Robert contributed the alien police-procedural story "The Law of Mars" to THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF PULP HEROES 2.
Would you like to briefly introduce yourself: what inspired your writing and when you began, and – if possible – of all of your published work could you tell me which your favourites are (and why)?
As a child, I suffered from asthma and my peers tended to view me as a pudgy punching bag until my mid-teens. During those times, television and comic books served as respite from the agony of reality. Time wore on, and one day I decided to tell my own tales. In the beginning, I thought I could hash it out as a comic creator, but I was always better at planning the stories than drawing them. Upon devouring Neil Gaiman’s NEVERWHERE and the story-heavy PC game PLANESCAPE: TORMENT, I decided that I had to be a writer.
Many years later (some would say too many), my first short story was published. Since then, four of my short stories have been published, I’ve written the screenplays for a short film and the pilot for an unreleased webseries, and I have been brought on as a regular contributor to the lifestyle and entertainment e-zine BlogTO. It’s hard for me to pick a favourite among my works; these are practically my children, after all. That said, there are a couple I wish I could redo, but I’d rather keep their names to myself.
Do you have a favourite genre, or sub-genre? What exactly is it that attracts you?
I grew up with fantasy and science fiction, but I’m also a fan of detective/spy fiction and horror. Mysteries intrigue me, and I find settings to be enchanting. When I travel, I tend to take a thousand photographs of buildings and neighbourhoods, because I love seeing how people live. As such, any story that drops me in an unfamiliar world, imagined or real, is welcome on my bookshelf.
Some say Pulp is a genre, others a style; which side do you come down on?
I’d have to say it’s a style. Remember, pulp magazines themselves were so called because they were printed on cheap paper. This alone is very indicative of not only the era, but also the part of the world that birthed them.
Consider Japanese animé (bear with me). Many people have argued that animé is a genre, but every series covers anything from sports drama and culinary comedies to epic fantasy yarns and space operas. What separates it from other animated works is the look and feel, the cultural sensibilities and fragments of history that go into bringing such stories to life. Much the same could also be said about noir, and how it has evolved and integrated into different genres.
In the traditional sense, we’ve seen pulp revived in the Indiana Jones films and in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER, but those fall under fantasy or science fiction. Yet, it is their voice that is pulp, the same sensationalized mood that had peddled so many stories for decades. Hell, HP Lovecraft was a pulp author, and what exactly does Cthulhu have in common with Doc Savage?
What was the inspiration for “The Law of Mars”?
After finishing my last story for The Alchemy Press, the meta-fictional drama “House Name”, I decided to tell a story that would perhaps fit more in line with a Pulp Heroes anthology. Originally, I was working on one which focused on the forefathers of the costumed vigilante movement, but it got too big for its britches. It’s on hold until I can find a way to scale it down. Save a space for PULP HEROES 3, Mike.
It was around this time that I was reading the first three books in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series. Half-way through PRINCESS OF MARS, I couldn’t help but notice how phenomenally macho it all was. John Carter solves most of his problems by punching a thing, and then being elected God Emperor of Punching the Thing minutes later. Coupled with the fact that every woman on Mars is after Carter’s sweaty earthman bod, and it began to smell of wish-fulfilment. By the end of THE GODS OF MARS, gears in my head turned and a question arose:
How would Barsoom look a hundred years later?
Imagine if Earth learned they weren’t alone in the universe, and found ways to reach the worlds beyond. What if it wasn’t just Mars that was inhabited, but also Venus like in the Carson Napier novels? Would that mean Jupiter had its own intelligent species, or Mercury, or Neptune? Now imagine these races crossing the galaxy and eventually establishing a united solar system. Think of how wonderful and terrifying it would be. Then, I asked myself what a police force would look like in a world like this. And then “The Law of Mars” was born.
Oh, and I removed the whole “Mars’ gravity makes you superhuman” angle because that always struck me as convenient. Plus, it didn’t fit with the CSI: BARSOOM concept I’m going for.
Do you have a particular favourite author, or authors? What is it about their work which appeals to you?
Well, that’s a list and a half.
I’m a huge fan of HG Wells’ symbolism, China Miéville’s terrifying imagination, Raymond Chandler’s distressingly charming cynicism, and the sense of dread William Hope Hodgson evokes. Plus, Neil Gaiman’s charm – even in his darkest stories – is infectious, and there will always be room in my heart for Terry Pratchett’s wit and Haruki Murakami’s complex mind. Honourable mentions go to Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, Ivan Turgenev, and Thomas King. And as a comic geek, I also can’t go five seconds without praising Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Sam Kieth, Grant Morrison, or Mike Mignola in some capacity, so there’s that.
Of the pulp fiction fare, I enjoy Robert E Howard’s Conan, Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op, and Maxwell Grant’s The Shadow most of all. I’ve read some Doc Savage, Avenger, and Fu Manchu novels, and they’re intriguing reads (Fu Manchu is a laugh and a half), but they don’t strike me in the way the others do. They lack the unfettered psychosis of Lamont Cranston, the Cimmerian Freebooter’s brutish demeanour, and the Op’s casual disregard for human life.
Outside writing, what else occupies your time (assuming you have any free time left)?
I tend to live simply. My free time is divided up between seeing friends, drawing, reading, long walks, video games, getting lost in the information vortex that is the internet, and saving up for travelling. Outside of that, I work in the not-for-profit sector, something Canada’s current Prime Minister doesn’t quite support, and so the rest of my time gets spent looking for full-time employment.
Is there any particular style of music – or musicians – which appeals to you?
Just as I tend to enjoy different genres of fiction, I also enjoy all kinds of music. Hitting shuffle on my Winamp playlist (MP3 players are for squares, daddy-o) will summon up just about anything. Some personal favourites for my ears, and also my imagination, include Garbage, Rob Zombie, The Black Angels, The Protomen, Dakota Star, Altan Urag, K-Os, Lordi, and Gnarls Barkley. I also adore instrumentals, so much of what I listen to comes from television, film, and game soundtracks.
What are you currently working on?
What am I not? My final-until-further-notice contribution to the Pulp Heroes series, “Legacy”, is in the works, as I said, so that I’ll be ready for Book 3, should it emerge. Beyond that, I’m sitting on fifteen unpublished short stories, three-and-a-half novels, and a slew of ideas for comics, video games, movies, and TV series that I’m fighting to get accepted somewhere. Being a writer’s a long and hard road to take, but I’ve made it this far already, so why stop now?