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.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

New Book! - Anti-Foreign Imagery in American Pulps and Comic Books, 1920-1960

     I am quite pleased to announce that my first book is finally out, and available for purchase from the publisher, McFarland Books, directly, as well as from fine booksellers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and others!

Photobucket      Anti-Foreign Imagery in American Pulps and Comic Books, 1920-1960 began as my Master's thesis at Virginia Commonwealth University in the Fall of 2010. I was ( and admittedly, still am) fairly new to the pulps, so with what little I already knew, I engaged in a crash course in both pulp history itself, as well as the specific topic of my research, nativist imagery in such periodicals. I have always been interested in such depictions found in literature and comic books of the time; as I wrote in my Pulpfest 2012 report in the newest issue of Murania Press's Blood 'n' Thunder, I was always seeking out older comics and reprints of works from the 30s and 40s, when most of the other kids my age were buying the newest, sensationalized titles that predominated the comics medium in the early 1990s. It was a fascination that continues to this day, and it seemed an excellent topic for my Master's thesis when the time approached; the addition of pulp magazines, a fairly recent interest for me at the time, I thought only furthered the possibility of producing a unique work of cultural, American history.

     A number of changes have occurred between the end of my final semester in 2010 and the present; I have revised and rewritten the work a good deal, and with semestrial constraints no longer an issue, I was able to go back and add in a large amount of further information and sources, that I believe have helped create a better, and more coherent whole. Several sections, one dealing with the role of gender in nativist imagery throughout the years in question, is, for the most part, an entirely new addition absent from the original thesis, as is a brief historical narrative in the Introduction, concerning nativism's existence in the United States since colonial times.

     Above all else, I am hoping that I have produced a quality work that helps further pulp studies, and also gets away from the stigma of pulps as "gutter literature," as many works, academic and not, often portray them. I have no doubts that many veterans of pulp history will find something amiss, or that I did not spend as much time as I should have on a particular author, publisher or title of their preference, and I can certainly understand that, and really welcome any criticism, as long as it's constructive. Again, it is my central hope that I have contributed to the study of these literary artifacts, while also shedding some light on possible reasons behind the growth, and death of nativism as a popular, American sentiment within their pages.

     With this work now complete, I have a number of projects to work on. I was recently asked to write an introduction to a collection of Robert J. Pearsall's pulp stories for Altus Press and am both honored and excited to be working on that soon, just as I am concerning an upcoming article for the Pulp Magazines Project regarding race and gender in the pulps. I hope to have more time to devote to Argonotes; and from the research I am doing at work, I am hoping to produce an article for an academic, southern history journal, particularly concerning immigrant labor in various fields in post-Civil War Virginia, or something along those lines - as always, I have to see where the research takes me. And, as always, I am collecting information related to Frank Andrew Munsey, in the hopes of producing a work about him, and his role in the 1912 Presidential Elections.

     Thank you to all who read Argonotes, and to any and all who check out my book; I am hoping that it meets with your approval!

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Later Argosy - Mysteries, Monsters, and Extraterrestrials

November 1973
     By the late 1940s, pulp mainstay The Argosy (not long after it's purchase by Popular Publishing) had ceased to be the all-fiction weekly that had proved so successful in years past. Even earlier, in the years immediately preceding World War II, an all-fiction approach had been dropped in favor of adding sensationalized predictions concerning possible ways America could be drawn into the escalating war in Europe. The title's physical dimensions had been increased, page number decreased, and the quality of interior paper augmented, in an effort to better blend with the increasing number of non-pulp titles on the newsstand shelves. In attempts to compete with the "slicks" which were gaining in popularity at the time, Argosy underwent a number of changes to its content in the 50s and 60s. The science fiction, westerns, action and other fiction genres were replaced with articles about hunting, real-life adventures and other topics created to cater to the “men’s magazine” crowd. Such transitions were not limited to Argosy; other pulp stalwarts such as Blue Book and Adventure (also owned by Popular) were eventually reformatted into general interest or men's interest publications. By the late 1960s, Argosy adopted the form it would hold until its cancellation, that of a hodge-podge of articles and special interest pieces, covering everything from “Wisconsin’s Abominable Snowman” (April, 1969) to how to “Pick the Winning Horses By The Stars” (October, 1974) to “What You Need To Know To Bag a Bear” (July, 1975).

In addition to its regular issues, Argosy also released several specials and mini-series, ranging in topics from collections of science fiction, to sports, to martial arts, to shark attacks. Some of the most interesting (in my mind) of these auxiliary issues were those dealing with the paranormal, and monsters and UFOs in particular. While probably not as large as the Flying Saucer craze of the early 1950s, the paranormal became a popular genre of both entertainment and non-fiction studies in the late 60s, and throughout the 70s. Erich Van Däniken's 1968 book Chariots of the Gods? helped popularize (some may say create) the "ancient astronaut" theories that still circulate today. On television, three hour-long documentaries narrated by The Twilight Zone's Rod Serling, and based in part on Van Däniken's work, broadcast to a large and enthusiastic audience: In Search of Ancient Astronauts (1973), In Search of Ancient Mysteries (1975) and The Outer Space Connection (1975); the success of these three specials led to the weekly television series In Search of..., which ran from 1976 to 1982, and was hosted and narrated by Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy (and is still one of my all-time favorite shows, despite my introduction to it coming in the form of reruns, long after it's original end-date). In 1977 Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind opened to critical acclaim, and some of the best and well-written works on the subject of extraterrestrials, Bigfoot, and other cryptids appeared around the same time. I have always, since my youth, held in interest in mysteries, cryptozoology, and other unsolved phenomena, so collecting these particular issues has become something of a focus of mine in and of itself. In addition to several stand-alone issues pertaining to monsters such as Bigfoot and the Yeti, there was a short-lived title, Argosy UFO running from 1976-1977, that dealt specifically with UFOs, flying saucers, and reports of extraterrestrial encounters.

I have posted some scans of a few of the issues I have thus far and several pages, including an entire, short article concerning one of the many mysterious “globs” (now believed to be either decomposing octopi or whales) that have washed ashore in various places, from time to time.