What is Pulp?
A spontaneous article for the main website Man’s Rage Magazine -by resident writer, Maxx Feral
That’s a good question.  What is Pulp? A more clinical answer is cheap wood paper, or rather a derogatory name for the stories often printed on it.  A grade below newsprint, a grade above toilet paper.  Cheap stories for cheap entertainment, often regarding stuff from the 30s-50s.  Sci fi, detective, horror.  Grotesquely racist and non-PC by today’s standards. A good definition, but also very limiting.  I have no time now to do a detailed essay as if its some kind of college paper.  This has also been done too many times in the past.  And an elaborate, exhaustive, scholarly approach misses the point. An ancient mystic (and nutcase/fool) once was accused of heresy by the King’s sycophants who feared his legendary wisdom would get him the king’s ear and that he’d end their cushy positions.  Thus they twisted the public’s praise of him that he did not seek, and turned it into a silly but life threatening charge and he was brought before the king as a heretic and conspirator.
He got out of the situation by asking them to answer “What is bread?”  They balked at so simple a question, but it amused the king who wasn’t in the mood to behead somebody that day so he commanded them to answer the man.  The first one started with a clinical answer, then the next one a creative answer, then a religious answer, then an abstract answer.  The king’s official “Wise Men” were all just elaborate peacocks trying to justify their positions with a pretense of wisdom and their fear of the crazy holy man was fear for their own tenuous positions and that of each others possible mechanations against each other vying for their own position or preservation.  Thus they kept trying harder and harder with each one trying to out-do the other should the king find need to clear house or add a position at the cost of another.  Truly it must have been entertaining all the different ways one could look at bread, something in modern times we often take for granted yet has shaped civilization. He listened to them as did the king, who asked, “They have answered you, is this satisfactory?” And the wise man replied “You majesty, how can you have these men your advisors when they can not agree on so simple and so vital a substance as bread, yet are unanimous that I am a Heretic?” He avoided being beheaded. There is no further mention of the advisers. The best answer I can give about Pulp is one I credit another source – “Thrilling Tales” that there really is no such thing as the “Pulp” genre – just how we view in the present tales of another era, the previous one being the “Penny Dreadful” of the 1850s to the 1900s. Yet, at the same time I do argue there is a spirit to the “Pulps” that also was there with the “Penny Dreadful” and even tales back in time.  Essentially these were the real literature of everyday people.  A true mass culture, but tales that everyday people in their real life related to, even the fantastic ones of dragons, highwaymen, eldritch horrors, adventures on other worlds with sword and ray-gun.  Long ago and far away but also close to the heart. The Pulps of the 30s onwards were shaped by the depression, both as a means of escape but also the man’s will to survive, to struggle, to find prosperity and justice even in unfair times.  Science promised a future where intellect mattered more than class, the world was still not 100% explored so there were still lost cities, hidden islands…  In
many ways lots of the Penny Dreadful era was similar, all the “Highwayman” stories so popular, the gothic novels where decadent nobility destroyed themselves and the ‘west’ was still open. Now that’s a big generalization, again I’m not writing a book or doing a college essay here. But what I have set out to do is revive the Pulps…  To me it’s not a dead era, not an idealized past, but rather a ‘spirit’ of the common man that ebbs and flows and expresses itself through popular stories when the writers and publishers have freedom. And it is in no way looking at the past in any rosy eye goggles.  Plenty sucked back then.  There also wasn’t as much “Peace and Love” in the 1960s as you heard about, what makes that time appealing is that people struggled for it.  Likewise now we have the return of a
A “Super Hero” crossover a century before  modern comics...  This is so ridiculous and at the same time awesome, I simply will HAVE to put these characters in one of my stories some day....  -resident writer Maxx Feral-        ---Click on image for full view----
depression and a new century with early optimism turned to fear and oppression and uncertainty. However, even with the Internet, our “Public Media” is increasingly controlled by fewer and fewer companies.  Most of these have used their monopolized markets to literally buy up and close down lots of smaller interest stuff, and to deny retail and distribution outlets to others.  Just look at the shrinking magazine rack, mass sections on “Crafting” and other nonsense I see them cut the covers off of and send to the trash, only a handful of the fantasy/scifi stuff we like, and even the last major one “Realms of Fantasy” closed for good a few years ago. But then again, I devoured like a starving shark who found a shipwreck that dumped thousands of French Poodles in the ocean each and every issue of Frank Frazetta’s Fantasy illustrated.  Of every issue of “Tales of Sword and Sorcery”, “Dark Realms”, “Tiki
