Saturday, December 31, 2011

[Link] George Orwell: Why I Write

From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.

I was the middle child of three, but there was a gap of five years on either side, and I barely saw my father before I was eight. For this and other reasons I was somewhat lonely, and I soon developed disagreeable mannerisms which made me unpopular throughout my schooldays. I had the lonely child's habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons, and I think from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued. I knew that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts, and I felt that this created a sort of private world in which I could get my own back for my failure in everyday life. Nevertheless the volume of serious — i.e. seriously intended — writing which I produced all through my childhood and boyhood would not amount to half a dozen pages. I wrote my first poem at the age of four or five, my mother taking it down to dictation. I cannot remember anything about it except that it was about a tiger and the tiger had ‘chair-like teeth’ — a good enough phrase, but I fancy the poem was a plagiarism of Blake's ‘Tiger, Tiger’. At eleven, when the war or 1914-18 broke out, I wrote a patriotic poem which was printed in the local newspaper, as was another, two years later, on the death of Kitchener. From time to time, when I was a bit older, I wrote bad and usually unfinished ‘nature poems’ in the Georgian style. I also attempted a short story which was a ghastly failure. That was the total of the would-be serious work that I actually set down on paper during all those years.

For the full essay:

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#35) -- Writer's Resolutions

What are your New Year's resolutions for 2012 as a writer? -- Baby New Year

I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions. They tend to be poorly thought up, I think, and too easily cast aside by the third day of the year. However, in lieu of actually resolutions, I do try to reaffirm my ongoing commitment to the craft each year: To write as much each day that I can.

Some of my favorite quotes about resolutions:

New Year's Day… now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. -- Mark Twain

Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go. -- Brooks Atkinson

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
-- T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"

New Year's Resolution: To tolerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time. --James Agate

Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.  -- Oscar Wilde

Friday, December 30, 2011

[Link] Writers Wednesday: Famous Authors On Why They Write

All writers hit a slump sometimes. Life distracts. Momentum peters out. It happens.

Here’s what fuels the fire for these successful writers. Which of these “why I write” manifestos sounds most like you?

JOAN DIDION: I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. Why did the oil refineries around Carquinez Straits seem sinister to me in the summer of 1956? Why have the night lights in the bevatron burned in my mind for twenty years? What is going on in these pictures in my mind?

NEIL GAIMAN: The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page, and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it's about and why you're doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising…and it's magic and wonderful and strange.

STEPHEN KING: You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair, the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.

GEORGE ORWELL, in his essay “Why I Write,” offers four specific motives for writing. We’ve abridged them a bit here:

(i) Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc.

(ii) Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement.

(iii) Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

(iv) Political purpose. Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.
Orwell’s theory on what drives writers is a bit dry. And, actually, we think there may be some things missing from it (we’ll leave it to you to decide). Nevertheless, when we read this, it forced us to take a hard, merciless look at our own motivations; in other words, it forced us to be a bit more objective rather than emotional. And that’s a good thing.

For full article:

[Link] Real-Life Weirdness: Marvel Lawyers Insist Mutants Aren’t Human

This is a strange one. While fictional characters in the Marvel Universe — the heroes at least — typically argue a position that says mutants and humans are not really different, and should be afforded the same rights, in the real world the company’s position is somewhat contrary.

In the non-fictional world, our world, Marvel is taking the position that mutants are not humans at all. But this isn’t an ideological or a moral stance. Instead, it is a financial one. Toys manufactured in other countries and imported into the US are subject to taxes, but those taxes are lower if the toys represent non-human characters. That has led to Marvel lawyers arguing that an action figure representing, say, Wolverine, is actually “representing animals or other non-human creatures (for example, robots and monsters).” This argument leads to a good conversation on the questions of humanity and acceptance that have long been part of the X-Men storyline.

For the full article:

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#34) -- Christian Comics

What advice would you give to other Christians who are considering making comics?
-- Justin Martin  (from an upcoming interview with R-Squared Comicz)

I get this question a lot, actually, and I used to get it even more when I used to work for one of the major worldwide Christian denominations at one of its missionary agencies.

My response today is the same as it has always been.

If you are a Christian who is considering making comics, then be a Christian making comics. Don't make Christian comics. The world doesn't need more Christian comics. But it does needs more Christians making comics.

It's the same thing I'll say to musicians, artists, and actors. The world doesn't need another Christian band, or Christian paintings, or Christian movies. It needs more Christians being salt and light in the real world who are musicians, painters, and actors.

Just like it doesn't need Christian plumbing or Christian network installations or Christian stationary sets.

For all authentic believers in my chosen faith, it's impossible to hide what you really are through any art your create. (Ask Billy Tucci, for example. His new book "A Child Is Born" is a global big deal, thanks in no small part to his amazing Shi work) Trust that your nature will come through your work. Don't force it in order to fit into a certain market.

So I say: address topics about faith and forgiveness and grace as a writer and tell redemptive stories, but don't hide your stories and art in a Christian bushel (to flip the phrase over) in a subculture where only other believers will see it. Be Christian in all that means (not just the political involvements) in the world. Feed the poor. Help the helpless. Forgive others. Extend grace. Live an exemplary life. Be like Jesus. But for heaven's sake, please don't create any more so-called Christian stuff. We've already got stockpiles of it, both good and the lackluster and the blatant attempts as cashing in on Christians' dollars, filling up our subcultural landfills.

To put it in a more "spiritual" way, don't ever assume your art is your ministy. YOU are your ministry. What you say, what you do, how you live, how you treat people. You art is your art. It is not a means to a religious propaganda end. It's an outgrowth of who you are as the child of a Father who is also a Creator.

A caveat, if I may... If you are creating a comic book format to make a more effective teaching tool (i.e,. as in -- don't get me started on -- Chick Publications) , go for it, but don't call it art. You're creating a tool for a particular purpose. Art is more expansive than that. Art opens itself up to interpretation and takes a chance.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

[Link] The Book Cave Episode 159: Blackthorn Thunder On Mars

Van Plexico chats with the Book Cave crew about his latest series.


Reposted from

Rest in Peace Rusty Hevelin

It is with heavy heart that we bid adieu to James "Rusty" Hevelin. This pillar of the pulp community passed away on Tuesday, December 27th. Active in science fiction fandom since the 1930s, Rusty was for many years the guiding light behind Pulpcon, the convention that helped to keep the memory of the pulps alive through the closing decades of the twentieth century and on into the 21st.

