Thursday, June 29, 2017

Railroad Pulp

 During my Geek Gab appearance, I brought up the existence of railroad pulps as part of the broad spectrum of topics covered by the pulps. But, until today, I had no idea of the importance of these pulps to the field:
When the speciality pulps did begin appearing, they were neither mainstream nor particularly successful. The publisher Frank A. Munsey, whose Argosy had begun the pulp era, brought out his third pulp, The Railroad Man’s Magazine (cover date October, 1906), followed by Woman a month later. Munsey was a successful businessman at this point– his magazine Munsey’s Magazine was selling very well, and he owned four newspapers– so the personal risk involved in bringing out two specialty pulps was comparatively small. Additionally, the choice of subject matter– the railroads, and women– was not random. There had been two railway-centered dime novels: New York Ten Cent Library (1896-1897), which lasted for 32 issues and Comrades (1900-1901), which lasted for 72 issues. While both only lasted for two years, Comrades’ run of issues was longer than the mean for dime novels, and Munsey correctly perceived a market for railway-centric fiction. Similarly, magazines like Women and The Woman at Home in the UK and the Ladies’ Home Journal and Woman’s Home Companion in the U.S. were demonstrating that women were a powerful market for periodical fiction.  
Railroad Man’s Magazine proved to be a minor success, and lasted for 73 years and 692 issues before transforming into the non-fiction Railfan and Railroad, which continues to be published today. In its early years Railroad Man’s Magazine published a range of genres, from romance to hard-boiled detective fiction to eccentric inventor science fiction, although always with a orientation to railroads. Never a best seller, it served its audience faithfully and at times published mid-level talents, like Johnston McCulley (creator of Zorro) and Louis Vance (creator of several characters). There was no other railway pulp--the long-rumored Railroad Detective Stories in all probability never existed--so we can't say that there was a railroad pulp genre. But Railroad Man's Magazine certainly had longevity, and its stories varied hugely in content, and some were surprisingly imaginative and good. 
Nevins, Jess. The Pulps: A Yearly Guide (pp. 19-20).  . Kindle Edition. 
Not only was Railroad Man Magazine the first specialty pulp devoted to a single subject, it survived twenty years beyond the death of the pulps. It's success would pave the way for the wide variety of specialty pulps during the heyday of the format, including Weird Tales, Amazing, and Astounding.

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