Tag: pulp

Excerpt from SILENCED: A Cybil Lewis Novel

Silenced_A Cybil Lewis Novel In 2008, my first futuristic thriller/mystery, Silenced: A Cybil Lewis Novel, appeared for the first time in print. The first release in Parker Publishing’s Isis SF line, the goal was to publish and promote black speculative fiction. Cybil was to be the flagship for that line.

Fast forward to now. Cybil is back in print! This time Mocha Memoirs Press has re-released it for your reading pleasure. So, if you missed her introductory run, you can catch up with her before the release of COZENED, the second in the series.

So, here’s a glimpse of Cybil’s world in Silenced: A Cybil Lewis Novel. 

 

Excerpt from Silenced: A Cybil Lewis Novel.  (R) 2008 Nicole Givens Kurtz

Available Print: $13.75 | Ebook $3.99

“Good afternoon, Mayor Christensen. What brings you to D.C.?” I ignored Jane. She could explain it later—although I was curious to see what spin she would put on this.

Jane sat down at her desk, her hands twisting together in front of her as she kept her eyes on the mayor and me. Already a thin line of sweat decorated her upper lip and even from across the room, I could see her eyes flittered around, unable to focus on one thing.

Yep, she had done something she knew I’d be pissed about.

I don’t like being ambushed and despite what Jane would tell me later, the situation definitely felt like an ambush. If it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, and looks like a duck, then it surely is a duck.

Ditto the ambush.

Mayor Annabelle Christensen, Belle to Jane and other family members, was as Southern as grits and bluegrass music. She had occupied the mayoral seat of the Memphis quadrant for at least ten years. The Memphis quad extended up as far north to what was once Louisville, Kentucky and as far south as the modern day Jackson, Mississippi. The quad’s eastern border stopped at the far mountainous border of what was once Tennessee and dipped down to the former Mississippi. The Mississippi River served as the western border to not only the Memphis quad, but also the entire Southeast Territories to which Memphis was the largest quadrant.

She rose from her seat like a queen, with grace and an air of royalty. Her media smile stuck to her face like glue. The room smelled like sweet southern honeysuckles and was thick with humidity. The mayor had been waiting a long time since her scent seemed infused into the office’s atmosphere.

“Ms. Lewis, so good to finally meet you. I’ve heard so much about you and your work.” Her voice dropped on me in heavy globs, like syrup, thick and sugary. “I wish it could be on better terms. I assure you that what I have to say will not waste your time.”

Jane fidgeted in her seat as if she wasn’t sure about her aunt’s claim.

I didn’t look over at her, but I could feel Jane’s uncomfortableness. We’d been partners long enough that I didn’t need to see them to know what they were thinking or feeling. I just knew.

“What do you want?” I asked, ready for the game to be over and failing to keep my irritation out of my voice. Mind games, pomp and circumstance didn’t suit me well. My immediate dislike for the mayor didn’t help the situation either, and beneath my attempts at professionalism, I think she heard it.

Her eyebrows rose and her mouth made a small little ‘o’.

She recovered and her media smile was back on, full blast as if I hadn’t said anything. Despite the grin, a smarminess seemed to radiate out from her heart-shaped face as if she was restraining her own dislike for me.

Sometimes, a person doesn’t have to do anything to you for you to dislike them. It had to do with chemicals and personalities and other biological complex stuff.

I didn’t know the exact chemicals, but I knew I didn’t like Mayor Christensen.

Moreover, I didn’t trust her.

Already pain nibbled at the edge of exploding along the base of my neck. Stress. I didn’t feel like bullshitting around with the mayor and her entourage of goons. Had the clientele been a little seedier, I’d shot someone by now.

I have only so much honey in my system a day. Nice people, sometimes-even clients (when we get one) received small doses of my honey. My mother used to say I had an overabundance of vinegar. Of course, bees liked honey, and no one liked vinegar.

Right now, my honey supply of kindness was ebbing away faster than the eastern coastline.

The two bodyguards reached into their jackets threateningly, their eyes narrowed and attached to me. I fought the urge to smile and wave back at them.

Mayor Christensen’s red painted lips opened to speak, but instead she waved the goons into submission. A reddish flush appeared on her cheeks.

“May I speak with you in private?”

