Jul 282014
 

Terror Tales 34-09Back in the days of bread lines and hobo jungles, millions of readers found escapist thrills in the pages of cheaply produced magazines printed on rough pulpwood paper. Pulp magazines catered to every imaginable reading taste from detective yarns to pirate stories, from jungle adventures to science fiction, from sports stories to romance tales. But the wildest of them all were the notorious horror tomes known collectively as the shudder pulps.

The so-called “shudder” or “weird-menace” titles were a blood-red splash of color in the grey days of the Great Depression. They announced their monthly wares with circus-poster-style covers featuring voluptuous under-dressed beauties being pursued by hordes of leering lunatics as bent as boomerangs. Their promise: cheap thrills, and plenty of them. In their nightmare universe it was always a dark and stormy night. Tethered damsels suffered in the clutches of fiends such as hell-mad surgeons, warped scientists, and masked and cowled cultists, eagerly abetted by legions of demented dwarfs and horny hunchbacks. They stripped, whipped, and boiled their curvaceous victims with the enthusiasm of medieval inquisitors. Even the requisite rock-jawed heroes of these stories suffered a purgatory of horrors in order to rescue their brutally treated fair maidens.

The weird-menace magazines lasted for but a few brief years, roughly from 1933 to 1941, when the actions of blue-nosed watchdogs helped propel them from the market. In contrast to previous horror magazines with their literate but fusty eldritch mysteries, the new breed of terror pulps dared go where no newsstand magazines had gone before. Dime Mystery 33-10Join PulpFest 2014 on Friday, August 8th, at 9:30 PM as we celebrate the eightieth anniversary of Terror Tales, the best of the weird-menace magazines.

Popular culture professor Garyn G. Roberts, winner of the 2013 Munsey Award and editor of some of the best collections from the pulps; Ed Hulse, publisher of Murania Press books and a consultant for the Dime Detective series from Altus Press; and Walker Martin, who writes about pulp collecting for Steve Lewis’ Mystery*File blog, will weigh in on this Popular Publications title, as well as other shudder pulps–Ace Mystery, Dime MysteryEerie Mysteries, Eerie Stories, Horror StoriesMystery Novels and Short Stories, Mystery Tales, Spicy Mystery Stories, Thrilling Mystery, Uncanny Tales, and others.

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Jul 282014
 

Astounding Science-Fiction 39-02When John W. Campbell became editor of Astounding Stories, he began working to create a science-fiction magazine for mature readers. Writers, both new and old, began to respond: Lester Del Rey with “The Faithful” and “Helen O’Loy;” Jack Williamson with “The Legion of Time;” and L. Ron Hubbard with “The Tramp.” Campbell himself joined in with “Who Goes There,” as did Clifford D. Simak, who had left science fiction, and new writers L. Sprague de Camp and Eric Frank Russell. Seasoned professionals such as Arthur J. Burks, Raymond Z. Gallun, and Manly Wade Wellman also joined in.

But Campbell had been merely tilling the soil in the first year of his editorship, preparing it for the blossoming of science fiction’s Golden Age in 1939. The stage was set when the February Astounding Science-Fiction featured the magazine’s first cover by Hubert Rogers. A free-lance illustrator long associated with Adventure, Rogers would paint nearly sixty covers for Campbell’s Astounding.

Astounding Science Fiction 39-07Although the outpouring of exceptional fiction continued in the early months of 1939, it is the July issue that is most often cited as the start of Astounding‘s golden age. Behind an effective cover by artist Graves Gladney, the reader would find the first prose fiction by A. E. van Vogt as well as Isaac Asimov’s first story for the magazine. August’s and September’s issues continued the trend with the first stories of Robert A. Heinlein and Theodore Sturgeon. October’s number began the serialization of E. E. Smith’s “Gray Lensman,” along with another tale by Heinlein.

Under the editorship of John W. Campbell, Street & Smith’s Astounding Science Fiction was the genre’s trend setter, introducing many of the field’s top authors and publishing some of its most memorable stories. On Friday, August 8th, beginning at 10:30 PM, please join 2013 Munsey Award winner, Professor Garyn G. Roberts, editor of The Prentice Hall Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy; Professor Tom Krabacher of California State University, Sacramento, a member of the Pulp Era Amateur Press Society who has written and lectured on the history of pulp magazines and has long owned a lengthy run of Astounding, back to the late thirties; and PulpFest organizer, movie and pulp historian, author, and the editor of Blood ‘n Thunder, Ed Hulse who will dissect Astounding’s 1939 issues and the blossoming of science fiction’s Golden AgeA slide show featuring the 1939 issues of Street & Smith’s Astounding Science Fiction will accompany the trio’s presentation.

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Jul 272014
 

Science Fiction League LogoOne of the most popular presentations at PulpFest 2013 was Chris Kalb’s discussion of hero pulp premiums. As reported by Sam Maronie, “Graphic designer Chris Kalb presented a dynamite presentation Saturday night on pulp premiums—those little geegaws that readers received for mailing away coupons and a dime to the pulp publishers.”

How did pulp magazine publishers keep readers coming back month after month? Of course the best way was to publish excellent stories. Regardless of genre, the leading pulps–Adventure, Astounding Stories, Black Mask, Blue Book, Dime Western, Doc Savage, G-8 and His Battle Aces, Love Story, The Shadow, The Spider, Sports Stories, Startling Stories, Weird Tales, Wings–attempted to do just that, issue after issue.

Another method that publishers employed to lure dimes on a regular basis from buyers with thin wallets was to create a club and offer premiums. For a few cents or by clipping coupons from a favorite pulp magazine, a devoted fan could become a member in good standing of the Doc Savage Club, one of the Friends of the Phantom, or Adventure magazine’s Camp-Fire Club. Also available were rings, pins, and items such as the Spider Pencil, a celluloid mechanical pencil with rubber eraser of The Spider seal, produced in very limited quantity during 1941-42.

Once again, Chris Kalb will take us back to a time when a few cents not only bought a pulp magazine filled with thrills, but also a Shadow board game or a Spider pennant. Please join him on Friday, August 8th, at 9 PM for a look at how pulps and the radio and movie presentations inspired by them were promoted. You’ll also learn which pulps hosted “The Trail’s End Club,” “The Hollow Tree Club,” or “The Globe Trotter’s Club” and all about the “Shadow Christmas” of 1940. And how about those beautiful promotional items that publishers sent to newsstands? Chris will cover these and more in part two of his presentation on pulp premiums and other collectibles.

To learn more about pulp premiums, please visit Pulpster editor Bill Lampkin’s The Pulp.Net website and do a search for “premiums.” Bill has photographs of rings, membership cards, pins, and other items on his highly informative website.

Science Fiction League Card

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Jul 262014
 

Startling1952-08Although noted for his “pioneering use of sexual and religious themes,” Philip José Farmer was, in short, a pulp writer. While most people don’t think of the pulps when they hear Farmer’s name, he began his career selling stories to pulps such as Adventure, Startling Stories, and Thrilling Wonder Stories. In fact he sold over fifteen stories to pulp magazines and digests before his first novel was published in 1957. In all, Farmer had nearly forty stories published in a wide variety of magazines in the 1950s and 60s.

“A prolific and popular science fiction writer who shocked readers in the 1950s by depicting sex with aliens and challenged conventional pieties of the genre with caustic fables set on bizarre worlds of his own devising,” Farmer was best known for his novels. Called “sprawling, episodic works that gave him room to explore the nuances of a provocative premise while indulging his taste for lurid, violent action,” his best were set in the Riverworld and World of the Tiers series. Named a Grand Master of Science Fiction in 2001, Farmer is also remembered for his work concerning the Wold Newton Family.

Beginning at 8:30 PM on Friday, August 8th, Farmerphiles Michael Croteau and Art Sippo will explore Philip José Farmer’s work  as a magazine writer in the waning years of the pulps. Like many of his contemporaries, Farmer sold stories to over a dozen magazines—five different magazines in 1954 alone—constantly looking for new markets for his work. Accompanying the presentation will be a slide show of magazine covers in which Farmer’s early work appeared.

Michael Croteau, one of the founders of FarmerCon, is the publisher of Meteor House books and editor of The Worlds of Philip José Farmer and Farmerphile. Art Sippo  is a physician board certified in Aerospace medicine and Occupational medicine who is currently working in various emergency rooms in southwestern Illinois. He is the co-host of The Book Cave, a podcast that reviews adventure fiction, comics, movies and all thinks pulp-related.  He has also written the book, Sun Koh: Heir of Atlantis, a re-imagining of a German pulp hero of the 1930s, as well as numerous essays and short stories for magazines and anthologies.

