AP: Andrew, welcome back to All Pulp. You’re back in the spotlight due to a new novel. Give us a brief over view of THE DARK LAND, now out from Airship 27/Cornerstone Publishing.
Thanks for having me! It’s great to be back! What a great time to be a pulp creator!
As for the new novel, The Dark Land, the book is my attempt to create a plausible near-future sci-fi police procedural.
The year is 2049 and the world has been decimated by a terrorist-launched pandemic which killed billions. On the heels of that catastrophe, a series of natural disasters have reshaped most of the globe. When we join the story, the survivors are still digging themselves out and trying to rebuild. To that end, and to stem the tide of chaos and lawlessness that reigns everywhere, the governments of the world turn to science, in this case, cloning.
The terrible attack on New York of September 2001 killed so many police and firemen that a program was put in place shortly after to preserve the DNA and digital mindfiles (or brain maps) of experienced police and firemen so that in case of similar disasters, a ready cadre of experienced men and women could be created to maintain order. However all of the personal memories of the recruits for the Special-Operative program have been erased from the mindfiles, leaving only the professional abilities. The clones have all the tools they need with which to do their jobs, they are given computer-generated names and are pressed into service.
But there is something wrong with C-Peter Reilly, the protagonist of the tale. You see, he remembers his past life, all of it. And if Special-Ops finds out about it, he’ll never see the light of day. The novel follows his journey through this new world as he tries to come to grip with who he is while he and his partner hunt an elusive killer who has murdered a clone so fresh out of the tank that the crime seems to be without motive.
AP: From the plot, THE DARK LAND falls deftly into the science fiction category. Do you consider it to be a Pulp tale as well? What if anything makes one science fiction tale pulp and another not?
As to your first question, the answer is, strictly speaking: sort of. The Dark Land is not straight Golden Age hero pulp although it is definitely pulp inspired and has a lot in common with the hardboiled tradition of mystery fiction I love dearly. I cut my teeth on Mickey Spillane, Cornell Woolrich, John D MacDonald, Jim Thompson, Fredric Brown, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and so many others… As one reader put it: “The Dark Land reads like James Ellroy meets Ray Bradbury” and being compared to those giants is tremendous praise indeed. Seeing as hardboiled fiction sprang up during the Golden Age of pulp, I suppose there is a lineage there. And hey, C-Peter Reilly is a Doc Savage fan in the book so, if you look close enough, you’ll see my pulp roots are showing. Ha!
Your second question is an excellent one and I’ll do my best here to answer it. As any pulp fan knows, pulp is not a genre but, rather, an approach to writing genre fiction. Among the various tricks we writers have in our pulp bags, for me, the most telling characteristic of what makes a pulp tale is pace. Pulp fiction, good, bad, wonderful, brilliant or terrible MOVES! Pulp tales rollick along at a breakneck pace and never let you come up for air. Now whether you’re walking the streets of some near-future society like in The Dark Land, riding the range, tearing down a 1930s avenue or fighting Martians with Edgar Rice Burroughs, pulp science-fiction tales have got to go, go, GO!
AP: Your hero in THE DARK LAND has an internal conflict to deal with as well as all the external ones he encounters. How is he affected or defined by the conflicts boiling within him and is this sort of conflict appropriate for a Pulp tale?
Well, how do we define ourselves? Are we our professions, our possessions, our associations? Or are we defined by our personality and our private needs? These are the questions The Dark Land asks through the character of C-Peter Reilly. This question of identity, the duality of a secret identity, is a mainstay of pulp fiction and the comic genre it gave birth to. Think of Richard Wentworth’s lamenting the life he and Nita Sloane can never have because of the Spider. Or Doc Savage’s ineptitude around women because he’s been raised from the cradle with an emphasis on intellectual pursuits. Who is the Shadow? What kind of personal life can Secret Agent X have? This question of identity is one that runs through the rich history of pulp although it was often not explored to any great degree.
