I’ve often compared the current state of affairs in publishing to that which existed before the Second World War, in terms of the ability of writers to break in. The key difference, of course, is that in those days, a writer would still have to sell, but there were thousands of potential markets he could pitch his work at, and they would take all the work that a writer could produce, regardless of quantity. We’re in those days again; if Battlecruiser Alamo was being released in a traditional way, it would likely be one novel a year, whereas I am quite happy and comfortable to continue with the current six novel a year publication rate. (Incidentally, ‘Aces High’ is now passed the half-way mark, and should be out sometime around this time next month, more details to follow.)
If I was writing in the 1930s, I’d be working for the pulps. Yes, I’d probably be trying for the slicks, or for actual books, but I’m realistic to know that I’d be writing for the pulp adventure market. Indeed, I’d strongly recommend to any aspiring writer wanting to get into the history of the craft, as well as picking up some tips, to check out the two ‘Pulpwood Days’ books - essentially a collection of essays written by writers and editors during this period. ‘Blood and Thunder’ magazine is also something to check out, to get a flavor of what it was like in this heady period.
There are a few titles in particular that I wish I could pitch for today, ones that haven’t existed for decades. Imagine being able to write for Weird Tales in the era of Howard, Lovecraft, Smith, and the other greats. Or to pitch for Oriental Stories - or Magic Carpet Magazine, which has to be one of the worse choices for a magazine title I’ve ever seen. Or best of all, Adventure, a seminal publication, where writers such as H. Bedford Jones, Talbot Mundy, Harold Lamb, Brodeur Smith and dozens of others wrote. That would be a goal.
Alas, of course, these magazines are no more. Most of them didn’t get out of the Great Depression, and the paper shortages of World War II finished off many of the rest. A few survivors staggered on, but the rise of the cheap paperback book - largely due to the Second World War and the need for lots of ‘Servicemen’s Editions’ and technical manuals, interestingly enough - broke the back of the remnants of the market. If you look at the few Science Fiction magazines that live today, you see in them a corporal’s guard where once were massed battalions.
So here we are, today. In a world where the writer is freer than he has been since the days of the pulps. In those days, there were so many different titles that it was likely that you would find at least one market willing to read your work - heck, dedicated ‘Zeppelin Stories’ and ‘Submarine Stories’ testify to that. Today, you are no longer dependent on a publisher, and can write the work that you want to write, without worrying that you have to convince someone that the genre you like is worth investing in. It’s really a wonderful world.
And yet, there are not that many historical adventure writers working in the manner of the old pulps, working in the novella format, say around twenty thousand words. I’ve seen a few on Amazon, but scattered around, one here and one there, and often used as a promotion for a longer book. (Which is actually a really good idea, and one I would like to do myself. Unfortunately, when I tried it, it turned into a novel - I passed forty thousand words on ‘Aces High’ this afternoon.) You see sword and sorcery works written in novella format more often, but less so historical adventure. (When I have seen it, it’s been executed really well. I’m thinking Howard Andrew Jones and and M. Harold Page here, especially, both of whom I can recommend. My only problem is they haven’t written enough!)
I’ve been looking for a new genre. Fantasy just doesn’t sing to me. I’ve spun around a few ideas for an epic fantasy series, and it might even happen at some point, but the scope of the project would make it extremely difficult to execute while I am working on Alamo, and given that I’m already working on preliminary ideas for the 2016 Alamo novels, I have no intention of stopping my activities in that universe any time soon. After quite a bit of trying, other ideas have faded by the wayside. What is appealing to me, right now, is to have a crack at breaking into Adventure. Yes, I’m a little late, and I don’t think I’ll get a prompt reply from the Editor, but that needn’t stop me writing the stories, and that isn’t going to you reading them.
So, that’s it. The new project, coming maybe even by the end of August, or September at the latest, the first of what I hope will be bimonthly releases of collections of historical action/adventure short stories. More specific details to come tomorrow, but suffice to say at the moment that I’ll be reading my Howard, Lamb and Brodeur a lot in the coming weeks, as well as my Runciman and Norwich! Here come Heroic Tales!