The essay below was done as a promotion for the short story collection BLACK PULP edited by Gary Phillips and Tommy Hancock. Enjoy!
On B-Boys and Pulp
Black Pulp edited by Gary Phillips and Tommy Hancock
Planet Hip-Hop has always
overflowed with folks into various forms of pulp culture. Over the years,
I’ve interviewed many rap artists and producers who shared their love for
Star Wars, crime movies, karate flicks and the novels of Iceberg Slim and
Donald Goines. Still, I was surprised when Queensbridge legend Nas told me in
1999 that he had once created a Black Pulp hero when he was a kid.
used to used to draw my own character called Sea God,” Nas told me. “I copied
the body of Conan the Barbarian, but had him standing on the corner instead
of in the forest.” Without a doubt, I’m sure Nas isn’t the only one with a
stash of drawings and/or writings detailing the bugged adventures of urban
Last year, when respected crime novelist/comic book writer
Phillips invited me to contribute a short story to his latest
project BLACK PULP (Pro Se, 2013), co-edited with Tommy Hancock, I
immediately thought of that long ago conversation with Nas and decided I
too wanted to create a hood hero.
Leaning back in my office chair, I
closed my eyes and thought of my own pulp filled childhood growing-up in
Harlem: of listening to old Shadow radio programs that were released on
records, watching blaxploitation and kung-fu flicks every weekend, devouring
the Marshall Rodgers/Steve Englehart’s version of Batman, discovering
the weird worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard,
watching Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon serials on PBS and falling in love with
the work of pulp artist supreme Howard Chaykin, the dude George
Lucas requested to illustrate the first Star Wars comic book.
hour of drifting on those dusty memories, quicker than I could say, “Batman
and Robin, Green Hornet and Kato or Easy Rawlinsand Mouse,” my own pulp
heroes Jaguar and Shep were born. The lead character Coltrane (Jaguar) Jones
owns a Harlem rap club called the Bassment and drives through Harlem cool as
Super Fly in a fly sports car. His murderous friend Shep, who just got out of
prison, becomes his badass sidekick as the two self-appointed crime fighters
go in search of a music minded kidnapper.
Although I’ve never been big
on constructing strict outlines for fiction, I knew that I wanted the period
to be 1988, the last year Mayor Koch was in office. Crack was at its height,
Public Enemy’s brilliant It Takes a Nation of Millions was rockin’ the
boulevards, Dapper Dan was creating his bugged designer fashions and New York
Citywas still on the verge exploding.
Recalling Fab 5 Freddy, who
also appears in the story, telling me about the jazz/hip-hop shows he did
with Max Roach at the Mudd Club in the 1980s, the finished story told the
tale of a be-bop lover trying to rid b-boys and their music from the streets
of Sugar Hill. While working on the story, I consulted with my good friend
Robert (Bob) Morales, himself an accomplished comic book writer,
co-creator of the black Captain America graphic novel "The Truth" and a
pulp culture aficionado. Although he was working on a graphic novel
Orson Welles at the time, he always found the time to talk. Once,
when I thought the Paul Pope/John Carpenter-Escape from New York
inspired climax might be too crazy, Bob reminded me, “It’s a pulp
story…there’s no such thing as too wild.”
So, after several weeks of
calling Bob, sometimes a few times a day,and writing, “Jaguar and the
Jungleland Boogie” was finally finished. Sadly, Bob Morales died suddenly on
April 17, so I’d like to dedicate the story to him.
In addition to my
b-boy/be-bop tale, Black Pulp has a cool line-up of creators of color that
include famed novelist Walter Mosley, who penned the introduction, Gar
Anthony Heywood, Christopher Chambers, Kimberly Richardson, Mel Odom and
WALTER MOSLEY INTRODUCTION
Monday, June 17, 2013
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Derrick Ferguson: Who is Erik Fromme?
Erik Fromme: In the simplest words that I can put together: Erik Fromme is highly critical, highly opinionated and passionate about the things he loves be it his family, work, entertainment or hobbies. Though, family and work tend to take the most of my time at the cost of most other things. Which, I guess, is the way it should be.
DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS you do for a living?
EF: I currently, and pretty much have always, live in Buffalo, NY. Yes, that means I’m cursed to support sports teams that have done very little to earn that support in recent decades, but it is what it is.
As far as what the IRS needs to know about how I earn an income I would say that I’m a drafter for a Mechanical Contractor. What does that mean? Well, I basically design either process systems for Industrial facilities like 3M - you know, the place that made the sponge you use to clean your dishes with - or Praxair for liquid gases. Other times it’s for heating and cooling systems for Schools, Hospitals or other Commercial buildings. I mostly work in pipe, but I’ve recently expanded my talents into sheet metal.
As far as what I don’t tell the IRS I do to earn an income... Well, if I tell you I’d have to kill you. And I do know where you live.
DF: What writers have influenced you?
EF: Truthfully, I don’t have a good answer for that. I guess I could say that - looking back on it - I can point to authors like Peter David as being an influence, but that’s because I’ve been exposed to his work throughout all of my likes from Star Trek to comics. When I grew up I never paid attention to whose work I was reading as I cared about what I was reading, and whether it fit into what I liked. It was simply just about the story. Where the characters acting like the characters I knew? Was the universe the universe I knew? When it came to those works, I knew that authors changed every book or every few arcs so I never got attached to anybody in particular. Their names weren’t likely to draw me to other works.
