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What is New Pulp – part 2!!

I just received a very nice note from Van Allen Plexico, who, in addition to having a freakin’ awesome name, writes some of my favorite superhero prose. Check out “The Sentinels” from White Rocket Books for only $2.99!

In his note, VAP tells me the New Pulp guys actually publish a wide variety of genres and that it is too expensive for them to drop their pricing as POD or low-print run publishers. He says a bit more, but goes in to some specific references I don’t want to reprint here without his permission. Here is my response to him:

Van: Yay…this is actually the point I wanted you to get to (I like it when a reader gets to the point on their own because, hopefully, the answer responds better if they figure it out on their own). If genre is now taken out of the equation: the new pulp guys are publishing tons of genres, doesn’t that mean genre isn’t a factor of pulp? In which case, what was the point of pulp? Wasn’t it cheap pricing? If genre isn’t the defining factor of pulp, and the books aren’t budget priced the way pulp was (or published in the same format), then what is the benefit from attaching the name to a group of what are essentially just standard genre indy publishers?

In business, you adopt a name or tagline or build a brand based on the reaction you get from the public when they hear/see it. Since genre and style aren’t a factor with pulp (as you say in your note), then what reaction is trying to be gained from the attachment of that particular name? What is the business sense behind it?

It seems like you’re taking what I said and applying it to authors when I’m talking about the publishers. Although, I do think the authors are just as guilty of mis-branding the movement. Again, you see it almost daily on those sites I mentioned.

And, I think you’re misunderstanding when I talk about pricing – I think $2.99 is a great price for an indy ebook and $10-$15 is a good price for print (although, for a new/unknown author or series, it’s a bit tough to get unfamiliar readers to try books at those prices, especially online – $9.99 is a better intro price, but that’s an unrelated discussion for now). $24.95 for a print paperback is ridiculous. My point is that if genre isn’t essential to being called new pulp, and the actual format isn’t essential (meaning the cheap pulp paper-printed magazines or even mass market paperbacks of the 70s), then isn’t a low price required? If that is a factor in what pulp was (and it was, don’t kid yourself), then how does a completely standard pricing – one at par with the majority of what is available – equate to “pulp?”

My question for “New Pulp” is: what is the benefit of the attachment of that particular title? If genre and format are not a factor or benefit, then what is the reaction the movement is trying to elicit from potential new readers by using “Pulp” as its name? What are they referencing? Again, since you just said there were a lot of genres being published by the publishers, and we both know there wasn’t a set style (Lovecraft was as different from Lester Dent as they both were from Raymond Chandler or Philip K Dick or Isaac Asimov) and the pulps are more than just knock-offs of Doc Savage, then: what is the point of the name and what is it the authors and publishers are gaining from the association, really?

This is an especially important question if you’re saying the current “New Pulpers” are unable to price cheaply – so we have no genre specifications, no format or medium requirements, and no pricing ones. How then is it pulp?

-M

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Mat Nastos
TV, Film, comic book, fantasy & steampunk writer/director, known best for bad horror movies about giant scorpions, killer pigs & dinosaurs in the sewers. You can find his work on Smashwords or at his Amazon Author Page.

11 Responses

  1. Barry Reese says:

    We use this definition: PULP IS…
    …fast-paced, plot-oriented storytelling of a linear nature with clearly defined, larger than life protagonists and antagonists, creative descriptions, clever use of turns of phrase and other aspects of writing that add to the intensity and pacing of the story.

  2. Mat Nastos says:

    Great definition. Do you agree that that definition fit only a small portion of what was published in the original pulps?

    Rhetorical question.

    I like the definition. Do you think the current branding of the “New Pulp” movement is clear and consistent enough in getting that across? I ask because I completely missed it. I don’t care what branding is chosen (and have no say), but I would like to see it better defined and more easily consumable for audiences.

    Right now I think it’s a bit muddied. Good definition…now go brand it properly!

  3. Mat Nastos says:

    Also, don’t worry about arguing it – don’t tell people “this definition applies to the original pulps.” It doesn’t. This is YOUR branding and make sure that is clear. All direct references like that (or even trying to define what the original pulps were) will get you into worthless arguments.

    Just say, “this is our branding.” At the most say “we’re taking these aspects from portions of the original pulps.” But never try to define what the originals were because you’ll just get into fights.

    Define yourself, your brand and your product. Everything else is outside the scope of what you should be doing.

  4. Reggie Van Draught says:

    Hi Mat,

    First let me say your articles regarding the so called “new pulp” movement are the best I have yet read regarding some of the problems with the whole idea.

    I guess I have become somewhat notorious in the new pulp community regarding various comments I have made in the past, possibly including the All Pulp site dropping their comment section entirely after I questioned a statement made regarding their ubiquitous “pulp is” meme, which I see Mr. Reese has used here as well, as “the definition most use” of pulp.

    If the new pulpeteers want to use said definition for their own work and their own brand that’s great, but that definition can certainly not be used to define classic “pulp”, which by it’s very nature is definable as a medium, not a genre. I have never seen their definition used by anyone in the pulp community, fandom, or pulp authors until now.

    Also, recently it appears that “new pulp” has decided to co-opt other forms of classic entertainment as well which I find somewhat questionable. For example longtime Old Time Radio suppliers Radio Archives has become a bit of a mouthpiece for “new pulp” as of late, using the “pulp is” meme in their newsletters as a description for adventure radio shows, which they call “pulp radio” (an oxymoron if I ever heard one), as well as pushing the various “new pulp” publications along side the reprints of the classics in their new “pulp book store”.

