Join us August 13-16, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio!

Play Ball! A Look at the Sports Pulps

Thrilling Sports 36-09Although sports have long been part of our history–native Americans are known to have played a primitive form of lacrosse–it was not until 1896 and the introduction of Gilbert Patten’s Frank Merriwell that sports became established in American popular fiction. From 1896 through 1916, Frank and his relatives appeared in more than 1,000 issues of Street & Smith’s story paper TIP TOP WEEKLY and its successors. After the nickel weekly’s demise, the Merriwells’ adventures continued elsewhere in the Street & Smith line of publications, including TOP-NOTCH MAGAZINE and SPORT STORY MAGAZINE, the first all-sports pulp magazine. All told, there were more than 500 million copies of Merriwell periodicals released by the publishing giant over the years.

The first issue of SPORT STORY MAGAZINE, dated September 8, 1923, sold for 15¢ and contained a variety of sports fiction, ranging from baseball, boxing and horse racing to polo, auto racing and tennis stories. Except for the occasional yarn in the general-fiction pulps such as ARGOSY and BLUE BOOK, SPORT STORY would have the market to itself for most of the next five years. It was not until the introduction of FIGHT STORIES during the spring of 1928, that another sports pulp would emerge. However unlike SPORT STORY, the Fiction House pulp focused solely on boxing stories.

With the collapse of the world economy in 1929, the sports pulp market would remain relatively stagnant during the early years of the Great Depression. It would not be until the summer of 1935 and the introduction of DIME SPORT MAGAZINE by Popular Publications that the genre would begin to take off. Over the next five years, twenty-five new sports pulp titles would be introduced to American readers. One of the leading publishers in the rapidly expanding market would be Ned Pines’ Standard Magazines, also known as the “Thrilling Group” of pulps. From 1936 through 1953, Pines’ company would publish about 230 sports pulps.

Standard’s foray into the sports pulp market began much like that of Street & Smith: THRILLING SPORTS, introduced during the fall of 1936, featured a wide range of sports fiction, from baseball and football yarns to track-and-field stories and hockey and horse racing tales. It likewise featured a variety of authors, including western writers Tom Curry, Giles Lutz, and in later years, Louis L’Amour; science-fiction stalwarts Nelson Bond, Ray Cummings, and Oscar Friend; detective dramatists William Campbell Gault, Richard Sale, and Robert Leslie Bellem; and aviation addicts Joe Archibald, George Bruce, and Robert Sidney Bowen. Standard would follow its “Thrilling” title with POPULAR SPORTS MAGAZINE in 1937 and EXCITING SPORTS in 1940. It would enter the specialty sports market–long the province of Fiction House–in the fall of 1939 with THRILLING FOOTBALL. POPULAR FOOTBALL and EXCITING FOOTBALL would follow in 1941.

Like all of the Thrilling titles of the time, the sports magazines were under the guidance of managing editor Leo Margulies–himself a topic at this year’s PulpFest–who wrote:

“The wide field of sports is covered by our magazines . . . Every branch amateur, professional, and collegiate athletics is covered; mature and vigorous stories, with real people and a hero facing a realistic problem. Human interest and woman interest are both desirable–for the stories should be slices of life. Solid story structure must bolster any sport angle. No sport story should ever be so nearly plotless as to read like a newspaper report of a game. Naturally, sport scenes must not be ignored to build up plot, but the plot should be forwarded by them, should grow out of the sport conflict, whether the story is told from the point of view of the hero, the trainer, the coach or an observing friend. . . . Be meticulously careful about the authenticity of the sport material. Keep the story adult! American readers are essentially sport-minded. They are eager for good sport stories, whether about baseball, football, swimming, horse racing, motorboat racing, water polo, golf, tennis, rowing, track, boxing, or any other sports that keep young and old Americans out in the open rooting for their favorite exponents of their favorite game.”

