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.
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.
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.
|Weird Worlds No. 1
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.
|"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
|Christopher Lee as Dr. Fu Manchu, courtesy of MST3K
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.