Special-Operative C-Peter Reilly exists for one reason, and one reason only, to be a policeman. He was created by society to serve society. He was not given a choice in this. Having been grown from the genetic material of a policeman, his natural inclination is to roll up his sleeves and do what he can to keep the streets safe. That’s what cops do. But this future world he wakes up in is not his world. His memories are from our time and being harvested to fight for what’s left of the world doesn’t sit well with him. The clone world in the novel is not a pleasant place at times. There is a certain degree of amorality, clones are cavalier about themselves and somewhat ambivalent about the society they are sworn to protect – a society that views them more as a bunch of Frankenstein’s monsters than fellow human beings.
Thus the novel, unlike the classic pulps of the past, explores choice and sacrifice in, I feel, a unique way. Reilly is torn between his devotion to duty and his own desires. What is the cost of doing the right thing? What is the right thing to do?
Also, in a way, cops are pulp heroes, aren’t they? Think about it, pulp heroes put on a “uniform” strap on guns, have no super powers, and hit the streets looking to stop crime. Cops, both real and fictional, do this every day!
AP: Enough beating around the bush. You push the envelope of Pulp, some would say, a couple of different ways with THE DARK LAND. Do you agree and if so, how are you pushing the boundaries? And how far is too far before a story is no longer Pulp?
To answer the first question, I’d say the novel pushes the pulp envelope with regards to identity and choice. C-Peter Reilly has the most in common with Secret Agent X, I feel. X has no identity, no personal life beyond his love for Betty Dale. He is his job. Simple as that. Clones grown to serve fit this mould as well. The novel pushes the envelope by exploring this aspect of the selfless hero. Reilly begins the novel on shaky ground and experience see-saws his thoughts back and force throughout the tale in a way the Agent would never be tested. Reilly is forced to question his place in a world he knows needs his help. That is not an easy question for a hero to answer. It’s not an easy question for any of us!
As for going too far, that one is easy. When the story becomes solely about character or world building, becomes bogged down by these, then the writer has strayed out of pulp territory. If you recall what I said earlier about pace, getting too introspective with characters or exploring the fictional world you’ve created at the expense of the plot can grind the pace down to a dead stop. Pulp is about plot with character and setting thrown in to sweeten the pot. The Dark Land deals with the questions we’ve been discussing but within the context of a murder investigation. The murder is a product of the world Reilly finds himself inhabiting and the trick is to sprinkle character and setting throughout the murder investigation, dole them out gradually so that the plot can keep moving. I believe this is something that the best modern pulp writers do better than the greats of old. I’ve taken a crack at it here and only readers can tell me if I’ve pulled it off.
AP: In the future you imagine in THE DARK LAND, cloning is accepted, even if the resulting clones are not always. What are your thoughts on cloning? Is the future you depict in THE DARK LAND a possible real future for us in your opinion?
Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s accepted in the world of the novel. Tolerated sounds more appropriate. Clones are a necessary evil in The Dark Land. Much the same way some view the police today. As for my personal view? Cloning is dangerous – not in an evil-doppelganger-let-lose-in-the-world way, but, rather, it can and will be a powerful tool in the years to come. One we had better be careful how we use. I touch upon some of the darker aspects of cloning in the book as far as privacy and identity are concerned. In the novel, celebrity clones people brothels for all manner of illicit activity. That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about here.
The world of the novel is as realistic as I could make it. I tried to stay away from the Blade Runner approach. Don’t get me wrong, I love that film and it has gone on to inspire countless good, and not so good, visions of the future. The downside of that is that these futures are always dark, it’s always night and it seems to be always raining. The world of The Dark Land is dark in that there has been so much tragedy. However amidst the devastation, the world is rebuilding. The sun does shine in the novel although it illuminates a world still mired in ugliness. The terrorist attacks of 2001, Katrina, the recent quakes in Japan have all been terrible, terrible catastrophes. And yet, the world goes on. Human beings are characterized by our adaptability and I believe that, barring an all-encompassing disaster, we can survive anything. The world of The Dark Land is one I hope readers will be able to relate as a possible world not that much unlike our present. There is hope in the novel. It’s dusty, broken, and a little hard to find in the rubble, but it’s there.
