Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Pulp Fans From Afar

As an editor at the Pulp Magazines Project, one of my primary duties is to read and answer many of the emails and correspondences we receive, and let me assure you, we receive a good deal! Everything from research inquiries, to offers of pulp scans, to simple thanks for putting many of these hitherto-lost treasures online for all to read, and I do my best to answer all to the best of my ability. The measure of appreciation, whether in the form of Facebook “likes,” and Twitter followers, or the aforementioned emails, is truly inspiring, and bodes well for not only the continuance of pulp fandom, but also its growth in the years to come.
As I said, a good number of emails come the PMP’s way, and they range from questions pertaining to a particular series, or author; to appraisals of pulp values; to basic information regarding the medium, from new fans who just happened across the site. Shortly after starting work on the PMP, I received one email in particular which stands out, and has led, on my part, to a greater understanding of both what pulp magazines have meant, and continue to mean, to those who cherish the literature found therein, and just how broad that spectrum of readers truly is.
The letter in question was from a Mr. Jiří Valík, in the Czech Republic, reproduced verbatim here because I believe the spirit of the text would be lost otherwise:

Dear Pulp magazines project,
Im sorry for my simply and insufficient english. I´m 50 years old man, and I was born in east europe as ordinary men without better school. In the chilhood we must learn russian language. We hated it. For many of us, our dream was western world, western stands for life, work, and also western culture, with Marylin Monroe, John Carter, ... Now in autumn of life I have sometime free time, and I spend it in learnin english, as self-learn person.

Your webside is very good aid for it and very inspirational, because recommendered literature as Jack London or Waltter Scott, and similar astonishing novels, has difficult grammar. Thank You for this amazing work, thank you for remmebrance of childhood with dreams full of hopes.
                Very much successes in 2014.          J. Valík

I found this tremendously fascinating, as it had never occurred to me that pulp magazines could be used as a method of instruction in English, in other countries.
 The notion of pulp magazines as a conduit for teaching English has been addressed before; Erin Smith, in her work Hard-Boiled: Working Class Readers and Pulp Magazines (Temple University Press, 2000) examined, among other topics, the ads appearing in Black Mask that promised to teach readers (native, and non-native, alike) how to speak “just plain, every-day, straight-from-the-shoulder, man-to-man English – the kind you and I use every day,” for the purposes of expanding potential social mobility, or employment opportunities. This, as far as immigrants are concerned, is in a similar vein to the many "Americanization" programs common at the turn of the century, geared towards the assimilation of an ever-increasing immigrant population into the American fold. Mr. Valik’s experiences differ in a significant way from that narrative, however – he is not an immigrant, but rather a citizen residing in his homeland, reading the “plain, every-day, man-to-man English” of the pulps as a self-educative measure, one gladly undertaken.

While my curiosity was certainly piqued by Jiří's use of pulps in pursuing a better understanding of the English language, his comments regarding learning Russian in school, and his youthful dreams of Western cultural icons intrigued me further. I emailed back, thanking him for writing and for sharing his interests, and asked him to elaborate further, particularly on how he came across the PMP, and what he enjoyed the most in these scanned texts:

Thank you for your mail Mr. Madison. Very much.

Your site I found  with headworld John Carter + pulp magazine in google.
John Carter, Tarzan and similar heroes in the seventies was publicly burn in our school stove, despite sorrow and anger all young boys. Just now in 2013/14 on free websides I realize how many another else goodys and badies we can learned. The best magazine and story on your site I realize part´s in Blue Book. Amazing work of illustraror from the thirties help for imagination in reading (and dreaming).
Thank your for your work. The scans in this site are gorgeous, and it has unusual taste for reading. I sometime visit the gutenberg site, it is too perfect but without enchant old pages.
The specific flavor this scans is very inspirational. More inspirational than TV or new cinema.
Compliment with great english, is funny for me. I know that it long way before me, but I am on the road (with sentence Jack London). Fluent reading is goal, just as the buying reprint´s magazines from Amazon.

Pulp Magazines Project is new and I wish him very many reader´s and fan´s.
Thank also to you.

American pulp heroes, fueling imaginations and dreams of boys half a world away, despite their banning by official censors – can there be any stronger statement of a medium’s fundamental importance and cultural significance? I do not believe so. It is one thing to learn that that these stories had fans abroad; that is interesting enough, in and of itself. But to hear from someone who, not only read pulps despite their banning, but so valued them, along with the Western ideals they represented in one form or another, that he actually began tracking them down, decades later? 

I am fairly certain this is an aspect not touched upon a great deal on the part of pulp historians, and one I would like to investigate further; the pulp’s role as a kind of subversive literature, in the face of socialist or authoritarian censors, in other nations, in addition to its (possible) role as a method of instruction in American history and culture. Absolutely, it is well-known how films, rock music, and other aspects of Western popular culture infiltrated the Iron Curtain, despite the best efforts of the “thought police” – but the fantastic, wholly American-born literature of the pulps as another aspect of that rebellion, is something I had never considered prior. The notion that a literary form that, for many years and decades, has been maligned by popular and academic writers alike could have served such a purpose is worthy of acknowledgement, and I am grateful for Mr. Valik’s bringing it to my attention.

