Black Pulp (2013) – Written by Walter Mosley, Christopher Chambers, Michael Gonzales, Gar Anthony Haywood, Ron Fortier, Joe R. Lansdale, Gary Phillips, Mel Odom, Tommy Hancock, D. Alan Lewis, Derrick Ferguson, Kimberly Richardson, and Charles R. Saunders – Published by Pro Se Press.
Welcome back, everyone, for the 13th installment of my Atomic Interview series. If you’re a regular reader of the Anxiety, you know I’m taking a break from writing reviews for the time being but I’m trying to make up for it with more interviews and some original fiction. I can’t promise any of this will be the best thing you’ve ever written but I can promise it’s better than staring at the walls of your cubicle.
This time around I’m thrilled to be joined by Derrick Ferguson, a fantastic writer and an even better pal. Derrick is the creator of several New Pulp favorites: Dillon, Fortune McCall, Sebastian Red, and Mongrel, but today he’s here to talk about his contribution to BLACK PULP (available here), a new anthology from Pro Se Press. You can check out all of Derrick’s published works at his Amazon author’s page.
The interview begins after the publisher’s description of BLACK PULP.
From Today’s Best Authors and up and coming writers comes BLACK PULP from Pro Se Productions!
BLACK PULP is a collection of stories featuring characters of African origin, or descent, in stories that run the gamut of genre fiction! A concept developed by noted crime novelist Gary Phillips, BLACK PULP brings bestselling authors Walter Mosley and Joe R. Lansdale, Gary Phillips, Charles R. Saunders, Derrick Ferguson, D. Alan Lewis, Christopher Chambers, Mel Odom, Kimberly Richardson, Ron Fortier, Michael A. Gonzales, Gar Anthony Haywood, and Tommy Hancock together to craft adventure tales, mysteries, and more, all with black characters at the forefront!
“Literature for the masses kindled the imagination and used our reading skills so that we could regale ourselves in the cold chambers of alienation and poverty. We could become Doc Savage or The Shadow, Conan the Barbarian or the brooding King Kull and make a difference in a world definitely gone wrong.”–Walter Mosley from his introduction.
Between these covers are 12 tales of action, adventure, and thrills featuring heroes and heroines of darker hues that will appeal to audiences everywhere! BLACK PULP! From Pro Se Productions!
Mark: Thanks for joining me, Derrick. What is BLACK PULP and how did this collection come about?
Derrick: BLACK PULP is an anthology featuring African Americans in heroic and leading roles in pulp adventure stories. You’ve got crime stories, a boxing story, a couple of war stories, a pirate story, a private eye story. It’s a collection that covers a wide selection of various genres. If you read the anthology and you don’t find a story in here that you don’t like then you need to check your pulse.
My understanding of how it came about is that crime novelist Gary Phillips got together with Tommy Hancock of Pro Se Press on this. Mr. Phillips came up with the concept and it’s a perfect fit for Pro Se, which is a major force in the New Pulp field today.
I got involved in the project the usual way Tommy gets me involved in Pro Se projects. He called me up, outlined the project, said “You’re in,” and hung up before I could say no. Not that I would have. This is the sort of project that I used to dream about being in and even now I still find it mind-blowing that my name is on the cover of a book along with powerhouse writers like Walter Mosely, Joe R. Lansdale, Charles Saunders, Ron Fortier, Kimberley Richardson, Gar Anthony Haywood and Michael A. Gonzales.
Mark: Labels are tricky things, of course, but what does the term “black pulp” mean to you? Is it a genre based on writers, characters, some combination of both? Who are your favorite authors of black pulp?
Derrick: You don’t have to be a black writer to write black pulp but you do have to have a African-American or some POC as your lead character. Here’s an example: Ron Fortier has a wonderful story in the book called “The Lawman” which has as the hero U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves, a black man who is acknowledged as being one of the best if not the best lawman in The Wild West. Now, Ron’s not black but like any good writer he can write true to whatever character he’s writing and that’s really all you need to do when you’re writing any character, no matter what their ethnic background.
