SUPERVERSIVE: Now Let’s REALLY Shake Things Up!

Tuesday , 28, March 2017 125 Comments

Image result for what madness is thisSo Daddy Warpig is busy attempting to shake the pillars of heaven. But come on, guys. Let’s be honest here. Lots of comments are coming through disagreeing, but Daddy Warpig is still talking to a mostly friendly audience. The Castalia Blog is the heart of the pulp revolution; even as many people object, more agree. This is because the environment is already receptive to those ideas.

This gets to the meat of the issue: what is and isn’t politically correct? If I say “Donald Trump has been doing great!” this is essentially a politically incorrect opinion in the public square; it is not a politically incorrect opinion on Vox Day’s blog. You’re preaching to the choir.

Similarly, if I say “The pulp works are superior to later works of science fiction and fantasy!” this is a politically incorrect opinion among a large mixed group of sci-fi fans; it is the prevailing wisdom of the Castalia blog at this point.

So I’m going to challenge you guys. I’m going to say something REALLY politically incorrect. Something that will cause an uproar – that will SHAKE THE PILLARS OF HEAVEN, perhaps!

Pulp fiction does not exist.

Or, more accurately, if pulp fiction exists, then it must be defined – which by definition makes it a genre. Otherwise, it is pointless to talk about it existing in any meaningful way.

Here’s what I mean:

What is a genre, really? Let’s define it:

A category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter.

So the big question is this: Why do we want to bring pulp back?

“Well, we just want to bring back that era where there really weren’t any genres and people write what they want!”

Er, sorry, that can’t be it. You certainly don’t want people to write hard SF; hard SF is disqualified from pulp. So is pure Harry Potter style fantasy. Superheroes certainly aren’t pulp. So clearly pulp is a thing separate from “That era where you write what you want”.

H.P. Lovecraft was a nihilistic writer who wrote about average people who went insane when they looked at monsters. But he’s pulp, right?

Wrong, since there are rules for pulp.

We have Misha Burnett’s:

The Five Pillars Of Pulp Revival

These having been said, this is what I see as the signature characteristics of Pulp Revival.
Action: The focus of the storytelling is on what happens. We know who people are by what they do. This does not mean that every scene has to involve a knife fight on the top of a speeding train. Ordinary every day actions can also inform—Raymond Chandler could describe a couple’s relationship by showing us the man lighting the woman’s cigarette. We don’t want the writer to tells us that a scientist is an unconventional genius, we want to see him tearing a rival’s paper to shreds and throwing the pieces out the window when asked to critique it.
Impact: These actions have consequences. While a character’s actions do inform us of that character’s personality, significant actions should never be only character studies. They have lasting real world consequences. You don’t go into a pulp story with an expectation of a happy ending. Pulp heroes are fallible heroes, and when they fail, bad things happen. Neither, though, is worse coming to worst a forgone conclusion. Up until the very end a pulp character has the power to change his or her fate. They can always do something.
Moral Peril: Consequences are more than just material.

The list goes on.

Guess what? When you do that, you’ve just created, by definition, a genre.

You’re not eliminating genres.

You’re not bringing back the pulps as they were.

You are supporting a new genre.

“Well, Misha Burnett doesn’t represent the pulps.”

That’s true. What does Jeffro want?

More traditional boy-girl romances. That characterized the pulps.

More action-oriented fiction. That characterized the pulps.

No real distinction between sci-fi and fantasy – those genres should blend more. Into a new genre…pulp.

More Jeffro-and-Daddy-Warpig pulp is the goal here. Not more “write what you want”. If it was more “write what you want”, there would be no objections to hard SF.

And this is what we’ve been objecting to all along, really. I don’t have a problem with the pulp revolution. Josh doesn’t. Karl doesn’t. John C. Wright doesn’t.

But what you’re doing here? You’re pushing your own preferred subgenre. There’s nothing wrong with that. I, too want to see more pulp fiction come back.

But that is what you’re doing. So let’s not pretend that this is some sort of new “write what you want” movement. That’s not – and never was – what the pulp revolution was.

And a good thing too, because otherwise, talking about pulp fiction as a thing, and bringing back more of it, is literally useless. It needs to be defined as a thing – a genre – or to talk about pulp is to talk about something so vague as to essentially be nothing at all.

No. Pulp is a genre.

And that’s A-okay with me.

125 Comments
  • Astrsorceror says:

    Fresh-squeezed Sci-Fi: Now with extra-pulp!

  • Jasyn Jones says:

    Jeffro doesn’t speak for me, and I don’t speak for… well, anybody, really.

    Except myself. And maybe not even him sometimes.

    All I can say about what I’ve said is that your post, as impassioned as it is, has nothing to do with anything I’ve ever said. It’s not even an argument against anything I’ve ever said, because it’s responding to… well, something else, not me.

    I’m criticizing the durability of Ikea furniture, you’re responding with “You’re wrong! Apples are too fruit!” Two completely different conversations.

    If you don’t understand what I’ve written, you can’t coherently respond to what I’ve written. And I’m telling you, you don’t understand what I’ve written.

    We can’t have an argument under those circumstances. We can’t even have a conversation under those circumstances.

    Truly, I do not see the point.

    PS: You keep insisting that “Write what you want” and “Hard SF isn’t my cup of tea, and here’s why…” are utterly incompatible opinions, or that holding the second opinion means I cannot simultaneously hold the first. Solely as a matter of logic, you are incorrect about this. These two opinions do not contradict each other in any way.

    • Jesse Lucas says:

      If you said “Hard SF isn’t my cup of tea, and here’s why…” we would have responded in the same tone. You used big booming language to describe your distaste, now Anthony’s doing the same. He gets to use rhetoric too. You don’t get to be the only one using rhetoric, to retreat to calm polite language when someone else responds to your very loud and very angry posts and go “why u so mad bro calm down it was just hyperbole for effect.”

      It would be nice if none of us spoke for anyone else, but you’re the one with 10K followers and a podcast, so your voice gets heard more, those are facts. If you want the movement to be about one thing and I want it to be about another thing, I will probably watch everyone walk off under your spotlight arguing on the terms you’ve introduced while I stay here and eat my birthday cake alone.

      • Anthony M says:

        Yep.

        This is a post that’s responding to hyperbole and rhetoric.

        If the hyperbole and rhetoric was besides the point, well, then consider this a post that responds to the points that were made besides the point, if you get my Alice-in-Wonderland style meaning.

        • Since the conversation has moved to asking, “Okay, what were we actually talking about back there, guy?” allow me to add my caveat to the above.

          1. Hard Science fiction is [some negative/bad thing]

          2. I don’t like Hard Science fiction

          3. Using the term “hard” to describe a certain technology-based may seem unavoidable, but it’s begging the question and unfair. In the sentence: “I’m pro-Choice, you’re anti-abortion rights, She’s a misogynist pig,” the term “Choice,” is the “hard SF” equivalent.

          It seems to me that No.s 1 – 3 are overlapping promiscuously, and as someone really intrigued by #3 I hope you all could be more specific.

          Good fun, and congrats for being a place where interesting dissent happens.

  • B&N says:

    The over-arching general rule of literature is “write what you want”.

    Inside of that rule is the specific rule of “even if that is unpopular, like Pulp-esque fantasy and/or sci-fi”.

    Often we begin with a condensed form of the second rule–“write pulp sci-fi and fantasy”, for the obvious reason that the first rule is presumed, and because this is a blog that is designed to encourage that.

    When we’re saying that “hard sci-fi is not our cup of tea” or that it’s generally inferior fiction, that’s to be taken as an opinion, and not a form of the above rule that is meant to replace the above rule.

    The opinions about sci-fi and fantasy must be taken separately from the advice/rule to write as you wish, and if you want to write pulp, write pulp!

