Happy Birthday Gloria Stoll Karn

Nov 12, 2018 by

In 2017, PulpFest welcomed pulp artist Gloria Stoll Karn as as its Guest of Honor. A resident of Pittsburgh, the artist is one of very few living individuals who worked in the pulp magazine industry. Tomorrow is her 95th birthday.

In a field dominated by men, Gloria Stoll was quite unique. At age seventeen, she began contributing black and white interior illustrations to pulp magazines. In a few years, Stoll was painting covers.

Rafael DeSoto inspired Gloria to become a commercial artist. A graduate of New York’s High School of Music and Art, Stoll became an interior artist for Popular Publications. This evolved into painting covers for the publisher’s line of women’s pulps. She contributed covers to ALL-STORY LOVELOVE BOOKLOVE NOVELS, LOVE SHORT STORIES, NEW LOVE, RANGELAND ROMANCES, ROMANCE, and ROMANCE WESTERN.

In late 1943, Stoll began painting covers for Popular’s mystery and detective pulps. Her work was featured on BLACK MASK, DETECTIVE TALES, DIME MYSTERY MAGAZINE, and NEW DETECTIVE. She also did interior illustrations for ARGOSY magazine. Gloria continued working in the pulp field until 1949.

In Ms. Stoll Karn’s own words: “Pulp artists were required to come up with ideas for the magazine covers which reflected the general flavor of the stories within. Moving on to painting covers for mystery and detective magazines involved a radical conceptual switch. It was a surprise when I came up with gruesome ideas and concluded that, within the human psyche, there is a shadow side of which we are often unaware. I am grateful that my work struck a balance which uncovered the dark side within, along with the light side depicting the joys of romance.”

Gloria’s pulp career ended when she married Fred Karn in 1948. The couple moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where they raised three children. In the 1950s, Stoll Karn began teaching art classes. Her work has been exhibited at the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum’s National Print Annual, the Pittsburgh Watercolor Society’s International Exhibition, and the Norman Rockwell Museum. It is in the permanent collections of Yale University, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Westinghouse Corporation, the Speed Art Museum, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Pittsburgh Department of Education. She is listed in WHO’S WHO IN AMERICAN ART. She currently works in abstraction and draws upon her life experience.

(One of Gloria Stoll’s cover paintings graced the March 1945 issue of Popular Publications’ BLACK MASK. Although tomorrow is Tuesday the 13th, we thought it was close enough. PulpFest wishes the best of luck to Gloria Stoll Karn on her 95th birthday.)

Children of the Pulps Meet Children of the Night

Oct 29, 2018 by

HORROR STORIES was introduced in January 1935 as the sister title to TERROR TALES. Both Popular Publications titles harkened back to pulp’s roots in penny dreadfuls. They fell victim to the wartime paper shortage in 1941. During its six year run, HORROR STORIES boasted some of the genre’s best cover art by the great John Newton Howitt.

The Children of the Pulps, much like “the Children of the Night,” are happily still with us. As Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula noted, “What music they make.” Beginning on Thursday evening, August 15, and running through Sunday, August 18, PulpFest 2019 will celebrate that heritage with “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories,” an examination of the pervasive influence of pulps on contemporary pop culture.

You can book your room directly through our website. Book early and don’t miss the chance to stay at the beautiful DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry. Just click the link that reads “Book a Room” below the PulpFest banner. You’ll be redirected to a secure site where you can place your reservation.

 

“On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o’-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling” to go

To PulpFest 2019!

 

(Hugh B. Cave’s “Death Calls from the Madhouse” was the lead story for the September 1935 issue of HORROR STORIES. The cover art was by the great John Newton Howitt (1885-1958). An accomplished landscape artist whose work was showcased at fine arts galleries, the prolific Howitt worked for slicks as well as pulps . He was also active in the advertising industry as a graphic artist. His 1936 legal battle with Street & Smith over tax burden established a precedent that benefits artists to this day. Howitt turned his back on pulps in 1939 at the behest of his wife. A veteran of the First World War, Howitt painted propaganda posters for the U.S. Government during World War II.)

