Pulp and Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Oh My!

This is a companion to my current bombshell post at Castalia House.

First: I’m delighted at the response it’s gotten to far. Lots of comments clarifying various positions was the point of writing it!

I didn’t really get into another point I hope to make: If we can define pulp as a thing, we can define fantasy and science fiction as a thing too.

Here’s the thing. Everybody and their mother knew and acknowledged what hard sci-fi was, what fantasy was, and what hard science fiction was…right up until the pulp rev folks started acting like the difference was difficult to distinguish. I’m not making this up. A whole post was written on how hard SF just doesn’t exist.

(Note, here, all of the things I’m NOT saying, and be careful what views you extrapolate).

The thing is, if it’s difficult and pointless to come up with a difference between science fiction and fantasy, then it’s even more difficult and pointless to define a difference between pulp and non-pulp.

Pulp is a much more nebulous, vague concept. In its broadest sense, it means the stories that were published in the magazines that used cheap pulpy paper – but that’s clearly not the only metric being used. Lots of other metrics have been added on qualifying fiction that counts as the modern day equivalent to pulp.

But from my perspective what we’re calling as a shorthand the pulp revolution is really more of an Appendix N revolution. And it’s silly to act on one hand as if pulp is free from those petty genre distinctions plaguing modern works while at the same time coming up with metrics and definitions to define what is and isn’t pulp. Of course you want to distinguish between genres; you’re just using a new pulp genre you created as your preferred form of fiction.

This is a good thing! If this wasn’t done, then we’d be talking about nothing at all! But it’s what’s happening.

Looking in the early comments (boy did I provoke quite a few comments quite fast) it seems that a lot of people A) Don’t believe me when I point out the many things that have been disqualified from pulp, B) Seem to think that a hard SF cabal is the source of this pushback, or C) Just misunderstand my point completely.

For example, I did not disqualify superheroes from pulp. That happened in the comments of a post where I brought up superheroes; it was Daddy Warpig who did it*. I’ll dig through the many, many comments on those posts to find exact quotes one day, but I’m not making this up wholesale.

Some commenters at least seem to be quite angry, but since I figured that was going to be the case anyway I won’t comment on it. The post was pushback against prevailing wisdom. When DOESN’T that provoke anger?

The other point too, that I’ve continually made, that (at least some) people seem to think I haven’t, is that I support the pulp revolution!

This “war” between the pulp revolution and the superversive movement? It simply doesn’t exist. Heck, we’re getting close to putting out a pulp magazine soon. We want to bring back pulp fiction!

I’ll leave that as the thought to chew on for now.

*To be fair, I should probably qualify that it was the post-Cambellian revolution modern superheroes that were being discussed as not being examples of pulp works; this has understandably lead to some confusion, since Batman has been acknowledged as a pulp character since the beginning. Misunderstandings on that front are really my own fault.