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The Science Hero of the Ages

Capt. Gideon Argo and the Flying Zombies come from many places, most obviously of the lineage of Doc Savage and his Fabulous Five — the man of science with the moral compass to change the world and the muscle to make his decisions stick, leading a team of experts dedicated to his mission. Doc spent his childhood studying under renowned scientists and training his body in fantastic ways, all in preparation for a life of service to humanity, then gathered his World War I buddies to his side when it came time to put his training into action.

I discovered Doc in 1974, via the film version starring Ron Ely and the accompanying series of Marvel Comics adapting his pulp-era adventures to four colors. The novels by Kenneth Robeson followed, and while I devoured his adventures (as well as his contemporaries The Avenger and The Shadow), they were shortly eclipsed in my teen years by Star Wars, Conan, John Carter of Mars and others.

In 1984, the cult film “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension” bent my brain just the right way. I saw in Buckaroo and his entourage, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, a post-modern take on the ultimate Science Hero, and created my own homage. I named him Capt. Gideon Argo (inspired by Captain Gideon of the starship Argo, as portrayed on the anime series “Starblazers,” as well as the myth of Jason and Argonauts). His team got their name initially in part because of a then-current video on MTV, “All You Zombies” by The Hooters. Yes, it’s embarrassing, but out of it grew a new mythology (at least, for me) that is still unfolding.

Argo has shown up in my other work as a fictional character. In “This Mortal Flesh,” old paperbacks of Argo adventures are the entertainment of choice for our heroine, Jane, after the zombie apocalypse. In “Giants in the Earth” and its sequel, “And the Moon Made Blood,” Argo is the favorite fictional hero of the protagonist, young Tom Caliban. And in a steampunk tale still in progress, we meet the writer who “created” the fictional Argo in the 1870s, Jemison Thorsby.

Obviously, Argo is never far from my imagination.

Challenged by my Syndicate pals to write a pulp-style tale with arcane undertones, I turned to my never-completed Argo tales — one set in World War I, one set in the 1980s, and one set in the Old West, as well as Jemison’s version, an air pirate of the 1870s. I wanted it to take place firmly in the pulp era, however, and knew it would involve Lemuria (after I embraced a title suggested by Mark Boss during the writing of “This Mortal Flesh”).

The drowned city of R’lyeh came to mind, and the Old Gods lurking just beyond the dimensional veil — Lovecraft, of course, being as much a part of the pulp era as Robeson. A Google search for “1930s tsunami” turned up the terrible disaster that struck Japan near 3 a.m. on March 3, 1933 — and the part of my brain that can’t ignore a pattern saw it as a sign.

Further, I wanted to pretend that this tale was the latest installment in a serialized novel (or movie serial) of the era. So, with the idea that a short story is merely the part of a longer tale where the climax occurs — change happens and decisions are made — I chose to write the final portions of the larger “novel.” That’s what you find in the Syndicate anthology, "Adventures in the Arcane."

However, having started the story, I had to complete it. The finished novel of “Capt. Gideon Argo and the Flying Zombies vs. The Lost Lemurians” — complete and unabridged, as the pulp covers might have phrased it — is coming soon.

Until then, Zombies Fight On.

Immortui in Proelio!

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