Pulp magazines were a widespread source of affordable popular fiction in the first half of the 20th century. They were essentially regular periodicals printed on cheap paper (hence "pulp") featuring original text stories, in contrast to the slick magazines printed on higher grade paper.
Inside these mags were stories of almost every genre possible depending on a particular magazine's focus. While the Action-Adventure series in the spirit of Indiana Jones or Pellucidar and Proto-Superhero (like The Shadow or Doc Savage) series are best remembered today, there were vast varieties like crime & detective (such as Black Mask), horror (H. P. Lovecraft's stories), romance, and many others. Notably, the Science Fiction pulps (such as Amazing Storiesnote ) are both credited with establishing SF as a distinct genre and blamed for establishing the idea that all science fiction is pulpy Sci-Fi and mostly Space Opera, leaving the new genre stuck in the Scifi Ghetto to the chagrin of hard SF devotees and others. This argument has mostly faded into history these days, but the underlying issues aren't dead yet.
Very few people involved, including the writers who often were paid a penny a word, thought the fiction created for the pulps had real value the way, say, novels often try to. But the stories were at their best in the wild scenes of furious action, and influence their descendant media to this day. Many Dead Horse Tropes were new and original in the pulps. For instance, the Super Hero and Spy Hero stories like James Bond owe a lot to the medium's influence.
Eventually, the pulps were killed off by competition from movies, comic books, television and the paperback novel, newer forms of affordable entertainment.
If you want to look for it, you can read the comic book, Wordsmith, which is about the life and work of a pulp magazine writer in the 1930s with excerpts of the stories he writes.
See also Two-Fisted Tales, works directly inspired by the pulps. Compare with Dime Novel. Space Opera, Planetary Romance and Sword & Sorcery became distinct genres in the pulps. Airport Novels are the closest modern equivalent, although Extruded Book Product plumbs some of the same depths as the worst of the pulp serials.
- Amazing Stories
- The Avenger - something of a cross between the Shadow and Doc Savage, but with a more tragic dimension.
- Black Bat
- Conan the Barbarian and anything else by Robert E. Howard
- Doc Savage - a big influence on Superman
- Domino Lady - star of Saucy Romantic Adventure
- The Shadow - a big influence on Batman
- The Spider - a more bloodthirsty, violent and (in later installments) more Catholic version of above. According to Stan Lee, one of the indirect influences on Spider-Man
- Tarzan and anything else by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
- Slan is a sci-fi novel about a race of telepathic mutants fighting back against a society that routinely hunts them. Its fast-paced storytelling and non-stop action set the stage for works such as Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination.
- As the storm clouds gathered over Europe and the Far East, pulp hero Secret Service Operator #5 (1934 - 1939) fought attempts by various foreign armies from South America, Europe and the Orient to conquer the United States. The events are completely over-the-top as benefits the pulp genre, except for the time the Japs destroy an entire city (Philadelphia) with their evil atomic bomb. Only Orientals would do such a dastardly deed...
- Sadly, due to the cancellation of the magazine, the "Yellow Vulture" epic was left permanently unfinished at a Cliffhanger.
- Danger 5 is a modern TV pastiche of pulp magazine cliches set in WWII. On its website, it has an online pulp magazine edition. Its creators have directly stated their intent to pay tribute to pulp.
- Gojira: Written and serialized by pulp novelist Shigeru Kayama.
- Weird Tales, a hugely influential magazine with fantastic, horror-themed stories. Authors who had their stories published in the magazine include Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, Henry Kuttner, C. L. Moore and many, many others.
- Semi-Auto Semla is a webcomic that seeks to emulate the genre and the tone, complete with the often gratoitous amounts of damsels in distress and heavy-duty action.
- Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine is a pulp magazine that's been active since the 1940s.