Tag: Pulp Fiction Fridays

Pulp Fiction Friday Guest, Tommy Hancock

Trey from Cybil Lewis Series (c) Laura Givens
Trey from Cybil Lewis Series (c) Laura Givens

November is Native American Heritage Month! To celebrate, each Friday will continue to be devoted to Pulp Fiction.

Authors will contribute a post discussing pulp, mystery, spies, and whodunits in the realms of science fiction and speculative. Welcome to Tommy Hancock as he discusses the definition of pulp, its future, and the publishing of pulp.


I’m a Pulp Writer.  I also happen to be a Publisher of Pulp, New Pulp specifically.  I’m also a fan of Pulp, both Classic and New and nearly every stripe of it in some form or fashion.  So, the question could be asked…and has been by those wearing slightly confused looks on their faces… Why would anyone choose to be a Pulp writer?

The reason this question gets asked and is actually worth the breath it takes to say it requires a bit of explanation on what one means when one refers to ‘Pulp’.  Now it must be prefaced that, although there are aspects of what I am about to say that are factual, my view of what Pulp is my own and, though my view is shared by others, this take on the nature of Pulp is not the only one making its rounds.  But it is mine and how I define not only what Pulp means but how I fit into it.

The term ‘pulp’ in regards to fiction came from the use of Pulp paper by Publishers to AsianPulpprint cheap magazines beginning around 1896, a practice that became very prevalent in the early 20th Century.  The stories printed in these magazines were usually genre fiction, normally very plot driven and, although characterization was usually flimsy, the characters were at least normally presented as larger than life. The heroes were as straight and pure as an arrow made of white bread and the villains were ultimate mustache twirlers, whether or not they had facial hair to twist.  Westerns, detective stories, tales of heroes like Doc Savage, romance yarns, even sports stories all found their ways into Pulps over about a 50 year period, and into the hearts of fans and collectors.

Pulp magazines experienced a huge popularity in the 1930s and into the 1940s, partially because the price of the magazines appealed to a Depression and then War torn America and the stories were as engaging for the blue collar worker as they were for his white collar boss.  Due to a few arguable points, the popularity of Pulps faded and the actual magazines vanished from the newsstands by the mid 1950s.  By then, however, something had taken place and Pulp had come to mean more than just the paper quickly produced stories were written on.

Black PulpTrigger warning- This is the part where my opinion of what Pulp is may veer from beliefs others have. My take on it often leads to debates, arguments, and heated verbal battles that redefine flame wars.  You have been warned.

Even though Pulp magazines themselves were pretty much nonexistent by 1955, the influence and effect of what had gone on on those pages was just beginning.  Authors that we now consider classic American writers – including Isaac Asimov and Louis L’Amour, just to name two – found their first voice in Pulp magazines.  It can be argued that one of the greatest genres ever, Science Fiction, really found its footing in Pulp magazines.  A lot of credit for the future of popular literature today can be laid at the feet of Pulp Fiction and I think the greatest contribution of those magazines and the writers and editors behind them was that by 1955 Pulp had gone from being a medium for delivery of these stories to a style of writing all its very own.

New Pulp is the term given to what others and I write today and most definitely to the type of fiction I publish.  It’s a moniker that has really come into use heavily in the last five or six years.  Having said that, I believe New Pulp has been written since the last Pulp magazine was printed.  That’s what New Pulp is, fiction written in the Pulp style after the end of the ‘Pulp Era’.  For the most part, that is the biggest distinction between Classic and New Pulp.  Lester Dent, Walter Gibson, Norvell Page, Charles Boeckman, they all wrote stories that were printed in the Pulp magazines when they existed.  Those of us who came after that era, what we write is New Pulp.

Now, with that in mind, there is another significant difference between Classic and New Pulp. Classic Pulp, particularly Pulp during its most popular period, belongs to a specific time, holds a certain place in the past.  Because of that, it is defined, for better or worse, by the period it was written in and the social, legal, and general mores of that era.  Although New Pulp could be divided into periods, the fact that it essentially started when Classic Pulp ended due to the end of the magazines, New Pulp grows and shifts, or recedes and changes, depending on your viewpoint, as the world around us and society itself does the same.  Topics are tackled now in New Pulp stories that would never have been addressed in the Pulp magazines.  Characters of color and what many consider alternate lifestyles can now be the leads in stories, not simply stereotyped supporting characters or punchlines to jokes, if they appeared at all.  Shades of gray are also much more prevalent in New Pulp than in its Classic parent, good guys can have dark sides and bad guys can be redeemable.  So, New Pulp continues to grow and mature and expand and become something more than what it was even a month ago as new writers come into the fold and new readers begin looking for more within Pulp.

