Sean Taylor, Writer/Editor/Creator
AP: Tell us a little about yourself and your pulp interests.
ST: My interest in pulps began like most of my reading habits… from comic books. I wasn’t the type to just read the superhero books. No, I also dug the war anthologies and horror and sci-fi anthologies from just about Day 1. That, of course, later grew into a love for pulp prose stories as well, mostly adventure stories for teens, and as I got older I found and fell in love with the tone of classic adventure stories featuring two-fisted heroes and great-looking dames. Because there were no girls here, mind you. They were dames.
AP: What does pulp mean to you?
ST: To me, pulp is more a tone than a genre. Pulp is a way of thinking about stories. It’s that great and grand adventure that seems to fly from old serial reels into my mind. It’s got clear heroes and villains, but not just them, there as so many more who live in the varying shades of grays. Pulp is a way of seeing a dame fighting off a thug around the next corner, a way of expecting a new adventure when you get out of the car, a way of bring the excitement of the impossible into my writing. I guess in a barebones, nuts-and-bolts fashion, to me pulp is a way of turning off the high-minded literary part of my English Lit major brain and just having fun with good guys, bad guys, and the people who populate their stories.
AP: You are known mostly as a writer of comic books. How did you get your start? What was your first published work?
ST: My first published comic book story was in a pulp book… of sorts, Shooting Star Comics Anthology #1. Some friends and I got together and put out a book to serve as a portfolio of work we could show editors to try to solicit work from other companies. Well, some of us were so happy with the showing and so enamored with the work that we legally formed a publishing company and kept putting out the book, aiming to keep it more like the old pulp adventure books of yore. Some heroes, some Doc Savage type action stories, some noir adventure, and even some old-fashioned sci-fi thrown in to boot.
AP: How did your comic book interests lead to your working for Gene Simmons of KISS fame on the Gene Simmons Dominatrix comic book?
ST: Networking. Networking. And before I forget to mention it… Networking.
You never know when someone you work with or someone who works for you will be your boss. And that’s just what happened for Gene Simmons Dominatrix. When I was editor-in-chief at Shooting Star Comics, we published a book called Children of the Grave written by Tom Waltz. Well, IDW ended up publishing the trade paperback collection of that miniseries and Tom made his way up the ranks at IDW to become the editor of Simmons Comics Group line of books for the company. And when he needed someone to write a potentially controversial book about some potentially misunderstood content featuring a female lead… well, naturally he thought of me.
That said, that book still stands out as some of my finest work, I think. I loved being able to take what could have been a caricaturistic, one-note kind of book and injecting odd characters and fun downtimes into it that lead to one reviewer calling it the “pulpiest pulp on the stands.” That was probably the high point review for me. I just kept thinking of hot girls, insane situations, fun settings and two-fisted fighting action, and voila, the book did pretty well and hit the top 300 list from Diamond for all six issues.
AP: You have worked on short prose tales for Show Me A Hero, the Dominatrix trade collection, the new iHero magazine, and the upcoming Lance Star: Sky Ranger vol. 3 anthology. What draws you to these shorter stories and can we expect to see more coming?
ST: That one’s easy. Short stories don’t take as long to write, and I’m at heart a lazy cuss. That and it frees me up to have fun with more than one character at a time and not have to commit so much time to one writing relationship so to speak. I’m a sort of literary quintessential bachelor that way, but I guess one day I’ll eventually have to settle down and have a long term commitment to a tale.
Actually, the story I’m writing for Lance Star: Sky Ranger vol. 3 is about twice as long as my typical story, a longer commitment for me, but since the character is so interesting and I get to introduce a new female “villain” into the mix for Lance, it’s well worth sticking around a few weeks extra in this relationship.
AP: I mentioned Show Me A Hero earlier. Tell us about this collection of stories and what separates this super hero prose from the pack.
ST: Show Me a Hero is a collection of every single short story I’ve every written for iHero Entertainment, even back when it was still called Cyber Age Adventures. With iHero and CAA we (president Frank Fradella, the rest of the staff, and I) really tried to focus on stories that didn’t feel like comic book stories (though we all love them), but we instead wanted to do the kind of stories that either the format of comics or the limitations placed on them by public perception wouldn’t allow. These are literate, adult tales of people. They just happen to be people with powers or costumes. Perhaps the highest compliment of my work for iHero has come from Dwayne McDuffie, who said it was “more human than all but the best super hero comic book work.”
We’re also relaunching the iHero magazine, now called I, Hero, and the first issue is available now. Check out http://www.ihero.net/ for more information.
AP: What, if any, existing pulp or comic book characters would you like to try your hand at writing?
ST: You know, I’ve always had an affection for the old Phantom Lady, but I’m getting to revisit a dream project right now actually with my good friend and incredible artist James Ritchey III. We’re doing a brand new story of the old Centaur character The Blue Lady for a new pulp comics anthology featuring public domain characters. I’ll have more information about that one as we get closer to the publishing date.
Other than that I’d prefer to work in genres rather than necessarily just on certain characters. Something about all those old horror and sci-fi pulp covers inspires me to write stories about strange things.
What’s really fun for me is to take characters that may not have originally been part of a true pulp type of story, and then twist it around to tell stories with them in a new, pulpy way that remains true to the character yet still brings something new to the table.
AP: Who are some of your creative influences?
