Pulp History

All-Story 12-10Pulp magazines are named for the cheap paper on which they were printed. Frank A. Munsey pioneered the format in 1896 with THE ARGOSY. A decade later, pulps began to pick up steam with titles like BLUE BOOK (1906) and ADVENTURE (1910), then exploded in 1912 when All-Story printed a little yarn by Edgar Rice Burroughs called “Tarzan of the Apes.” Soon after, genre titles began to flourish, among them DETECTIVE STORY, WESTERN STORY and LOVE STORY. Then, in the twenties, publishing legends such as BLACK MASK (1920), WEIRD TALES (1923) and AMAZING STORIES (1926) took hold.

Shadow RadioIn 1931, Street & Smith was promoting their DETECTIVE STORY pulp by dramatizing stories from the magazine over the radio. The program’s narrator called himself “The Shadow.” When this memorable name began to eclipse the title of the magazine being promoted, S&S decided to launch a new form of pulp magazine, the single character or “hero” pulp. Within a few years THE SHADOW had started a rash of hero pulps including THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE, DOC SAVAGE, THE SPIDER, and G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES. In the early thirties, before radio had reached its heyday, pulps were the dominant form of entertainment.

After World War II, the demand for pulp magazines waned as a more convenient form of cheap entertainment took hold–paperbacks. These were often just as “pulpy,” since they were often written by many of the same authors. In the fifties, television became the favored form of escapism and the surviving pulps ceased publication. Fiction magazines continued to be published, but in new formats. The science-fiction and mystery digests and “men’s magazines” are considered descendants of the pulps.

Fantastic-PulpsThe first pulp-focused convention was originated by Ed Kessel with the assistance of Nils Hardin and Gordon Huber. It debuted in June 1972 and was called Pulpcon. Through 2008, thirty-nine Pulpcons were held, most of them organized by Rusty Hevelin and a crew of dedicated enthusiasts. Inspired by the spirit of Pulpcon, the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention came into being in 2000 and continues to attract pulp fans to the Chicago area every spring. PulpFest debuted in 2009 and quickly established itself as the summer destination for collectors of pulp magazines and related material. Classicon, Pulp AdventureCon, Fantastic Pulps Show and Sale, and the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention are some of the other events where you can learn about pulp magazines and their history. We’ll be telling you more about these conventions throughout the year. So be sure to bookmark our home page and visit often.

To learn more about the history of the pulps, please join us at this year’s PulpFest.