GROTON — Pierre Comtois always wanted to be a writer.
An avid reader for as long as he can remember, Comtois recalls feeling frustrated when a good book ended. Unable to contain his enthusiasm, he turned to writing his own stories. Hence, a writer was born.
Years of effort have recently borne fruit for Comtois with the publication of his first book of stories entitled, “The Way the Future Was: An Anthology of Science Fiction Fables.”
The book contains 15 short stories with titles such as “The Boy Who Circumnavigated Venus,” “There Was a Rocket,” and “Down the Long Long Years.”
“I call them ‘fables’ instead of stories because I wanted to capture more the spirit of the early days of science fiction when wonder and amazement were more important than technical details,” said Comtois. “These are primarily people stories that just happen to have SF trappings.”
Taking advantage of a new trend made possible by the Internet, called PODs, or Publishing On Demand, Comtois took an active role in how the book would be produced and presented.
“These companies are publishers that don’t need to keep vast amounts of inventory sitting idly in a warehouse somewhere,” explained Comtois. “Instead, they take your manuscript, lay it all out, and then store it electronically in a computer. Then, whenever someone orders a copy of the book, they have copies printed out especially for that buyer. By that means, overhead is cut way down.”
These companies then post the book as being for sale on a number of Internet sites such as Amazon.com and Borders as well as their own site, giving the books exposure to a worldwide market.
“The Way the Future Was” was written expressly to take advantage of this kind of opportunity and to test its services as well as the condition of the final product. Doing a little research, Comtois found an Internet site that rated various PODs and chose a company called Virtualbookworm to do the job.
Submitting his manuscript electronically, it was approved and took only six to seven weeks of collaboration to finalize the cover and layout. Compared to traditional publishing, the book was ready for sale in practically no time at all.
Calling PODs the wave of the future, Comtois noted that bypassing the middle man allows writers to produce, market and sell their own books in a matter of months instead of years.
Released in mid-October and retailing for $16.95, “The Way the Future Was” is a 456-page anthology that includes interior illustrations by C. George Porter and Gregorio Montejo.
Though this was Comtois’ first book, “It won’t be the last!” he vowed.
Scheduled for publication next July is “Marvel Comics in the 1960s: An Issue by Issue Field Guide to a Pop Culture Phenomenon.” Unlike his sci-fi release, the Marvel Comics tome went through the traditional submission process that included one publisher that went bankrupt and then a second, which also accepted it.
Due to the success of “The Way the Future Was,” Comtois is looking forward to releasing a second book with Virtualbookworm, a nonfiction project on the Founding Fathers.
While Comtois has been writing since the fourth-grade, he is the first to admit that not everything he has written is worthy of seeing the light of day. After years of effort, he only began to get a handle on his writing style after he began to publish his own fanzine.
“That forced me to come up with stories and articles if I wanted to fill out the pages,” said Comtois. “Only gradually, my stories became good enough that they began to be accepted in other small press magazines. I started with short stories then branched out into non-fiction articles that I wrote for such magazines such as America’s Civil War, Military History, and World War II.
“I’m at the point now where I don’t write fiction on spec anymore preferring to wait until I’m specifically invited to contribute something to other people’s projects,” Comtois said.
In the past, Comtois’ stories have appeared in a series of horror anthologies including “The Ithaqua Cycle,” “Tales Out of Innsmouth,” and “Anton Zarnak: Supernatural Sleuth.” Stories for other collections have yet to appear.
“But don’t hold your breath,” cautioned Comtois. “If you’re a short story writer, you get used to that. Anthologies take forever to be released. Take “Autumnal Tales,” a collection of my weird fiction … that’s been in the pipeline for years now.”
Though Comtois has made his living through the craft he loves so well, it was a long road. Holding a B.A. in English and communications from Salem State College (1980), he has been a reporter for about the last 17 years. Comtois began with the Lowell Sun before moving to the Groton Landmark about six years ago.
But with the release of “The Way the Future Was,” Comtois is not sitting on his laurels.
“I think I might have one more SF collection in me and I’ve just finished a longish tale for an anthology that’s supposed to be for sale in the US and then translated especially for the Japanese market,” he noted.
Comtois’ book can be found at Amazon.com, virtualbookworm.com, or BarnesandNoble.com.