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.)

120 Years of Arthur J. Burks

Sep 10, 2018 by

Arthur J. Burks was born September 13, 1898. While his name may not be familiar to the more casual pulp fan, he was a prolific and successful pulp writer who authored more than 800 stories (and possibly as many as 1400 when his many pseudonyms are taken into account). Burks was one of a number of pulp writers who distinguished themselves by averaging more than one million words per year. Regardless of the precise amount of his output, he was a prodigious and highly inventive storyteller.

Born to a farming family in Washington state, Burks was a veteran of both World Wars and retired from the service at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. While stationed in the Caribbean, he witnessed voodoo rituals which inspired his second career as a pulp writer beginning in 1920. Burks wrote countless weird menace, adventure, detective, aviation, and boxing stories for WEIRD TALES, ASTOUNDING STORIES, THRILLING WONDER STORIES, STRANGE TALES, SCIENCE FICTION QUARTERLY, MARVEL SCIENCE STORIES, and many others.

Burks’ series characters included Chinatown detective Dorus Noel and boxer Kid Friel. Burks died at age 75 in May 1974. He remained a writer to the very end. He concentrated on the paranormal and metaphysics beginning in the 1960s and became a popular fixture on the lecture circuit sharing his knowledge with the curious and skeptical alike and offering readings. Much of Burks’ fantasy fiction centers on the metaphysical. One of his best known works (and one of the few to be published in book form), THE GREAT MIRROR (1942) concerns Martian technology utilized by Tibetan monks to foster ESP and matter transmission.

Burks married at age nineteen. He and his wife raised four children. While not one of the legendary names in the pulp world, his work in so many genres and under so many pseudonyms made him a fixture during the golden age of pulp and beyond.

Keep watching our website for more on the pulp greats. Then plan to attend next year’s PulpFest. We’ll be highlighting the many ways that pulp fiction and pulp art have inspired writers, artists, film directors, software developers, game designers, and other creators over the decades. PulpFest 2019 will take place August 15 – 18 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry.

(Arthur J. Burks penned some of WEIRD TALE’s best macabre stories during its early years, including “The Ghosts of Steamboat Coulee” and “Bells of Oceana.” His science fiction story,”The Invading Horde,” was published in the November 1927 number. The cover art for the issue was created by C. C. Senf, the artist who painted most of covers for”The Unique Magazine” from early 1927 through mid-1932.)

Armistice Day

Nov 6, 2017 by

The day when we honor all U. S. military veterans — November 11 — originated as “Armistice Day” on November 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. The day became a national holiday in 1938 and was changed to Veterans Day in 1954.

One hundred years ago today, the struggle for the battered village of Passchendaele — officially called the Third Battle of Ypres — was drawing to a close. The town’s remnants would be reclaimed by British and Canadian forces on November 6, but the fighting would last four more days.

Edwin Vaughan– an officer of the 1st/8th Warwickshire Regiment of the British Expeditionary Force — wrote about the carnage in his journal:

“Up the road we staggered, shells bursting around us. A man stopped dead in front of me, and exasperated I cursed him and butted him with my knee. Very gently he said, “I’m blind, Sir” and turned to show me his eyes and nose torn away by a piece of shell. “Oh God! I’m sorry, sonny,” I said. “Keep going on the hard part,” and left him staggering back in his darkness . . . A tank had churned its way slowly behind Springfield and opened fire; a moment later I looked and nothing remained of it but a crumpled heap of iron; it had been hit by a large shell. . . .

From other shell holes from the darkness on all sides came the groans and wails of wounded men; faint, long, sobbing moans of agony, and despairing shrieks. It was too horribly obvious that dozens of men with serious wounds must have crawled for safety into new shell holes, and now the water was rising about them and, powerless to move, they were slowly drowning. Horrible visions came to me with those cries, (of men) lying maimed out there trusting that their pals would find them, and now dying terribly, alone amongst the dead in the inky darkness. And we could do nothing to help them; Dunham was crying quietly beside me, and all the men were affected by the piteous cries.”

