Return of the Pulps?

Posted: December 28, 2008 in book of deeds, writing update
Tags: , , , ,

The other thoughts that were going through my mind during the long drive to my parents place (as referred to in a previous post) were on the current publishing climate and the pulps.

By all reports the current publishing industry is in trouble, like most other industries at the moment. It hasn’t been helped by poor decision making – such as giving ridiculous six and seven figure advanced to ‘famous’ people for stories that normally wouldn’t see light of day or trying to squeeze too much profit out per book, far higher than historically normal – as well as a host of other issues.

The upshot is that they aren’t really taking chances on new, unknown authors, are cutting staff and other options that are making it increasing hard for new authors to break into the market, no matter how good they may be.

They want you to be established to take you on, yet how do you get to be established if they won’t take you on? Its all a bit catch-22.

This all got me thinking back to older times, to the days of the pulp magazines.

The age of the pulp magazines was from the 20’s to the 50’s, when they all but died out. Their height was in the 20’s and especially the 30’s – during the Great Depression.

This was no coincidence. The pulp magazines were exceedingly cheap, printed on cheap wood pulp paper, using cheap printing and cheap authors. They were also pure escapism – in a period of such depression it gave people a cheap outlet to escape the woes of the world.

While the storied contained within were not always of the greatest quality, they served as a launching pad for many notable authors and characters – Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan/Barsoon), Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian), Robert A Heinlein, Frank Herbert (Dune), H. P. Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber & Isaac Asimov all contributed to the Pulps.

The pulp magazines declined when WWII came along, due to paper shortages, resulting in a rise of costs amongst other things, and by the 50s they had almost disappeared. With them went the largest outlet for sales of short stories, and authors had to turn novels for the msot part.

They never completely died – there are a few examples around, though not to the extent or the recognition of the glory days of the pulps.

It would seem to me now that there is a chance that we could see a resurgence of the pulp magazines, or at least a facsimile thereof.

While we aren’t heading to a repeat of the Great Depression (or at least we hope we aren’t), we are heading into hard times. People will want cheap forms of pure escapism, as they did in the 30s. Upcoming authors, and even established ones, are eager to be read, to become known And the internet provides a means of distribution and recognition. Could this mark the return of the pulps, and a return of the short story, not the mammoth door stoppers we have come to have foisted upon us?

I would like to think so – I may even have a shot at setting one up myself if I knew a bit more about the process.

Anyone else have any thoughts on it?

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