Hasslein Blog: Prose of the Apes: Guiding the Planet on Its Next Titanic Adventures


Hasslein Blog

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Prose of the Apes: Guiding the Planet on Its Next Titanic Adventures

By Rich Handley

As a writer and editor, I've taken on a lot of gigs during the course of my career that I haven't found particularly engaging. These have ranged from writing articles about bathroom furnishings and school board meetings to editing medical reports for insurance companies to proofreading… wait for it… phone books. (I kid you not. It was my first publishing job, back in the early 1990s. As you can imagine, I'd rather live in the Forbidden Zone—without Nova—than do that again.)

But I've also had a number of assignments that I could really sink my teeth into. Recently, I signed a contract for just such a project.

Those who know me are well aware that I'm a major Planet of the Apes fan going back to the days of The 4:30 Movie in the 1970s, when I discovered the apes on my parents' 13-inch black-and-white TV. I've remained an avid aficionado ever since, not only of the films and TV shows, but also of the comics, novels and other aspects of the franchise. I've also had the fun of writing, co-editing, or contributing to five books on the subject to date.

Well, you can now make that six. Much to my continued disbelief, Titan Books' Steve Saffel and 20th Century Fox have hired me and fellow author Jim Beard to co-edit a licensed Planet of the Apes short-fiction anthology, due out in early 2017. The book will feature 16 tales based on the classic films and live-action television show, and will be released during the lead-up to the next movie, War for the Planet of the Apes, hitting theaters in July of that year. I don't know which one I'm more excited about—the film or the book.

OK, I can't lie. It's obviously the book. But the film is only about a millimeter behind it at the finish line.

Given the success of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, as well as the positive critical reception to Titan's novel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm and BOOM! Studios' Planet of the Apes comic books, Jim and I felt that the time was right for something no one had ever published before: a Planet of the Apes short fiction anthology. With a landscape spanning thousands of years, there are so many more tales to tell than what we've seen on screen. And yet, other than a few brief stories printed decades ago in a trio of British children's books from Brown Watson, licensed Apes short fiction is entirely nonexistent.

This anthology (the title of which has yet to be determined) will offer a collection of simian lore based on the classic Planet of the Apes movies and TV series (nothing from the current batch of films and no Tim Burton). The project will allow some very talented authors to draw upon their strengths and enthusiasm to craft entertaining tales of the sort that readers of Apes lore might not normally experience.

Fans can look forward to new stories featuring Taylor, Nova, Cornelius, Zira, Zaius, Milo, Brent, the mutants, and other characters from the movies, as well as Virdon, Burke, Galen, and Urko from the TV show, along with a slew of new characters being introduced in this collection. These tales will span the 2,000 years from Taylor's era to the time of the first two films, and will take place in a vast array of settings, from the familiar (Ape City, Central City, and the Forbidden Zone) to cities and even continents never before explored in the Planet of the Apes mythos.

This is a pretty unprecedented project when it comes to Planet of the Apes. Other franchises, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, and Doctor Who, have spawned countless novels and short stories over the years, but not Planet of the Apes. The mythos has produced an impressive number of comic book tales (see a complete list here), but when it comes to prose, fans have been limited to about a dozen novelizations and only six original novels in the past four decades. As for short fiction? Nada. Jim Beard and I aim to change that.

Jim is the author of Gotham City 14 Miles, a book of essays about the 1966 Batman TV series; pulp ghost story anthology Sgt. Janus, Spirit-Breaker; the novel Captain Action: Riddle of the Glowing Men; shared-world anthology Monster Earth; and GI Joe Adventure Team novella Mystery of the Sunken Tomb. He has written official Star Wars and Ghostbusters comics, provides content for Marvel.com and the Toledo Free Press, and is hard at work co-writing It's Alive: The Unauthorized Universal Monsters Encyclopedia for Hasslein Books. He's also an Apes fan from way back, and I was happy to propose this project with him at my side.

What's especially exciting (and unexpected) is that we've been allowed to include TV series characters and settings. Although that branch of the franchise has been almost entirely devoid of spinoff fiction (other than the above-noted children's books in the U.K. and some little-known comic books released only in Argentina), it has a loyal fan base who have long known that when it comes to the fugitive astronauts and their chimp companion, there's more story to tell.