On August 25, when he awoke to take muster, Vaughan’s worst fears were realized: “Out of our happy little band of 90 men, only 15 remained.”

Such were the horrors of Passchendaele and the “War to End All Wars.” In 1914 as war was declared, there were street celebrations across Europe. No one envisaged the stalemate of the trenchs nor the appalling casualties of four years of fighting. About 8.5 million soldiers on both sides of the conflict died of wounds and disease. According to the ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA“It has been estimated that the number of civilian deaths attributable to the war was higher than the military casualties, or around 13,000,000. These civilian deaths were largely caused by starvation, exposure, disease, military encounters, and massacres.”

Except for a single writer — Leonard Nason — stories about the First World War were very limited in the general fiction pulps. But as the rough paper magazines began to specialize in the teens and twenties, the first pulp devoted to tales of war would appear. Introduced by Dell Publishing in 1926, WAR STORIES would be followed by many others: BATTLE STORIES, WINGS, OVER THE TOP, DARE-DEVIL ACES, SKY FIGHTERS, and dozens more. Most disappeared by 1940 as another “Great War” was unfolding.

Beginning on Thursday evening, July 26, and running through Sunday, July 29, PulpFest 2018 will honor the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. The convention’s focus will be the so-called “war pulps” of the early twentieth century as well as the depiction of war in popular culture. Please join us at the beautiful DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just outside Pennsylvania’s Steel City. We’ll also be celebrating the century mark of Grand Master of Science Fiction Philip José Farmer. PulpFest and its associated convention — FarmerCon — will be saluting the acclaimed author of such works as ESCAPE FROM LOKITHE DARK HEART OF TIME, the classic Riverworld series, and more. Award-winning author Joe Lansdale will be PulpFest‘s guest of honor.

A soldier running along a corduroy track through Chateau Wood (photograph from the collection of the Imperial War Museum).

(H. C. Murphy painted the front cover art for the February 20, 1924 issue of ADVENTURE. Leonard H. Nason was featured on the cover for his short story, “Three Lights from a Match,” appearing in the issue.)

Book a Room at the DoubleTree

Oct 16, 2017 by

Are you planning to attend PulpFest 2018? Book early and don’t miss out on your chance to stay at the beautiful DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry. You can now book your room directly through the PulpFest website. Just below the PulpFest banner at the top of our home page, you’ll find a link that reads “Book a Room for 2018.” Click on this link and you’ll be redirected to a secure site where you can make a reservation at the convention’s host hotel.

You can also reserve a room by calling 1-800-222-8733. Please be sure to mention PulpFest in order to receive the special convention rate of $129 plus tax per night. Included in the room rate are free Wi-Fi privileges in each sleeping room and the hotel’s lobby, plus two complimentary breakfasts per room during your stay. There is ample free parking surrounding the hotel. You must book your room by July 4, 2018 in order to get the special convention rate.

By staying at our host hotel, you help to defray the convention’s substantial costs. You also help demonstrate to our hotel that PulpFest is a top-notch convention that will help their bottom line. To thank you for making PulpFest look good, you’ll get free early-bird shopping on Thursday evening in the PulpFest dealers’ room. That’s a savings of $35 if you stay at the DoubleTree!

Conveniently located at the intersection of three major roadways, the DoubleTree boasts a world-class restaurant in an open air setting. There are many other restaurants nearby — some within walking distance — suitable for a variety of tastes. The more adventurous can discover plenty of dining, shopping, and nightlife just a short drive away in downtown Pittsburgh. The DoubleTree also offers a 24-hour fitness center, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and a sauna.

We’re very happy the DoubleTree Cranberry will be hosting 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. Per our members, the DoubleTree is a terrific venue for our convention.

PulpFest 2018 will begin on Thursday evening, July 26, and run through Sunday, July 29. We hope to see you at the DoubleTree.

(This poor MP waited too long and is now on the way out the door of the cattlecar, thanks to the brush strokes that pulp artist Sidney Riesenberg used to create the cover for the February 16, 1928 issue of WAR STORIES. Don’t fall into the same trap. Book a room early and don’t miss out on your chance to stay at the beautiful DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry.)

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