Pulp Heroes: Stuart Young
Stuart Young provided the story "Do Not Go Gently" for THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF PULP HEROES 2. Here he speaks of its inspiration, and Capt. WE Johns...
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)?
I started writing as a kid. I started submitting stories to the small press back in the ’90s. For some reason this has yet to bring me fame and fortune.
As for which of my stories are my favourites I suppose “The Mask Behind the Face” because it won a British Fantasy Award. Although on a less egotistical level it’s one of my favourites because it’s brilliant. (Wait, that was supposed to be less egotistical.) “Houses in Motion” is another favourite; it’s semi-autobiographical and so has a strong emotional resonance for me. And “Jarly and the Saga of the Snowball” was fun to do, partly because I got to play around with story structure and partly because I don’t get the chance to write comedy nearly often enough.
Do you have a favourite genre, or sub-genre? What exactly is it that attracts you?
I suppose my favourite genre is speculative fiction, assuming it’s being used as an umbrella term for SF, fantasy, horror, weird fiction etc. And I quite often add a dash of crime and comedy.
Some say Pulp is a genre, others a style; which side do you come down on?
Style. My gut response attempt at describing Pulp is that it’s fast-moving, accessible and fun, but that doesn’t necessarily give an accurate picture. Writers such as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, Cornell Woolrich, HP Lovecraft, Robert E Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Fritz Leiber and Robert Bloch didn’t all write in the same style. The same goes for modern pulp writers such as Joe R Lansdale, Andrew Vachss, Stephen Hunter and James Ellroy. And let’s face it, no one’s going to refer to Lovecraft’s style as fast-moving, accessible and fun. Intense, maybe. Perhaps the best single word to sum up pulp is vivid.
What was the inspiration for “Do Not Go Gently”?
The impending deadline. I’d been working on another project that I only managed to complete the day before the Pulp Heroes 2 deadline ended, so I’d resigned myself to not actually submitting anything. Then I woke up with the inkling of an idea in my head and only got one day to get the story written. And then I realised this was the same day the clocks went forward…
Do you have a particular favourite author, or authors? What is it about their work which appeals to you?
For this particular story I went back to one of my childhood favourites, WE Johns, who created the aviator and adventurer, Biggles. When I originally created the character of John Blake about ten years ago for a one-off appearance I hadn’t actually read a lot of pulp so I just mixed a Biggles-style character into a John Carter of Mars type setting. The idea was to compare the reaction of an English gentleman with those of a Southern gentleman. For example, Blake, instead of taking the sight of a scantily clad alien princess in his stride, got all embarrassed and offered her his coat. Consequently the story ended up being something of a light hearted romp, which was quite fitting as some of the WW1 set Biggles stories have a comedic vein, with the pilots playing pranks on each other between the deadly dogfights. They read a little like PG Wodehouse taking a crack at adventure fiction – JEEVES AND THE ROYAL FLYING CORPS.
For “Do Not Go Gently” I decided to examine the grimmer side of the WW1 Biggles stories. The ones where Biggles would snap and engage in vengeance fuelled vendettas, where he couldn’t remember exactly when he fought the last six men he killed because the constant strain had distorted his sense of time, and where he ended the war as a bag of nerves with a drinking problem.
My protagonist Blake was also a WW1 veteran and adventurer so he would have seen more than his fair share of death. I thought it would be interesting to explore his reaction to all the carnage he had witnessed and dig into the darker side of his character that was only hinted at in his previous outing.
Outside writing, what else occupies your time (assuming you have any free time left)?
I fill out promotional questionnaires for publishers.
Is there any particular style of music – or musicians – which appeals to you?
I tend to like popular yet slightly offbeat stuff like Talking Heads, the Beastie Boys, Elvis Costello, Dr John and Nina Simone. Then I use those bands as a way of easing into listening to the less commercial stuff that formed the roots of their music – afrobeat, funk, jazz, Americana, blues, R&B, gospel and show tunes. Similarly, Johnny Cash, the O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? soundtrack and Aly Bain from THE TRANSATLANTIC SESSIONS have given me a starting point for listening to country, country rock, Celtic, folk and bluegrass. And I’m also trying to expand my knowledge of classical music; right now I’m at still that stage where everything I know about it comes from pop culture. You know, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is from Die Hard, Grieg’s Piano Concerto is from that Morecambe and Wise sketch…
What are you currently working on?
I’m finishing up editing DEMONS AND DEVILRY, an anthology of black magic stories for Hersham Horror featuring tales by Peter Mark May, John Llewellyn Probert, Thana Nivea, David Williamson and yours truly. It’s my first foray into editing so hopefully I haven’t screwed it up too badly.
I’m also working on a collection of novellas, tackling a cross-section of different horror sub-genres – a haunted house story, weird fiction, cosmic horror, etc. If all goes to plan it’ll be out next year.
And I’m working on a bunch of pieces for SPARKING NEURONES, the column I write for Matt Cardin at http://www.teemingbrain.com/ where I discuss films, books, comics, television and other matters of vital importance.