  • deuce says:

    Misha doesn’t speak for everyone. Nobody does. His list is great, but it simply reiterates time-honored dictums for good storytelling. Is “good storytelling” a “genre” now? Does being entertaining require its own ghetto and yellow star?

    Most readers prefer stories revolving around people rather than machines. They prefer well-told tales to what are, essentially, glorified word problems.

    In a bar, who is going to have the bigger crowd listening to their stories, Kirk or Spock? They would be telling essentially the same tales, but we all know who would be the bigger draw. We’ve let Spock set the parameters for decades and it just isn’t working out.

    There seems to be a lot of projection going on. Deep down, Hard Buds know that Non-Hard SF has been marginalized and mocked in Hard Bud circles for decades. Now, they’re worried that there will be some sort of Pulp Reconquista with auto-de-fes and whatnot. We don’t have time for that. We’ve got fun stuff to write and read. The days of SF being “funrein” are over.

    • JonM says:

      “In a bar, who is going to have the bigger crowd listening to their stories, Kirk or Spock? They would be telling essentially the same tales, but we all know who would be the bigger draw. We’ve let Spock set the parameters for decades and it just isn’t working out.”

      The deuce comes up aces again!

      Like everyone else, I’m not Spartacus, I’m just guy running his underpants up the flagpole and seeing if anyone is willing to salute them.

      I ain’t working on revitalizing a genre here, I’m working on building a culture. A culture big enough to embrace an awful lot of things – superversive fiction, even!

      But I’m not content to take the most recent iteration of genre fiction culture and just add a little or subtract a little. I’m going back to square A-number-one and checking every sacred cow to see if they need to be put down or if it’s full of steak. Not all of our received wisdom was given us by men of high intellect and good faith, and there’s no way to know which inviolable rules are worth following without challenging them.

      I’m glad the Hard Buds of SF are around launching a spirited defense of their sacred cow, even if I haven’t bought into their view (yet).

      Also I don’t tell the New Pulp guys that they aren’t doing pulp – they’ve got their style of pulp and I’ve got my style and heart and soul of pulp. We can live together using the same label. It’s okay. Readers are smart. They’ll figure it out.

  • Not only do I not speak for Pulp Revival, I’m not part of the Pulp Revival movement–I support it, but I am a New Wave writer, which is something very different.

    The definition of “genre”that you quote is not the way the word has been used in my experience. I see”genre” defined solely by subject matter when the word is applied to fiction, and that it what I object to.

  • Rawle Nyanzi says:

    Yeah, we’ve defined pulp to an extent, and we had to. We have to be able to say, “we are this and not that.”

  • Man of the Atom says:

    This is Copenhagen in 1926. You all sit around a table in a coffee shop with your cigars, pipes, and cigarettes filling the space with a blue-gray haze.

    You are attempting to figure out what is and what is not “quantum mechanics”. You each have very strong opinions and various theories on what it is and if it accurately describes Nature.

    This is as it should be.

    Continue as before.

  • Jeffro says:

    There is a hard limit to your capacity to think if you reflexively search out a counter example for every single generalization that people make while looking for every single contradiction you can home in on in a very wide-ranging discussion with a lot of players that each have different objectives and constraints.

    Consider the discovery of mathematics. A set of broad generalizations without any definitions can create the entire framework of geometry. Change one axiom and you get entirely different geometries. But they’re still geometries.

    Is the pulp ethos EXACTLY like that? Who cares? But your insistence on a foolish consistency effectively shuts down any constructive discussion.

  • Robert says:

    Pulp fiction does not exist.

    Or, more accurately, if pulp fiction exists, then it must be defined – which by definition makes it a genre.

    Oh. Then obscenity does not exist.

    • Anthony says:

      If you wamt to respond, please do. I welcome it.

      • Jeffro says:

        That is the response.

        • Anthony says:

          I understand that he was trying to get me in a “gotcha” there.

          Pretend I’m stupid, hard as that is, and that I’m not seeing it. What am I missing here?

          • Jeffro says:

            You’re using an argument that seems strong to you, but which simply doesn’t fly in other problem spaces.

            Pornography exists, for example, even if a famous judge only knows it when he sees it.

            What you’re doing with THIS POINT comes off as spergy, pedantic, and not particularly discerning. So you only get the riposte.

            (Just violated the rule of “never explain”, but there’s the explanation.)

          • Anthony says:

            Well, I’ll tell you how it at least LOOKS to me:

            Everyone is telling me that this is some sort of pedantic point, and I’m worried too much about genres.

            …While whole posts are being written challenging, disqualifying, and redefining genres.

            I think it’s a fair cop.

          • Robert says:

            Your argument that if something has not been defined, then it cannot exist, is invalid. Obscenity is the most famous and widely known example of ‘I know it when I see it’, but there are many others. Biologists do not have a good definition of “alive”, but that lack of a definition does not kill all of us.

            If pulp did not exist, people would not be trying to find a definition of the term.

          • Jesse Lucas says:

            That was the argument for Hard SF not being real, have we reached a consensus on that then?

          • Anthony says:

            We certainly need to all understand what it is for our conversations to make sense.

            But more importantly, Jesse is also correct. This argument has literally already been used already by people who aren’t me.

            Once again – people are trying to convince me that I’m making things up here. That the trends, the tone of conversation, the points I’m making don’t address real things.

            It’s a gaslighting. If you really, really think that, sure, we have nothing to discuss then.

            But if you understand why I’m saying the things I am – or at least why I might misinterpret things in such a way – then welcome to the conversation.

  • Brian Renninger says:

    Pulp fiction is both a particle and wave. It is anything you want to be and it is also action oriented romance tales. One is after all a subset of the other.

    Myself, I’ll go with Gödel’s incompleteness theorem. We are never going to define an entirely self-consistent definition of genre or pulp. There will always be inconsistencies.

    I always end up in two spots. The first is that pulp fiction is that which was published on pulp and later repudiated by specific people — generally cultural Marxists (the second clause is necessary because lots of literary fiction was also published on pulp). The second, pulp is whatever makes the people who voted for “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” mad but, makes normal people excited and engaged. These are personal definitions but, good enough for me. It’s more important that people spend time writing new stuff than arguing definitions that will forever be imperfect.

    Though, now that I have written this, the almost exact analog for today of the original “pulp” with pulp being the cheapest medium to publish on, is anything published only digitally. Damn, I just wrote Cirsova out of the definition. See how this works? Logically, it is 100% perfect definition but, there is always an exception.

  • Tomas Diaz says:

    A few points:

    1) I like Daddy Warpig’s contributions to the discussion, but it’s important to remember that he’s clearly a man who wields high flying rhetoric more than dead, sober logic – he’s a Captain Kirk more than a Spock. He’s not illogical, but he’ll hammer in a point with over the top rhetoric to such an extent that one may think his rhetoric is his point. Don’t get fooled (but do jump on the train!).

    2) The “Write What You Want” mantra is part-and-parcel of the whole Castalia approach, but I tend to think this is more of a means to an end rather than an end in itself. It’s really pure VoxDay. There is a more-or-less clear vision of how things should be, vis-a-vis speculative fiction, but to build it we first have to burn the dilapidated shit-hole of the modern system down to its foundations. “Write What You Want” is about burning things down, taking advantage of this moment of independent publishing to gut the enemy.

    Truth be told, I don’t think this crowd REALLY want ALL people writing what they want. I mean, people who want to write about gin-drinking rednecks in dinosaur revenge-porn fantasies? I don’t want them writing. Writers who refuse to admit the binary nature of human sexuality and thus don’t use proper pronouns? I don’t want them writing.

    I may be a minority here, but I want gatekeepers. I just want gatekeepers who respect the tradition of the literature’s history (sure, rebel against the old, but don’t bury it!) and keep the insane cultural depravity out. And recognizing the glory of ERB would be nice.

