Blog: Commentary from the den of a pulp super-fan

Meet ‘The Old Man’

Posted by at 10:00 am Wednesday, February 12, 2014 in Doc Savage, Pastiche, Pulps
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Meet ‘The Old Man’

"Helping Them Take the Old Man Down" & "Clockworks"One of the most interesting recent Doc Savage pastiches is William Preston‘s The Old Man.

At this time he has appeared in three short stories (novellas?), all in Asimov’s SF Magazine (though you can purchase electronic versions of the stories from Amazon), with two more planned. Hopefully when all five are done, they will be collected into a book. The author recommends that people read the stories in order of publication, not in order of internal chronology.

The first story, “Helping Them Take the Old Man Down” (Asimov’s, March 2010), introduces us to the Old Man through one of his aides. The story is mainly set in the post-9/11 world, but with flashbacks to prior events the aide has been involved in. The Old Man is known only by that term, and his aides all have nicknames and are known by those.

For the past few decades he has gathered a diverse group of new aides who come and go as needed for a particular mission, due to their skills. Think the old “Impossible Mission Force” where certain agents are picked for a mission based on their skills. Some don’t make it (there is a hint that one aide dies during a mission by suicide). We have no idea what has happened to his original aides (retired? died?), and at some point he had moved out of the Empire State Building to the World Trade Center, but had moved out of that building prior to 9/11. And this has made the government suspicious. With the assistance of the aide, they track him down to his base in the Arctic — though not before he’s able to destroy it — and take the “Old Man” into custody.

The next story, “Clockworks” (Asimov’s, April/May 2011), is actually set in the 1960s, and the Old Man is called the Big Man. One of the aides helping him in this story was shown as an older man in the first story. And they are also assisted by a former villain who has been “reformed” by the Old Man, obviously a hint to Doc’s Crime College.

"Unearthed"The third story, “Unearthed” (Asimov’s, Sept 2012), is set in 1925, early in the career of the Old Man. Here he is very young, known as the Little Boss. The story is set in South America, at a mine owned by his father, referred to as the Big Boss. A problem occurs, and the Little Boss comes down to take care of it. It turns out to be much more mysterious than it appears.

The fourth story is “Each in His Prison, Thinking of the Key,” which will appear in the April/May 2014 Asimov SF (coming out the end of February). What we know of it, it’s set after the events of the first story, I assume dealing with freeing the Old Man. The March issue says it’s “about an ‘Old Man’ who is bigger than life and a young man who must learn to cope with his own devastating talents.”

The fifth and final story will be “The World Will Be the World Again,” and the author hopes it will also appear in 2014, but it is still being written.

As note, once all five stories are released, the idea is to have them collected into a single volume, which will be great. I can’t wait. If you are a pulp fan, check this out, as it shows what can be done that is both original and respectful of the original, that doesn’t have to be a put down of the originals.

One Comment

  1. I really enjoyed the first two, the second one was especially good. It played up on the Crime College aspects really well. With the fourth coming out, looks like I better get reading the third one.