Graphic Novel Round-Up: The Big Screen

PK Interview: Jonathan Oliver (Part 4)

Previously, we spoke with Jonathan Oliver (editor of Abaddon and Solaris) about his book, The Call of Kerberos, as well as the lingering influence of the great pulp authors. 


Tell me a bit about Abaddon books. I see your books mixed in with Warhammer fiction. Is this what you are? Is this where pulp fiction belongs? 

Abaddon is admittedly a really odd model. It’s franchise fiction without a franchise. We’re giving writers the spark of an idea and asking, ‘can you do this?’

GREAT jpgBut we’re not giving them an idea that we is based on a game or is a film, or anything… we’re just saying: “Wouldn’t it be cool if this kind of fiction existed? Could you write this kind of fiction for us?”. 

No one else has ever really done this – used the franchise model in that way – they’ve always had a product and the book was the sub-product. 

So we’re really taking a chance, but I think it has worked. We’re a strange child… the red-headed step-child of the publishing world, who just refuses to go away. 

Does it ever go full circle? Do you have game publishers coming up to you? 

No, but we’d certainly like that to happen. The idea behind Abaddon is that we’d love to see these properties and ideas develop in other areas. That hasn’t happened yet, but that’s because things like game development move exceedingly slowly – and the commissioning process is even slower. 

We’ve had the odd bit of film interest. Nothing concrete. I can’t say George Clooney is going to be in Cold Warriors, nothing like that. But people are aware we’re there, and interested in our products. 

Plus, our company co-owns Mongoose and Cubicle 7 - who have just released the Doctor Who RPG and Victoriana. The books are gorgeous. There’s no reason we can’t sit down and decide on a Victoriana supplement based in the Pax Britannia universe for example. This is pure speculation though, I haven't spoken to the chaps in Swindon about this. 

Unnatural History How do you pick the genres or franchises that you build series around? 

With Abaddon we knew we wanted to publish genre fiction We sat down and thought, well, we can’t just publish one series, we’ve got to have different flavors for different readers – attract the widest readership possible. 

It was as simple as saying: we want a science fiction, we want a fantasy, we want horror. Then, within that, I sat down with authors and discussed what kind of things we might do. 

The steampunk thing came entirely from Jon Green, who said I’ve got this thing about an alternative 1990’s Britain in which Queen Victoria’s being kept alive by steam technology. There are dinosaurs in the London Zoo… and I thought, oooh, that’s the kind of thing that sounds really good. Let’s do that! 

And then the zombie stuff: The Tomes of the Dead books. We originally started putting that together as a series - an alternative history with zombies. And quickly came to the realization that: 

a) I’m not an alternative history fan and 

b) it would be a continuity bloody nightmare 

I, ZombieBy the time you got to book 8, you’d have to keep it all in your head, and you’d be bound to fuck up. We were like, “Right, we just want good zombie books. Send us good stuff.” And in the early days, people kept sending me zombie Nazis. I don’t want zombie Nazis. 

Of course, I’m the twat that turned down Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. I don’t think it was the same author but someone pitched that same idea to me, wouldn’t it be good to do Pride & Prejudice, but with zombies… about 3-4 years ago. And I said, “No, it wouldn’t, it would be awful.” Shows what I know. 

Who is the target market for Abaddon books? 

Our stuff is accessible to everyone and I think the market for genre books is really wide. 

All we do is try to tell the best stories we can in the genre.

Stay tuned, in the next & final segment, we look into the future of Abaddon books. The Call of Kerberos is available through Amazon and your local bookshop.