Sure, in hindsight, it was probably a shitty way to deal with it, but I didn’t care as I didn’t know better. I was never that hardcore a fan. I never took it that seriously. Over the past few years, I’ve learned that quality tends to follow quality authors. Author’s like PJ Parrish whose detective novels really showed me how to structure a mystery over the long play. Not just how to develop clues, but to build them into the structure of the story to when these clues came up later as the story unfolded it was organic and not alien to the story as an afterthought or leap in logic. I was forced to think about the story as a whole and what I wanted from it.
I will go back to Peter David who has penned over dozens of titles and has managed to give individual voices to the many characters he’s either created or taken over in his time. To be able to get into the various mindsets of all those different people and understand their motivations is a strong skill to have and to do that in all of the landscapes is a very strong skill to have.
DF: Let’s get right to it: why Fan Fiction?
EF: Well, Fan Fiction was the natural evolution of the PBeM’s I was playing at the time. 13 years ago, RPG’s were all the rage. But, building on pieces of a story as they sporadically dropped into my e-mail started getting tedious with the one or two paragraphs I was responsible for at a time when all I had to work with was a lame three sentences from somebody who wasn’t putting in the effort I was. When I was presented this new option, I liked the appeal of building whole stories directly from my own mind with just my own input. It forced me to consider new factors I hadn’t before like ensemble casts and how to juggle them all. I was responsible for me and the freedom I had with that responsibility couldn’t be equaled.
The easy part to that answer is: the world was already there - in this case being Marvel - and I’ve been reading comics for years so my mind already occupied that space. I knew these characters and their universe. All I needed to do was move them like pieces in chess and focus more purely on story structure and I could let the character development follow. I guess part two to that answer was the collaboration. I didn’t have to explain my world to somebody for them to get it. It was already gotten. So the world building - which I love the most - could start immediately.
DF: How long have you been involved with Fan Fiction?
EF: I started with Marvel Anthology in ’00. It was a very young site with a handful of titles and a lot more available for proposals including the one I was interested in the most: Daredevil. Since then I’ve developed a few more titles across a few more sites, and morphed into the role of EiC for both Marvel and DC Anthology and have been in that position for about 12 years now.
DF: How long has DC Anthology and Marvel Anthology been around?
EF: Marvel Anthology started in April of ’00 and DC Anthology was launched in October of ’01. I’ve been affiliated with both sites for pretty much their entire existence. There have been some sketchy moments when I doubted the longevity of the sites, when production slowed to almost nothing or when I thought the bottom would drop out as people realized that they’re writing ‘fanfic’ and could ‘do better’. But, I’ve been blessed with some very bright and dedicated authors who wouldn’t let either site die. And right now - even through various purges and reboots - both sites boast a combined number of over 1,000 issues.
DF: What are the goals of DC Anthology and Marvel Anthology?
EF: They should be the same goal as anybody else who wants their stuff read: to put forth entertaining and quality stories that builds a cohesive world. That’s the simplest answer I can come up with. We want to be good. Which, knowing the slams that go around when people see shitty pro work and goes ‘that reads like bad fanfic’, might sound ridiculous when applied to fanfic, but I take what we write serious. Otherwise, why do it?
DF: Why should we be reading DC Anthology and Marvel Anthology?
EF: Because we have some really talented authors working for us who deserve to be read. Everybody treats their title and genre inside the universe - like horror or sci-fi titles - with genuine effort. Characters, personalities, relationships and story structure all get attention. And I like to think that DCA and MA offer a bit of a community feel. That these stories don’t just exist inside a vacuum to each other, but that you can tell the authors collaborate to not just strengthen their own books, but each other’s and they show that by crossing over with their titles and building little interconnecting circles that flow from title to title. Despite, obviously, not being paid professionals we all act like we are. These are all characters we love and it would be a disservice to treat them without respect simply because we’re ‘fanfic’.
DF: One of the criticisms about Fan Fiction is that it’s either poorly edited or not edited at all. Your response?
EF: Considering the amount of shitty Fan Fiction out there I almost can’t blame that perception, but when it comes to the Anthology’s - and a few other sites out there inside the community - that couldn’t be farther from the truth. We have a serious of checks that are in place to help insure quality. Firstly, every title on site starts with a proposal that is examined by - at our site - about a half dozen people. Any concerns that are raised in that process get addressed with the proposer and, hopefully, swiftly taken care of to help keep the acceptance process quick. It then gets voted on and it has to have a majority vote before it’s accepted.
When it comes to our monthly releases our editor has a rather thankless job of proofing every single issue before it gets posted to the site. Every issue gets checked for grammar, continuity errors or other concerns that might be raised in the story around the characters and what we might feel be a detriment to the story. Sure, we’re not perfect but we do our best to ensure that any potential reader that stumbles upon us wants to come back, or better yet, spend some of their time offering feedback on things they like and don’t like so we know how to be better.