Please join PulpFest 2015 on Thursday evening, August 13th, as we welcome journalist Michelle Nolan to discuss the evolution of the sports pulps. Ms. Nolan has been a newspaper and magazine feature writer for fifty years, covering human-interest features, pop culture, and sports. She has written more than five hundred comics-related features for magazines such as COMIC BOOK MARKETPLACE, COMICS BUYER’S GUIDE, ALTER EGO, and COMIC BOOK ARTIST. She wrote 100 consecutive “Nolan’s Notebook” columns for COMIC BOOK MARKETPLACE from 1993 to 2005. She has contributed to dozens of books and wrote the ground-breaking book LOVE ON THE RACKS: A HISTORY OF AMERICAN ROMANCE COMICS, published by McFarland in 2008. She is also the author of BALL TALES: A STUDY OF BASEBALL, BASKETBALL, AND FOOTBALL FICTION OF THE 1930S THROUGH 1960S, published by McFarland in 2010. She received an Inkpot Award for her work at the 2014 San Diego Comic Convention.

“Play Ball: A Look at the Sports Pulps” will take place on the second floor of the Hyatt-Regency hotel in beautiful downtown Columbus, Ohio, beginning at 10:50 PM on August 13th. Register for “Summer’s Great Pulp Con” to be sure not to miss the first pitch by clicking here.

(The first issue of THRILLING SPORTS was dated September 1936 and featured “The Hurdling Hurricane,” credited to Arthur William Rickard, as its cover story. Also featured were baseball, boxing, auto racing, horse racing, and tennis stories. One of the authors whose work was included in the first issue was Ford Frick. In 1951, Frick became the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. The cover art for the issue was by Earle K. Bergey, who, along with Rudolph Belarski, created many cover paintings for Standard’s sports pulps.)

The Little Giant of the Pulps

Phantom Detective 33-02Soon after Ned Pines was asked by The American News Company to start a chain of pulp magazines that it would distribute for him, the young publisher approached former literary agent and Frank A. Munsey employee, Leo Margulies, to be the managing editor of the new enterprise. With the country gripped by the Great Depression, the two men came up with a daring idea for the rough paper market–a ten-cent pulp magazine. It soon became apparent that the American public was more than ready for such an idea.

Standard Magazines, better known as “The Thrilling Group,” launched THRILLING DETECTIVE, THRILLING ADVENTURES, and THRILLING LOVE in late 1931, each selling for a dime. Within two years, the line was expanding, first with THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE, and soon thereafter with THE LONE EAGLE, SKY FIGHTERS, THRILLING RANCH STORIES, and THRILLING WESTERN. And as the company grew, Leo Margulies became the company’s face.

Respected by authors and editors alike, Margulies became known as “The Little Giant of the Pulps.” As author and screenwriter Steve Fisher described in an article written for a writer’s magazine, “. . . there was a sudden silence. Fifty people stopped eating and looked up. Leo Margulies made his usual dramatic entrance. . . . I thought for a moment (American Fiction Guild) president Art Burks was going to leap to his feet and salute.”

On Friday, August 14th, PulpFest will welcome Leo Margulies nephew, Philip M. Sherman, to the convention to discuss his uncle Leo on both a personal and professional level. “Not only was Leo an outstanding editor and publisher . . . he was also an outstanding uncle,” Mr. Sherman writes. Philip–who is working on a biography of his uncle–will discuss Margulies’ relationship with his own family as well as the “Little Giant’s” relationship with writers, as expressed in his personal correspondence. Mr. Sherman will also be sharing family photos of his Uncle Leo as well as excerpts from letters written by the managing editor of Standard Magazines.”

Joining Mr. Sherman on stage will be popular culture scholars Ed Hulse, editor of BLOOD ‘N’ THUNDER, and Will Murray, author of THE ALL-NEW WILD ADVENTURES OF DOC SAVAGE. Following Mr. Sherman’s intimate presentation on his uncle, the three will discuss the unique methods used by Margulies to manage the Thrilling chain of pulp magazines. The convention would like to thank former organizing committee member Ed Hulse for helping to arrange Philip M. Sherman’s appearance at PulpFest 2015.

“Leo Margulies: The Little Giant of the Pulps” will begin at 7:10 PM on Friday evening, August 14th. Register for “Summer’s Great Pulp Con” to be sure not to miss this historic presentation by clicking here.

(Following the success of Street and Smith’s single-character pulp, THE SHADOW MAGAZINE, Ned Pines entered the hero pulp market with THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE. Its first issue was dated February 1933 and featured front cover art by Bertram James Glover, an illustrator and landscape artist who began painting pulp magazine covers in 1927. You can learn more about THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE and the hero pulp boom of 1933 by purchasing a copy of THE PULPSTER #22. Write to Mike Chomko at for additional details.)

