Afterthought: The Pulp Genre

Afterthought from: Star Wars – Snoke VS Palpatine

Most people see the pulp genre as a charming storytelling method better left in the past or played for irony. Some might laugh over the simplicity of its elements. Others might wave it off as useless hack garbage. To be fair, in the age of pulp serials, there was a massive wave of content. In a way, it was more about quantity than quality; and to anyone who’s ever hunted through an archive of fanfiction, it’s no secret that ninety-nine percent of product is going to be worthless crap. The thing is, pulp really started booming during the great depression. The internet hadn’t been invented yet. Television wasn’t invented until 1927, and even then, wouldn’t be available to the working class for a while. If they could find a job, men had to work hard for very little money to feed starving children. Pulp novels provided a much-needed escape at a reasonable price. There was a huge variety of works ready to satisfy anyone’s taste. It was a greatly needed trend for a harsh and desperate time. Writers have hence moved on to appease an audience with a more “sophisticated” pallet. But, here’s the thing…I think it’s time for a comeback.

Reason #1

Pulp fiction is a stage act for writers. Your typical stage actor spends hours rehearsing their lines to deliver a perfect performance on opening night, but once opening night comes, they better be spot on. They’re no second takes on stage. Career pulp writers had a similar obligation. Demand for new stories was so high that pulp veterans developed two strategies. The first was to develop a working formula to streamline story development. The second, pulp writers aimed to produce a publishable work in one draft.

I know, this might sound like a nightmare scenario for a lot of writers. And speaking from experience, it’s tempting to keeping working on a piece until it’s “perfect.” Again, speaking from experience, that kind of mentality can have a negative effect on your production. Writers can become so obsessed with the ideal vision of their work that they never actually finish. Or, some writers can languish for years waiting for “inspiration” to guide their typing fingers into action. In other words, they become paralyzed by their own egos.

Pulp writers didn’t have time to brood. They lived in a hard world filled with desperate demands. These writers were under the whip. They didn’t have the luxury of “waiting for inspiration.” They had quotas to meet.

I once read some advice given to writers that they should write first and then edit later. To paraphrase thriller writer Lee Child (creator of Jack Reacher): Do it right the first time.

My point being, writers should take a lesson from the pulp guys. Write like your life depended on it, which if your goal is to make a living as an author, might be true.

Reason #2

This one is more of a personal preference.

Pulp stories were meant to appeal to our primal needs. Mysteries to intrigue us. Romance to titillate us. Horror to frighten us. Sci-fi and fantasy to walk us through the wonders of far-away lands. But one of my favorite aspects of pulp fiction is its hedonistic tendencies.

A lot of pulp stories were created for consumption by the “uneducated blue collar working class.” And they weren’t exactly the type willing to gamble their money on more cerebral works. For the most part, they were looking for stuff that immediately tapped into those primal needs for mystery, or sex, or violence. That’s why you got pulp magazines with titles like Spicy Detective, or Astonishing Stories, or Weird Tales.

Pulp fiction was unapologetically over-the-top. It had brave masculine men in the lead role. Beautiful women as distressed damsels and irredeemable villains you’d love to see lose. And, while I lose complex fiction with complex characters, I also have a love for the shamelessly extreme. But that’s not the main reason I think pulp fiction should make a comeback.

In the Politically Correct climate of 2018, so many things have become offensive, and some of those things aren’t even involving rude words, gestures or opinions. Masculinity is offensive. Femininity is offensive. Muscular men are offensive to fat people. Beautiful women are offensive to feminists. Women choosing to raise children over having a career is also offensive to feminists. The list goes on. Traditional pulp fiction would be outlawed in our new “gentle” society. It’s my personal belief that a writer’s place, an artist’s place, in society is to be offensive and brutalize the boundaries of polite society. At one time, this meant drugs, sex, and rock and roll. Today, it’s holding on to our right to be human. Men being men. Boys being boys. Women being women. All these are considered offensive…and in my opinion, bringing back the ways of traditional pulp fiction is a perfect way to become a thorn in the side of the establishment.

Yesterday’s creators have become the establishment. There needs to be a new movement of creators to follow in their footsteps and challenge the standards of today.

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