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David Hines [userpic]

why fandom would probably like Doc Savage

November 17th, 2010 (10:51 am)

Doc Savage is a 1930s pulp adventure character. I've been meaning to pimp his adventures more, but y'know, life happens, and now that Yuletide has rolled around I wish I hadn't been so remiss. Because Doc is my Yuletide perennial: my other Yuletide requests rotate, but I ask for Doc every year. It's not like I wish there were a big, active Doc Savage fandom; I just think it'd be neat to see a Doc fic once in a while.

You can read a quick precis of him here. In a very remarkable coincidence of which I am totally ignorant, someone has put a few of the 1930s pulp novels up online for what I feel certain must be a very brief time that probably coincides with Yuletide. The novels are being republished officially and under license, originally by Nostalgia Ventures and now by Sanctum Books, and you can buy the reprints here.

I am aware, however, that fandom likes things different from the things I like. So these are some things that might motivate fandom to write Doc.

Doc Savage himself is an incredibly brilliant polymathic genius whose scientific upbringing left him the smartest person and the most gifted all-around athlete in the world, at the price of leaving him (though his unemotional facade rarely shows it) a great big socially-uncomfortable woobie. He is six foot five or so, incredibly handsome, a gifted scientist, surgeon, and lawyer, astoundingly multilingual, a world traveler, a celebrity of considerable standing, and talking to women makes him nervous because he was raised by a small army of (male) scientists. He has few close friends, and had fewer as a kid, because his dad's idea of a playdate was personal combat training in which Doc would be pitted against four or five bigger and stronger boys at once.

With the financial support of a gold-rich hidden kingdom from ancient Maya, Doc and his five aides (lawyer Ham, chemist Monk, archaeologist Johnny, engineer Renny, and electrical wizard Long Tom), and sometimes Doc's beautiful, thrill-seeking, gun-toting cousin Pat (who owns an exclusive beauty salon/gymnasium and horns in on Doc's adventures at every opportunity), go about Doc's business, which is "righting wrongs and fighting evildoers in the far corners of the earth."

There is adventure, excitement, and character adorableness aplenty. Monk and Ham, for example, bicker constantly and are each other's worst enemy, except when one of them is missing and believed dead, at which point the other confesses how much he loves his buddy. When the miraculously surviving buddy finds out about this, he rags the other mercilessly. Ham is a clotheshorse who is canonically followed down the street by tailors who appreciate clothes being worn properly. Monk, while skinny-dipping in a jungle river, was once mistaken by a primatologist for an unknown species of ape. At one point, on a bet, he walks into Doc's offices stark naked and is mistaken for Ham's pet chimpanzee.

As for Doc, his shirt is invariably ripped to shreds during the course of his adventures, the better to show off his bulging muscles, which look like bundles of piano wire that have been lacquered in bronze. These aesthetics are frequently described lovingly and in detail. The most fanservicey of the novels temporarily available online is probably REPEL. The supervillain is Cadwiller Olden, a brilliant gay dwarf who surrounds himself with good-looking, well-muscled, shirtless henchmen. Doc Savage goes to their epic showdown in a speedboat, while wearing nothing but soaking wet, tightly clinging trousers. What I'm saying is, yeah, *I'm* asking for gen, but there is stuff fandom would like here.

It's a 1930s pulp, so a lot of the attitudes are what you'd expect of the time, but it still has surprising moments (see: gay dwarf supergenius bad guy) and lots of coolness. Lester Dent, Doc's co-creator and primary author, was a great world traveller and kept up to date on the very latest scientific advances. Which means that Doc, in the 1930s, is using things like answering machines and garage-door openers. It's ripping good stuff, and worth a read.

Originally posted on my DW. | comment count unavailable people have commented there. | Do so yourself, if you like.


Posted by: Zornhau (zornhau)
Posted at: November 17th, 2010 10:54 am (UTC)
Could never quite get into Doc Savage

However, there's a collection of Lester Dent's "Zeppelin Tales" knocking about, and that rocks.

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: November 19th, 2010 02:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Could never quite get into Doc Savage

I have not read Zeppelin tales! It's on my list.

