Saturday, February 5, 2011

The New Age of Pulp Fiction?

Welcome to the New Age of Pulp Fiction – courtesy of e-reader technology and digital self-publishing.

How many people remember the "Golden Age" of Pulp Fiction? Okay, maybe no one remembers 20th century history. I wasn't born yet, but at least I had heard of it. Just so you don't have to google it – I'll post the Wikipedia definition of Pulp Fiction:

Pulp magazines (often referred to as "the pulps"), also collectively known as pulp fiction, refers to inexpensive fiction magazines published from 1896 through the 1950s. The typical pulp magazine was seven inches wide by ten inches high, half an inch thick, and 128 pages long. Pulps were printed on cheap paper with ragged, untrimmed edges.
The name pulp comes from the cheap wood pulp paper on which the magazines were printed. Magazines printed on better paper were called "glossies" or "slicks." In their first decades, they were most often priced at ten cents per magazine, while competing slicks were 25 cents apiece. Pulps were the successor to the penny dreadfuls, dime novels, and short fiction magazines of the 19th century. Although many respected writers wrote for pulps, the magazines are best remembered for their lurid and exploitative stories and sensational cover art. Modern superhero
comic books are sometimes considered descendants of "hero pulps"; pulp magazines often featured illustrated novel-length stories of heroic characters, such as The Shadow, Doc Savage, and The Phantom Detective.

Cheap stories – often lurid and poorly edited – easy to get, easy to discard; what does that sound like? The modern Indie e-book has been touted as the 'slush pile come to life' by the 'trade' publishing establishment.

I say the Indie Publishing masses could do much worse than embracing the label of 'Modern Pulp Fiction.'

Why not?

"At their peak of popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, the most successful pulps could sell up to one million copies per issue."
Fiction novels for $.99 from Indie authors are very much like the 10-cent magazines. Your mileage – or quality – will vary greatly from author to author and book to book. Already there are lines drawn – certain authors continue to sell books at a higher price. While others have their sales stall at the $2.99 break point.

Whether or not people actually read $.99 books is a good question. However, they do buy these books – often thousands a month. In that case – why should the author care if the book is read or not? Cry all the way to the bank. Of course, some people don't feel that way.

"Literature and culture per se would die if every writer wrote only to satisfy a market bowing to instant monetary gratification."- Authonomy Author

Well, that tidbit of British snobbery came from an Authonomy wannabe who couldn't be bothered with something as – common? – tedious? – as marketing their work.

If only I could have stopped myself from replying:

That sounds very British.

Culture doesn't pay the rent - but if you are independently wealthy you can be as literary and cultured as you like.

Me, I have bills to pay and elderly parents to take care of.

No wonder the Brits hate the Irish. We insist on being – practical – even when it comes to 'Literature and Culture per se' by bringing filthy money into it. How ghastly and common of me.

Is there a puking smiley?

How does this tie into pulp fiction? The distinction between 'literature' the art and 'story-telling' entertainment is the difference between a 'trade' published, $12.99 e-book and a KDP, $.99 pulp fiction e-book.

This is a wild and wonderful free for all – that may kill off 'Literature and Culture per se' but WFT – it's about time that mid-list and Indie writers had some fun and made some money.

The point is that pulp fiction gave a lot of writers their start. They made their living pounding on typewriters – entertained thousands, or even millions, of people. They put smiles on people's faces, and became a beloved part of pop(ular) culture long after the books themselves were forgotten.

Mom just recalled a box of pulp westerns in her attic that they read as kids. My aunts Joyce and Elizabeth read these pulps and played "Cowboys and Indians" so many times that they ended up with life-long nicknames. Joyce became "Steve" and Elizabeth became my beloved Aunt 'Dillon.' I was a teenager before I discovered that Aunt Dillon had another name.

That's not art, that's family history.

Guess which one is more important to me.

Got that in one, didn't ya?


Pulp Fiction II: The Rise of the Penny Dreadful

Pulp Fiction a Bit of Brainstorming

4 comments:

Jean Davis said...

I love your ranting posts.

You could have stopped yourself from replying but it's all that effort to create tension in our stories that bleeds over into real life, that prods us along every darn time. :)

Long live pulp!

Andre Jute said...

The reason the British hate the Irish is because the Irish when they hear a list of "British writers" including Shaw, Wilde, Swift and so on, remind the British that those are in fact Irish talent. How uncouth can you get?

Sent from Co Cork, Ireland.

Tara Maya said...

I think your comparison to pulp fiction is very apt. In my genre (sf/fantasy) there's also the tradition of fanzines, informally circulated, mimeographed stories of amateur authors--many of whom would go on to become professionals. I think it's very funny when people get up on their high horse and sniff at horror of the unwashed masses writing for fun and profit.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

Ms Kitty said...

Thanks everyone! I agree - it was a bit much to have someone sniff that there was something wrong with earning a living.

However, I've come back and torn the blog post apart - it is about to become a series of posts. I'll leave this one up for a bit longer. Then LOOK out.