I am looking forward to further correspondences with Mr. Valik; although his modesty forces him to disagree, his English is obviously improving with each email I receive, and to think that the pulps, and the PMP, have played some small part in that, alongside his own dedication and passion for the literature, is a good feeling, indeed. I am also pleased to say that Mr. Valik’s enthusiasm for the pulps, and the stories and characters they carried, has not subsided, if his most recent letter is any indication:

I watch periodically three webside in U.S. (your Pulp, Gutemberg and, and I must say for practicality Gutemberg and Archive are very good, but for inspiration is best The Pulp Magazines . . . I wish to you the increasing popularity for Magazines Project, and thank for new May issues!

     To Jiří, I say thank you for your readership; you’re a true pulp fan and we are happy, and honored, to have you aboard!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Eisner Award Nomination! and Other News!

It has been a while since my last posting, but these last few months have not been uneventful, in the least. And I wanted to wait until I had a schedule that allowed me to post more regularly (or at the very least, more often than the 4 or 5-month interval seen this time around), and I am hoping I am at that point, now.

The first bit of news I have I am extremely excited about, and it is something I learned about over the weekend, just as I was getting home from a talk on Pulp History I had given. I, or rather my book Anti-Foreign Imagery In American Pulps and Comic Books, 1920-1960, has been nominated for an Eisner Award, in the category of Best Scholarly/Academic Work for 2014! I am extremely humbled and honored by this nomination in and of itself, as well as for the company into which it places me, among both past, and my fellow current, nominees. There is some time before the Eisners are actually awarded at San Diego Comic-Con later this summer (which I am hoping to make it out to), but between now and then, and certainly beyond, I will always take pride in this nomination, and I thank both the nomination committee, as well as the many friends that have offered their congratulations these last few days.

While the Eisner Award nomination is the big news of the day for me, I still want to recap some of the things I have been working on recently, as it has been rather hectic, but also productive. Shortly after finishing my last entry for Comics Through Time: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideals, edited by Dr. Keith Booker and due out next October from Greenwood Press/ABC-CLIO, I was asked by Patrick Scott Belk to serve on the Editorial Board of his pulp-archive resource, the Pulp Magazines Project. That was a tremendous honor as well, and something I have enjoyed a great deal; not only do the e-mails from fans who appreciate the project demonstrate that interest in the pulps is growing, but the varied research requests from readers has opened up avenues of inquiry that I otherwise may never have encountered - every request I can help fulfill, completely or even partially, has proven beneficial to my own learning, as much as to the reader, if not more so. There has been one correspondent in particular, whose interest in the pulps truly demonstrates the uniqueness, and continued value, of the pulp medium, and I hope to share his story here soon enough.

I am also currently working on the final components of what I hope will be my next book, a complete history, spanning 120+ years, of Richmond's Tredegar Iron Works; long known as the "Krupp of the Confederacy," very little has been written concerning the site's history beyond those four years of Civil War. Desiring to write a history of the site, within an overview of one of the industries (that of iron and steel) that was instrumental in America's rise to global, economic superpower, my research has taken me from the records of its namesake in Tredegar, Wales to the complete, and understandably massive, collection of Tredegar Company archives currently housed at the Library of Virginia.

Cabinet Card of Frank Andrew Munsey, c. 1887
While working on the Tredegar history, however, I have been compiling resources and information for yet another project, a project I have been readying for well over three years now - a new, booklength biography of the originator of the pulp medium, Frank Andrew Munsey. Personal papers, photographs, first-hand remembrances - a great deal of research material will go into this work, and I am looking forward, very much so, to getting back to Mr. Munsey's story, full-time. Two recent boons to this project have been some original photographs of Munsey I have been lucky enough to acquire (including an original cabinet card from 1887), as well as several copies of a short-lived publication Munsey produced in the service of the Republican party during the hard-fought 1884 presidential campaign between Grover Cleveland and James G. Blaine - circulated for only several months (if that) before election day, I have never seen any actual copies of the title, Munsey's Illustrated Weekly (not to be confused with Munsey's Weekly, later Munsey's, which debuted several years later), until finding these few issues for sale.

Ravencon 2014 - April 25-27, Richmond, Virginia

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to be a guest at Ravencon, a science fiction/fantasy convention held here in Richmond for several years now; Ravencon's uniqueness comes from the focus it places on literary sf and fantasy, more so than a many conventions these days, and this emphasis is readily visible when glimpsing through the list of panels held, or browsing the Dealer's
Room which was, by my estimation, composed largely of booksellers, to the tune of perhaps 60%. It was in the Ravencon Dealer's Room that I picked up a collection of Lord Dunsany's works, as well as a Frazetta-clad, collected edition of Sword of Mars and The Synthetic Men of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Saturday, the 26th, I participated in two programs; first, a solo presentation on Pulp History, particularly as it relates to science fiction, and second as a member of a panel discussing the history of Batman, as this June happens to mark the 75th anniversary of his first appearance. Held at the Doubletree by Hilton Richmond-Midlothian (formerly the Holiday Inn Select Koger Center) the venue is one where a number of local conventions have been held for years, whether they be science fiction, comic, anime, and more; Ravencon is now in its ninth year, and (per its literary emphasis) is named in honor of Edgar Allan Poe, who spent much of his youth in Richmond, the city that boasts the Poe Museum, the largest repository of Poe artifacts in the world (and home of the Southern Literary Messenger, the magazine Poe was editor of for some time).

