What is “Pulp Fiction”?
Sudeshna has asked for a post on the term pulp fiction:
That is one term which I have had trouble with always.
Pulp Fiction is the name of a 1994 movie directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, and Bruce Willis. The movie, a violent, profanity-riddled, loosely-plotted black comedy takes its name from a fiction genre popular in the first half of the 20th century.
The pulps, as pulp fiction was also called, descended from an earlier type of cheap magazine popular in the 19th century: penny dreadfuls and dime novels.
The word pulp in the designation refers to the cheap wood pulp paper on which the magazines were printed. The covers, usually of better stock, attracted readers with lurid pictures of space aliens and damsels in distress. The magazine edges were untrimmed and ragged. More expensive magazines, aimed at the affluent middle class, were called slicks or glossies because of the more expensive stock they were printed on.
In their heyday–1920s and 1930s–pulps could sell as many as a million copies of a single issue.
Hard-boiled crime wasn’t the only subject of the pulp magazines. Westerns, science-fiction, fantasy, romance, and horror found their niche in them. Many pulp writers went on to become literary influences: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Max Brand, H.P. Lovecraft, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Ray Bradbury. Some of the most popular titles were Amazing Stories, Black Mask, Dime Detective, Marvel Tales, and Weird Tales.
The stories written for these publications provide a window into stereotyped views of society current at the time. The Library of Congress has a pulp fiction collection.
You can read examples of pulp fiction at the Black Mask site.
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