Welcome to this discussion about ‘Silesian Treasure’, the first story in Superversive Press’s Planetary Anthology: Earth.
We’re doing this Q&A thing again?
Yes. Yes we are.
Because you don’t like talking about yourself.
It’s a fair cop.
So, if you haven’t, go on and buy it/download it, then read it. we’ll wait….
[instrumental version of ‘Girl From Ipanema’ plays]
So, now that everyone has read we can discuss it. If for some reason you didn’t, then let this be your Final Spoiler Warning. And with that, I want to welcome the author, W. J. Hayes. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
Well, I’m talking to myself, but sure, you’re welcome.
This is the second of the Planetary Anthologies to contain one of your stories.
Yes, ‘Venus Felix’ appeared in the Venus Anthology.
Did you plan on submitting a story for all of the books in the series?
Oh, good lord, no. I looked at call for submissions, which were brief, maybe a sentence or two description of the themes. And for most of them, I just shook my head, and thought, “Nope, I got nothing.” I had an idea for Venus.
That was your ‘Venus Felix’ story?
No. It was a completely different idea than the story that I eventually submitted.
And what about Earth?
I couldn’t think of any story that would apply. When I read the original description for the book, I kept trying to think of a sci-fi, futuristic story. And nothing came. It was the same with the guidelines for Mars. As a matter of fact, even now, I still can’t think of a Mars story.
What changed about writing for the Earth Anthology?
I think the first thing that changed was my approach. One of the things I am conscious of is I tend to focus a lot of dialogue and less on people doing things. Early drafts of stories tend to be heavy on people talking about things instead of doing them. And as much as I enjoy banter between different characters, it does not necessarily make for a good story. Plus there is a danger of the work going from being an enjoyable read to a polemic screed.
And it happened at around this time, I discovered Kindle had the original Doc Savage novels available for cheap. So, I bought The Man of Bronze. It is very instructive of the early 30’s pulp style. Then I went back to Kindle to buy the next novel, only to discover Amazon had pulled all of the early Dent books.
Why is that?
I have no idea. But in trying to find out why, I went down the rabbit hole that is the internet and began reading up on Dent himself. In doing so, I came across his tips on writing short pulp stories. And armed with his advice, I decide to see if I could do it.
‘Silesian Treasure’ is the result?
It’s the most polished result, but not the first. There were a couple of prior stories that I am still playing around with.
Let’s talk about the story, who is Buchanan Polk?
Buchanan Polk is the President and CEO of Polk Industries, which is primarily focused on commercial fishing ventures. He someone that women want, men want to be, and his enemies want him to be crush by space debris.
This is not Buchanan Polk’s first appearance.
No it’s not. His first and only other appearance was in Freedom’s Light: Short Stories entry, ‘Polk’s Prophetic Property’.
Had you always intended to bring back Polk?
No. When I wrote ‘Polk’s Prophetic Property’, Buchanan Polk was essentially a one-off character. His main function was that story was to defend the concept of property rights in battle of wits with Cthulhu.
Yeah, I don’t write normal stories.
Anyways, I had no plans to use him again, because I wasn’t sure what I could do with him. But as I began fleshing out the idea that became ‘Silesian Treasure’, it occurred to me Polk was the perfect pulp hero for the tale. He has the swagger and self-confidence you see in a lot of early pulp stories.
How did the story come about?
I remember thinking I wanted to drop character into a bizarre situation and team him up with someone who was taking the absurdity of it all in stride. So then it became a sequence of questions: Where were they? What was happening? Why was it happening? Slowly, the idea began to coalesce around a single scene.
When the Dragon mentions the treasure is the drawing and cries out, “It’s a treasure to me.”
The Dragon is rather unusual.
Yeah, the idea of the Treasure and its guardian had been kicking around in my head for years. There was something about taking the phrase “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and substituting the word ‘Dragon’ and then imaging who everyone else would react when they saw the treasure was not, well… a treasure in the conventional sense.
Once I had that, I began to work back, trying to figure out how people got to that point.
How does Enoch P. Simmons of the Royal Air Force fit into the tale.
He is the reader’s introduction to Polk and the insanity that swirls around him. I wanted someone who would be slightly perplexed as to what was happening and could occasionally ask questions the readers were probably asking. Plus, his befuddlement served as comic relief allowed me to make hamburgers out of some sacred cows.
His view of dwarves for instances.
Exactly, the idea that he has been so indoctrinated into not offending anyone that he focuses more on the correct term instead of the fact they are criminals.
The motivation of the leader of the dwarves is different.
For some reason, the idea of having a villain seeking a great power and not wanting to use it for world domination, but something smaller scale just struck me as fittingly absurd for the story. I think its something that should be used more often. The idea of the criminal mastermind always trying to take over/destroy the world/universe is one of those clichés that has been done to death.
Originally, he wasn’t an ogre, but a human. But when I got rid of the humans in the hotel attack scene, I realized I didn’t need one leading the robbery. And an ogre seemed like a more fitting substitution.
What else in the story change?
The basic outline of the story pretty much stayed the same. Once I began writing, it was always going to occur at a Seafood Convention in the Czech Republic and would result in the discovery of the dragon and her treasure.
The details changed. For example, the story originally took place in Opava, which is in the Czech portion of Silesia. Which is where the story got its name. Also, the original attackers in the hotel were humans and the dwarves didn’t appear until Polk and Simmons got to the spas. There was also for a while a damsel in distress in the spa battle.
What happened to her?
Even as I was writing that draft, I knew she was probably coming out of the story. I just couldn’t figure out what to do with her. Simmons filled the role of the companion. And so, just like poor Harry Sullivan, she was excised from the story.
Now that Silesian Treasure has been published, what’s next?
For me? Or Buchanan Polk?
Well, I waiting to hear back on a couple of short story submissions. I can say I will have a story appearing in the Pluto Anthology, ‘Pluto Invictus’.
Does that feature Polk?
No, but Cyrus Strabo from ‘Venus Felix’ returns. As for Polk, I am working through another draft of the first pulp experiment. That coincidentally featured Polk. So when that’s ready, I’ll see if anyone wants to publish it.
Beyond that, I am working on another story with Strabo that would be a sort of sequel to the Pluto tale. After that, I intend to finally work on the story I originally planned to submit for the Venus Anthology.
Which seems like a good time to stop this interview. Is there anything we forgot to discuss?
If you have read the story and/or the anthology, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. And I should probably mention the publisher has a
freestartr Indiegogo* campaign to send some of its novelists to Dragon Con. So maybe check that out. Other than that, I think that’s is it.
Well, thanks for talking.
Well thank you for this opportunity to talk to me… myself.
*UPDATE: See the Update I posted at the end of Midweek Housing Cleaning for an explanation