Ravencon 2014 Program - Cover Illustration by 
Artist Guest of Honor Ed Beard Jr.
This was not the first presentation I have given at local conventions regarding pulp magazines, but Ravencon was different for me. Usually, I am speaking to audiences who have little to no experience with the pulps, nor with the stories or authors to be found in their pages; my goal in giving talks is, to a large extant, to hopefully garner interest in the medium on the part of newer fans, who already follow sf and fantasy fiction, whether in comics, films, novels, etc. At Ravencon, it became apparent to me rather quickly that I had an audience different than the last few I have spoken to, in that it was a mix of those who had little prior knowledge of the genre, alongside those who had some experience with it, either in the form of back issues, or, in the case of one gentlemen present, in memories from his youth - an ensemble audience which made for an interesting exchange during the Q&A portion of the presentation. I had a number of con-goers, older and younger alike, inquiring if there were any sources from which to obtain copies of the pulps, or sites online where issues have been uploaded for digital consumption; in the case of the latter, I was happily able to point them towards the Pulp Magazines Project.

While the presentation went well, and, as I said, great questions were posed, it made me realize that I should retool my program a bit, to go beyond just an overview of the medium's history (which is certainly beneficial when speaking to an audience not familiar with the pulps), to include more in-depth information on particular authors and stories as well, for those listeners already knowledgeable in the general outline of pulp history. It is a good lesson to learn, and something I will work on before my next presentation. 

I am also interested in (and would be thankful for) any suggestions that any of you may have regarding pulp presentations I could give, again, to audiences that are largely new to the medium, aside from a general pulp history (albeit with an emphasis on sf); any ideas?

This weekend, we have another convention coming to Richmond (actually, to the same hotel Ravencon occupied), the fanzine convention Corflu, which I am helping with in regards to set-up and other "behind the scenes" work tonight and Friday, and that's where I am off to now!

Until next time, thanks for checking in!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

New Scans - Pre-Pulp Argosy

     Some time ago, I came across a number of issues of Frank Munsey's The Argosy, dated between 1892 and 1893; I managed to make a few top-down scans of several issues recently, having wanted to post them online for quite some time - I have noticed immediately-pre-pulp copies of The Argosy, and indirectly images related to them, to be somewhat elusive.

     I apologize for the crookedness on the part of the scans - attempting to arrange them for proper scanning, while keeping their delicate nature in mind, was something of a challenge.

     Beginning publication in December of 1882, The Golden Argosy was Frank Munsey's first publication, which he produced with, literally, only a Horatio Alger manuscript and $40 to his name, upon his arrival in New York City several months prior. Munsey often modified both periodicals and the newspapers he later acquired, in attempts to better understand what sold, and what did not. "Golden" was dropped from the masthead in 1888, but the title was still, for the most part, a juvenile weekly at this point, carrying Horatio Alger, Jr. and Oliver Optic narratives. The dimensions had changed slightly since the title's earlier volumes (down to 10 1/2 x 13, from 11 x 14 1/2), although the page count remained relatively unchanged, (around a dozen pages, or thereabouts) as did its medium of newsprint.

By the time these particular  issues were published, The Argosy was the sister publication to Munsey's; Munsey's Illustrated Weekly, the publisher's second title, had only existed for a brief time, namely as an organ supporting the Republican presidential candidate, James G. Blaine, in 1884, and folding soon after Blaine's loss to Grover Cleveland. Within a few years, Munsey would rebel against the American News Company's distribution monopoly, and in the process, make himself a millionaire.

    In 1896, the juvenile story paper format was not selling, at least to Munsey's high-standard satisfaction, and he retooled The Argosy into the first mass-produced pulpwood magazine, unintentionally creating an entire genre, one of the most successful forms of mass literature in history.

    As mentioned some time ago, it is my intention to write a larger, more comprehensive biography of Frank Munsey than has ever appeared prior; I am happy to say I am currently planning several research trips to several states in order to gather never-before-used information and resources, and more on that will be posted here, as it develops. It is my goal to have it completed before (hopefully in print, if that's not too overly-ambitious) the end of 2014, the 160th anniversary of Frank Munsey's birth, in 1854. I'll just have to see how it goes.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Pulpfest 2013 - A Follow-Up

     I finally had a chance to pick up the photographs I took, on my wanderings about Columbus during this year's Pulpfest, so I wanted to post those, as well as one story from this year's convention I forgot to post last time around.

     When I first arrived in the Dealer's Room Friday morning, I was greeted by Ed Hulse, whose Muriana Press table was at the front of the hall, facing the entrance. After talking for a bit, he pointed to a table to his immediate left and informed me that this was "My table." My table, for what? I asked. Unknown to me, Ed had set aside a table in the Dealer's Room, for me to sign and sell copies of my book; as a newly-published author, this is not something I had expected, or even thought about - while I was certainly gracious for the table space, I did not have any copies of my book to sign or sell, so it seemed that the table would go unused. I felt like a bit of a jerk really, having a table, right at the front of the Dealer's Room, and not using it, but again, bringing books was something that just had not occurred to me, unfortunately.

