If you go to a book fair, horror convention or science fiction convention in the Central Pennsylvania region, you just might encounter a small collective of literary visionaries — made up of writers, editors and publishers whose mission is elevating speculative fiction to unprecedented levels of quality and craftsmanship.
You might also encounter The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys.
But seriously, folks. The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys are Brian Koscienski and Chris Pisano. I’ve run into them at a few events, along with their project manager and handler Christine Czachur.
They, along with editor and writer Jeff Young, comprise Fortress Publishing. I’ve become a big fan of their magazines “Trail of Indiscretion” (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) and “Cemetery Moon” (horror).
I also picked up their “Scary Tales of Scariness,” in which Brian and Chris pit themselves against a variety of adversaries, including Cthulu, zombies, vampires, and The Potato People (don’t ask). It’s really funny.
They’ve got a bunch more publications, including a sequel to “Scary Tales of Scariness,” that you can check out at their Website here.
Of course, the Federal Bureau of Nickname Registration would have long-since revoked their license to call themselves “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys” if they weren’t also a fun group.
So in the following interview, I try to convey the magic. The madness. The raw, unbridled sensuality that is … The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys experience. Read on.
Can you explain a little about what Fortress Publishing is? Where are you based? How long have you been around? What are some of the things you put out?
PISANO: Well, Fortress is more a state of mind, being one with the universe around us….
KOSCIENSKI: As writers, Chris and I started collaborating on different ideas and stories and novels. We realized that we had quite a bit going on, so we decided to protect our intellectual property…
KOSCIENSKI: … our intangible assets by forming a corporation. We the decided that since we have a corporation, why not use it to try to understand more about the industry that we’re trying to break into. So, a little over 8 years ago, Fortress Publishing, Inc. was born.
PISANO: We started off publishing a graphic novel and a few chapbooks, but now we’re focused on
publishing magazines and anthologies.
How does the division of labor work between Brian, Chris and Christine? Is there anyone else who should be getting a shout-out?
KOSCIENSKI: Well, Chris and I are the idea men.
PISANO: The visionaries.
KOSCIENSKI: The cash cows.
PISANO: The visionaries.
KOSCIENSKI: Okay, Chris and I are the writers.
PISANO: And editors of our magazines. I edit “Cemetery Moon” and he edits “The Realm Beyond”.
KOSCIENSKI: Christine is our lovely and freakishly intelligent Project Manager.
PISANO: And Chief Science Officer
KOSCIENSKI: And Booth Babe.
PISANO: And Mayhem Coordinator.
KOSCIENSKI: And pimp.
CHRISTINE: The sad thing is my business card actually does say most of those titles. And don’t forget Jeff.
BK & PISANO: Jeff who?
CHRISTINE: Jeff. Jeff Young. Jeff Young the editor for “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys” series of books. Jeff Young the antagonist in many of the stories found in “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys” series of books.
KOSCIENSKI: We know. We were just testing you.
PISANO: We have to keep you on your toes.
Is there an origin story behind the Drunken Comic Book Monkeys?
KOSCIENSKI: There is, and it’s pretty interesting, too.
PISANO: No. No, it’s not.
KOSCIENSKI: Okay, the way I tell the origin story is interesting.
PISANO: No. No, it’s not.
KOSCIENSKI: Sure it is! My version has robots and ninjas!
PISANO: No. No, it doesn’t.
CHRISTINE: Girls, you’re both pretty, now shut up. Tom, as the way I’ve heard it – ad nauseum — the name came about early in their writing career. As they were looking for resources on how to start a small business, specifically a micro-press publishing company, they couldn’t find much info. So, they started writing about it in a series of articles called “The Journey”. A few websites and online magazines published them and the boys started doing more articles about comics and the world of entertainment as well as reviews. As more websites started to syndicate them, they realized they needed a funny name. Once they hit the bottom of their third pitcher, they discovered “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys.”
KOSCIENSKI: Pssssst. Don’t forget to mention the impending blog.
CHRISTINE: Yes, Tom, once I set up a blog for these knuckleheads, they will be reposting “The Journey”.
Are there any forthcoming projects from Fortress Publishing of which we should be aware (or
PISANO: Always! We’re like rabid wolverines!
KOSCIENSKI: You can’t stop us, you can only hope to contain us!
PISANO: Up next is an anthology called “TV Gods”.
KOSCIENSKI: The writers are taking their favorite mythology and mashing it together with their favorite TV show.
CHRISTINE: Due out May 2014.
PISANO: And we’re working on the next book in “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys” series called “Fantastical Tales of Fantasy.”
KOSCIENSKI: Where Chris and I are the characters in Fantasy stories.
CHRISTINE: We’re aiming for the end of the year.
PISANO: And, of course, we recently had our debut novel released.
KOSCIENSKI: It’s a little like the TV show “Heroes”, except much grittier.
CHRISTINE: It’s called “The Shattered Visage Lies” and it’s published by Post Mortem Press.
How did the “Scary Tales of Scariness” project come about? Was there alcohol involved? Because I find that highly unlikely.
KOSCIENSKI: Well, this may shock you, but the idea did come about one time Chris and I were at Hooters.
PISANO: Well into a second or fourth or sixth pitcher of beer.
KOSCIENSKI: We were talking about zombie stories. I hate them; Chris loves them.
PISANO: So, I was taunting him by saying I was going to write a zombie story with us in it.
KOSCIENSKI: I then said I was gonna get revenge by writing a vampire story with us in it.
PISANO: Then we decided that would be a really fun book to write.
KOSCIENSKI: And hopefully read.
PISANO: We came up with all kinds of creatures to fight and almost as quickly came up with loose story ideas.
KOSCIENSKI: The funniest one was “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. Trick or Treat”.
PISANO: I fell off my stool form laughing so hard.
KOSCIENSKI: At the time, we had no idea what it was going to be about.
PISANO: “Scary Tales of Scariness” was the first of the series. It sold pretty well at conventions, so we decided to do “Sciencey Tales of Science Fiction” as a sequel.
CHRISTINE: Both are available at our website, or any online bookstore, or any brick-n-mortar bookstore by request.
The publishing industry — really, the very concept of “publishing” — seems to be changing at lightning speed these days. What do you do to keep up?
KOSCIENSKI: Run to Christine.
PISANO: Cry to Christine.
KOSCIENSKI: Ask Christine for help.
PISANO: Beg Christine for help.
BK & PISANO: CHRISTINE!!!
CHRISTINE: **sigh** Yes, Tom, one of my official titles is Chief Science Officer, which is they’re not so clever way of telling me I’m in charge of keeping up with the technologies. Since eBooks are the latest way for writers and publishers to release their works, I need keep myself – and The Monkeys – abreast of the situations.
KOSCIENSKI: She said, “a breast.”
CHRISTINE: **sigh** Anyway, technology is not only is changing the world of publishing, but also the world of marketing and advertising as well. And since these two can’t operate any technology more complex than a beer bottle opener, it’s up to me to convert their books to eBooks, usually through smashwords.com, and make updates to the Fortress Publishing, Inc. Facebook page, and contact book stores.
If you could pick any monster for the Drunken Comic Book Monkeys to square off against that they haven’t faced yet, which one would it be?
KOSCIENSKI: Existential ennui.
KOSCIENSKI: We already fought potatoes!
PISANO: I wanna fight them again!
CHRISTINE: Is laryngitis an option?
Christine … how do you stand it?
CHRISTINE: Oh, Tom … I drink … heavily … a lot ….