About PulpFest 2017

Beginning with its first convention in 2009, PulpFest has annually drawn raves from pop culture enthusiasts. Planned as the summertime destination for fans and collectors of vintage popular fiction and related materials, PulpFest seeks to honor pulp fiction and pulp art by drawing attention to the many ways they have inspired writers, artists, film directors, software developers, game designers, and other creators over the decades. That’s why PulpFest is renowned for its wide range of interesting and entertaining programming. So what will be happening at PulpFest 2017?

Although the earliest pulps were general fiction magazines, the rough-paper rags eventually began to specialize. Pulps featuring aviation and war stories, fantasy and the supernatural, love and romance, the railroad, science fiction, sports, and other genres emerged. There were also titles devoted to prison yarns, firefighters, and even engineering stories. However, one of the longest lasting and most popular categories was the detective field. In fact, the first pulp magazine successfully dedicated to a single fiction genre was Street & Smith’s DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE.

Introduced in late 1915, the first pulp devoted to “stories dealing with the detection of crime” inspired dozens of similar titles: ALL DETECTIVE MAGAZINE,  CLUES, CRACK DETECTIVE, DETECTIVE-DRAGNET, DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY, HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE, NEW DETECTIVE, POPULAR DETECTIVE, PRIVATE DETECTIVE STORIES, REAL DETECTIVE TALES, SPICY DETECTIVE STORIES, THRILLING DETECTIVE, and many others.

Popular Engineering Stories, 30-04Although a trailblazer as a specialty magazine, DETECTIVE STORY did little to further the development of the detective or crime story. That task would be left to its highly prized successors: BLACK MASK  — the pulp where the hard-boiled detective story began to take shape — and DIME DETECTIVE MAGAZINE — where the tough guy detective became extremely popular. Call them what you will — flatfoots, gumshoes, dime detectives, or private eyes  — it was these hardboiled dicks that transformed the traditional mystery story into the tough guy (and gal) crime fiction that remains popular to this very day.

Although most hardboiled pulp fiction of the pulps featured male protagonists, some very dangerous dames also found their way into the rough paper magazines. These hardboiled ladies helped to pave the way for such modern day gumshoes as Sue Grafton‘s Kinsey Millhone, Marcia Muller‘s Sharon McCone, and Sara Paretsky‘s V. I. Warshawski. Collectively, these authors and their characters helped the hardboiled school of detective fiction writing evolve in new directions.

Many leading authors of contemporary female hardboiled detective fiction cite Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, as well as the Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton series books, as major influences on their writing. Pulp collector and mystery author Bill Pronzini has also suggested that writers such as Grafton, Muller, and Paretsky “owe at least of small debt of gratitude to” pulp authors Georgiana Ann Randolph Craig, better known as Craig Rice; Leigh Brackett, whose novel NO GOOD FROM A CORPSE led to her co-writing the screenplay for Chandler’s THE BIG SLEEP; and Dorothy Dunn, who published over sixty stories in DIME DETECTIVE, DETECTIVE TALES, BLACK MASK, and other detective pulps.

sheena-queen-of-the-jungleAdditionally, female pulp characters such as Cleve Adams’s Violet McDade and Nevada Alvarado, Lester Dent’s Pat Savage, Paul Ernst’s Nellie Gray and Rosabel Newton, John Russell Fearn’s Golden Amazon, Walter Gibson’s Myra Reldon and Margo Lane, Robert E. Howard’s Bêlit, the “Queen of the Black Coast,” C. L. Moore’s Jirel of Joiry, Norvell Page’s Nita Van Sloan, Les Savage’s Senorita Scorpion, Theodore Tinsley’s Carrie Cashin, Gene Francis Webb’s Grace Culver, and the pseudonymously written Domino Lady and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, all depicted women in roles often reserved for men. Generally, they performed equal to or better than their male counterparts. These dangerous dames helped to remove women from the drawing rooms of Carolyn Wells and Agatha Christie, from the love and western romance pulps, and into the mean streets of “a world gone wrong.”