The Pulp Writers and Fans Roundtable About Comic Books (or the PWFRACB)

Comics and pulps have a lot in common (and not just the cheap paper stock they used to be printed on). But which comic book creators today still pay homage to that style of writing? Once again, we picked the brains of some of today's top New Pulp creators and fans.

Which contemporary comic book writers (the past 20 years) best exemplify the spirit of pulps?

(To honor the spirit in which folks answered this one, I'm going to let it run as a dialog thread. It's more fun that way, anyway.)

Lee Houston Jr.: The first name that pops into my head is Dennis O'Neil. Although it's out of your time frame, as far as I'm concerned, he wrote the Shadow perfectly when DC had the license in the 1970s and with the Marvel Graphic Novel Hitler's Astrologer. Moving closer to the present, I would love to see Marvel produce more Mystery Men stories, provided David Liss stays on as writer. But otherwise, the only other names that stand out for me in recent history are Marv Wolfman on Night Force, Don McGrageor on Nathaniel Dusk, and Ken Janssens on his recent Sherlock Holmes mini-series.

R.B. Propst: Christopher Mills easily.

Ron Fortier: Hmmm, past 20 yrs, writer...pulp style of writing.  ;-)

Sean Taylor: Of course you're at the top of list, Cap'n Ron (of Airship 27).

Nancy Hansen: Bombers came to mind immediately, Ron.

Ron Fortier: Thanks Nancy.  The Good Lord willing, maybe some day I'll actually get to write the sequel.

Ian Watson: This would be a much easier question if we could delve back to the era of Eisner and Kirby. Since we can't I'd suggest:

Frank Miller - his minimalist style, his frequent choice of "noir" subject matter, his visceral gut-punch storylines all scream pulp. Love him or hate him, he's right there at the top of the list.

Pat Mills and John Wagner - perhaps not as well known to US audiences, these two creators revitalised the whole UK comics scene with creations like Judge Dredd, Nemesis the Warlock, Robo-Hunter, ABC Warriors and others. The traditional UK comics format was a weekly publication with eight or ten strips of between three and six pages each, so the medium required very tightly-packed concentrated punchy storytelling of the kind pulp tends towards.

Jeff Parker - in mainstream comics Parker is probably at the forefront of the pulp style, blending the traditional "Marvel" approach to sub-plots, character development and conflict with some older tropes and techniques. His influences are clearest in Agents of Atlas, which of course features characters drawn from Timely's 1950s publishing history.

Nancy Hansen: I don't read many comics, just not that excited with them. But I do enjoy very much Thorgal, which is a Belgian comic (it has been widely translated) that I stumbled across in a dollar store when my boys were young. I have a couple copies and wouldn't mind more, it's so well done. Star traveling aliens crash on Earth and their son is raised by Vikings to be the ultimate warrior leader—strong, skilled, persecuted by the gods and his adopted people, and yet compassionate to the core. You can't get much more pulp than that! The series has had a long run.

Bobby Nash: Would I be too vain if I said me? :-)

Sean Taylor: Certainly not. I think any list of pulp comics creators would be remiss if it didn't include Bobby Nash. It's easy to just cite your Domino Lady work, but even your work on Yin Yang flows from a pulp sensibility.

Erwin K. Roberts: But writing pulp-like doesn't necessarily mean good/enjoyable comics. In my opinion, only, Miller, and those who emulate him, are a main reason I stopped buying almost all new comics about twenty years ago.

Ian Watson: I enjoyed Miller's early work, especially Daredevil, but found that when he moved to other material he was something of a one-trick pony. The Dark Knight was the last of Miller's material that I really enjoyed (Batman: Year One was on the cusp), although I've appreciated some of his movie adaptations including RoboCop, 300, and Sin City.

What I didn't like was the overwhelming wave of Miller-wannabees who tried to emulate him across mainstream comics. Like Kirby, Miller is a very distinctive creator and most people who try to pastiche him produce very awkward and painful material. Miller's one trick did not translate well into many other comic series.

Of course, the question only asked which comics creators were most pulpy. There are also pulp creators out there whose work I don't particularly care for.

One creator I missed off the list was: Howard Chaykin - as well as often setting his stories in the "high pulp" 30s era, Chaykin tends towards principal characters drawn directly from pulp roots such as Dominic Fortune, American Flagg, and Cody Starbuck. His seminal Black Kiss is a noir pulp story writ large.

Sean Taylor: Any Brubaker fans? I've always thought Brubaker's work captured that sensibility, though more in a sort of "back door" way, if that makes sense.

Bobby Nash: Brubaker has said he's a pulp fan and his work on Criminal and Incognito definitely has a pulp flair. Brubaker probably tops my list.

Ron Fortier: I love Brubaker, he's the reason I'm loving Captain America again. 

Bill Craig: Roger Stern, John Byrne, Chris Claremont, Ed Brubaker

Sean Taylor: I'd also have to add Chuck Dixon and Beau Smith to the list. Both of them have a direct, to the point style that hearkens back to the pulps, I think. Both also tend to jump straight into the action and use minimal set-up scenes with talking heads standing around doing nothing. Punch, kick, shoot, talk a very little, shoot and fight some more.

Chris Glasgow:  James Robinson (for his Starman series).

Michael Gordon: Matt Wagner.

Alex Miller: A guy who's had a ton of success, but started with some strong pulp roots is Rick Remender. Look at Sea of Red, Strange Girl, Fear Agent and even his recent creator owned project The Last Days of American Crime and you'll see his love for pulp in spades. Even look at his work for Marvel and there's a pulp sensibility to it. Sure it's divisive...You either loved or hated his run on Punisher and Frankencastle, but it had the novelty of never being tried. I can't get enough of the guy's work.

Duane Spurlock: Grant Morrison's work on the first story arc for BATMAN AND ROBIN, with Frank Quitely on art, reminded a bit of Norvell Page's SPIDER adventures. Dark stories with truly fiendish villains.

Pete Miller: For my two cents I say: Mike Mignola for Hellboy and BPRD, Steve Bryant for Athena Voltaire, Brian Clevinger for Atomic Robo.

