Astounding Stories

Astounding Stories is the longest running continuously published magazine of any gene, beginning its publication run in 1930 and continuing into the present. It is widely considered part of the “Golden Age of Science Fiction”. Astounding Stories hit financial difficulties and shuttered production for three months during the Great Depression. Its first three years were oriented towards adventure stories, but after its resurgence it replaced its contents with only science fiction stories. The new editor, John Wood Campbell termed these new stories “thought variants,” because he imagined that they truly challenged the readers’ perspectives. This turn towards less sensationalist content was accompanied by a title change to Analog Science Fact and Fiction in 1960. Through the years, the magazine featured many notable authors including Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Orson Scott Card, author of the popular young adult novel, Ender’s Game. In May 1950, the magazine published L. Ron Hubbard’s theory of dianetics, now known as the foundation of Scientology! To learn more about Astounding Stories and all the other fantastic pulps, JMU Libraries encourages you to participate in the Pulp Studies Symposium on the weekend of October 7, 2016.

Black Mask

  Black Mask was the most significant pulp magazine oriented towards crime and detective fiction. It contributed to the development of the “hard boiled “ genre and showcased the writing of Samuel Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, among others. Hammett created the iconic detective Sam Spade. Chandler wrote such classics as The Big Sleep and Double Indemnity, starring the private detective Philip Marlowe. Humphrey Bogart immortalized both Spade and Marlowe in films throughout the 1930s and 1940s. The hard-boiled genre also paralleled with another important pulp category: the Western. Detective fiction took vigilante justice from the lawless west and brought it to the streets of U.S. cities. The change dovetailed with the public’s increasingly mistrust of law enforcement. This left the market ripe for stories about hard-driving private detectives who achieved justice at any cost. Black Mask was instrumental in satisfying this demand and readers ate it up, with a peak circulation of 103,000 readers in 1930. Black Mask ended its publication run in 1951, but its legacy still resonates in contemporary detective narratives. To learn more about Black Mask and all the other fantastic pulps, JMU Libraries encourages you to participate in the Pulp Studies Symposium on the weekend Continue reading Black Mask

Weird Tales

Weird Tales was not the most valuable property of the pulp era, but it does have an interesting history. It ran initially from 1923 to 1954. It reprinted the works of many classic authors, playwrights, and poets including Oscar Wilde, John Keats, and Bram Stoker, author of Dracula. Its genres of choice were horror and fantasy, with a dash of the macabre. The somewhat risqué cover art by Margaret Brundage drove up dwindling circulation numbers. Weird Tales encountered a range of financial challenges, nearly succumbing to bankruptcy several times. Its most celebrated contributor was science fiction author H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft was even approached with a lucrative offer to take on the position of editor, but he declined. While Lovecraft died in obscurity, he posthumously gained great fame for his influential works of horror fiction. His only published work in his lifetime was in the pages of pulp magazines. Weird Tales is unofficially known as “the magazine that never dies”, because it was revived after each downturn in readership or content. Its most recent revival occurred in 2011 when a new publisher bought it. To learn more about Weird Tales and all the other fantastic pulps, JMU Libraries encourages you to Continue reading Weird Tales

Pulp Studies Symposium

Looking for something to do in October? JMU Libraries will host the first Pulp Studies Symposium the weekend of October 7, 2016. To help get the word out about the Symposium, Library staff filmed members of the JMU community reading aloud from pulp magazines. Pulp magazines are called “pulp” because they were made from wood pulp, the cheapest form of paper. This allowed them to be sold for very low prices, giving them the additional name of “dime fiction”. Pulps were sold from 1896 through approximately 1955. Their publication spanned expansive social change in the United States, as well as two world wars. Authors that later became famous in their own right such as Raymond Chandler, Isaac Asimov, H.P. Lovecraft, and even L. Ron Hubbard (founder of Scientology) were first featured in pulp magazines. The pulp being featured in these videos is publisher Street and Smith’s most valuable property, Love Story, which ran from 1921-1947. It claimed the distinction of being the most popular pulp in its era, with a peak circulation of 600,000 readers. The stories skew towards melodrama. The narratives run amok with love triangles, scandalous affairs, star-crossed couples, and a litany of romantic confessions. They are great fun to Continue reading Pulp Studies Symposium