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March 2, 2022

Dangerous Stories

It's convenient to say that the Pulps were born out of World War I. After all, the heyday of the pulp magazines was from the 1920s to the end of the 1950s. And many stories made references either directly or allegorically, to both World War I, and later, to World War II. After World War II, the fear and paranoia of the Cold War and the Atomic Age became major influences.

However, the reality is that pulp stories began about the time that action stories came about. You could even make a case that pulp stories are derived from that original high adventure, episodic action novel The Odyssey by Homer. Science fiction great, Stanley Weinbaum certainly paid it homage with A Martian Odyssey.

Pulp magazines came about in the 1920s because the magazines were printed on poor quality pulp paper. In general, the pulp stories were heavier on action and lighter on character development. No Hamlet style soliloquies need apply.

The thing is though, many pulp stories were often a direct response to conflicts, from petty crime to full blown war, that both readers and writers experienced in their daily lives. (See our post Edgar Rice Burroughs, Caspak, and World War I.)

Coincidentally, the book we published yesterday, Beyond the End of Space – Two Short Novels by John W. Campbell Jr. concern how great inventions (in this case, energy sources) can be stolen and used by unscrupulous power brokers to enrich only themselves and control the world.
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Beyond the End of Space by John W. Campbell Jr.
Two short novels that warn how great inventions can be stolen and used by unscrupulous power brokers to enrich only themselves and control the world.

The Battery of Hate (1933)
Bruce Kennedy saw the good his invention of the fuel battery would bring the world. A plate of graphite, cheaper and more plentiful than coal, down there in the Archiazoic Period, oxygen from the air, a plate of copper, plated with a thin layer of gold merely to collect current, and a cheaply made solution. Power. Power as he said, at “ten dollars a ton.”

Beyond the End of Space (1933)
“What were the aims?”
“Energy of matter,” replied Warren grimly.
“Hmmm—that would cause an earthquake. In fact it might well cause several dozen earthquakes. It would certainly cause an earthquake on Wall Street.
What we've put on SALE this month reflects our concerns of current geopolitics. And so, Of Tyrants and Criminals....

On Sale This Month.

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We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
D-503, a mathematician, lives in the United State, an urban nation with mass surveillance by the secret police, called the Bureau of Guardians. People are referred to as numbers which are assigned by the United State, and every moment of their day is regulated by the Book of Hours. Eating, sleeping, exercise, and even sex is rationed.

Both Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell, owe a great debt to the radical dystopia portrayed in We. Ursula K. Le Guin called We, “The best single work of science fiction yet written.”
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Vulcan’s Dolls by Margaret St. Clair
The Weeping Doll lay on Fyon’s pink sands. When Don Haig picked it up, the cosmic battle between Vulcan and Mulciber would begin!

There was only one Vulcan’s weeping doll in the galaxy, maybe in the universe. It was in the big museum back on Earth. It was only displayed once every four or five years because of the reactions it had on the museum goers. But somehow Don Haig had found another on the pleasure planetoid of Fyon. Captivatingly beautiful, the doll wept. Whether just for him, or for all mankind, Don didn’t know. But Don did know why the SSP were hunting him – they wanted that weeping doll. For lurking behind the beauty of paradise was the brutality of a police state.
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The Intelligence Gigantic by John Russell Fearn
With the best of intentions, three scientists come together to make an artificial man with extraordinary artificial intelligence, to run society with efficiency and remove the petty problems people face on a daily basis. However, this artificial man has no soul.

The Intelligence Gigantic – The Intelligence Gigantic operates to exceed that of the wisest of humanity.

PART II—Conclusion – The operations of the Intelligence Gigantic are in full swing. The position of the life of humanity under his autocratic and irresistible sway has to be borne, although it is a most unhappy one
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Gunmen of Glory by Clarence E. Mulford
Gunmen they were—nemesis of the lawless—and they flamed the fastest six-guns an outlaw rendezvous ever saw.

When The Kid, sick and desperate, stumbles upon Hopalong Cassidy and tells him the gruesome story of his wife’s murder by Big Henry’s outlaw gang, Hopalong un-limbers his six-shooter and sets out to clean up a town full of outlaws. Tex Ewalt and Johnny Nelson come along, full of rage and frontier justice. The story of their raid on the bandits of Hell’s Centre is one of old Hopalong’s most daring and rapid-fire adventures. Gunmen of Glory is a full length novel of twenty six chapters.
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My Brother’s Widow by John D. MacDonald
For four years Gevan Dean was in self-imposed exile from his family business, the business he had run until his brother stole his fiancee. Now his brother had been murdered and Gevan needed to know why.

My Brother’s Widow – For four years, Gevan Dean had refused to face Niki, the woman who’d hurt him. But now he had to—because her husband, Gevan’s brother, had been murdered

Part 2 – I couldn’t put off meeting Niki any longer, and maybe I didn’t want to. I’d have to meet Mottling, too—the big man who was running my business

Part 3 – When I saw what we were manufacturing in C Building, it gave me the shudders; we were making the trigger assembly for hell. And Colonel Dolson, the Army man on the job, was playing a secret game of his own

Part 4 – Alma Bradey knew something, but she didn’t want to talk. I made her talk though; I made her tell me something she shouldn’t have told anybody—if she wanted to live

Part 5 – I was a boy playing a man’s game. And I’d stuck my neck out so far I couldn’t dodge the bullets
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City of the Living Dead & The Long View by Fletcher Pratt & Laurence Manning
Civilizations are messy things. Everyone has their own ideas on how to run them. How do you go about building a Utopia? Who should run them? Politicians? Scientists? Psychologists? Artists? And what do you do with a civilization when you are running it?

The City of the Living Dead is the first exploration of the concept of virtual reality. What happens when an entire civilization lives their entire lives plugged into machines? This classic dystopian novelette has been called the prefiguring story or the inspiration for the Matrix series of films.

The Long View pits several elite groups against one another, each arguing that their way of running a civilization is best. Espionage and naked power grabs ensue as each group tries to outmaneuver the other to dictate the rules of life.
Pulp Fiction, a response to the world around the readers and writers of the era. And perhaps of our era also.

Come see us at The Pulp Fiction Book Store and check out a history of popular response to the issues of those days.
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