 

 

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Happy Birthday Gloria Stoll Karn

Nov 13, 2017 by

PulpFest was extremely proud to welcome pulp artist Gloria Stoll Karn as our 2017 Guest of Honor. A resident of Pittsburgh, the artist is one of the very few individuals alive today who worked in the pulp magazine industry. Today is her 94th birthday.

In a field dominated by men, it was highly unusual for a woman to be painting covers for pulp magazines. But at age seventeen, Gloria Stoll began contributing black and white interior illustrations to pulp magazines. In a few years, the young artist was painting covers.

It was Rafael DeSoto who inspired Gloria to become a commercial artist and introduced her to Popular Publications. A graduate of New York’s High School of Music and Art, Gloria Stoll began her career doing black and white interior illustrations for Popular. This evolved into painting covers for the publisher’s line of women’s pulps. She contributed covers to Popular’s ALL-STORY LOVELOVE BOOKLOVE NOVELS, LOVE SHORT STORIES, NEW LOVE, RANGELAND ROMANCES, ROMANCE, and ROMANCE WESTERN, as well as Standard Publications’ THRILLING LOVE.

Beginning in late 1943, Stoll also began painting covers for Popular’s mystery and detective pulps. Her work was featured on BLACK MASK, DETECTIVE TALES, DIME MYSTERY MAGAZINE, and NEW DETECTIVE. In addition, she did interior illustrations for ARGOSY magazine. The artist continued working in the pulp field until 1949.

In Ms. Stoll Karn’s own words: “Pulp artists were required to come up with ideas for the magazine covers which reflected the general flavor of the stories within. Moving on to painting covers for mystery and detective magazines involved a radical conceptual switch. It was a surprise when I came up with gruesome ideas and concluded that, within the human psyche, there is a shadow side of which we are often unaware. I am grateful that my work struck a balance which uncovered the dark side within, along with the light side depicting the joys of romance.”

Gloria’s pulp artist career ended abruptly when she married Fred Karn in 1948. The couple moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where they raised three children. In the 1950s, Stoll Karn began teaching art classes. Her work has been exhibited at the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum’s National Print Annual, and the Pittsburgh Watercolor Society’s International Exhibition. Her work is in the permanent collections of Yale University, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Westinghouse Corporation, the Speed Art Museum, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Pittsburgh Department of Education. She is listed in WHO’S WHO IN AMERICAN ART. Her current work is in abstraction and draws upon her life experience.

PulpFest would like to wish Gloria a very happy birthday.

(One of Gloria Stoll’s pulp covers graced the December 1943 issue of Popular Publications’ LOVE SHORT STORIES. Painted during the Second World War, it was one of several covers depicting members of the United States military.

Gloria Stoll Karn was PulpFest’s 2017 Guest of Honor. Award-winning author Joe Lansdale will be PulpFest‘s Guest of Honor in 2018. The convention will begin on Thursday evening, July 26, and run through Sunday, July 29. We hope to see you at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry.)

 

The Pulp Art of John Fleming Gould

Jun 23, 2017 by

The legacy art of illustrator John Fleming Gould is coming to PulpFest 2017 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry — just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City.”

Robert Gould, son of the artist, will be coming to PulpFest with many originals and prints by his father, pulp illustrator John Fleming Gould. The artist graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York in 1926. He soon moved into a studio in New York City, sharing space with Walter Baumhofer and other artists. John Fleming Gould soon began free-lancing in the pulp paper field and continued to do so until 1941. He created an estimated 15,000 illustrations. These were all pen and ink , dry brush, scratch board and coquille board drawings.

Gould began with Clayton Publishing, illustrating titles such as DANGER TRAILS and COWBOY STORIES. In 1930 he began a long and fruitful relationship with Popular Publications, drawing interior illustrations for their pulp magazines. He was the lead interior artist for many titles, including DIME DETECTIVE, G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES, OPERATOR #5, THE SPIDER, and 10-STORY WESTERN. The artist also contributed work to ACES, ADVENTURE, ASTOUNDING STORIES, BLUE BOOK, CLUES DETECTIVE, WAR BIRDS, WINGS, and other pulp magazines.

