Jasyn Jones on Why Appendix N Started a Literary Movement

Saturday , 21, January 2017 9 Comments

I called it. I don’t remember the exact date, and someone else gave it the absolutely apt name of “Pulp Revolution”, but I was the first to prophesize that the book in your hands (then a still-incomplete series of web posts) would spark a literary movement. People (among them the august author of this eldritch tome) have been astounded in retrospect by my perspicacity, and have asked me one simple question: “How did you know?”

Change was in the air. People are sick of the decay of popular culture. The misery-ification of popular culture, the preach-ification of popular culture, the social-justice-ification of popular culture. People are sick of it. Writers, editors, and above all audiences. Audiences, you know, the poor bastards we do this for? Audiences are sick of it, and they want something different. Lots of authors and editors were heeding this call, but few of them were really doing something with the pulps.

Pulps are awesome. In the pulps, anything goes. ANYTHING goes. Fantasy and horror and sci fi in the same story? HELL YES. So long as it’s fun and awesome and imaginative. The pulps are all about the imaginative and awesome and fun.

I liken it to this: 3rd generation Fantasy derivatives of Tolkien are like paintings done entirely in black and white. You can do quite interesting paintings entirely in greyscale, beautiful, moving, and involving paintings, but there is still an entire universe of awesomeness missing: the world of color. Discovering the pulps through Jeffro’s Appendix N series was like discovering every single other color in existence, after a lifetime of only black and white. Some of the pulp stories were bluescale, some redscale, and some used THE ENTIRE COLOR PALETTE.

Mind. Blown.

Unfortunately, my description is useless because it’s only an analogy, and you have to read the stories themselves to dive into the awesomeosity for yourself so you can really get what I mean. Fortunately, there’s an entire book introducing you to the pulp classics so you can go read them and DISCOVER THE ENTIRE COLOR PALETTE OF AWESOME FOR YOURSELVES. (It’s this book. It’s the book you’re reading.)

Awesome is inspirational. Awesomeness inspires. It inspires writers, editors, artists. Awesomeness inspires others to go out and create more awesomeness. And when a bunch of people (including myself) encountered the awesomeness of the pulps for the very first time, it inspired them. It inspired them to go out and create. Or, as in my case, it infused works they were already laboring on with new life, with the pulp aesthetic. The pulp fever was spreading.

The pulps were MIA. Something happened in the late 1970’s, starting just after Star Wars and The Sword of Shannara. Knowledge of the pulps just… vanished. The new generation, the rising generation of fans maybe got some Heinlein, some Asimov, some Clarke, but pretty much everything and everyone else… FWHIPP! Into the memory hole. Even Lovecraft himself was largely forgotten until a tabletop roleplaying game—Call of Cthulhu—brought Lovecraft and his confreres back into fashion. The seminal works of Sci Fi and Fantasy—the authors that INSPIRED Tolkien himself—whole generations of avid readers were raised who knew nothing about them. (Including myself.) They may as well have never existed.

Very few authors or fans were even talking about the pulps (notably excluding John C. Wright, the venerable and versatile, who came from the other side of the generation gap, the side that was raised on the classics), so if you wanted a good, thorough, no-condescension survey of the best of the best of the genuine classics of Sci Fi and Fantasy, Jeffro was the only game on the web.

It reached a critical mass. All movements need people, otherwise they’re just one guy doing his one guy thing. And Jeffro’s work was getting noticed because he was one of the few people writing about the subject plus, unlike previous surveys of Appendix N, he loved the pulps unapologetically (didn’t hurt that he’s a damn good writer to boot).

“Appendix N” got noticed by game bloggers, game designers, nascent writers, editors, and so on and so forth. More and more people noticed his reviews, read them, discussed them, and linked to them, then read the pulps for the very first time.

Minds. Blown.

The more who read the pulps, the more who became excited by the pulps, and the more who wanted to write pulp-influenced stories and pulp-influenced novels. And THAT’S why the Pulp Revolution became a thing.

Laying it out like that, it seems like simple math, in retrospect. And it was simple and apparent to me, because I was one of the people whose mind was blown by the sheer awesomeness and imagination and depth and breadth and width and lack of limits of the pulps.

Right now, as movements go, this is a smallish one, but I see great things ahead for this retro-flavored, forward-looking, excitement-centric pulp revival. Between this book, Cirsova magazine (seriously, check it out), and other Pulp Revolution novels and stories, more and more people are encountering, and will encounter, the classic pulps and the neopulps, having their minds blown, and joining the Pulp Revolution. Gradually, bit by bit, the Pulp Revolution will become a big ball of awesome spreading throughout science fiction fandom.

Call that my Second Prophecy of the Pulp Revolution.

9 Comments
  • Rawle Nyanzi says:

    I fully concur with this.

  • Hooc Ott says:

    “I called it.”

    On a similar note, it was you Jasyn who pointed the way on twitter to the sad pups back in 2015 and onto the path that lead me here into Appendix N and Pulp revolution.

    Thank you!

  • anonme says:

    Of the two low key SFF literary movements I know of (Superversive, and Pulp Revolution) it’ll be interesting to see where they go from here.

  • John E. Boyle says:

    Yes, Thank you.

    I’m in my 60’s, so I come from the far side of the Appendix N divide. I was not even aware of its existence until Jeffro started looking into books that I grew up with as if they had just been discovered in a sealed tomb.

    But there were things stirring before that; Larry Correia sounded the first horn call with Sad Puppies in 2013, and then Gamergate sounded the second in 2014.

    That’s where I heard that incredibly annoying radio voice of yours first, Dad. That is where I realized we’re in a fight, whether most realize it or not.

    Thanks.

  • deuce says:

    I’m with John on this. I started reading pulp stuff in the ’70s when I was eight. When I read App N in the DMG about ’84, it was no revelation to me. Bellairs was the only one I hadn’t encountered. So, it wasn’t that big a deal to me. For me, my “Appendix N” were the two Amra collections that Ace put out around ’80.

    Starting about 10yrs ago, I began mentioning online/in blog posts that things were getting weird and something had gone wrong, but then I stopped blogging. Missed the boat a bit, but I *was* out there hollerin’ in the wilderness with some fellow travelers like Mal.

    I’m glad Jeffro got this thing off the ground. Good on him.

  • Amber Twilla says:

    I read Appendix N and loved it. And I do think it’s a literary movement that’s already started. I finished reading The Last Time Traveler the other day, and it is definitely in the pulpy sci-fi genre you like, Jeffro.

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28225733-the-last-time-traveler

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