Pulp Culture: The Art of Fiction Magazines

Article excerpt

Pulp Culture: The Art of Fiction Magazines. Frank M. Robinson and Lawrence Davidson. Portland: Collectors Press, 1998.

This impressive history of pulp fiction will be the standard with which future efforts will be compared. Robinson and Davidson easily surpassed the two existing comprehensive surveys, namely The Pulps, edited by Tony Goodstone in 1970, and Danger Is My Business, by Lee Server from 1993, in terms of historical depth and the 440 color cover illustrations, the most in any book published to date. After an introduction and general history, the authors devote one chapter to each separate genre, including adventure, detective, western, super-hero and villain, weird menace, love and sex, sports, war and aviation, science fiction and fantasy, and miscellaneous and odd categories. They also include a chapter highlighting early careers of famous authors like Tennessee Williams, Ray Bradbury, and L. Ron Hubbard, who got their starts in the pulps. Last, material on relative values, bibliography, and pulp dealers round out the book.

As cultural artifacts, pulps reflected societal attitudes of their time. To the authors' credit, they acknowledge and critique racist and sexist cover depictions, especially in the adventure, hero/villain detective, and weird menace genres. African-- Americans were portrayed as savages, and Asian villains with slanted eyes and droopy Fu-Manchu mustaches were always threatening or torturing the blond hero or his female companion. Yet the situations were not always so cut and dried. …


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