Posted by: LiamStLiam (liamstliam)
Posted at: November 17th, 2010 02:15 pm (UTC)

I am with you ever step of the way on this one.

Call me Monk

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: November 19th, 2010 02:39 pm (UTC)

"Listen here, you pithecanthrepoid --"

"No, YOU listen, you overgrown shyster!"

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: November 19th, 2010 02:45 pm (UTC)
doc savage python

Exactly on Banzai.

Fandom is totally geared toward novelty these days, alas. (Look at Sherlock Holmes, which had next to no fanfic until the recent RDJ flick and the BBC's SHERLOCK, and now it's got thriving slash fandoms that will taper off when the next big thing hits.) And there's always a Doc movie in development (Shane Black is working on one now), but they never go anywhere, not since the 1975 flick bombed.

Imagine this: you're a Doc Savage fan. Your hero's pulp died in the forties, and then book reprints sold unbelievably well, so in 1975 Doc Savage makes his triumphant debut on the big screen, and you're SO EXCITED, and you go to the theater, and there's no advance word because there's no internet, so the fans have no idea what's going to happen, and you're finally, finally, going to see YOUR HERO in a MAJOR MOVIE, and you get your popcorn and you sit down in your chair and the lights go down...

...and then this happens:

That opening, right there, is on the shortlist of the cruellest nutkicks any fandom has ever gotten. EVER.

Posted by: Swamp Adder (swamp_adder)
Posted at: November 21st, 2010 04:06 am (UTC)

Look at Sherlock Holmes, which had next to no fanfic until the recent RDJ flick and the BBC's SHERLOCK

Really? How much is "next to none"? I've been very into Holmes fandom for a number of years and it's never seemed to me that there was a shortage of fic. I also notice that, on ff.net at least, the original Holmes canon still has more fic posted for it than the 2009 movie and the BBC show combined. Only a little bit more, but even so -- the fandom is hardly dead!

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: November 21st, 2010 10:10 am (UTC)

I also notice that, on ff.net at least, the original Holmes canon still has more fic posted for it than the 2009 movie and the BBC show combined.

And while the first was posted in 2000, more than half of them were posted in 2009 and 2010! The movie has absolutely exploded Holmes fandom, to the point that a lot of new fans are fans of the RDJ/Law flick before they are of the original stories (BLASPHEMY).

I'd be interested in hearing more about how Holmes fandom has changed of late from an involved Holmesfic fan's point of view. I actually have an *intense* dislike of RDJ-Holmes fandom, so for me the upsurge of interest is rather a case of "be careful what you wish for."

Posted by: Swamp Adder (swamp_adder)
Posted at: November 21st, 2010 06:40 pm (UTC)

Well, you're right about a lot of new people being drawn in by the new adaptations. I just meant to say that you made it sound like there was no fandom at all before then, and that really isn't true. ; )

I didn't like the RDJ movie either, and I don't bother with the fic for it. But no amount of bad adaptations are going to make the canon disappear; there will still be fans of the Holmes stories long after the 2009 movie has been forgotten.

Posted by: Rachel M Brown (rachelmanija)
Posted at: November 17th, 2010 07:33 pm (UTC)
Books: old

Just out of curiosity, are you familiar with Sexton Blake, the genius detective who, with his loyal boy assistant Tinker, ace reporter Splash Page, and the odd femme fatale, battles invisible men, Zenith the Albino, French crime lords who specially import army ants just to try to feed Sexton Blake to them, etc? They're clearly operating in the same space-time continuum.

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: November 19th, 2010 02:49 pm (UTC)

I know of Sexton Blake, but have not read any of his adventures.

Posted by: Selki (selki)
Posted at: November 18th, 2010 05:14 am (UTC)

Here via Vvalkyri.

I have read about 10 Doc Savages, thanks to my dad's collection. They're fun.

You might want to look into Doc Sidhe as well: http://thepulp.net/PulpCompanion/0206/sidhe.html

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: November 19th, 2010 03:54 pm (UTC)

I've seen the cover in a bookstore! I'll take a look at some point.

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