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#33) -- Comic Script Samples

Do you have a link to a comic book script sample online? -- Anonymous

Absolutely. It's right here:

This is one I put together when I was working as managing editor at Campfire Graphic Novels when we wanted to get the writers on one page with format and help the writers who hadn't written in a comic book script format before.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#32) -- Writing Superheroes as Human Beings

 Any advice for writing superheroes in a believable way?
-- Republished from Cyber Age Adventures (iHero Entertainment)

Here at Cyber Age, we like to think that our stories do what traditional comics don't or can't, that they bridge the gap between "funny books" and literary pieces. Sure, a picture is worth a thousand words (as the saying goes), but sometimes a thousand great words can say more than any sequence of pictures.

Like it or not, the visual medium just doesn't always open itself to capturing the intricacies of human emotions or drives or foibles. It can capture the icon of the emotion or the instance of the emotion, but it often fails to get into the layers that have led to that instance.

Deciphering the Cyber Age basics

When writing for Cyber Age, there are five key principles to keep in mind:

1. THINK CHARACTER -- Beyond powers and costumes, who is this character and why should readers care about him or her? Does he have a job? What's her favorite movie? Does he have trouble with commitments? Is she religious?

Go past the obvious when creating your characters. Figure who they really are. A good exercise is to fill out job applications for your key characters at least. Give them a background, hobbies, job experience, educational experience, key moments in life to remember. Sure, not all (or even any) of this background info will make it into your story, but your characters will become much more real both to you and your readers.

2. THINK CONFLICT -- Not just Super-Bob versus the Giant Panda for the fate of the world, but what's really at stake? A character's worldview failing to be real? The fear of the unknown? The inadequacy of super powers? A childhood trauma that prevents a character from growing as a person?

Many times, the internal conflict can be played out against the external or physical one. In the best stories, the two conflicts are inseparable, the yin and yang, the heads and tales that make a good story a great one.

3. THINK HUMAN -- Characters become real when they become human, touchable. Do your characters have anything in common with flesh and blood people? With the reader? Readers can't identify with being able to throw tanks around, but if that character who can throw them around also has a few failed relationships or is grieving a lost sibling or has claustrophobia or struggles with shyness, then you've made the super-human more human.

4. THINK PLAUSIBLE -- In the comic book world characters may be able to fly or save the universe the minute they get zapped by lightning or sprayed with radiation, but in the Cyber Age universe, things aren't so spontaneous. They take practice. Just as you don't immediately learn quantum physics in your first class of Physics 101, Cyber Age characters don't have a graduate degree in super heroics simply by virtue of putting on a costume.

5. THINK SHARED - Your stories don't occur in a vacuum. There is a rich history and society in place in the Cyber Age universe, thanks to those who have written before you. Read a few of the stories in the anthology and from the recent issues section of the website. Find out who some of the major players are in Cyber Age - even a small detail sprinkled here and there will give your stories the edge that makes them seem that they're a part of something bigger.

Meet Greg

Think you've got it? Good, then let's try an exercise:

Greg took a long gaze at the wrecked tanker between him and the gargantuan Mr. Nobody. Great, it was burning. Now all he had to do was make it through the fire to catch the freak. No problem. Even a burning tanker was no big deal for him now that the accident had given his skin the density of steel.

Read it again. It's not THAT bad, but it's certainly not a Cyber Age story yet. Let's look at Greg for a few moments and run him through the five principles above.

1. CHARACTER: Let's give Greg a past.

Greg Armstrong

Age 32

Born: Augusta, Georgia

Currently living in: Chicago, Illinois

Works as: pizza delivery person, Gino's Pizza & Beer

Graduated from Berkley University, pursued a career in jazz, but gave it up a few years ago when he found he couldn't pay the bills, still plays the bass in his free time

Key memories: When he was five, he lost his parents in plane crash, and went to live with his aunt and uncle, Audrey and Frank, and his cousin, Andrew. Frank was a volunteer firefighter who often let the teenaged Greg tag along as long as he promised to stay out of the way.

At 14, he had his first French kiss, with Erica Wilmont, a short, cute blonde of 13.

You'll obviously want to go deeper, but you get the picture.

2. CONFLICT: So, what's really bugging Greg?

Sure, he's fighting some super baddie on the other side of the flaming tanker, but let's say that Greg just heard that his cousin, Andrew, whom he grew up with as a brother, is coming in on a plane later this afternoon. And Andrew, who pursued medicine instead of the "dreams" of a life in music, now owns a successful private practice, and inadvertently makes Greg feel like a complete loser.

3. HUMANITY: Let's de-power Greg's psyche.

No problem there. Who among us doesn't understand jealousy or the feeling of comparing yourself to someone more successful? So what if Greg can walk through fire and move a huge tanker? He's like emotional Silly Putty (TM) when Andrew is around.

4. PLAUSIBILITY: How well-trained is Greg?

Let's say that Greg's been doing this for three years. That means he's become pretty adept at using his powers, and probably even has learned how to adapt to a variety of battle scenarios. But he still remembers the times when he rushed in headlong and screwed up royally.

5. SHARED: Is anyone else involved?

At this point, there are no other characters involved in the story, but let's study the bylines from the Anytown Gazettes, too. They're a great source of other, non-hero characters that are a valid and viable part of the Cyber Age Universe. For this exercise, let's say that Greg is an avid reader of the Hero Hotsheet, but has yet to appear in it.

Okay. Obviously not all of this is going to make it into the story, but let's see how just knowing it helps as we rewrite the passage from above.

Here's the original again for reference:

Greg took a long gaze at the wrecked tanker between him and the gargantuan Mr. Nobody. Great, it was burning. Now all he had to do was make it through the fire to catch the freak. No problem. Even a burning tanker was no big deal for him now that the accident had given his skin the density of steel.

Here's the new one:

Greg checked his watch. Only three hours until Andrew flew into O'Hare. He shook his head, trying to ignore the rhythmic crackles of the flame. The wrecked tanker sang a death-song, but he had no time to enjoy its natural staccato. It figured. Thanks to Mr. Nobody and the flaming tanker, he might miss Andrew. Then he'd never hear the end of it.

"Late again, Gregory?" Andrew would say after paying the cabby for the long ride from the airport.

And Greg knew he'd be unable to stop the tightness in his chest when he faked a smile and said, "Sorry, bro. I got caught up at work."

As he approached the tanker, he saw Mr. Nobody's figure soft focused in the flames of the burning gas. Even as a kid, tagging along with his firefighter uncle, he'd loved the way that a fire took everything out of focus, and made the whole world seem fuzzy and blurred. Not at all like the annoying focus that life had taken lately.

