Saturday, August 6, 2011


PULP-FEST 2011-Convention Coverage by Ron Fortier

There’s an old adage that says the more fun you are having, the faster time flies. And that could not be truer of last week-ends rocket train ride through the third convening of Pulp Fest in Columbus, Ohio. And before I go rambling on about my experiences and thoughts, let me tip my pulp fedora to promoters Jack Cullers, Mike Chomko & Ed Hulse for once again putting on a truly fun and exciting program with a little of something for all pulp enthusiast. The pulp community is expanding yearly thanks to efforts of men like these and the emerging of the New Pulp Fiction movement that is sweeping the literary world. More on that in a second.

Thursday Night July 28.

Captain Ron Fortier & Rob Davis of Airship 27 Productions.
I landed at the airport in Indianapolis where my partner and pal in Airship 27 Productions, Rob Davis, was waiting for me. In the past I’d flown from Denver to Chicago and then transferred to another plane for Columbus, but this year Rob explained that on his eight hour drive up from his home in Missouri, he actually drove right past the Indy airport. It would be no trouble to stop and pick me up. The idea of only doing one flight and not having to make another hop was all the prodding I needed. Beside this way, I could spend three hours coming and going with Rob and that would afford us a wonderful opportunity to get caught up on what we were doing with Airship 27, where our various books were in development and make plans for the future.

Writers Michael Croteau & Win Scott Eckert
Which is exactly how it all worked out. By the time we registered into the Con’s hotel it was just after 11 p.m. and we met several familiar pulp pals in the lobby. They told us the courtesy room was opened up on the sixth floor and after getting squared away in our own room on the third, we went up to see what was going on. Much to our pleasure, we found writer Win Scott Eckert holding court with other pulp friends talking about this year’s bumper crop of hero movies, the good, the bad…and the ugly. (Can anyone say Green Hornet movie..without gagging?) And this is as good a place as any to related one of the truly special features of this year’s Pulp Fest; the fact that they incorporated the Annual Farmer Con, a meeting of fans devoted to the many works of the late science fiction and fantasy writer, Philip Jose Farmer. Win is one of the leading members of this group and he and his Farmer colleagues had set up various panels etc. to focus on the popular author and his works during the weekend. One of the things all of us wondered, and hoped, was that by including this other facet of pulp fandom, the number of attendees would swell and sure enough, that’s exactly what did happen to everyone’s benefit.
Having had a great chat with Win and his pals about the new Captain America movie, Rob and I finally called it a day and went back to our room with really high hopes this was going to be a really fun show.