    3) The backlash against Hard Sci-fi is really a backlash against the implicit moral/literary superiority of “realistic” speculative fiction. Karl’s recent scale of sci-fi hardness did this implicitly by putting ERB (May his name be praised!) at the bottom of the scale. Sure, Karl didn’t mean that – he was just commenting on the relation of a novel’s scientific accuracy to the known real-world. But he should know that in the current climate, being addressed to those of us who see ERB for the sci-fi prophet he was, this was asking for shit to start flying.

    Talk about Hard Sci-fi, sure. But leave out of it science fictions which doesn’t even care about that category. Putting ERB, or even Star Wars, on a Hard Sci-fi scale is like trying to put on a scale of Urban-Romance The Great Gatsby (4/10 – needs more werewolves and back alley hookups).

    4) The “genres don’t exist” mantra is more rhetoric, but it holds an indelible truth – the power of your story isn’t in your “genre” but in the adventure, the humanity, the touching upon eternal truths of light and dark, you put into it. The pulps, as a whole, exemplified this and so there really wasn’t any genre-ghettoes as there are now.

    5) Does pulp need a definition? Yes and no. It does need a definition in so far as people need to know what the movement is doing. However, we’re dealing with an art that doesn’t really allow for purity of form (though, there is ERB…). We can’t define it that easily, so we’ll have to settle for a definition which comes from longer think-pieces and really amounts to getting people to share the same thought-space. Really, the kind of culture revolutions that work and stick.

    Pulp also needs to be understood as a term that DOES NOT fit into genre categories. It isn’t a genre. It’s an ethos, a style, a vision and so you’ll actually have a multitude of genres within it (the western, the men’s adventure, the planetary romance, the jungle adventure [we need more Tarzan ripoffs, people!], sword-and-sorcery). To use Aristotelian terminology: Pulp is a genus (a general heading) of which genres are different species (kinds).

    • Man of the Atom says:

      Great comment! Especially #3!

    • Chris L says:

      I have to disagree about gate keepers. If you want to write about dinosaur revenge porn or any other SJW approved nonsense, go to it and have your nerdgasim. Just don’t demand the rest of us read it or throw a hissy fit when we don’t. Lots of people write stuff I wouldn’t read if you paid me, but some of those authors actually make a living writing it. None of us should be telling other people what to read or write, that’s how we got the gray goo that wins Hugos these days.

      • Tomas Diaz says:

        I’m sympathetic, but I tend to be more authoritarian than I care to admit. I try not to force it on people (ignoring the cognitive dissonance of not doing so, haha).

      • cirsova says:

        The advantage of gatekeepers is that a lot of them will do proof-reading and editing for you for free, since they want the stories in their anthologies/zines lookin so good.

        Even the best stories by the best authors have a lot that needs fixing. Plus, gatekeepers can protect discerning readers from bad elf stories :3

    • Anthony M says:

      I too think this is a great comment!

      This is the exact sort of comment I mean to provoke. I’m happy you made it.

    • Daddy Warpig says:

      Point of order:

      I wield cold logic, expressed in hyperbolic language.

      It’s a heady and devastating combination.

      • Blume says:

        Daddy-O, then at some point you need to retract some statements and essays because quite frankly you look and sound like a mad man right now. And I am rabid as can be.

        Here is where I think you are: 1) Hard scifi exists but has mostly been a cover for realistic lit fiction and so really has no merits of its own.

        2) Write what you want but don’t expect me not to call it shit or to call you out if it’s not towards the bottom half of karl’s list.

        Is any of that wrong?

        • Anthony says:

          Ha! This comment showed up in my e-mail and I was pretty sure it was a response to me.

          Nothing to really add, unless you want me to clarify that I don’t think Jasyn’s a mad man. I just found that funny.

          • Blume says:

            The reply buttons sometimes seem to be in weird places. I just post were it seems it will drop in the right place.

          • Anthony says:

            Oh, that’s not why. My e-mail alerts just don’t tell me who you’ve responded to.

  • Cambias says:

    It has been kind of disappointing to me that within months of the birth of a literary movement all about rediscovering old classics and tearing down artificial genre boundaries . . . there are now people declaring that SOME old classics are not in accord with Chairman Mao Thought and we must police the boundaries of the no-artificial-genre-boundaries genre to avoid contamination by the minions of Campbell Goldstein.

    • deuce says:

      Write what you want. Nobody has said you can’t, despite Hard Bud protestations to the contrary. I swear to you, if you can write something as entertaining as THE ENEMY STARS, TAU ZERO or STARSHIP TROOPERS, I’ll read it.

      That’s the entire point of fiction: Entertainment.

      What it isn’t is writing glorified word problems so that Hard Buds can high five and/or poke holes in each other in what Gallagher has accurately described as a “game.” A game that nobody else gives a damn about.

      Fiction also isn’t there, primarily, to “teach” or indoctrinate — which is probably one of the real reasons that Asimov hated the pulps so much.

      • Jesse Lucas says:

        “Write what you want” is only “write what you want” if it ends with a period. “Write what you want but we’ll snicker about it and write passionate posts about how this is the cancer killing SFF” is not “write what you want.”

    • Jasyn Jones says:

      Literally nobody is calling for thought police or a Pulp Secret Police. In fact, some nutters even say that scientific accuracy can have a place in pulp stories.

      “Hard SF is not necessarily hostile to heroics, “Realistic” Lit SF always is. Hard SF is not necessarily hostile to adventure or action, “Realistic” Lit SF always is. Hard SF is not necessarily hostile to morality or Christianity, “Realistic” Lit SF, being a genre of pride, always is.”

      Who said that? It was I. I said that: http://www.castaliahouse.com/time-to-shake-the-pillars-of-heaven/

      Then Alex pointed out that some Pulp SF already WAS Hard SF, like John Carter of Mars. Others agreed.

      I don’t know who you’re reading that’s calling for a Pulp Border Patrol to hunt down Hard SF fugitives, because I’ve never seen it.

  • Dan Wolfgang says:

    This whole definitions game is a waste of time—time that could be spent writing or reviewing stories. Readers aren’t interested in clear cut definitions about what pulp fiction is and is not. They want good stories to read, and that is what will attract them back to reading tales of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

    • Jesse Lucas says:

      Readers aren’t interested in whether or not an SF genre that was popular in the 50s and exists now as detective stories for nerds is real or not, but they’ll jump into a discussion about it. Lots more writing time has been wasted on that stupid debate than this post.

      See, Anthony really did shake things up.

      • Dan Wolfgang says:

        Readers are interested in finding out that they’ve been lied to for years about the Campbell narrative. People such as Jeffro, JimFear138, and myself got very angry when we discovered that we’ve been lied to about the pulps.

        However, setting rigid definitions for terms such as Pulp Fiction or Hard Sci Fi isn’t interesting to readers of the field. The arguments aren’t persuasive, because everyone already has their own definition for these sorts of terms.

        These sort of semantics is one of the things that ruined GamerGate (Is GG about ethics or fighting SJWs? Both, or neither?) and drove off many who were taking part in it.

    • Jeffro says:

      The most constructive thing to come out of the Hard SF spat?

      Dan’s review of I, Robot.

      https://ququ-media.com/2017/03/17/i-robot-review/

  • deuce says:

    Bring out the strawmen!

    “You certainly don’t want people to write hard SF;”

    Who said, “I don’t want people to write ‘Hard’ SF”? Probably the same shadowy figure who supposedly said, “Let’s GET RID OF ‘Hard’ SF!” Mr. Wright seems very worried about that guy.

    “hard SF is disqualified from pulp.”

    “Hard” SF disqualified ITSELF from pulp. That is a matter of historical record. Any schism was brought on by “Hard” SF, not the other way around.

