Thursday, July 21, 2011

PulpFest 2011, July 29 - 31, Columbus, OH + A Beginner's Guide to Pulps!

[Scroll down for a casual Beginner's Guide / Introduction to / History of the Pulps]

In the not-so-distant past, an event known as PulpCon was hosted right here in Dayton, Ohio. It's reign lasted just shy of four decades. The final PulpCon was #37, held in 2008.

PulpFest is a new convention that has filled the void since 2009! PulpFest, naturally, features authentic pulp-paper magazines for collectors, but also includes affordable reprints and even NEW Pulp creations. Art lovers can check out and pick up original vintage art as well as works by current artists featuring the themes and styles of old, and more pieces with a modern take on the classics! Fans of old time radio will also find folks trading in classic radio shows and their modern digital counterparts!

However, the thing that inspired this post is:

The night before PulpFest officially begins there will be a presentation called "Edmond Hamilton: From Ohio to the Stars" in the Thompson Library at the Ohio State University campus, 1858 Neil Avenue.

I've been shelving Edmond Hamilton's science fiction in our stacks for decades. I knew he was in the pulps and I knew he was somewhat popular. Being a science fiction fan, I always figured I'd get around to reading some of his work. Based on his reputation, I've recommended him to customers seeking "older sci-fi". What I didn't know is that he was an Ohioan! Also, he was married to another big name in science fiction, Leigh Brackett, who worked on the screenplay of what is widely recognized as the best of the six Star Wars films, "The Empire Strikes Back"! These little tidbits bump Hamilton's work up a good bit on my reading to-do list. :-)

Also, PulpFest's announcement of the forum, on 7/20, coincided with the anniversary of the first moon walk by fellow Ohioan, Neil Armstrong! I wonder if the street where the forum will be held, Neil Avenue, was named for the Astronaut? I'm sure such real-life scientific endeavor held special meaning for early writers of the science fiction genre. [As I edit this blog entry, "Atlantis" has made it's final landing, ending the 30 year saga of NASA's Space Shuttle program, and slapping a nostalgic counterpoint onto this paragraph.]

As a side note, our Bonnett Family lore includes a mention that our Great-Grandmother, Ruby Bonnette* - mother of our store's founder, Harold "Hal" Murray Bonnett (also an Ohioan, and a writer of detective pulp stories) -  babysat Neil Armstrong. [*Grandpa Harold dropped the terminal "e" from the family name as a means to end frequent mispronunciations - "Bonnett-ee".]

It will be a shame to miss the Edmond Hamilton forum, especially in light of his Ohio heritage.

Thanks to PulpFest for the bit of enlightenment! :-)

==== PULP FRIENDS ====

We miss our old friends from PulpCon, but we can't visit PulpFest as we're only two people and must keep our shop open for our regular customers, many of whom haven't a clue what we mean when we mention "pulps". Also, we no longer have much in the way of the actual pulp magazines. BUT, we've still got a great selection of other vintage magazines, books, and comics. We hope some of our friends from the old Con might stop in to say "Hi" on their way to/from the Fest.

And now....


Through the 1920s, '30s, and '40s pulp magazines (so-called for the inexpensive paper on which they were printed) were, along with radio, a primary form of mass entertainment. The term "pulp fiction" is now popularly associated with any story in a "retro" setting, featuring scurrilous characters in seedy situations, because so many of the pulp magazines contained stories of man's inhumanity to man.

The venerable PulpCon kept alive the adventures of heroes like "The Shadow" and "Doc Savage", and honored the fragile paper realm that introduced us to enduring characters like "Conan the Barbarian" and Solomon Kane (Robert E. Howard), Tarzan and John Carter of Mars (Edgar Rice Burroughs), and the otherworldly horrors of H.P. Lovecraft. The books, comics, and movies starring these characters, and others, are still in public eye, even now.

There were Pulps for nearly every taste; Westerns, Science Fiction, Romance, Sports, Adventure, Mystery, War, Spicy or Breezy (euphemisms for Steamy/Sexy - honestly, not-so-sexy by today's standards), and even Hero pulps, which inspired much of today's comic book content. These days Batman and Captain America retain the most similarity to the classic pulp-style of heroes. Many other pulp-ish characters exist all over the place, but aren't as well-known, such as Blackhawks in DC comics, my personal favorite character- The Rocketeer, and the movie "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow".

TV shows like "The Twilight Zone" and "The Outer Limits" were designed to tell the kinds of tales that originally appeared in Pulp as shorts. The 1980s TV series "Amazing Stories" was directly named for a sci-fi pulp that began in 1926 and was still in publication, through many owners and formats, until May 2005. And there was one particular episode of "LOST" called "Exposé". It was a stand-alone episode that had so much pulp on it one might've imagined smelling oranges! I *HIGHLY* recommend this single episode, and you don't need to know anything about LOST to enjoy it's pulpy goodness!

Two major cinema classics (which happen to be two of my very favorite movies of all time) were both originally short stories in pulp magazines. "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951) was loosely based on "Farewell to the Master" which appeared in the October 1940 issue of "Astounding Science Fiction", still in publication, but now known as Analog Science Fiction and Fact, making it the longest running science fiction magazine of all time. The other is the Cornell Woolrich story "It Had to be Murder" (Dime Detective Magazine, February 1942) which became Alfred Hitchcock's excellent suspense movie "Rear Window" (1954) starring the charming Jimmy Stewart, the stunning Grace Kelly, and the menacing Raymond Burr

The types of stories that populated pulp magazines have been around for nearly as long as people have been telling tales, but it was the era of Pulp Magazines that dropped them soundly into the spotlight of modern entertainment. The Pulp examples of heroism in the face of ultimate evil, and our thirst for escape from the daily hum-drum into lands of romance, adventure, and excitement mean these wondrous tales will be around for a very long time. The associated fun and mystery born of pulp reaches into nearly every form of our entertainment. Pulp is stealthy. It's sensibility is one of the Dirty Little Secrets of all our favorite entertainments! Remember, doing the Time Warp once in a while can be a lot fun! Take a look back once in a while. You may find that hot, new show isn't really so new after all.


  1. Nice article about PulpFest Kevin. Too bad you can't get to Columbus this weekend as it would be nice to have a Bonnett there. I remember what a pleasure it was to meet your grandfather Hal years ago when I attended Pulpcon.

  2. Thanks Barry. In review, I realize that I forgot to mention two things, though, one appears in my 'tags'. I'll work on a supplemental post to correct the omission.