ST: I’ll admit up front it’s a mixed bag of goodness and badness. Coming from an English-Lit background, I’m the kind of guy who enjoys reading Shakespeare, Flannery O’Connor, Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitgerald for fun. I’m also a big fan of Raymond Carver, Annie Dillard, C.S. Lewis, and Zora Neale Hurston.
But I’m love my thrillers too, and Ed McBain’s work is a huge influence as well as that of Donald Westlake and Christa Faust.
When I turn to sci-fi, I’m kind of old-school, and I prefer to read Vonnegut, Heinlein, and Bradbury, or sometimes Dr. Who novelisations (see that ‘s’ – that’s because it’s British… cool, huh?) from the old series.
For comics, I always inspired by books written by Chuck Dixon, Steve Seagle, Beau Smith, or Gail Simone. Those guys (and that classy lady) really deliver the goods on a consistent basis.
AP: That pulps inspired many comic book creations. Are pulps still a viable source of comic book inspiration or are the two more or less influencing/encouraging one another now idea wise?
ST: I think that today it’s more a two-way street. Perhaps it’s that comics kept the sort of pulp ideal alive long enough for the pulp revival we’re seeing today. You certainly can’t fault Alan Moore for looking back and drawing from that well when he developed The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. And as much as I’m not in the know with the current Steampunk drive, it certainly seems to have a kind of pulpy mindset to it as well. Whatever the reason, pulp’s star certainly seems to be shining again, and we’re even seeing it in the movies. With flicks like Give ‘Em Hell Malone, The Expendables, The Spirit, and the upcoming Green Hornet, whether you like the movies or not, they’re doing a great job of keeping pulp storytelling in the public eye. And to me, like I said earlier, pulp is a lot more about storytelling than it is about genre or even finished publishing format. It may have originated with the paper, but it’s outgrown that limited definition now.
AP: What does Sean Taylor do when he’s not writing comic books and pulp stories?
ST: Whenever possible, he sleeps. When he wakes up, he watches horror movies or cartoons. When he’s tired of those, he writes. And he realizes that he should probably change the order of those priorities, but there’s probably something good on TV right now, so he’ll have to get to that later.
AP: Where can readers find learn more about you and your work?
AP: Any upcoming projects you would like to mention?
ST: Several, actually. Thanks. For my prose work, look for IDW’s Classics Mutilated anthology in stores now. I wrote a story for that one pitting Alice from Wonderland against Snow White, and even got to throw in some surprise villains from the Lovecraft mythos. Then in February, my first zombie story becomes available in DAW Books’ Zombiesque anthology. It’s a tale called “Posthumous” about how far a resurrected corpse who’s also a popular writer will go to keep her marriage together with her still living husband. And of course, don’t forget that new Lance Star story I’m writing for volume 3 of that series and my ongoing monthly work on the new I, Hero magazine. We’ll be revisiting lots of fan favorite characters there, from Fishnet Angel to the Fool and the Grandstander.
On the comics front, I’m writing an original sequel to the works of H.G. Wells for IDW that will be drawn by the amazing George Pitcher III. I’m also doing a weird tales kind of thriller (think Ed McBain meets Ranma 1/2) for Markosia called Quinn: The Reckoning, that will be drawn by my good friend Martheus Wade. I’m writing an indie zombie book called Zen Vs. the Zombies with a friend (more information on that one as we get closer to the date), and one of my favorite projects right now is the Jesse James in the Mayan Underworld book I’m working on for Arcana. Of course, don’t forget the upcoming pulp comics anthology story I’m doing with James Ritchey III featuring the indomitable Blue Lady. And for those fans who remember my Shooting Star Comics work, well, let’s just say that… I’ll have to stop here before the spoiler police beat down my door.
AP: Are there any upcoming convention appearances or signings coming up where fans can meet you?
ST: Sure, I’ll be at Connooga from February 18-20 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, then back home in Atlanta for Momocon for March12-13. And if you plan ahead as far as May next year, come visit me in Birmingham, Alabama for Imagicon. That one’s always one of my favorites for the year. I keep my list of conventions and other appearances updated at http://www.taylorverse.com/conventions.html so check there for new announcements.
AP: You have served as a writer, editor, and publisher. Are there any creative areas you’ve not worked in that you would like to try your hand at doing?
ST: I’ve also lettered comics digitally, which is fun. If anything I wish I could draw. I’d love to try my hand at that, but I understand my limitations and inabilities all too well.
I would love to write for films though, primarily for low- to mid-budget horror flicks. I cut my teeth watching those things and love the clichés and stereotypes of them, and would really enjoy playing in that playground. So if anyone reading this has a production company and needs a scriptwriter for some good ol’ fashioned creepy scares and hack and slash action, let me know. I’ve got a folder filled with ideas for the proverbial “just the right time.”
AP: And finally, what advice would you give to anyone wanting to be a writer?
ST: First, plumbers fix pipes and don’t stop for plumber’s block. Race car drivers drive fast in a oval and don’t pull off to the side with driver’s block. Assembly line workers assemble and don’t let assembly block slow them down. You are what you do, not what you claim to do. Writers write. It’s that simple. Don’t give me that writer’s block excuse. Write something. Anything. Then keep writing.
And second, learn to edit. Not just proofread, but edit. And whenever possible, turn off your spellchecker. It only makes you lazy.
AP: Thanks, Sean.