During the Second World War, the artist began working for the slick magazines. He became one of the top illustrators for the SATURDAY EVENING POST, COUNTRY GENTLEMAN, COLLIER’S, and REDBOOK. He expanded into advertising art in 1946, working for General Electric and other top corporations. Throughout the 1950s he worked for men’s adventure magazines, such as ARGOSY, OUTDOOR LIFE, and TRUE. In later years he turned to Fine Art. He was also a teacher and lecturer, lecturing at Pratt for 22 years.

Robert Gould has continued the traditions of his father and mother, the founders of Bethlehem Art Gallery in Cornwall, New York. Robert and his wife Loretta have strived to meet and expand the vision of his parents, working to provide images as well as the stories behind the illustrations that thrilled the original pulp readers. At PulpFest 2017, Robert will offer framed and unframed original sketches — some matched to the original publication page — magnets, and framed and unframed John Fleming Gould pulp prints.

PulpFest 2017 will take place from Thursday evening, July 27, through Sunday afternoon, July 30. You can join PulpFest by clicking the Register for 2017 button on our home page. And don’t forget to book a room at the DoubleTree. They’re going fast!

(In 1930, John Fleming Gould began a long and fruitful relationship with Popular Publications, drawing interior story illustrations for their pulp magazines, including the March 1942 issue of THE SPIDER.)

Hardboiled Dicks: A Look at DIME DETECTIVE MAGAZINE

Jun 12, 2017 by

Matt Moring — the publisher of Altus Press and its fine line of pulp reprint and history volumes — turns an eye toward DIME DETECTIVE MAGAZINE on Saturday, July 29, at 9 PM. It’s all part of the celebration of hardboiled dicks, dangerous dames, and a few psychos 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.

Although 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 hardboiled 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.

Most critics site BLACK MASK MAGAZINE as the fertile ground where hardboiled detective fiction gathered its form. From 1923 through 1931, it reigned supreme as the home of the genre. Then, in 1931, Henry Steeger and Harold Goldsmith of Popular Publications introduced DIME DETECTIVE MAGAZINE. Costing a nickel less than BLACK MASK, its appeal to the cash-strapped consumers of the Great Depression was hard to dispute. As Stefan Dziemianowicz wrote in his introduction to HARD-BOILED DETECTIVES (1992):

As added inducement, it was able to lure BLACK MASK regulars like Gardner, Nebel, Chandler, Norbert Davis, and Frederick C. Davis into its pages by paying them the princely sum of four cents per word — one cent more than BLACK MASK and quadruple the going pulp fiction rate. DIME DETECTIVE made only two stipulations to its authors: there were to be no novel serializations and the characters they created could not appear in competing magazines. The result was a looser and more varied magazine than BLACK MASK.

Before long, DIME DETECTIVE would become the best-selling title of the mystery-detective genre and the most popular magazine of its publishers’ line of pulp magazines. By the summer of 1933, it was appearing twice monthly, a schedule it maintained through June of 1935. It would be one of Popular’s longest lived titles, running for 274 issues — largely on a monthly basis — through its August 1953 number.

Running for twenty years, Popular Publications’ DIME DETECTIVE MAGAZINE published thousands of high-quality hard-boiled stories by hundreds of authors, eventually becoming the most respected detective pulp magazine behind BLACK MASK. However, DIME DETECTIVE excelled at introducing long-running series characters, something BLACK MASK normally didn’t do. These series characters run the gamut of quirky detectives, completely unique and offbeat: the types of investigators which had never been seen before (and rarely repeated with such skill since).