He stared at the monstrous figure through the flames. For someone named Nobody, the villain was at first glance awfully impressive. Nearly seven-feet tall, with a physique that screamed "Charles Atlas sucks!" he could easily take out most of the heroes in Chicago, even the ones Greg read about in the Hero Hotsheet. But not Greg. In the three years he'd been learning how to alter the density of his skin, he'd discovered that even the toughest villain tended to fall apart when the first punch broke a few knuckles against his hard-as-steel chest.

Maybe a win against Nobody would get him a shot at a decent story in the paper. Even if he couldn't show it off to Andrew, it would be enough. Greg would know, and that was all he needed.

See the difference?

Although I never mention Greg's musical training, it comes through in the way he hears the fire. And the reference to him first discovering how flames blurred images clues us in further to his more artistic nature.

Note how the two conflicts are intertwined. Failing at one means failing at both. There is no way around it.

And for the humanity of the story, can you feel the pride and desire surging as Greg contemplates the newspaper coverage? And did you notice how the shared reference to the Hero Hotsheet also reinforces Greg's jealousy and desires to "be somebody" in the eyes of his cousin?

A caveat, if I may. I've crammed as many of the principles into this short section as possible to show a "textbook" example of these principles at work, but typically, you'll want to spread them out over the course of the story instead of overdoing it, as this example does.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#31) -- Believable Dialog

Any advice for making dialog sound more believable? 
-- republished from Inside the Lines magazine

When I look back on my earliest attempts at writing fiction, I'm faced with an embarrassing realization -- all of my characters were English majors like me. They all spoke with clean, proper sentence structure and had the vocabulary of an amateur linguist. The sad part is this -- stories that could have been entertaining and interesting were poisoned and ruined by one of the most heinous plagues to infect beginning writers. Flat dialogue.

Put bluntly, my dialogue sucked like an upright Hoover. (And believe me, those beauties can suck up dust and dirt and carpeting like nobody's business.)

So, let’s take a look at how to park that Hoover back in the stairwell closet. In this tutorial we’re going to look at two key ideas of writing dialogue: (1) What dialogue is and does and (2) Using dialogue specifically in comics.

De-Mystifying Dialogue

Dialogue is talking, plain and simple. Without it, stories become long exercises in narration and description. Modern bestsellers can’t live without dialogue, and most pages tend to be full of more of it than any other weapon in the writer’s arsenal. Modern comics depend on it to avoid the clichéd “Meanwhile back at the Round Table” descriptive boxes that a strip like Prince Valiant depended on. And while Prince Valiant may be a really cool strip, you have to admit that reading it is more like reading a nice picture book than reading a comic book.

Okay, so dialogue equals talking, and all that talking has purposes and goals it’s trying to accomplish in your story.

GOOD DIALOGUE REVEALS CHARACTER. Imagine a woman who uses big words when little ones would normally be used. Or how about a man whose speech consists mostly of phrases and idiom, with few complete sentences. Or the woman who says little but "speaks" instead with her gestures (or to a writer, beats). What do those word/sentence choices reveal about the characters? Would you expect the first woman to be a little arrogant or just well-educated? The man to be shallow or perhaps hip? Or the second woman to be shy or perhaps cautious and secretly deep? Even the cadence of speech should reveal bits of characterization. A character who speaks with a sing-song quality of rhythm or "poetic" sounds would have a vastly different personality than one who speaks with direct, choppy sentences with concrete nouns and verbs and few descriptive words.

GOOD DIALOGUE CONTAINS EMOTIONAL IMPACT. Physical and emotional descriptions are a good start for helping readers to view your characters, but they become truly loved or hated or pitied or supported when they step onto the stage and speak. Effective dialogue helps clue in readers as to how they should feel about your characters. A strong lead who speaks little won't typically hold a reader's attention. Likewise, a supporting character who can't shut up may be distracting your reader from the person or people you're actually writing about. On the other hand, if your main character is a chatterbox whom you want readers to view with a little disgust, constant prattling and interrupting will help reinforce the emotional impact you're trying to establish.

GOOD DIALOGUE DRIVES THE STORY. If what your characters say has nothing to do with the theme, tone, or plot of your story, then you need to take a hard look at the dialogue you've written. (Don't go any further until you read that again. It's that important.) This, however, does not mean that your characters should explain the plot like a bad Bond villain. But your characters shouldn't chatter inanely about stuff that has no bearing to what you're trying to accomplish with the story. Even if you let the story shape itself as you write, at some point you must stop and determine the target you've sighted to hit with your story. Having said that, sometimes what the characters choose not to say can be a more effective way of conveying tone and theme and plot than what they choose to say. People tend to talk around things more than talk about them. Just listen to a couple on the verge of a break up if you need proof. They'll talk about anything to avoid addressing the downhill turn in their relationship. (Go read "Hills Like White Elephants" by Hemmingway or "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" by Raymond Carver for classic examples of talking around the real subject.)

GOOD DIALOGUE FLOWS. Often silence can say as much as words. A good dialogue writer realizes that what the characters don't say is sometimes more powerful than what they do say. Also, as in real life, sometimes gestures (or beats) can convey intricacies of communication better than speech. It takes each piece - speech, silence, and gestures - to put into print the illusion of communication between fictional characters. Effective writers listen and watch for the dance of words, silence, and beats. A caveat, however... don't feel the urge to switch to writing poetry at this point, but do learn to listen for the sounds and the cadence of the words and phrases you use. They carry baggage and impact, even on a subconscious level. A sequence of short words with lots of vowels has an entirely different feel than a sequence of mixed-length words with hard consonants. Try rewriting a few speech balloons or narration captions from one of your stories three times and changing the word choices and sentence lengths for each. Listen for the different rhythms and "feels." (Cool, huh?)

GOOD DIALOGUE FOOLS THE READER INTO BELIEVING IT SOUNDS NATURAL. It's a common mistake of beginning writers to transcribe dialogue just like it sounds in real life. But the fact is that real life speech is -- let's face it -- boring. We pause, "uh,” “um," backtrack, miss the point, and correct ourselves more often that we actually "say" anything. Can you imagine line after line of that? Instead, good dialogue gives the illusion of real speech. It's what we might say if we were able to really think and self-edit as quickly as we speak. It accurately portrays the idioms and idiosyncrasies of real speech, but without the verbal speed bumps that would make readers feed your story page by page into the shredder along with Aunt Louise's fruitcake recipe.