AP: Going off topic only a little, you’ve come out as an author in the recently titled NEW PULP Movement. What is New Pulp and what do you feel your work in general and THE DARK LAND specifically bring to the New Pulp table?
NEW PULP, for me, represents an attempt to swing the pulp pendulum. When the internet touched off the pulp renaissance we pulp fans and creators are basking in today, the focus was on making the wonderful pulp tales of the past readily and affordably available to rabid pulp fans everywhere. This was a fantastic development. The internet brought pulp fans together, allowed collectors to scour the inventories of countless pulp dealers all over the world through ebay and store websites. And pulp, frankly, exploded! Yahoo!
Amidst all of this expanded interest in the great old magazines we all know and love, the internet also allowed modern day creators to share what began as fan fiction through free postings, email and so on. Then, before you knew it, publishers started to creep forward and collect the best of these new pulp adventure tales featuring both old and new characters. It started small, with a few publishers here and there like Airship 27, Moonstone, Wild Cat Books and so on. And it didn’t take long before these publishers started offering their wares at pulp conventions and book stores and writers and artists everywhere began creating more and more new tales, new characters and the like.
New creators like myself are expanding the art form we love, taking it into uncharted waters. Pulp in the 1930s was all about experimentation, trying new things. And that’s what’s happening today with New Pulp. Like all creative fiction, pulp is growing, evolving while staying true to its roots.
The Dark Land was written along these lines. As I’ve stated above, it was an attempt to create a plausible, recognizable future and people it with characters one might find in the classic hardboiled fiction of yesteryear. And to give this concoction a modern spin.
I’ve tried to do the same with the classic characters I’ve been privileged to write: Secret Agent X, Sherlock Holmes, Jim Anthony, the Black Bat, Dan Fowler… The key is to stay true to the characters while giving them a somewhat modern sensibility.
New Pulp is not necessarily about change, but rather, it’s about exploring possibilities. Pulp creators of the past worked at a frantic pace with deadlines staring them in the face. Modern creators don’t work under that kind of compressed timeframe. There’s room and time now to let pulp breathe, go down a few dark alleys and see what we can find.
New Pulp celebrates the evolution and continuance of this fantastic fiction by recognizing the contributions of so many wonderful creators working today. New Pulp states proudly that it’s time for the wonderful tales and artwork being created today to legitimately carry the art form forward. Those working in pulp today, in whatever capacity, represent the future of this art form. We haven’t forgotten the past – how could we? – but it’s time to focus more on the future.
AP: With New Pulp being designated as such, what do you feel the impact of this movement will be? What appeals to you about being a part of New Pulp?
In the last five years, so many talented creators: writers, artists, editors and the like have thrown their hat in the pulp ring that we now have new pulp stories coming out of our ears! To put it simply, there has never been a better time to be a pulp fan. There already exists a Mount Everest of fantastic old material and now a mountain of New Pulp is being created, all around us, every day. Why climb only one pulp mountain when there are two to conquer?
The sheer number of creators churning out new pulp tales is staggering! And that number keeps growing. It’s gotten to the point that modern day pulp publishers have become the Street and Smiths and Popular Publications of today! It’s no longer simply hobbyist creating pulp on a small scale for their immediate circle to savor. Rather the revolution is in full swing and modern pulpsmiths are the Lester Dents, Walter Gibsons and Norvell Pages of the 21st Century! Hundreds of creators, all over the world, are carrying pulp forward, building on the unforgettable greats of the past who inspired us all. Sure, it’s not all brilliant but neither were all the tales from the Golden Age. We’re in the Bronze Age of pulp now and this Doc Savage fan finds that most satisfying.
Publishers will soon be displaying the New Pulp seal on their releases and by doing so are stating for the record that new pulp fiction is here, it’s growing, it’s wonderful and fans everywhere, old and new, are invited to join the party!
