My husband just wrote an article on genre and was challenged by reviewers on his definition of pulp--fiction only not in films. How would you define pulp? What are its main elements? Is there any historical connection between the words pulp and junk? Is it only lately that the term doesn't carry any notion of cheapness or of fiction of a lesser value? (These more negative definitions were not his, believe me).

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SASE, Dennis. Sorry. ;)
No worries, Jude. I know the difference between a quality discussion and ignorant flaming. Actually, I think it's sad that you feel a P.S. is needed to clarify, because it is true that you can't have anything close to a decent discussion on this forum without someone taking offense and misquoting you. This place is pretty touchy for a group of crime writers.

I think we're going to have to agree to disagree on this one, though. I still stand by my interpretation of Chandler's essay. I think we can both agree, though, that it's a good essay.
I feel the same way, John. I love a good debate with someone who's intelligent and doesn't take things personally.

Yep. Great essay. And like all good literature, open to more than one interpretation. Thanks!
I think today, "pulp" tends to mean either unsophisticated or lurid or both. I personally like an unpretentious, straightforward style, so to me pulp = fun.
Thanks again. I printed this out for him to use. I can see the subject can be contentious within or without academia. I think it's because judgments are being made as to quality. The old school was very quick to make judgments based on one set of criteria, the new school perhaps overly egalitarian-a classic work no more valued than a classic comic.
The problem lies in the half-educated, in academe and elsewhere including those who have no excuse, misusing and misrepresenting the term and others allowing the misuse to go unchallenged. Though if there is one thing that tends to distinguish pulp fiction as a whole from other modes, according to writer, critic and editor Algis Budrys, is the tendency to revert to action, violence or otherwise, at a point in a story that other modes of fiction might instead go in for some sort of discussion or reflection. Even there, Budrys is clearly referring to most but not all of what was being published in the pulps of the 1940s and staggering into the 1950s, when they were supplanted by paperbacks and digest-sized fiction magazines (note the similar misuse, by the Beatles among others, of "paperback" as adjective). There were utterly sophisticated stories published in pulps ranging from Bluebook to Argosy to Weird Tales to Planet Stories to Detective Story Magazine, usually cheek-by-jowl with both high- and low-grade bubblegum. Same would be true of contemporaneous issues of The Saturday Evening Post and Colliers, and of The Yale Review and Prairie Schooner. The flavor of the bubblegum might differ.
A very interesting point, Todd. Neither of us had thought of pulp being distinguished by its method of problem-solving. Thanks.
Do you have a link for what Budrys is saying? I'm interested in reading that.
I don't...I believe it was in one of his 1970s columns in THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, which SIU Press was going to publish as a companion to his 1960s GALAXY columns volume (BENCHMARKS), but SIU Press was defunded before they got that far, if indeed they were going forward. So, that narrows it down to about 80 or so review-essays...big help, I know. And you're quite welcome, Patti...though, again, it was advanced even by Budrys, as I remember his argument, as a tendency rather than an iron rule or defining trait, one which pulp fiction might be said to share with most if not all adventure fiction.


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