I shrugged and headed to my private office with her in tow. I unlocked the doors with a lick of my thumb. After a DNA confirmation check, they slid open. I dropped my satchel on my big oak desk as I stepped into the room and remained standing behind it. It had a big, open surface for all of my belongings. I loved the desk more than some men I’ve known.

Mayor Christensen didn’t sit in my only visitor’s chair.

With that well-bred posture, she remained standing as she scanned the walls of my private office taking it in. I knew what she was seeing, and I didn’t really care. Everything in the office came secondhand or was here when I leased the space eight years ago. The walls were adorned with newspaper and electronic clippings of various cases I had either been involved with or solved. The yellowing on some of the actual paper ones had chipped and split along the edges. New jpegs had been enlarged and added with updated electronic articles about recent cases. They scrolled upward in slow, casual, read-me-if-you’re-bored cadence.

“Mayor, why are you here?” I asked tightly, my voice edgy and impatient. With amazing effort, I tried to hang on to some professionalism. It slipped out of my hands, like sands through an hourglass. “I do have work to do.”

I had a good idea of what the mayor wanted. Still I wanted her to say it, to speak it out and to ask.  There was something naughty in the smile I gave her. The edges curled up in a dark satisfaction of knowing that I’d refuse her request anyway. Beg me, baby! Wait—hold for the rejection.

She brought her eyes back to mine and pressed her lips together before talking as if trying to keep her mouth from saying things she might regret later. With three more attempts, her words finally managed to clear the gate.

“Miss Lewis, I am from tough southern people who aren’t bothered by mosquitoes, wauto wrecks, or mouthy inspectors.”

Her voice lost its sweetness and turned hard, like wet sugar left out in the cold. In place of the soft, worried mother, was now the voice of a seasoned politician who thought I would cower and obey her every whim.

Obviously, she did not know me very well.

“The Memphis regulators are idiots,” she was saying, her hands folded neatly in front of her. “They have bungled my daughter’s missing person’s case and I want the bastard that took Mandy found,” she finished, her voice demanding, her eyes seething with anger and raw emotion.

Will the real Mayor Christensen please stand up? There is something knowing, hell creepy, about someone who could flip the coin of her personality like that. It made me want to lock my satchel in the safe, and nail down the valuables.

She stood there in her immaculate gray suit that cost more than my monthly food budget allowed. The layers of make-up didn’t hide the bluish circles under her eyes, or the new crop of wrinkles along her forehead the photos and media coverage seemed to have missed or airbrushed.

“In case you haven’t noticed, this is a long way from Memphis,” I said, my temper escaping into thin strips of exasperation. “And I don’t respond well to threats and name calling.”

The mayor’s eyes held mine.

“I apologize,” she said forcefully, as if she didn’t really mean it. “You’re the best in this business, or so I’m told.”  She crossed her arms over her chest. “You solved the case that sent Governor Price packing to Alamogordo Cradle a few years back.”

“Yeah, I did. But the answer is still no,” I said back, inserting my own steeliness into my voice. The Change met with certain death and several key political figures were apprehended, killed, or promoted depending on what side of the case they landed on. It garnished me some publicity and the client list swelled after that, a fat monsoon rain, drowning me in fresh currency, vile human actions, and a shower of gun play.

It had since dried up.

I came around to stand close to her, to face her so that she knew she wasn’t intimidating me. I was taller by about three inches and weighed more than her for sure, which somehow didn’t make me feel all that great.

The doors to my private office slid back in a hush. Jane came in, cautiously. She stood inside the entranceway. She opened her mouth to say something, but quickly closed it.

Smart girl.

Mayor Christensen ran her hand through her light brown Afro, ruining its puffiness.

“Miss Lewis, I have come all this way through the territory. The regulators are no closer to solving this than they were four weeks ago! Time is ticking away, and my, my baby is out there somewhere. These are dangerous times, as you well know. Help me find her, please.”

Suddenly, she was the sweet, southern girl from Memphis, twang and all—the distressed parent, not the bullying politician.

This one was quite the actress.

I shrugged. “As a rule, I don’t investigate cases where the regulators have already been called in.”

My friend Daniel Tom, a regulator and the only one competent  on the D.C. staff would kill me for meddling in his case without his permission. I’m sure the Memphis regs felt the same way.