Those of us working in pulp today truly love this art form. It’s as simple as that. And this pulp writer is honored to be able to do what I can to bring the form forward into the future. By banding together to declare our arrival as legitimate heirs to the pulp throne, I believe writers, creators and publishers of today make a bold statement. We are putting pulp on our backs and carrying it forward. It’s not about replacing the great works of the past, it’s about adding to them. Modern pulp tales are canon! This is New Pulp’s rallying cry.
Being part of the New Pulp revolution is a great honor. As I said above, creators today love this art form and I share that deep devotion. Pulp fiction is great fun! It’s exciting to write and I’m having a ball. I’m truly inspired by the creators of the past and try to channel that inspiration into my work. When I sit down to write a Secret Agent X tale (or any other great, old character) I do not do so lightly. I don’t consider the works of the past greats as mere fertilizer for whatever tale I’m growing. Rather, I take it as a sacred trust to do the character right, to honor the work of those who created him or her. And I know I’m not alone in this. Most of the pulp creators working today are devoted to honoring what has come before while adding to the rich legacy of the past.
AP: You’ve done a significant bit of work with Airship 27 Productions. What about this particular publishing outfit appeals to you?
There are a lot of great pulp publishers out there today! It’s wonderful! I’ve had the good fortune to work for Pro Se and am still trying to creep my way into Moonstone but, for me, Airship 27 produces the best overall pulp books on the market today. And I don’t say that to take anything away from the other publishers. The ol’ Airship has a lot of stiff competition let me tell you!
Ron Fortier and Rob Davis run a fun outfit and I’m honored to be a part of it. Plus they are truly great guys as I found out a couple of years ago when I got to attend Windy City and hang out with them for a few days. Same goes for Michael Poll and Cornerstone Book Publishers who publishers the books and gets them out there. Thanks to them I’ve had the chance to write some truly great pulp characters, publish two novels, co-write a third and picked up three pulp award nominations (and one win!) in the process.
The amount of work I’ve done for Airship 27 (10 books and counting!) is also a direct result of my personal sense of loyalty. They were the first ones to take an interest in my work, they gave me a shot and I’m a team player. When a publisher brings me into the fold, they don’t just get a pulp writer, they get a one-man promotion machine who will get behind them and promote, promote, promote. I’m not a sit back and wait for a royalty check kind of writer. I’ll bang the drums and shout from the rooftops to promote any project I’m a part of. I do this as my way of saying thanks to the publisher for taking a chance on me and I do it gladly. For Airship’s popular Sherlock Holmes line of anthologies, I promoted the books (via the internet) in more than 20 countries! Yeah, I roll up my sleeves and get to work! Ha!
Another reason it seems I write exclusively for Airship 27 is, frankly because, aside from Pro Se and Moonstone, no one else has ever asked me to do anything for them! I love Airship 27 but I’ve got plenty of pulp to spread around and would gladly do some work for another outfit if the opportunity arose. I took a stab at writing the Green Hornet for Moonstone, which, sadly, didn’t work out although I enjoyed the experience immensely. And I’m open to working with them again, anytime. Same goes for any other pulp publisher out there. Our lines our open and we’re waiting for your call! I work cheap and write fast! Drop me a line! Seriously.
AP: You’ve done quite a bit of work on Public Domain characters and/or concepts that were created by others. THE DARK LAND is an original work of your own. Which do you prefer and why?
Great questions! I’m a sucker for research! I love it! So when a public domain character comes along, I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the history of that character and learn every bit I can about him or her. Imagine: reading pulp adventure tales as work! Welcome to Heaven #7, friends! In a way, writing public domain characters is easier because the groundwork has been done for you. That said, one still has to dive into the history, which is time consuming but oh so much fun let me tell you!
In a way, writing original concepts set in the classic period is very similar to working with established characters. The difference being one is reading history not classic pulp fiction. Hindsight is, I feel, the one tool that sets modern pulpsmiths apart from the greats of the past. We have the benefit of being able to look back and know where the history is going while the writers of the 1930s had only their present to work with. I try to inject as much real history as I can into my pulp tales as I can. The same way I strove to create a plausible future in The Dark Land, I work towards re-creating a realistic 30s world for my classic pulp tales.
