Monday, November 28, 2011

What Is New Pulp?

Just spit-balling some ideas off the top of my head here, but one thing Mat Nastos said (in this article: that I thought was poignant was the comment about how pulp originally was united by the publication method and contain various genres, and wasn't defined by the genre itself.

In light of that, it got me thinking: What exactly does New Pulp or any Pulp cover?

Bear in mind, these are only my thoughts.

1. Historical pulp -- Airship 27's bread and butter, stories set in the classic pulp age of the 30s, whether masked vigilantes, private eyes, aviators, or jungle lords and queens.

2. Contemporary pulp -- Christa Faust, for example, or Deadly Games by Bobby Nash, stories set in today with modern characters, but written with a pulp sensibility, Van Allen Plexico's Sentinel's series, etc.

3. Horror -- including some pulp-inspired crossover big time series like Dresden Files and Kim Harrisons The Hollows books. Also, stories like those in Weird Horror Tales and the horror stories in Pro Se Presents.

4. Sci-Fi -- just what is says.

5. Romance -- I wonder about how the cheaply produced and straight-forwardly written thousands of romantic novels now available on ebook format fits into this. There was certainly a place for them back in the old days of pulp.

6. Superhero pulp -- Van Allen Plexico's Sentinels comes to mind, as well as perhaps my own Show Me A Hero collection.

7. Fantasy/Adventure -- things in the vein of Burroughs and (sadly, I'm not as well versed in the fantasy side of things) Shane Moores Abyss Walker series, Alex Adams Brotherhood of Dwarves series, and Stephen Zimmers' series.

8. Westerns.

What doesn't define pulp?

Again just my thoughts. But POV doesn't define it, although a publisher certainly has the right to request a certain POV for it's books. Time period. (Again, as said earlier, most of the early pulp stuff was written to be contemporary at the time).

Is pulp anti-literary? I'd say no, although it can't be held by the same rules of "literary" fiction. After all, Lovecraft would most definitely be considered a literary horror writer, although his stuff fit pulp standards of the day. So can a pulp book still be pulp even if it tries to do more than just be a straight-ahead action tale? I'd say yes. And after reading lots of Lovecraft over the past few years, his stuff certainly wouldn't fall into a "hard-boiled action" category.

I'd say, and say very strongly, that new pulp isn't defined by words as much as by action. We who write the stories define it with each tale. We who publish the stories define it when we utilize new technologies such as print on demand and ebook publishing. We who read the stories define it when we recommend books to others and review them on websites and for newspapers and newsletters and zines and magazines. We define it and change it a little every day simply by continuing to publish it.

The trouble (and the slippery slope) we run into comes when we use our definition as a way to reduce new pulp to something we can keep a lock on. We become a lot like Mr. Nastos when we do that, only with a different set of criteria. He's says it's price and paper. We say it's a time period or a "hard-boiled" style.

What defines New Pulp?

Personally, I'm more than happy to define New Pulp by the authors and the stories.

Regarding the stories, they're (1) engaging, and (2) targeted to the common man and woman. (That's as simple a line in the sand as I can reduce it too, yet it's open enough to allow interpretation that hopefully doesn't foster argument but circumvents it.) Whether they scare, enthrall, titillate or take the reader on a grand adventure, they're a simple contract between the author, the publisher and the average reader. Pulp, both old and new, is escapist fiction. Like classic pulp, some is deftly written by literary masters, some is averagely written by good writers who know their trade well, and some is, well, some is quite bad.

In defining Pulp by the authors, I know that if I read a story by Andrew Salmon, even if it's a futuristic sci-fi tale, it's going to feel like a pulp, so it's pulp. If I read something by Tommy Hancock, it's going to be literally drenched in pulp sensibilities. And as I go deeper into the new pulp movement, I expect to find more names that become synonymous with the words "New Pulp."

Those are my thoughts anyway. You're mileage may differ.