Friday, September 14, 2012

Breaking New Ground in New Pulp -- A Writer's Roundtable

Is it possible to break new ground in new pulp, and how would you go about it?

Erwin K. Roberts: You can always try/pitch an "off the beaten path" story in this sort of situation. (Assuming that the editor or owner is willing to listen to something beyond more of the current formula.)

For example I refer to the original Mission: Impossible series. Almost all episodes were tightly scripted con jobs without the humor of today's Leverage. But, once or twice a season, they threw the formula out the window. Case in point: Jim Phelps and Rollin Hand go fishing. They stop at a small town controlled by Soviet spy master Will Gear. Suddenly Jim is in a coma. Then Rollin has to improvise. The episode is a favorite of mine and does not violate what little we know about the team's lives outside of work.

Jim Beard: My drive is to find combinations of themes, eras, locales and characters that seem fresh and exciting. The winning combos will stand out from among the rest.

Andrew Salmon: For me, the answer to this question is simple: New pulp have to break new ground. Period.

I say this not only because for pulp to survive it has to evolve as it did through the 1930s and 1940s into today, but also for economic reasons as well.

A few years ago, all pulp fans (new or old) got were poorly executed reprints of the classic tales of yesteryear to compete with the shiny new books from New Pulp's bevy of publishers. Today, however, Classic Pulp reprints have become things of beauty courtesy of Altus Press and others. Thus, pulp fans now have an embarrassment of riches to choose from and not a lot of coins rattling around in their pockets. The bottom line here is this: why should a pulp reader buy a New Pulp tale that is exactly like a Classic Pulp tale when they can just buy a Classic reprint?

I see Classic and New Pulp existing side by side with each providing a reading experience the other can't and so all the bases are covered. In the mood for a straight shoot-em-up? Snag a Classic Reprint. In the mood for the same historical setting and action but with a bit more character oomph for your buck? Hey, there's enough New Pulp around to fill your belly. This is how it breaks down for me.

So, yeah, New Pulp MUST break new ground while staying true to its roots.

Bobby Nash: It's always possible. I've little doubt that someone, somewhere, someday is going to do a twist on a theme that is going to make a lot of readers, writers, and publishers stand up and take notice.

Lee Houston Jr.: First off, we have to acknowledge that this approach, while very desirable, is a bit more difficult with licensed characters. I was selective in the characters I submitted proposals for in the Pulp Obscura project. Whether or not I chose the right ones, let alone did them justice, will be up to the readers to decide. I like to think I found an unique twist (or two) in the plot and presentation to "A Black Friday In Australia", which appeared within The New Adventures of The Eagle volume. When the volumes for the other characters I wrote for come out, then we can discuss those.

But in regards to creating new characters and adventures of same, the only real limitations would be our creativity and imagination. For Hugh Monn, Private Detective, I took all the classic trappings of the private eye genre, and put them in a totally different setting by casting the series on another planet in different corner of the universe within the far flung future. And if the readers and fans thought Project Alpha was an interesting take upon the superhero genre, wait until they see what I have planned for Alpha, Book 2: Wayward Son.

Van Allen Plexico: I've been going about it since 2005, by writing an ongoing, multi-volume cosmic superhero/space opera saga. Working on volume 7 of the Sentinels series now. And I'm about to break even more new ground by dragging new pulp into the "dark future"/Military SF realm currently occupied by the Black Library and their WarHammer 40,000 stuff, with my Shattering series. And that just scratches the surface.

Derrick Ferguson:  I would be blatantly lying if I didn't come right out of the gate and admit that with the creation of both Dillon and Fortune McCall I was actively looking to break new ground in new pulp and show why New Pulp was going to be different from Classic Pulp.

Sure, we hear all the time from potential readers who say that they would love to read classic pulp if it wasn't so racist and sexist. Okay, so if we're going to bring them into the new pulp Renaissance then it's our duty to create characters of racial, spiritual and sexual diversification in the tradition of classic pulp heroes and heroines but with a modern sensibility that will enable them to operate within the parameters of those classic characters and stories but without the racism and sexism. I'd like to think my contributions have helped to bring in readers of color who otherwise might have stayed away from new pulp thinking it was just going to be more of the same old same old that classic pulp has been.