     The next day, as I was going about my rounds in the Dealer's Room, I purchased a few items from Thomas Martin, who had a table to the immediate right of "mine." When I looked at the table, and picked up the card labelled with my name sitting on it, Thomas remarked along the lines that, apparently "that guy" never showed up! I told him that, actually, I did show up, but in my newness to the writing field, I had not even thought about bringing copies of my book. I was glad, however, that the table did not remain as empty, unusable space - Thomas was telling me that it was a great spot that he, and other folks, had been using to hang out and talk to longtime friends as they entered the hall, a kind of gathering spot in the Dealer's Room for attendees to meet up, and catch up. It was such a success on that front, that Thomas said he even considered renting out the space, in upcoming shows, specifically for that purpose.

     So, while the original use of the table was not realized, due largely to my error, I was relieved to see that it did not go to waste, but actually served a good cause, in providing a place for folks to reconnect.

      And now, My Meanderings About Columbus...

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     Usually, my travels took me roughly in a rectangular pattern - east from the hotel, to around the area of the state capitol building, then south towards the river, along it and over the bridge to the opposite bank, and then back, northwest, to the Arena area, and hotel. There was a good amount to see; as I said in my previous post, the state and municipal buildings, along with city parks, were impressive.

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     The grounds of the Capitol were interesting; reminding me of a somewhat smaller version of Richmond's Capitol Square, it is essentially a large park with buildings, and various statues, not least of which is the McKinley Memorial. Also on the grounds, among other statues, was one in particular that caught my eye, as it relates to an event in 20th century history which I have spent a good deal of time studying, and writing about.

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     The plaque beneath the soldier reads:

The Spirit of '98
Erected in the State of Ohio to the Honor and Memory of the Ohio Veterans of the Spanish American War, Philippine Insurrection, and the China Relief Expedition. 
Dedicated June 28, 1929 
"The Cause Which Triumphed Through Their Valor Will Live."

     The China Relief Expedition was the name given to the United States' involvement in the Boxer Rebellion, an insurrection that lasted from 1898 to 1901, wherein a group of fervently anti-foreign Chinese, enraged by the carving up of the Empire on the part of the Western Powers and the placing of foreign-controlled areas, or legations in various cities, attacked these Western enclaves, burning buildings and killing residents. At first condemned, and then later embraced by the Chinese monarch, the Empress Dowager CiXi, the movement was suppressed in large part due to the formation of the Eight Nation Alliance, consisting of the United States, the British Empire, France, Imperial Germany, Japan, the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary, the Kingdom of Italy, and Czarist Russia - the Alliance's military expeditions to the areas of China most affected, primarily Peking and other major centers of foreign presence, helped bring an end to the violence, but also further weakened Chinese sovereignty. It was an important event, both in United States and Chinese history, helping to set the stage for the course each power would take in the 20th, and 21st centuries, respectively - this is the first such monument I have encountered, dedicated to the servicemen who served in the China Relief Expedition.

Turning right, and away from the Capitol, I usually headed back south, past the street that would take me back to the Hyatt Regency, and instead continued on to the banks of the Scioto River.

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     The area surrounding the river is very nicely developed, with benches, swing-sets, sculptures, and viewing stands scattered about. Crossing over a bridge, you come to the other side, where a stone-seat amphitheater is situated, along with an apparently good fishing spot, and a home for the numerous geese that traverse the sidewalk.

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     Walking along the amphitheater and sidewalk along the river's edge, you are taken back in the direction of the Hyatt Regency. Before crossing the bridge back to the north side of the river, I walked down to the Columbus War Memorial building, but I unfortunately did not have a chance to go in, although I did take note of the Arnold Schwarzenegger statue, situated, somewhat oddly, outside of the building.

     I will close with another photo of the Scioto, from the south side; as I have said before, I thoroughly enjoyed this year's Pulpfest on a variety of levels, and the surrounding city of Columbus, was certainly a part of that. I do hope that the convention stays in the Columbus area, for a good many years to come.

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Pulpfest 2013

     It has been a number of days since I returned from Columbus, Ohio and from Pulpfest 2013, my second Pulpfest, so it is about time I wrote of my experience this time around. There were some familiar faces, many new ones, and overall it was a great experience and a great convention to attend for anyone interested in pulps and early science fiction – most of you reading this already know that, but I am hoping to spread that information to others, in ways I will touch upon later. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera this time around, so I have no photographs taken personally – however, shortly before leaving I did pick up a cheap, disposable camera, and will post a few pictures I took of Columbus. 

Columbus, Ohio 

     Unlike last year, I actually got some sleep the night before heading out; also unlike the previous year, I was able to arrive on Thursday. I flew out of Richmond around 6:30 A.M., and after a (very) brief layover in D.C., I arrived in Columbus a few minutes shy of 10. I was determined to explore more of the city this time around, and I set about that task shortly after settling in, as anything related to the convention was still a few hours away. 
     Columbus reminds me of Richmond in a number of ways; a city with historic districts and modern skyscrapers side-by-side, with a river bisecting it, although the Scioto is not as wide as the James, so one can traverse from one side to the other in a minute or so. Like Richmond, the government buildings are impressive for their decorative and aesthetic qualities, many with fountains and sitting areas about them – quite different than the drab, personality-lacking monoliths that dot many other capitol cities. Judging from the direction I was facing, thanks to the hotel’s orientation, what I would call the northern bank of the Scioto is lined with benches, swing sets, viewing platforms, and sidewalks, while the southern bank (where I spent a good amount of time writing, and thinking) is peppered with stairs and amphitheatre seats, in an area I can only assume is also used for concerts or other outdoor functions from time to time. 
     My meanderings about town (which were at least 2 hours each day) were a great deal more pleasant this time around, due to the fact that it rained during much of the previous year’s convention; only one, short storm peppered the city with rain on Saturday morning, so I was able to get out and about every day. I was able to pick up my obligatory iced green tea from the nearby Arena Starbucks (since before Graduate School, I’ve found that I do some of my best writing under its influence – not Starbucks in particular, but rather iced green tea in general – and who am I to argue with tradition?), and explore the city in greater detail than last year. Columbus, as nice a city as it is, however, was not the reason for my sojourn west; that, rather, was Pulpfest. 

