Pulp magazine

The Television & Movie Wiki: for TV, celebrities, and movies.

(Redirected from Pulp fiction)
"Pulp fiction" redirects here. For the film, see Pulp Fiction.

Pulp magazines (or pulp fiction; often referred to as "the pulps" ) were inexpensive fiction magazines. They were widely published from the 1920s through the 1950s.


Terminology and history

The name "pulp" comes from the cheap wood pulp paper on which such magazines were printed. Magazines printed on better paper and usually offering family-oriented content were often called "glossies" or "slicks". Pulps were the successor to the "penny dreadfuls" and "dime novels" of the nineteenth century. Although many respected writers wrote for pulps, the magazines are perhaps best remembered for their fast-paced, lurid, sensational and exploitative stories. Parallels between comic books and pulp magazines can be drawn; for example, magazines often featured illustrated novel-length stories of heroic characters such as The Shadow, Doc Savage, and The Phantom Detective.

Because of the copyright laws at the time, there were distinct lines of this sort of magazine in Britain as well. These magazines, called "story papers", were distributed throughout the British Empire. Characters such as Sexton Blake and Nelson Lee were similar characters there. At the time, there was no global media market, so even though these were written in the same language, there was no recognition of the characters by each nation, just as in much of television today.

Pulp covers were famous for their half-dressed damsels in distress, usually awaiting a rescuing hero.

The first "pulp" is considered to be Frank Munsey's revamped Argosy Magazine of 1896. The format eventually declined (especially in the 1950s) with rising paper costs, competition from comic books, television, and the paperback novel. Most remaining pulp magazines are science fiction or mystery magazines now in digest form. The format is still in use for some lengthy serials, like the German science fiction weekly Perry Rhodan (over 2300 issues as of 2005).


Pulp magazines often contained a wide variety of genre fiction, including, but not limited to, detective/mystery, science fiction, adventure, romance, war, horror/occult, and Série Noire. The American Old West was a mainstay of early turn of the century novels. Many classic science fiction and crime novels were originally serialised in pulp magazines such as Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, and Black Mask.

A common misconception (largely propagated by well-meaning, but misinformed RPG hobbyists) is that 'pulp' is limited in scope to 1940s adventure fiction in the vein of Indiana Jones. While such fiction is, in fact, encompassed under the heading of 'pulp', the heading itself is by no means limited to describing only that type of fiction.

Famous and infamous characters of pulp fiction

Popular regular pulp fiction characters included:

Kilgore Trout, the perennial character in the work of Kurt Vonnegut, is a fictional pulp fiction writer.

Authors and pulp magazines today

Many well-known authors began their careers writing for pulps under assumed names. A distinction can be made between an author who wrote for the pulps but later went on to transcend the limitations of the genre, and a "pulp author" who did not.

Well-known authors who wrote for the pulps include:

After the year 2000, several small independent publishers released magazines which published short fiction, either short stories or novel-length presentations, in the tradition of the pulp magazines of the early twentieth century. These included Blood 'N Thunder and High Adventure. There was also a short lived magazine which revived the title Argosy. These were specialist publications printed in limited press runs. These were pointedly not printed on the brittle, high-acid wood pulp paper of the old publications, and were not mass market publications targeted at a wide audience.

External links

Pulp and Adventure Heroes of the Pre-War Years Jess Nevins' compendium of pulp characters.

CNN "Girls, Guns, and money" article November 2005

See also

Pulp Fictionde:Pulp-Magazin fr:Pulp (magazine) ru:Pulp-журналы fi:Pulp (kirjallisuus)

Personal tools