Matt Moring — who wrote the words above — is the publisher at Altus Press. Reprinting pulp fiction from a wide variety of pulp genres, including hero, detective, jungle, the French Foreign Legion, and more, Matt has quickly become one of the leading publishers in the pulp world. He has also published numerous historical works on the pulps including biographies, indices, and examinations of single-character magazines. Together with Will Murray, Matt revived the Doc Savage series, publishing brand new stories after a long absence. The Altus Press website is also an excellent reference source, featuring links to The Pulp Superhero Index and The ECHOES Index. Matt was our Munsey Award winner in 2012.

(In addition to employing some of the pulp industry’s leading authors, DIME DETECTIVE MAGAZINE also employed its leading artists, including the “king of the pulp artists,” Walter Baumhofer. The skilled brushes of artists such as Baumhofer — his work graces the cover of the January 1936 issue shown here — along with the experienced writers, low price, and continuing characters such as Vee Brown and Jack Cardigan helped DIME DETECTIVE to become the leading magazine of its field.)

Weird Menaces: The Shudder Pulps

Jul 6, 2014 by

Terror Tales 39-11Not only will we be celebrating science fiction’s “Golden Year of 1939” and “75 Years of Fantastic Fiction,” PulpFest 2014 intends to pay homage to “The Weird-Menace Magazines of 1934.” Called shudder pulps, these magazines experienced a brief period of popularity that began in late 1933 and ran until 1941, when a concerted reform movement brought an end to the genre.

Noted pulp authority Don Hutchison, author of The Great Pulp Heroes, has contributed a look at the weird-menace genre, “Pulp Horrors of the Dirty Thirties,” to this year’s issue of The Pulpster, our award-winning program book. Offered here are just a few of Don’s gory details concerning “The Shudder Pulps.”

Pulp Horrors of the Dirty Thirties: An Excerpt

Back 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 and even romance. 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.

Dime Mystery 33-10In 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. These few magazines were largely responsible for the low opinion people held (and still hold) of the entire pulp fiction field. Many dealers sold them under the counter, and New York’s mayor Fiorello La Guardia singled them out when he warned the pulp publishers to clean up their act or get out of town.

With stories written to a strict formula by seasoned pros, shudder pulps featured some of the most unashamedly lurid fiction and art ever produced for the newsstands of middle America. Each month they announced their presence with covers illustrating in chromatic detail the titillating promise of stories like: “Flesh For the Goat Man,” “The Corpse Wants Your Widow,” “Food for the Fungus Lady,” “Mate For the Thing in the Box,” and “Summer Camp for Corpses.”

Horror Stories 35-01The first of the new breed of fiction mags, Dime Mystery, lurched onto the newsstands in October of 1933. It was the brainchild of Popular Publication’s resourceful young publisher Henry Steeger and took off like skyrockets. Popular Publications lost little time in producing not one, but two companion monthlies: Terror Tales, followed by Horror Stories.

Readers responded in large numbers to the lure of these purple prose set-ups and the inevitable pay-off in hell-spawned horrors. Soon, other publishers rushed into print with similar books of their own. Chief among them was publisher Ned Pines, whose Thrilling Mystery was a clone of Popular’s Dime Mystery. Believing that the public can never get too much of a bad thing, more newcomers tested the limits of sensationalism. There was Ace Mystery, Eerie Mysteries, Eerie Stories, Mystery Novels and Short Stories, Mystery Tales, Spicy Mystery Stories, Uncanny Tales, and others.

In the early 1940s there developed a public rejection of the permissiveness and thrill-seeking of the thirties. When New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia threatened to rid his city of sex-and-sadism magazines, publishers retrenched in fear of losing newsstand sales as well as their U. S. postal mailing privileges. As shudder pulp stalwart Bruno Fischer described it “Clean-up organizations started throwing their weight around and gave editors jitters, and artists and writers were instructed to put panties and brassieres on the girls.”

Speed Mystery 43-01Dime Mystery was retooled as a straight mystery magazine. Spicy Mystery soldiered on for awhile, but was then re-titled Speed Mystery. Terror Tales and Horror Stories were shut down in 1941. Pulp fiction’s bloody reign of terror had ended, not with a bang but with a whimper. Unfortunately, in discarding key ingredients of their appeal, the magazines failed to develop new innovations, much less new readers. And, with the coming of World War II, the extent of human madness and misery could no longer be viewed–much less enjoyed–as mere fiction. In a more innocent time, it was thought that the brand of horror perpetrated by the fiends of the shudder pulps was purely imaginary. Now people knew that such things–and worse–were possible.