That being said, understand that there is a core that is common between Classic and New Pulp.  Pulp is usually fast paced, told with a sense of urgency from beginning to end.  It has a plot focus, things have to be happening when the first word is read and keep happening until the last word is breathlessly expressed.  Pulp also has rich, vibrant and colorful characters. New Pulp, again referring to how it differs from Classic Pulp, adds more dimensions to characters, but that offers a tricky proposition. As mainstream, or ‘literary’ literature tends to slow down and take time building characters with protracted monologues, pages of conversation over coffee or in bed, or angst riddled introspection, New Pulp does not have that luxury.  Character development is massively important to make New Pulp appeal to readers, but it has to happen as the action proceeds.  You have to introduce and grow your character between the gunshots, as it were, as the plot unfolds.  If you want to discuss the trauma of your character losing his or her parents when they were a child, then that particular aspect needs to either unfold in a concise two or three sentences or needs to be the reason he or she is pounding bad guys into the concrete while he or she is pounding said villains.

Another key part of Pulp is the use of language.  Although a story can end up being so purple it is a veritable bruise of verbiage, description is essential to Pulp and makes it stand apart from other styles.  Red becomes crimson, a gun becomes a gat or hogleg, love becomes unhinged passion, and so forth.  No one ‘says’ anything in Pulp. They bark, snap, scream, hammer, and drill their dialogue.  Yes, I know some of you are rolling your eyes, having heard the age old maxim that doing such things with dialogue tags is unnecessary and it is perfectly all right to use ‘said’ instead of these other words, and you know what? It is okay.  But for me, Pulp means adding a distinction to the fiction I write, something that makes it stand apart, a visceral thing.  And that comes out in how Pulp writers use, manipulate, and sometimes abuse and mangle the English language to produce wonderfully illustrative and sometimes brilliantly over the top stories.

All of what came before was to get to where I am now.  I write Pulp because I love the stories that gave birth to what I do today and I adore the tales being woven by some truly awesome storytellers today in the same style.  In short, I am a fan. Not just of New Pulp and whatever trailblazing we all may be doing, but of Classic Pulp, of its history, of its impact, of its characters.  All of it.  I am a Pulp fan and that drives every word I write, every book I help a writer publish, and most assuredly everything I read for pleasure.

I paint what New Pulp is with a very broad brush, using the guidelines usually that I’ve mentioned already.  It amazes me how many people don’t realize they write or that they read Pulp until the style is explained to them, with copious examples. Are there exceptions? Of course, that is what proves any rule.  But for the most part, New Pulp is the venue by which the style Classic Pulp gave life to continues on today and well into many tomorrows.  And I’m glad to be a Pulp writer today.

With the advent of multiple technologies, Pulp has a new heyday that, albeit slowly for the tastes of some, is bringing more readers and more creators across that hazy line between ‘literary’ and Pulp Fiction to the Pulp side.  As we learn what it is and, if we already have an inkling, that it’s not just tales set in the 1930s and that it doesn’t have to have fedoras, machine guns, horses, or spaceships to be Pulp, we as a society are realizing what Pulp actually is.  It’s the expression of a shared love for action and adventure, a common ground for all spectrums of society.  Makes it pretty cool all by itself, if you ask me.

You can find Tommy Hancock online at Pro Se Productions!

Pulp Fiction Fridays Focus: POWERS (SuperCharged Pulp)

Trey from Cybil Lewis Series (c) Laura Givens
Trey from Cybil Lewis Series (c) Laura Givens

Continuing in the tradition of focusing on fantastic two-fisted action, Pulp genre, Pulp Fiction Fridays focuses on POWERS, the comic series by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Oeming. 


I love pulp. I’ve been a fan of detective mysteries, cozy mysteries, high tech mysteries, and all points in between. I love a good whodunit, and I love private detectives that are self-directed, they march to their own drummer, and often to their detriment. Law & Order’s character Logan would forever be the pinnacle of this brash, but diligent detective. Law & Order SUV’s Elliot also fell right in step with the rogue detective, breaking rules and following his own code to justice.