Magazine” (now online only sadly) and about any other.  When I was in tie-dyed diapers they bought out the publishers that produced the last “Men’s Adventure” magazines and pulled them overnight, as they did lots of 70s/60s paperback publishers, forcing PC vomit on the public and jabbing in the eye of the main readership, white males. That’s the reason for Monopoly laws, people, when a company gets too big for its britches it manipulates the market by driving prices high and limiting choice. These are the same ones that in the day of the Penny Dreadfuls tried to have them banned.  They preferred to print very expensive books that only the rich could afford.  Were it not for constant fear of rebellion and regular riots the Penny Dreadfuls would have indeed been banned, cheap presses on cheap paper, selling to people who pooled their money for a whole penny to have them.  But this “Free Market” supported by the “Common Man” took off.  One enterprising individual actually tried to make his own “Penny Dreadful” but full of good stories and cheaper.  Later, after he was risking his shirt if not to make a profit, especially with the lower price, he had to include most of the same “Penny Dreadful” content, essentially “Killing the penny dreadful by making the Ha’Penny Dreadfuller” (1) Later the “Elites” made their own pulps, the “Slicks” so to speak.  High quality stories, slick paper hence the name, high-brow writing, and most common men if they could afford it found little to relate to the stories…  Technically Burrough’s “Barsoom” and “Tarzan” stories were in this section, yet well there needs to be an exception to every rule.  But while the slicks were supposedly the ‘top’ again lower end publishers hammered out tons of cheaper publication on ta dah “Pulp” paper with usual cover illustrations and lots of lurid stories.  Again these got so popular the “Slicks” scaled back or even tried to emulate them… In World War 2 they used targeted “Paper Scarcity” to try to wipe these off the map.  Largely they succeded for the pulps did die down for a time.  Only to be replaced by
“Men’s Adventure” magazines! Changing times and media have reduced print publication and the popular fictions therein.  However, the recent drop of the late 70s-80s was purely – in my opinion, though I’m researching this – the deliberate conspiracy of “Controllers” trying to shape the public by  controlling media. I got into this genre more by accident, as a wee laddie I stretched my allowance by buying books at the used bookstore and reading in the library.  The stuff of the past was “New to me”.  I really lucked out on collectables which I read to pieces.  The Lancer Conan books, the last gasps of Creepy magazine, the “Gernsback” and “Astounding” era adventures, Lin Carter’s great contributions to keeping Lovecraft, Dunsany, Clark Ashton Smith from total obscurity.  Gor!  Gor by the Bucketload!!!
Then I “Grew up” and wanted to buy “new” stuff. Imagine you open a book and a hand with a pie leaps out and smacks you in the face… Overnight I was exposed to the publishing takeover and “Night of the Long Knives” style purge of everything I’d ever read, liked.  They essentially used the “Non-PC” aspect of the old school to purge all of it.  Oh, Black people were a bit sick of being depicted as filed teeth African Cannibals when they were depicted at all, so no more of those movies.  Orientals were plain sick of that “Reverse R/L and clock their eyes 45 degrees and they all have a bright yellow sickly color” thing.  Women, well they wanted to be ‘more equal’.  Gays were starting to come out of the closet, so whine whine whine about being called effeminate and child molesters.  Every little “Minority” was brought forth to attack past use and abuse of stereotypes, and the genre in general.  Nevermind that the Pulp writers were actually “Forward thinking” for their times for the most part...  Again no time for a book or full essay, but lets look at one of the foundationals, “Buck Rogers” who came from “Armageddon 2419 A.D.” and “Airlords of the Han”. (2)  They made a fun TV show in the 70s but aside from a few names it was totally different.  Mainly in that it was an expansion of the plot of Jack London’s “The Unparalled Invasion” (3) of some monolithic “Oriental” society gaining technological superiority and expanding their empire, wiping out like animals westerners.  However, for that racist/xenophobic background, it also had women playing a much more equal role with men.  Forgive the spoiler but there’s a scene where Buck makes his new wife Wilma stay at home because he’s going on a suicide mission, then she hides on the aircraft (with help of the rest of the gang) and loudly tells him that only because she knew he came from centuries ago she didn’t SHOOT him for trying that, that they had to share the danger together if their relationship meant anything!  Also the writer was approached by lots of “Orientals” over the stereotyping and towards the  end of the story made it clear it was some kind of “Aliens landed in China, took it over, hybridized with them, in short the Han weren’t meant to be real life Chinamen, ok?” thing so he was clearly not making a racist statement at a time he could have gotten away with it. But for all the hullabaloo about changing times, about the need for a progressive “Global Village” what they did was turn “Popular Fiction” into some kind of PC soapbox that jabbed the EYE of the “White Male” seemingly now the ONLY race it was OK to be prejudiced against, counter prejudice is now OK only as long as its on “Whitey”?  