Today, we’ve decided to share a short essay written by Walker Martin for Steve Lewis’ Mystery*File blog. Walker has been a reader and collector for over sixty years. In 1997, he received the Lamont Award at Pulpcon 26 in Bowling Green, Ohio. We’re proud to have him as one of our own and can think of no one better to answer the question, “Why PulpFest?” Take it away Walker . . .
The last couple days I’ve been thinking about PulpFest, which will be held July 21 through 24 in Columbus Ohio. That’s just a week from tomorrow! I’ve been deluged by logical and sane-looking collectors and non-collectors all asking me the same question: why bother attending PulpFest? They have shown up at my house; they have called me on the telephone; they have sent me emails. Enough is enough! Here’s a list of excuses for not attending that I hear all the time, and why none of them are valid:
1 – I have no money! Sorry, but I’ve attended many a Pulpcon in the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s and I went with very little money. Are there no credit cards? Are there no credit unions? Are there no non-collecting spouses to borrow money from? Even when I had the money, I often blew it before the convention by visiting local bookstores like Bonnett’s and Dragon’s Lair in Dayton, Ohio. If not in the bookstores, then in the hotel rooms of friends who let me see what they were bringing to sell. I learned to go without much cash, but I brought a few boxes of pulps to trade and sell at my table.
2 – I’m in poor health and too sick to attend. Sorry again! I had a friend who had a terminal illness and came to Pulpcon anyway. Another friend actually collapsed at the convention and died soon after. I myself once threw my back out three days before the show and my doctor and chiropractor both told me to forget about making the long drive to the convention. I felt like I was crippled for life, but I managed to squeeze into the car and drive out. I had to stop numerous times near hotels because I thought I was not going to make it. Perhaps I could rent a room and lay there for a couple weeks until I could stand. It took me 16 hours instead of the usual 9 hours, but I made it. I spent the entire convention standing because sitting down caused back spasms.
3 – I have no space or I live in a small apartment. Collectors always make space for the things they love! When I first met Bob Lesser in the 1970’s he had an apartment full of Disney toys. This was New York City and the place was tiny. A path from the front door to the bed and another path to the bathroom. Otherwise, every inch was toys, robots, and paintings. I once ran out of space and I hunted for over a year until I found a bigger house. I went to dozens of open houses and looked at hundreds of houses. I finally found a big house. Unfortunately, I soon filled it up with books. Now I need a bigger place! The old story. . .
4 – My wife is a non-collector and forbids me to go. Tell me about it! I’ve been married over 40 years and I’ve heard it all. I still go and I still collect. Les Mayer told me in 1990 at the Wayne, New Jersey Pulpcon that his wife thought he was at a business meeting. If she knew he was at Pulpcon she might burn his pulps. Collectors have to become masters of deception and great liars to defeat the non-collector. Many a time I’ve lied and many a time I’ve smuggled books into the house in the dead of night while “she who must be obeyed” slept the innocent sleep of the non-collector. Non-collectors exist to be ignored . . .
5 – I can’t get off from work. Sorry, but this is not a valid reason. My employers always knew I was a rabid book collector who took off without exception a week for Pulpcon in the summer. I made sure that my vacation request was in as early as I knew the convention dates. Once they sorrowfully told me I couldn’t go because of some work bullshit. I went anyway and left it to them to ignore my absence without leave or put up with one pissed-off book collector. I realize the employment situation is different nowadays, but which is more important, your job or your collection? Your marriage or your collection? Right, your collection.
6 – Who cares about the convention? I can buy my pulps off ebay. Back in the 1920’s and 1930’s, dime novel collectors existed. But they didn’t have a convention and died off. Now I know of only a few in existence and dime novels are just about worthless. If I had a table full of dime novels priced at a buck apiece, most collectors would scurry away in disgust. We have to support the two big pulp conventions — Windy City in Chicago and PulpFest in Columbus. If we don’t, then one day we will wake up and the pulps will be dead. These shows garner a lot of attention and people keep talking about the pulps because of the efforts of Mike Chomko, Jack and Sally Cullers, Doug Ellis, John Gunnison, Bill Lampkin, Barry Traylor, Chuck Welch, and all the other people who lend a hand.
7 – It’s too late! Like hell. There are hotels with rooms available nearby. What’s the most important thing in a serious collector’s life? His collection, without a doubt. We work, we slave, we march on to the bitter end where we will eat dirt in the boneyard. We live lives of quiet desperation and worry about the afterlife. Go to PulpFest and collect some books and pulps! You only live once . . .
8 – And finally the best reason for attending! They are a hell of a lot of fun. Not only do you get to roam around a gigantic dealers’ room full of books and pulps, but you get to meet and talk to some of the greatest collectors and dealers. These will lead to future deals and contacts. Plus you can eat and drink with them! Though I seem to be one of last of the drinkers. And the panels! All day and all night, we will be discussing pulps and books. What’s cooler than that?
I’ve never met a magazine or book collector who regretted attending PulpFest. I hope to see some of you there!
(And so do we. The convention will take place from Thursday evening, July 21, through Sunday afternoon, July 24, in the Columbus, Ohio Arena district at the Hyatt Regency hotel and the city’s spacious convention center. Start making your plans to join us at the “pop culture center of the universe” for PulpFest 2016. You’ll have an AMAZING time!
If you are not from the Columbus area and have yet to book your room for this year’s PulpFest, you can try calling 1-888-421-1442 to reach the Hyatt Regency. Perhaps there are rooms still available. Alternately, you can search for a room at tripadvisor or a similar website to find a hotel. Other sites include www.columbusconventions.com/thearea.php, courtesy of the Greater Columbus Convention Center, and the Experience Columbus lodging page at http://www.experiencecolumbus.com/stay. Thanks so much to everyone who has reserved a room at our host hotel. By staying at the Hyatt Regency, you’ve helped to ensure the convention’s success.
Walker Martin’s essay, “Why Attend PulpFest?” originally appeared — in slightly different form — on Steve Lewis’ Mystery*File blog on August 9, 2015 as the seventeenth segment of “Collecting Pulps: A Memoir.)