DF: Detractors of Fan Fiction will claim that those who write it are wasting their time they could be better using to write original stories. What do you say to them?
EF: They might be right, and there have certainly been a lot of people in our immediate community who have moved on from Fan Fiction to pursue professional careers to the detriment of fanfic. But, for me Fan Fiction is writing for the sake of writing. It’s pure. It just is what it is: an exercise in bettering my talent and have fun doing it. Maybe it’s a cop-out on my end for not pursuing a shot to be published and not deal with the hassle that comes from it and if I did who knows, maybe I could be good at it but for me personally I like the built in knowledge that comes with Fan Fiction because you’re working with like minded people. They’re all there to share the same goal. When it comes to world-building, you don’t have to hold back ideas for fear of infringement and you don’t have to explain your work in detail for somebody to get it before you develop new ideas with them.
At the end of the day, I just like to write. I don’t need an agenda or a paycheck to motivate me. And I applaud and have given as much support as I can to my friends who have pursued a professional career. Sure, part of me might feel a little jealous of them being a professional, but I’m also jealous of the fact that I’ll never be called ‘doctor’ or ‘astronaut’ or ‘archaeologist’ as I love space and history too.
And when it comes to wasting my time I know that, ultimately, I’d rather waste my time writing if for nothing but to write than watch shitty reality tv show. If some asshole can watch ‘American Idol’ and yet point the finger at me for wasting my talent and being creative then who’s the one really wasting their time?
DF: Tell us about some of your writers. What is their motivation for writing Fan Fiction?
EF: If I had to judge their motivation for writing Fan Fiction then it would be for one thing: to tell a story about the characters they love. That maybe they want to do more with Superman than just read about him. The secondary motivation would be to share that with somebody else who loves it just the same. It’s fun.
DF: What’s the best advice you can give someone who wants to write Fan Fiction?
EF: To: Just Do It. And, no, I paid Nike no royalties for that slogan. Who gives a damn? Maybe it’s silly to somebody else, but I don’t think so.
DF: Since you’re involved with Marvel and DC Fan Fiction it can be safely assumed you’re a DC and Marvel fan?
EF: Yes. Comics were part of what introduced me to serialized story telling. Beyond that, I liked how it challenged everything. It wasn’t just GI* Joe or the A-Team doing neat things with guns, it was guys flying unprotected through space, performing incredible feats of physicality that would put most people in the hospital. It allowed for anything to be possible and it was exciting to see where a story without any real limits could go. ‘Guardian’s of the Galaxy’ - the new one that the movie will be based on - is a perfect example of that.
DF: What’s your opinion of DC and Marvel these days?
EF: I would guess its pretty low. Frankly, I haven’t read much of either just because I don’t have the money to spend on them. When I did I got very tired of the constant string of events that Marvel and DC forced themselves in. Every event was sure to ‘change things forever’ and it just got boring. There were few books that just told a story that didn’t have to blow up 9 planets and kill about 437 people to be ‘awesome’.
DF: Is Fan Fiction a viable alternative for those readers dissatisfied with DC and Marvel?
EF: I would say both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Sure, we’ve all asked ourselves ‘How could I do that better?’ or ‘If I did that, I bet I would have done that this way?’ and Fan Fiction can be an answer to that question. But, if you’re there to just do DC and Marvel better than DC and Marvel then I’d think you’d run out of excitement quick because you’re not telling your own story. You’re re-hashing somebody else’s for your own satisfaction. I’d rather people come to the Anthology’s to tell a story that they’ve always wanted to read themselves, but was never written until they did it.
DF: Why not just write original superhero fiction?
EF: Maybe someday I might. I just haven’t had that strike of inspiration on an idea that really pushed its way out of my head. I’ve thought about it, but have always dropped back on Fan Fiction to scratch that itch. Maybe I find it safe. Maybe I just find things too derivative to be happy with it.
DF: Do you yourself have any aspirations for professional writing or editing?
EF: Given my position at the Anthologies I’ve been doing a lot more editing than writing lately with coordinating groups of titles together, helping flesh out ideas that authors come to me with and applying my own touches to those books with direction - when asked - to help maintain a certain vision and direction for the site as a whole. I do genuinely enjoy building whole universes.
DF: Do you enjoy editing more or writing?
EF: I enjoy writing more than editing, which might sound contradictory to the previous question. I do editing to help the health of the site as a whole, but writing allows me to creative for my own ego. I get to toss down my own ideas and build them as I see them without loaning them out for others to develop.
DF: What’s a typical Day In The Life of Erik Fromme like?
EF: Typically, I wake up every Monday thru Friday at 6:00 am and get to work by 7:00 am where I’m expected to do my duty and deal with about 30 interruptions in that day. Which, is pretty much like day at home when I roll in at about 4:30. I don’t get much time to myself and the things I wish to do as my children demand pretty much every waking moment. I’ve got about 20 or so different projects around the house to do: kitchen renovations, basement renovations, landscaping and what not that also demand my time.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know about Erik Fromme?
Erik Fromme: Not really, I would think everything about me is spelled out here. I appreciate the time everybody spent reading this and not closing it out after the 3rd question. And I especially appreciate Derrick’s thought for wanting to interview me for his blog. I’m always fascinated when somebody thinks they need my opinion, but I’m clearly not opposed to giving it.
Monday, May 20, 2013
WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT!
Edited by Scott P. Vaughn and Kane Gilmour
Paperback: 476 pages
Publisher: Quickdraw Books (April 25, 2013)
Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.1 inches
Here’s the thing; I love The Internet. I truly do. Yes, there’s a lot crap out there that gets in the way of the good stuff but the good stuff is there. It just sometimes takes me a while to get around it. Take for instance the webcomic WARBIRDS OF MARS that has been around for a goodish amount of time now. I, however have been woefully ignorant of it until I was made aware of the anthology WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT and while it’s a hefty introduction to the situation and principal characters at the heart of the series it is one well worth reading due to the interesting mix of talent involved.
The set-up is fairly easy to get hold of: Invaders from outer space attack The Earth while it’s engaged in World War II. The alien invaders actually aren’t Martians but what the hey, WARBIRDS OF MARS is a great title so let’s not spoil it with minor details. The Martians have chosen this time to invade as for years they’ve had agents on Earth, half-alien/half-human fifth columnists that have been working behind the scenes to make the invasion easier. And with the world powers fragmented and not able to work together it’s not long before many major cities and nations are conquered and under control of the invaders. But there’s still hope: human resistance forces are fighting back with every weapon and resource at their command to take back the planet.
The core characters of WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT! are an elite cadre of resistance fighters known as The Martian Killers. The leader is Hunter Noir, a fedora wearing, trenchcoated man of mystery who keeps his face bandaged. Jack Paris is your typical wisecracking, two-fisted pilot/adventurer. Josie Taylor is the team’s femme fatale and Mr. Mask is a human/alien hybrid who has joined the resistance, proving to be a valuable asset to the the team due to his having been trained by a samurai master.
These characters all get plenty of time to strut their stuff both in solo stories and in stories where they all work together but WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT! also takes the opportunity to show what is going on with other people trying to survive in this hellish brave new world in various locations around the globe and through the eyes of characters both human and alien.
“Hunter Noir” by Scott P. Vaughn leads off the anthology with the origin of the leader of The Martin Killers and how the invasion began. It’s a good origin story with the only bump in it for me is the sudden decision by the protagonist to become a masked man of mystery while being hunted by the enemy and whipping up a costume and new name for himself in no time flat but y’know what? That’s just me. It’s that kind of story and you either go along with it or not. It wasn’t enough to make me stop reading the story and that’s the main thing.
“In The World Today” by Megan E. Vaughn is one of my favorite stories in the anthology as it concerns a small-town movie date and the effects the Martian Invasion has on it. It’s a short slice of small town American life kind of story but it doesn’t skimp on the characterization.
I love the weird western comic book “Desperadoes” written by Jeff Mariotte so it’s no surprise that I loved “Southern Cross” even though it wasn’t set in the Southwestern United States as I might have expected. (Ron Fortier takes care of that part of the country…we’ll get to it soon…be patient) No, Jeff takes us out to the South China Sea for this one as Jack Paris gets involved in Oriental skullduggery.
“The Deadly Triad” by Alex Ness is a nifty little look into what’s going on with the Chinese and Japanese and I greatly appreciated the break from the slam bang adventure of the previous story to take the time out to see what was going on elsewhere in the beleaguered world.
Sean Ellis has long been one of my favorite writers who never fails to disappoint and he doesn’t do so with “The Farmboy’s Adventure” which has an ending that I truly did not see coming and when it did I immediately went back to the beginning of the story to see if there were any clues that I had missed. I’m betting you’ll do the same.
“The Bitter Edge” is by Kane Gilmore and is another origin story. This one concerning Mr. Mask, so called because he wears a German gas mask constantly. He’s a lot of fun to read about as I kinda get the idea that Kane’s inspiration for the character was G.I. Joe’s Snake Eyes. But with Mr. Mask being a Martian/Human hybrid training how to be a samurai warrior brings an added dimension to the character that moves the story into an exploration of identity and self-respect that lifts it a notch above just another action/adventure entry.
As promised, Ron Fortier serves up a wild west romp with “The Monsters of Adobe Wells” which takes The Monster Killers way out west to team up with Sioux warrior Charlie Three-Feathers, a character I wouldn’t mind seeing more of if there are future WARBIRDS OF MARS anthology. And again, the changeup in setting provides readers with another aspect of the war against the invaders. The international aspect of this anthology is one of the best things about it and a western story fits in here just fine.
Megan E. Vaughn returns for “The Skull of Lazarus” which is a story that makes me wonder if Megan is a “Thunderbirds” fan as her Lady Doyle and Jerry reminded me strongly of Lady Penelope Creighton and her bodyguard/chauffeur Parker. This is an adventure built for nothing but sheer thrills and like Ron’s Charlie Three-Feathers, I hope to see more of Lady Doyle.
“Red Sky Phoenix: The Rise of Free Russia” is another snapshot from Alex Ness as to what’s going on in yet another part of the world. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have even more of these prose postcards in future anthologies (you think they’ve gotten the hint yet?)
