Pulp Still Matters

Pulp stories inspire dreamers

One of my favorite songs from Rush is The Analog Kid. I remember hearing the song for the first time back in the 80s, when Rush moved from being guitar focused, to placing more of an emphasis on synthesizers. The song itself is hard driving, starting out with an aggressive guitar lick. The lyrics, however, are sort of whimsical. They describe a kid who wiles away the day beneath a tree, daydreaming. Dreams of a doe-eyed, brown-legged girl, cityscapes, autumnal forests, and winter skies. The music is aggressive one moment, soft and ethereal the next, like some fantasy from the longing heart of a young man.

The song itself was written as a companion, or perhaps in contrast, to another song titled Digital Man. Digital Man is this sort of mechanical, synth-heavy tune. A great concept overall, and probably prescient given what's happening now in our culture. One being this sort of traditional, free-wheeling song mingling both hard and soft. The other, sort of artificial and precise. It's no wonder I liked the album Signals. Those two songs sort of defined my life. I spent most of my adult life developing software; a career that spanned over three decades. Yet, my early life was spent in a room alone, reading Dungeons and Dragons manuals, dreaming of fantastic worlds. It was that curiosity and whimsy that eventually drew me into a technological space, exploring the wonders of a new, futuristic world. In many ways, much like the story of a good pulp magazine.

But now it seems that the Internet and social media have brushed that all aside. Where are the dreamers? Were they consumed by TikTok and Twitter, or do they still exist out there? Will the next generation know nothing but dystopia, gender, and racial politics? Or will they dream as we once dreamed? Of faraway places and fantastic things?

I only recently discovered the #PulpRev hashtag on Twitter—quite by accident, really. Someone reviewed The Revenant and the Tomb audiobook and in a follow-up tweet, mentioned the hashtag. I think they mentioned that my story fell in the pulp category, which is good, I guess. I don't make it any big secret that I'm inspired by the likes of Howard and Lovecraft (both would be considered pulp writers).

Pulp fiction was a staple of pre-70s America, with several periodicals providing lots of science fiction and fantasy goodness. It wouldn't surprise me if it heavily inspired Gary Gygax, the creator of Dungeons and Dragons, or even Neil Peart (I know he was a voracious reader in his youth). In the past, the term "pulp" was sort of used in a derogatory way, usually meaning stories that were low-grade. And sure, there were a lot of cheesy sci-fi stories included in those mass-market pages. But it got people thinking and dreaming, much in the same way the original Star Trek did for TV. Boldly going to faraway places, facing unforeseen dangers. Heroism. Villainy. Monsters, and shining cities made of pearl and gold. Something entertaining, drawing us out of ourselves. Stories that got us seeking worlds beyond our mundane existence. Tales that had us focusing on something other than ourselves and our feelings.

I'm not sure if the stories I'm writing would be considered part of the #PulpRev movement. I certainly wouldn't be upset if they were. I think the world today needs more of those cheesy, extrospective chronicles, renewing the dreamer's forge. Because you never really know where those daydreams will lead you.

After all, they led me to write The Revenant and the Tomb, some forty years later. They also led me to write The Wizard's Stone, my forthcoming book.

Dreams, they say, die hard.