Pulpfest 2013 – July 25-28, 2013 – Columbus, Ohio 

     Last year, I missed the opening Pulpfest ceremonies because I fell asleep shortly after arriving in Columbus; this year, I unfortunately lost track of time during my wanderings through the city, and missed Ed Hulse’s talk at Ohio State University regarding the pulp heroes. I did (after registration) however, make it to Rick Lai’s excellent panel regarding the literary inheritors of Fu Manchu’s legacy, “The Pulp Descendents of Fu Manchu;” one thing I learned last year was to bring a notepad to every panel, as I would hear about authors and titles about which I knew very little, and would want to take notes concerning. Rick Lai’s presentation proved to be no different, and I came away with the names of several authors whose works I intend to track down in the near future. Ed Hulse’s program, “Hollywood and the Hero Pulps” and beginning immediately after Rick Lai’s, was equally as interesting – I was not aware of the number of serials, particularly those of the silent era, that were adaptations, or at the very least loose interpretations of, pulp narratives. I’ve always enjoyed serials, the hero series in particular – when I was younger, I had VHS tapes of The Adventures of Captain Marvel, Captain America, Batman, and others, which played a large role in my interest in the history of comics that I have held since I was 10 or so; over the course of the last few years, a lot of those VHS’s have been upgraded to DVD copies, when possible. I sat in on the first two episodes of The Spider’s Web, a 1938, fifteen-part serial based on the pulp-hero The Spider; the entirety of the serial was shown, in blocks of several episodes every night, over the course of the convention. By that point, I had been awake for about 20 or so hours, so I headed up to my room for the evening. I read through the articles in this year's edition of The Pulpster, the Pulpfest program guide - this year, I had the honor to have an excerpt, relating to the dime novels and the yellow peril, from my first book, Anti-Foreign Imagery in American Pulps and Comic Books, 1920-1960, published in The Pulpster alongside a great selection of expertly written and researched articles that makes The Pulpster a collectible, in and of itself. After reading a bit, I decided to turn in for the night. 
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Pulpster 2013
     For some reason, every morning of the Pulpfest weekend, I woke up at 4:04 A.M. – I have no idea why, but it started Friday morning. After procuring breakfast from the convention center’s Chicken and Eggs restaurant, I headed over to the Dealer’s Room, which had opened for business at 9 that morning. Like last year, I did not come with a large want-list of titles – I am not sure I will ever be that level of collector, as, for now at least, I’m still looking for particular stories or particular authors, as opposed to entire runs of a title; that level of activity, I still reserve for comic books, at the moment. For about a year and a half now, I have been trying to find all of the installments of a translation of Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam’s 1886 early speculative-fiction story “The Future Eve,” which was serialized in Argosy All-Story Weekly beginning December 18, 1926 – I have been unable to find that first issue, which surprises me because it is not a particularly rare or sought-after item, other than by me, of course; nonetheless, it alluded me this year as it did the last. I was also looking for bound volumes of the early Munsey titles, and a few other miscellaneous things, including some serials on DVD as I remember them being available last year. I am only missing about two issues of Marvel Comics’ pulp magazine series, Marvel Science Stories (also known as Marvel Tales, Marvel Stories, and Marvel Science Fiction over the course of its run), so I was on the lookout for those two issues, as well. 
     Wandering about, I came across Ed Hulse’s table, and picked up a few back issues of Blood’n’Thunder I was missing, and was able to catch up a bit with Ed – that is one of the things I am learning about Pulpfest; that I, like many others, see it as, among other things, a means through which I can catch up with friends who otherwise I would not be able to converse with, outside of email correspondences and the like. After leaving the Dealer’s Room, I walked about the city a bit more; in my meanderings, I came across a deli nearby, Danny’s Deli I believe it was, which was really quite good – after my meal, I returned to the Hyatt for a new slew of panels. First, actually was not a panel, but rather the opening ceremonies for Pulpfest 2013, followed by “The Mad Goblin, Escape from Loki, and His Apocalyptic Life,” moderated by Art Sippo, with panelists Christopher Paul Carey, Win Scott Eckert, Rick Lai, and John Allen Small, which discussed the Doc Savage-related works of Philip José Farmer. Pulpfest 2012 had introduced me to the works of Farmer, through a few of the FarmerCon VII panels held that year, piquing my interest to the point that I decided to purchase several of his books in the Dealer’s Room before leaving. Having finished those works, I wanted to sit in on more panels to learn further about Farmer, and I was not disappointed – after I finish a few other things in my reading queue, I intend to pick up more of his works, particularly his Doc Savage-related tomes. I understand that, to some degree, FarmerCon panels are for those who are already interested in his narratives, but if they consider, as another aspect of their mission, to attract new readers to the works of their namesake, I’m proof that they have certainly succeeded, in that respect.  “Doc Savage and the Pulp Heroes of 1933” followed the FarmerCon panel; alongside moderator Ed Hulse, panelists Nick Carr, Don Hutchison, Will Murray, and Garyn Roberts discussed the pulp characters who received their own stand-alone titles, following the introduction of The Shadow in 1931, with a relative “boom” in the number of similarly-themed magazines appearing two years later. I haven’t delved into the hero pulps as much as I should have by now, so it was good to get a bit more information regarding the titles, particularly from Nick Carr, who told of his having to hide pulps from his parents when he was a youth, during the heyday of the pulp heroes. Owing to the fact that I have not taken the time yet to look into the history surrounding pulp art, I decided to sit in on David Saunders’ panel concerning “Walter Baumhofer: King of the Pulps,” and Baumhofer’s extensive output in the realm of pulp hero artwork. I had some things to take care of, work-related, that night, so I headed back to the room earlier than I normally would have. 