My favorite authors of black pulp? Hmmm … lemme think a minute …
Donald Goines is what I would consider my first black pulp author. He wrote a series of books back in the 1970′s about a mysterious character named Kenyatta who trained and led his own private militant army in a private war to rid the streets of drug dealers. Very lurid, violent, action-filled novels that I read and re-read over and over again. Shortly after, I discovered Charles Saunders, creator of Imaro. Imaro is a black sword-and sorcery hero that can stand shoulder to shoulder with Tarzan or Conan. The sheer imaginative power and creativity really inspired me in ways I can’t even describe. Charles Saunders is the writer who made me think for the first time, “I can do this!” Before reading him I had no idea there were black writers who wrote fantasy or science fiction. Up until reading Charles Saunders and Samuel R. Delany, the very concept that there were black people writing this stuff was totally inconceivable.
I know that to some this seems like a ridiculous notion and that I’m exaggerating but there are a lot of folks reading this who were there back then and they’re nodding their heads in agreement. They know what I’m talking about.
Ishmael Reed is best known as a satirist but for some wonky reason my subconscious classifies him as a black pulp writer as well.
My favorite authors of black pulp today are Milton Davis, Valjeanne Jeffers, Thaddeus Atreides and Balogun Ojetade. The four of them are at the forefront of Sword and Soul, Afrofuturism and Steamfunk, all of which I consider to be cousins of Black Pulp. Steamfunk especially is related much more closely to pulp than I suspect the writers of that genre know or even suspect. There’s about a half dozen other writers I’m keeping my eye on as I suspect they’re going to really produce some surprising work in the next few years but those are the four names that immediately come to my mind when you ask me about modern day black pulp writers. And I have to mention Steve Barnes, of course, whose magnificent novel LION’S BLOOD should be required reading for anybody who wants to write African based fiction set in an imaginary/alternate world.
Mark: In his introduction to BLACK PULP, Walter Mosley writes: “People read these stories and novellas for fun. There was a hero, a chance for romance, possibly some magic, or maybe a world of science that we imagined and hoped for. Sometimes there was just a man or woman against nature in the wilderness of our recent or far flung past. Whatever the genre the stories were exhilarating. This form was a transportative vehicle that could take us from the daily grind to a world where hard labor, the force of will, and physical strength could do more than provide a moldy loaf of bread and cold gravy.” I’d like to ask you to talk about this idea from the writer’s point of view. Do you write for the same reasons Mosley posits as the reasons why people read? Do you write to take you away from the daily grind and into a world where the qualities you admire in people are rewarded with an exhilarating life?
Derrick: My main reason for writing is the same as it’s always been: first and foremost to entertain. I never want a reader to read a book or story I’ve written and be bored and feel their time was wasted. If they like it or hate it, that’s okay but I don’t want them to feel that I wasted precious time out of their lives that they’re never going to get back reading drivel. Everything else after that is biscuits n’ gravy. I’m not smart enough or socially conscious enough to write a book that can make an impact on the collective awareness and provide insight into concerns of society and explore solutions for those problems. I’m just not hardwired for that. But what I can do is tell you one hell of a good story and that’s what I set out to do.
Mark: Your contribution to BLACK PULP is a Dillon story entitled, “Dillon and the Alchemist’s Morning Coffee.” What’s this story about?
Derrick Ferguson: “Dillon and The Alchemist’s Morning Coffee” is a relentless adrenaline rush that I think gives anybody who reads it an excellent idea of what to expect if they decide to continue further with the character and read the novels. Dillon is hired by Captain Edna Hartless of the Advanced Counter Espionage Syndicate aka A.C.E.S. to back her up while she attends an exclusive auction to purchase something called The Alchemist’s Morning Coffee. It’s one of the best MacGuffin’s I’ve ever used in a story and one that will probably show up again to cause trouble. It’s a very dangerous weapon but not in the conventional sense. It’s a story with beautiful women, exotic weaponry, chases, captures, fights, explosions and it’s built for nothing but old fashioned dirty fun.
It’s a story that will be of interest to those who have read “Dillon and The Pirates of Xonira” as there’s an eight month gap between the first and second chapters of that book. “Dillon and The Alchemist’s Morning Coffee” takes place during that eight month gap.
Mark: Why did you choose to submit a Dillon story for this collection and not a Fortune McCall story or a new character? Was it simply a matter of “Alchemist’s Morning Coffee” being the best story you had, or did you feel Dillon, as a character, best fit this collection?
