Books, Culture and Society

Pulp Fiction, the Magic Carpet to Adventure

Pulp fiction was the golden age of stories from the 1930s and 40s but they still have the power today to captivate the most discriminating readers of fiction.

Pulp Fiction, the Magic Carpet to Adventure

Frederick Hail is a passionate advocate of lifelong learning through audiobooks on cd collections from http://www.goldensagestories.com.

Do you know what Tahiti looks like? What color is the sand on the Cayman Islands’ beaches? Can you describe the Great Wall of China? Perhaps you can affirmatively answer those questions. But if you can’t, you can set this article down and punch the appropriate terms into your search engine and, within seconds, you can ponder an exhaustive array of photographs and travelogues. You can answer the questions right away, but your sense of achievement for mysteries well-solved is flawed by the absence of a critical element. There is no tingle of adventure. Cyberspace has allowed you to learn the words, but you still haven’t heard the music.

Today most Americans have forgone the use of travel agents and tickets for the fast, free and frantic information superhighway, satiating their fleeting desires to be in another place and time. Just as space travel was once just a dream, instantaneous world travel has become a reality.

Between the wars:

Back in the 1930s and 1940s, in the heyday of pulp fiction, space travel was a quixotic dream and virtual reality was virtually inconceivable. Unless you had the good fortune of traveling the world on a merchant marine ship, you likely would have had no idea what Tahiti looked like, other than what your cousin’s friend’s uncle’s roommate who once met someone from Tahiti or maybe it was what Guam said about humidity, palm trees and genial natives.

Still shaking off the remnants of the First World War, and unprepared for the horrors yet to come in the Second, America’s youth underwent a seismic cultural shift. That shift was exacerbated by Prohibition until 1933, the rise of organized crime in the nation’s big cities, Wall Street’s 1929 crash, and the spreading of jazz from seedy urban clubs and primitive radio transmitters to Main Street and the movies.

It was against this tumultuous landscape that millions of readers turned to the lurid covers and enticing titles of the pulp magazines for a glimpse of adventures they would never experience and places they would never see. The pulps also offered what cyberspace’s two-dimensional world cannot reproduce the three dimensional world awaiting the stories in the readers’ imaginations.

From Steam Engines to the sky:

Viable international commercial flight became a reality after World War II, giving birth to airlines such as Pan American Airways and British Overseas Aircraft Corporation, making it possible to travel from New York to London in one day. Before then, crossing the Atlantic could only be done on the Atlantic, in vessels ranging from creaky, foreboding immigrant ships to the grand ocean liners such as the SS Normandie and the Queen Mary. Those liners, the passage of choice for the rich and famous from the 1880s to the 1930s, offered grand dining, rich libraries, smoking lounges and striking ballrooms for passengers on the four to five-day trip.

Rail travel in that era also offered more than mere transportation to those who could afford its luxury creations. Taking a cue from the Art Deco movement of the 1920s, innovative, stylish and comfortable passenger trains called streamliners, emerged to criss cross continents at 100-mph cruising speeds. It worked, too, for trains such as the Zephyr which was able to make the trek from Denver to Chicago in thirteen hours, unheard of before those days.
So it was that the caring and the curious traveled around the continent and the world and told their stories to relatives and friends.

The Magic Carpet:

But the pulps endured, spanning the entire first half of the last century. For the millions of Americans who could not get regular passage on planes, trains or ships, they offered reliable stories at an affordable price to whisk anyone who wanted a respite from life’s challenges to danger in smoky tea houses along the Huangpu River in Shanghai, or the frigid peaks of the towering Alps or the sweltering, impossible heat of the Gobi Desert in their search for romance, danger, thrills and stolen jewels.

From the pulp magazines that are prized collector’s items today, Black Mask, True Detective, Five-Novels Monthly, Ten Detective Aces and Argosy, some of the greatest literary legends of the twentieth century emerged: Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Walter B. Gibson, Lester Dent, Carroll John Daly, Earle Stanley Gardner, and L. Ron Hubbard.

But L. Ron Hubbard best summed up his role as a writer with the following words: “In writing an adventure story a writer has to know that he is adventuring for a lot of people who cannot. The writer has to take them here and there about the globe and show them excitement and love and realism. As long as that writer is living the part of an adventurer when he is hammering the keys, he is succeeding with his story.”

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The dive bomber had gone over the hump, nose pointing straight at the earth, eighteen thousand feet down, engine on full, building up to terminal velocity when the resistance of the wind equaled the downward drive of the wide-open throttle. (Excerpt from L. Ron Hubbard's pulp fiction story, "Dive Bomber")

Vintage Pulp Fiction and Modern Fiction Stories
Although the depression was a great time for reading the pulp fiction magazines the have much earlier beginnings in the 1920s and 30s and was generally considered to have begun with Frank Munsey and the revamped Argosy Magazine. Pulps were generally thought of a American but Britain also had a similar pulp with the Pall Mall Magazine.

The Golden Age of Pulp Fiction Magazines
In the late 1800s, an American publisher name Frank Munsey, developed the now famous "Argosy Magazine." The focus was mainly on science fiction and mystery stories.

Five Pulp Fiction Novels for 20 Cents
Five Novels Monthly was a popular pulp adventure pulp that lasted 208 issues, running from February 1928 to January 1948. However, the name of the magazine begs the question with today's readers: "What do you mean by 'novel'? And how did you get five of them into 162 pages?"

Pulp Fiction Mystery Stories Revisited
According to the Britannica Encyclopedia, a mystery story is an ages old popular genre of tales dealing with the unknown as revealed through human or worldly dilemmas; it may be a narrative of horror and terror, a pseudo scientific fantasy, a crime-solving story, an account of diplomatic intrigue, an affair of codes and ciphers and secret societies, or any situation involving an enigma.

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