GOOD DIALOGUE HIDES ITS OWN MECHANICS. Or let's put that another way. A good dialogue writer gets out of the way and let's the story do its work. As with any craftsman, the goal is to show off a finished piece, not the nails and screws that went into creating the piece.

We've looked at some of the fundamentals of what good dialogue is and does, so let's build on that.

For the purposes of this tutorial, I’d like to propose that dialogue isn’t just two characters talking to each other, but can also include a character talking to himself or herself (thought balloons and internal monologue).

I know what you’re thinking. Trust me. You’re thinking, “Sure, Sean. But what specifically does that mean for me as a comics writer?”

So let’s get to it, shall we? But, let’s get some definitions first, so we’re all using the same terms. These are by no means “official” definitions, but they’ll work for us practical types. The include:


Dangling Dialogue—a bit of dialogue that is captured in a narrative box rather than a balloon and ties a panel to the previous or following scene

Internal Monologue—a person talking to himself or herself, but at the same time directly to the reader

Thought Balloons—puffy balloons, usually when a character is talking to himself or herself, but not directly to the reader

Your Extra Time and Your KISS

No doubt most of us are familiar with the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid), and we’re going to adapt it here. A good comics dialogue writer must remember this key principle—Keep It Short and Strong.

Don’t believe me? Then find the nearest letterer and ask him or her. I bet he or she will tell you that nine times of out ten beginning writers channel their inner Clairmont and have their characters speaking in novel-length expositions better suited for novels or short stories. Okay, the nearest letterer may say it differently, something like “They have their characters say too much, and I run out of room and usually have to tick off the artist by covering up some of the art,” but the idea is the same.

For the record, I’m actually a fan of many of Chris Clairmont’s stories, but you have to admit, the man sure knows how to cram a lot of words into a panel. He can often find ways to make it work because his characters are standing around a conference table or hanging out in a kitchen at the time, not knee-deep in the middle of an epic battle.

This is a good time to remember and practice the proverbial Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In other words, think about your artists and letterers and try their shoes on. If your artist has to draw miniscule scenes in order to fit your characters’ dialogue and internal monologue into the panel, then it’s time to rein it in, cowboy.

Some writers will give you algebraic formulas such as “a splash panel = no more than six balloons or 250 words” or “a typical panel = no more than 35 words,” but I won’t do that here. If you’re not sure how much room your dialogue takes up, reset the font in your word processor and take a look for yourself. (Comics Sans will do for this purpose, at 6-8 point size, though hopefully that’s not what your letterer is using!)  If it goes beyond 2-4 full-page-width lines of text in your average word processor per panel, you’re probably going to give your letterer a headache.

More than One Way to Skin a Cat's Mouth

Repeat after me: There is more than one tool in my dialogue toolbox.

Go back and read that sentence again. Then commit it to memory. Some writers have made names for themselves by avoiding either thought balloons or internal monologue. Some even go so far as to belittle these tools as unsophisticated or passé. But I want to encourage you as a comic book writer to open up your mind to all the tools at your disposal. There’s a valid reason a carpenter needs a hammer, a wrench, and a level—because sometimes a screwdriver alone just won’t do the job. The important thing is to know why you’re using a specific tool.

On the other hand, I’ve seen stories in a submissions pile in which writers have misused their tools—trying to tell a more adult, Vertigo-esque tale but filled with lots of thought balloons or trying to convey a nostalgic feeling but using heavy internal monologue that in no way resembles the stories they’re trying to emulate. In other words, I’ve seen folks hammering at screws and trying to drive a 10 penny nail with the butt end of a screwdriver. Sure, eventually they may get the job done, but it won’t be pretty or efficient.

However, bear in mind that the way you use your dialogue tools can and will determine the tone of your story. For example:

    Lots of thought balloons can make a story feel very Silver Age.
    Using liberal doses of internal monologue can give a story a more literary feel (if used well).
    Lots of short, to-the-point dialogue unfettered by thoughts and internal monologue will help action sequences “move” quickly

Dangle Your Participles… and Your Other Words Too

Don’t be afraid to let your characters’ words jump scenes. Dangling dialogue can be an effective way of bridging from one scene to another, especially if you can find a way to play the words ironically off against the new scene. This is actually a fairly common practice now, and many pros use this technique almost religiously.

If it’s true that the key to keeping a reader engaged is to make sure he or she turns the page, then dangling dialogue is an easy way to force a page turn, especially when you’re in the middle of a scene without lots of kicks, punches, or bullets. Just find that opportune bit of dialogue (something like “But it wasn’t Rick’s baby at all, according to the doctor. She said it must be…”) and let it hang. And with a set up like that, I dare readers not to turn the page to find out what’s about to be said.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#30) -- Reading Is Fundamental

What books do you recommend for writers and artists? 
-- republished from Cyber Age Adventures (iHero Entertainment)

Remember the old RIF commercials? The ones where people would hand out books and tell kids that "reading is fundamental"? Well, don't feel bad. They weren't nearly as catchy as selling Pepsi with shots of the bare midriffs pop mini-divas. Still, that tag line got stuck in my head and stayed with me: Reading IS fundamental -- especially to writers.

Writers read. There's no way around it. And good writers read a lot. They're the kind of readers who can't eat cereal without reading the back of the box, even when it's full of boring health facts and that pyramid food chart. They're the kind of readers who skim even medical journals or GOOD HOUSEKEEPING (though they prefer HIGHLIGHTS if it's available!) while they're waiting in the doctor's office.

But if you want to bone up on your fiction-writing skills, that Captain Crunch or GOOD HOUSEKEEPING may not be the best use of your reading time. Why not check out a few books on the craft or writing?

The A-List

Three particular volumes no serious writer should be without are:

    MAKE YOUR WORDS WORK, by Gary Provost, Writer's Digest Books
    THE TRIGGERING TOWN, by Richard Hugo, W. W. Norton & Company (ignore that it's a book about poetry; just read it and see how you learn to listen to your word choices)

Hands down, these are the three most helpful books about writing that I've ever read. Period. And I'm not making a cent off that endorsement.