Derrick: A little of both, actually. At this stage of what I laughingly refer to as a career I think I’m best known for my Dillon stories and novels with Sebastian Red running a close second. I had already plotted out “Dillon and The Alchemist’s Morning Coffee” but hadn’t planned to write it for another three, four months as I had other stories kicking and screaming for my attention. But when BLACK PULP came up, I knew that this story would fit in perfectly. And Dillon is a better fit for this collection. Anybody who’s familiar with characters like James Bond, John Shaft, Derek Flint, Nick Fury and Indiana Jones will have no problem getting a handle on this type of character and the sort of world he operates in. Those characters were heavily inspired by the pulp characters of the 1930′s and ’40′s and there’s a sort of subconscious shorthand that goes to work whenever a reader encounters a similar type of character. The reader either immediately starts filling in the blanks for himself or he just sits back and enjoys the ride, knowing that there is going to be a ride ’cause it’s just that type of character and story.
Mark: Once people have digested “Alchemist’s Morning Coffee” and the rest of BLACK PULP, where can they look forward to seeing Dillon next? What other projects are you working on that will be out in the near future?
Derrick: There’s a Super Secret Project involving Dillon that I can’t talk about as yet as I’m contractually obligated not to. The only thing I can say is that it’s a project sponsored by The Black Science Fiction Society and now they’ll probably send a Double Secret Girl Scout to cut out my tongue for saying that much.
What I can talk about is “Dillon and The Last Rail To Khusra” which I’ve recently finished and will be published as an ebook hopefully next month, providing it passes the scrutiny of my editors. As far as I know the epic Dillon/Jim Anthony team-up I co-wrote with Joshua Reynolds “The Vril Agenda” is still slated for publication sometime this year courtesy of Airship 27.
And I really want folks to keep an eye out for my contribution to the FIGHT CARD series of boxing novels; “Brooklyn Beatdown” which is a real change of gears for me. When people ask me to describe it I usually say; “Imagine if Quentin Tarantino directed a 1940′s Warner Brothers boxing movie in the style of a 1970′s blaxploitation era epic.” A little grandiose, perhaps…but what the hey.
Mark: And finally, where can people go to learn more about you, Dillon, Fortune, and your always excellent movie reviews?
Derrick: First off, if folks want to contact me I am on Facebook (too much so, some jealous souls maintain) so look for me either there on my own Facebook page, the Dillon Facebook page, the Usimi Dero Facebook page, or the Better In The Dark Facebook page. Whew.
You can find the DILLON blog here: http://derrickferguson1.wordpress.com/ and between the blog and the FB page you can stay on top of what’s going on with Dillon.
My BLOOD & INK blog (http://dlferguson-bloodandink.blogspot.com/) covers everything else I’m up to, writing wise as well as the occasional book review and interview with talented people I find fascinating and I think others will as well.
THE FERGUSON THEATER (http://derricklferguson.wordpress.com/) is where you can find nearly 400 movie reviews I’ve written. What can I tell you? I love movies.
And if seeing me in print isn’t enough for you there is the BETTER IN THE DARK podcast (http://www.betterinthedarksite.com/) that I co-host with the dazzlingly delightful and disgustingly knowledgeable Thomas Deja who has been known to tell a damn good pulp yarn or three his ownself. We get into discussions about movies, comic books, television, pop culture and generally just have a blast entertaining not only ourselves but others as well.
Mark: Thanks, Derrick!
Derrick: Thank YOU, Mark! As always, this has been a lotta fun. Tell Darwin I said for him to holla at a brother once in a while.
Mark: Done. And that’s it for Atomic Interview #13. Thanks to Derrick for joining me, and remember, if you like an author’s work, there’s nothing you can do to help spread the word better than leaving them a review at your bookseller of choice!
When he’s not talking to other writers, Mark Bousquet is doing some writing himself, including the recently posted “Why Grant Jannen Can’t Have Sex” to this very site, which you can read for free and stuff, minus the stuff. He is the author of multiple novels and collections, including the recently released The Haunting of Kraken Moor, Gunfighter Gothic, Stuffed Animals for Hire, Dreamer’s Syndrome, Harpsichord and the Wormhole Witches, and Adventures of the Five. He has also published a review collection entitled Marvel Comics on Film, which covers every cinematic and TV movie based on a superhero from the House of Ideas. A complete listing of all his work can be found at his Amazon author page.