    “So is pure Harry Potter style fantasy.”

    Rowling’s crap is now the “pure” gold standard? It’s urban/prep-school/YA fantasy. American-style fantasy was well-represented in the pulps by the likes of Merritt, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, CL Moore et al. All of them also wrote SF.

    “Superheroes certainly aren’t pulp.”

    John Carter, the Shadow, the Green Lama and Doc Savage aren’t “superheroes”? Then Superman, Batman, Dr. Strange, Captain America and the Fantastic Four aren’t either.

    The Buds of “Hard” SF set the parameters long ago. They wanted to wall off “True” SF and keep the pulp cooties away, casting A PRINCESS OF MARS, THE MOON POOL and DUNE into the outer darkness of “fantasy”. Yes, I know that DUNE wasn’t published in a pulp. It has been called “fantasy” by many Hard Buds, though.

    We’re just pushing back and no longer acknowledging the moral supremacy of “Hard” SF. Whoever wants to can write it. Nobody has said they can’t.

    • Man of the Atom says:

      “We’re just pushing back and no longer acknowledging the moral supremacy of “Hard” SF. Whoever wants to can write it. Nobody has said they can’t.”

      +9000

    • Anthony M says:

      Who said it?

      Why, no one directly.

      Many, many people – mostly in the pulp rev – have bashed it, denied its existence, gone on and on about the superiority of the pulps, and claimed it has had a terrible effect on the genre.

      But no. Nobody said “Don’t write it”.

      Was some of that, at least, hyperbole?

      Sure.

      Consider this a response to the hyperbole, then.

  • Man of the Atom says:

    While you are at it, why not consider discussing the “what it is not” aspect?

    Cameron from Cultural Rumbles had a great take in DWP’s last post regarding Literary Fiction.

    Pretty clear that the Heisenberg Sphere you are considering lies well outside the boring, mundane, low-IQ, zero entertainment(or educational)-value world of Lit-SFF Message-Fiction.

    Try to describe the borders of the environment outside, as well as the object in question. May help.

  • […] is a companion to my current bombshell post at Castalia […]

  • cirsova says:

    Pulp is not a genre; no one has says it is (except for maybe some “New Pulp” folks). Pulp is a format that lasted until the early-mid 50s. In many cases, when we say “pulp”, we are referring to a general zeitgeist embodied by many of the exemplary works from that era which we’ve sought to use as a place to reframe the conversation and move in new directions, but that’s kind of a mouthful, so we’ve used “pulp” as shorthand.

    It’s not a genre that we’re trying to ‘bring back’; it’s the works themselves, which happened to be published in the pulp format, to use as a cultural reference point for fiction that we (or I) aim to bring back. What if new SFF were written in the tone and manner and format that was going on into the 40s but without the sudden fear and despair of the Radium Age and Cold War turning into a deconstruction of Heroism? Questions like that are what we’re trying to answer. It has nothing to do with genre, and anyone who’s read Cirsova could see that.

    • Jasyn Jones says:

      BRAVO, sir!

      I literally cannot find a single word here I disagree with.

    • Gaiseric says:

      I’ve said for a long time now that I think pulp is more of an aesthetic that can overlay potentially any genre than anything that could properly be called a genre itself.

      • cirsova says:

        There IS an aesthetic that the pulps had, which F&SF and digest-era Astounding/Analog intentionally distanced themselves from, but it really goes beyond just the look. The aesthetic itself is a gild; what’s underneath is important, too, but admittedly, it is much harder to define.

        • Gaiseric says:

          I mean aesthetic in a broader form than just its look; the style, the tone—I dunno; it’s hard to define in hard and fast words. But I think we’re on the same page.

          • cirsova says:

            I have this sneaking feeling that if we all spoke German we’d have the right words at our finger tips to explain what we’re actually talking about!

          • Gaiseric says:

            Yeah, but the word would be 435 letters long and nobody would be able to actually say it.

  • Misha Burnett says:

    There are two conflicting definitions of “genre”. Genre the way that I use it (and I believe that most marketers use it) refers only to setting and obvious elements–if you have rocketships and rayguns it’s SF, if it has horses and sixguns it’s Western.

    By that usage, Pulp and New Wave are not genres, they are stylistic movements. Hard SF as a genre means only limiting the fantastic elements allowed to a small set, defined primarily by prior works.

    Genre in the sense that Superversive uses the word, however, encompasses style and philosophy as well as setting, which is why they define Pulp as a genre.

    Perhaps if we keep that in mind we can understand each other better.

  • Dedicating Ruckus says:

    It seems that much of this disagreement consists of talking past each other regarding the word “genre”.

    On the one hand, we have “genre” for any identifiable category of fiction with some set of similarities, as used in this post. According to this definition, genres form a tree; pulp is a genre, hard SF is a genre, SFF is a super-genre encompassing both, and the whole issue is basically just a matter of taxonomy which may be useful in order to find fiction you like.

    On the other, there’s “genre” in the old bookstore-shelving sense, in which there are several specific genres (SF, Fantasy, Horror, Romance, whatever) and any given work must fit into one and only one. This is a system that basically comes from historical contingency, in particular the necessity for a paper book to go in one specific location, physical reality sadly not allowing otherwise. For basically contingent reasons, the current form of this taxonomy more or less excludes pulp, due to the post-1940s memory hole. In this context, there’s good reason for the pulp revival movement to be hostile toward “genre”, because of this exclusion. Anything that crosses over elements from these arbitrary categories is “genre-busting”, and more power to them in being so. There’s nothing magical about the traditional (post-1940) genres.

    That said, the fact that many worthy works don’t fit into those particular categories neatly doesn’t make the whole endeavor of categorization useless. Individual tastes run to specific categories, and if I like Conan and want to find more things like Conan, a natural starting point is to try to categorize works and look for more in the same category. This doesn’t need to make any reference to a specific set of categories; it’s fairly useless to try to shove pulp works into the old bookstore-shelving genre system. But pulp is definitely its own, defined thing — various attempts at a definition have been made on this blog — and whether this type of thing is a “genre” or not isn’t really a useful argument.

    Now, where the specific disagreement with hard SF comes from I remain unclear. Any comment or correction would be very welcome.

    • cirsova says:

      Except pulp isn’t a genre and most folks aren’t saying that it is.

      In the comments of a recent post in this vein, Anthony was taken aback when I pointed out that I, Robot and the Three Laws were pulp, having been first published alongside other pulp stories in pulp magazines despite his argument that Asimov and his writers were antithetical to pulp.

      The issue over Hard SF was that Hard SF was defined by pursuit of a goal that can only be achieved within the subjective standards of the writer (the degree of technical accuracy to which said writer has contracted with himself to aim for and hopefully achieve) and that it was, by its nature, a reductive goal.

      The discussion that some of us are having (which very well may be one sided at this point) is regarding the failures of the taxonomy. That anyone thinks that pulp is construed as a genre indicates to me that something, somewhere, has gone dreadfully wrong.

      • cirsova says:

        “Asimov and his writers were antithetical to pulp”

        er… writings, not writers.

      • Dedicating Ruckus says:

        This makes me think that I’m confused over what’s meant by “pulp”, as well as by “genre”.

        On the one hand, we have a thematic, extensional definition as described e.g. here. By this definition, it seems Asimov’s works wouldn’t count; thematically, they certainly seem disjoint from the archetypal pulp works (Conan, John Carter, &c.).

        On the other hand, there’s a definition from literal time and place of publishing (in certain magazines, between certain years). I’m not sure how this plays in, though by this definition Asimov could count.

        So in which of these senses do the pulp revival movement generally define pulp?

      • Anthony says:

        I just wanted to stop in and confirm Alex’s story here. I do remember that conversation; I think the interesting part about it was that both Alex and I were sort of confused how the other person wasn’t getting our point.

