Friday, June 24, 2011

Where I Think Adventure Needs To Go

In the interest of keeping our favorite genre alive, I often wonder what I can do as a publisher and writer to contribute to its longevity.

I'm talking classic adventure, the whole pith helmets and lost jungles and elegance and heroism side-by-side-in-the-field thing. Naturally, those attracted to classic adventure are always going to appreciate the trappings of the genre, but how do we keep it fresh and how do we attract future generations of writers and fans and publishers?

One thing we can count on is that nostalgia will always draw a fair amount of readers and writers. But I think what appeals to me as a writer and a publisher is that classic adventure is as much an era as it is an idea, and classic adventure's particular eras force challenges on the characters that modern adventure does not. Frankly, aside from how hot she looks, the Lara Croft thing is a bore, to me. Any twenty-something with an endless supply of money and hours of gym time to become a master acrobat can do what modern adventure heroes do. With all that money and a commando team at their disposal, the threats have to be ridiculous to the point that even serial heroes of old would shake their heads. It gets pretty old when 'the world is at stake' every time. Even the Bond series has come to terms with that and occasionally offers the smaller, more personal threat. This is why I say classic adventure is the best adventure because of the nostalgia for the past -- a past without advanced technology as we know it, thus more dangerous for the hero and more thrilling for the reader or movie-goer.

Why do I appreciate Steampunk? It's the perfect antidote to classic adventure fading away. First, it is nostalgic in spades. All the trappings we classic and pulp adventure fans love have equally enchanted Steampunkers. My favorite group of fans to see at Comic Con every year are the ever-growing number of Steampunkers in the best costumes of any (and there are always some really good superheroes and a handful of various genre movie character players to compete with). Steampunkers love the same old adventure movies us greybeards have loved since childhood. Second, where Steampunk has taken the 'rugged' Victorian & Industrial Age technology is simply very cool. Just as modern adventure drones thought 'olde school' was laid to rest by the updating of everything, Steampunk has been proving them wrong for years. Disney's iconic version of the Nautilus remains relevant! (You can have that goddamned ugly behemoth from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen...)In Steampunk, your characters use Tesla electric guns and global-reach world-grid communications and airships employ anti-gravity propulsion, and everyone still dresses so refined. It really is classic adventure on steroids and just so cool. Finally, what makes Steampunk so important to the survival of classic adventure is that it not only attracts the younger generations but it is one of the few places in pop culture where young, old and in between can truly come together and speak the same language. If you still haven't embraced Steampunk yet, catch up!

But Steampunk isn't the only thing that will save classic adventure, the other is the New Pulp movement. I'm happy to have been a part of this for a few years now. In 2003, I set out to write what I described (to the interested) as 'pulpier pulp' with my novel Secret of the Amazon Queen, written under my pseudonym 'E.A.Guest'. My intention was to write what I did, a classic adventure tale for mature readers. I never cater to twelve-year-olds and I'm pretty up front about that (though no one should fool themselves, the kids will and do read such colorful stuff...and that is a strategy in itself to keep the genre alive, heh heh heh...). By the time I did my magazine, Lost Continent Library, I was dedicated to the idea of a 'new pulp' and the magazine tried to serve that aim, to some extent. Of course, though folks close to me won't say, I suspect my 'pulpier' direction is also what killed the magazine (Oops!). It was that period a few years ago when the die-hards of old school Pulp seemed to be very picky about who did what with the beloved style. LCL Mag had a good run for about a year, then downloads waned to a comparatively dismal low in January 2009 so I couldn't justify the time it took to create each issue. I like to think I made some contribution to a wider interest in New Pulp which I am convinced will also serve to keep the genre alive for decades to come -- as long as it doesn't simply seek to be a replica of original Pulp. New Pulp must push the limits by applying our contemporary sensitivities to the classic setting, albeit without social anachronisms.

I think along with Steampunk and New Pulp, an appreciation of history will serve to save classic adventure for the future generations. I specifically mean an appreciation not predicated on throwing out the baby with the bath water. There are plenty of writers already whose works reflect what we in the 21st Century all agree were not so peachy about the past. We don't need to re-hash that here. Classic adventure through a New Pulp and Steampunk filter keeps the past fun in escapist fantasy terms. What it also does is influence folks in our times to embrace elegance and civility again, more so than we've seen in the past twenty years. There were some things a hundred or more years ago that needed to be changed, and they were, 'nuff said. But there were also some things about those times that we would have been better off had they never gone away. Oh well, distance makes the heart grow fonder, right? What I mean to say also is this: that as an appreciation of history can lead to enjoyment of classic adventure, an enjoyment of classic adventure can lead to an appreciation of history.

The title of this implied a direction. I'll state more clearly if I haven't: classic adventure needs to continue its embrace of Steampunk and New Pulp and also include actual history to keep what is good there alive as well. I don't like to say 'in my opinion' because I find that redundant, so let's all agree (whoever reads this posting) that when I'm saying something here unattributed to elsewhere, I am expressing my opinion.

OK, I wrote this to hopefully spark a conversation, so let's hear it...Tell me what you think and please please please direct me to new voices I need to know about!

(You thought I was just gonna post ads all the time didn't you? ;) )

1 comment:

Tom Floyd said...

I totally agree! The world has lost it's sense of adventure to most people. It is a problem us creators have. How do you make new readers forget that they can see almost anywhere in the world in an instant on google maps. How do you get them to ignore their cell phone, or the fact that they don't exist in a period novel, movie, story, or comic strip? It is why Hollywood wants to update everything. Because most people can't forget. I have two sons, the oldest would watch black and white movies and things like Adventures of Robin Hood. But by the time the youngest was old enough my efforts to show him things like that failed. The modern world had taken him over and all of it was just old stuff and he wouldn't even watch a black and white movie. Ever decade or two there is a dash back to nostalgia, but it doesn't last long. Comic especially do the 'update' thing to get a new audience, in the course of which they loss the old audience. Hell I don't think Captain America wouldn't survive except for the fact Nazis are still the ultimate 'bad guys'.
Creators in these movements, and I am one, have a tough time. When they see a period piece or something not modern looking most of the younger looking readers just walk on by. Older readers see what creators like us are trying to do.
But bottom line we are losing our audience to the ultimate villain......death.