“Human Guile” by Chris Samson is where I finally hit a major bump. I’ve read this story twice and still can’t quite wrap my head around what the story is about. It just seemed to me like there was way too much plot and way too many characters doing things I just didn’t understand why they were doing them. For me, motivation is a Big Deal in my fiction. It’s not necessary for me to like or dislike the characters but I do demand that the writer establish why they’re doing what they’re doing and I simply didn’t get that here.
“Surprise” by Stephen M. Irvin is indeed that as I didn’t expect to find a hard-boiled noir story in here but I as I continued reading more and more into this anthology it soon became apparent to me that this concept could and did support a variety of genre stories very well indeed such as J.H. Ivanov’s “The Road Out of Antioch” and “Shipwrecked” by David Lindblad, both of which are out-and-out horror stories with “The Road Out of Antioch” approaching Lovecraftian proportions of cosmic dread. It’s that good, trust me.
“Refined Elegance” by Scott P. Vaughn takes us home and if I had to make a choice between this one and “Hunter Noir” I’d have to go with this one, much as I liked “Hunter Noir.” It’s told from the point of view of Josie Taylor. The Martian Killers have been doing that for quite a while now, the war appears to have no end in sight and Josie is starting to ask herself and her teammates some hard questions the dangerous missions they routinely go on.
The stories are complimented by strong, solid artwork from Jean Arrow, Adriano Carreon, Mike DeBalfo, Bill Farmer, Matt Goodall, Christian Guldager, Robert Hack, Rob Hicks, John Lucas, Paul Roman Martinez, Nathan Morris, Dan Parsons, Nik Poliwko, Richard Serrao and Jason Worthington that serve the needs of the stories they were drawn for, successfully evoking the mood and tone of the prose.
So should you read WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT? I certainly think so. One of my concerns about New Pulp is that it not fall into a rut. Masked avengers of the night and scientific adventurers are cool as hell, no doubt about it. But New Pulp can’t survive on a steady diet of those. Stories such as the ones in WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT! that gives us mashups of war stories mixed with science fiction, horror, day in the life, hard-boiled noir and other genres provide a refreshing new dish for the palate of our imagination to taste and savor. It’s a solid package as you get a lot of story and art for your money and time. Enjoy.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
THE ACE G-MAN RETURNS!
Airship 27 Productions is thrilled to announce their fifth release of the year; DAN FOWLER G-Man Vol II. Volume One was published two years ago and well received by pulp fans warranting a second foray into the world of this classic tough guy federal agent.
One of the greatest pulp heroes of old returns in four gun-blazing new adventures. Dan Fowler, ace investigator for the FBI, is back action, this time facing off against quartet of deadly villains; from a hideous monkey faced gang boss to avenging the murder of an uncover agent. Along the way he’ll team up with a colorful assortment of allies from a sexy jewel thief to the none other than Jim Anthony, the Super Detective.
Writers Derrick Ferguson, Aaron Smith, Joshua Reynolds and B.C.
whipped up four of the most fast paced, nail biting crime thrillers ever to
grace any pulp collection. Dan Fowler is
an iconic pulp hero who, during the course of his original series, battled
criminals and outlaws from rural hick bootleggers to the organized syndicates
of New York and Chicago.
“Dan Fowler was by far one of the most successful classic pulp characters ever created,” declares Airship 27 Productions’ Managing Editor, Ron Fortier. “If you start talking about any kind of crime fighting series, pulp fans will immediately bring up his name. It is synonymous with this particular genre of pulps. He was pretty much the Dick Tracy of the pulps. Airship 27 Productions is thrilled to be bringing him back into the spotlight of new pulp fiction with these original thrill-a-minutes tales.”
Wrapped up by a gorgeous cover from Brian McCulloch and featuring wonderful black and white interior illustrations by Neil T. Foster, DAN FOWLER G-MAN Vol II was designed by Rob Davis and edited by Ron Fortier. So move over Elliot Ness and Melvin Purvis, here comes the great G-Man of them all, DAN FOWLER!!!
AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!
Now on sale at Amazon.com -
B=Bed Size: King
C=Chore I Hate: I actually like doing chores. While I’m doing them I’m thinking about what I’m going to write next time I sit down at the computer. This way there’s no time wasted staring at the screen wondering what I’m going to write.
D=Domestic Animal Names: N/A
E=Essential Start To My Day: Coffee. A lot of it.
F=Favorite Color: Red
G=Gold or Silver: Gold
H=Height: 6 ft 4in.
I=Instruments I Play: None
J=Job Title: Writer (I guess…some days I’m just not sure)
K=Kisses or Hugs: Kisses
L=Living Arraignments: Three family house. My wife and I live on the first floor & basement and we rent out the other two apartments.
M=Mood: Surly on the best of days.
N=Nicknames: Ferg, Fergie, Big D, D Nice, Tummy Boy, Ol’ Hot Chocolate
O=Overnight Hospital Stays: Lemme see…as a kid I had my tonsils and adenoids removed and as an adult I had two pulmonary embolisms that caused me to stay in the hospital for about a week each time.
P=Pet Peeves: Any unnecessary noise and people who are proud of their ignorance.