        I suspect that relates directly to the wire crossing that has probably occurred at some point here.

      • Anthony says:

        Except pulp isn’t a genre and most folks aren’t saying that it is.

        To be fair though, this is more or less my point. People are denying pulp is a genre; I’m saying that it is, and for discussions about pulp to make sense it has to be.

        I think it’s right that there’s been a wire crossed at some point. Even so, even if I’m totally, 100% wrong here, I think this post is useful in the sense that this represents the views of a larger subset of people than some of you guys might have realized. My view is representative of more people than my own.

        • cirsova says:

          I don’t think that it needs to be a genre to be discussed, but I do agree that it needs to be better defined to be discussed. Unfortunately, the definition is broad enough that it can really only illustrated by examples. Except really, we’re talking about those examples in a broader sense rather than literally speaking of the entire corpus of the pulps. It’s just easier to say “pulps” than it is to say “Raymond Jones, Ray Cummings, Ross Rocklynne, Leigh Brackett, Margaret St. Clair, CL Moore, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E Howard, HP Lovecraft, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum” when trying to discuss the qualities we’re looking for in writing.

        • cirsova says:

          Like, when I say “I’m looking for pulpy stories”, I sure as hell don’t mean something like “The Wheel Is Death”, despite it being pulp (and therefore pulpy)
          http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-the-wheel-is-death-by-roger-dee/

          Which is why I also try to cite specific author examples as well.

        • Dedicating Ruckus says:

          It may be, then, that the source of the confusion is the conflicting usages of “pulp”: in some cases as the literal “things published in pulp magazines between years X and Y”, in some cases as “things the Pulp Revival movement would like to see more of”.

          The latter definition is, if not really a genre, at least something genre-ish; it’s a category of fiction united by commonalities of theme, mood, &c. You could also define hard SF as being a similar genre-ish thing — while the usual definition of hard SF does include some literal setting elements, it also includes certain themes and attitudes, which are distinct from those embodied by pulp under the second definition. I think this is probably what the OP is thinking of when he says “pulp is a genre”; it’s defined by themes and attitudes rather than setting elements, but it’s definitely a category that can be discussed.

          Whether “genre” is the right word for this kind of category, of course, is a separate question.

          • Gaiseric says:

            And it’s even more complicated than that, because there IS a socio-political element to it as well. The ORIGINAL neo-pulp stuff is Star Wars—George Lucas deliberately and avowedly set out to remake Flash Gordon, the Lensmen, and other overtly pulpish stories. And it had a good start for a movie or two.

            But already there were hints in Empire Strikes Back that metastasized in Return of the Jedi that Lucas was going the wrong way completely. The Jedi weren’t good. They weren’t heroic. Luke, if anything, was successful because he REJECTED their advice. And then, he thought he’d win against the Emperor by refusing to fight.

            Almost right away, Star Wars became subversive of its own merits and intrinsic qualities that made it successful. And the franchise has been up and down with regards to this ever since.

            For what it’s worth, THAT’S as much as any other element what I want to see returned to literature. I’m sick and tired of subversive messaging that undercuts the traditional Western civilization understanding of good and evil and heroism, etc.

            That may not be as important to every other guy following the Pulp Revival as it is me, but I think that it IS a strong undercurrent of our dissatisfaction and rebellion against the Big 5 and Hollywood status quo.

            And, for what it’s worth, that kind of anti-Western civilization attitude sure seems to be highly correlated with smug, self-righteous, self-congratulatory gamma male pedantry that makes up a big portion of what Daddy Warpig’s condemnation of Blue SF was all about too. I don’t think the two can really be separated.

          • Alex says:

            I’m tellin you man, my “Star Wars is the Saga of Obi Wan Kenobi’s jealous wrath played out against the Skywalker family for multiple generations” is the most correct interpretation of the Star Wars arc.

          • Gaiseric says:

            Sounds like a good topic for a blog post. Would read and recommend. 😉

          • Blume says:

            Bravo gaiseric.

            Alex the non existent first 2 prequels defeat your story. With out obi’s intervention Anakin is a farm boy on tatoonie.

          • Alex says:

            @Blume

            I’m not sure what you mean “non existent first two prequels”

            In Phantom Menace, Obi Wan is brash young man whose entire life is the Jedi Order; despite his years of training and devotion to his order, when he and his master find a little boy who everyone starts fawning over, calling him the chosen one, Obi Wan becomes intensely jealous. He’s confronted by someone who hasn’t had to do any work for the powers or adulations that he feels that HE deserves instead.

      • Blume says:

        Cirsova dont you disprove your own argument? If Asimov was pulp how can he be against pulp? If it’s a genre and not a time and material he can write in pulp paper and be against pulp the style/theme. But if it’s just the time and material arent harlequins the same as every other mass market paper back?

        The Modern literary genre has ray guns and magic so unfortunately setting no longer works for genre or never really did. Or literary guys are just pretentious douches always stealing and never giving credit where its do. Which ever y’all like better. That’s a genre I would love to destroy.

        • Blume says:

          Oh and for those who doubt me there is a story my wife loves about the non werewolf daughter’s of werewolves being raise to be normal girls in a boarding school. It’s considered great modern literature. It’s something like “lucy’s home for girls raised by wolves.”

        • Alex says:

          Anthony was the one who said Asimov was antithetical to pulp.

          I don’t claim that Asimov is not pulp or anti-pulp. I just think he was a really bad fiction writer who tried to make up for it by being a really good non-fiction writer.

          • Blume says:

            Towards the prequel argument. Nonexistent refers to the preference of many fans to pretend those movies don’t exist. Second the boy is the chosen one but the jedi council rejects his application. It’s only at Obi Wan’s insistence that his training is continued. If he was really jealous he would have gone oh well back to tatoonie you go.

            Second you use zietgist to define pulp and not medium or time period. So under that rubric how is the laws of robotics pulp? And how does it disprove Anthony?

          • Alex says:

            Obi Wan is insistent on training Anakin because he thinks it’s a way that he can prove to himself that he’s not jealous; also, he feels it will give him a degree of control over this chosen one, and he will have the opportunity to elevate himself in this manner.

            Also, you’re putting words in my mouth. I’m not defining pulps as the zeitgeist; I’m saying that people use the term “pulps” as shorthand for the zeitgeist. The laws of robotics are pulp because they’re from pulp stories in the pulps.

  • […] Superversive’s Anthony responds […]

  • Robespierre says:

    I don’t remember how old I was – possibly a kid or perhaps a teenager – and I don’t remember the circumstances, but I remember how I felt the first time I heard someone call Edgar Rice Burroughs a “pulp writer”: I wanted to put my fist through someone’s face. Of course I didn’t do anything of the sort, I just tucked that information away for future reference.

    But I couldn’t believe what I had just heard: Burroughs . . . a PULP writer?!! ERB was an awesome writer!

    Actually, he was my favorite writer in the world when I was growing up. And John Carter was my favorite character in all of fiction.

    When I was young, I understood that pulp was a derogatory term – cruddy junk writing spewed out by no-talent junk writers and printed on cheap junk paper.

    “Pulp” had nothing to do with adventure stories, romantic heroic men doing heroic things with gorgeous women, or wonderful and fantastical settings like ERB’s Barsoom. “Pulp” was simply poor quality writing.

    I’ve read some romance novels that an ex-girlfriend had laying around and they were horrible: unnatural dialogue, no real story, spelling errors throughout, and the abuse of the English language was almost too painful to bear. I don’t know how the writer managed to graduate from elementary school, and I don’t know how the book ever got published.

    One of my dictionaries defines “pulp” as “a magazine printed on cheap paper and usually containing matter of a cheap and sensational nature.” Another dictionary defines it as “a magazine or book containing lurid subject matter.”

