Some Modern Pulp/Science Fiction You REALLY Need To Read

As most folks who know about my character Doc Wilde are aware, Dr. Spartacus Wilde was originally conceived as a contemporary homage to the classic pulp hero Doc Savage whose exploits I, and quite a few others, grew up on. I like to think that Doc Wilde is his own man though, with my fond memories of Doc Savage as the foundation on which I’m building something very much my own. Sort of the way that Robert B. Parker started writing his Spenser novels pretty much as an update of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, then let Spenser grow and become a distinctive character.

Doc Wilde isn’t the first Doc Savage-inspired hero, and he won’t be the last. Heck, Superman, Batman, and James Bond were all influenced by him in significant ways. Race Bannon on Jonny Quest was a Doc Savage ringer. And there have been many pastiche versions of him of varying levels of authorial ability. I’m currently rereading one I read in high school, A Feast Unknown by the great SF writer Philip Jose Farmer, which basically pits Doc Savage against Tarzan and  is as over-the-top a piece of transgressive, pornographic fiction as I’ve ever seen (and a pretty rollicking tale, if you can take the content).

There’s a new take on Doc out now that you need to know about. I’ve mentioned the Old Man stories by William Preston before, and in the time since, I’ve gotten to know Bill online and consider him a friend. The stories have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction and he is now offering the first two as an ebook on Amazon.

These wonderful stories are great science fiction with pulp trappings, written in a smart, literate style that far transcends the more juvenile style of the original Doc Savage tales. And they are stories which explore some pretty hefty themes, like redemption and the place of heroes in the post 9/11 world. The ebook is a scant $3, and you really owe it to yourself to read it.

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Kara (A Brilliant, Touching Science Fiction Short Film)

This amazing short film was made by the video game developer Quantic Dream (Heavy Rain) to showcase their latest game technology. In the process they created a short piece of science fiction that’s both gorgeous to the eye and very moving…

The Doc Wilde Adventures Kickstarter Begins This Friday (3/30/12)

It’s getting down to the wire, folks…

This Friday, “The Astonishing Adventures of Doc Wilde” project will go live on Kickstarter.

“In a young adult book market crowded with the depressing and the dour, Tim Byrd’s Doc Wilde swings in on a jungle vine to raise the flag high for adventure. Infused with pace, fun, and all the two-fisted action a reader could ask for, Wilde lovingly riffs on situations straight out of the old pulps, even while making them fresh for a new generation.”
— Zack Stentz, screenwriter, Thor, X-Men: First Class

The Doc Wilde stories are my tribute to the pulp stories I loved growing up, and still love today. Like The Incredibles or the Indiana Jones films, they are suitable for kids and adults both,  full of action and humor and weird science and occult menace and lots of derring-do.

I published the first book, Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, with Penguin/Putnam in 2009; it did very well both critically and commercially, so they asked for more books. But in the three years since, the digital publishing revolution has opened up many opportunities for an author that traditional publishing doesn’t offer, and I decided to go independent with the series.

The Kickstarter project will encompass three Doc Wilde novels, all to be released by year’s end. The books will be available in trade paperback and ebook formats. They will all have gorgeous covers and interior illustrations by the great Aussie comic book artist Gary Chaloner. (At the top of this post you can see the new logo he’s designed — he’s still painting the rest of the cover, which will hopefully be ready in time to debut when the Kickstarter begins).

I’ve regained my rights to Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom and it will reappear in a much improved new edition in June, featuring not only the new artwork inside and out by Gary, but my “author’s cut” preferred edit and a new short Doc Wilde adventure.

In August, we’ll release Doc Wilde and The Mad Skull, the long-awaited second book, in which the Wildes face a mind-blowing mystery and a truly bizarre villain.

In November the third adventure will appear, Doc Wilde and The Dance of the Werewolf, a dark tale featuring lycanthropes and witchcraft. At least two more Doc Wilde adventures will follow in 2013.

(If you follow the links above you can read excerpts from each of the books).

For those who may not be familiar with Kickstarter, it’s a modern patronage system for creators in which they present something they’d like to do and supporters are able to pledge funds to help them do it, in return for rewards varying from big thank yous to copies of the items created to interactions of various sorts with the creators. The creator posts his intentions and a target amount of money he is trying to raise; if, within the time the Kickstarter runs, enough money is pledged to hit that target, then the Kickstarter succeeds. If the target amount is not met, the Kickstarter has failed and no money is exchanged.

The target I’m setting for this project is $3,000. But that’s a minimum goal, not a maximum; once it’s reached, the Kickstarter continues and new people can continue to get involved. The funds will go toward art and book design and editing, as well as paying for the writing. Any extra funds will be applied to producing more books down the line.

I’ve come up with reward levels for pledges ranging from $5 for an ebook copy of one of the novels and the supporter’s name on the book’s acknowledgments page, up to $400 for signed limited editions of the books along with a bunch more cool stuff. There are only three slots available at the highest level, and four at the second highest, because they include exclusive one-of-a-kind rewards, so those are first come, first served.