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Jul 252014
 

Startling Stories for 09-48Ned Pines’ Thrilling Group entered the science-fiction pulp market after purchasing Wonder Stories from Hugo Gernsback. Early in 1938, editor Mort Weisinger asked his readers for suggestions concerning a companion to the rechristened Thrilling Wonder Stories. The result of Weisinger’s poll was Startling Stories, a new pulp that debuted at the end of 1938.

Startling Stories featured a lead novel, complete in each issue, plus a number of short stories, one a reprint culled from Gernsback’s Wonder magazines. In later years, Thrilling Wonder Stories also became a reprint source for its companion magazine. Many of the novels to appear in Startling Stories were action-packed space operas, while others bordered on the science fantasies of Abraham Merritt.

When Sam Merwin became the editor of Startling in 1945, he began to mix more mature novels into the magazine. Some of the highlights of this period include Fredric Brown’s “What Mad Universe,” Arthur C. Clarke’s “Against the Fall of Night,” and Edmond Hamilton’s “The City at World’s End.” There were also short stories by Ray Bradbury, C. M. Kornbluth, Fritz Leiber, Clifford Simak, and others. In the early fifties, Startling published Philip José Farmer’s “The Lovers,” a short novel that pioneered the intelligent use of sex in science fiction.

On Friday, August 8th, beginning at 8 PM, Ed Hulse, author and publisher of the Murania Press line of books and magazines, will present a slideshow featuring all 99 of the covers from Startling‘s nearly twenty-year run. He’ll touch on the many great yarns published in the magazine over the years. It’s all part of PulpFest‘s salute to science fiction’s Golden Year of 1939 and 75 years of fantastic fiction!

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Jul 242014
 

Amazing Stories 28-08Inspired by the success of its two cliffhanger serials featuring Olympic swimming champion Larry “Buster” Crabbe as comic-strip hero Flash Gordon, Universal Pictures in 1938 licensed the character of futuristic firebrand Buck Rogers. Originally named Anthony Rogers by creator Philip Francis Nowlan, he first appeared in “Armageddon 2419 A.D.”, a 1928 short novel written for Hugo Gernsback’s pioneering science-fiction pulp Amazing Stories. Rogers was portrayed as a 20th-century Rip Van Winkle who falls into a state of suspended animation and awakes 500 years later to find America overrun by Mongol hordes.

Following publication of a sequel, “The Airlords of Han,” in 1929, Nowlan rechristened his character with a snappier first name, “Buck,” and in partnership with artist Dick Calkins developed a comic strip for syndication in Chicago-based John F. Dille’s newspapers. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was an almost instantaneous hit with readers. The character reached the nation’s airwaves in 1932 as a Monday through Friday radio serial. Both comic strip and radio program soft-pedaled the racial component of Nowlan’s original story and made the hero’s chief adversary one Killer Kane, a space pirate who aligned himself with the galaxy’s worst troublemakers. The capable Wilma Deering partnered with Buck and cheerily eccentric Dr. Huer employed his scientific abilities as needed.

Universal’s screenwriters kept most of the characters from strip and radio show, although Kane’s paramour, Ardala Valmar, was dropped and Wilma’s younger brother Buddy became a scientist’s son forced into suspended animation along with Buck. The Nowlan novelette’s concept of an America under siege was retained, with the resistance movement’s headquarters located within a hidden city constructed inside a huge mountain. The plot was animated by the rebels’ attempts to forge an alliance with Saturn against Kane and his minions, presumably scattered throughout the solar system.

Buster Crabbe was cast as Buck when production of a third Flash Gordon serial was delayed. Universal contract player Constance Moore, then just eighteen years old, made a surprisingly mature Wilma. Child actor Jackie Moran played Buddy, with C. Montague Shaw bringing gravitas and sobriety to the role of Dr. Huer. The villainous faction was headed by Anthony Warde as Kane and Henry Brandon as his right-hand man Lasca.

Released in April 1939, Buck Rogers played in the nation’s theaters throughout the year, as science-fiction pulp magazines were enjoying renewed popularity and rapidly increasing in number. Universal’s chapter play failed to yield profits commensurate with those accumulated by the Flash Gordon serials, but it attained considerable popularity when released to television in 1951. Since then, Buck Rogers has been in perpetual syndication and become available in such home-video formats as VHS and DVD. Several generations, not yet born when it first flashed across theater screens, have been entranced by the simplistic charm that makes it representative of an earlier era in which a sense of wonder predominated and real-life innovations had not yet caught up to the fanciful devices conjured up by writers of science fiction.

