You say you want a pulp revolution. Well, you know, we all want to read the stuff. If you really want to have an idea of a pulp aesthetic, you need to get a few actual pulp magazines and read them.
One of the best ways to get pulp magazines and meet other people with a passion for them is at the pulp magazine conventions. Last weekend was the ninth PulpFest in Cranberry Township just north of Pittsburgh.
I have been going to pulp conventions for 24 years. My first was at Pulp-Con in Dayton, Ohio in 1993. I missed two Pulp-Cons since, in 1996 when it was held out West and the last year in 2008 before it died. I have made trips to Dayton, Bowling Green, Ohio, Columbus for PulpFest, and Lombard, IL for Windy City Pulp & Paperback Show.
My pulp collection includes science fiction, weird, jungle adventure, historical adventure, and an odd detective pulp or two. I never got into the hero pulps (Shadow, Doc Savage, Spider etc).
Writer David C. Smith once said to me that reading an issue of Weird Tales is really how it should be done instead of separate collections of Robert E. Howard, Lovecraft, Edmond Hamilton etc. Reading the contents an issue of a pulp magazine is a different experience from reading pulp reprints in book form.
I was excited about this PulpFest. There were problems getting the hotel in Columbus, Ohio this year so the committee decided on a change of venue. To my delight, PulpFest was held just north of Pittsburgh. This is as close to me as it will ever get. 102 miles from my driveway to the hotel parking lot.
After attending to an issue on the phone related to work, I got on the road at 8:30 A.M. Took me a little under 2 hours of driving. I had stopped for gas and rest stops. No problem getting to the hotel once I got off of I-79 to Rt 19.
A big part of my attendance of pulp shows is due to friendship. There are not a lot of pulps I have to get these days. I did have a want list with me. After checking in and getting my name badge, I immediately start seeing people I have known going back 24 years. I think the first person I saw was horror writer Chet Williamson, another native of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, though from the other end of the state.
When you walk into a dealer’s room, it is almost overwhelming. I often do a tour saying hello to people to get a lay of the land. Then the 3 ring binder with want list comes out. I was looking for late 1980s editions of the Modesty Blaise series this time and I struck out. What I did find was Curt Phillips selling the Ted White collection. There was a box of issues of the small press magazine Amra that I started going through. The surprise buy was the Ace “pirate” edition of The Lord of the Rings. You don’t see these often and they can go for a high price. I was satisfied with what I paid.
John Gunnison of Adventure House does a lot of pulp replicas. I have been picking up replicas of Jungle Stories. Not for Ki-Gor either. I may be the only fan of pulp writer Armand Brigaud. He supposedly was American born with a French father, attended a French military academy, and served in the French colonial army. Invalided out for combat in North Africa, he became a writer. He had a steady number of novellas in Jungle Stories set generally in West Africa. A few are lost race and lost world stories, at least two are Tarzan imitations of a boy raised by animals. Others are just adventure stories set in West Africa. The settings feel authentic.
Matt Moring of Altus Press came up to me. “Have any more ideas for reprints? You last suggestions were great.” I said, let me look in my files. I did suggest collecting Brigaud’s historical “O’Reilly’s Cavalry” (Irish mercenary in Maria Theresa’s army leading Polish cavalry against villainous Cossacks) and other stories from Argosy.
For lunch, I had to take a friend to Primanti’s. Primanti’s is a Pittsburgh institution and famous for their sandwiches. There are several now. We drove over to the Cranberry location and it was good. Some of the Primanti’s location don’t hold up to the original in the Strip District of Pittsburgh.
Friday afternoon, I saw David C. Smith and Fred Adams. David C. Smith is a venerable paperback writer going back to the late 1970s. He has some new things in the pipeline including one very exciting project. Fred also goes back to the 70s and has been writing for Airship 27 more recently.
Friday night programming included some panels on Philip Jose Farmer and an uncompleted Lovecraftian monster story. Garyn Roberts did a panel on his correspondence with Robert Bloch.
I did not stay at the Doubletree Hotel but stayed at the Bates motel (Quality Inn) up the road. The Doubletree’s free breakfast did look better than Quality Inn’s.
Saturday morning, I linked up with someone who I made plans for a purchase. I had bought a set of bound Weird Tales eleven years ago. I ended up buying the other portion of the set. That was a big reason for going to PulpFest.
Saturday afternoon, three of us drove towards Pittsburgh to the Westview neighborhood (Pittsburgh is divided up into neighborhoods) to Duncan’s Books & Comics. Tom Duncan has a nice selection of science fiction & fantasy, mystery, and comic books. Well worth the drive. Westview even has an Isaly’s still in operation. It closes at 2:00 P.M., so no ice cream. Next year though we will get there before closing time.
Another run around the dealer’s room. Doug Ellis had boxes of paperbacks in nice condition from the Martin Harry Greenberg collection. All for $1.00. I picked up some odds and sods and a stack of 80s dungeons and dragons paperbacks for my kids to read this summer.
4:45 P.M. and the dealer’s room closed. Everybody scattered. I had planned on hanging around later but nothing in the auction that night interested me. Plus, I was out of money. I had a mountain of paperwork to tackle on Sunday so I got on the road at 5:30 heading north up I-79.
I was told there was a complete set of Amra (Vol 2, 71 issues) that ended up going for $1700.00. The price you pay for having everything at once.
So, attending a pulp show is a great time with great people. If you want to learn more about the pulps, there is no better way of getting started.