She stared at me, aghast. “As a rule? This is my daughter, Miss Lewis, surely…”

“Yeah, a rule. You should know about those. They’re kind of like regulations…back in the day those were called laws. When you are self-employed you can make up rules for your business. That’s one of mine.”

I did not dance to the beat of anyone’s drummer, but my own, especially not that of some big shot politician. She could bring all the muscle she wanted, but I wasn’t budging unless I wanted to.

Call me stubborn. Call me cautious. Just don’t call me dead. I didn’t like the way this whole thing was unfolding.

“I will double your usual retainer,” she said as she looked around the office. “It seems you can use it.”

Jane winced, but still didn’t speak.

“No,” I said, struggling to keep my displeasure from going nuclear. “I just explained it to you. I don’t do regulator ruined cases.”

“Miss Lewis-”

“No.”

My voice was louder than I wanted. Could it be that she just didn’t get it? I wasn’t taking her on as a client. Was it because she was a mayor and no one in the Memphis quadrant ever refused her, so that no was a word she didn’t understand?

Or could it be that she was so desperate to find her daughter, no was unthinkable?

I wasn’t quite sure yet, but I did know one thing…I didn’t like the ambush and it had put me in a bad mood.

Mayor Christensen stiffened as if slapped.

Jane finally spoke. “Cyb…”

I waved her off. My ire boiled beneath my somewhat awkward grin. I didn’t take to people barging into my office with a trio of paid thugs to flex on me. If you truly wanted my help, there were better ways to ask than to come armed. Yeah, I had a reputation. And sure, she required protection, who didn’t in this age? Still, the entire affair could’ve been handled differently. Way different.

“Excuse me, Mayor Christensen. Jane. I have work to do.”

What work? I had no idea, but I wanted them both out of my office and fast before I lost total control. I hunkered down at my desk and turned on my computer. I played around with the mouse, gliding my fingers across the metallic square as if I had something important to read or type up.

I didn’t look up as the doors opened and closed after them.

AfroFuturism, Blerds, and Black Twitter-A Brief Reference Guide

While at illogicon this weekend, one of the panels I’ve participated in was AfroFuturism, Blerds, and BlackTwitter. We also provided a brief overview of the cinematic history of African-Americans in speculative fiction. Below is the list of references that provide a brief introduction AfroFuturistm, Blerds, and Black Twitter.

Please note, this isn’t a complete list. It’s just a quick guide I compiled for introductory reasons. If you have suggestions or better resources, feel free to email or Tweet me (@nicolegkurtz).

Definitions:

Blerds-black nerds

Afrofuturism-Afrofuturism is a literary and cultural aesthetic that combines elements of science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, Afrocentricity, and magic realism with non-Western cosmologies in order to critique not only the present-day dilemmas of people of color, but also to revise, interrogate, and re-examine the historical events of the past. First coined by Mark Dery in 1993, and explored in the late 1990s through conversations led by scholar Alondra Nelson.

Steamfunk-is defined as a philosophy or style of writing and visual aesthetic that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and/or steampunk fiction and cosplay.

Black Twitter- a cultural identity on the Twitter social network focused on issues of interest to the black community, particularly in the United States.

Articles:

What is Afrofuturism?

http://thepandorasociety.com/what-is-afrofuturism/

 

What is Afrofuturism?

http://www.ebony.com/entertainment-culture/black-alt-enter-afrofuturism-999#axzz3wlULHuja

 

Nalo Hopkinson on Racial and Gender

http://www.newblackmaninexile.net/2015/12/nalo-hopkinson-on-racial-and-gender.html

 

The Rise of the Black Nerd in Pop Culture

http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/31/showbiz/rise-of-black-nerds/index.html

 

What is Steamfunk?

http://chroniclesofharriet.com/2012/04/05/what-is-steamfunk-exposing-the-big-steampunk-lie

 

Steampunk!

http://mvmediaatl.com/steamfunk.html

 

The Truth about Black Twitter

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/04/the-truth-about-black-twitter/390120/

 

Websites:

Black Girl Nerds                                                http://www.blackgirlnerds.com

We Need Diverse Books!                                  http://www.weneeddiversebookgs.org

