Monday, July 19, 2010

Just Plain Fun

As anyone who is interested in the 1930s through 1950s knows, pulp magazines featuring dastardly villains, courageous heroes, and damsels in distress were very popular. There was Adventure Magazine, Wild West Weekly, Popular Love, Detective Fiction, and many, many others (for a brief overview of pulp fiction, visit this link).

Laurie Powers, one of my writing acquaintances, discovered her grandfather was a pulp fiction writer during the 1920s and 1930s. He mostly wrote westerns and published them in Wild West Weekly. Laurie even finished her grandfather's autobiography and published it. Called Pulp Writer: Twenty Years in the American Grub Street, it's a fascinating account of her grandfather's life as a pulp fiction writer. Her website jumpstarted my interest in this fiction powerhouse.

In researching pulp fiction magazines for my own amusement, I've been fortunate enough to snag a couple vintage magazines in antique stores. Browsing through them is an absolute treat, and makes me mourn the days when these were readily available.

What happened to our fascination with this type of short fiction? This wasn't literary fiction, but rather genre - sci-fi, western, detective, adventure, and just about anything else you could think of. Did the novel become more popular? Perhaps. (I'm sure there's an essay on this floating around there somewhere, but that's not the point of this post, so...I'll skip the literary treatise for now).

Short fiction and even serializations of novels were also prevalent in popular magazines of the era, as well. I have several copies of Ladies Home Journal that are stuffed full of short stories. I just love reading them.

All this got me to thinking: wouldn't it be swell to have a monthly print magazine devoted to these types of stories? As the title of this post suggests, I think it would be just plain fun!

Of course, such an endeavor would involve a lot of start-up costs, none of which I have, but I like to dream about it sometimes. I would love to be the editor of such an endeavor and have the short stories focus solely on that time period. And of course, we'd have to include that amazing pulp artwork (some of which was pretty darn racy). I've thought of doing a sort of e-zine, but my heart is pretty much set on a print magazine. So maybe someday, when I'm independently wealthy, I'll launch that glossy magazine!

It's another aspect of the Golden Era that I love and wish I could resurrect. Maybe someday...


  1. Oh, I love finding old magazines. The category novels, excluding romance, of yesteryear have disappeared. I think people would love short westerns, detective stories, and such again. Let's face it, we don't always have the time or energy to invest in long novels! Nice post!

  2. This reminds me of the Hardy boys mysteries I grew up on. I tried getting my boys to read them but the writing seemed archaic to them lol!

  3. I remember when Redbook Magazine used to run a monthly fiction story back in the day. I always enjoyed reading those stories. Now I fear they've gone the way of Pulp Fiction :(

  4. I especially love the pictures that went with these stories, so vivid and action-packed.

  5. For future reference, this guy would be a good bet for the covers and inside illustrations!
    - Sophia.

  6. I love the covers too. So striking and full of life. Thanks for pointing me toward that site.

  7. I loved the stories in the back of the magazines--aren't they still there? I haven't had one in so long! Was just thinking about you last night and that I haven't been over here in awhile to see how you are doing:)) Good to see all's well!

  8. I love pulp magazines! I researched them quite a bit for my 2nd novel and also for my website, and I ended up buying quite a few pulp romance mags from 1937-45. eBay almost always has a fabulous selection of pulp mags to browse through. Several of mine came from a collection that was found in an elderly woman's attic after her death; she'd kept hundreds of them, and her family sold them in lots.

    In my research, I read that pulp mags died when TV became popular. It's really too bad--I love them. I think your idea is tops!

  9. Melissa, I'm so sorry I didn't see this post until now! thank you for the mention! I have to say that at first I wasn't sure what to make of my grandfather's career as a pulp fiction writer, but the more I get involved in learning about the rich history and the collection of the magazines now, the more I love it. As for your idea of a print magazine, I would LOVE to be part of that - someday when the start up costs are manageable, let's talk! (If you'd ever want to go digital, the start up costs would be a LOT less. But then that's a leap into another world...) Anybody that's interested in pulp fiction should go over to my blog - there are lots of links to websites for resources, by the way.

  10. It is sad that as more and more of our culture moves to digital format we lose the look, touch and feel of an actual magazine, book or record.
    I routinely visit some local antique shops here in Atlanta to pick up old copies of LIFE Magazine for the WWII articles, photos and ads. These old periodicals are worth their weight in gold. The ads alone were fantastic.

    - Scott Lyons


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