    Whatever disagreements may arise concerning the meaning of pulp here at this site, those dictionary definitions and my previous understanding of the term are hardly the ones employed by the writers and commenters at Castalia.

    I’m really excited to see a renewed interest in the old pulp era SF – particularly the heroic, romantic, adventurous subject matter.

    And if anyone wants to call me a pulp writer . . . I’ll unclench my fist.

  • UF says:

    Like porn, I know pulp when I see it. Both words describe not the elements of the work, but the core of it. If you just say “pornography” I don’t know if you mean videos, photographs, or words; I might not know precisely what sexual activities are being depicted, but I know SOMETHING is. If you just say “pulp,” I don’t know if you mean David Innes, The Shadow, or Tarzan. But I know you don’t mean Harry Potter or Rand al’Thor.
    That’s a very different level of description than that provided by a “genre.” All autobiographies are written in the first person, all science fiction involves gadgets that don’t exist in real life, and all fantasy involves magic/creatures that don’t exist in real life. You won’t find books featuring aliens in the “literature” section. But a pulp could include all or none of those elements. Is it technically a genre? Sure, but in order to make any sense of our new genre, it must be divided into subgenres called pulp science fiction, pulp hard SF, pulp fantasy, pulp urban fantasy, etc.
    That would be absurd, of course. By insisting pulp is its own genre, you’re not clarifying anything, just adding unnecessary complication. You’re also falling into the creativity-killing trap of thinking in terms of the label for the story, rather than the content, which Daddy Warpig criticized here: http://www.castaliahouse.com/genre-walls-will-destroy-your-story/
    Now, nobody said not to write hard SF, and the original self-styled hard SF writers distanced themselves from pulp. As has been repeatedly demonstrated, at least some pulp WAS hard SF—it just doesn’t look like it because we’ve learned a thing or two since those stories were written. Hard SF gets singled out for criticism because people like Asimov declared it to be the only true SF, drove the pulps out of the magazines, and declared everything that came before them to be trash. Pointing out that this is entirely untrue is not an attempt to eliminate hard SF. Maybe it’s not nice to point out that stories about psychohistory can’t hold a candle to stories about John Carter of Mars, but most people don’t have the temerity to claim that the former is not science fiction (http://www.castaliahouse.com/cosmic-knights/).
    Your choice of Harry Potter as your example of fantasy is precisely why such sharp criticism is necessary: most people are familiar with low-quality works, but don’t know that they are rip-offs of high-quality books. They’ve been told that the lousy ones are the best that has ever been produced in that genre, because the better ones don’t really belong there. But detailing the flaws in JK Rowling’s books is not an attempt to ban fantasy, it’s a necessary step in demonstrating that other fantasy authors are head-and-shoulders above her.
    Superheroes aren’t pulp? That’s a fascinating claim, given that the “original” superheroes were inspired by pulp characters. Again, don’t conflate criticism of an individual character/story/author with a declaration that an entire category is verboten.
    Misha Burnett’s Five Pillars are not rules, for a genre or for anything else. They’re an analysis of the key elements which made pulp stories great—hence, worth reviving. And a lack of distinction between science fiction and fantasy doesn’t require a new genre. The point is that when an author is excessively focused on what genre their story will fit into, the quality declines.
    Again, there are no objections to hard SF. There are objections to people insisting that the ONLY acceptable science fiction is hard SF—and that anything else, even hard SF based on outdated science, is inherently inferior. And pulp is not a genre, it’s a category of story which overlaps many genres. More importantly, thinking, reading, and/or writing, in terms of genres in intrinsically limiting. It is in this sense that the pulp revolution is a “write what you want” movement: write what you want, without regard for what “the rules of the genre” say you can or cannot write.

    • Jesse Lucas says:

      “There are objections to people insisting that the ONLY acceptable science fiction is hard SF”
      The grognards at stardestroyer.net and Atomic Rocket are not going to change their mind without severe irradiation. They can be ignored. There aren’t gatekeepers anymore.

  • Hooc Ott says:

    Why is this labeled Superversive?

    Certainly downgrading a Cultural Movement like the Pulp Revolution to a genre resembles more of a subversion then a superversion.

    Also look how spiteful and dreary the subtext of where this is coming from.

    “You took my fav special genre and claimed it wasn’t real. Fine well your whole thing is nothing but a genre. Take that!”

    So much hope.

    ….

    “H.P. Lovecraft was a nihilistic writer who wrote about average people who went insane when they looked at monsters.”

    This is a contradiction.

    Why would a nihilist write that an average man would fear and go mad by the monstrous manifestation of nihilism?

    Nearly every story Lovecraft wrote portrays nihilism as something to fear. A cosmic horror.

    Personally I don’t think us Pulpendix Rers have really put a good bead on Lovefcraft. I mean I just discovered Lovecraft was trading Barsoom Pastiche with Robert E Howard.

    https://hoocott.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/derpy-derp-lulz-wait-wut/

    Yeah no. You don’t get to disqualify jack by your flippent seemingly unread read of Lovecraft.

    Which brings up another point.

    Do you even read?

    Seriously go read Cirsova Magazine. Cuz if you did there is no way in hell you would be claiming all the weird crazy stuff in those pages can be boiled down to one genre.

    While you are doing that I want you to notice two things:

    The first I already mentioned, namely all the genres can be found there.

    And second which is really important and hopefully will knock some sense into that solid bone sperg head of yours. Cirsova not only has all the genres you can find listed on amazon but it also contains about 100 more genres that are not listed AND have not seen print since the pulps of old.

    Is there a bit of hyperbole in my statements? Yep.

    But until you actually read what has been done, not just Cirsova but all the rest that is Pulp Revolution and what we have conscripted, you will be shocked in how little hyperbole they contain.

    You want a definition?

    Fine.

    Pulp Revolution is the nasiant culture that will supplant the current non-culture we are now living in.

    We ain’t here to carve out a friggin Genre. We are here to take it ALL.

    • Anthony says:

      Certainly downgrading a Cultural Movement like the Pulp Revolution to a genre resembles more of a subversion then a superversion.

      I’m not downgrading, upgrading, or anything in-between. I’m diagnosing a very specific thing.

      It’s superversive because a back and forth has been going on with the superversives on this topic for awhile.

      Also look how spiteful and dreary the subtext of where this is coming from.

      “You took my fav special genre and claimed it wasn’t real. Fine well your whole thing is nothing but a genre. Take that!”

      So much hope.

      You can read whatever you what into what I write. But that doesn’t mean I need to buy into your frame. That’s kind of the point of the post, actually.

      • Hooc Ott says:

        “I need to buy into your frame.”

        Cool.

        Why you trying to frame Pulp Revolution in a single genre ghetto again mate?

        • Anthony says:

          Why you trying to frame Pulp Revolution in a single genre ghetto again mate?

          I’m not trying to do anything. I’m simply observing. Also, if you’re going to accuse me of lying about things out of spite, don’t call me “mate”.

          It’s certainly possible my observation is wrong. But even then, that’s what it is – an incorrect observation.

          Calm down.

        • Anthony says:

          You really, really, really seem not to have understood what my post was saying.

          I don’t know how to explain it except to say “Re-read the post”.

          The hostility, the spitefulness, the pettiness you want to see simply isn’t there.

          I don’t actually like hard sci-fi more than soft sci-fi. I love “I, Robot”…But “A Wrinkle in Time” is better. “Awake in the Night Land” is better.

          My motivations aren’t what you think they are. You’re approaching my post from an angry and incorrect frame.

          • Hooc Ott says:

            “I don’t actually like hard sci-fi more than soft sci-fi. I love “I, Robot”…But “A Wrinkle in Time” is better. “Awake in the Night Land” is better.”

