Wednesday, August 8, 2012

PulpFest 2012

I just heard about a convention being held in Columbus, Ohio USA this weekend.  It's called PulpFest 2012, and it sounds pretty interesting.  I've attended comic book conventions before, but I've never attended a pulp magazine convention.  I probably won't attend this one either.  I have an interest in pulps, but that interest doesn't measure up to a four hour car ride plus spending a bunch of money for gas, registration, and whatnot.  I did enjoy reading some pulpy fiction growing up and enjoyed reading Frank Gruber's The Pulp Jungle, an account of working as a writer in the field (pictured above)   If the convention were nearer, then I might attend just to see all the nifty pulp magazines on display.

If you're not familiar with pulp magazines, they were printed on the cheapest paper possible (thus their collectibility today since those magazines that survived World War II paper drives often decayed over the decades if they weren't cared for) and usually featured lurid stories from such genres as fantasy, mystery, romance, science fiction, and western.  Though often looked upon as garbage for sub-literates during their flourishing in the early twentieth century, some pulp fiction has garnered respect over the years.  The Library of America has even published collections of pulp writers such as H. P. Lovecraft.

Pulps have important connections to comic books and zines.  Comic books started off as outgrowths of pulps.  Some pulps already featured illustrations, and the cover images were meant to pop off the newsstand, so it was natural for many pulp companies to enter the comics field once comics appeared to be lucrative in the late 1930s.  Some pulps also courted controversy with their content, so some companies were happy to move over to comics, where the content, albeit similar, was a bit toned down since children were the initial target market.  Of course, it wouldn't take long before the content of comics also attracted controversy, but in the 1930s they probably seemed the less risky publishing endeavor.  Zines meanwhile got their start when Hugo Gernsback, the editor/publisher of science fiction pulps, published letters from readers and included the addresses.  Fans started writing to one another and then started putting together their own fan magazines, which would soon get called "fanzines" to distinguish them from the "prozines" published by Gernsback and the other pulp publishers.

Pulps never really went away, even when the magazines declined in popularity and many ceased publishing.  Essentially, the format changed.  Pulp characters such as Tarzan and Conan found homes in paperback books, newspaper comic strips, radio, movies, television, comic books, videogames, and will likely find another home in whatever the next medium will be (3D cosplay virtual reality?).  Furthermore, a great deal of Hollywood products today is essentially pulp fiction with a bigger budget.

But the origins of all this are in cheap magazines, many of which will be gathered in Columbus this weekend.

How many will be there?

Only The Shadow knows.  

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