Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#207) -- Pulp's Grandchildren

What's the difference between new pulp, regular pulp, and noir?

To answer that we have to go back to the medium and not the genre. Pulp stories originally got their "genre" from the fact that they were published in cheap formats on cheap paper, or pulp. It had nothing to do with the stories and everything to do with the printing. (In that sense, ebooks are probably the closest to the spirit of that format definition of pulp.)

Gradually, however, as people began to really get into the stories printed on that cheap paper, the stories became known as pulp stories. Eventually readers and marketing folks grew to see them as a genre.

Fast forward a few years.

The pulp of the 30s grew up and got gritty. Thrilling adventures of black and white, good and evil turned into seedy dramas clouded in shades of gray. Pulp's darker, more sinister younger brother was born -- hard-boiled or noir. As a result, even the pulp of the magazines became grittier and more dangerous and often even lurid, such as in the men's magazines of the day. (A caveat: Some folks divide hard-boiled as prose and noir as purely film, but the aesthetic of noir spilled over into literature, just the same, as far as I'm concerned, even if the literary movement never officially bore the name.)

Then years later, along came a new group of readers and writers who for many reasons hearken back to the days of pulp yore, whether due to their fathers' collections or a lucky find in a yard sale or a stray copy of Amazing Stories found in a used book store. They longed to find or create more of the stories like the ones they loved from the days of the adventures printed on the pulp stock. And so new pulp was born.

With many gifted writers, both those who called themselves new pulp like Bobby Nash, Barry Reese, Van Allen Plexico, Derrick Ferguson, and many others I could name and those who may not even claim to represent the "genre" like Christa Faust and Will Murray, new pulpsters are publishing not only new adventures of classic characters like the Shadow, the Spider, Armless O'Neil, the Green Lama, and the Golden Amazon, but they're also creating new characters in the tradition of the classic pulps such as the Rook, Rick Ruby, Lance Star, Angel O'Dare, and Dillon.

New Pulp
So, to summarize...

Pulp = adventure, romance, horror, etc. stories published on cheap paper and written for the common reader

Hard-Boiled/Noir = gritty, shades of gray, often violent or lurid adventure stories in the pulp tradition

New Pulp = new stories featuring classic pulp characters and new characters and stories in the tradition of the pulps

Got it? Because we may have a quiz later.