There is a lot of great stuff in The Frisky Pagan’s latest post, but this part especially struck me:
Q: I’ve read that the target audience of most pulps was twelve year old boys. Have you consciously ‘written down’ to your audience at times?
A: Twelve-year-old boys? No, no. Kids didn’t read the pulps. Not many kids anyway. What 12-year-old would have understood the stories in, say, Weird Tales?
I didn’t read the pulps as a kid; I know that. I read the authors mentioned earlier in this interview. And when I wrote for kids I wrote for Boy’s Life and American Boy.
There you have it, straight from honest to goodness pulp author Hugh B. Cave.
This really does get to the heart of the matter, too. This is the exact point where the scam was played. Because when people look at the Appendix N list this is their first line of attack when they want to disqualify it as having any significance. It’s loaded with pulp stories… therefore… it can only be a list of things that Gygax liked when he was a kid! And it’s just so obvious. Because this line about pulps and twelve year old boys goes back decades. Everyone takes it for granted.
And I mean everyone. I’m not even in the literati set and looking at the tabletop game designers of the seventies blew my mind. Why would a grown man like John Eric Holmes, a professor and designer of the very first role-playing game “basic set”– why would he be so into some weird series by Edgar Rice Burroughs that I’d never heard about…? Why would he take the time to write three Pellucidar pastiche novels…?
If someone had told me that I really should take a look at Tarzan– really go back and read it– I’d have thought they were crazy. If SFFAudio runs a letter from the old Weird Tales by a grandmother raving about how much of a kick she gets from reading their creepy stories… I think man, that’s really weird. People in the seventies simply didn’t behave like I thought they “ought” to behave. People in the twenties and thirties…? Even less so!
It’s almost like some sort of project was begun some time around 1940… and it only really came into its full force around 1980 or so. The details are sketchy and I’m sure that every specific innovation and transition seemed like a good idea at the time and that everyone involved had some combination of good intentions and plausible dependability. But the fact is… a cultural divorce was effected.
And smug rehetoric insinuating that pulp stories are juvenile and that people that like them are weenies is a big part of how it was accomplished.