Welcome to the latest Atomic Interview. I’m joined this time out by James Palmer to talk about his latest collection of short stories, INTO THE WEIRD, and his publishing imprint, Mechanoid Press.
Here’s the book description for INTO THE WEIRD:
This volume collects the New Pulp and weird fiction of James Palmer (2014 New Pulp Award nominee for Best Short Story), including work from popular anthologies such as GIDEON CAIN, BLACKTHORN: THUNDER ON MARS, and MONSTER EARTH!
Within these pages you’ll find everything from weird menace tales in the style of Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft to swashbuckling sword and sorcery to far future science fiction. Action heroes rub elbows with strange creatures as…
A 40’s private eye must retrieve a powerful magic ring before it falls into the hands of the local mob…
A daring space ace confronts a cosmic mystery aboard a derelict starship…
A young journalist must fend off a frightening alien invasion threatening his small town…
A sword-slinging Puritan stalks a fallen angel in witch-haunted Colonial America…
An American general fights evil on a post-apocalyptic Mars…
All this and more await you in…
Into the Weird!
Mark Bousquet: Thanks for joining me, James. INTO THE WEIRD features eleven stories you’ve written and published over the last eleven years, representing work originally published for some of New Pulp’s biggest publishers: White Rocket Books, Pro Se Press, Airship 27, and your own Mechanoid Press. What has the journey over these past eleven years been like for you as a writer and now as a publisher?
James Palmer: Now that I look back on it, amazing. As I was putting all these stories together, I couldn’t believe that together they made up four hundred pages and over ninety thousand words of fiction. Each story is a snapshot of where I was and who I was when I wrote them. I started from no published stories, to getting a few published to creating my own imprint where I not only publish my own stuff, but the work of others as well. It’s been quite a ride, and I’m proud of how far I’ve come.
I dedicated INTO THE WEIRD to Ron Fortier, Tommy Hancock, Van Allen Plexico, and the men and women of the Pulp Factory, to which we both belong. Because without them I wouldn’t have set out on this incredible journey.
MB: Well, said, James. What inspired you to collect these stories now? Was it simply a matter of having enough stories to fill out a collection? Or of rights finally becoming available? Do you think this signifies one chapter in your writing career?
JP: Initially it was those first two things, but when I looked at the finished product, I realized that it is the closing of one chapter in my writing career. Many of these stories was just me trying to see if I could capture the pulp feel, and even the writing styles of guys like Rovert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft, two of my favorite pulp writers. I feel I’ve done that now and I’m ready for whatever comes next.
MB: There’s a good mix of stories featuring your own characters and characters that belong to other people (including one anthology where we both have a story). Let’s start with the latter. How many of these stories feature characters that are not your own? What can you tell us about these stories?
JP: All of the characters in the book are my own creation except for Gideon Cain, Mars McCoy, and Blackthorn. Gideon Cain is a pastiche of Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane, in this case a Puritan swordsman who sets out to find the demon responsible for kicking off the Salem witch trials. My story, “The House of the Witch,” deals with similar allegations of witchcraft in another small town that centers on an old woman who is an herbalist blessed–or cursed–with second sight. The supernatural element is there, but it’s slight; I wanted to talk about human evil, and my story has a real human agency behind all the weird goings-on.
In “Mars McCoy and the Curse of the Star Lance,” which was nominated for the 2014 New Pulp Award for Best Short Story, Mars and his android co-pilot Betty-12 find a top secret spacecraft, with an experimental drive and weaponry reverse engineered from an advanced alien race, that disappeared on its maiden voyage and must confront a cosmic mystery within it.
My Blackthorn story, “Indistinguishable from Magic,” pits Blackthorn and his companions against a petty tyrant using advanced technology to make members of a village think he is a sorcerer. Each story was challenging in its own right, and a lot of fun to write.
MB: As I mentioned, we both have stories in the BLACKTHORN: THUNDER ON MARS anthology. For those unfamiliar with the character, the high concept of Blackthorn is (roughly) that he’s a cross between John Carter and Thundarr the Barbarian. How did you approach writing this story? I was much more interested in examining the Thundarr side of the character; are you more historically attached to either Carter or Thundarr? Did this play a role in your story?
JP: I suppose I’m more attached to Thundarr, as I didn’t discover John Carter until much later. To me, the elements felt more like Thundarr than Carter, and I definitely went more toward Thundarr with my story. In fact, one of the reviews mentioned that it felt like an episode of the cartoon, so mission accomplished, I guess.
MB: Three of the stories (“The Hand of Yogul,” “The Meteor Terror,” and “The Tunnels of Lao Fang”) originally appeared in the Pro Se Presents anthology. Are these stories connected in any way, or are they three standalone tales?
“The Tunnels of Lao Fang” and “The Hand of Yogul” are connected, and are about an immortal criminal mastermind named Lao Fang. They were my reaction to the Robert E. Howard story “Skull Face,” which, I found out later, was itself an homage to Fu Manchu. “The Meteor Terror” was my attempt to do a weird tale of the kind Lovecraft did back in the day, and is about a very strange alien invasion that comes to a small Georgia farm, written in the form of a letter addressed to Lovecraft.
MB: I love that last idea; writing in the form of letters or journal entries has always been a favorite technique of mine, both as a reader and writer. Five of the stories originally appeared in Mechanoid Press publications, which is your own company. How has the transition from writer to publisher been for you? Where do you Mechanoid Press today and where do you see it moving in the future?
JP: I don’t think you can make it as a writer today without also being a publisher. I see Mechanoid Press today as a solid member of the New Pulp movement, and in the future I would like to see it continue to do so, while being innovative and taking chances that large, mainstream publishers just can’t, to their ultimate doom. I’m really focusing on e-books; I think that’s where the future lies.
MB: Where can people go to learn more about you and Mechanoid Press?
JP: They can check out my website at www.mechanoidpress.com. We’re also on Facebook: www.facebook.com/mechanoidpress, and Twitter @mechanoidpress. I also have a free newsletter they can sign up for on the site and get periodic updates, news of upcoming work, and lots of other goodies.
MB: What’s next for you and Mechanoid?
JP: Well, we’ve got more MONSTER EARTH stuff in the works, and my co-conspirator on those books, Jim Beard, is cooking up an anthology of his own that Mechanoid Press will publish sometime either late this year or early next year. That’s all I can say about that right now.
As for me, I have a story about a licensed character that I can’t talk about yet, and I’m cooking up some things of my own. I have some novels I’d like to finish, and ideas for new ones all the time. I want to branch out into space opera, steampunk, and urban fantasy, among other things. We’ll see how it goes.
MB: Thanks, James!
JP: Thank you, Mark! It was my pleasure.
MB: You’re very welcome. I’ll be talking to James in the near future about the latest MONSTER EARTH collection, along with some of the other creative talents involved in that project. Again, you can check out INTO THE WEIRD right here, and check out all of James’ available titles for purchase at his Author’s Page. Remember, if you like an author’s work, there’s no better way to help them out than to leave feedback about it at your bookseller of choice.