How the Doc Savage Novel ‘Bleeding Sun’ Came to Be
Reprinted from DocSavage.Info March 2001
shenanigan: “a playful or mischievous act; a prank.”
Now it really is a novel. A fine work of fiction written by a true Brother of Bronze. No longer can anyone say, “The Bleeding Sun doesn’t exist. It’s a hoax.” No one can claim to own all the Doc Savage novels if they don’t have Bleeding Sun. (2012 Note: Finding the novel is possible. You just have to ask the right person at the Pulpfest dealer room.)
Then again maybe it wasn’t really a shenanigan. Maybe we just pretended to “discover” what already existed. For those who weren’t there…and only a few of us were… here is the true story of the Bleeding Sun….
In the summer of 1998 I attended my second Pulpcon. The year before I had a great time and I was looking for more of the same. This year was to be even better. Fate wanted me to meet my (then) future wife, Catherine. Thank you, Fate.
We did all the usual Doc Savage fan activities. We spent hours in the dealer room looking for coverless magazines and pristine Bantam’s. We sat and thumbed though a near mint copy of The Man of Bronze. We oohed and ahhed over Jay Ryan’s detailed account of the publishing history of Doc Savage. We argued over the relative merits of the various authors. We learned the difference between “e”, “e”, and “e.”
We were Doc fans at “the” convention. All those years of being the only Doc fan in town were forgotten as we had a great time. You won’t find a more dedicated group of crazy and inventive people than at Pulpcon.
The event that would reverberate for months in Doc fandom started with a simple comment over Jay’s book, “What if Jay had missed something?”
The cartoons are right: light bulbs literally appear over our heads.
Email excerpt 8-23-1998 I know it was in the dealer room where the subject was first mentioned. I know that we had been discussing the rather high price that was put on Doc doubles by some of the dealers. — Bill
The story developed over the next two days. The principal members of the shenanigan operated the more popular Doc Savage websites. People looked to us for information on Doc Savage.
What if we quietly inserted information about a Doc Savage novel that had been published by Bantam? A novel that never existed, but that would seem to be as real as any of the others.
Primarily over a single dinner we developed our “back story.” Our Doc Savage was novel scheduled to run late 1945 but was pulled at the last second. The editors at Street and Smith thought the novel was too wrapped up in the war to be published after VJ Day. So the manuscript was filed away until Bantam discovered it 30 years later. Of course they would publish it! Bantam editors would remember the cash they had reaped over The Red Spider.
We decided to insert the novel as Bantam Number 127. That’s when the novels went to Bantam Omnis. Our #127 would be the last numbered Bantam Doc Savage. We all knew that a Bantam 127/128 double had been announced but was pulled in favor of the first omni edition. It would only confuse the issue more.
Next, we had to have a novel synopsis. We attacked the story logically. Since it was to be set at the end of the war it needed to feature the war in the Pacific. The Japanese empire was called the rising sun. We bandied about plays on such words as “sun” “red” “blood” and “setting sun.” We thought about the red sun of the Japanese flag, which took us to “Bloody Sun” and finally to Bleeding Sun.
That would be our title: Mystery of the Bleeding Sun. Of course, Bantam would have shortened that to Bleeding Sun.
You may have noticed I haven’t identified all of the names of the perps of the shenanigan. I’ll leave it up to the dedicated Savageoligist to uncover the posts and interview the participants. Suffice it to say that we numbered at least seven and each had his or her role.
The story and title developed over an otherwise forgettable dinner. During the next day we would identify certain needs to carry out the shenanigan. We needed a blurb. I volunteered to write one. I had just completed an interview with the original Bantam blurb writer, Nick D’Annuzio, and thought I was up to the task.
Chris Kalb not only operated the prime Doc Savage website but was also an award-winning artist. (Later someone claimed the art had been put together by some “idiot with photoshop.”) He agreed to make up a Doc Savage cover….using Photoshop. We didn’t want to make it too hard to figure out.
Email excerpt 8-4-1998 The cover might be a little too nice considering the cheap crap Bantam put on the fronts of the first omni. BTW, looking at the list there’s plenty of time between the doubles (mar 85) and omnis (aug 86). –Chris
We would place that cover and blurb on all of our sites. There would be no special announcement. We wanted it to seem like it had been there all along. Crazy, huh?
I was taking quite a few pictures of the festivities. The previous year I had posted them on the Hidalgo Trading Company along with a record of the event. To sell the shenanigan, I took a picture of Catherine holding up a novel she had purchased. Chris finished the cover and digitally placed it on Catherine’s novel.
Now we had a picture of someone holding Bleeding Sun. It had to exist! We went home and started fixing our sites. Someone noticed the picture of Catherine and asked about Bleeding Sun. I feigned surprise they didn’t own a copy.
The story started to unravel when a copy was placed on eBay. I know it sounds like we were pushing our luck, but it seemed to make sense at the time. Only one person bid on the novel and he laughed when he learned of the joke.
One participant tried to enlist someone outside the group to help. In retrospect, that was the beginning of the end. The first rule of any shenanigan is “Don’t try to involve anyone who doesn’t have a sense of humor.”
Accusations, recriminations and many angry Usenet posts later the word was out. We had pulled a fast one. No one was really hurt and the alt.fan.doc-savage newsgroup was more alive than it had been for months.
Only one person seemed angry. Most laughed when they discovered the joke. We had a few emails thanking us for injecting some fun into fandom. I think the following two comments were representative of the majority response to the shenanigan:
Usenet excerpt Aug 13, 1998 As I happen to have been one of the people who actually bid on “Bleeding Sun” and therefore was “taken” by the “hoax”, I want to say to one and all, “Relax”. I appreciate the laugh and I really appreciate the fact that the only thing I lost was some time placing a bid on Ebay. It was a masterful hoax, and I applaud its originators. If, however, in any real or imagined guilt they may or may not feel, they desire to commit acts of restitution, I will gladly accept, though I do not compel this action, help in getting the last 3 Doc PB’s that I need for my collection.
Sincerely, Marcel Allen Lamb
Email 1-16-99 Just wanted you to know I fell for the Bleeding Sun book scam, and loved it! You have to understand I was in a vulnerable state when I saw it, I had just been at J__ G_____ site and found out the hardcover versions of the Bantam pb’s exist so I thought anything was possible. Thanks, Mike S_______
I tried to write Marcel recently. I wonder if he finally completed his collection? Maybe he bought those three to reach his Nirvana. I hope someone sends him a copy of Bleeding Sun so he will truly discover “completion peace.”
Reprinted from DocSavage.Info March 2001 shenanigan: “a playful or mischievous act; a prank.” At first Bleeding Sun was a shenanigan. In 1998, a few attendees of Pulpcon pretended there was a Doc Savage novel named Bleeding Sun. There wasn’t. That was the fun. Now it really is a novel. A fine work of fiction written…