More Great Writers Guides

Some other great resources I've checked out and recommend include:

    WHAT IF? WRITING EXERCISES FOR FICTION WRITERS, by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter, HarperPerennial
    WRITING FICTION: A GUIDE TO NARRATIVE CRAFT, by Janet Burroway, Harper Collins
    SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS, by Renni Browne, and Dave King, HarperPerennial
    DIALOGUE, by Lewis Turco, Writer's Digest Books
    THE ART AND FORM OF THE SHORT STORY, by Rick DeMarinis, Story Press
    WORD PAINTING, by Rebecca McClanahan, Writer's Digest Books
    WRITING DIALOGUE, by Tom Chiarella, Story Press
    THE AGONY AND THE EGO, edited Clare Boylan, Penquin Books
    ON WRITING, by Stephen King, Scribner

Writing in Tights

Some other helpful books for understand the genre of superheroes and comics influence are:

    UNDERSTANDING COMICS, by Scott McCloud, HarperPerennial
    REINVENTING COMICS, by Scott McCloud, HarperPerennial
    COMICS AND SEQUENTIAL ART, by Will Eisner, Poorhouse Press
    GRAPHIC STORYTELLING, by Will Eisner, Poorhouse Press
    HOW TO DRAW COMICS THE MARVEL WAY, Stan Lee and John Buscema, Touchstone

So, next time you have to hit up the local medical practitioner for an expensive prescription request, don't waste your time on those picked-over copies of PEOPLE from 1986. Take a good book on the craft of writing. After all, with that family of five in line before you, you'll make it through at least three chapters easily.

Addendum: I got one for Christmas yesterday that I have a feeling will soon join this list. It's about the art of writing villains. The title: BULLIES, BASTARDS & BITCHES - HOW TO WRITE THE BAD GUYS OF FICTION. I'm really looking forward to it.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#29) -- Favorite Holiday Movies

What are your favorite holiday movies? -- Anonymous

This is going to have to be a list. Sorry.

In no particular order...

Die Hard
The Bishop's Wife
Batman Returns
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Trading Places
Christmas in Connecticut
White Christmas
Holiday Inn
Nightmare Before Christmas
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Muppet Christmas Carol
Santa's Slay
Silent Night, Bloody Night
The Hebrew Hammer
A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott)
Die Hard II
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Edward Scissorhands
Home Alone (only the first one)

And the ones topping the list:
It's A Wonderful Life
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (sue me, it's TV)
The Little Drummer Boy (ditto)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (yep)
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Merry Christmas, and God bless us, everyone!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"Nor Doth He Sleep" -- My 24-Hour Tale Is Live at New Babel Books & iHero Entertainment!

The story is up. You've got 24 hours (and that's all) to read this one before it is pulled from the site.

Hello and welcome to an iHero exclusive 24-hour tale! Set in the award-winning iHero Universe, we sometimes offer up a rare story to be enjoyed for one day only. Today is that day!

This time around, the story, "Nor Doth He Sleep," comes from iHero veteran writer Sean Taylor. Enjoy!

ADDENDUM: This link is no longer live. Hope you enjoyed the tale while it lasted. 

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#28) -- Favorite Holiday Fiction

What's your favorite holiday fiction? -- Anonymous

Would it be a cop out to say "Gift of the Magi" and "A Christmas Carol"?

Okay, I'll go deeper then.

I honestly don't read a lot of seasonal literature. Don't know why. I've always gotten books for the holidays, but usually just general books that I had requested across the course of the year.

I've always loved the winter fables of Hans Christian Andersen, and if "The Fir Tree" and "The Little Match Girl" count as holiday tales, those two top my list. Oh, and the Sherlock Holmes tale, "The Case of the Blue Carbuncle."

At the risk of seeming self-serving, what I've always preferred is WRITING holiday-themed stories, and of those, my favorites are "Sin and Error Pining" and "It's Christmas, Baby, Please Come Home," both of which appear in my collection Show Me A Hero from New Babel Books.

And I've written a brand new one for this year, which will be a 24-hour tale available only on Christmas Day. Check here or subscribe to the blog so you don't miss it. It's called "Nor Doth He Sleep."

[LINK] Earth Station One Episode 91: It’s Elementary, Dear Watson. The Game is Afoot!

This week the ESO Crew is back in the station as we travel to 221b Baker Street to discuss the world’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes. Our guests this week are Holmes Artist Mark Maddox, Holmes Author Bernadette Johnson, and Holmes Historian Tom Elmore. Also Bobby sits down with Pulp 2.0 Press publisher Bill Cunningham to discuss his upcoming Sherlock Holmes project, the return of Martin Powell and Seppo Makinen’s Scarlet in Gaslight graphic novel.

Join us for yet another episode of The Earth Station One Podcast we like to call: It’s Elementary, Dear Watson. The Game is Afoot!

You get all this and more at

Direct link:

Download this podcast from Itunes or Subscribe to our RSS Feed at

Next week, Earth Station One steps back inside the TARDIS to review the new Doctor Who Christmas Special as well as a roundtable discussion with some special guests about our favorite holiday-themed stories as we travel from 2011 to 2012.

And we would love to hear from you. What are your favorite holiday-themed stories? Leave us a comment at, at the ESO Facebook Group, email us at, or call us at 404-963-9057 with your list. We might just read yours on the show.

The ESO Crew

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Holiday Message from Sean Taylor

No bah. No humbug. X's allowed!

You know, it's okay to tell me happy holidays instead of Merry Christmas, even if you're a fellow member of my faith. I'm not going to get in your face about how you're not "keeping Christ in Christmas."

I don't care if you use Xmas either, because I understand the history of the X (and that it precedes both Malcolm and Stan Lee).

I understand that Constantine and his ilk thoroughly mixed the birth of Christ with pagan celebrations to obtain political ends. And if people still continue that today, they're not "not keeping Christ in Christmas" -- they're just continuing the blending that Constantine started all those years ago.

I get that.

If my understanding of the holiday season is about the work of Christ incarnating into humanity in order to be a perfect substitutionary sacrifice on humanity's behalf, then nothing you say or refuse to say can change one jot or tittle from that. No dollar sign can attach to it. And you can't wrap it or stuff it on a tree.

I can celebrate Christmas as I understand it without offending you or getting in your face, because the season is not some church-ordained mass evangelism event. Nothing about the season changes how I interact with you on behalf of my faith and what I perceive as your need for salvation from original sin -- I still have the same mandate to treat everyone, believer and nonbeliever alike, with the same grace, love, forgiveness and understanding that I do every other day.

Just because the word "Christ" is in "Christmas," it does not, nor should it ever, give me carte blanche to hassle you about becoming like me. (I would love for others to find what I've found, but it's not my job to be God's used car salesman or God's Internet spammer.)