Cybil 1And it cost him. Just as my protagonist in my Cybil Lewis series, Cybil handles her own issues and marches to her own drummer. She has a moral code that is patched together from her own trials and tribulations. She struggles to do the right thing, even when that means breaking the violations erected in post-apocalyptic D.C.

I also love comics. Comics + detectives=Major Love from Nicole.

Enter Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Oeming’s Powers comics.

powers2Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim are two polar opposites, not unlike my Cybil and Jane characters. Each balances the other, and over time, a well-oiled friendship steeped in mutual respect, rivalry, and platonic love emerges between them. This series is special because it takes some that Alan Moore’s Watchmen prompted in the early 80s and rooted in the real world.

What if super heroes were real?

If they were real, who would police them? A common problem for Justice League’s Batman was that the league was too powerful. He wanted procedures in place to deal with the league when the meta-humans became too powerful. As an ordinary man, Bruce was keenly aware of this danger and planned accordingly.
Christian Walker, an ordinary human, who once has a super power and was known as Diamond, now serves as a detective capturing and bringing those with powers to justice. Walker is the protagonist of POWERS, and he carries the weight of the loss of his powers. Initially, Walker is very much a man haunted by a glorious past that lingers. A washed up quarterback. A former star. He’s all those things and more.

Saddled with a spunky and impulsive partner in Deena Pilgrim, Christian, along with a host of secondary characters both powers (meta humans) and humans, investigate super-powered crimes. The world-building is amazing. The evolution of Deena and Christian throughout the series also demonstrates Bendis’ writing skills unchecked by someone else’s cannon or Powerscharacter.

POWERS is Bendis set free. It is what independent comic book creators are doing every single day. Breaking the mold of traditional DC and Marvel comic’s storytelling.

POWERS is two-fisted action. Sex. Violence. Mystery. Origin Story. Redemption.

And it is glorious. Gritty. Dark. Delicious. Every single freakin’ bite.

In a word, it’s pulp noir at its absolute sharpest. The writing slices through traditional stereotypes with razor precision, and at times when it looks as if Bendis is feeding right into a traditional storyline or characterization, he kicks the legs out from under it.

Recently POWERS made its live-action debut on Playstation Network (PSN). The casting director kept the characters, but cast Deena Pilgrim as a black woman. In fact, t felt like they’d blended Detective Sunshine and Deena into one character.  It didn’t change my feelings for the show, or my love for Deena. In fact, Deena’s troubles seem much more plausible as an African-American female given the amount of challenges we face in our everyday life.

It’s hard to transition a comic book to live action Netflix’s Daredevil not withstanding. Because it was streamed via PSN, Bendis’s baby, POWERS, didn’t have the budget necessary to fully realize Bendis’s world-building. The actor portraying Christian Walker didn’t have the build, swagger, or anything else to make me identify him as WALKER.

So, honestly, I checked out of it fairly soon. It has been granted a season 2, so I will most likely make another attempt to watch the actual series.

For now, I returned to the POWERS comic and re-read them. Revisiting the world I found most enjoyable and Oeming’s illustrations. I knew those characters. I knew their stories. They spoke to me about the challenges of responsibility, class, racism, poverty, sexism, and all the other –isms that plague humanity.

It also had loyalty, redemption, and sacrifice.

Those wonderful other powers that resonate in each human being.

And if POWERS taught me anything, it’s that I don’t have to be a meta-human to use them.

Pulp Fiction Fridays- Guest, Gary Phillips

Trey from Cybil Lewis Series (c) Laura Givens
Trey from Cybil Lewis Series (c) Laura Givens

October is Black Speculative Fiction Month! To celebrate, each Friday in October will be Pulp Fiction Friday. Authors will contribute a post discussing pulp, mystery, spies, and whodunits in the realms of science fiction and speculative. Welcome to Gary Phillips as he discusses the definition of pulp.


“Pulp,” to quote Tommy Hancock, editor-in-chief of Pro Se Press for whom I do some work, has stated the following, “…is fast-paced, plot oriented storytelling of a linear nature with clearly defined, larger than life protagonists and antagonists, creative descriptions, clever use of turns of phrase, words, as well as other aspects of writing that add to the intensity and pacing of the story.”

