Air Pirates are GO!

It’s launch day. Air Pirates of Krakatoa is now live in the Kindle store. It’s been a long slog, over two years since I finished the first draft, but it’s available now.

This was the one that really determined the direction of the series; so much so that I went back and revised Against the Eldest Flame so that it fit better with the sequel. Characters found their own voices and their world opened up.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.


About Writing Pulps

In the old days, pulp writers were incredibly prolific, often pumping out a pulp novel of anywhere from forty to sixty thousand words in a week. That’s even more impressive when you realize this was done on manual typewriters, and any author who wanted to hit deadlines pretty much had to get it right on the first draft.

Eighty years later, we have it much easier. Word processors have eliminated the need for retyping entire manuscripts. With programs like Scrivener we can organize everything and even write out of order.

That’s great for all of us who want to express ourselves as writers, but how does it relate to the pulps.

One reason the pulps read at such a breakneck pace is because they were written at a breakneck pace.

Now you could go out and get a manual typewriter and give yourself a tight deadline and see if that produces the same effect, but most of us aren’t going to do that. What you can do is give yourself the freedom to go crazy.

Take that first draft, and whenever things start to slow down throw in a wild threat that you make up on the spot. Throw both yourself and the characters off-balance. It may not work in the long run, but that’s the advantage of technology; if it doesn’t work, just kill it in the rewrite.

That’s part of how I write Doc Vandal — When I don’t know what to do I just have something giant and mechanical smash through the wall.

Enjoy everything you write. If you don’t, how can you expect your readers to?



Z is for Zeppelin

In many ways, the Zeppelin is the ultimate example of pulp era technology.  Not only where they big, the Hindenburg was roughly 11 feet longer than the battleship Bismarck, but they had to be big in order to get off the ground. Bigger wasn’t just better, it was necessary.

Add in the tragedy of Lakehurst New Jersey where the Hindenburg died before newsreel cameras. It wasn’t just a tragedy, it was one of the first to unfold before everyone’s eyes. Anyone who has even a passing interest in Zeppelins has seen that flame rise up the hull, but imagine the impact it had on people who had never seen a disaster before.

However it wasn’t just the Hindenburg loss that killed the Zeppelins, it was that no one could really make them work. The Hindenburg could have been saved by helium or a different kind of dope.

Akron, Macon, and Shenandoah all failed in flight. They weren’t strong enough; they didn’t have enough engine power. Had the first two survived, the United States would have entered the War with two flying aircraft carriers.

Think about it, there’s nothing more pulp than eight hundred feet of airship dropping fighters.

The sad thing is that we could make them work now: we have flame-retardant materials for the skin, stronger metals for the structure, and more powerful engines. Unfortunately, the only thing other aircraft can’t do better is capture the imagination.


What Were the Pulps?

When you think about it, the entertainment scene was very different during the 1930’s. No television, No Internet, no portable media players. In a world like that it’s not surprising that people turned to reading, and the pulps were there to catch their attention.

Big, floppy, and brightly colored, the pulps were designed to draw the eye. Behind the lurid cover, each monthly issue (most were monthly magazines) contained about two hundred pages of story on cheap paper with black and white illustrations. You could find pulps on any subject; from romance, to westerns, crime, and even star-spanning adventure.

For many, they took the place that would later be occupied by everything from TV to paperbacks. At only ten cents apiece, they offered good value for money, and were a great way to escape the Depression.

While they remained popular throughout the thirties, the war really proved their death knell. On the one hand, paper became more expensive, forcing the pulps to shrink in size. On the other, the post-war era led to an explosion in paperback publishing and the newly designed mass-market paperback took much of the readership that hadn’t been lost to new forms of entertainment like television.

Only one of the 1930’s pulps survives today, Analog Magazine, originally known as Astounding, has been publishing science fiction since 1930, although it has now dropped to bi-monthly frequency as of 2017. It has also changed sizes again, so as to fit on the same presses as the current publisher’s word search and other puzzle books.

Everything Was Bigger Between the Wars

Zeppelins weren’t the only example of huge flying machines. Norman Bel Geddes’ Airliner No.4 is a perfect example of pulp technology. With a 528 foot wingspan, this giant flying wing was designed to carry passengers across the country in the lap of luxury. Although it was never built, all the evidence indicates that this twenty-engine behemoth would have actually flown.

Even though the design was heavier than air, the design had so much empty space that for all practical purposes the interior was air.

It didn’t just carry passengers; its nine decks provided room for over 150 crew, many of whom would have been equally at home in a spa or private gym. Unfortunately, no one ever came up with the money to build it.

That’s the beauty of pulp technology: Nobody could say they were afraid to think big.

Naturally, one was built in Doc’s world; but that’s a story for another day.