Forbidden Prey

Forbidden Prey!
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BEHOLD! Sensational stories of heroic adventurers and beastly brutes! Timeless tales of science gone wrong, of voyages into the unknown, of wondrous worlds galore! Four ALL NEW stories from today's most hotly anticipated writers!

FORBIDDEN PREY, our headline feature, revisits famed explorer Lucas Davenport of the Royal Cartographer's Guild, fresh off his adventure in the jungles of Nepal (see last month's volume!), as he investigates rumors of a lost kingdom hidden away in the coastal mountains of Paraguay! He's heard the wild tales of what lies waiting within — ancient Incan tribes still at war, flying reptiles from a time long past, strange magics and insane gods — but his previous exploits remind him that rumors are often grounded in truth.
Might he be able to overcome the hideous terrors that lie within? Can he hope to endure captivity under the tribe of scantily clad warrior women? Will he escape with his life — and his sanity — intact? (by John Sandford & Edgar Rice Burroughs)

THE THING THAT WASN'T THERE takes us on a psychological tour of a man haunted by a creature that is wholly imaginary! Gripping! (by Rembrandt Holstein III)

In NAPOLEON ON THE MOON we finally receive a TRUE AND HONEST account of the Emperor of France's second campaign to conquer our nearest lunar companion! You'll never view the sky the same way again! (by Guillaume Fournier)

And in RETURN OF THE REVENGE we finally see a new adventure of the Dread Pirate Roberts! What exploits has Roberts had since we last saw him? What mysterious coasts and islands has he visited? And is he even the same man we've been following all these years? READ ON TO FIND OUT! (by Bill Silverman, Jr.)

All this and MORE! MORE! MORE! in the latest inevitable omnibus edition of IRRESPONSIBLE STORIES! Order your copy TODAY!

April 1, 2018

Explaining the Joke Ruins the Joke
by Roswell Camp

This one. Well...
I was sort of reaching when I needed a sixth cover. I settled on Edgar Rice Burroughs, thinking maybe I'd do some kind of Lost World homage, or maybe Tarzan... but I'd already done the Conan one, so even though it might have been thematically appropriate, it felt like more of the same. So I went with The Lost World [1].
The first draft of the synopsis and of the cover were both... wrong. The title looked about the same — that old-school pulp dramatic style — but the author names didn't fit with it [2]. I left it for later.
But the synopsis... it suffered. I started by doing a Lucas in a Lost Jungle sort of thing, and there are dinosaurs and stuff... and it started sounding just too much like last year's Jurassic Prey.
So I backed up, tore everything down except the Forbidden Prey part of the title, moved it to the top of the page...
Suddenly, everything fell into place. The look, what it'd be about, the writing style, the inside jokes. It all just clicked, and the rest took probably an hour. It was fluid, I had fun, and it's one of the better covers of the year. It might be the best synopsis, because it's so crazy.
I've got a bunch of these old-school pulp magazines, the ones with the lurid illustrations of hapless women and mad scientists and square-jawed heroes. Do a Google image search for "Norman Saunders covers" (without the quotes) to see what I'm talking about [3].
The background art I'm using doesn't quite work — it looks more like it's from the more serious transitional period in the 60s and 70s — but it's fine for what it's meant to be: a dinosaur-infested wilderness. The colors could be a bit more vivid [4], but aside from that, it works well.
But then there's the synopsis. Hoo boy, I went kinda nuts there. And you know what? I like it. The whole thing. And I can even justify a BEHOLD! at the top.
So we've got Lucas Davenport of the Royal Cartographer's Guild, which is already crazy. Jungles of Nepal (heh), coastal mountains of Paraguay (double heh), Incan tribes, scantily-clad warrior women... The whole thing is just insane, and it sounds so sincere. You'd have to read these pulps, but they were constantly balanced between utter sincerity and mocking self-awareness [5].
As for the in-jokes: I put in The Thing That Wasn't There because I like the idea of a Cthulhu-style horror story in which literally nothing happens, because (spoilers) there is no monster. It's handled maybe a bit too seriously here — saying it's a psychological story gives it some credibility — but it's still funny.
Napoleon on the Moon is a strange hybrid of things from years ago. I had some wargames of the Napoleonic era and they had titles like Napoleon in Europe and Napoleon at Waterloo. And I also acquired all the Tintin books, which had titles like Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and The Secret of the Unicorn and Explorers on the Moon [6]. And one day — I'm not quite sure how — my brain merged them into Napoleon on the Moon. I can imagine a whole series of The New Aventures of Napoleon sort of like the Tintin books. Except different [7].
Return of the Revenge is an old one. A lot of sequels have (or seem to have — it may be a sort of cultural illusion) titles starting with "Return of..." [8] or "Revenge of..." [9] and I thought, hey, the ultimate sequel should really be called "Return of the Revenge!" And then I realized that the pirate ship in The Princess Bride was called The Revenge and suddenly I knew what it was. It was the return of the Dread Pirate Roberts and his pirate ship Revenge. It actually makes sense! The supposed author of this piece — Bill Silverman, Jr. — is a direct reference to the real author of The Princess Bride, William Goldman.
As for the overall banner, Irresponsible Stories, it still makes me giggle. I don't know if that's a sign that I did a good job or just a sign that I've become unhinged by all this.

