ALL PULP’S BLACKTHORN: THUNDER ON MARS ROUND ROBIN INTERVIEW
White Rocket Books recently released trade paperback and Kindle editions of BLACKTHORN: THUNDER ON MARS, a science fiction action-adventure anthology set on far-future post-apocalyptic Mars.
For more information on the print edition, visit http://www.amazon.com/Blackthorn-Thunder-Van-Allen-Plexico/dp/0984139265
For more information on the Kindle edition, visit http://www.amazon.com/Blackthorn-Thunder-on-Mars-ebook/dp/B006FBRHG8/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&qid=1322503101&sr=8-15
|Art: James Burns|
Created by Van Allen Plexico (Sentinels, Lucian), the book features stories by New Pulp luminaries Mark Bousquet, Joe Crowe, Bobby Nash, James Palmer, Sean Taylor, I. A. Watson, and Plexico, with bonus e-book stories by Mark Beaulieu and Danny Wall. Also included are six full-page illustrations by Chris Kohler (Sentinels). Cover art and design are by James Burns (Lance Star: Sky Ranger “One Shot!”).
|Art: James Burns|
In the spirit of “Thundarr the Barbarian” and “John Carter of Mars” comes the gripping saga of US General John Blackthorn. Betrayed and left for dead on the battlefield, Blackthorn awakens many thousands of years later to find himself trapped amidst the ruins of a post-apocalyptic Mars, his only companions a savage Mock-Man and a mysterious sorceress. They battle together to free this strange new world from oppression, but it won’t be easy, for arrayed against them are the deadliest foes imaginable: mutants, monsters, and robots, as well as treacherous teammates. And lurking behind it all are the fanatical forces of the First Men: the Black Sorcerer, the Sorcerer of Fatal Laughter, Lord Ruin, and the Sorcerer of Night—masters of magic and technology alike—the dreaded Sorcerers of Mars!
All Pulp sat down recently with Blackthorn creator, Van Allen Plexico and writers Joe Crowe, Bobby Nash, James Palmer, Sean Taylor, I. A. Watson, and Mark Beaulieu to talk about the new anthology.
|Art: Chris Kohler|
AP: Tell us a little about yourself.
VP: I like to create and write fun stuff, and I like bringing in very talented people to work with me on those projects. BLACKTHORN is a great example of this. As the creator and editor of the project, all I had to do was say, “short stories in the spirit of Thundarr the Barbarian” and all these terrific writers and artists came running!
I also write the fairly popular Sentinels superhero novels and have created and/or edited a variety of other SF and New Pulp properties, including MARS McCOY, HAWK, and GIDEON CAIN, for numerous publishers. I also created and edited the ASSEMBLED! books about Marvel’s Avengers, and I write SF and sports columns. I try to stay busy.
JC: I’m Joe Crowe, senior writer and producer of RevolutionSF.com, where we write commentary, criticism, and comedy about sci-fi and its related genres. Our site has been chugging along for ten years, which is like a million years in Internet time.
BN: I’m Bobby Nash. When I’m not procrastinating or distracted by shiny objects, I write novels, comic books, novellas, e-books, magazines, you name it. I’m probably most known for my work with the pulp characters LANCE STAR: SKY RANGER and DOMINO LADY or for my first novel, EVIL WAYS. You can find out more about me and the stuff I write at http://www.bobbynash.com/. I also co-host a weekly podcast called Earth Station One, which can be found at http://www.esopodcast.com/.
JP: I have written articles, interviews, and reviews for Strange Horizons, Tangent Online, and a few other online and print publications. I have been writing New Pulp for about three or four years now, and have written for Airship 27 Productions, Pro Se Productions, as well as White Rocket Books. I live in Georgia with my wife and daughter.
ST: I write stories. I write them in comic books, graphic novels, magazines, book anthologies and novels. I write them for money, and I write them for fun — both at the same time. I’ve worked as a freelancer for companies like IDW and Penquin Books, and I’ve been on the editorial team with companies like Shooting Star Comics, iHero Entertainment and Campfire Graphic Novels.