            Wew lad

            Those are some nice dance moves.

            You are getting closer though.

            When are you going to admit that you have not actually read any of the works that you are trying to lump into one genre?

            “I’m simply observing.”

            No. No you are not. A plain observation of the actual text shows multiple genres. You are making things up in your head. You have not read the works.

            Now ask yourself why are you crushing down Pulp Revolution into a genre from zero information that would lead you to think that.

          • Anthony says:

            No. No you are not. A plain observation of the actual text shows multiple genres.

            See, this is what I mean. I’m observing the *discussion*, on multiple fronts.

            You read that as “I’ve read all different sorts of pulp books”.

            If you want to kno what I’m saying, you need to make an effort to understand what I’m saying. But still – STILL! – you see what you want to see in advance and then proceed on the assumption that I’m an evil fun-hating monster.

            No, I have not read all of the pulps. I tried a bit of “Three Hearts and Three Lions”, bounced off of it early on. I’m a little over halfway into “The Dying Earth”, and I think it’s pretty good.

            I HAVE read Appendix N. I’ve read Cirsova. I get it. The pulps have huge variety in genres and styles.

            None of this affects my point.

          • Anthony says:

            Like this…

            Now ask yourself why are you crushing down Pulp Revolution into a genre from zero information that would lead you to think that.

            …Is the classic “Have you stopped beating your wife?” question.

            Why am I anti-pulp? Maybe because my mother never loved me and Isaac Asimov was my real daddy.

            What sort of psychoanalytical nonsense is that?

          • Hooc Ott says:

            “…Is the classic “Have you stopped beating your wife?” question.”

            Sure. I can give you that.

            But I got what I wanted from it. Which was this:

            “The pulps have huge variety in genres and styles.”

            sooo…

            yeah. I was a mean dude who targeted one thing and then got it through deceptive dare I say SJW methods.

            Honestly I’m not particularly happy about it. I generally hold those tactics back for full on SJW Cultural Marxists and you are seen as more ally then fiend in Pulp Revolution circles. Believe me.

            But you crossed a line. Even if it was not your point defining Pulp Revolution down to a quantum genre won’t stand as long as I can help it.

            Carry on and I hope no particularly hard feelings.

          • Anthony says:

            As others have pointed out, there’s a wire crossed here. At one point, earlier or later, I’m not sure – but a wire was crossed.

            You’re looking at this as me trying to reduce and minimize pulp.

            I’m not trying to do that, really.

            Think of it instead as me trying to figure out what we’re all talking about

    • Anthony says:

      Here’s what I’m looking at:

      You wrote a long, angry screed where you didn’t really respond to what I wrote so much as project something you thought I was implying and then yell at me about some pet topics.

      Okay. Have fun with that.

      • Hooc Ott says:

        “where you didn’t really respond”

        You claimed Pulp Revolution is a genre.

        If you had read any Pulp Revolution works both past Pulp and present you would know such a claim is plainly and factually wrong.

        Is proving your claims factually wrong not responding to it?

        I don’t know. Sure you can have that one fam.

        “You wrote a long, angry screed”

        Maybe. I am going into motives here that may or may not be true. But the dress does fit.

        Why make a dismissive claim against Pulp Revolution that provably you have no idea if true or not if not out of spite?

        • Anthony says:

          Is proving your claims factually wrong not responding to it?

          *Writes a long post arguing about how, for the term pulp to make sense, it needs to be a genre, and that for people to talk about wanting ‘more pulp’ they necessarily need to be defining it in such a way*

          RESPONSE: “Nonsense. Pulp’s not a genre. Just read the pulps. See? Totally not a genre.”

          ??????

          Do you see what the issue is? Saying “Look at the huge variety of pulp works” doesn’t address my point. It certainly addresses whatever YOUR particular sacred cow is, but it has nothing to do with mine.

          If you don’t really get my point…I can’t really explain it, since I already did. It’s all there.

          This wasn’t motivated by spite. This was motivated by nothing except “Hey, I don’t agree with everything you’re saying/think you’re making a mistake, here’s why.”

          People keep trying to tell me I shouldn’t be doing stuff like that…but compared to what people have been saying about US – these comments included, in fact – we have been NICE.

          Geez.

          • Hooc Ott says:

            “Just read the pulps. See? Totally not a genre.”

            Cirsova Magazine contains multiple Genres some of which has not existed for 80+ years.

            If you read them you would know the term “read Pulps” means read a whole oceans full of genres which have not been explored for decades.

    • Jesse Lucas says:

      dunno man, I just want to read/write cool stories

  • Joe F Keenan says:

    You’re correct, pulp is not a genre. It’s poor quality paper. Likewise, glossies aren’t a genre. They’re good quality paper. Plenty of adventure stories were published in glossies so pulps had no corner on that market (see Harold Lamb). Pulp is a obsolete ad hominem now embraced as an honorific. Kind of like Paddy.

  • deuce says:

    Anthony: “compared to what people have been saying about US – these comments included, in fact – we have been NICE.”

    Okay, who is “US” and “we” and who has been saying “saying” stuff? It reminds me of this post from you the other day:

    “There isn’t a war between the superversives unless you want there to be.”

    Who here at the CH blog has been talking about waging “war” on the Superversives? Are the Superversives so wedded to Campbell and Asimov that any criticism of those tin demigods is grounds for “war”? Which post of Jeffro’s or Warpig’s was the “Sarajevo Incident” in all this?

    • Anthony says:

      Who here at the CH blog has been talking about waging “war” on the Superversives?

      That post from the other day was literally a response to Jeffro saying that Daddy Warpig was discussing the “war” with the superversives on his podcast.

      The word wasn’t mine.

      Jeffro pointed out in the comments that DW came to the conclusion it was overblown. I’m happy about that.

      But I’m still not the guy who looked at it as a war first.

      I’m not making stuff up whole sale.

      Are the Superversives so wedded to Campbell and Asimov that any criticism of those tin demigods is grounds for “war”?

      This has nothing to do with being wedded to Campbell or Asimov. It never did.

      But really, why am I even bothering? You know that.

      • Daddy Warpig says:

        I never used the term war, I said “supposed battle, supposed war”. Which is indicating it ISN’T a war.

        If you don’t want to listen to the whole thing—which I understand, it’s two hours long—skip to minute 59 to hear what I said about Superversives.

        https://ia800408.us.archive.org/25/items/jimfear_audio_productions/Ep45.mp3

        Although you really should listen to the whole thing. YMMV.

        • Anthony says:

          I’ll listen if I get the time.

          I know you weren’t trying to imply we were at each other’s throats. I’m just pointing out that I didn’t pull the idea from thin air. Apparently people were seeing something going on, and have been saying so.

          If “war” isn’t the right technical term for everything…okay, cool. I’m happy to hear it.

        • Jeffro says:

          I prefer the term internecine conflict.

    • deuce says:

      I can definitely tell you I have no idea who “US” is or what is being “said”. I’ve never seen Superversives — as a group — singled out for any abuse here. Why would we?

      We’re commenting right now on a Superversive post. Jeffro has a crazy way of outlawing and waging war on people, I must say. So what IS the dark secret or offense that I already “know”? Just to humour me and to let the people playing along at home in on it, of course.

      • Anthony says:

        So what IS the dark secret or offense that I already “know”?

        What on earth are you talking about? Did you even read the comment in order? What you already “know” – and I do believe this – is that this isn’t about some theory you have that we’re all sycophants worshiping Campbell and that’s why we hate fun, or something. There’s no “dark or secret offense”.