Posted Friday, May 22, 2015 @ 8:45 am
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Guest of Honor, PulpFest 2015

Weird Tales 35-08Our guest of honor for PulpFest 2015 has been collecting pulps ever since he was in college. The first pulp he ever bought was the August 1935 WEIRD TALES–pictured here with front cover art by the incomparable Margaret Brundage. The lead story of the issue was Paul Ernst’s first Doctor Satan story. Our guest found a copy of the pulp for $4 at an old magazine shop and never looked back.

He became interested in H. P. Lovecraft as a kid and has remained a devotee ever since. He attended the first World Fantasy Convention in Providence in 1975. There he met all the “younger” Lovecraftians, then in their sixties and seventies. He has remained well-versed in Lovecraftiana and HPL scholarship to this very day.  He has even written a few Lovecraftian stories: “From the Papers of Helmut Hecker,” appeared in LOVECRAFT’S LEGACY, edited for Tor Books by Robert E. Weinberg and Martin H. Greenberg; and “Appointed,” for S. T. Joshi’s BLACK WINGS II, published by PS Publishing.

Our PulpFest 2015 guest of honor, Chet Williamson, has been writing in the fields of horror, science fiction, and suspense since 1981. Among his many novels are SECOND CHANCE, HUNTERS, DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH, ASH WEDNESDAY, REIGN, and DREAMTHORP. His forthcoming books include THE NIGHT LISTENER AND OTHERS, a story collection from PS Publishing; A LITTLE BLUE BOOK OF BIBLIOMANCY, a collection from Borderlands Press; and PSYCHO: SANITARIUM, an authorized sequel to Robert Bloch’s classic novel. It will be published by St. Martin’s Press.

Over one hundred of Mr. Williamson’s short stories have appeared in such magazines as THE NEW YORKER, PLAYBOY, ESQUIRE, THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, and many other magazines and anthologies. He has won the International Horror Guild Award, and has been shortlisted twice for the World Fantasy Award, six times for the Horror Writers Association’s Stoker Award, and once for the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award. Nearly all of his works are available in e-book format at Amazon’s Kindle Store and through Crossroad Press.

A stage and film actor–his most recent appearance is in Joe R. Lansdale’s film, CHRISTMAS WITH THE DEAD–he has recorded over forty unabridged audiobooks, both of his own work and that of many other writers, available via Audible.

Chet Williamson 2Our guest of honor will be presenting an informal lecture on Friday, August 14th, beginning at 8:10 PM. Mr. Williamson will be discussing his interest in the pulps and H. P. Lovecraft in particular. He will explain how “the old gentleman” of Providence influenced him in his writing as well as the writing of his peers in the world of modern horror fiction.

Chet will also be available on Saturday, August 15th, at 1 PM to meet our members. He will be very happy to provide autographs.

The convention wants to thank organizing committee member J. Barry Traylor for arranging Chet Williamson’s appearance at PulpFest 2015. A longtime pulp fan, Lovecraft enthusiast, and professional writer and actor, Mr. Williamson is the perfect guest to help us celebrate the 125th birthday of H. P. Lovecraft and salute WEIRD TALES, “the unique magazine” where the bulk of Lovecraft’s work appeared.

(You can follow Chet Williamson on Twitter @chetwill or via his home page at

Posted Tuesday, May 19, 2015 @ 8:45 am
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Out of Mind: The Stories of H. P. Lovecraft

Out of Mind_The Stories of HP Lovecraft-1Although he died a virtual pauper, Howard Phillips Lovecraft is now celebrated the world over as one of the leading practitioners of the horror story. Called “The Copernicus of the horror story” by Fritz Leiber, and “The twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale,” by Stephen King, Lovecraft was able to effectively blend elements of the supernatural tale with the concepts of science fiction to create what has been termed the tale of cosmic terror. Called by some the “Cthulhu Mythos” and by others the “Lovecraft Mythos,” his ideas inspired many talented writers of his day–Robert Bloch, August Derleth, Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, Frank Belknap Long, Clark Ashton Smith, and others–to develop stories in the same vein. Today his ideas continue to reverberate, influencing authors, artists, filmmakers, game designers, and other creators to add to Lovecraft’s Mythos.

In August, PulpFest 2015 will be celebrating the 125th anniversary of H. P. Lovecraft’s birth. As part of its salute, the convention will be offering several films as part of its nightly programming. Opening up its “Lovecraft at the Movies” series will be an hour-long picture directed by Raymond St-Jean and originally aired on the Bravo cable network in Canada.