For me and Jim to be able to spearhead this historic Apes project is a huge honor, especially given the talent we've lined up to help us bring it to life. So who's involved? Well, along with Jim and yours truly—who will each contribute a story in addition to co-editing the anthology—we've snagged some of the most popular writers currently in the business:

Kevin J. Anderson has published more than 50 bestselling novels, many of them award-winning. He is well-known for his Star Wars and X-Files spinoff books, his many original novels, and the long line of Dune prequel novels he has written with Brian Herbert.

Sam Knight (Kevin's co-author in this anthology) is a prolific writer. His works include The Day the Snow Angels Flew Away, The Ant Who Held Down a Mountain, Chunky Monkey Pupu, The Maltese Dragon, The Cat Lady and the Dragon, and A Small Town Santa.

Nancy A. Collins is a bestselling horror novelist who wrote one of the most compelling eras of DC Comics' second Swamp Thing series, introducing fan-favorite character Lady Jane. Her vampire novels featuring the character Sonja Blue have been especially well received.

John Jackson Miller has made quite a name for himself as a writer of Star Wars spinoff novels and comic books. Comic fans know John from his days as the managing editor of Comics Buyer's Guide. Currently, he is writing Star Trek: Prey, a trilogy of novels set for fall 2016 release by Pocket Books.

Jonathan Maberry, a contributing editor for The Big Thrill, the monthly newsletter of the International Thriller Writers organization, has won multiple Bram Stoker Awards for his horror novels. His books include Ghost Road Blues, Rot & Ruin, Dust and Decay, and Flesh & Bone.

Paul Kupperberg, a former DC Comics editor, has written more than a thousand comics, including Superman, Action Comics, Doom Patrol, Green Lantern, The Brave and the Bold, House of Mystery, Justice League of America, Star Trek, The Savage Sword of Conan, and more.

Will Murray has written for Starlog magazine and National Public Radio, and has penned comic stories featuring such characters as Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, The Hulk, Green Hornet, Sherlock Holmes, The Phantom, Iron Man, and the Punisher, among others. His most recent novel series are The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage and The Wild Adventures of Tarzan.

Greg Cox is well known for his best-selling Star Trek novels, especially those focused on the characters of Q and Khan Noonien Singh. He has also written spinoff novels based on Roswell, Underworld, Alias, Terminator Salvation, Godzilla, and The Dark Knight Rises.

Bob Mayer is a New York Times bestselling author of science fiction and thriller novels, as well as non-fiction books. He has had more than 60 books published to date, including such highly popular series as Area 51, Atlantis, and The Green Berets.

Robert Greenberger is a former editor at Starlog, Comics Scene, and Weekly World News magazines. He has held executive positions at both DC and Marvel Comics, was a long-time editor of DC's popular Star Trek comics line, and is the author of Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History.

What's particularly cool is that the anthology will feature five authors who have previously penned Planet of the Apes work and are thus no strangers to Apes fans:

Ty Templeton, a co-author of Mr. Comics' Revolution on the Planet of the Apes miniseries, is an award-winning comic artist and writer who has done work for Marvel, DC, Bongo Comics, and Moonstone Books. Notable among his work are tales in Batman Adventures and The Simpsons.

Dan Abnett wrote Dark Horse's Planet of the Apes: Blood Lines, and has penned numerous Marvel comic tales, as well as stories for Britain's 2000 AD series. His Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 titles for Black Library have sold more than a million copies to date.

Gregory Keyes, who penned the aforementioned Planet of the Apes novel Firestorm for Titan, also wrote the highly regarded Babylon 5 novels Psi Corps Trilogy, as well as three Star Wars: New Jedi Order books and numerous original novels of his own creation.

Dayton Ward compiled the Planet of the Apes timeline published in Paul A. Woods' The Planet of the Apes Chronicles. He is a prolific author, whose Star Trek: Vanguard and Star Trek: Seekers books (co-written with Kevin Dilmore) made him a household name among sci-fi fans.

And Drew Gaska, a co-writer of Archaia's novel Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes (on which I collaborated, along with Christian Berntsen and Erik Matthews), has written original Space: 1999 graphic novels and the sci-fi graphic novel Critical Millennium.

That's a pretty amazing author lineup for what Jim and I know will be an amazing anthology. I feel privileged to be a part of it, and I know Jim does as well. This isn't just an editing gig to me—it's something I'm thrilled (and astounded, and humbled, and honored) to be a part of. The apes are in my blood, and I take my simian lore seriously. I'll post more information once I'm allowed to. In the meantime, you damned dirty apes, stay tuned.



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