Thursday, July 13, 2017

Pulp Revolution and Criticism

A bit of unique dialogue on the PulpRev opened up recently, when James "Grim" Desborough answered Jon Mollison's reviews of Pulp Nova. Since PulpRev usually only gets critically challenged by its close relatives from the Superversive movement, Jon passed along the link via the Twitters and I passed it on via Gab. In it, Grim describes the pulps, his intent for his Pulp Nova collection, and the concerns he has over the various pulp rebirth movements that have been appearing since 2010, such as neo-pulp, New Pulp, and PulpRev.

Having skimmed through the video, it appears that the same elements the Jon criticized Pulp Nova for--"[a work] mired in fashionably modern nihilism and deconstructivism rather than a forward looking attempt to recapture the magic of the pulp era"--were deliberate choices by Grim, who wanted to examine pulp through a modern lens. As I have yet to really delve into Grim's video, I will let it speak for itself. However, I do wonder if men's adventures such as James Bond, The Destroyer series, and Richard Marchinko's Seal Team adventures have already explored pulp through the modern eye.

What is clear, is that Jon and Grim are approaching the idea of pulp from different lens. Grim wants to look at pulp through the modern eye, while Jon wants to look at modern stories through a pulp eye. Neither wants to create "pulp-punk", replacing the gears and leather of steampunk fashion with the costumes of Indiana Jones style adventurers and 1930s gangsters.

The conversation continues:

Nixon Maxy answers Grim's concerns about the moral certitude found in pulp and new-pulp works:
I think Grim is making a mistake by equating a story having certain elements in it and those elements taking over a story. 
Characters can be gritty, unpleasant, and immoral and yet the world they occupy isn’t. The story doesn’t leave a nasty taste in your mouth. The plot and ending of say, The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler (which I just finished), handled differently could have been exceedingly unpleasant. Yet that ending was satisfying. Sure, it’s grim and one villain walks away scot free. Justice doesn’t come from the law and Marlowe doesn’t follow the law anyhow. It’s gritty, full of immoral people, lies, murder, and blackmail. But it also has a moral center. Marlowe, despite his foibles, is a noble man willing to risk his life and career to protect a woman he doesn’t know. He gets himself in trouble for it and gets nothing in return.
And Cirsova points out on Twitter:
Yeah. I think that so far as the pulp rev goes, what everyone is looking for is still different from person to person. It's part of what set us apart and occasionally at odds with the Superversives, because they were specifically looking for moral and ethical criteria in their fiction. Personally, I think the closer folks get to nailing down specifically "what the pulp rev is looking for" the likelier it'll die.
Which both Grim and I agree on.

I have tried to define pulp before, in broad terms and a "7 of 11" approach to criteria. But the pulp age covers at least 60 years of entertainment fiction in an ever widening span of genres, so I think it's next to impossible to define pulp in anything other than loose terms. Because sometime soon, probably even tonight, a new face to the PulpRev is going to discover a new story by a pulp writer no one currently has on their radar, and it will ignite new ideas on what pulp writing can be. As long as PulpRev focuses on what stories can be as opposed to must be, it will keep growing. And the more critics like Grim it encounters, the healthier it will be.

1 comment:

  1. "Pulp: You'll know it when you write it."

    Careful with the definition refinement, or you'll find yourself in Heisenberg Uncertainty territory -- delta(Fun)*delta(Definitions) GTE "Where IS Pulp Today" -- refining the definition so tightly that your Fun gets spread out like a flattened bell curve -- and you can't find it anymore.

    Write with FUN in mind, and the #PulpRev definition (which as you say, will differ among writers) will begin to reveal itself. Readers aren't going to be as worried about the latter as much as the former anyhow.