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The Pulp Magazines

A Golden Age For Affordable Writers

As a writer who makes a living producing all kinds of copy very rapidly for not too much money, I have a vast nostalgia for the pulp magazine era. If I had the choice between writing a fifteen dollar article on how to fix a leaky faucet or writing a fifteen dollar story about a man from Earth battling six-armed green Martian warriors for the love of a red-skinned princess who gives birth by laying eggs, I know which one I would rather do.

The pulps were fun. The pulps were trashy. The pulps were lurid, quickly-written, often senseless and frequently offensively racist and sexist by modern standards. There were pulp magazines for every conceivable niche- cowboy stories, detective stories, ghost stories, even engineering stories.

 

My two favorite pulps of the classic era have to be “Black Mask” and “Weird Tales.” Black Mask featured stories of the kind we would now call hardboiled or noir. Stories about gangsters and molls, private eyes and femme fatales.

 

“Weird Tales” was the original home of both the Conan stories and most of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. It was a place for any kind of horror or outre fantasy.

 

If I could have written for either of these magazines in their heyday, I would be a happy writer. I wouldn't care that the pay was bad, or that the stuff I was writing would be looked down on as lurid trash. I would see the opportunity to write for the pulp magazines as being given permission to go out and play, and to get paid while doing so. What a life!