If you’d like to read the unabridged version of Don Hutchison’s article, it will be appearing in the PulpFest 2014 program book, The Pulpster. You’ll find ordering instructions at the bottom of our post entitled “To Infinity and Beyond.” It was featured on our home page on June 15th.

To learn more about the images used in this post, click on the illustrations. 

Frederik Pohl & Fictioneers, Inc.

Jun 12, 2014 by

Astonishing Stories 40-02In October 1939, acting on a tip that Popular Publications was starting a new pulp line, a young author and literary agent found himself trying to convince the company to hire him to start a pair of science-fiction pulps. Soon thereafter, the freshly hired editor was seated with publisher Harry Steeger, discussing the financial needs of the company’s brand new science-fiction magazines.

Frederik Pohl was a month shy of his twentieth birthday when he went to work for Fictioneers, Inc., the name given to Popular’s off-brand line of pulp magazines that paid its authors and artists cut-rate prices. Armed with six-hundred dollars to fill two magazines with science fiction stories, Pohl turned to the members of The Futurians, a science-fiction fan club he had helped to found. It included Isaac Asimov, Cyril Kornbluth, Robert Lowndes, Donald Wollheim, and other fans who wanted to become professional science-fiction writers.

Published in alternating months, Astonishing Stories and its companion, Super Science Stories, also included stories cast-offs from John Campbell’s Astounding Science-Fiction, including work by Cleve Cartmill, L. Sprague DeCamp, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, Ross Rocklynne, and Clifford Simak. There were also tales from the Thursday Afternoon Luncheon Club, a group of writing professionals that included Malcolm Jameson, Henry Kuttner, and Manly Wade Wellman. Of course, there was Pohl himself, supplementing his ten-dollar weekly paycheck from Popular by writing stories using the pseudonym of James MacCreigh, as well as work from new writers such as Ray Bradbury and Bob Tucker. Finally, Pohl found it hard to reject Ray Cummings, the old-timer who penned “The Girl in the Golden Atom” ad infinitum.

Super Science Stories 40-03Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories continued for about three years. In 1943, Popular dropped a number of its pulps including its  two Fictioneer science-fiction magazines. The paper saved was used for their better-selling titles like Adventure, Argosy, Black Mask, Dime Detective, and the love and western magazines. After World War II, Super Science Stories was revived for fifteen more issues. It helped pave the way for the new approaches to science-fiction storytelling being developed in magazines such as Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

To learn more about the images used in this post, click on the illustrations. Click here for references consulted for this article.

Aristocrats of the Pulps

Jun 3, 2014 by

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.

Fantastic Novels 48-03Unfortunately, declining profits led to a reorganization of Munsey’s pulp line and the cancellation of several titles, including Fantastic Novels after just five issues. The following year, Munsey sold a number 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 its younger companion.

At this point in its history, it was Popular’s policy to run only new stories or fiction that had not previously appeared in a magazine. Given that FFM was largely a reprint magazine, it was decided to alter the pulp’s content and reprint fantastic fiction that had never been published in American magazines. Although many classics were published by the magazine during this period, few were greeted with the same acclaim as had been the case with the Munsey yarns. Perhaps this is why Popular, in early 1948, decided to revive Fantastic Novels, once again relying on the Munsey archives for its content. A third title, A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine, was added in late 1949.

Notwithstanding their elevated status on America’s newsstands, all three magazines disappeared from the racks during the early fifties as Popular withdrew from the pulp market: A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine in 1950, Fantastic Novels in 1951, and last of all, Famous Fantastic Mysteries during the spring of 1953.

A. Merritt's Fantasy 49-12

To learn more about the images used in this post, click on the illustrations. Click here for references consulted for this article.