Friday, March 15, 2013

Ralph's Rants Interviews Ron Fortier!

Ron Fortier interview

Hello my friends and welcome to another edition of Ralphs Rants does interviews! The man we dragged kicking and screaming into the hot seat this week is none other than one of the few people whose name is synonymous with the term ‘New Pulp’. The guiding hand behind ‘Airship 21’ publications and general brain trust behind the entire new pulp movement, The Captain, Ron Fortier! Welcome Ron!

Ron, let’s get right to it, how long have you been writing, and what was your first published work?
I first got the writing bug as a teenager after having become a devoted comic book reader. Even back then I knew I wanted to work in that field of creativity. Alas my drawing skills were rudimentary and so I turned my focus on becoming a writer. Took all the Lit classes I could, joined the journalism club etc.etc. My first ever published professional work was a 12 pg space opera comic strip called “Duel In the Stars.” It was completely illustrated and lettered by artist Gary Kato and appeared in Charlton Comic’s Bullseye issue # 3. That was the start of it all.

Was writing a first love for you? Or was it something you discovered later on?

Well, writing itself wasn’t my first love; reading was as I explained above. After comics I graduated to paperback thrillers and by the time I was a sophomore in high school I had read over 300 hundred books. Obviously that love of good storytelling had to invariably tempt me to try my own hand at it; first with the comics career and later in prose. Note, I’m still an avid reader and most likely will always be.

Has it always been the pulpier style of writing for you? Or were you drawn into either areas of writing (Comics, etc.) first?

Am repeating myself a lot here, aren’t I? Thing is comics were my entry into storytelling from day one. But as I matured I soon discovered how comics had actually evolved from the pulps of the 30s and over the years my curiosity got the best of me. I began to dig into pulp history and the more golden age pulp mags I found and read, the bigger a fan of the media I became. Having successfully established a comics writing career, I really never thought my love of pulps would ever be any more than a fan thing.

What has been your favorite character you created?

Mr.Jigsaw, Man of a Thousand Parts, the comedy superhero I whipped up over thirty years ago with artist Gary Kato. Things is, Jiggy is a kind-hearted, easy going fellow who genuinely likes people and goes out of his way to always help them. After writing his comedic adventures for so long, it one day dawned on me that I’d subconsciously infused into the character only those of my traits I consider good and positive. In other words, Jiggy became the person I wish I was all the time. Funny how that worked out.

What is your favorite character to write?

Well, again, I do love writing Jiggy, but prose-wise I’d have to say its my Undead Avenger Brother Bones who protects the citizenry of Cape Noire. Bones is the Shadow and Spider all rolled into one for me, a tragic figure who is seeking redemption for his sins by becoming the avenging angel of justice. Its all pure purple prose exaggerated to the max and when writing his adventures, my sole rule of thumb is simply this – anything goes!

Guiding the New Pulp movement in many ways, has it become tiresome or wearying at any point?
I wouldn’t call it tiresome. Frustrating, in the early stages, for sure. Seven years ago when Rob Davis and I attended our first ever Windy City Pulp & Paper convention as Airship 27 Productions, we were looked upon like unwanted aliens amongst the old pulp-collecting crowd. They obviously thought us nuts thinking we could revitalize pulpdom by offering up brand new adventures of classic pulp heroes. So it was an uphill struggling, one we realized from the start and accepted. We truly believed that if we produced quality pulp books eventually even the older pulp fans would come around and of course the idea of creating a new generation of fans was a real possibility.
Seven years later and today all the major pulp cons have some segments devoted to the New Pulp Movement. That is overwhelmingly gratifying and understand this, Rob and I were but a small part of it. There were lots of talented people on this road before us; folks like Ron Hanna and his Wild Cat Books, the team at Black Coat and Joe Gentile over at Moonstone just to name a few. Seven years ago there was something happening in the field and you have to believe it was the Fates that decreed the birth of New Pulp. Amen.

What do you enjoy doing more? Writing? Or producing and seeing it to fruition (Publication)?

Yeouch. There’s a tough one. I do love writing and creating fantastic tales of wonder to share with others. But I guess my early background in comics has bent me towards team creative efforts. Putting together anthologies featuring today’s super talented writers and artists is magic for me and Rob. With each new Airship 27 title, we knock ourselves out trying to produce something beautiful that both readers and art fanciers will want to own. Granted we don’t always succeed like we’d wish, but it is never for lack of trying. At present, I’ve had a new Captain Hazzard novel collecting dust in my files and so many of my loyal fans have waited much too long for it. My one goal is to get it finished and out this year. Wish me luck.

To me, new pulp seems to encase many aspects of popular fiction. The most important aspects of it seem to me to involve being two fisted action and lots of it, gun or sword fights, tough, but sexy women. I see a lot of new pulp centering on the 30’s and 40’s and of course some in pre-historic times and some in current and future times, am I correct in assessing what makes it ‘New Pulp’ As opposed to just fiction and fantasy? Or is there more to it?