Almost universally praised, OUT OF MIND features Christopher Heyerdahl as the author himself, speaking into the camera to create the illusion that the viewer is watching a lost newsreel of Lovecraft.  Employing ideas from his fiction, his essays, and the voluminous correspondence that H. P. Lovecraft conducted during his lifetime, Heyerdahl discusses the author’s life, his vision, and his work.

Melding its imagined documentary of Lovecraft with a story about a contemporary artist who inherits a copy of Abdul Alhazred’s NECRONOMICON–the fictional book described by Lovecraft that generally brings a premature and undesirable end to those who explore it–OUT OF MIND is one of the most admired films to be inspired by the master of the cosmic terror tale.

Leading off PulpFest’s “Lovecraft at the Movies” series at 11:30 PM on Thursday, August 13th, OUT OF MIND will be preceded by “Pickman’s Model,” a short film made for ROD SERLING’S NIGHT GALLERY and based on the Lovecraft work of the same title.

The Lovecraft film series continues on Friday evening with THE CALL OF CTHULHU. It concludes on Saturday evening with THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS. Both films, produced by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, will be accompanied by NIGHT GALLERY episodes inspired by Lovecraft’s fiction.

“Lovecraft at the Movies” is part of PulpFest 2015, running from August 13th to August 16th at the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Click here to learn more about “Summer’s Great Pulp Con” and its “125 Years of H. P. Lovecraft” celebration.

(Christopher Heyerdahl plays writer H. P. Lovecraft in Raymond St-Jean’s made-for-television movie, OUT OF MIND: THE STORIES OF H. P. LOVECRAFT. The 1998 film explores the author’s vision of the conflict between dreams and reality.)

Posted Saturday, May 16, 2015 @ 8:45 pm
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Pulpcraft: Espionage in The Shadow Magazine

Shadow 35-08-01Fans of the pulp adventures of The Shadow are familiar with the character’s mysterious background, including his service as a spy during the First World War; membership in The Seventh Star, the secret Russian intelligence service; and his network of agents in his war on crime. Fans may also be familiar with raconteur Walter B. Gibson making use of his background in magic tricks and stage illusions to infuse his pulp stories with mystery and misdirection. But the greatest trick Gibson ever pulled may have been inserting real world spy techniques into the pulp adventures of The Shadow, and misdirection kept reader’s minds clouded–until now!

Join Tim King as he gives a rapid-fire presentation on Thursday evening, August 13th, about Gibson’s use of real-world counterintelligence and espionage secrets in the pulps. For longtime fans and new readers alike, Tim will highlight select aspects of real espionage techniques that Gibson hid in plain site while writing as Maxwell Grant. Beyond authoring 283 of the 325 novels for Street and Smith while pounding Smith-Corona typewriters into submission, Walter Gibson may have been secretly showcasing advanced, insider knowledge of espionage methods!

Agent networks! Secret writing! Intelligence collection! Clandestine communication! And… chalk?

Tim King is a career counterintelligence officer, having worked for the United States Intelligence Community and the Fortune 500 business community. Trained in the shadowy arts of human intelligence, spy and counterspy, Tim was introduced to The Shadow through the radio. His love of the character led him to the comics and then the original pulps. Among other things, his membership in the Office of Strategic Services Society and the Society of American Magicians makes him uniquely qualified to explore this previously hidden element of The Shadow.

Tim King’s “Pulpcraft: A Counterintelligence and Espionage Guide to the Pulp Adventures of The Shadow” will lead off the PulpFest 2015 programming schedule beginning at 8 PM on Thursday, August 13th. You may never view the pulp adventures of The Shadow the same way again!

(In “The Man from Scotland Yard,” originally published in THE SHADOW MAGAZINE for August 1, 1935 and reprinted in Sanctum Books 70th volume of their reprint series, the Master of Darkness teams with Scotland Yard’s Eric Delka to investigate an international spy ring. The Scotland Yard inspector and the Dark Avenger would be brought together again in the December 1, 1935 issue as they worked to  recover missing submarine plans, stolen by the legendary Parisian super-criminal, Gaspard Zemba. George Rozen painted the covers for both issues of the Street & Smith pulp magazine.)

Posted Wednesday, May 13, 2015 @ 8:45 am
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