Author: Lex Scott.
Genre: Pulp Fantasy.
Now before I get more mail than Santa in December from those that get rather picky when someone uses the term ‘Pulp Fantasy’ (seriously, I get less hate when I use the word ㄘഉ∐ㆵ) ‘The Valkyrie’s Last Flight’ is written in pulp style, and it’s a fantasy story, ergo Pulp Fantasy.
Definitely not for the little ones, this short story oozes blood from its pages, at breakneck speed. This gorefest brings to mind the work of Simon Bisley’s Sláine and Lobo, with blood arcing across the sky in rainbow fashion, and viscera slapping you in the face in this fast paced race across a desert planet in search of some unknown object.
What are they looking for? You’ll just have to read it for yourself as I’m offering no spoilers here. Suffice it to say, this short story will have you beaten to a bloody pulp in a matter of minutes, and leave your mind reeling with the infinite possibilities of where the next instalment could go.
Where this differs from what many would call (argue) Pulp Fantasy, ie sword and sorcery or dungeons and dragons, this book blends in elements of something akin to Warhammer 40k with the likes of kick arse ballistic weapons, plasma guns, and spacecrafts, as well as the ever popular bladed and bludgeoning weapons of our darker histories. But the overwhelming hook, (if you’ll forgive the Lobo pun), is the fact that this is one of an infinite number of violent, fast paced, bloody pulp novels that should be winging its way to an e-reader near you.
I had the pleasure of chatting to author Lex Scott over the weekend to get the “bigger picture”.
“Imagine a dimension that just looks like an infinite city, and every single door within it leads to a specific time, space, and physical reality. That is the Underlord, and the worlds within those doors are his. Now imagine the people living in that city are several eternities old, have inconceivably vast knowledge and experience, and enjoy basically going on live action role playing adventures, just like we might escape into a book or video game.”
If that doesn’t quite sell it for you then the fact that as a reader, you could personally have a hand in helping to create characters and plots for this ongoing series by way of patronage, should easily tip the scale for you.
Once we had discussed at length, multidimensional physics and the overlap between time and space, we decided it might be a good idea to discuss his series of pulp stories.
Clearly Lex, you’ve put a ton of thought into this series, having mapped out many different worlds and realities, so my first question has to be: how many different stories/ characters have you already outlined, other than what we encounter in Valkyrie’s Last Flight?
“I have four stories in various stages of development at the moment: One I’m about halfway through on the first draft, one that’s fully planned and mapped out, and one that’s fully planned but not mapped. The fourth is ready to go, but I have something special planned for that so we’ll have to table that one for now haha.”
Hmmm That sounds very interesting, care to elaborate for the readers, or are you just going to sit there rubbing your hands and laughing maniacally?
“It’s pretty simple really: it’s too short for me to feel right selling it individually, so I have a plan to slot it in somewhere specific as a bonus. Although, those plans could be adjusted, if I get a good readership and they need something different.”
“Characters though I’m playing very fast and loose with: I have a decent handful I’ve already created for Valkyries, and my current process is to use one of them as a starting point for a story and populate the background with new characters as I need. Plus, because of the nature of the Characters and their travels I’m not bound by chronology or continuity in anyway, so if I make a new character and want them to interact with another who say, died in a previous story, or my readers are clamoring for a particular team up that otherwise wouldn’t work if I were telling a more traditional set of stories, I can do that no problem.”
I love that you don’t have the constraints of a timeline. This must be so liberating.
“It is. The adventures of Conan, the originals from Robert E. Howard were a huge influence on me and this project, in particular the fact that none of them were ever published in any kind of order. Letting go of that modern idea of canon and continuity is honestly good for the reader as well. You could pick up any of the stories from these worlds and hopefully have a good time, without having to worry about decades of established lore. The whole point is to have fun, and not worrying is part of that.”
There is a huge role playing influence to this reality. What rpg’s if any have been an influence on this project, and have you used any multifaceted numerical devices to influence the stories as you outline?
“It’s interesting that you’d say that, as building a setting was one of my driving instincts when first outlining the Worlds of The Underlord. I’ve dipped my toes into lots of different mediums and all sorts of genres, and I’ve always been enamored with the idea of just creating a setting to facilitate adventures.”
“I have unfortunately quite limited experience in getting to play proper pen and paper rpg’s, but I did spend a lot of my teenage years loving a lot of the Forgotten Realms pc games (Neverwinter Nights, Baldur’s Gate, etc). My personal favourite system however will always be Chaosium’s BASIC system (Call of Cthulhu and Magic World) for their incredibly intuitive percentile system.”
“Before I got such a great response with Valkyrie, back when I first conceived of The Worlds of The Underlord, I kind of made it to be a catch-all title that I could fold all of my creations into, including a pen and paper rpg. I wanted to be able to run a game with a set of characters, then run a new game in a drastically new setting (eg magic to science) but with those exact same characters.”
“All that said I never use die or random elements in my story or character creation: everything needs to fit together and make dramatic as well as logical sense. That’s not to say I muddy things down in text with deep mechanical explanations (or I try not to anyway), so long as it makes sense to me and I could defend that choice as making sense if I had to, then I think the audience will be on board with that choice too.”
What are your thoughts on an actual pen and paper rpg being made for this world, or even a video game?
“Oh I would love to do that. I don’t even have anything else to say about it, I’d just love it. Though I would definitely need some help with the technical side of it, I’m not exactly a game designer…”
You mentioned a couple of storylines in our chat, which I will not divulge, so how long will we have to wait for the next tale to hit the stands, and how many do you think you will likely publish over the course of a year?
“My initial pipe dream (and honestly if I can get the financial support to do this, then my ultimate goal) is to publish one story every month. If I can whip myself into shape and really build those good writing habits then I think that’s quite doable.
The only hurdle to that would be cover art commissioning, so in order to achieve that I would likely need to be quite a few months ahead of the curve. In that situation though I think it would only be fair to offer any patrons early access to drafts while we wait for art.”
It’s clear that you are very passionate about the pulp style and that really shines through in this book, have you always had a penchant for pulp, or was it a case of it being the best fit?
“I love pulp fiction as a style, and I think I always have. I didn’t grow up with them, but I encountered Lovecraft and Howard at a particularly formative time. The trouble with those two, and far too many others (especially the well known ones) is that they’re so overtly sexist and or racist that it’s hard to enjoy the stories. I spent a long time searching for non problematic pulp authors, but ultimately only found one (I think, please correct me if I’m wrong): Fritz Leiber and his excellent ‘Swords Against’ series of short stories.”
“Shitty people aside, the style of pulp storytelling is so engaging! Viscerally wet and often focusing on a body’s reaction to action rather than more grand overarching sweeps; it reaches into your chest, yanks you up by your still beating heart through the gaping cavity, and drags you through the story. No one should miss out on something like that because the only people making those stories are garbage; I wanted to give people options.”
“That’s ultimately what drove me to build The Worlds of The Underlord, and really decide what kind of stories they’d be. I wanted to show people these incredible tales, with the same sensational language and fast paced action, but without the disgusting social views of the past.”
So is there a collection of these stories in paperback form on the cards for the future?
“Ooh that is a fun question. I’ve gone on and on about this subject to quite a few of my (extremely tolerant) friends and family who’ve served as Beta Readers on Valkyrie: the ultimate best possible version of these, the way I would truly love to see these exist in the world one day, is as affordable little pulp/ “penny dreadful” style chapbooks. I want to hold them in my hands as individual 111x178mm paperbacks.”
“Pulp publications are a huge influence for me, and I’ve gone on and on in the past about how today’s publishing landscape more and more resembles that of the pulp boom of the first half of the twentieth century. Like then, we currently have a boom in audience demand for content, text in particular (looking at you news sites and social media and your ludicrous pivots to video) and an incredibly effective delivery medium (smartphones and internet).
I want to deliver the kind of story people can pick up and read on their commute, or that kids who might be just a little bit too young for it might find and fall in love with the way I did when I was a teen.”
“I want these to be little books that look like you might have bought them for fifty cents from the news stand while you wait for the bus or train. But who knows, maybe one day I’ll have enough that a legitimate publisher might want to make a collection or compendium, though hopefully not 80 years after my death like Howard.”
Many thanks Lex for your time and patience with this interview, it’s greatly appreciated: is there anything else you would like to add for our readers?
“Well, you can find me on twitter @LexScottNZ, I would love to hear from anyone and everyone who reads Valkyrie’s Last Flight. You can also check out some of my work over on PodernTimes.net, where I write and edit articles.”
“Beyond that, I guess I just want to say I love stories. Stories are what I live for, and I think we’ve somehow lost sight of fun as a goal in storytelling, and replaced it too often with pretension and inscrutability. The tales from The Worlds of The Underlord are simple, bloody, fast paced adventures, but overall they’re just plain fun.”
If you’re really quick, you can check out this amazing story for free as it’s on offer for the next five days, until Tuesday April 30, 11:59pm Pacific time. Or if you’re feeling generous enough to support a new indie writer, (and I suggest it’s worth it) you could pay the asking price of £0.99 (Other currencies are acceptable). Just don’t forget if you do take up the free offer, please take the time to leave a rating and review on Amazon, so that others can find this great story.
The Valkyrie’s Last Flight is now available through Amazon and is well worth your time.
Have you read The Valkyrie’s Last Flight yet? I would love to hear your thoughts on this story in the comments below. What are your favorite pulp fantasy novels? Share them with our readers in the comments.
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