At Do Some Damage, Brian Lindenmuth divides the new pulp fictioneers into two camps, one camp which writes new stories in the mode of the old pulps, i.e. pulp pastiches, and one camp which writes a lot of fiction across various genres in the spirit of the pulps, but does not necessarily imitate the pulps per se. Lindenmuth is not so much a fan of the former, but obviously admires the latter.
That said, Brian Lindenmuth makes two points in his post that are frequently forgotten in all of those discussions of old and new pulp: First of all, he points out that pulp fiction is usually viewed as a (white) American phenomenon, even though there have been (and in some cases still are) variations of pulp fiction in many cultures. Brian Lindenmuth mentions Hindi pulp fiction and Holloway House, which seems to have been a company specializing in pulpy crime fiction aimed at African Americans (now owned by Kensington). And of course in Germany, we still have “Romanhefte” which are our answer (quite literally in the early years) to America’s pulp fiction, namely 64-page digest sized magazines printed on woodpulp paper with a glossy magazine stock cover, which normally contain a single novelette. “Romanhefte” come in various genres. Romance (with the subgenres medical, aristocratic, gothic, mommy and family, mountains and Heimat) and western are the most popular, but there also are horror, crime and detective, science fiction, fantasy and war “Romanhefte”. And though they’re no longer as popular as they once were, they still exist. And not just in Germany either, I’ve seen “Romanheft” type fiction magazines (some of them translated from German) in French, Italian, Croatian and Slovenian.
The second important point that Brian Lindenmuth makes is that we often have a distorted image of the golden age of the American pulps nowadays, because only the best authors and stories have been reprinted over and over, while the vast mediocre majority of pulp fiction (let alone the really bad stuff) has been forgotten. E-publishing is bringing some of those forgotten works back into focus, but nonetheless many people forget that pulp fiction was not just Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick.
Meanwhile, Chuck Wendig attempts to define New Pulp at Terrible Minds. He identifies five characteristics, namely that New Pulp refuses to be confined to only one genre or subgenre, that it has more of a literary and poetic sensibility than the old pup, that it is about writing and publishing fast, that its writers have a craftsmen work ethic and that it defines definition. Those are all very good points and I agree with them all.
And what about my own work? How does that fit into this New Pulp movement, provided there is such a thing?
Well, Brian Lindenmuth would certainly file the Silencer stories under his first camp, those who write more or less slavish imitations of classic pulp fiction. And that’s okay, because I did write the Silencer stories in imitation of the hero pulps of the 1930s, just as I wrote The Other Side of the Curtain as an homage to the golden age of spy fiction in the 1960s. I liked those genres, styles and periods and I wanted to play with them. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with playing with the tropes and forms and genres and even the settings of another era for a while. It may get a bit dull, if you never do anything else, but for a story or three? Why the hell not?
Besides, I don’t write just Silencer stories or 1960ish spy fiction or spicy historicals or whatever. I write in all those genres and more. Indeed, one of the reasons why I was not more adamant in submitting my first completed novel Colfrith (coming to an e-reader near you sometime soon, I promise) to agents and publishers was that I was afraid of having to write the same thing over and over again, should that one be published. And while Colfrith was a Steampunk Regency Romance, my next project Prisoners of Amaymon was science fiction (I should really finish that one someday) and the third with a very rude working title that I’ll probably have to change upon publication was a contemporary romance among geeks. I like many genres and subgenres and I could never settle on just one. And this is why indie publishing has been a god-send for me. Because it allows me to write whatever the hell I like.
As for the other points Chuck Wendig makes, I like to think that I have a literary sensibility of sorts (hey, it’s right there in the tagline), though I can’t write poetic unless writing poetry (and sometimes not even then – I’m rather hopeless as a poet) and any attempt at lyrical writing usually quickly descends into parody*. Am I fast? Well, I could be faster, but considering that I have managed to publish 18 e-books in the space of a single year, I’d say that I’m fast enough. Work ethic? Well, I’d never describe myself as a hard worker, but I do shoot for at least 1000 words a day and I’ve been exceeding that daily minimum for several months now. I view any writing income as a nice extra, but that was a conscious decision, so I would never be forced to stick with a bad contract, because I couldn’t afford to walk away.
So do I write New Pulp Fiction? Yes, I guess I do. At least, when I feel like it.
*I have a hilarious New Weird/Mythpunk/stuff that wins genre wards parody on my harddrive that will likely never see the light of day, because it attacks too many sacred cows of the genre community.