Populating the mean streets of the pulps were some very bad actors: the psychos of the pulps.  Perhaps the most famous fictional “psycho” of them all is Norman Bates, the insane killer portrayed by Anthony Perkins in PSYCHOThis classic film — directed by Alfred Hitchcock — was based on a 1959 novel written by Robert Bloch. The author, born on April 3, 1917, got his start as a writing professional in the pulps. His first sale was made to his favorite pulp magazine, WEIRD TALES. Over the years, Bloch’s and Hitchcock’s “psycho” has served to inspire similar characters in popular culture.

Like Bloch’s PSYCHO, the pulps were a breeding ground for madness. On a monthly basis, mad scientists, crazed hunchbacks, and foul cultists would threaten beautiful women with bodily injury and “fates worse than death” in the pages of weird menace magazines such as TERROR TALES and HORROR STORIES. Over in the hero pulps, New York City’s population would be decimated by one madman after another in the pages of THE SPIDERAmerica’s Secret Service Ace, Jimmy Christopher, would save America from tyrant after tyrant in OPERATOR #5. The Shadow would battle Shiwan Khan and Benedict Stark, while Doc Savage had his hands full with John Sunlight.

Eventually, the pulp publishers tested their marketing skills as they introduced “villain” pulps: DOCTOR DEATH, DR. YEN SIN, THE OCTOPUS, THE SCORPION, and THE MYSTERIOUS WU FANG. Although these series were all short-lived, they helped to popularize the concept of the diabolic madman. PulpFest will be celebrating both the hundredth anniversary of Robert Bloch’s birth and some of the psychos of the pulps at our next convention.

In addition to our exciting programming, PulpFest will host a large dealers’ room featuring tens of thousands of pulp magazines, vintage paperbacks, digests, men’s adventure and true crime magazines, original art, first edition hardcovers, series books, reference books, dime novels and story papers, Big Little Books, B-Movies, serials and related paper collectibles, old-time radio shows, and Golden and Silver Age comic books, as well as newspaper adventure strips. Not only that, we’ll also have an auction on Saturday night that promises to be one for the ages! You’ll find all this and more at PulpFest 2017.

The convention will take place from Thursday evening, July 27, through Sunday afternoon, July 30, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just nineteen miles north of the exciting city of Pittsburgh. You can book your room directly through the PulpFest website. Just click the “Book a Room for 2017” link on our home page or call 1-800-222-8733. Be sure to mention PulpFest in order to receive the convention rate.

Start making your plans now to join in our exploration of “Hardboiled Dicks, Dangerous Dames, and a Few Psychos” at the “pop culture center of the universe” called PulpFest 2017.

(Designed by PulpFest’s artistic director, William Lampkin, our PulpFest 2017 post card features the work of artist John Newton Howitt. His painting was originally used as the cover for the April 15, 1934 number of Popular Publications’ DIME DETECTIVE MAGAZINE.

The April 1930 issue of POPULAR ENGINEERING STORIES, a “Blue Circle Magazine,” was the only issue of this pulp. Published by Harold Hersey’s Magazine and Book Corporation, it featured front cover art by W. C. Brigham, Jr.

The Spring 1951 issue of  STORIES OF SHEENA, QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE, a Fiction House magazine, was the only issue of this pulp. It featured front cover art by Allen Anderson. He worked for Fawcett Publications from 1929 through 1939. After moving to New York City in 1940, Anderson painted covers for pulp magazines published by Ace, Fiction House, Harry Donenfeld, and Martin Goodman.

Doctor Death was first introduced in a series of stories credited to Edward P. Norris that appeared in Dell Publications’ ALL DETECTIVE. When that title was cancelled in 1935, it was replaced by a new pulp focusing on an arch villain. Entitled DOCTOR DEATH, the magazine lasted for a total of three issues. It’s first number — dated February 1935 — featured front cover art by Rudolph Zirm, a freelance artist who contributed a few dozen pulp covers to various publishers over a period of six years.

In the three Doctor Death pulp novels — all written by Harold Ward — Doctor Death is Rance Mandarin, “a master of the occult with an insane hatred of scientific progress and industrialization. He believes it is his mission to return the world to a blissful primitive state, which he attempts to do with the aid of zombies, elementals, dissolution rays and communist heavies.”)