Friday July 29

Pulp Amigos (left to right) Jim Beard, Duane Spurlock,
Captain Ron, Frank Schildiner & John Bruening.
Up early, we had breakfast in the hotel restaurant then went out to Rob’s rental car to start unpacking our books, comics and other items to fill our table with. The main hucksters room of the con was on the first level and they had the doors open when we arrived. We registered, got our packages and went in to find our table. Happily the con crew had given us the same exact wall table as we’d anchored last year, so soon Rob was unpacking his half dozen boxes, setting up his magazine racks and tacking up our huge, colorful Airship 27 banner on that wall behind us. Only to have it promptly peel off the second we sat down. Seemed the humidity wasn’t helping the adhesive tape at all and it just wouldn’t adhere to the wall. Of course, as always happens at these shows, a lady at a table across from the aisle from us, witnessed our dilemma and promptly came over and gave us her role of “duck” tape. Which worked perfectly. That banner never bothered us again, ah, the miracle properties of “duck” tape.
Wild Cat Books own Bill Carney (designer)
& Ron Hanna, Managing Editor.
All too soon it was 10 a.m. and the doors were officially opened to the public and our con experience was off and running. Although I don’t have the exact numbers, Ed Hulse mentioned in a podcast interview two weeks before the show, that they expected to have a minimum of a hundred vendor tables, to include several New Pulp publishers like Airship 27 Productions. Some of those we immediately recognized were Altus Press and Wild Cat books, both terrific outfits, even if they are our “friendly” competitors. One of the truly cool things about pulp fandom is that camaraderie among all the participants and even if there is some rivalry, it’s all honestly friendly. All these fellows produce great books and the same can be said for new reprint outfits that have sprung up over the past few years to rescue stories being lost in yellow, dog-eared magazines, ala Black Dog Press, Ace of Adventures, Haffner Press and several others represented at the show.
Looking for video oldies from Cultural Historian
Martin Gram Jr.’s table of goodies.
Of course the original pulp collectors and sellers do make up the majority of dealers and some of the rare books they had on display were simply amazing. Talk about paper treasures. Then there were the related dealers like the poster and toy folks, and as ever, our buddy Martin Gram Jr. with his vast DVD offerings of long lost film classics and my favorites, the serial cliffhangers. Martin is a cultural historian and this year was giving a night time presentation on the history of the Shadow in radio, where he first originated before being transported to the world of the pulps.
Author Wayne Reinagel giving Victory sign.
Having a great time.
By mid-morning, our sales were surprisingly brisk and it was all too easy to see there were lots more people at the show this year. Normally Fridays are a bit slow as it is still a working day for locals and if we sell even a few books, we’re happy. But by afternoon we’d sold nearly half our stock of titles. Just amazing. And lots of old amigos had stopped by to say hi, many of them fellow pulp creators. Writers Duane Spurlock, Jim Beard and comics pro Tony Isabella all stopped by our table to say hello and it was, as ever great to get caught up with this friends. During the course of the afternoon, there were three readings in the adjoining conference hall followed by questions and answers with the writers. These included Duane, Wayne Reinagel and Win Scott Eckert. These sessions are great for pulp fans to meet the best and brightest of the new pulp creators in a very one on one setting. Pulp Fest started them with their first show three years ago and they’ve become a welcome staple.
Pulp Historian/columnist, Mark Halegua
 with cool pulp tees.
Soon the day was waning down and it was time to close up shop for the day. It has become a tradition with me and Rob, to hit up the Spaghetti Warehouse for dinner on the first night of the show and tagging along with us were Wayne, Mark Halegua and writer Greg Gick. As usual the food was excellent. Mark returned to the con hotel as he wanted to catch some of the evening events such as Martin Gram’s history of the Shadow on radio and such panels as Wild American Pulp Artists hosted by David Saunders, the son of legendary pulp artist Norm Saunders. There was also an amazing presentation by the Farmer crew on The Shadow and the Wold Neuton, which featured Michael Croteau, Win Eckert, Mary Turzillo, Rick Lai, Will Murray and Art Sippo.
Whereas Rob and Greg had not seen the Captain America movie yet, I opted to go with him to find a local theater and see it a second time. Happily we arrived at a local cinema ten minutes before an 8 PM showing. Captain America –The First Avenger is my favorite movie of the year, hands down and seeing it a second time with fellow comic fans was twice as much fun. By the time we returned to our room, the feeling was Friday had been a huge success and we had high expectations for Saturday, traditionally the big “sales” day at any show.

Saturday, July 30

Writers Rick Lai & Frank Schildiner with Lisa Eckert.
Buoyed by the previous day’s sales, Rob and I were eager to get Saturday rolling. And several of our pulp amigos who were coming to the show for only this one day soon started arriving. These included John Bruening, one of our Airship 27 proof-readers who has been with us since the start. Writer Frank Schildiner had come in during the wee hours of the morning, his plane from New Jersey having been repeatedly delayed by severe thunderstorms on the East Coast. Frank would be spending only one day at the show and flying home early the next morning. You can well imagine how exhausted he looked when he appeared in the hucksters room, and yet there was a huge smile on his face as he set about enjoying his first ever pulp con. Another one day traveler was writer Bill Craig, who brought along his precocious six year old son, Jack. Bill’s a single dad and he’s doing a great job raising Jack to appreciate the cool things in this life, like comics and pulps.
Captain Ron & Comic Related guru Chuck Moore. 
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the visit from Comic Related’s own Big Kahuna himself, my dear amigo, Chuck Moore. Chuck is truly one of the finest souls I know in this world and his coming up to spend the day with us meant so much to both me and Rob. The last time Chuck and I had seen each other was at last year’s super Champion City Con in Springfield, Ohio. So I absolutely loved being able to catch up with him, if only for a short little while. Trust me, things were always hopping.
All too soon it was 1 p.m. and time for me to don my Captain Ron persona and head out to the conference room where I would moderate a one hour panel on New Pulp Fiction.

Captain Ron moderating panel
on New Pulp Fiction.
New Pulp Fiction has become a major force in the current Pulp Renaissance sweeping American literature and other media such as TV shows and movies. It has revitalized the entire pulp fandom, which was on the verge of going extinct only a few years ago. Now it is stronger and healthier than ever with lots of new, young fans discovering this amazing literature for the very first time thanks to today’s crop of super talented pulp authors. On my panel were six of the finest; Win Scott Eckert, Dr.Art Sippo, Wayne Reinagel, Greg Gick, Bill Craig and Duane Spurlock.

