Claude Lalumière is the editor of Super Stories of Heroes & Villains:
George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards rampage through unrecorded history! Mike Mignola’s Hellboy battles the fiendish Nuckelavee! Can Camille Alexa’s Pinktastic prevent the end of the world? Will Jonathan Lethem’s Dystopianist cause the end of the world?
In these pages, you’ll find the exploits, machinations, and epic mêlées of these superpowered aliens, undead crusaders, costumed crime fighters, unholy cabals, Amazon warriors, demon hunters, cyberpunk luchadores, nefarious megalomaniacs, daredevil sidekicks, atavistic avatars, adventuring aviators, gunslinging outlaws, love-struck adversaries, and supernatural detectives.
In these twenty-eight astounding Super Stories, join larger-than-life heroes and villains in the never-ending battle of good versus evil!
I think of superheroes and then I think of comic books, yet we’ve seen them grow incredibly popular in movies and fiction over the last decade or so. Why do you think this has happened?
A combination of factors, most likely. Superhero fans have grown up to become movers and shakers in the film business and/or successful writers. Despite the longstanding mainstream disdain for superheroes, many, many people love superheroes. It was inevitable that superheroes would populate the larger media landscape and conquer that ridiculous prejudice.
In film, technological breakthroughs have made it feasible to do things that were unimaginable a generation ago. In publishing, newer, younger editors do not necessarily have the disdain for superhero fiction that old-school editors seemed to share en masse. One of my favourite anecdotes in this respect was when a very established editor at an even more established publication rejected my Montreal superhero story “Hochelaga and Sons” on the grounds that it enjoyed its genre too much, and then went on to say that they would only publish superhero stories that commented critically on the genre, as if the superhero genre could only palatable in a deconstructionist metafictional mode. That editor would never have said the same thing of, say, an alternate-history tale or a time-travel story. The idea of a superhero story that was good on its own terms was unacceptable to that editor. Times have changed (though probably not that editor); this was a little less than a decade ago.
What is it about the idea of costumed heroes that attracts us?
I’ve always loved superheroes: to me, they’re a combination of very potent elements. One, as the incarnation of the utopian impulse: the never-ending battle to strive for utopia, to always do the right thing at any cost. Two, the idea of a relentless, noble force for true justice, beyond ephemeral laws, beyond petty vengeance. Three, the wish-fulfillment fantasy of having the power to affect real positive change in the world, of being able to overcome tyrants, oppressors, murderers, despots, and the like. Four, the thrill of pulp adventure. Five, the mythic resonance of their names, powers, and demeanours. I’m sure there’s more. Superheroes are endlessly fascinating.
Do you see any parallels between characters like Superman and Batman and classic mythology?
Absolutely; or, more to the point, I see them as a new mythology. Not all superheroes have the gravitas to be elevated to the status of myth; but Superman and Batman certainly do. (That said, with a few rare exceptions, the DC Comics of the last three decades have shown complete cluelessness about what makes Superman tick. The film “Man of Steel” surprised me: it was by far the best and most powerfully evocative Superman film ever – easily one of my favourite superhero films to date.)
As editor, you had to comb through decades of material. How did you find it all, and what criteria did you use for inclusion?
First off, I consciously decided to limit myself stories by living writers, published from 1975 onward, with an emphasis on fiction from the new millennium. I wanted the book to have a sense of history while strongly being a statement about the current pulse of superhero fiction. In the end, the oldest story in the book is from 1980, Gene Wolfe’s “The Detective of Dreams” – one of my favourite stories ever, in any genre, and certainly the greatest-ever expression of the supernatural detective trope. I did have one extraordinary 1975 story in mind, but all efforts to contact the writer failed. Maybe in a subsequent volume…? There’s also a 1963 story I really love that was on my shortlist, but it didn’t quite fit the current book’s agenda. If I ever do another volume, I’d most likely include that one, too. (It’s by a writer who’s a good friend, so there would be no trouble tracking him down…)
I came to the project with a shortlist of 30+ stories, but to go beyond what I already knew I sent out an open call for submission for writers to submit their own previously published superhero tales; I also set up a webpage for readers to suggest their favourites; and I continued to read and research as widely as I could.
Super Stories of Heroes & Villains is comprised of 28 stories. Of those, fifteen originate from my initial shortlist of 30+ candidates; five were culled from the author submissions; two where chosen among the reader suggestions; and a final six were stories I discovered in the course of further research while I was editing the book.
Do you classify superhero literature as fantasy or science fiction or something altogether different?
It’s its own genre, but it intersects heavily with fantasy, SF, adventure, and crime fiction. Like any genre, it’s fun to mash it up with other genres, too, like horror, romance, historical, frontier fiction, etc.
What are you working on now?
I’m always working on several things at once. To mention two:
One thing I’ve been working on for the last few years is a mosaic novel called Venera Dreams. It focuses on a fantastical European city-state called Venera. Several episodes have already appeared in anthologies and periodicals, and more are coming out in the near future. I maintain a page on my website where readers can keep track of the Venera stories. And there’s even a superhero connection! One episode, “Vermilion Dreams: The Complete Works of Bram Jameson,” mentions, among other superhero elements, a 1950s crimefighting duo called Interzone and Arrowsnake (that’s in the anthology Tesseracts 14). There’s another episode, “The Surrealist Lanterns,” that features Salvador Dalí as a superhero called the Surrealist Lantern (that one’s scheduled to appear in an anthology I can’t mention yet).
Then, there’s Avatars of Adventure: a series of shorts exploring various superhero archetypes. I’m creating those with a number of cartoonist collaborators. I’m still figuring out the exact details of how and where these will appear, and also the full lineup of collaborators, but I expect that episodes will start to be published sometime in 2014, or 2015 at the latest. One episode is fully illustrated and in the can, and two more are being illustrated as we speak.