Q=Quote From A Movie: “So let it be written, so let it be done” from ‘The Ten Commandments’
R=Right or Left Handed: Right
S=Siblings: Two sisters, Valarie and Jan
T=Time I Wake Up: Usually between 8 and 9AM.
V=Vegetable I dislike: Okra
W=Ways I Run Late: Generally I’m not late because I hate to feel rushed or be rushed so I allow myself plenty of time to get where I’m going.
X=X-Rays I’ve Had: My chest has been X-rayed more times than I can count.
Y=Yummy Food I Make: I’ve been told that my cheeseburgers are pretty damn yummy.
Z=Zoo Favorites: Tie between the elephants and panda bears.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Over two years ago we released DAN FOWLER G-Man Vol One. Now it’s time for America's ace to get back into action. Here's a sneak-peek at the back cover to DAN FOWLER G-Man Vol. Two. Coming up next from Airship 27 Productions.
Monday, April 15, 2013
Since this is my blog you’re used to me running off at the mouth in this space here that I’ve carved out for my thoughts and updates and news on my projects. But this time I’m turning it over to Sean E. Ali. He’s the extraordinarily talented cover designer for Pro Se Press and the genius behind so many of their covers that readers and fans of Pro Se have salivated over. He also did the artwork and designed the cover for “Dillon And The Pirates of Xonira.” He’s wonderful at his job and his latest project is yet another important milestone in his career.
But it’s also important to Sean in a very personal way and I thought it was only fitting that he be allowed space here to express how important this project is to him. He originally posted it on his Facebook page but it’s so heartfelt and so touching I felt compelled to re-post it here along with the front and back cover of BLACK PULP so that it will hopefully be seen by a wider audience and not lost in an avalanche of FB posts that come after it.
And I think I’ve spoken quite enough. Mr. Ali, the floor is yours…
Now that it's done, I can talk about the latest project I've done for Pro Se, BLACK PULP.
In advance this is more of an op ed thing that's just for me. You're not obligated to read it.
To give you the highlights BLACK PULP is a volume of fiction being published by Pro Se Press which features stories with an African American focus and features stories by : Joe R. Lansdale, Gary Phillips, Charles R. Saunders, Derrick Ferguson, D. Alan Lewis, Christopher Chambers, Mel Odom, Kimberly Richardson, Ron Fortier, Michael A. Gonzales, Gar Anthony Haywood, Tommy Hancock and features an introduction by WALTER MOSLEY!
Yeah "Devil In A Blue Dress - Denzel was in the movie version" Walter Mosley…
Which made this the biggest damn deal name wise this side of Barry Reese's Rook as our first major licensed property. So that's the short version, you want to slog through the longer part below, think of it as the unofficial afterword for BLACK PULP from my point of view…
Here endth the disclaimer.
Some time ago, long before the vast majority of us were born, the public entertained itself with cheaply produced fiction magazines called pulps, that pretty much took them from the Great Depression and the prospect of a second World War into hidden civilizations, steamy underworlds where masked vigilantes dealt out two-fisted justice and literally hundreds of other variations on genres that explored fantastic situations populated by extraordinary people.
It was an amazing time in popular culture. Literally, people were on the verge of the first real wave of mass produced popular media. It was entertainment and escape packaged behind luridly illustrated covers that beckoned to its potential audience with a promise of a story that you'd lose yourself in and, while it wouldn't solve your immediate problems, you'd be satisfied knowing that your heroes came through for you and made their corner of the fictional universe safe for all until your next visit. The best part? You had heroes who were usually from the people, they were special, but for the most part, they were just like you...
Or at least that's how it was for the vast majority of the population.
In most of the minority communities, the representation of race in those early days of the 1930s, 40s and into the 1950s was less than flattering. Given the times and the publisher, African Americans, or (for the sake of accuracy) let's go with the more diplomatic terminology of the day using either Negros or Colored People, found themselves represented in most media of the day as slow witted or under educated clowns and buffoons - caricatures which were holdovers from the old minstrel shows where bugged out eyes, incredibly huge lips and flaring nostrils were pretty much the standard and actually kinder than the bone through the nose, grass skirt wearing variation or the stooped over monkey/ape variant (that still enjoys a certain amount of favor among some classes of the ignorant, bigots and racists today). The surge of graphic entertainment with the emergence of comic books in general and superheroes in particular turned those stereotypes into standard fare for readers, projecting perhaps some of the views of the creators involved as well as reflecting society's view of race at that time.
The one major possible exception may have been in the pages of a particular pulp that clamored for attention on the newsstands.
One of the best examples of diversity from that time in pulp fiction was an organization called Justice, Incorporated. The group was fronted by a swashbuckling adventurer in the form of Richard Benson, known to the public-at-large as the Avenger. He formed a group of like minded individuals in a war against crime which included a Negro couple, Josh and Rosabelle Newton, who were both accomplished academics with college degrees (from Tuskegee Institute, now University) who actually used the stereotypes of their race to infiltrate the underworld and relay information and assistance to their chief as the story needed them. If Benson hadn't shown up in their lives, they probably would've continued on with their lives after their initial appearance in "The Sky Walker", but thankfully someone in the editing department didn't have an issue with the Newtons coming on board as a part of the team.