In 1934, John Dille’s firm underwrote production of a ten-minute promotional film exhibited at that year’s Chicago World’s Fair. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, produced by prominent magician and entrepreneur Harlan Tarbell, was laughably inept but effectively represented the elaborate costumes, ray guns, and rocket ships designed by artist Calkins for the comic strip. The art directors of Universal’s Buck Rogers serial pointedly eschewed these well-known designs (which had served as the basis for innumerable licensed products) in manufacturing sets, props, costumes, and miniatures for the chapter play.

As part of its celebration of “Science Fiction’s Golden Year of 1939,” PulpFest 2014 will run four chapters of Buck Rogers each night of the convention, beginning on August 7th and running through August 9th. Our Thursday and Friday showings will begin at 11 PM, while our Saturday presentation will follow the conclusion of our auction. We will preface the Thursday-night screening of the serial’s first four chapters with the seldom-seen 1934 promotional short produced by John Dille.

Buck Rogers Film Poster

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Jul 232014
 

Adventure 46-03In his introduction to The Worlds of Philip José Farmer: Voyages to Strange Days, editor Michael Croteau writes, “A child of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, Farmer wrote many of the same types of stories as his contemporaries during the last half of the twentieth century: tales of space exploration, alien planets, fantastic journeys, alien invasions, time travel, artificial worlds, the afterlife, space opera, alternate history, mad scientists, robots, dystopias, list worlds, feral humans, displaced men, artificial intelligence, the future, the distant future, and the realy, really far distant future. Name a science fiction trope and Farmer almost certainly tried his hand at it, sometimes playing it straight, sometimes turning it on its head.”

Although noted for his “pioneering use of sexual and religious themes,” Philip José Farmer was, in short, a pulp writer. This year FarmerCon IX, our “convention within a convention,” turns its attention to the pulp elements found in Peoria’s Grand Master of Science Fiction‘s canonOur annual FarmerCon panel presentation will begin at 10 PM on Thursday, August 7th.

In The Farmerian Vision: Pulp Meets Science Fiction, moderator Paul Spiteri–editor of the Farmer collection Pearls from Peoriaand panelists Jason Aiken and Christopher Paul Carey will discuss the unique way in which the Hugo award-winning author blended pulp elements and themes with his science-fictional works.

Jason Aiken became interested in the pulps and works of Philip José Farmer in 2009. He is the host of the Pulp Crazy podcast and video blog where he reviews classic and new pulp fiction. Christopher Paul Carey, one of our 2014 New Fictioneers, coauthored Gods of Opar: Tales of Lost Khokarsa with Mr. Farmer, and authored Exiles of Kho, a prelude to the Khokarsa series.

Since 2011, PulpFest has hosted FarmerCon, a convention that began in Peoria, Illinois, the hometown of Philip José Farmer. Originally a gathering of Farmer fans figuratively, and literally, right outside Phil’s back door, FarmerCon offered presentations, dinners, and even picnics at the author’s house.  After the passing of Phil and Bette Farmer in 2009, it was decided to take FarmerCon on the road to broaden its horizons. By holding the convention alongside events like PulpFest, Farmer fans get a variety of programming and a room full of pulp and book dealers to enjoy. As always, PulpFest is  pleased to welcome FarmerCon IX members to the Hyatt Regency Columbus.

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Jul 222014
 

Avenger 39-09Seventy-five years ago, Astounding Science Fiction published the first science-fiction stories of Robert E. Heinlein, Theodore Sturgeon, and A. E. Van Vogt, as well as Isaac Asimov’s first story for the magazine. The year also witnessed a blossoming of magazine science fiction and fantasy with eight new pulps entering the field. The first World Science Fiction Convention was also held in New York City that year, home to the World’s Fair and its “World of Tomorrow” theme. It was indeed a golden year for fantastic fiction.

1939 was also the year that Street & Smith attempted to duplicate the success of their leading character pulps, The Shadow and Doc Savage. Trying to get all their ducks in order, the company’s business manager Henry Ralston and hero-pulp editor John Nanovic hired journeyman author Paul Ernst to write the lead novels for a new single-character magazine entitled The Avenger.