As far as which I prefer goes, I guess my answer depends on time. If a deadline looms, then working with established characters is best because you can hit the ground running and learn as you go. But if time is not a factor, then taking the time to create something completely new and different is great, great fun! Ron Fortier and I had a blast creating the Ghost Squad, not only the characters but the trappings and gadgets they used in their battle against the Black Legion. Helping Mark Halegua hone his Red Badge creation was also very rewarding and being allowed to explore the worlds of Mars McCoy the Pulp Factory created was also a lot of fun.
The simple answer: I love ’em both but circumstances determine which I love more at any given time.
AP: You have an interesting concept you’re working on. Willing to share a little about your German pulp work?
Okay. Well, before I get into the current work, a little history lesson might be in order. My personal history, that is. You see, I’ve always been fascinated by World War Two. I’m not alone in this but my fascination has taken me down some interesting paths. Thing is I’ve always loved the German stuff! Not the ideology! Not what they stood for! I want to be 100% clear on that! I’ve just always thought that their stuff looked cooler than the Allied stuff. When I was a kid I used to build Tiger tank and Stuka models while my brothers built Shermans and Spitfires.
From this lifelong fascination I wrote The Light Of Men, a science-fiction novel set in a Nazi concentration camp. The book was my first work for Airship 27 and the 12 years I spent researching and writing the novel paid off when I heard from readers that, upon finishing the book, they felt as if they had spent time in one of those hellish camps, which was the reading experience I’d been going for.
Seeing as The Light Of Men is not, strictly speaking, a pulp novel although it is an adventure story, it got me thinking of doing a tale of German pulp heroes, combining two of my favorite interests, and from this All-Men: The Shadow-Line was born.
There’s not too much I can tell you about the novel at this point except to say that it’s going to surprise a lot of people. The basic concept is that a team of Berlin-based, German pulp heroes is forced to leave Nazi Germany in 1938 and are unable to return to the city until July 1945, when the US, Britain and France take over their sections of it. What follows will, I hope, be a tale that keeps readers glued to their seats. I’m exploring aspects of the pulp hero I don’t think have been touched on to date and doing it in a way that I hope will be fresh, interesting and entertaining. That’s all I’m prepared to say about the story at the moment. I’ve just passed 50,000 words on it after putting in a year of research and the writing experience has been the most rewarding pulp I’ve written to date. Here’s an All Pulp exclusive: Pulp Factory Award winning artist Mike Fyles will be handling the artist chores on the book – a development for which I get down on my knees every day and thank the pulp gods. He’s already done some preliminary paintings of the heroes rolling around between my ears and the work is absolutely fantastic. Pulp fans are going to be blown away, and that’s a promise! And that’s all you’re going to get for now! Airship 27 is game to publish the thing. That is, if I can ever get it finished!
AP: Other than the aforementioned, what can Pulp fans expect from Andrew Salmon in the near future?
There are other irons in the fire that’s for sure. Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective Volume Three should be out very soon and I’ve got a tale in that. I’ve also contributed a Rick Ruby tale to the anthology of the same name. Ruby is the creation of Bobby Nash and Sean Taylor and I was pleased to be able to contribute a tale to the anthology of this hardboiled 30s gumshoe. Also on deck is my collaboration with Mark Halegua: Red Badge. This tale will be in the upcoming Mystery Men and Women Volume Two. All of the above are Airship 27 productions.
After that, we’ll see what happens. I’ve got a whopper of an idea for Sherlock Holmes novel. And a Secret Agent X novel is definitely in the foreseeable future. Also I would love to do a Three Musketeers novel as well. None of these are set in stone as yet and I’ve got to finish The Shadow-Line first. Other than that I’ll keep my eyes and ears open and my nose to the pulpstone. Anyone out there looking for pulp tales?
AP: Andrew, thanks so much once again!
It’s been a pleasure! Thanks for having me!