Novel Writing and Pulp

ki-gor 3Hocking sent me a link to a site the other day that might be of interest to a lot of my regular visitors — although as I live in a cave, it may be that you’ve already found it yourself. Anyway, PulpRev had an interesting article on writing a novel, quickly, and it had a lot of salient points, most of which I practice myself.

I’ve poked around the rest of the site some and found it of interest. Certainly I’m in sympathy with a lot of their philosophy, as anyone who’s been reading my posts about my lack of pleasure with padded modern books, or my increasing interest in hardboiled detective and western novels. It’s always nice to find like minded scribes gathering ’round the camp fire, as Adventure fans know.

I love that they’re excited about the wonders of pulp. I’m a little confused by their “starthere” list in that it offers up Robert E. Howard AND E.E. Doc Smith, Burroughs AND Shadow creator Gibson (AKA Grant) without caveats. Sure, Smith and Grant were important, but you want to be careful before you use either of them as a model. Maybe they’re thinking more about a writer’s approach to the craft of writing rather than actual style. While I devoured some Smith books as a kid, he was pretty wooden and actually interfered with my own style development.

While I always thought The Shadow cool in concept, I usually found that The Shadow stories didn’t live up to the promise (I hear from people in the know that The Spider can really deliver what The Shadow promises).

Pulp as thrilling as it seems like it ought to be is actually rare, which is one of the reason the good Ki-Gor stories really ought to be more celebrated.

And of course, no list of “pulps that ought to be read” should leave off Harold Lamb. Just sayin’.


8 Comments on “Novel Writing and Pulp

  1. Of course availability affects what you recommending ’cause there’s not much point in recommending someone that your recommendee will never find. Burroughs, Gibson, and Howard can be found in any decent sized bookstore. Lamb was hard to find (even for those who knew to look) until some guy named Jones started bringing out those wonderful trade paperback collections. Mundy hasn’t much better availability, and Bedford Jones is only now coming out from the stacks of molding pulp paper.

    • True on availability. What’s been your take on Bedford Jones? I’ve read several now and I’ve yet to find one that really set me on fire like a good Lamb story. Or a good Ki-Gor, for that matter. Although many of the latter have yet to be collected, volume 3 has a couple of really strong ones.

      Anyway, if you can suggest the starting point on Bedford Jones I’m all ears. I still have more lying around, but given my three strikes (sometimes fewer, to be honest) policy on writers, He’s slipped pretty low on my TBR list.

  2. Try D’Artagnan HBJ’s addition to Dumas’ Musketeer cycle. I had to keep reminding myself that no this is not canon. I’ll admit to being lukewarm on some of his other stuff, but I would rate what I have read above anything by Max Brand that I have read. Both were wildly popular and prolific back in their day. Somehow, that day seems to have past for them more than for Lamb or Mundy.

    • Some writers just don’t age as well, maybe because of pacing or the social mores so crucial to their characters. Lamb holds up pretty well owing in part to his cinematic pacing (ahead of many of his contemporaries) and historical mastery of a subject without burying the reader in it, or showing off with it.

      Thanks for the rec on the Bedford Jones title. I’ll have to snag it from Altus because, naturally, that’s not one I own.

      I haven’t been super impressed with Max Brand yet. Maybe I tried starting with the wrong story, though.

  3. After poking around that site some, I’ve come to the conclusion that their “movement” is a reactionary one focused less on writing good fiction and more on writing fiction intended to annoy “libs” and “social justice warriors”. And actually, that’s not so much a conclusion I’ve drawn as it is a restatement of their own words.

    • I wish that some of the loudest voices weren’t so determined to be exclusionary, because I LIKE having more adventure in my fiction. I just don’t feel like blaming anyone else for it. It shouldn’t be about the politics, but about the STORY.

      • I would love more adventure as well. I’m rewatching Game of Thrones from the beginning, and as I go along I can’t help but feel the whole thing would have been better if it were about just one character. And not even one of the main characters currently in the story, but the trials and tribulations of some mercenary having adventures while dodging the fallout of the world crumbling around him.

        I think a new S&S should be about the feel of the *genre* and not necessarily the feel of the old authors. Plenty of good Cthulhu mythos fiction has been written since HPL without his particular biases and hangups. I see no reason why the same can’t be done for S&S.

        • Yes, definitely the feel of the genre. I certainly don’t advocate trying to sound like the older authors, some of whom had very distinctive style. I can recall when reading slush for Black Gate I could ALWAYS tell if someone had been reading Lovecraft and was trying to imitate him, because they somehow always managed to echo the worst aspects of his style. Writers should take inspiration from the subjects and genre but find their own voice. (And no one can pull off Robert E. Howard’s voice. I’ve seen some really talented people try.)

Leave a Reply to Howard Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.