April 30, 2012

Windy City Pulp and Paper - Why Pulp Matters

Spent a good chunk of Saturday hanging out at the Windy City Pulp and Paper con with Zone 4 pal Ron Fortier - granted, it didn't have the scope or the raw immediacy of C2E2, but what it did have, I think, is much more vital, vibrant, and for me, at least....important.

Scratch that - for me, it's critical.

At the expense of sounding rather curmudgeonly, we who appreciate more "geeky" or "nerdy" endeavors are spoiled. We have DVDs of old material that we can look over. We have web sites, forums, and other attempts to court us for our hard-earned discretionary spending cash. Every aspect of entertainment has us in our sights, and rather than use this as a way to launch further into a rich tapestry.....we either turn away, complain for what we lack (like, say, people complaining that they can't download Bar Tab of Rassilon, even though they can watch it in a browser 24/7), or engage in the kind of single-minded obnoxious thuggery usually reserved for fans of major sports. In turn, we also don't celebrate craft and literacy, and choose to focus more on the "cool" and hip. We turn away from a sense of history, and focus more on our immediate needs (consider recent conversations around creators' rights, with many who speak out being dismissed as "wanting attention" because they see a lack of creativity in major efforts). In short, we're doomed to repeat history because we're ignoring it.

Pulp literature reminds us of our common history - it's our first, most immediate link to how creators were thinking this stuff up on the spot. It's that immediacy, that sense of "now", that burns throughout. It's an unashamed willingness to go popular, rather than cater to some kind of "exclusive" club, that makes pulp literature so important - for comics fans, it's their way to embrace that past, and to actually find some valid excitement in the "cheap" entertainment of the past.

Oh, Gordon, you may be thinking, You're just telling us what we should like, you nostalgic twerp!

You're free to dismiss what I'm saying (although I haven't used the word twerp since I was nine years old), but consider this - you don't have to like pulp literature. There are things that you will hate....but have you ever considered broadening your tastes? The fact that there's an increasing presence for pulp literature (a whole frickin' movement) that's being driven not by old men wanting to relive the past....but younger writers embracing and creating new works that are geared solely for entertainment. Yes, it can be difficult for some to adjust to reading mostly words and not pictures....but it's worth it. It allows us to reconnect with a sense of literacy, a sense of knowing how language works, and really gives us insight into our cultural past.

(And I can say, without any sense of irony, that I end up spending more money at Windy City Pulp than I do at C2E2. I practice what I preach).

But pulp fiction - in all its varieties, from Victorian detective stories to the slam-bang prose of the 1930s, provides us insight into our goals and aspirations in the past.....which can only help drive our current goals and aspirations. The more we see ourselves as we were, the better we see ourselves as we are, and can better conceive ourselves as we should be. 


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