    I’ve been a fan of pulp fiction for some 40 years. By this I mean fiction that actually appeared in the pulp mags of yore. While many, if not most, of the “new pulp” literature can claim it is indeed influenced by the classics, some of it just leaves me scratching my head.

    For example, you mentioned your correspondence with Van Allen Plexico who writes a series called “The Sentinels”. This series appears to be straightforward superhero/sci fi based prose novels. How this can be construed as “pulp” is simply beyond me. How this is different then your average X-Men prose novel I just can’t understand, or would that be “new pulp” as well? If that’s the case is the latest X-Men movie also pulp?

    Sometimes it seems that “new pulp” considers everything pulp, including such examples from some of their websites as the old 1970’s Buck Rogers TV show or the current Black Panther: Man Without Fear comic series from Marvel. Huh? Pulp? What now?

    As having read of adventurous heroes like Doc Savage, The Shadow, and The Spider, I have to admit I was quite excited by the appearance of the earliest examples of “new pulp” (before it was even called that) by POD publishers like Wildcat Books and Airship 27. They were fun pastiches but let’s face it, not the real stuff.

    In the past few months I’ve become slightly more jaded towards the whole “movement” as several key points kept popping up again and again in their regards…several of which you mentioned.

    Much of it is overpriced due to the nature of POD, understandable, but not pulp.

    Amateurish cover art easier compared to indy BW comics of the 1980’s then the gorgeous painted cover art of the original pulps.

    Editing and formatting often appears slipshod and amateurish.

    Over reliance on public domain characters seemingly for perceived name value only.

    Over reliance on straight up superheroes as pulp protagonists

    A general lack of knowledge on the background and history of pulp heroes, indeed, several of the authors often state they had never heard of their character until they read about them in another “new pulp” volume.

    Constant co-opting of other media and creators as aspects of new pulp. For example, I have seen Ed Brubaker called a “fellow new pulp” author. Really? Does he know that?

    I could probably go on, but you get the picture.

    Phew…all that said now, let me make it clear, I have no animosity at all towards “new pulp” and wish them success.

    Unfortunately as a long standing fan of “old pulp” (and OTR, old movies, old comics, and adventure fiction in general) I see the attempts at spreading their brand onto and absorbing through osmosis stuff that was around a long time before “new pulp” as unnecessary and annoying. Good fiction just doesn’t need to be lumped under some kind of all encompassing definition.

    I think your comment “Define yourself, your brand and your product. Everything else is outside the scope of what you should be doing.” is some of the damned finest commentary I have read in some time!

    Thanks!

  5. Mat Nastos says:

    Reggie:

    Thanks for the comment. In regards to Van’s “Sentinels.” I don’t think they are part of “New Pulp,” I just mentioned them because I really enjoy his work and because he is (I believe) one of the “New Pulp” authors with some of his other work. I didn’t mean to imply that “Sentinels” were New Pulp…they’re just great superhero prose and I am an active, buying fan of his work!

    I liked the definition for “New Pulp,” it was clear and fairly easy to understand (if a bit long). I don’t think it is a definition of “The Pulps.” In my head, if I were a New Pulp guy, I’d be actively trying to not compare my work to “the Pulps” and would instead keep defining and redefining what I was doing in “New Pulp.” They are two different things and I don’t think that’s bad.

    Thanks again!

  6. Mat Nastos says:

    Oh, and for me, the definition of “pulp” would be cheaply produced, Pop prose entertainment. I’d add “published from the late 1800s through the mid 19th century,” but I do think it could be expanded to today if the formats were similar. Although, in that case, I’d call a new, cheap magazine printed, untrimmed and printed on crappy paper to be “Pulp-Like” in nature and not an actual pulp.

    But I’m pretty anal and am open to looser interpretations. I also recognize that some people are referring to small subsets of prose when they say something has a “pulp” feel. It’s similar to people who say something has a “comic book feel” and, in my opinion, limits what could actually be found in the medium.

    -M

  7. Barry Reese says:

    There was a glitch with the comments section at All Pulp, Reggie. It’s since been fixed and all comments are showing up again.

    I don’t care about branding, really. I write my stuff, which I personally consider pulp-inspired because that’s what inspired me to write it. When I speak to “civilian” crowds (non pulp), I generally describe myself as a writer of adventure fiction. The New Pulp “brand” was simply a way for fans of New Pulp to recognize other books and series that might also appeal to them. So if you read Dillon by Derrick Ferguson and then see the Nee Pulp logo on Lazarus Gray, you’ll know it is also pulp inspired and you might enjoy it.

    • Mat Nastos says:

      That’s what branding is all about. Even when you are saying you’re a “writer of adventure fiction,” you’re branding yourself! Branding is a wonderful, magical thing that makes flowers bloom and babies smile. 🙂

      I have no clue what all this “comments” talk is, so I’ll stay out of it.

  8. Just a point to clarify on Reggie’s statement-All Pulp’s comment section is up and live and has been since his comment was made. I just approved comments on it this morning.

    http://allpulp.blogspot.com/p/forum.html

    And Reggie’s comments are still there as well.

  9. As a reader of vintage pulp, I find that the new stuff is trying only to have the adventure feel of some pulp. But not everything was adventure, just a lot of the popular pulp. Maybe it would be better to be called New Adventure or New Action?

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