Footnotes

1. I suppose I could also have gone with John Carter of Mars — also by Edgar Rice Burroughs — but I already had the H.G. Wells version earlier. If I'd gone with that one instead of Wells, I wouldn't have ended up with this one, and I really like how this turned out. So I think I chose wisely.

2. That's actually a problem I've had all through this year's covers — it took a long time to get the author names to work with the titles. Sometimes it was just a matter of color, sometimes it was the wrong font. Sometimes the whole thing just didn't work. For this one, the title was fine — it was great, in fact — but nothing else I did worked until I did the extremely understated version you see now.

3. After I did this, I sort of wanted to go back and remove one of the weaker covers [10] and make a detective pulp magazine -themed version. "Three-fisted tales of adventure!" or something. I'm sort of glad I didn't, and the Shutterstock offerings for that kind of art was weak [11], but I might do it next year.

4. I threw a "distressed" color wash over the whole thing to give it a sort of antique feel, and I fear it's too much. I also tried doing a halftone print effect for the art, and it made it look terrible (albeit an interesting terrible). This one needs more dramatic primary colors, but I think it gets across what it's meant to be.

5. To be honest, I have this feeling that they were all constantly drunk, and writing as fast as possible just to get money [12]. In the pulp era, publishers cared more about speed than about quality. Or so it seems, anyway.

6. If you haven't read the Tintin books, do yourself and favor and check them out. They're so completely insane that it boggles the mind [13].

7. The New Adventures of Napoleon, as I see it, is one of those for-kids after-school TV shows, in which you've got a gang of kids of various descriptions. You've got The Jock, The Nerd, The Girl — you know how these tropes worked in these shows — and they're all in the fourth grade. And then you've got Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, who is also in the fourth grade with them. And they're all friends. They go out after school, have adventures, and nothing is ever made of the fact that Napoleon is like ten times the age of the others. Or that he's been dead for a hundred years, is always dressed in his military dress outfit, and so on. Of course, with fears about pedophiles in the media, this series would absolutely not work, except maybe as like a five minute sketch on Saturday Night Live or something. Maybe as an advertisement for a supposed series? That could work...

8. Valid answers for Return of: the Jedi, the Creature, the Living Dead, Xander Cage, the Dragon, the King, the Hero, Jafar, Superfly, the Saint, the Muskateers, the Mac, the Pink Panther, Ringo, the Swamp Thing, the Bad Men, Superman, Billy Jack, Sabata, Ironside, the Fly, Doctor X, Dracula, Brent, Evil Dead, Martin Guerre, and many, many more.

9. Valid answers for Revenge of: the Jedi, the Nerds, the Creature, the Fallen, the Ninja, Robert the Doll, the Dragon, the Pink Panther, the Samurai Cop, the Bridesmaids, Chucky, the Dead, Kitty Galore, the Virgins, Zoe, the Muskateers, Tarzan, the Zombies, the Cheetah, the Mummy, the Sandman, the Green Dragons, the Lost, Ivanhoe, and many, many more.

10. Probably Martian Prey, although I nearly got rid of Barbaric Prey for similar reasons — I just couldn't get the synopsis to work. But for both, I liked the cover enough that I kept at it. Again, probably a wise move.

11. This is an understatement. Looking for pulp era -style art was the largest failing for Shutterstock for me. Try looking up "pulp fiction" and you get almost nothing but references to the movie. Look up pulp and you get trees. A few searches including "noir" showed just how limited their art in this category was. What I really wanted was to repurpose some Norman Saunders art, but it's all still in copyright. Maybe I can work something out with the estate...

12. This is reinforced by one of them (I forget which one) saying something like, "We were all drunk, all the time, typing whatever we could as fast as we could, and they'd print it as fast as we could type it." [Citation Needed, Please]

13. There's some sharp political commentary here and there, but a lot of the research... well, let's just say that it leaves a lot to be desired.