Getting Nerdy About Pulp Literature

(Photo courtesy Gordon Dymowski)

(Photo courtesy Gordon Dymowski)

For many nerds, pulp literature may seem a bit antiquated – after all, much of it was published 80 to 100 years ago. However, pulps of all kinds provided imaginative entertainment during a harsh time, provided the raw material for much of our contemporary popular culture….and is consistently being rediscovered by newer fans

Make no mistake – pulp literature can be a gateway drug for nerds of all kinds, leading to a great exploration of our popular literary past.

Pulps come in all shapes, sizes, and genres: from hard boiled detectives to adventurers, from science fiction to horror – if there’s a genre, chances are, there’s a pulp. (And yes, there are romance pulps.) Pulp literature provides a window to our past, both positive and negative. They provide some great entertainment, and yes, there’s even a local con – every April, Windy City Pulp and Paper puts on a show that draws an ever growing crowd that is discovering the thrills that pulp literature can provide.

It’s not just for nostalgia buffs, either – several companies are publishing what is known as “New Pulp”: classic and new pulp characters given life, providing inspiration and entertainment in the 21st century. Airship 27 is one of the vanguards of New Pulp, publishing stories which revive some classic pulp characters, and providing exposure to a new generation. (Note: I co-host the Zone 4 podcast with Airship 27′s Ron Fortier. Please don’t hold that against him.) In addition, Pro Se Productions produces both classic and new pulp characters. One of their most recent books, Black Pulp, focusing on African-American creators and characters, was recently featured on the Huffington Post. Radio Archives, which releases classic Old Time Radio shows, has entered the fray, providing both pulp e-books and audiobooks for purchase.

(Photo courtesy Gordon Dymowski)

(Photo courtesy Gordon Dymowski)

But you’re probably thinking to yourself, But how do I get started into the world of pulps?. One way is to check out some of the public domain material available via Librivox, where you can encounter John Carter, Zorro, and Triplanetary** (an early space opera). In addition, Radio Archives also has a great “sampler” program, where you can check out a free MP3 audiobook of Strange Detective Stories (just use the coupon code AUDIOBOOK when ordering), as well as a free e-book of The Spider: *Prince of the Red Looters (just drop an e-mail to requesting it or download other formats here).

Many of us who call ourselves nerds have an appreciation of all that has come before. Getting involved in pulps is not just fun – it provides insight into our popular culture. There’s never been a better time to get pulpy – enjoy!

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