IW: My defining characteristic in American pulp circles seems to be that I’m British. That means when I read people citing The Shadow and Doc Savage and Conan and Lovecraft as sources of inspiration for their work I just assume those are strange Americanised spellings of Sherlock Holmes, the insidious Fu Manchu, Alan Quartermain, and William Hope Hodgson.
Given enough time and an audience that doesn’t run away fast enough I’ll also demonstrate a passion for Arthurian legend, Greek and Norse myths, European fairy tales, and odd corners of actual history. It’s probably not a good idea to ask me how the French got George Washington to confess to murder over a cow or how Sir Winston Churchill’s son seduced an English queen in 1667!
It’s a sad but true fact that my teenage daughter and son could tell you, though.
MB: I’m a criminal justice professor in upstate New York. Not sure what else to say here, but I recently got into watching old Doctor Who episodes. On the pulp front, I read Tarzan and John Carter of Mars as a kid and really got into Conan as an adult. Read the Conan comics as a kid, but not the actual stories so it was nice to get to these as an adult. I love Barry Reese’s The Rook. The 1st volume just blew me away and I’ve been grabbing Barry Reese stuff ever since.
|Art: Chris Kohler|
AP: What attracted you to the Blackthorn: Thunder On Mars project?
VP: I was trying to come up with a more sophisticated approach to the “Thundarr the Barbarian” type of post-apocalyptic action-adventure storyline, and at the same time considering doing a new version of John Carter of Mars. The two clicked together somehow in my head and instantly I knew I had a winning formula. I think what we’ve come up with will be instantly recognizable in terms of its spirit and inspirations, but in this form it really is an original concept–and a really exciting and fun one.
JC: For my entire career in nerd journalism, I’ve been an editor and a reviewer. I goaded myself into trying to write fiction again. The last time I did was a “THUNDER Agents” story in the back of my math notebook when I was 11. Wait! I forgot about a “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” script and some goofily fun superhero comedy stories with a writing group from the GEnie BBS.
BN: When Van first told me about his plans for Blackthorn I got excited. As a fan of Thundarr, John Carter, and Kamandi, I knew this would be a fun project. And sure enough, it was. Van’s excitement is contagious and I didn’t have to give the matter too much thought when he invited me to participate. Then he told me who else would be contributing stories and my excitement for the project increased even more. My only disappointment was that I couldn’t have Blackthorn scream, “Lords of Light!”
JP: I am a huge fan of the old Thundarr the Barbarian cartoon, as well as John Carter of Mars. I think the concept for this anthology is brilliant and something that has never been done before. Plus, I knew I would have a lot of fun playing around in this world that Van has created.
ST: Van told me I’d be famous if I contributed a story, and sure enough, now I am. How ’bout that? Seriously though, the source material was the stuff of dreams for me. It was like sticking all my favorite post-apocalyptic stories in a blender and then dumping the mixture out with carte blanche to play around in it and get my fingers sticky — in a good way. Van would have had to file a restraining order to keep me away from this one.
IW: Van Plexico asked me to do it. Nearly everything I write for publication starts with me being too polite to say no.
In this case though, I was attracted for three reasons. First, I’d enjoyed collaborating with Van and some of the other writers on our previous anthology, Gideon Cain: Demon Hunter. Having had a good experience there I was happy to go again.
Secondly, I thought the idea as pitched, of an amnesiac soldier waking on another world that needed a hero, and the mood as suggested, Edgar Rice Burroughs meets Jack Kirby, would be a fun thing to write.
Finally, I wanted to see what my writing colleagues would come up with. Part of the joy of these shared creative processes is that each person brings something extra to the mix. Any subsequent volume will be a different writing experience because of what’s been cooked up this time.
MB: Van asked for submissions and I wanted to look at the bible as an example for a project I wanted to get started. Once I looked over the bible, a story idea started to grow.
|Art: Chris Kohler|
AP: Blackthorn has its genesis in characters like Thundaar the Barbarian, John Carter of Mars, and Kamandi: the Last Boy on Earth mixed together with a modern day hero and a futuristic post-apocalyptic Mars. Tell us a bit about your story and some of the challenges or unexpected surprises you encountered while visiting Blackthorn’s world?
VP: As the creator, I took it upon myself to do the “double-length” origin story. It ended up being “double-length” mainly because I had to set everything up, including how an American military man ends up on the Mars of the future and how he encounters these other very unusual allies and foes. I think the main challenge was creating very distinctive individual main characters that had strong personalities, so that the writers who followed afterward would know exactly who these people are and how to make them act and speak consistently. And I have to say everyone involved did a great job with that. The stories are varied in approach and style and action, but they’re all very consistent in their portrayals of the world and the people, and they’re definitely all very exciting and entertaining.
JC: The books and comics you mentioned have bombastic, cackling villains. I wanted to throw some of those at Blackthorn and his partners. Unfortunately for the bad guys, the heroes threw them back, hard. My story is the shortest in the book.
BN: My story is called “The Minefields of Malador.” It starts with a simple enough premise. Blackthorn and his companions are riding their steeds across the Martian countryside, enjoying the first bit of peace and quiet in some time when the ground in front of them explodes. That’s when they realize they’ve wandered into a minefield. They realize that there is no way to go through or around the mines so they have to go underground into Malador’s ancient system of caves. From there, things get weird.
JP: I didn’t want it to sound like the Thundarr cartoon, or for Blackthorn to be Thundarr. There were times when his dialogue was a bit too “pulpy”, so I had to reign it in some. Having Van’s story available to read before I got too deeply into it really helped me shape the characters and their relationships to each other. Van also gave all of us room to be ourselves and put our own spin on each story, which was very freeing.
ST: My story is called “City of Relics” and started in my head from a single image of Blackthorn (and his Amazing Friends) fighting off a group of naked snake women. It was like I had a 1960’s sci-fi book cover in my head that needed to be expounded upon. So expound I did. I wanted to explore the idea of a sort of anti-Blackthorn, not as a warrior, but as scientist left as the last of her kind for hundreds of years. I imagine that sort of loneliness might drive a person crazy. And I couldn’t resist making that character female, because, well, I’m a sucker for a good femme fatale, even without all noir smoke filling up the story.
IW: I’m not happy until I’ve mapped things out, a good back story (and sometimes even a map) that informs what I’m writing about. If I’m featuring a genetically created race of Mock-Men then I want to know that when left to their own devices they live in settlements of bee-shaped huts, growing spices in shallow water-gardens and fermenting their thick liqueurs on their agricultural trellises. I want to know that at sunset they sit together and croon the Song of Yearning. I want to know that the word for surrender in their growling tongue actually means “wait for an opportunity”. Some of that even made it into the story, but the rest was there in my head informing it.
If we’d set these stories on post-apocalyptic Earth we’d have inevitably assumed the continents and rivers and city ruins based on our current world. A Martian setting gives us a chance for something richer and stranger, but to sell that we need to have the same familiarity with it as a dystopian Earth writer might mention “the Great Washington Crater” or “the Italian archipelago”. I’m pleased we were able to world-map sufficiently to offer that kind of verisimilitude.
Blackthorn’s Mars is ruled by the four sorcerous First Men, each a very different kind of tyrant using ancient technologies indistinguishable from magic. I wanted to work out how four archvillains managed to survive on the same planet. I was interested in what challenged and constrained them as well as the hero. Hence I set my story in the Valley of Acheron, the toxic wasteland where the big four dump their failed experiments and keep clear. Then I imagined what might evolve there or slink in attracted by the chemical, nuclear, and psychic waste.
And having got the setting – a place even the First Men didn’t go – it seemed only fair to send the Black Sorcerer, Blackthorn’s major bad guy – in there after him. That allows us to showcase the regular villain as well as our heroic crew.
If I get another go at a Blackthorn story I really want to do a meeting of all the heroes and all the villains together in a room where they can’t immediately kill each other. I think that would be great fun to write.
MB: My story focuses on two characters not realizing that what they want is actually bad for them. There’s a little crazy girl, Nikka, who has lost her parents and starts hearing voices and all she wants is her parents back. Then there’s Bazooka Bronson who wants to get into Lord Ruin’s good graces and ignores that Lord Ruin’s men had left him for dead the last time to win him over. The big challenge was getting the main characters more involved in the story since the character arcs revolve around Nikka and Bazooka Bronson.