Pulp is hard-charging, fast delivery of story and prose, and some, but not a lot of introspection.  Characters are existentialist if I may be so bold, their actions define them.  Not to say those sensibilities aren’t found in other genres or certainly works I would consider neo or new pulp from what Clive Cussler writes to tech thrillers.  But it’s not noir, which to me are stories about doomed characters on a doomed path, often for small stakes.  Pulp adventure stories work best when it’s about big stakes…the country’s fate hangs in the balance or the world is in peril.

Certainly we’ve seen these elements filter into the James Bond films, the TV show Person of Interest (a machine that predicts crime – you can’t get more pulp than that), and the late and lamented Revolution, a retro future with horses and machine guns   Though pulp certainly can have detectives as well as mystery elements as often pulp heroes must often solve who the villain is and how they are accomplishing their dastardly deed – often involving advanced tech.

Black PulpSome of the pulp or new pulp I write has black folks or other people of color as main characters.  Some of these stories are set in the ‘30s (Decimator Smith, who was in Black Pulp and the upcoming Black Pulp II, Jimmie Flint in Day of the Destroyers) but also the ‘60s, Brett Khodo, Agent of C.O.D.E. in Asian Pulp, ‘70s (my kickass P.I. in the Pam Grier Coffy mold, Nefra Adams to debut soon from Pro Se Single Shot, and the Silencer), and modern in the form of the Essex Man.  I find them fun to write and enjoy slipping in a bit of revisionist history or at least history from a POV not often captured in other types of work.  But I’ve also written, most often for Moonstone, stories about the Avenger, Operator 5, the Spider and other stalwarts as well and enjoy writing those too.

For instance I might mention that the Avenger, a millionaire like a lot of them were, funds soup kitchens or some charity as I always found it odd that you had all these stories with the Shadow, Doc Savage and so coming out in the Depression, but it was often not mentioned directly.  Maybe that was an edict from the publishers, not to have the real world encroach on the fantastic tales.  But in a Decimator Smith story, set in late 1930s L.A. I have to note that it was a segregated city by restrictive covenants or that a rent party is happening.  Not to preach, I’m an entertainer, but to provide a context and a texture for his stories.

I also write hardboiled, noir, sci-fi and westerns, even I’m proud to say, Chick Lit…or a send-up of such at least in the form of the recent round robin novel, Beat, Slay, Love: One Chef’s Hunger for Delicious Revenge.  On the sci-fi front, there’s an anthology out now in tradepaper and audio I’ve co-edited and contributed to called Occupied Earth.  It takes a look at life and resistance 20 years on after we are conquered by the militaristic Mahk-Ra.  In this book there are several stories that are mashups of sci-fi and crime.  I dig the many aspects of genre and the overlap you can do one to the other in terms of sensibilities and styles.  In the end though, I write the stories I want to read.

Seems I became a writer because I can’t draw.  As a kid that dynamic imagery of comics artists Jack “King” Kirby, Gene Colon, John Buscema, Neal Adams, Gil Kane, Steranko, even the svelte draftsmanship of Carmine Infantino, filled my head.  That was the days of fandom and I wrote and drew, inked with a Speedball pen and badly lettered my own strips to try and get them published.  I was kindly and sometimes not-so-kindly told my art stank.  But every so often a mention would be made the writing wasn’t too bad.

Well, hell, one out of two wasn’t bad.

As to where the genre goes, I like to believe the audience for the material will grow.

Maybe some in new pulp don’t want that to happen but me, I’m fighting for people’s beer money as Heinlein noted.  Sure some of what’s written in new pulp can only appeal to a certain audience if it’s say more adventures of the Black Bat.  And that’s fine.  But there’s other material that is well-done, exciting, presented professionally and there’s no reason these sort of stories, novellas and novels won’t appeal to a larger audience – the folks who are reading the aforementioned Cussler, the Pendergast books by Preston & Child,  the Rogue Angel series and what have you.

On who is my favorite pulp character I vacillate, but all said and done, I’ll roll with the Shadow and his twisted mythos.  Something about how at heart he’s this domed character, a dark and twisted man who ultimately will find no peace in his war on crime and evil ‘cause he’s just too messed up, you know?  Pulp and noir.

As to how to find me, I guess I am too old-fashioned.  I don’t be twittering, pintering or any of that other crazy stuff you young folks do.  I do though have a website, www.gdphillips.com and am on Facebook.