The women, the non-whites, the social deviants didn’t buy these publications in any number to affect sales in a good way.  And through all the eye jabbing, the white men did less and less, moving to movies and video games, even comic books.  Then the publishers scaled back but again having a “Pulpy” style was the kiss of death to any writer, they actually sued each other for defamation over that accusation or so I heard, and increasingly the “Slicks” had won. And it was just a propaganda LIE, and part of a sinister social control scheme far worse than just being a nanny for what the public is allowed to read.  Our “Global Village” was a “Global Sweatshop”, the social progression was a bleeding of money that impoverished many and enriched a few.  Families were destroyed by anti-Male “Divorce” laws passed over a cartoony image of a 50s male.  Illegals were imported in a “Human Rights” lie, now your college isn’t worth half what a high school diploma was decades ago.  And the media ignores it, they gradually stopped doing real hard hitting journalism and moved to fluff, shock doctrine, outrage, but no deep thought, no arguments for real solutions, just as David Icke said “Problem, Reaction, Solution” and this cartoony LIE of “Left and Right” that perfectly cancels each other out so nothing is done to change or progress. The reason I’ve decided to help found this venture and to devote so much of my time to this type of fiction, “Pulp” genres of adventure, fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, weird menace, etc. is that both I love the genre and I feel the need for it, for a public voice is stronger than ever.  We have still a public forum, an internet, though over a decade or so it’ll slowly be turned into “TV 2.0” without drastic action from the public.  But we need more direct independent voices that do NOT sell out (4) and argue both for social progress that transcends this “left/Right” lie garbage and just plain has stories for FUN not some “See that S. Car go!” elite appeal. My stories will be horribly, HORRIBLY non-PC.  This is the slap in the face, the poke in the eye, that “Hit me with your best shot!” from the “Fight Club” movie… But they won’t necessarily be “Racist”…  Oh, I’ll be an equal opportunity offender.  Only 3 races I’ll avoid offending, Native Americans, Indians (Real Indians, from India) and Pacific Islanders.  The first is personal sentiment, the second due to some personal relationships, and again the second and the latter because if this venture makes the “Big Bucks” I’ll likely need to go somewhere to HIDE.  So no “Rexx Rhyder and the Blood of Kali”, “Rexx Rhyder and the Tiki of BLOOD!”, sorry, but plenty in Egypt, Asia then around the world to offend!  I’ll even put in jokes about my own race, mainly Irish though I gots a bigger bone to pick on the Britons… The first one, “Death on the M’Kunga River” was done in a fit of pure rage over not being able to find the collection of “African Explorer” movies I saw as a laddie.  I’m not that old, but when I was very young my small town had this decaying but majestic movie theatre that was always on a shoestring and played all sorts of cheap matinee movies when video rental still hadn’t gotten in swing.  There’s an animated show “RugRats” where the babies love “Reptar” meaning Godzilla, I relate to that.  But also I relate to the “African Explorer” movie due to my unique experience…  I saw tons of movies made in the 30s to 50s that had the “Great white hunter” go exploring for treasure or to claim land for the crown and go into “Darkest Africa” where the natives were restless…and hungry!  The “Blonde by the Window” trope is not from the “Zombie Movie” rather it is from these movies.  I had a flood of them on weekends to get me out of the house but keep me out of trouble.  I didn’t know at the time the movie theatre got them so cheaply because groups like the “Panthers” were discouraging them –hopefully by polite discussion- from showing them.  Again the “Pulp” spirit applies, “Blaxploitation” movies were really hot with lots of black people, but the “Civil Rights” elite hated them and got them stopped for the most part. But there’s more to my stories than just the surface. I’m of a “Bardic” tradition, and well I’ll let them speak for themselves. It was very fun to write “Death on the M’Kunga River”.  Originally I had only done that because my tribute to Robert E Howard coming for Man’s Rage #2 I wanted to flesh out more for a much larger story cycle.  But I remembered being a kid again watching all those “African Explorer” movies. And I remember the outrage of not being able to find them! I mean, I can get digitally for a few dollars about EVERY “Betty Page” publication from the same time.  Lots of the other pulps are out of copyright or reprinted.  But its like those African Explorer movies disappeared overnight.  It’s called a “lost film” and it’s an outrage that something they literally spent millions on the film company lets the main