        Look, you have a thing against me now. I get it. I lost my temper on you in a comment the other day. Sorry about that, seriously. But I’m not going to buy the attempted gaslighting. If you don’t see what Daddy Warpig referred to as a war with the superversives on his podcast, if you haven’t seen the links from multiple people telling us to cool things down, if you didn’t see Jeffro’s big rant against Karl Gallagher, if you and if all of that isn’t enough to technically qualify as a “war” in your eyes, and if it’s important to you that the back and forth be qualified as a “war”…

        Then Godspeed. We have nothing to discuss. Have a good day, or nice night, depending on time zone.

        • Daddy Warpig says:

          Just a suggestion: Next time you feel like blaming me for something I’ve been accused of saying, maybe listen to the podcast, read the post, or just ask me BEFORE you get angry.

          I’m really very approachable.

          I mean, I almost never punch people in the face just for existing any more.

          • Anthony says:

            I’m honestly not trying to accuse you of anything in this case. It is solely to point out that the idea wasn’t pulled like a rabbit in a hat by me.

  • Durandel Almiras says:

    Why was this comment allowed to be turned into an article that fails to make its case beyond impassioned assertions.

    Easy way to deal with this. Pulp is a style, not a genre. Cambellian is a style, SciFi is a genre. Lovecraftian is a style, Fantasy or Horror is a genre. Manga is a style that crosses over SciFi and Fantasy genres.

    If you want to write an article, Anthony, explain why Pulp should have its own section based on genre rather than on style such as how Manga is placed right next to the Fantasy and SciFi shelves at the few Barnes & Nobles left.

    You’re not shaking anything up, you’re just committing yourself to your category error.

    • Anthony says:

      For one, manga isn’t a style or genre. It’s just the way the Japanese design comics.

      Your comment misses the point of the article, namely, we should probably know what pulp is before we discuss it. Call it a style if it makes you feel better. But it’s a thing that’s not as broad as people are making it out to be, simply because if you want more of it you need to define out other things.

      • Anthony says:

        Or, alternatively, a bunch of people aren’t necessarily discussing the same things when they bring up pulp.

        I’d like to know what pulp is.

    • Eugine Nier says:

      > Pulp is a style, not a genre. Cambellian is a style, SciFi is a genre. Lovecraftian is a style, Fantasy or Horror is a genre.

      Ok, what do you mean by “genre” versus “style”? If by “genre” you mean rules of how the setting operates then horror seems to be more a style than a genre, i.e., horror is defined by a particular emotion rather than the setting where it is experienced.

  • Durandel Almiras says:

    Fine, let’s review Anthony.

    “Pulp fiction does not exist. Or, more accurately, if pulp fiction exists, then it must be defined – which by definition makes it a genre.”

    With the concept of “pulp” existing, yes, to a certain degree, “pulp” can be defined but it does not necessitate as you say that it must be defined as a genre. However, you can make the case that the definition for pulp should be that of genre. Let’s see if you do that…

    “Here’s what I mean: What is a genre, really? Let’s define it:
    ‘A category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter.'”

    That is one definition of genre. If making an argument, you need your opposition to agree to that definition. You also need to make the case for why that definition is the right one and why “pulp” fits that definition.

    Do you do that? Nope, you instead move on to another question.

    “So the big question is this: Why do we want to bring pulp back? “Well, we just want to bring back that era where there really weren’t any genres and people write what they want!”

    Er, sorry, that can’t be it. You certainly don’t want people to write hard SF; hard SF is disqualified from pulp. So is pure Harry Potter style fantasy. Superheroes certainly aren’t pulp. So clearly pulp is a thing separate from “That era where you write what you want”.”

    “Pure Harry Potter style fantasy”

    That aside, your above comment fails to explain why pulp, Harry Potter and hard SciFi are divided and how they are so. Are they divided by style, subject, form or all the above and therefore genre? Is pulp not SciFi? Is pulp not Fantasy? By what metric are you making such claims?

    Let’s see if an answer is forthcoming and not more blanket assertions without arguments.

    “H.P. Lovecraft was a nihilistic writer who wrote about average people who went insane when they looked at monsters. But he’s pulp, right?

    Wrong, since there are rules for pulp.

    We have Misha Burnett’s The Five Pillars Of Pulp Revival”

    Yes, five particular elements of a what though? A genre? A style of writing SciFi and Fantasy fiction? And who made Misha’s pillars the law of a definition? I doubt even Misha would claim that, he’s just trying to notice elements of pulp story arcs that seem to be mostly consistent, but story arc elements does not make a genre.

    “The list goes on. Guess what? When you do that, you’ve just created, by definition, a genre.”

    No, you haven’t and you have yet to prove this. So far you have just been doing copy pasta and asserting with the meticulous grace of a monkey throwing its own feces at a wall.

    And finally, to reiterate, Jasyn was not talking about doing away with genres as a convention of categorization, he was talking about doing away with the genres as self-imposed rules when writing. You want dragons with nuclear powered power armor, rocket launchers, a laserbeam eye and magical fire, Jasyn is saying go for it rather than listen to that voice that says “ye gads, I’m mixing up my genres!”

    You’re obtuse. Both in your understanding and in your poor attempt to make a argument.

    Try to write a follow up where you clearly explain and defend why according to you, Pulp is a separate genre from SciFi and/or Fantasy. It would help if you show how Zelazny, Merrit, Howard, Lovecraft, and Tolkien are different genres and not styles from Asimov and Heinlein or Mieville or Martin.

    By the way, subgenres merely denote a difference in style and theme. Fantasy and Dark Fantasy are not separate genres, they are the same genre, but with different styles and themes.

    • Anthony says:

      That is one definition of genre. If making an argument, you need your opposition to agree to that definition. You also need to make the case for why that definition is the right one and why “pulp” fits that definition.

      Of course I didn’t argue for it. It was part of the premise. That’s just the dictionary definition of “genre”.

      Several people have pointed out on the thread that they use genre in different ways than I did. That’s certainly a possible cause for the confusion or wire crossing or whatever you want to call it.

      You’re, to use a phrase I’ve seen on this thread several times now, sperging out.

      The point of the argument was that pulp is being looked at as free from those petty restrictions that characterize traditional genres and styles, but when people talk about pulp they are obviously talking about something. This means there are things that are defined as outside of pulp, which means that by saying “I want more pulp” you don’t mean “I want people to write what they want without worrying about genre” but “I want people to write more of this specific thing”.

      Which is perfectly fine. But that’s what’s happening.

      • Durandel Almiras says:

        Anthony, read Wright’s recent reprint:

        http://www.castaliahouse.com/wright-on-elf-thirst-for-waters-beyond-the-world/

        Perhaps that will help you going forward.

      • Jesse Lucas says:

        Genres can overlap. They can be large or small. It’s a word used for classifications of things based on similarity. That’s it.

        Pulp can be viewed as a genre. Pulprev can be. If I write a story where the good guy finds out his adherence to his moral code has doomed everything he loves and he kills himself in despair, I have not written a Pulprev story. If I write one where the good guy finds out his adherence to his moral code has caused everything to somehow work out in the end, I may have written a Pulprev story.

        There is a line, we can call it a genre line, we can call it a style line, I can call it whatever will make people happy, but if I decide to put together a Pulprev anthology and someone sends me the first kind of story I will kindly refuse them with a note that this isn’t what I’m looking for.

      • deuce says:

        “I can call it whatever will make people happy…”

        That right there.

        Pulp fiction was a profoundly populist artform. It sold to anyone who wanted to buy it. It was not aimed at approval from literati in NYC or superfans living wherever. As the Great Old One, ERB, once proclaimed, “The purpose of fiction is to entertain.”

        Pulp fiction was designed, first and foremost, to entertain. That dictum applied to all its myriad forms. “Entertain” was its overriding ethos, not “message” and not playing by the rules of some game designed by nerds.

  • […] had to go in Castalia’s archives, and found the post … not by Jeffro. In fact, it even cites another blog by Misha […]

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