in Africa you expect to trip over black Kings of The Jungle every ten feet or so.
The best advice my father gave me when I started out writing came about during one of our conversations about James Bond where I asked him why wasn’t there a black James Bond. My father replied; “Well, when you become a writer I guess you’ll have to make one up.” And in the spirit of that simply yet brilliantly profound wisdom I decided that my story for Legends of New Pulp Fiction would feature a black King of The Jungle.
Here’s where Lou Mougin enters the picture. He’s written for number of prominent comic book companies including Marvel where he wrote what stood for many years as the definite origin of The Swordsman in Avengers Spotlight #22. But that’s far from his only professional credits. Observe: View a chronological list of Lou’s work
Lou and I bonded over our mutual love of fan fiction years ago. He’s written plenty of it and I read as much of it as I could find. I didn’t know he was Lou Mougin then. I knew him under the name he used to write fan fiction and its probably a good thing I didn’t as talking to professional writers makes me nervous as hell. By the time I knew who Lou was, we’d become good online friends and nervousness didn’t even enter into our conversations. Lou is also an astounding historian and is always steering me to fascinating characters and creators that I have never heard of and I’ll always be thankful to him for pointing me in the direction of Matt Baker and Voodah.
Matt Baker (1921-1959) is generally acknowledged as being the first successful African-American comic book artist here in America. The majority of his work was done during the 1940s and 50s where he took over the Phantom Lady, redesigned her into the incarnation we best know her for and drew her for about until a dozen issues until it was cancelled. Matt Baker was the foremost artist of what was then known as “Good Girl Art”: artwork depicting gorgeous women in sexy, skimpy outfits and often in provocative poses and situations. Much of his Good Girl Art is highly sought after today as collector items, particularly his Phantom Lady work. He also drew a significant amount of romance stories and the adventures of Sky Girl, an aviation heroine.
But it’s his King of The Jungle character Voodah that interests us. Lou asked me if I’d ever heard of Voodah and I replied that I had not. As he is wont to do, Lou obligingly sent me links so that I could download copies of Crown Comics, which is where Voodah appeared. The truly fascinating thing is that while Voodah was depicted as being a black man in the stories themselves, on the covers he was portrayed as being white. Indeed, after a few issues, in the actual stories Voodah suddenly switched from being a black man to a white man.
After reading the stories and letting the character marinate around in my brain cells for a few days, I got the notion of re-imagining Voodah for a modern day audience (as he’s a public domain character now) and perhaps in that way honoring the memory of Mr. Baker’s original character. It would also fall in line with my idea of presenting a Classic Pulp archetype in the Legends of New Pulp Fiction anthology.
And that’s the long and short of how “Voodah of Thunder Mountain” came to be. On so many levels it’s one of the most satisfying stories I’ve ever written and it’s such a pleasant surprise that to date I’ve had at least half a dozen readers contact me to tell me how much they enjoyed the story and Ron Fortier has asked me if I’m going to be writing more Voodah stories. At this point I don’t think I have a choice in the matter. Am I right?
Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Len Levinson served on active duty in the U.S. Army from 1954-1957, and graduated from Michigan State University with a BA in Social Science. He relocated to NYC that year and worked as an advertising copywriter and public relations executive before becoming a full-time novelist.
Len created and wrote a number of series, including the Apache Wars Saga, The Pecos Kid, and The Rat Bastards. He has had over 80 titles published.
After many years in NYC, he moved to a small town (pop. 3100) in rural Illinois, surrounded by corn and soybean fields, a peaceful, ideal location for a writer.
I live in a small town (population 3000) way out here on the great American prairie. Therefore I have little contact with the wider world of publishing although I’ve written 83 published novels to date.
Last Sunday (4/23) I attended the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention in a Chicago suburb called Lombard, and became aware of the future of fiction publishing. Many of you probably have come to this awareness already, but it was a major revelation for me.
I realized that there is a huge, growing indie publishing movement fully underway, and has come into being because traditional publishing has narrowly focused on conventional “safe” fiction, and tends to reject anything new, weird, crazy or bizarre.
This policy has left a huge vacuum now being filled by the new indie press which operates under a different business model. They don’t have offices in Rockefeller Centre in NYC like Simon and Shuster. They operate out of home offices, barns, or other low-cost spaces. Everything is handled over the internet. And they don’t pay advanced. Authors receive royalties only, as in the early days of publishing. And they produce GREAT eye-catching covers that are works of art on their own.
During the convention I spoke with Ron Fortier, publisher and editor-in-chief of one of the larger indie publishers, Airship 27. He said that famous authors sometimes call him about books of theirs that were rejected by their usual publishers, because those books were considered too far out. But nothing is too far out for today’s indie publishers who market, among other items, novels about vampire cowboys, lesbian werewolves from Mars, hard boiled crime-fiction, other action-adventure novels including traditional Westerns, and all kinds of sci-fi, fantasy and sword and sandal fiction. They also publish new novels about characters in the public domain such as Sherlock Holmes. It’s called “the New Pulp Movement.”
I also spoke with Tommy Hancock, Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions, which is also a major indie publisher marketing hundreds of titles. He told me that the big five publishers are buying up some indie publishers, because they can see where the business is going. But Tommy isn’t interested in selling out. His main interest is exciting new fiction.
Evidently there’s a whole new publishing world out there of which I was unaware, although some of my old books have been republished by indie publishers such as Piccadilly, Destroyer and Blackstone. But I never realized how important this New Pulp Movement is becoming. It is wildly creative, fully energized and intensely ambitious, the new kid on the block fighting for a bigger slice of the pie. The welcome result is more choices for readers and hopefully more income for writers.