BlackScienceFiction Society                              http://www.blacksciencesociety.com

iafronfuturism.com                                          http://www.iafrofuturism.com

The Chronicles of Harriet                                 http://chroniclesofharriet.com

MV Media                                                        http://mvmediaatl.com/

 

Popular Black Speculative Twitter Hashtags and People to Follow

#afrofuturism               #diversesff       #BlackComics   #steamfunk      #blackpulp       #blacksf           #BlackTwitter

 

@blackgirlnerds           @GraveyardSister         @GeekSoulBrother      

Pulp Fiction Friday Guest, Tommy Hancock

Trey from Cybil Lewis Series (c) Laura Givens
Trey from Cybil Lewis Series (c) Laura Givens

November is Native American Heritage Month! To celebrate, each Friday will continue to be devoted to Pulp Fiction.

Authors will contribute a post discussing pulp, mystery, spies, and whodunits in the realms of science fiction and speculative. Welcome to Tommy Hancock as he discusses the definition of pulp, its future, and the publishing of pulp.


I’m a Pulp Writer.  I also happen to be a Publisher of Pulp, New Pulp specifically.  I’m also a fan of Pulp, both Classic and New and nearly every stripe of it in some form or fashion.  So, the question could be asked…and has been by those wearing slightly confused looks on their faces… Why would anyone choose to be a Pulp writer?

The reason this question gets asked and is actually worth the breath it takes to say it requires a bit of explanation on what one means when one refers to ‘Pulp’.  Now it must be prefaced that, although there are aspects of what I am about to say that are factual, my view of what Pulp is my own and, though my view is shared by others, this take on the nature of Pulp is not the only one making its rounds.  But it is mine and how I define not only what Pulp means but how I fit into it.

The term ‘pulp’ in regards to fiction came from the use of Pulp paper by Publishers to AsianPulpprint cheap magazines beginning around 1896, a practice that became very prevalent in the early 20th Century.  The stories printed in these magazines were usually genre fiction, normally very plot driven and, although characterization was usually flimsy, the characters were at least normally presented as larger than life. The heroes were as straight and pure as an arrow made of white bread and the villains were ultimate mustache twirlers, whether or not they had facial hair to twist.  Westerns, detective stories, tales of heroes like Doc Savage, romance yarns, even sports stories all found their ways into Pulps over about a 50 year period, and into the hearts of fans and collectors.

Pulp magazines experienced a huge popularity in the 1930s and into the 1940s, partially because the price of the magazines appealed to a Depression and then War torn America and the stories were as engaging for the blue collar worker as they were for his white collar boss.  Due to a few arguable points, the popularity of Pulps faded and the actual magazines vanished from the newsstands by the mid 1950s.  By then, however, something had taken place and Pulp had come to mean more than just the paper quickly produced stories were written on.

Black PulpTrigger warning- This is the part where my opinion of what Pulp is may veer from beliefs others have. My take on it often leads to debates, arguments, and heated verbal battles that redefine flame wars.  You have been warned.

Even though Pulp magazines themselves were pretty much nonexistent by 1955, the influence and effect of what had gone on on those pages was just beginning.  Authors that we now consider classic American writers – including Isaac Asimov and Louis L’Amour, just to name two – found their first voice in Pulp magazines.  It can be argued that one of the greatest genres ever, Science Fiction, really found its footing in Pulp magazines.  A lot of credit for the future of popular literature today can be laid at the feet of Pulp Fiction and I think the greatest contribution of those magazines and the writers and editors behind them was that by 1955 Pulp had gone from being a medium for delivery of these stories to a style of writing all its very own.

New Pulp is the term given to what others and I write today and most definitely to the type of fiction I publish.  It’s a moniker that has really come into use heavily in the last five or six years.  Having said that, I believe New Pulp has been written since the last Pulp magazine was printed.  That’s what New Pulp is, fiction written in the Pulp style after the end of the ‘Pulp Era’.  For the most part, that is the biggest distinction between Classic and New Pulp.  Lester Dent, Walter Gibson, Norvell Page, Charles Boeckman, they all wrote stories that were printed in the Pulp magazines when they existed.  Those of us who came after that era, what we write is New Pulp.

