Thursday, May 1, 2014

Eisner Award Nomination! and Other News!

It has been a while since my last posting, but these last few months have not been uneventful, in the least. And I wanted to wait until I had a schedule that allowed me to post more regularly (or at the very least, more often than the 4 or 5-month interval seen this time around), and I am hoping I am at that point, now.

The first bit of news I have I am extremely excited about, and it is something I learned about over the weekend, just as I was getting home from a talk on Pulp History I had given. I, or rather my book Anti-Foreign Imagery In American Pulps and Comic Books, 1920-1960, has been nominated for an Eisner Award, in the category of Best Scholarly/Academic Work for 2014! I am extremely humbled and honored by this nomination in and of itself, as well as for the company into which it places me, among both past, and my fellow current, nominees. There is some time before the Eisners are actually awarded at San Diego Comic-Con later this summer (which I am hoping to make it out to), but between now and then, and certainly beyond, I will always take pride in this nomination, and I thank both the nomination committee, as well as the many friends that have offered their congratulations these last few days.

While the Eisner Award nomination is the big news of the day for me, I still want to recap some of the things I have been working on recently, as it has been rather hectic, but also productive. Shortly after finishing my last entry for Comics Through Time: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideals, edited by Dr. Keith Booker and due out next October from Greenwood Press/ABC-CLIO, I was asked by Patrick Scott Belk to serve on the Editorial Board of his pulp-archive resource, the Pulp Magazines Project. That was a tremendous honor as well, and something I have enjoyed a great deal; not only do the e-mails from fans who appreciate the project demonstrate that interest in the pulps is growing, but the varied research requests from readers has opened up avenues of inquiry that I otherwise may never have encountered - every request I can help fulfill, completely or even partially, has proven beneficial to my own learning, as much as to the reader, if not more so. There has been one correspondent in particular, whose interest in the pulps truly demonstrates the uniqueness, and continued value, of the pulp medium, and I hope to share his story here soon enough.

I am also currently working on the final components of what I hope will be my next book, a complete history, spanning 120+ years, of Richmond's Tredegar Iron Works; long known as the "Krupp of the Confederacy," very little has been written concerning the site's history beyond those four years of Civil War. Desiring to write a history of the site, within an overview of one of the industries (that of iron and steel) that was instrumental in America's rise to global, economic superpower, my research has taken me from the records of its namesake in Tredegar, Wales to the complete, and understandably massive, collection of Tredegar Company archives currently housed at the Library of Virginia.

Cabinet Card of Frank Andrew Munsey, c. 1887
While working on the Tredegar history, however, I have been compiling resources and information for yet another project, a project I have been readying for well over three years now - a new, booklength biography of the originator of the pulp medium, Frank Andrew Munsey. Personal papers, photographs, first-hand remembrances - a great deal of research material will go into this work, and I am looking forward, very much so, to getting back to Mr. Munsey's story, full-time. Two recent boons to this project have been some original photographs of Munsey I have been lucky enough to acquire (including an original cabinet card from 1887), as well as several copies of a short-lived publication Munsey produced in the service of the Republican party during the hard-fought 1884 presidential campaign between Grover Cleveland and James G. Blaine - circulated for only several months (if that) before election day, I have never seen any actual copies of the title, Munsey's Illustrated Weekly (not to be confused with Munsey's Weekly, later Munsey's, which debuted several years later), until finding these few issues for sale.

Ravencon 2014 - April 25-27, Richmond, Virginia

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to be a guest at Ravencon, a science fiction/fantasy convention held here in Richmond for several years now; Ravencon's uniqueness comes from the focus it places on literary sf and fantasy, more so than a many conventions these days, and this emphasis is readily visible when glimpsing through the list of panels held, or browsing the Dealer's
Room which was, by my estimation, composed largely of booksellers, to the tune of perhaps 60%. It was in the Ravencon Dealer's Room that I picked up a collection of Lord Dunsany's works, as well as a Frazetta-clad, collected edition of Sword of Mars and The Synthetic Men of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Saturday, the 26th, I participated in two programs; first, a solo presentation on Pulp History, particularly as it relates to science fiction, and second as a member of a panel discussing the history of Batman, as this June happens to mark the 75th anniversary of his first appearance. Held at the Doubletree by Hilton Richmond-Midlothian (formerly the Holiday Inn Select Koger Center) the venue is one where a number of local conventions have been held for years, whether they be science fiction, comic, anime, and more; Ravencon is now in its ninth year, and (per its literary emphasis) is named in honor of Edgar Allan Poe, who spent much of his youth in Richmond, the city that boasts the Poe Museum, the largest repository of Poe artifacts in the world (and home of the Southern Literary Messenger, the magazine Poe was editor of for some time).

Ravencon 2014 Program - Cover Illustration by 
Artist Guest of Honor Ed Beard Jr.
This was not the first presentation I have given at local conventions regarding pulp magazines, but Ravencon was different for me. Usually, I am speaking to audiences who have little to no experience with the pulps, nor with the stories or authors to be found in their pages; my goal in giving talks is, to a large extant, to hopefully garner interest in the medium on the part of newer fans, who already follow sf and fantasy fiction, whether in comics, films, novels, etc. At Ravencon, it became apparent to me rather quickly that I had an audience different than the last few I have spoken to, in that it was a mix of those who had little prior knowledge of the genre, alongside those who had some experience with it, either in the form of back issues, or, in the case of one gentlemen present, in memories from his youth - an ensemble audience which made for an interesting exchange during the Q&A portion of the presentation. I had a number of con-goers, older and younger alike, inquiring if there were any sources from which to obtain copies of the pulps, or sites online where issues have been uploaded for digital consumption; in the case of the latter, I was happily able to point them towards the Pulp Magazines Project.

While the presentation went well, and, as I said, great questions were posed, it made me realize that I should retool my program a bit, to go beyond just an overview of the medium's history (which is certainly beneficial when speaking to an audience not familiar with the pulps), to include more in-depth information on particular authors and stories as well, for those listeners already knowledgeable in the general outline of pulp history. It is a good lesson to learn, and something I will work on before my next presentation. 

I am also interested in (and would be thankful for) any suggestions that any of you may have regarding pulp presentations I could give, again, to audiences that are largely new to the medium, aside from a general pulp history (albeit with an emphasis on sf); any ideas?

This weekend, we have another convention coming to Richmond (actually, to the same hotel Ravencon occupied), the fanzine convention Corflu, which I am helping with in regards to set-up and other "behind the scenes" work tonight and Friday, and that's where I am off to now!

Until next time, thanks for checking in!