     Saturday began at 4:04 AM, of course; not being able to get back to sleep, I got some reading done, and a little after 10 or so, headed down to the Dealer’s Room again. I was fortunate enough to speak with Ed, along with Walker Martin and Lohr McKinstry, at his table; as was the case last year, Walker inquired about Argonotes, and once again, in a replay of last year, I had to admit I had not been able to devote a great deal of time to the site – with various writing assignments, both concluded and recently begun, this year, Argonotes has suffered, in the form of updates – or lack thereof. This fact has led me to thinking that this may become more of a personal blog, then one dedicated to my pulp-related work because, honestly, if I am working on something related to the pulps, it is more than likely something that will be going into print fairly soon. Another factor is, being a relative newcomer, I do in fact come across many things that I believe would make for excellent articles, only to find out upon further research that the topic in question has already been addressed, definitively, in pulp fandom’s past by writers far more knowledgeable than I. I will continue to ponder what Argonotes should become – but that is something to be decided at another point. 
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Weird Worlds No. 1
     Speaking with this trio, as was the case last year, is always great – not only for the friendliness of the conversations, but also for the wealth of information a newcomer such as myself can glean, on everything from a chronology of titles to a brief history of Pulpcons and Pulpfests past. After a few moments of speaking with Ed, Walker, and Lohr, I was about to leave to find some lunch when I happened to run across Matt Moring, my editor at Altus Press on the recently-published The Complete Adventures of Hazard & Partridge, for which I wrote the Introduction. Finally meeting Matt was a real pleasure, after nearly a year of correspondences related to this proposed collection of Robert Pearsall’s works. Thinking I may be interested in having it, Matt gave me the first proof of the book, the copy he used to track down any final errors before the work went into final publication; a really great gift, as I thoroughly enjoyed researching and writing the Introduction, a project that allowed for an interesting amalgamation of author biography and modern Chinese history. I talked with Matt a bit, picked up a complete run of the 1970s DC Comics series Weird Worlds, which was an anthology that focused on adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs' "John Carter of Mars" and "Pellucidar" stories, before heading out to find some food and spend some time along an area of the riverside walk I had found to be rather serene and quiet, before attending the 2013 Munsey Award Presentation, during which Garyn Roberts was rightly recognized for all of his many and voluminous contributions to pulp historiography and research. 
     Shortly after the end of Pulpfest 2012, Ed asked if I would be interested in being on a panel regarding the yellow peril the following year, in recognition of the centennial anniversary of the first appearance in print of “the yellow peril, incarnate in one man – Dr. Fu Manchu.” Having written about the yellow peril in graduate school, for my book, and in later efforts, it seemed like a great fit, and I was looking forward to it. As the panel, “Fu Manchu and the Yellow Peril Pulps,” approached, I will be honest and say I was nervous – I always have been, when trying to get a bunch of information out quickly and succinctly. I tried, however, to answer the questions put before me as clearly as I could, so I am hoping that my first panel turned out well in the mind of the audience, and that I was able to shed some light on the world in which the yellow peril first appeared. If not – well, just email me about it, as I believe I can write ten times better than I can speak, honestly. I was up there with giants in their respective areas, and it was an honor on my part to be amongst them - Will Murray, Ed Hulse, Win Scott Eckert, William Patrick Maynard and Gene Christie; the discussion went from Chinese history int he 19th century, to Fu Manchu in the 1930s, to Marvel Comics super hero Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu in the 1970s, and beyond, to make, in my opinion for a well-rounded and informative hour of discussion. I was, and am, extremely thankful for the praise I received from a number of individuals, both immediately after the panel, and throughout the convention, regarding my first book – it means a great deal to me that readers who know a great deal more about the genre than I do, or possibly ever will, found some amount of value in it, and it inspires me to keep working. 
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"Fu Manchu and the Yellow Peril Pulps" Panel - From right to left: Will Murray, Nathan Vernon Madison, Ed Hulse, Win Scott Eckert, William Patrick Maynard, Gene Christie
     After Saturday’s Fu Manchu panel, a finely-decorated (and quite tasty) Doc Savage/Pulpfest 2013 cake was brought out, per a tradition that goes back awhile if I understand things correctly. It simply would not have been right to not partake, so partake I did, and enjoyed a bit of cake during Chris Kalb’s informative and entertaining panel, “Hero Pulp Premiums and Promotions.” After the premiums panel, I realized I hadn’t eaten a lot that day (actually, my earlier quest to find food was met largely with failure, as it seems very few restaurants in Columbus actually stay open past 3 in the afternoon), so I ordered a meal at the hotel restaurant, Big Bar On 2 (quesadillas, to be precise), before heading to the Saturday night auction. I had sat in on last year’s auction, really out of curiosity more than anything else. This time around, I figured if anything came up in my price range that I wanted, I might try a bid – why not? Well, shortly after I sat down, a bound volume of Argosy, from 1888 was offered for bidding; I believe only one other person bid, and mine was the highest, at $35, which, even in my limited experience, is a pretty good deal for one of these volumes, particularly one from the Argosy’s pre-pulp days. It was a small price, in comparison to some of the other things being offered, but I was happy – I got something I actually wanted, and for a price I could easily afford: you can’t beat that for a first-time auction. After I collected my item (which I paid for immediately after winning, which I was not sure was proper procedure, but that’s what someone told me I should do, so I did), I spoke outside with dealer Richard Hall for a good while, before calling it a night, at about 12:30 or so. I still wasn’t quite tired, so I watched something that I knew I’d enjoy, and was somewhat appropriate in that it seemed to carry the theme of the day – Mystery Science Theater 3000, episode 23, of season 3: The Castle of Dr. Fu-Manchu, which was not one of the better Sax Rohmer adaptations.