With the help of Shadow scribe Walter B. Gibson and Lester Dent, the man behind the Doc Savage tales, Ernst was given the task to create what was hoped to be a very profitable magazine. Writing behind the Kenneth Robeson house name, the pseudonym used for the Doc Savage yarns, Ernst put together some excellent stories, particularly in the early going. In the initial entry in the series, “Justice, Inc.,” Ernst’s character, former adventurer Richard Henry Benson, suffers a nervous breakdown following the disappearance of his wife and daughter during an airline flight. Afterward, Benson’s hair is white and his face frozen, but very pliable. This allows him to mold his features into whatever disguise he chooses. He becomes The Avenger and gathers a group of fellow justice-seekers around him.

On Thursday, August 7th, at 9:15 PM, join PulpFest for a salute to “The Avenger’s Diamond Jubilee.” Author and popular culture scholar Rick Lai will offer an illustrated history of the character, exploring The Avenger’s creation and development over time.

Best known for his articles based on the Wold Newton concepts of Philip José Farmer, recently collected by Altus Press as Rick Lai’s Secret Histories: Daring Adventurers, Rick Lai’s Secret Histories: Criminal Masterminds, Chronology of Shadows: A Timeline of The Shadow’s Exploits and The Revised Complete Chronology of Bronze, Rick Lai lives in New York. His short fiction has been collected in Shadows of the Opera (Wild Cat Books, 2011) and two Black Coat Press collections published in 2013–Shadows of the Opera: Retribution in Blood and Sisters of the Shadows: The Cagliostro Curse. He has also appeared regularly in Black Coat’s Tales of the Shadowmen anthologies.

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Jul 212014
 

Famous Fantastic Mysteries 40-03In a letter published in “The Readers’ Viewpoint” column in its June 1948 issue, Robert Boyer labeled Famous Fantastic Mysteries as “. . . the Aristocrat of the Pulps, the acme of stf perfection,” a title that can likewise be conferred upon the magazine’s later companions, Fantastic Novels and A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine.

Started by the Frank A. Munsey Company in the fall of 1939 and edited by Mary Gnaedinger, Famous Fantastic Mysteries was created to reprint the scientific romances originally published in The All-Story, Argosy, and The Cavalier. Welcomed by readers anxious to experience the classics found in the Munsey files, Famous Fantastic Mysteries was joined by a companion title, Fantastic Novels, in the early summer of 1940. For most of the next year, the two magazines were published in alternating months.

In late 1942, Munsey sold many of its pulps—including their two classic reprint magazines—to Popular Publications. Reluctant to take on a pair of fantasy titles, the new publisher opted to continue Famous Fantastic Mysteries, but not Fantastic Novels. Popular would wait until 1948 to return Fantastic Novels to the stands, once again relying on the Munsey archives for its content. A third title, A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine, was added in late 1949.

On Thursday, August 7th, beginning at 8:30 PM, Ed Hulse, author and editor of Blood ‘n’ Thunder and Nathan Madison, popular culture historian and author of the Eisner-nominated Anti-Foreign Imagery in American Pulps and Comic Books, 1920-1960, discuss Famous Fantastic Mysteries, one of the major science-fiction titles started in 1939, as well as its two brethren, Fantastic Novels and A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine. Highly regarded during the pulp era, all three remain highly collectible pulp magazines, given their exceptional fiction and beautiful illustrations.

Fantastic Novels 48-03

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Jul 202014
 

Pulp Culture PirateOn June 30, 2014, the pulp community not only lost a great collector, but even more so, a great friend. Frank M. Robinson was 87 years old at the time of his passing. A science-fiction and thriller writer, editor, speech writer for gay activist Harvey Milk, and a movie actor, Frank was known in the pulp community as the leading collector of top-grade pulp magazines.

Although he majored in physics in college, Frank Robinson always wanted to write. He sold his first story to Astounding Science Fiction in 1950. Following the Korean War, Robinson studied journalism and soon began a career as an editor, first with Science Digest and later with Rogue and Playboy. In 1974, The Glass Inferno was published, a novel written by Robinson and Thomas Scortia. Later filmed as The Towering Inferno, Frank invested much of the proceeds he received from the book in his pulp collection. Years later, the sale of the Frank Robinson Pulp Collection attained almost legendary status among the pulp community.

Winner of the 2000 Lamont Award, Frank Robinson was the author of The Power, Pulp Culture, Science Fiction of the 20th Century, and other works. On Thursday, August 7th, beginning at 8 PM, PulpFest will pay tribute to this fine writer and editor, great collector, and good friend who recently passed. Be sure to be at the Hyatt Regency Columbus for “Remembering Frank Robinson.”

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