Daily Archives: December 18, 2012

Pulp Virtues

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about some of the treasures I had in the form of one-of-a-kind pulp adventure books. In amongst the mad rush of promotions week and holiday activities, I’ve escaped into some of those adventure tales to relax.

Pulp magazines have a pretty bad reputation, and I have to say that it is fairly well deserved. A lot of what they printed is pretty dreadful, and some of what passes for exciting popular entertainment in one era leaves a pretty bad taste in another. Take the story “Death’s Domain” shown in the picture to my left. Wow, was it a cracking good mystery story with all sorts of eerie elements… until the final third, when it became the most astonishing “beat you over the head with ugly race hatred” tale I’ve yet found in my pulp adventure reading. I’m pretty good at looking past stories as a product of their time and still enjoying them, but the depiction of… well, never mind.

My point is that I want to focus on some of the stuff these pulps did right, not what a lot of them did wrong. For instance, I recently read though a minor Argosy tale of the Yukon titled “Mail Boat” by Frank Richardson Pierce. Owing to the way I inherited these stories, and the fact that I do not have an index to Argosy, I am unsure as to when the tale first appeared, but it is by a writer I’d never read, and it is fairly minor.

It is also short, so I kept reading despite it’s somewhat wooden character depictions. I would describe the writing as “workman-like.” Yet, by the end, it got me thinking about writing more than the last several of these pulp tales I’ve read.