Why I Write Pulp
a short essay
Steven W. Bentley
Back in the 1970's when I was growing up, you could go to any store, and they would have two things you just don't see anymore: the comic book rack, and a display of paperback originals. I loved both of those things. I miss them terribly. I miss looking at covers with amazing and garish art (a design both had, by the way), and I miss being able to buy a novel for less than three dollars.
I read my first pulps because of this, with the Doc Savage reprints, the ones with the incredible Bama covers, and the ERB Mars books with the beautiful Whelan cover art. To this day, I think the first three Barsoom books are some of the best action/romance/adventure I have ever read. And my love of Doc Savage is pretty well-known among those who know me.
Once I went into the job market, I took a series of jobs that all required me to write, but I wasn't ever a "professional writer", as it was never my primary source of income. During this time period, the publishing market changed, dramatically. Those paperback originals began having much smaller print runs while the larger books, and the rise of the BESTSELLING AUTHOR became the goal of every publisher, while small presses were being gobbled up by the larger press, and, outside of the series romance industry, writers working in a specific genre seemed to be frowned on. Even Stephen King has discussed how he struggled with the idea that he wasn't writing "real" fiction.
But, for me, there was a freedom in those little paperback originals that sold for $.95-$2.99 because they could be outlandish, wild, adventurish, sexy, sleazy, and smart all at the same time. They weren't literature, but they were damned fine entertainment, a good way to spend the day with a book, and I never felt embarassed having one in my pocket. Granted, I had a few of them taken away from me by teachers who felt that it was their job to censor what I read, but I had a mom who backed me up as they were often books she read, as well. So, on top of everything else, they were sort of transgressive and forbidden, too. I loved that aspect of them.
Now, today, things are changing. The print medium isn't seeing a grand surge of readers, all but one of the big-box bookstores are gone, and the internet has opened the viability of self-publishing and actually finding an audience. So, a couple of years ago, I set out to test those waters with a free, weekly-chaptered, pulp adventure novel, which was the reason for this blog. Things happened and life moved around a bit, and the book just languished while people talked to me about expanding it, changing it, doing this and that and "Maybe" we'd be interested in it until I just kind of gave up on it.
I'm currently doing a full-draft re-write of the novel, and have the next five books loosely plotted as well to self-publish through Amazon, and none of the books will be more than $2.99. Why? Because this is the era of the new pulp writer. Action, horror, sleaze, fun books that are designed to get your heart racing, your imagination going and give you an entertaining read. Books designed to be read on your phone or e-reader or computer screen, while you're laying in bed, riding the bus or the subway, on your lunch break or just whenever, that you can finish quickly, be satisfied and move on to the next one. Pulp. Pure, unadulterated pulp fiction. For the entertainment of the masses. You. For your entertainment. And mine. Because I am setting out to write the books I would love to read. Things that are as exciting and amazing and bizarre and...things a regular publishing house wouldn't touch today because it's just not the same thing everyone else is writing and selling. I'm going to write a few shorts that are going to be free so you can see the style, but then I'm going to blow your minds with the kind of adventure and action, horror and menace, and wrap it all in a pulp package that just makes you feel the same excitement I feel when I'm writing it.
So...Why do I write pulp?
Because we need it.
You may not realize it, but we do.
We need pulp to get our imaginations going, our hopes up, and our hearts pounding again.
Even if you don't realize that you need pulp in your life, well, you do.