The Pulp Magazines Project is a massive undertaking to preserve a vital aspect of American history—the pulp fiction magazines, magazines that launched the careers of legendary names in literary history including Edgar Rice Burroughs, Dashiell Hammett, L. Ron Hubbard and Louis L’Amour, among others.
The Golden Gazette News recently interviewed Patrick Scott Belk from the Pulp Magazines Project, who gave us an in-depth and fascinating look at the history of the pulps, and the surprising ways they influence our culture today.
PSB: During the first half of the twentieth century, pulp magazines were produced in vastly greater numbers than literary magazines; yet, ironically, they are much, much rarer today. We view the archival and preservation mission of the Pulp Magazines Project as an ongoing twofold mandate: to bring sustained scholarly attention to this important literary and artistic form which has been ignored—at least by the university and traditional brick-and-mortar archive—and to develop an open-access digital archive and research hub as a means to repair that omission. A comprehensive archive of pulp magazines is an admittedly daunting task, but given their historic and cultural importance and how they have been written out of literary history, we think it is necessary and well worth the effort.
GGN: You mention on your website that pulp fiction has been shortchanged to a degree as far as being considered legitimate literature. Please elaborate on the cultural impact of American pulp fiction.
PSB: Pulp magazines were the foremost reading material of the American and, to a lesser extent, British public from the late 1890s to the rise of the mass-market paperback in the 1940s. Their cultural influence should not be underestimated. They were found on every newsstand, bookstall, in drug stores, train stations, and cigar stores. Taken in aggregate, they had massive circulations.