PULP Peril: Choose Your Own Adventure & Save the Day!

19 Jul

Welcome to the beginning of the first paragraph of the latest PULPable post. You decide to:

1. Continue reading: Then go to the second paragraph.
2. Stop reading: Then go back to the beginning of the first paragraph.
3. Scan the post without really reading it: Then go to the last paragraph.

If you’ve made it this far, then congratulations. It’s most likely, if you did choose option 1, that you grew up in the 1970s or ’80s, at the height of the Choose Your Own Adventure books’ popularity. Either that, or you are a loyal reader (and you shall be rewarded.)

Though the original CYOA series was conceived in the late 1960s by Edward Packard, the stories

Prisoner of the Ant People

owe as much to pulp adventure tales, comic books and schlock movies as to Packard’s unique format for entertaining his kids. The story in any given book is mainly there to provide a backdrop for the readers’ own choices and actions, and as such, genre fiction was the author’s friend. Taking detective noir, science fiction and westerns, pirates, historical fiction and fantastic quests, each writer could play out stock tales whilst still allowing the reader exciting choices at the end of each chapter or page.

The greatest advocate for the series after Edward Packard vacated the author’s chair was RA Montgomery. Though Montgomery saw the series primarily as an educational tool, his books reveled in pulp silliness. The blurb for Prisoner of the Ant People, a sci-fi CYOA with a B-movie title, tells us in the customary second person:

You and your Martian friend Flppto are members of the Zondo Quest Group II. Your group’s mission is to combat the Evil Power Master, who is slowly but surely working to gain control over the entire Universe. Your group battles on tirelessly and often succeeds in stopping the Evil Power Master’s plans. Today, though, most of your team members turned up missing. Have they fallen into the clutches of the Ant People, who are some of the Power Master’s most faithful minions?

Whether or not you defeated the Bad Guy, he was to return in a sequel the following year, a CYOA book with an equally brilliant title: War with the Evil Power Master.

War With the Evil Power Master

Over the years, the number of possible endings that readers were given declined, and the stories became increasingly linear. Whether Packard’s concept had created a more decisive generation or not, it had, at the very least, kept their imaginations fertile by populating it with pulp.

Since the early 1970s, when the Choose Your Own Adventure concept first took off,  popular entertainment was about to tip over into total pulp: from Star Trek to the Star Wars franchise, from spaghetti westerns to detective dramas, all the way up to the Harry Potter series, pop culture has kept pulp genres at the forefront of kids’ minds. It’s no wonder, then, that CYOA titles such as The Phantom Submarine, Secret of the Pyramids and Volcano! have survived, that they have been reissued, and that some now even appear on the Amazon Kindle.

For those of you who chose option 3, welcome to the last paragraph. You’ve reached the end of this particular Choose Your Own PULPable Post, and have missed all the excitement of aliens, ninjas, mummies, phantoms and heroes. All that’s left is for you to go to PULPable’s sister site, [untitled], home to “Ray Delaney & the Cape Cod [noun]“, a detective noir Choose Your Own Adventure. Do you:

1. Click through to [untitled]
2. Go back to PULPable‘s homepage
3. Save the day, and become a hero.

DLR, 7.19.10

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2 Responses to “PULP Peril: Choose Your Own Adventure & Save the Day!”

  1. Darby O'Shea July 19, 2010 at 5:09 pm #

    My favorite was The Cave of Time (dun dun dunh…)

  2. J P Barnett July 19, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

    I vividly remember the day when my Primary School teacher first brought a collection of these books to our school library. (I lived in a country school where there were only about 20 students.)

    She promptly read to us, book 5: The Mystery of Chimney Rock and we all voted on what decisions to make, as they came along.

    I remember that our charcter died by being buried under a pile of rubble (or something) after swinging a wine bottle at some unknown figure in the dark (it turned out to be the character’s cousin).

    I have been a fan of gamebooks ever since, particularly well done ones. Chimney Rock I would classify as one of the well done ones.

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