Why PULP? Why PULPable?

25 Oct

pulp (n.) […]
1. A soft, moist, shapeless mass of matter.

pulp (n.)
7. A publication, such as a magazine or book, containing lurid subject matter.

PULPable has written elsewhere about the original Pulp magazines and paperbacks, and about the world that gave birth to them. But why, I hear you cry, is pulp still relevant? How does it fit into daily life, and why on Earth should you read this humble blog?

These are good questions, so hold on to your fedoras.

More important than the Pulps themselves is their legacy, a legacy of 3D movies and wizarding academies, of Dragon Tattoos and vampire novels. Whether you bought a romance paperback for 25 cents, or subscribed to Black Mask magazine to read about PIs and femmes fatales, you did so because Pulps offered the comfort of familiar, escapist entertainment. And they achieved this by being generic. Put succinctly, the Pulps gave birth to genre fiction and genre film.

At their worst, detective fiction, science fiction, romance, fantasy or westerns were a “soft, moist, shapeless mass of matter” both figurativelyand literally: lacking focus or depth, they were lowest common denominator fun packaged in affordable, mass market form. But their popularity set the bar for the burgeoning entertainment industries, who recognised that, if you wanted it to be successful, it had to be generic.

For better or worse, this is still used a yardstick in the entertainment industries. Of the current top 5 hardcover and paperback books, there are arguably only a couple of titles that are not genre fiction, and half of the top ten are crime fiction. The highest grossing movies of this year tend toward fantasy, and the highest grossing movie of all time – Avatar – is a distinctly ‘soft, moist, shapeless’ heap of science fiction. But literary fiction or film doesn’t sell. To be successful, a movie or novel needs a hook, and more often than not that hook is genre.

So the Pulps gave birth to popular entertainment, and thus to pop culture. A catch-all term for a collection of modern, mass media myths and symbols – TV characters, artworks, and commercial logos, of movie quotes, video game franchises, and theme tunes – pop culture has become a short-hand for communicating about ourselves. One reference to a pop culture phenomenon immediately connects you to someone else, sets a common frame of reference, all thanks to pulp.

Why should you read PULPable? Well, because we run the gamut, from the original Pulps to politics, from art to comic books (sometimes in the same post), and from pop music to Shakespeare. If you’re new to pulp, why not check out some of our greatest hits:

And stay tuned for features on some original Pulp paperbacks, coming up later this week.

DLR

The legacy of pulp is difficult to escape: movie franchises breath new and popular life into vampires and wizards, 3D glasses return to cinemas, and bestseller lists swarm with Hornets’ Nests and Dragon Tattoos.
Advertisements

2 Responses to “Why PULP? Why PULPable?”

  1. jljones October 26, 2010 at 10:29 am #

    So glad it’s back! Can’t wait to read more…

  2. DLR October 26, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

    Thanks! And all in glorious, and primary, colour.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: