PulpFest History

Pulpcon FlyerIt’s hard to believe in this age when there are annual pulp conventions across North America that some forty-odd years ago, there were no organized gatherings specifically geared toward pulp fiction and the magazines in which it appeared. But that was the case when three St. Louis pulp fans — Ed Kessell, Earl Kussman, and Nils Hardin — teamed up and founded Pulpcon.

After consulting with longtime science-fiction fan, James “Rusty” Hevelin, Kessell took the lead and began to organize what was planned as a one-shot convention. Adopting the name Pulpcon and advertising in the leading pop culture fanzines of the day, Kessell and his cohorts were able to attract about one-hundred pulp fans to the Colony Motor Hotel in Clayton, Missouri over a June weekend in 1972.

With science-fiction writers Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton and pulp magazine cover artist Graves Gladney in attendance, the first Pulpcon was a rousing success. As the convention was drawing to a close, people began to ask for an encore. And so was born the first convention meant to specifically honor pulp magazines.

In the years that followed, Hevelin became the guiding light of Pulpcon, organizing annual conventions, generally during the summer months, in Dayton and other Ohio cities, along with gatherings in Arizona, California, Missouri, New Jersey, and North Carolina. All told, a total of thirty-nine Pulpcon gatherings took place. However, following several years of diminishing attendance, the last Pulpcon was held in Dayton, Ohio in August 2008.

Hoping to keep alive a summer gathering specifically geared toward pulp fiction, three longtime members of the Pulpcon organizing committee — Jack Cullers, Barry Traylor, and Mike Chomko — asked Ed Hulse, the publisher of the pop culture fanzine BLOOD ‘N’ THUNDER and a convention organizer himself, to join them in founding a new convention. Planned as a successor to Pulpcon, the new convention took on the name PulpFest and sought to widen the focus of the annual confab. Although centered around pulp fiction and pulp magazines, PulpFest was founded on the premise that the pulps had a profound effect on American popular culture, reverberating through a wide variety of mediums — comic books, movies, paperbacks and genre fiction, television, men’s adventure magazines, radio drama, and even video and role-playing games. Planned as the summertime destination for fans and collectors of vintage popular fiction and related materials, PulpFest sought 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.

Beginning with its first convention in 2009, PulpFest has annually drawn hundreds of fans and collectors of vintage popular fiction and related materials to its summertime festivities. In addition to a large dealers’ room, the convention offers a wide range of interesting and entertaining pulp-related programming each and every year. We hope to see you at this year’s PulpFest. You’ll have an AMAZING time!

(Pictured above is a flyer for the first Pulpcon, held in Clayton, Missouri over a June weekend in 1972. PulpFest 2020 — the 49th edition of the summer pulp con — will begin on Thursday evening, August 6, and run through Sunday afternoon, August 9. It will be held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry. Start making your plans to join us at the “pop culture center of the universe” in Mars, Pennsylvania for PulpFest 2020.)