Flyfishing is not merely a diversion or pastime, or even an escape, but rather, a portal of sorts, leading to a harder edged & brighter reality where more than the expected unfolds & reflection hints at fractal truths, ever revealed. Our activity, our aim to fish, is only the departure point to a deeper emersion in the crucible of experience. For me, artful writing evokes a similar affect. And that is a process shared among us, & well understood by the authors contributing to the Pulp Fly story anthologies. Pulp Fly Volume Three is out, with stories by Erin Brock; Alex Landeen; Pete McDonald; Miles Nolte; Tom Reed; Tom Sadler; April Vokey; Bob White; Steve Zakur; Jay Zimmerman & Bruce Smithhammer. I was impressed with the idea & the writing contained in the first two volumes of Pulp Fly, so I contacted writer/editor Bruce Smithhammer, & he agreed to an interview with Soft~Hackle Journal, which went thus:
SHJ: This one might make you feel a little uncomfortable, but SHJ is primarily about fly tying so I have to ask you this one: Have you ever snipped anything from a pet for use as fly tying material? the kitty’s whiskers for mayfly tails? Be honest. And don’t worry this isn’t a purity test. The arctic fox-like tip of Foofoo’s tail, maybe?
Bruce: It doesn't make me uncomfortable at all, actually. I've snipped materials from many animals, and I really enjoy making a game out of doing it surreptitiously. It's kind of a "counting coup" thing. Maybe some day I'll share the recipe for my 'Schnauzer Clouser.'
SHJ: This one might be uncomfortable too, but salient, I think: If all the fishing water were suddenly privatized, would you advise carrying fence-cutters?
Bruce: I would advise a lot more than just carrying fence cutters. I unequivocally believe that the very heart of our democracy, and the manifestation of the American experiment, are embodied in our visionary system of public lands. And that's not hyperbole. Only tyrants would seek to deny people of honest and healthy recreational opportunities on lands that are currently held in the public trust. And as such, they should be treated they way tyrants have been throughout history, with the citizenry rising up, wielding the swift hammer of justice and the unwavering values that prompted the beginning of this country to begin with. Take that as you will.
SHJ: Do you think letters of literate discourse & repartee on the internet will ever meet the artistic depth of civil expression enjoyed in the cafes & salons of old
Paris or ? or have they? Vienna
Bruce: I think that as long as there are literate people, there will be literate discourse. "Civil expression?" I'm not sure the existentialists, the expressionists, etc. were all that 'civil,' to be honest.
SHJ: It’s always been about the words. Beginning with Dame Juliana there has always been a strong literary tradition juxtaposed with our sport, as well as journalistic. I love an evocative fiction, but also a straight-forward, informative how-to article. And I cringe when I read new writers berating ‘mainstream’ publishers for presenting style they consider less than literary, while not seeming to realize that much of what they condemn was never intended to be ‘creative’ writing, but rather, informative writing. I can think of guys who are fly-designing savants yet are less than great shakes as writers, but I’m glad they publish. And that kind of stuff is approachable to kids just starting out & they learn from it. As for fiction & memoir, the greatest portion I’m seeing in books & sporting magazines is robustly creative & not clichéd, there seeming to be a sensitive avoidance of that on the part of editors these days. Anymore, I don’t think publication is difficult because publishers are reticent to take chances with new fiction, but rather, there is an incredible number of good writers working the genre & a fairly limited number of outlets for the work – competition for available placement is extremely competitive. Do you agree?
Bruce: Do I agree? Not entirely, but it would take a short essay to explain why. Suffice to say that I do think there is a fair bit of risk-aversion in traditional media these days, for all the usual reasons. And that this isn't coincidental to the current state of things.
SHJ: What does the publishing landscape look like to you right now (self-publishing versus traditional publishing) & where do you think it’s going for new writers who are stretching the genre?
Bruce: Contrary to what a lot of people seem to be saying right now, I actually think it's a pretty exciting time in the publishing business. Things are changing rapidly, some old models are dying, some new ones are taking shape. Volatility breeds opportunity. Suffice to say that I think there are more opportunities than there have been in a long time for people to distribute their work to a potential audience, and a number of the old hurdles are falling by the wayside. "Circulation" for example, is now instantaneous and international, and doesn't have to be limited by how many units you can afford to print and mail, for example. But it still takes elbow grease, and knowledge of how it all works, to publish effectively. I've always believed that if what you want doesn't exist, then it's time to get off your ass and create it. This is why we (Michael Gracie, myself and our esteemed contributors) started Pulp Fly - to take advantage of new technologies to help writers get their work promoted and distributed. We bring a serious editorial eye, attention to detail throughout every level of the publishing process, and the promotion and wide-ranging distribution that we believe our writers deserve. And we're able to take risks that traditional publishing largely doesn't seem to be willing or able to take anymore.
SHJ: Last one. Everybody’s dying to know: Do you think we’ll make it off the planet on time?
Bruce: Some of us already have. And that's already more than I should share...
Thanks for that, Bruce. You’re good off the cuff. Intuit informs me you can
be trusted to drive.
Remember, everybody, Xmas is coming, & if your knowledge of gear is not at least equal to the angler’s on your gift list, then you’d better play it safe, do the smart thing, & buy them a copy of Pulp Fly. http://pulpfly.com/volume-three/