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Christopher Lee as Dr. Fu Manchu, courtesy of MST3K
     Sunday was a rather short day; I woke up fairly early, as I expected to at this point, and set about packing things up and getting ready to leave Columbus. I made a final trip to the Dealer’s Room and picked up a few things, mostly serials on DVD and a few issues of Argosy featuring Peter the Brazen that I was missing. I made my rounds, saying my goodbyes and wishing safe trips for Ed, Walker, and others, before grabbing a last bite to eat (at Subway, where I ate my last meal before leaving in 2012, strangely enough), and heading to the airport. After a short layover in Cleveland, I was back in Richmond before nightfall. 

Brass Tacks 

     Last year, I returned from Pulpfest 2012 to record my impressions of it from the viewpoint of a first-time attendee. This is my second Pulpfest, but I still consider myself a “newbie,” so my impressions still reflect that to some degree. I still consider Pulpfest to be, first and foremost, a gathering of like-minded friends, sharing a passion for the same literary form, than any of the trade shows and media circuses that pass for “conventions,” these days. Having the chance to see and greet folks I had met last year, combined with the new faces, Garyn Roberts and Patrck Maynard, Richard Hall and Michelle Nolan, and others I was fortunate enough to converse with this time around, made for an atmosphere wherein I felt a bit more welcomed. That is not to say I had any adverse encounters last year, but rather, it had that small feeling of “coming back” somewhere, as opposed to “going somewhere,” if that makes sense. 
     One thing I did notice this time around was a few (not a great deal, but a few) attendees, mostly in the Dealer’s Room, that looked to be about my age, or thereabouts. Could it be that more individuals of my generation are becoming interested in the pulps? Perhaps, although I think the more likely answer is that they had attended Ed’s university lecture, and had wandered over to Pulpfest out of curiosity, more than anything else. Still, I think that is promising, in regards to newer fans showing at least some small interest; however, as I wrote in an article in Blood’n’Thunder’s Fall 2012 issue, “new blood” can really only be considered as such if there is a valid interest in reading these magazines, and learning about their history and impact on popular culture. I still have some doubts that any such, large-scale influx is possible for a number of reasons (again, which I have enumerated before), but, I could always be wrong. 
     That being said however, it does not make a great deal of sense for me to ruminate on such things, and then do nothing to try and foster such interests among those of my generation. To that end, I will be giving a presentation at a first-year convention here in Richmond, RVA Con, at the end of September; this panel will be concerned with the history of science fiction, and, of course, the importance of pulps in that history will be stressed. I am, at the moment, thinking of something akin to presentations I gave in graduate school, with notes and, more importantly, a PowerPoint as a guide along the way, complete with images of the magazines I will be discussing. I am excited about this, as I know that I will be presenting a great deal of pulp and SF history, for which this is the first time, for possibly the majority of the audience, they will be hearing names such as Astounding, Gernsback, Campbell, Weird Tales, Palmer, Argosy, and others. In that sense, it carries some small amount of responsibility to get it right, on my part, but it is something I welcome. 
     I would like to close this report with my sincerest thanks, to all members of the Pulpfest committee, for putting on a fantastic convention, and to all of those I have met, and will continue to meet, that have provided a warm reception to this newcomer. As I did roughly a year ago, I have already begun setting aside small funds in anticipation for a return trip, a year from now.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wordsmith, and a Return

     It has been just about five months since my last post, and that time has been filled with a great deal of work and various projects that have kept me from devoting a great deal of attention to Argonotes, I am sorry to say – the lapse, however, was not without progress on various fronts. Since October, I have been conducting research for the museum I work for, for a series of exhibits that will inhabit an expansion upon Richmond’s historic Tredegar Iron Works – looking into the nature of the site, as it relates to immigrant history, I have come across a great deal of previously undocumented information (and even begun correspondence with historians in Tredegar, Wales, the namesake of Richmond’s famous landmark). The research will continue on for a bit longer, but it seems as if it is winding down, to some extent, as the time to begin work on the actual exhibits draws nearer. I have written an article, connected to this research – but more on that in the event that it is accepted by the journal to which I submitted it.

