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Pulp Magazine

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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, fantasy (Such as Weird Tales which introduced Conan the Barbarian) and many others. Notably, the Science Fiction pulps (such as Amazing Storiesnote ) are both credited with establishing SF as a distinct genre note  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 Sci-Fi 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.


Not to be confused with the band called PULP. The movie Pulp Fiction derives its title, and some of its style, from stories in pulp magazines.


Alternative Title(s): Pulp


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