Monday, January 5, 2015

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #308 -- Pulp Weakness

You've mentioned the strengths of pulp many times, but what do you consider it's weaknesses?

Most folks who are fans of pulps will bring up the racism or sexism that is rampant in the pulps, but those are the low-hanging fruit, as far as I'm concerned.

For example, what makes so many of the original pulp tales such a letdown for me (as well as so many of the 1970s comics, for that matter) is that the characters weren't true characters at all. They were more caricatures of Gods who had very little or no humanity to them at all. They were more like forces of nature who didn't react emotionally or psychologically to any of the conflicts they had to face.

Too many of those "good ol' days" tales have the impact of one wall getting smashed into another, with no change affecting anyone, even the peripheral characters. Sure, it worked for creating a plot of one event leading into another, but that was all.

And if stories require change (or at least the opportunity to change even if one doesn't take it), then how can such a tale truly be called a story? It is more a narrative of an incident or string of actions but not really a story.

And yes, I realize that the "change" type of story is considered more important for so-called literary fiction, but even for adventure stories, why should I care if like in so many of them there's really nothing ever really at stake either physically or emotionally? (And don't say the hero's life, because let's face it that was never really in danger, nor was it likely that he or she would actually lose to the villain.)

As always, your mileage may vary.