Now, with that in mind, there is another significant difference between Classic and New Pulp. Classic Pulp, particularly Pulp during its most popular period, belongs to a specific time, holds a certain place in the past.  Because of that, it is defined, for better or worse, by the period it was written in and the social, legal, and general mores of that era.  Although New Pulp could be divided into periods, the fact that it essentially started when Classic Pulp ended due to the end of the magazines, New Pulp grows and shifts, or recedes and changes, depending on your viewpoint, as the world around us and society itself does the same.  Topics are tackled now in New Pulp stories that would never have been addressed in the Pulp magazines.  Characters of color and what many consider alternate lifestyles can now be the leads in stories, not simply stereotyped supporting characters or punchlines to jokes, if they appeared at all.  Shades of gray are also much more prevalent in New Pulp than in its Classic parent, good guys can have dark sides and bad guys can be redeemable.  So, New Pulp continues to grow and mature and expand and become something more than what it was even a month ago as new writers come into the fold and new readers begin looking for more within Pulp.

That being said, understand that there is a core that is common between Classic and New Pulp.  Pulp is usually fast paced, told with a sense of urgency from beginning to end.  It has a plot focus, things have to be happening when the first word is read and keep happening until the last word is breathlessly expressed.  Pulp also has rich, vibrant and colorful characters. New Pulp, again referring to how it differs from Classic Pulp, adds more dimensions to characters, but that offers a tricky proposition. As mainstream, or ‘literary’ literature tends to slow down and take time building characters with protracted monologues, pages of conversation over coffee or in bed, or angst riddled introspection, New Pulp does not have that luxury.  Character development is massively important to make New Pulp appeal to readers, but it has to happen as the action proceeds.  You have to introduce and grow your character between the gunshots, as it were, as the plot unfolds.  If you want to discuss the trauma of your character losing his or her parents when they were a child, then that particular aspect needs to either unfold in a concise two or three sentences or needs to be the reason he or she is pounding bad guys into the concrete while he or she is pounding said villains.

Another key part of Pulp is the use of language.  Although a story can end up being so purple it is a veritable bruise of verbiage, description is essential to Pulp and makes it stand apart from other styles.  Red becomes crimson, a gun becomes a gat or hogleg, love becomes unhinged passion, and so forth.  No one ‘says’ anything in Pulp. They bark, snap, scream, hammer, and drill their dialogue.  Yes, I know some of you are rolling your eyes, having heard the age old maxim that doing such things with dialogue tags is unnecessary and it is perfectly all right to use ‘said’ instead of these other words, and you know what? It is okay.  But for me, Pulp means adding a distinction to the fiction I write, something that makes it stand apart, a visceral thing.  And that comes out in how Pulp writers use, manipulate, and sometimes abuse and mangle the English language to produce wonderfully illustrative and sometimes brilliantly over the top stories.

All of what came before was to get to where I am now.  I write Pulp because I love the stories that gave birth to what I do today and I adore the tales being woven by some truly awesome storytellers today in the same style.  In short, I am a fan. Not just of New Pulp and whatever trailblazing we all may be doing, but of Classic Pulp, of its history, of its impact, of its characters.  All of it.  I am a Pulp fan and that drives every word I write, every book I help a writer publish, and most assuredly everything I read for pleasure.

I paint what New Pulp is with a very broad brush, using the guidelines usually that I’ve mentioned already.  It amazes me how many people don’t realize they write or that they read Pulp until the style is explained to them, with copious examples. Are there exceptions? Of course, that is what proves any rule.  But for the most part, New Pulp is the venue by which the style Classic Pulp gave life to continues on today and well into many tomorrows.  And I’m glad to be a Pulp writer today.

With the advent of multiple technologies, Pulp has a new heyday that, albeit slowly for the tastes of some, is bringing more readers and more creators across that hazy line between ‘literary’ and Pulp Fiction to the Pulp side.  As we learn what it is and, if we already have an inkling, that it’s not just tales set in the 1930s and that it doesn’t have to have fedoras, machine guns, horses, or spaceships to be Pulp, we as a society are realizing what Pulp actually is.  It’s the expression of a shared love for action and adventure, a common ground for all spectrums of society.  Makes it pretty cool all by itself, if you ask me.

You can find Tommy Hancock online at Pro Se Productions!