I think you’ve pretty much covered the bases. Pulp Fiction from the 30s and 40s was escapist literature. But let me add one further adjective, populist fare; i.e. those tales loved by the masses. Under that umbrella, people like Edgar Allen Poe, H. Rider Haggard, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle and so many others we consider classics writers were in fact writing pulp. Today some of the best thriller writers in the business ala Clive Cussler, Stephen King, John Grisham, Max Allan Collins and other so called “best-sellers” are, by the fact of their popularity amongst readers of all persuasions, truly today’s pulp scribes.

Are sales of ‘New Pulp’ on a steady rise at this point? Or even?

Honestly, they are on the rise as more and more new small publishers are coming into the market thanks to digital readers, the internet, print-on-demand etc. With so many avenues opened to would-be publishers, today’s young editors and publishers are embracing the word PULP, not trying to disguise it any longer. It is a truly viable, American form of literature and the audience for it is growing by leaps and bounds. Attendance at pulp cons is growing annually as more and more college and high school readers, via the internet, discover both old and new pulp. Honestly, we’re seeing an amazing Renaissance of Pulp and I couldn’t be happier.

How does the future look for ‘New Pulp’ in terms of widening interest?

Following the thread from my last answer, New Pulp is going to weave its way through the more electronic storytelling media. Over the past few years with TV series such as LOST and FRINGE, WAREHOUSE 13 and so many others I’m losing count, are all clearly pulp inspired products. The popularity of shows like PERSON OF INTEREST and GRIMM clearly resounds throughout the halls of Hollywood and studio heads are taking note. Even as I write these words, there are film versions of both the Shadow and Doc Savage in pre-production. If done correctly, they can continue this renewed vitality in all things pulps. We shall see.

Now the most important question, in your estimation, how do we as a group widen the outside worlds interest, or in some cases make aware for the first time, of the existence of this medium? In other words what do we do about marketing?

Obviously the biggest tool is the internet. Word-of-mouth today means a whole more than it ever did before. You Tube provides any creator the possibility of making his own “commercial” to promote his or her book, or pulp enterprise. The internet has more and more pulp themed clubs forming up every single day. Writers and artists need to join as many of these groups as they can. Whereas New Pulp Publishers have recognized what traditional big book publishers never did, that making any kind of market healthy, though it does require some competition, necessitates a mutual concerted effort by the entire industry. No other publishing venture, be it prose or comics, has ever faced its future with a better understanding of that fact. Which is why outfits like Airship 27 Productions are constantly supporting other New Pulp outfits like Pro Se Productions, Curiosity Quills Press, Black Coat Books, Altus Press, etc. etc. One tide floats all boats. That tide is the continued growth and popularity of New Pulp Fiction and we get it.

E-Books are huge at this point in time, I myself think they outsell paperbacks something like 5 or 6 to 1. What’s your opinion of this? Good thing or bad? I’m kind of ambivalent about this myself.

I’m a publisher, Ralph. If my readers want Airship 27 titles in a Kindle format, then you can bet we are going to provide them with that. I want to sell as many copies of all my books in as many formats as are available to us. We even sell audio versions of some of our titles. I’m sure all my colleagues feel the same way. But at the same time, Airship 27 is never going to stop publishing traditional books. I personally do not own an e-reader nor will I ever review an e-book for my column, Pulp Fiction Reviews. Why? Because I do love books, the paper, the covers; holding them in my hands and turning the pages with my fingers. Then when finished, retiring them to my bookshelf as a reward for the service they provided me. I totally believe E-books will continue to generate the bulk of future sales, but at the same time they will never replace paper books. I’d like to think there’s room for both in this world of ours.

Ron, as we come to the end of the interview feel free to plug any projects you want in this space, whether new or ones you feel have been overlooked.

Thanks. Last year Airship 27 Productions released 16 titles, not bad for a two man operations. And for the most part all of them did extremely well for us. Still, the one book I think that got lost in the shuffle was our new interpretation of Sinbad the Sailor. Attempting to capture the exhilaration of the old Ray Harryhausen Sinbad movies, we launched a new series entitled SINBAD – The Voyages featuring a black Sinbad who captains an international crew. It was one of my personal favorite books that we put out last year and is slowly starting to gain fans. I’d like to see that continue and hope more people who have read the book will go out and tell their friends about. It deserves lots more attention.

I want to thank you Ron for joining us this week and answering all the questions, it was a true pleasure to talk with you about all things ‘New Pulp-y’!

Thank you, Ralph. This was fun and I’m grateful for the opportunity to spread the Gospel of Pulp.

And that does it for this week folks, another edition of ‘Ralph’s Rants does interviews’ is in the can and we’ll see you soon with our next interview! Thanks and I hope you enjoyed it. Be sure to go through the archives for previous interviews you may have missed!

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