Justice, Incorporated was unique even among the pulp hero set, with the possible exception of Diamondstone the Magician who had a Negro sidekick, in giving these two not only equal status, but one that ran counter to the current perception of race at that time. The Shadow had a guy in the ranks of his agents, and while Doc Savage didn't have a Negro cast member, he was generally respectful of the ones he encountered along the way. Josh and Rosabelle were about as close as I got to an African American version of Nick and Nora Charles in detective fiction, or Jonathan and Jennifer Hart from TV's Hart to Hart.
Which is around where I came in.
As a kid I literally went on safari every weekend in used book stores. In downtown Oakland near 14th and Harrison there was this huge used bookstore, which has long since gone away (to this day one of the biggest losses from my childhood), where I had my first encounter with the like of Conan, Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Avenger and Justice, Inc. All of these heroes were caught in a distilled reprinted form and repackaged as paperbacks. I would fill my weekends with these guys who were an extension of the comics I read then and the old time radio shows that I would encounter in the near future and had a fondness for the Avenger in particular because of the diversity of the group and the respect they showed one another despite their different backgrounds.
For the time that the stories were originally written, the Avenger was pretty progressive stuff. In the context of a child growing up in the near post Civil Rights era, it was a good thing to see heroes who looked like me even if they were supporting characters, contributing to the solution of the crisis and serving in a capacity that spoke of their intelligence and their ability to take the limitations tossed upon them based on their race and turn that to an advantage. They basically were a preview of the world to come, in a series that was ahead of its time. So, I went in search of other characters from that time because there had to be a "Negro Pulp Adventurer" series where people who looked like me were actually the lead characters and not just assistants or comedy relief, right?
Okay, maybe more of a "not really".
The closest thing to an African American, Negro pulp magazine at that time was probably more like a version of Reader's Digest called the Negro Digest. Created by John Harold Johnson, founder of the Johnson Publishing Company (who publishes the magazines Ebony and Jet, among others), put together a magazine with a focus on information, opinion editorials, and artistic content relevent to the Negro community but solicited from a diverse number of contributors regardless of race. In fact a column called "If I Were A Negro", where prominent non Negro guest writers were invited to offer opinions and solutions to racial issues of the day led to the magazine's high note with a piece from then First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt which doubled the magazine's circulation overnight. But for me as a kid reading adventure fiction it wasn't quite the same thing as locating a "Black Doc Savage". There wasn't a hero to call my own from that era of pulp adventure outside of glorified sidekicks.
Granted, away from pulps, I came up during a time of great fictional Black heroes. A byproduct of the militant era, mixed with a healthy (or unhealthy) dash of Blaxploitation media, I had heroes in my day by the score, Shaft, Luke Cage Power Man, Black Panther, Storm of the X-Men, Cyborg, Green Lantern - John Stewart, and my personal favorite: Black Lightning. I also saw a surge of multiethnic characters that culminated in a whole comic book universe as the one bright shining moment in comics that I called "The Milestone Era".
Milestone, with the late great Dwayne McDuffie leading the charge, walked the walk on the page and behind the scenes. Their characters were bold brilliant and multi-everything. I had Black heroes, Latino heroes, Asian heroes and even some White heroes. It was everything I wanted to see in fiction in graphic form, in the media content I digested, in examples to my nephews and nieces of four color warriors who leapt tall buildings and saved the day and were accepted for the content of their character more than anything else.
It was also an era that came to an end pretty quickly with the usual excuses of not having the readership or using the fact that a book where a minority lead was the title character just wouldn't sell. Which killed brilliant titles like Icon, Static, Hardware, Xombi, The Shadow Cabinet and the Blood Syndicate in Milestone and books outside of Milestone like Black Lightning or El Diablo (the series about a Latino City Councilman who wears a mask to fight crime but also deals with racial identity, political intrigue and illegal immigration that ran just under a year and a half) at DC or the brilliant, but barely seen in the mainstream, independent series, Brotherman. All of these being series that I recommend highly if you ever decide to go on an excursion to a comics shop and dive into a quarter bin or seek online at sites like Mile High Comics.
"Hey that's great, Ali," you say, "but what does this have to do with this BLACK PULP book?"
The answer is everything and nothing.
BLACK PULP is the fulfillment of personal dreams and goals that I set out to do "as a young designer more years than I want to remember" ago, which was to make a positive contribution at some point to the body of work displayed by creators that created what I playfully refer to as "content of color". In this book are a lot of creators whose work I've admired over the years: Walter Mosley, Ron Fortier, Joe Lansdale, Gary Phillips, Charles Saunders and Derrick Ferguson, and they are in this volume doing pieces that are not necessarily racial in content, but they have African American leads carrying the action and plot of these short stories. They're retroactively giving nine and ten year old me what I had been looking for then:positive examples of people who look like me, making their neck of their fictional worlds a better place by being who they are.