      On the pulp and comics front, I wrote the introduction to Altus Press’ The Complete Adventures of Hazard and Partridge, a collection of works by Robert James Pearsall, which appeared in Adventure from 1919-1920, and were of the yellow peril variety – the book, edited by Altus’ Matthew Moring, is expected to debut at Pulpfest 2013, this July. Not only was I able to provide biographical information about Pearsall himself, but quite a bit more; the first thing I noticed when reading Pearsall's stories was that he was mentioning individuals and events that, while perhaps embellished for narrative's sake, were based, on one degree or another, in China's historical record. With this, I was able to go a bit further and give a breif history of some of these namesakes, and offer possible explanations as to how he would have come across them, and why they left an impression strong enough to the point that he would return to them when writing Hazard and Partridge. 

     I also wrote a few more entries for the Pulp Magazine Project’s website, and the upcoming Comics Through Time, an encyclopedia of the history of graphic arts edited by Dr. Keith M. Booker of the University of Arkansas, expected in early 2014 from Greenwood Press/ABC-CLIO. I have some projects I hope to begin work on soon, but for a little bit, I will probably take something of a break, and try to devote some time here.

 photo Wordsmith1_zpscc73f0e8.jpg     I am very happy with the response my book, Anti-Foreign Imagery in American Pulps and Comic Books, 1920-1960 has received thus far; I'm honored it has appeared at so many libraries, and booksellers, in such a few months. My sincerest thanks to all who have picked it up, or at the very least have shown an interest in it, and its subject matter.

            For my first post back in quite a while, I wanted to make mention of a comic series I recently came across that has quite a bit to offer pulp readers. Wordsmith was a series published by Renegade Press in 1986. Founded in 1984, Renegade Press was an independent comics publisher formed by Deni Loubert following her divorce from Dave Sim, with whom she had founded Aardvark –Vanaheim in the late 70s; Renegade published several notable, alternative titles, including Flaming Carrot Comics and Ms. Tree, before closing in 1988.[1]
            Written by David Darrigo and illustrated by R. G Taylor, Wordsmith chronicles the life and career of fictitious pulp author Clayton “Clay” Washburn. Living and writing in the late 1930s, Clay, in his attempts to break into “the Big Leagues” and have one of his stories appear in Black Mask, comes across a myriad of what, we would today, recognize as classic pulp references, both directly and indirectly, that can prove both informative for those perhaps new to the pulps, but will also produce a chuckle or smile from those “in the know.” Clay’s narrative interweaves with that of his characters, who pastiches of The Shadow, Doc Savage, and others; nearly an entire issue is dedicated to Clay’s indecision concerning how best to conclude the latest episode featuring "Hunter Hawke," Clay's version of pulp battle ace, G-8. Wordsmith’s supporting cast is as colorful as the characters he writes for the pulps: a painter, dreaming of world-renown, producing pulp covers to pay his rent; a poet, and rambling agitator for the Communist Party; a former pulp writer, who long ago “graduated” to the ranks of successful mystery writer, in the mode of Dashiell Hammett, and others. Clay's daily interactions often, in one way or another, inspire his writing, whether in the form of a new character, or in extricating himself from a corner he inadvertently had written himself into.
 photo Wordsmith3_zps05ed1106.jpg            The series is wonderfully illustrated; Taylor’s style is extremely detailed and, in some ways is capable of conveying the character’s emotions, even if Darrigo’s dialogue happened to be absent. Most issues are stand-alone stories, while some themes carry over between several installments. What one might expect to be the musings and thoughts of a pulp writer in Depression-era America appear throughout Clay’s experiences. Clay worries about his parents’ opinion of him, and their disapproval of his writing for “those magazines;” he’s beset with anxiety over his inability to be the next Faulkner or Hemingway, to find the time between assignments to produce that next, great American novel. Clay often complains about the meager earnings being a pulp "wordsmith" brings him, but at the same time he recognizes that the Depression has affected others in worse ways, and attempts to alleviate their suffering, as best he can.
            Aside from Clay’s exploits, Wordsmith also provides the reader with a great deal of history regarding the pulp magazines, and their creators - the personal fondness Darrigo has for the pulps is quite apparent, and his effort to incorporate the medium's history in such a way is a testimony to that. The first issue features “Long Live the Pulps! – A Mini-Primer” by Darrigo himself, providing a brief history of the pulps, and their legacy. Subsequent issues feature regular installments of “The Pulp File,” by Don Hutchison, providing everything from interviews with pulp writers and artists of bygone days, to histories of particular magazines, such as the excellent report on The Shadow in issue no. 4.

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            Following its completion, the series was later compiled in two trade paperback collections, containing the first six, and second six issues, respectively. 

     In upcoming posts, I hope to provide some covers scans to some recently-acquired Argosy's from the mid-1890s, as well as, to coincide with the release of The Complete Adventures of Hazard and Partridge, a look at some of the actual people and events upon which Pearsall based his writings.

                [1] John Bell, Invaders From the North: How Canada Conquered The Comic Book Universe (Ontario: Dundurn Press, 2006), 128.