reels die or loses them and then the theatres that cycle the rental reels gradually destroy or throw them away.  Due to social pressure in the 60s/70s these got pushed to “Z markets” like my town, then likely put in the trash when the owner company said “We are discontinuing that film, feel free to destroy the reel”. Now, doubtless there will be cries of “Racism!” over the first story.  Yes, I am really Non-PC, in my stories Africa will always be the “Land of the Savage Cannibals”.  But at the same time the Chief Cannibal in the story is inspired by a fatherly Chief figure from a Creepy I read and read and read till my Dad’s new wife “Lost” it on a vacation…  “Our Uthu becomes a MAN, and a MAN shall have what he wants – IF----“  Is that not always a truth, “A Man shall have what he wants, -IF…”?  big lesson it taught me there. Oh, don’t want spoilers for one thing on my story, but for all the Non-PC and awful jokes set in a time where such things were normal there’s one ‘trope’ I didn’t include – a lot of the movies did have a scene where a lone black jumped out to attack them, but his head got caught in the vines and snapped his neck.  He was hanging there, and usually they said something like “That’s a good start…” – and later I learned they usually pose copied classic “Lynching” photos.  That would be something the “Panthers” and other groups would have good reason for concern over, and nothing I included, sorry.  I’m anti-PC, but not racist. My stories will be a wild ride, both a Non-PC retreat from today’s world, but also resounding in hopes and fears many have today.  I’ll work with the editor of this publication on some of the social/modern articles.  And hopefully I’ll do some good
with it and make some $ over it, but have earned it fair and square by public support of my stories I’d not dare submit to some elitist ‘editor’ trying to find the next ‘whatever is a blockbuster’ derivative PC garbage! --Maxx Feral Footnotes 1- Wikipedia source on Penny Dreaful - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penny_dreadful 2- “Armageddon 2419 A.D” and “Airlords of the Han” by Phillip Francis Knowlan - http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/32530 - http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/25438 - free on Project Gutenburg and KindleStore – well worth reading despite their date. 3- “The unparalled Invasion/Strength of the Strong” by Jack London - http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Strength_of_the_Strong/The_Unparalleled_Invasion – whoa boy – if the “Great Wall Hoax” hadn’t already done it this would have sparked worse riots than the Boxer Rebellion.  Much as a recent “Go over there and Kill all the Chinese!” remark by some naughty little boy on TV, it’s amazing how the Chinese, Asia, India still observe our media.  The US officials had to assure they’d never, ever start a Disease warfare program for ANY purpose to avoid an instant close off of harbors and possible future war over that story.  I advise deleting it from your Kindle if you travel through China.  YES they still know about it.  4- Burroughs – not the Tarzan/Mars one – said “Sell yourself out, but sell yourself dear” – I’m uneager to sell out, so my price is HIGH.  Like a private island in the pacific or better yet Indian ocean, a decommissioned but working cargo ship, $100 million dollars (adjust for inflation/currency change from Feb 28, 2014), $20 million in Gold, “Micro Nation” status with treaties that make it difficult for the USA and nearby nations to attack and if I’m single then also I want a dozen or so cute ladies from a human trafficking operation.  If later through personal issues I won’t say here I move to India and between the pulps write other stuff, no I haven’t sold out.  A private island that’s a gambling den, bordello, dog fighting stadium, porn productions, then I’ve sold out to the Reptillians but at least I’ve proved they are real since about nothing else could afford that.  Don’t ye dare say I’ve sold out otherwise! 5- The cut is from the “Resurrection” issue of the original Warren Publishing “Creepy” magazine.  I’m posting this under “Fair Use” guidelines, just a tiny cut from something long, long out of print and don’t dare argue ‘for profit’ since though this site does take ads no way in the world will this cut do anything that takes profit from whoever owns the rights to it now.  Even mentioning it is free advertising for it and if its available online digitally for sale we’ll gladly link it for free out of appreciation.  Furthermore, the story “Yellow Heat” originally in Vampirella 24 is all over the net for the Non-PC luridness and unchallenged.  I have also since replaced my original copy with some others I bought as soon as I could afford it- during the “Comic book boom” that issue was pricey… but then I got several when it reached $12…  I’m actually asking the publisher to buy the rights to reprint this story, since we are doing this on a shoestring this is a ways off, but email angry@mansrage.com for any serious communication on this. If anyone actually owns the property, can prove it, and wants to discuss reprint rights, say for MR#5 or 6 a year or so from now, we LOVE you! (and  I’ll take that small image that only adds value to the property down if you demand per DMCA…per the law even though dubious)  Take note I will investigate any DMCA claims after the fact and if fake I will seek legal redress, and that is something I am capable of doing.
Small Clip from “Yellow Heat” a favourite grade school story of mine, see footnote #5, used under fair use no copyright infringement intended.