The most surprising thing was that this story came to me on a 2 hour car trip and was plotted out almost completely by the end of that trip. I just had to get Blackthorn more involved. I also had to find something for Oglok to do. The story actually has a little bit of Judge Dredd in it. In the end, I’d say my story is a mix of John Carter of Mars and Judge Dredd with a tad bit of Thundaar thrown in.
|Art: James Burns|
AP: Where can readers find and learn more about you and your work?
VP: They can visit www.plexico.net for links to my work with various publishers, as well as biographical information. And follow me on Twitter at @VanAllenPlexico
JC: My awesome site is at http://www.revolutionsf.com/, and I’m on the Twitters at @revolutionsf.
BN: I’m all over the place. http://www.bobbynash.com/ is my website, but you can also find me at www.facebook.com/bobbyenash, www.twitter.com/bobbynash, on Google+ as +Bobby Nash, and at http://ben-books.blogspot.com/ among others. I’m also co-host of the Earth Station One podcast and you can hear me weekly at http://www.esopodcast.com/ and on itunes. Plus, I do a lot of conventions so I’m generally easy to find.
JP: I am active on Facebook and, to a lesser extent, on Twitter @palmerwriter, and everyone can check out my website and blog at http://www.jamespalmerbooks.com/.
ST: I’m all over the place, convention-wise and on the ‘Net. Online there’s my official website at http://www.taylorverse.com/, along with my Twitter feed and Facebook page (both at seanhtaylor after the /), and there’s also my brand new writer’s blog, Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action, seanhtaylor.blogspot.com. For conventions, check out my appearance schedule on my website.
IW: I wouldn’t want readers to know much more about me; but they can chase up my novels, Robin Hood: King of Sherwood and Robin Hood: Arrow of Justice via my Robin Hood website at http://www.chillwater.org.uk/writing/robinhome.htm. There are sample chapters there and other materials, and lists of the various anthologies I’ve contributed to. I’ve had tales in volumes one to three of Airship 27 / Cornerstone Books’ top selling Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective series. My volume 2 tale got me a Best Pulp Short Story award. And there’s the aforementioned Gideon Cain: Demon Hunter, from pretty much the people who brought you Blackthorn.
Upcoming in 2012 is Robin Hood: Freedom’s Champion, a story in a new anthology about pulp airman Richard Knight for Pulp Obscura, a jungle heroine tale (details still embargoed), “The Case of the Clockwork Courtesan” for Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective volume 4, a novella set on an airship and some other bits and pieces. I like writing. All these publishers really need to keep up!
MB: Right now, this is my 1st published story. Hopefully, it’s not too obvious. I am working on a series with
I.A. Watson and Mark Bousquet. We’ll have to figure out where that’ll be published, but I’ve read the draft for Ian’s story and it’s absolutely fantastic and I’ve written a draft for my story. It’s called The Many Worlds of Ulysses King and involves a Doctor Who-like character saving alternate realities (rather than time travel) with his companions. Mixes my love of Doctor Who with my love of alternate history fiction.
The only other work I have that’s seen print, outside of academic circles, would be found in Van’s Assembled volumes.
AP: And finally, Van, what are the future plans for Blackthorn and his companions? Can we expect a return visit to Mars?
VP: The grand plan is for two more books. The next one will up the ante with even more direct confrontations between Blackthorn’s team and the big baddies of Mars, and the third one will bring things to a more-or-less final resolution. That’s the plan right now, but of course one never knows how such things will turn out. As General Blackthorn himself would probably remind us, “No battle plan long survives contact with the enemy.”
And as Oglok would probably add, “GRRAAAARRRRRHH!!!”
One way or another, though, we will definitely be seeing more exciting adventures of Blackthorn, Aria and Oglok in the future.
AP: Thanks, everyone.
BLACKTHORN: THUNDER ON MARS from White Rocket Books and is now on sale.
Print Edition – $15.95: http://www.amazon.com/Blackthorn-Thunder-Van-Allen-Plexico/dp/0984139265
Kindle Edition – $2.99: http://www.amazon.com/Blackthorn-Thunder-on-Mars-ebook/dp/B006FBRHG8/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&qid=1322503101&sr=8-15
For more information about White Rocket Books, visit http://www.whiterocktbooks.com/