I plan to launch the Kickstarter at noon EST this Friday, March 30th.

If you’re looking for adventure…it’s time to GO WILDE!

“It’s a true delight…Tim Byrd has taken Doc Savage, added in a pinch of Robert E. Howard, a liberal dose of H.P. Lovecraft, and mixed it all together in a well done, enchanting pastiche of the pulps that will appeal to the adult audience as well as the young adult readers. It is an over the top at times, rip-roaring adventure that returns us to the days of yesteryear and leaves us wanting more.”
                                                          —The Baryon Review

Greg Bear Reviews JOHN CARTER

SF novelist Greg Bear has posted his review of John Carter, which is also a commentary on the treatment the film is getting from mainstream critics, as well as on pulp fiction’s place in our culture. I’ve spliced in a bit below. The whole thing is a very good read, so you should read it…click here to do so.

And y’know, much has been made of Disney not calling the flick John Carter of Mars, but I think they truly missed a bet by not calling it John Carter and The Princess of Mars. That would have captured its science fantasy elements, its romanticism, and the fact that it has an honest-to-Barsoom new Disney princess in it. And a truly capable, heroic princess at that. Of course, Disney completely flubbed the marketing on the film, and now they’re suffering for it.

Without “A Princess of Mars” there would be no “Star Wars” or “Avatar,” of course. There would be fewer names on the modern map of Mars–and likely far fewer engineers and scientists to build those space ships and shoot them into the outer void.

In 1911, Burroughs was happy to incorporate the latest speculations about Mars–derived from the work of the immensely popular astronomer Pervical Lowell, and not thoroughly discredited until the 1960s. To those speculations he added a bit of H. Rider Haggard, a bit of Kipling, and a bit of the then-popular Graustarkian romance, where a brave commoner is launched into royal complications in an exotic mythical land.

George Lucas, decades later, owed a tremendous debt to Burroughs. Tatooine is much like Mars, with wonderfully strange creatures, suspended racers, and huge flying barges with swiveling deck guns.

And no wonder. Leigh Brackett, co-screen-writer on The Empire Strikes Back, often wrote pulp tales herself–some set on Mars–and did it quite well.

In turn, she inspired Ray Bradbury to revisit and revise Burroughs’s Mars in The Martian Chronicles, an enduring classic. Brackett went on to craft screenplays based on the pulp tradition that the Times still finds so discreditable: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. She co-wrote that screenplay with William Faulkner. Faulkner sold his first short story to a pulp magazine, Weird Tales. So did Tennessee Williams. And I strongly suspect they all read and enjoyed, in their younger years at least, A Princess of Mars.

We would all be the poorer for not allowing future generations of young readers a chance to fall into Burrough’s amazing pulp story of adventure and imagination, still powerful and fun after all these years.

“U-Turn”

I wrote my first book when I was about four or five. It was called The Blue Stallion (there was a black stallion, and a white stallion, so I figured, why not a blue one?), and was about five pages long. The stallion fought a mountain lion, and was victorious. I even illustrated it myself, showing a faith in my artistic ability that I lost not too long after that.

I always loved books, and always knew I wanted to write them. But I remember precisely when I consciously decided that it was going to be my job, not just one of the many varied and wondrous activities I was going to engage in while living my magnificent life (cowboy, spy, zoologist, astrophysicist, movie star…). I was in fourth grade, and I read Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Fog Horn” in an anthology. The story evoked such emotion, such a sense of deep eternal sadness, that it overwhelmed me. I’d always loved to read, and read damn near constantly, but that was the first time I truly grokked the true power of literature. And I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to it.

After that, I did, at least while growing up. I was always reading, but also always writing. I kept a bunch of stories going all at once, the same way I read, and as a result of both activities I actually managed to learn how to write. Then I grew up and started my lifetime of depressed procrastination. That’s another story though, and sad to say, I’m gonna put off writing it.

All this is preamble to a special holiday gift I’m gonna give you, which is a story I wrote in seventh grade, and is, far as I can tell, the earliest work of mine I still have on hand. I wrote it for a writing contest at a local college, and in the weeks leading up to the event, I boasted to everyone I could that I was going to win first place. I annoyed everyone with my arrogance so much I had them rooting for my downfall. Then the day came, and I won first place, which probably did not improve me as a human being, but did boost the ol’ ego (which actually needed the boost a great deal, confident as I was in my writing).

After this success, I had my first experience with an actual editor. I started writing a serialized space opera tale in the school newspaper, in which the heroes travelled the spaceways in a craft driven by a Bussard ramjet, named after Robert W. Bussard, the scientist who envisioned it. In spite of repeated protests from me, the editor changed it, every damn week, into a Buzzard ramjet, because, after all, Bussard wasn’t a word (and still isn’t, according to my spellcheck, which ironically doesn’t even offer up buzzard as a possible correction).

But I digress. Here, for your enjoyment or derision, is  a science fiction story by the thirteen year old me, uncorrected in any way despite many strong impulses. Merry Christmas. Continue reading