Friday, December 21, 2018

A Short Break for the Holidays

I might as well face it, with the demands of the holidays and family and life over hobbies, the Pulp Archivist blog will be on break until the new year. Don't worry, there's still more to mine from the pulps; I just need more time to delve deeper and explore the other important pulps of the day, not just the ones we're familiar with. In the meantime, check out Paul Lucas's investigation of literary criticism and its nefarious purposes:
But there is a hidden agenda to this concept of readerly and writerly texts, something hidden underneath the surface. It all comes back to this idea that the reader is more important than the author, this idea that the reader ‘always projects’. It’s a hidden agenda that most people don’t realise is there.
That certainly helps explain why today's geeky fandoms are so twisted.

But enough about that familiar subject. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Razör vs Comics - ELRIC Vol. 3: "THE WHITE WOLF"

Like many, I too thought that the Elric BD would not fulfill the promised four volume run. And although I found the first volume beautiful but too disturbing for my comfort, I am glad to see the third volume finally hit shelves.

Of course, Razorfist has to weigh in on a project that combines several of his passions, Elric and bandes dessinees. And he does so with such passion that I'm considering giving the series--and Elric in general--a second chance. For most of Elric's adventures are as a sellsword, not as the king of decadent and hellish empire fit only to be destroyed. In this third volume, Elric finally develops into that traveler.

Along the way, Razorfist explains how BD comics are mainstream in France in ways that comics and manga can only hope to achieve, as well as breaks news that this first Elric BD run will have a sequel.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Mark Twain's Rules

Mark Twain sets out the rules of adventure fiction in a scathing review of James Fenimore Cooper's Deerslayer:

There are nineteen rules governing literary art in domain of romantic fiction -- some say twenty-two. In "Deerslayer," [James Fenimore Cooper violated eighteen of them. These eighteen require:

1. That a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere. But the "Deerslayer" tale accomplishes nothing and arrives in air.

2. They require that the episodes in a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help to develop it. But as the "Deerslayer" tale is not a tale, and accomplishes nothing and arrives nowhere, the episodes have no rightful place in the work, since there was nothing for them to develop.

3. They require that the personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others. But this detail has often been overlooked in the "Deerslayer" tale.

4. They require that the personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there. But this detail also has been overlooked in the "Deerslayer" tale.

5. They require that when the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject at hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say. But this requirement has been ignored from the beginning of the "Deerslayer" tale to the end of it.

6. They require that when the author describes the character of a personage in the tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description. But this law gets little or no attention in the "Deerslayer" tale, as Natty Bumppo's case will amply prove.

7. They require that when a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven- dollar Friendship's Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a negro minstrel in the end of it. But this rule is flung down and danced upon in the "Deerslayer" tale.

8. They require that crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader as "the craft of the woodsman, the delicate art of the forest," by either the author or the people in the tale. But this rule is persistently violated in the "Deerslayer" tale.

9. They require that the personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable. But these rules are not respected in the "Deerslayer" tale.

10. They require that the author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and in their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones. But the reader of the "Deerslayer" tale dislikes the good people in it, is indifferent to the others, and wishes they would all get drowned together.

11. They require that the characters in a tale shall be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency. But in the "Deerslayer" tale, this rule is vacated.

In addition to these large rules, there are some little ones. These require that the author shall:

12. Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.

13. Use the right word, not its second cousin.

14. Eschew surplusage.

15. Not omit necessary details.

16. Avoid slovenliness of form.

17. Use good grammar.

18. Employ a simple and straightforward style.

As Tom Simon said, "it is a pity that Twain never tells us the rule that Cooper did not violate."

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Pulp Radio: The Shadow - "The Mark of the Bat"

Walter Gibson died on this date in 1985. In honor of the master, here is a radio play featuring his best-known character, the immortal Shadow.

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Science Fiction Legacy of Marvel

Over the last couple weeks, I might have sounded a bit bullish about Marvel Science Stories and its effect on science fiction. This pulp by Red Circle, the parent company for today's Marvel Comics, certainly brought science fiction to the eyes of more publishers than just Street & Smith. However, I will disagree with Isaac Asimov's assessment of the magazine. Marvel Science Stories was not a spicy; it was a weird menace pulp.

Weird menace was a skin and sadism genre that sparked an increasing backlash by the public. To build upon its thrills, weird menace featured stories of younger and younger women in impending peril. Red Circle as a line reveled in these stories of torture and porn. Public outrage built, and teens and children stopped reading pulps. When a Red Circle pulp ran a story where a crowd of leering men crucified a twelve-year old, with descriptions that bordered on the lascivious, the government stepped in, banned weird menace, and censored the pulps.

The weird manace tale did leave an imprint on the development of the genre. Even as early as the 1930s, science fiction strove for respectability. During the Campbelline Revolution, Jack Williamson recounts that”science fiction had to be pure as snow”. Fandom wanted no trace of weird menace in its science fiction.  And the censors in place after weird menace’s fall kept sexual content out of Amazing, Astounding, and their competitors. Or as much as possible, for:
It became a grim or frivolous game for some of the writers who were, of course, not fools, to see what they could slip by without editorial knowledge or consent. One famously was able to get through J. W. Campbell and Kay Tarrant a description of a tomcat as a “ball-bearing mousetrap” and Asimov’s 1951 “Hostess” in Galaxy reeked of the perversity of sexual attraction between an alien diplomat and a repressed academic’s wife but these triumphs were few and, more to the point, unnoticed. If they had attracted wide attention, the writers would have paid the price.
Malzberg, Barry N.. Breakfast in the Ruins (Kindle Locations 523-528). Baen Books.
Barry Malzberg further explains in Breakfast in the Ruins that “as late as 1965, science fiction was still a genre which in the main denied the existence, let alone the extent, of human sexuality” and that it wasn’t until “the beginning of the nineteen-seventies, [that] novels of great or relative explicitness (Silverberg’s Dying Inside, The Second Trip, and The World Inside, my own Beyond Apollo) bore the label of category science fiction.”

In short, fan and government backlash against weird menace removed sex as a topic of science fiction for over thirty years, until the rise of the New Wave--who then ran the topic into the ground with as much excess as possible.

As for authors who associated with Red Circle and Marvel Science Stories? Henry Kuttner contributed "Time Trap" to Marvel Science Stories, a move that tainted him from then on. In the eyes of many fans, Kuttner was nothing more than a smut merchant from that point onward. He became the second of the Campbelline grandmasters to be scrubbed out of the popular history by fannish contempt.

So the real legacy of Marvel Comics in science fiction is a record of three decades of censorship and the erasure of one of pulp fiction's best from the popular canon.