Monday, April 8, 2013

Pulp Adventures!

As most of my friends know (or at least should), I am a huge fan of the pulp adventure stories of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. “More than” human heroes, dastardly villains, loyal sidekicks, Superscience, guns and fists. These are the things that I love to read about. Sure, I loves me some epic fantasy, some modern techno-thrillers, and even the occasional non-fiction work. But, really, the Pulps kind of form the backbone of my tastes, especially these days.

Maybe it’s because the world was more innocent; more black and white. You knew when someone was a villain, and you knew when someone was a hero. And if your character was on the side of justice, well they could hardly do wrong in that pursuit. In this day and age, sometimes those lines get fuzzy.

I also like that Pulp is practically a genre unto itself. The stories of the age can dash across many literary genres; fantasy, science fiction, mystery, historical. But, regardless of that, they are all considered “Adventure” fiction. And I think that’s the key. In these stories; stuff happens.

The narrative voice doesn’t beat you down with excessive amounts of internal dialogue, philosophical pondering, or verbose background infodumps. What you do get is action prose, laced with enough information that you know what’s going on, and who’s doing it. The best writers were able to blend the details with the action, keeping the pace going. Some of the lesser in skill seemed to struggle with this. But, thanks in large part to the word-limits, they often were forced to keep their descriptions brief.

Which leads me to another reason I like them: brevity. I just do not have the time to read doorstopper novels. And when you add that lack of time to the fact that I just don’t read very fast, it would take me the better part of a year to wade through something that GRRM writes. Plus, I tend to get easily lost in the myriads of subplots, and the subplots of those subplots. And do I really need to know every detail of the eating habits of the nobility? Apparently, I could never be a Jedi, because I DO crave adventure and excitement. Especially when I am reading.

I am happy to see that the whole “Pulp” idea is making a comeback. Between eReaders, and publishers like Airship 27, the supergenre of Pulp Adventure is making a comeback. But for some of us, not only is time tight, but so is money. So, how do we get our Pulp fix? Well, I do spend a lot of time perusing used books stores for collections. But sometimes, that’s not enough. That’s when my morals get a little hazy and I head over to Project Gutenberg – Australia.

Copyright laws in Australia are much more lax than here in the states. So, some fiction from the early 20th century that may be copyrighted here, is public domain there. And you can read the texts of a lot of fiction there for free. But, even though this is morally questionable, I do have a few standards; I don’t download fiction that is available in print unless I have already purchased a print version. For instance, I own print copies of almost every Robert E. Howard story. So, I don’t feel bad for using the text at Gutenberg to create eBooks so I can also read them on my Kindle.

However, sometimes I want to read something that I can’t find anywhere in print. Case in point recently is The Avenger. Gutenberg has several of the original stories from the 40’s, and after fruitless searches for reprints, I decided to download a few and create an eBook. I figure it’s not really a violation if I’m not distributing it freely, or for profit. It’s just for me.

Anyways, these are my random thoughts on the adventure fiction of the Pulp Era. I swear, if I ever become a teacher, and I teach a class on 20th Century Literature, there will be a section in my curriculum on the Pulps.

1 comment:

Keith said...

In my mind, it's not a story if something doesn't happen. Save the mental lint picking for memoir.