Granted this book is not going to change society at large in any noticeable way, shape or form. We won't read BLACK PULP today and wake up tomorrow joining hands singing "We Are The World", but I'm hoping you'll read it for the stories and enjoy it enough that you won't opposed to a Black Pulp 2 or a volume with an Asian focus, or a Latino focus, or a Female focus, or an LBGT focus, or a volume where all diversity in our culture is the focus, there's such a wide field of themes and subjects to be explored. It's my hope that this book will take you off your beaten track and make you curious about the possibilities we have yet to tap into, the richness of the larger diversity creative individuals can bring to you.
In a very real way, this diverse group of writers are providing an example of that with characters of color, yes, but they're also characters with content, complexity with compelling stories to tell. The efforts of this group of authors, and the personal weight of being a kid who didn't have those kind of heroes readily available to him, fueled my own efforts in the design of the book to make sure that a person looking for a hero in the mirror would find one.
It's my hope that reading BLACK PULP will make you hungry for heroes that look like you and more importantly that you find the imagination and will to create those heroes if none exist. And that in doing so, you not only give yourself something to look up to, but by sharing that perspective, you contribute to the greater appreciation of our greater diversity by everyone. Yeah it's a little "We Are The World"-ish, but at least it has the virtue of being a sincere hope.
I appreciate what Tommy Hancock has brought to the table here. I'm thrilled that Gary Phillips put the concept together and I'm impressed that such a wonderful array of talent came together in response to it all. And more importantly, I'm lucky to have been a part of bringing it to you. It's on my short list of works I'm really proud of. I hope it shows in the package we've put together.
And a shout out in particular to Derrick Ferguson who was my silent co-pilot on this one. his input during the creative process on this one was invaluable and appreciated.
BLACK PULP is here. Be sure to check it out.
And more importantly, enjoy it.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Those you who are fans of the 1980’s cult science fiction TV show “Max Headroom” will recognize the phrase Blipverts. Blipverts were concentrated television commercials shown in three second bursts. Their purpose was to prevent viewers from channel switching. Back when I was active on Live Journal I adopted the phrase for posts where I grouped together a whole bunch of thoughts/ideas/comments that really didn’t warrant posts of their own but that I wanted to communicate for whatever reason. I very rarely use LJ anymore so I see no reason why I shouldn’t start posting Blipverts here. So enjoy.
One of the things that has occurred to me recently is that in order to make this a truly interactive form of communication I oughta ask those of you reading this (assuming that there ARE people reading this) if you have any ideas of what you'd like me to talk about, feel free to email me: DerrickFerguson@gmail.com Not that I don't have a whole lot to say on my own but a healthy mix of different subjects and topics as well as general input always makes for an unpredictable and stimulating package. And I'd hate for anybody reading this thing to be bored. So don't be shy. Let me know what you'd like for me to sound off on and I'll do my best to comply. Okay? Good. Moving on…
If you’re looking for books on writing I've just finished re-reading an excellent book on the subject by Elizabeth George named WRITE AWAY: One Novelist's Approach To Fiction And The Writing Life that I strongly recommend. It's right up there with Stephen King's ON WRITING as well as Orson Scott Card's CHARACTERS & VIEWPOINT and Dwight V. Swain's TRICKS AND TECHNIQUES OF THE SELLING WRITER which is the best book about writing I’ve ever read. If you see any of 'em in your rounds of your local bookstore and you're interested in writing, they're all well worth the time and money.
If you want a good read I can recommend one for you: BLOOD GAME by Ed Gorman. It’s a terrific mix of several genres: Sports and Western told in gritty, harsh as a bottle of $2 booze, hard-boiled prose.
It’s 1892 and aging bounty hunter Leo Guild finds himself without a job. He’s stuck in a town that’s getting ready for a big boxing match between the brutal Victor Sovitch and Rooney. The main selling point of the fight is that Sovitch is white and Rooney is black and Sovitch has already killed a number of black fighters. Sovitch actually likes killing men in the ring and is looking forward to pounding Rooney into paste. But he’s holding out for more money as his promoter, the slimy John Stoddard has cheated him out of money in the past and has disappeared. Guild hates boxing and wants nothing to do with Stoddard but a job’s a job and so he agrees to find Sovitch. He finds him quickly enough and that’s where the trouble really starts.
I had a really great time reading this book as I’m a sucker for a Western and The Detective/Hard-Boiled genres and until I read BLOOD GAME I wouldn’t have believed they could have been married up so well and to such powerful effect. Having it set in the early days of boxing is an added treat since this was when boxing was little more than a legal way for two men to beat each other to death. The behind the scenes maneuvering of Sovitch and Stoddard as the two try to cheat and scam each other out of more money is fascinating to read and the character of Leo Guild is in the middle, trying to do the right thing and getting himself deeper and deeper in a hole until it looks as if there’s going to be no way out unless some folks get killed.
It’s a short novel, about 170 pages and I was amazed at how much Gorman evoked atmosphere and emotion, setting and mood in such a short book. It’s a great read and if you see it next time you’re hanging out at your local bookstore, do yourself a favor and pick it up.
Next time we get together I hope to have news for you about both BLACK PULP and BROOKLYN BEATDOWN, which is at 31,652 words and which I really need to bring to a conclusion as this one is seriously overdue and should have been finished last month. But you know what happens once the brain cells start cookin' Keep watching this space and I'll keep you updated on this as well as a few other things I've got bubbling on the stove.