Writers Dr.Art Sippo, Greg Gick and Rick Lai.
Once every one was settled in their seats, we got the discussion going, with my asking these creative folks why they had chosen to write pulp over other better known and popular genres. Their insightful answers propelled the next forty minutes beautifully, giving our audience of thirty five or so lots things to think about. We went onto to a ten minute question and answer period then I offered each of the writers a few minutes to promote their latest projects. It was one of the most enjoyable hours I’ve ever had and our audience was most appreciative. Enough so that several have asked us to do this panel on a regular basis from now on. In fact several writers in our audience later approached me about sitting in on the panel next time we do one. Sounds like a plan to me. And again my thanks to the Pulp Fest promoters for welcoming this New Pulp movement and supporting as much as they do.
Back at the table, Rob somehow managed to survive, using his i-Pad to keep little Jack entertained with cartoons while his dad sat on our panel. In the end, Bill was thrilled to have been able to come to the show and enjoy it as much as he did thanks to Rob’s looking after his son. We’ve since tagged Rob as the Sitinator, it’s like the Terminator, only much tougher. Ha.

Eventually as the day once again came to a speedy finale, we were having to say good-bye to our pals, ala Jim Beard, John Bruening, Frank Schildiner and of course Chuck. That’s the part of shows I do hate, having to say so-long, until next time. Before leaving the hall, Rob and I did a quick tally and it appeared we’d sold nearly 80% of our stock. Our best seller at this year was clearly DAMABALLA by Charles Saunders, the premier of the first ever African American 1930s pulp hero. We sold out our entire stock. Both on Saunder’s already established reputation and on the book’s ground breaking conceit. Our second top seller was SHERLOCK HOLMES – CONSULTING DETECTIVE Vol III which came as no real surprise. The previous two volumes remain big sellers for us and its obvious Holmes & Watson fans just can’t get enough of their adventures. Expect to see this series continue for a long time with us.

Long time pulp fan Anthony Tollin
accepting the Munsey Award.
Dinner Sat. night was at a Round Robin, where Janet & Elie Harriet joined us, along with Wayne Reinagel and Mark Halegua. It was time for a good old fashion American burger. After we’d eaten, we returned to the con to catch up on the evening’s activities. These included the presentation of the Munsey Awards to that individual who has done much to promote and support pulps and their fandom. This year’s recipient was former DC Colorist, Anthony Tollin, currently reprinting the entire run of the Shadow and Doc Savage in new deluxe editions. A well deserved win. Rob and I attended a presentation called, Steampunk in the Days of Dime Novels and the Pulps, wherein Prof. Garyn Roberts gave us a short slide show history of this rapidly growing sub-genre of sci-fi fiction. Although considering its true pulp roots, I believe the name Steampunk is not accurate and fandom should be adopting the phrase coined by writer Wayne Reinagel, Steampulp!! And nobody writes it better than Wayne.
The evening concluded with the yearly auction where lots of great old pulps and other paper treasures were sold to some very happy pulp attendees. Once again, another great day at Pulp Fest came to a successful ending.

Sunday, July 31

Posters Galore!
A quick walk around the parking lot to stretch our legs before going back into the all for the final hours of the show. Sunday mornings are generally slow as molasses, though you do still get a few people trickling in. Thing is, most shows generally drop the admission fees for these last-minute visitors as was the case here. Rob and I chatted a bit with our remaining con neighbors and pals then around 11 a.m., it was time to start packing up our remaining stock.
Lo and behold, we’re almost done when I see my Comic Related amigos, Dustin Carson & Chad Strohl come walking through the main door. I was both happy to see them and saddened that we couldn’t get to visit all that much. Rob was kind enough to let me talk with them for about a half hour, as he was more than capable of packing up the car by himself. Dustin & Chad had remembered the show was on and decided to drive up from Springfield to see me. Pals like that are all too rare and I can’t ever thank them enough. Hopefully next year they can come up on Sat. and really get the full fun of the show.

Ron Fortier and
Comic Writer/Historian Tony Isabella
Then it was time to head out for the three hour drive back to Indianapolis, which once again, allowed Rob and me to reflect on this year’s show, what a huge hit it had been and what our plans for the next year will be. Pulp fandom is growing rapidly and now there are three terrific shows lined for 2012, starting with Pulp Ark in April, Windy City in May and once again, Pulp Fest in late Sept. Airship 27 Productions will be at all three, raring to go with lots more new titles, only too eager to spend time with some of the nicest, most creative people on the planet. We hope next year, lots of you reading these words will make the effort to join us. You will not be sorry you did.