I even enjoy the game of Santa Claus and dig the idea of adding a little drummer boy to our legend version of the nativity (as opposed to the real one that smelled like animal crap and was filled with a crying -- not silent -- baby, and didn't have any -- much less three -- wise men drop by until almost two years later).

All this to say, I hope that you have a wonderful time getting together with your friends and family. I hope you take advantage of this time to share some of your wealth with those less fortunate (trust me, in comparison to the rest of the globe, you ARE bone-idle rich). I hope you experience the love of those around you and share that love with everyone you encounter.

And I hope that, somewhere, in the busy-ness of this season, you find a few moments of peace on earth to contemplate the true and higher peace the angels spoke (not sang) about when they said: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

Merry Christmas! Happy holidays! Peace on earth!

[Link] Commander Xmas is live (and FREE!)

For your comic reading pleasure.

Click the image below to see the whole story.

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#27) -- Writing Horror?

You obviously enjoy horror movies, as you've said many times in interviews.
Why haven't you written more horror fiction? -- Anonymous

I'd love to write more horror, but lately the doors seem to keep opening for other work, mainly pulp.

That said, however, I do find that horror fiction is more difficult to write than I used to think. To make something scary with mere words on paper is not easy. There are too many variables the writer isn't in control of. The reader controls the speed, the pacing, the skipping of text, how their imagination perceives the imagery, etc.

This is different from films or audio experiences. In a film, all the viewer can do is watch and wait while the creator (storyteller) dictates the terms of the "communication." Verbal storytellers too have the advantage even though their main tool is simply the spoken word. Their listeners can't flip pages or put down the put mid story, etc.

One of the best tools I can use when writing horror fiction is that of "unease." If I can create an atmosphere that wigs outs the reader, then I can get in the first blow, so to speak, and keep the reader off his or her feet long enough to distract them from breaking the suspension of disbelief created by the story. After that, I've found that the trick is to step up the creepy, and not the gore, but only after a well-paced rest to let normality set it (even if it is a sort of heightened, eerie normality), thus stepping up the creepy by increments.

Or that's what I've found. As always, you're mileage may vary.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

[Link] Table Talk -- Readers' Questions, Take II

After the success of the first Table Talk with questions from readers, Barry Reese, Bobby Nash and Mike Bullock decided to continue taking questions "from the audience" every now and again. This week, the guys tackle the topic of archetypes and working with different characters. 


Question (Josh Bell): Pulps, and subsequently comics, have quite a long history of recycling a lot of material when an idea proves successful. Sometimes, I think the end result grows into its own, my favorite example being Ka-Zar, whom I love almost as much as Tarzan. Though he started out as a very close imitation of the pre-eminent Jungle Lord, his revamp by Stan and Jack in the 60's led to him being, in my opinion, an engaging character in his own right. Closer to the pulp home, the Spider is obviously very similar too and inspired by the Shadow, right down to the slouch hat and twin .45's. This said, the Spider ultimately took a different direction than his predecessor. Still, for every Ka-Zar and the Spider, there are loads more incarnations of the pulp archetypes that fall flat. Do you guys, as the current guardians of pulp fiction, think that the recycling of archetypes is a good thing, as they can serve to reinforce what pulp is all about, or a hindrance, given that it can be seen to lack originality?

For the full article:

Pro Se Presents #1 Now Available on Kindle and at Smashwords!


Pro Se Presents #1, the debut issue of Pro Se's latest pulp magazine!

Featuring stories by Sean Taylor, Don Thomas, and Ken Janssens, Pro Se Presents is the magazine that puts the monthly back into pulp! Available NOW in multiple formats at
and by the end of today AT for the Kindle....

And the best part? ONLY $1.99!!!!

Genre-Bending: How Pure Should Pulp Fiction Be?

When you think of pulp fiction, what springs to mind? The hard-boiled P.I.? The lost Earthman winning and wooing on Mars? The jungle lord? The aviator adventurer? The masked vigilante precursor to the comic book super hero? Weird horror tales with skeletons and damsels in distress? (For the sake of argument, let's all assume you didn't immediately go to the movie with John Travolta and Samuel Jackson, even as good as it is.)

Pulp has covered many genres, and was originally so named because of the cheap paper on which it was published. Pretty much everybody who loves the style knows that.

But, over time, some genres tended to become more synonymous with the definition of pulp than others.

And some would argue that pulp itself is a genre. (For the sake of this article, we're going to treat pulp as a style of telling a story and not a genre unto itself, since so many genres were represented within its ranks.)

To explore this idea further, we went straight to several of new pulp's top creators.

Which genres do you think work best in pulp stories? Detective, masked vigilantes, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, etc.?

Ron Fortier: Series hero pulps, regardless of setting.  Doesn't matter if the hero is a masked crimefighter ala the Shadow or Scientist space man like Captain Future.  The settings were unimportant to the hero element that one could follow month after month.

Bill Craig: In my opinion, mystery, detective adventure and masked vigilante can all work well in the pulp genre.  Doc Savage often combined mystery with high adventure, just as the Shadow novels while mystery often had elements of mystery even as the Shadow himself was a "masked" vigilante.

Don Thomas: Personally I have always thought that the basic detective story is the quintessential best choice for type of story that can resonate with the reader.  As it slowly pulls them in word by word and page by page to the point where they can't wait to find out what happens next.  The further you delve into a detective story, the more complete the overall picture or story becomes gradually over time.  And perhaps one of the best ways to weave a self-contained story in each and every genre that you listed Sean.

Not just the classic example of the Sam Spade film noir detective story, but is not Alan Moore's Watchmen story a perfect example of an immense detective story featuring masked vigilantes?  And for that matter I can cite two great science fiction stories that could also be said to be detective stories.  One being Issac Asimov's Second Foundation novel where questions about The Mule and the Second Foundation lead the characters down the road of trying to figure out whodunit.  And in my opinion the greatest Legion of Super Heroes story that has ever been written, the Great Darkness Saga. 

And the same can be said with the fantasy and horror genres.  My own Murder in the Ghetto of Trentonium being a fair example of such in a purely fantasy setting, and the Mickey Rourke and Robert Deniro playing the enigmatic Louis Cyphre in the movie Angel Heart being a great example of a detective story that is set very firmly in the horror genre.

Lee Houston Jr.: I think any genre is doable in pulp. Look at all that has been and is currently represented within the field. The only limitation in literature is the writer's imagination. Without it, the Shadow would not know what evil lurks in the hearts of men nor would John Carter have ever set foot on Mars.

Bobby Nash: I think any genre can work. Why not?

Erwin K. Roberts: Any genre can be written in the pulp manner. Take Carl Barks, and now Don Rosa's Disney Duck stories. I'd love a chance to write a slam-bang prose version of a Scrooge McDuck Fiscal Safari™.

Ian Watson: Some genres naturally led themselves to a pulp approach better than others. Generally those which involve concealment and revelation or action work best. Romance, depending often on the detailed dissection of circumstance and emotion, is not always served by pulp's speed and brevity of introspection. Mystery and horror, using deception and shock discovery, are ideal. Physical conflict is difficult to write well but pulp offers a useful technique to accomplish action-packed adventure sequences.

Do you prefer to keep a genre pure when you write? Why or why not?

Ron Fortier: Dangerous question I'll skip this one, as some of us still see pulp itself as a genre.

Bill Craig: No genre is really pure because they all have elements of each other.  Lester Dent wrote about radar and many devices in the 30's and 40's that the public was seeing turn into reality in the 60's and 70's, so Doc Savage stories combined mystery, adventure, and science fiction all at once, which backs up my conclusion on that one.

Don Thomas: Generally when I am writing a story in a particular type of genre, I try to keep the focus on writing that particular type of story.  Not to say that their can't be elements of other genres within the entirety of that story, but they are just elements.  The whole of the story is that main genre, and the goal is to weave a good tale in that particular genre.  

Lee Houston Jr.: Personally, I feel that anything is possible. But I would not do it just because I could. It would be a question of what the story/series calls for.

Bobby Nash: Define pure. I do enjoying mixing my genres.

Erwin K. Roberts: Define pure genre, please. I can't. For instance, does western have to be post-Civil War? Then what about the Leatherstocking tales? Or Zorro? Or tales of the Mountain Men?

Ian Watson: I struggle to answer this one because I don't really sit down and think "I'll write some pulp today". It just so happens that my natural writing style meets some of the definitions currently out there for pulp fiction. The only exceptions are why I'm trying to emulate or echo some other writer's style.

What about blending genres in pulp stories? Is it a fun way to spice up a tale or is it committing sacrilege in the pulp religion?

Ron Fortier: Sacrilegious? You're kidding right? The most popular pulps were the ones that blended: Ranch Romance, Pirate Mystery Tales, Weird Western Adventures. The whole concept of blending came from the pulps—it was their hallmark and remains true to this day.

Bill Craig: I love mixing it up.  In my latest Hardluck Hannigan story, Peril in the North which will be out after the first of the year, Hannigan gets another hand from The Reaper(masked Vigilante) who also appeared in River of the Sun.  He is headed for a hidden arctic base which was originally built by aliens and houses flying saucers that the Nazis are starting to use(science fiction) and it is all a big adventure.  It combines multiple elements of several genres to make a fun and exciting tale for my readers.

Don Thomas: Brothers Jade is a good example of this, as although as a whole it is definitely an example of Fantasy writing, there are prime and very tangible parts and scenes of that tale that can be just as frightening to the reader as any good ghost story.  For example the inner conflict of Deth Ethereld that eventually compels him to become a murderer, has similarities to the fall into psychotic madness that Jack Nicholson's character Jack Torrance in the Shining experiences.

To me the genre of a story is the destination to keep in mind during the long journey of weaving a particular type of story.  But the routes, execution, and elements that a storyteller can take and utilize along the way for that story can and should have infinite possibilities.

Lee Houston Jr.: If you have the right combination and it works to the readers' satisfaction, where's the "sacrilege"? My own Hugh Monn is a private detective with all the classic trappings of the detective/mystery genre, yet he works in the far future on another planet in a different part of the universe, thus blending in some science fiction elements. While I try not let one side of the equation overshadow the other, the two genres together make for a much more interesting story/series overall.

Bobby Nash: There's a pure pulp religion? Personally, I like mixing genres, but only as the story requires. Story and character come first. If the story warrants mixing horror and a mystery, for example, then I'm all for it.

Erwin K. Roberts: The "last" pulp magazine was a genre bender: Ranch Romances. Anything goes. So long as you have an exciting and reasonably logical story.

About thirty years ago I submitted a story idea for Charlton Comics' "Bullseye" program. The idea was approved, but I couldn't find a reliable artist to draw the strip. Recently I excavated a copy of the treatment from near the bottom of the Culture Vault. I'm changing the circa 1980 adventure to star my second generation pulp-hero, The Voice, and an elderly Ravenwood. The original would have featured the Steve Ditko version of the Question & Dr. M.T. Graves. (The story will directly follow this tale: )

Ian Watson: As a reader I don't mind how "pure" any style is. I simply expect to be entertained and perhaps enlightened. To do that the writing has to be engaging, the plot clear and well told, and the whole reasonably free from errors and bad grammar that might damage my suspension of disbelief. Other than that, I don't mind if the authorial voice is Spillane or Lovecraft, LeFanu or Banks, Pratchett or Gaiman, Clive Barker or M.R. James. I'm interested in how the music affects me, not the technique or genre used to play it. In fact I generally prefer a good original to a bad derivative.
Bill Craig is the author of The Jack Riley Adventures: Valley of Death, Mayan Gold, Dead Run, Pirate's Blood, The Child Stealers, and The Mummy's Tomb; as well as numerous other stories.

Erwin K. Roberts is the author of PLUTONIUM NIGHTMARE and a contributor to JIM ANTHONY - SUPER DETECTIVE.

Ron Fortier has been a professional writer for over thirty-five years and has worked on comic book projects such as The Hulk, Popeye, Rambo and Peter Pan. His two most popular comic series being The Green Hornet and The Terminator (with Alex Ross). He is one-half of the massive creative force behind Airship 27 Productions.

From his secret lair in the wilds of Bethlehem, Georgia, Bobby Nash writes novels, comic books, short prose, novellas, graphic novels, screenplays, and even a little pulp fiction just for good measure. And sometimes he thinks he can draw.

Lee Houston Jr. is a freelance writer and editor. He is the author of the Hugh Monn and is writing for the forthcoming THE NEW ADVENTURES OF THE EAGLE VOLUME ONE from Pulp Obscura.

Don Thomas writes in many different formats and genres that include; prose story writing (short stories, novellas, and novels.), movie and television scripting (screenplay writing, television writing, script editing.), comic book writing, and of course blogging.