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Posts Tagged ‘Weird Tales’

I once took a course in Popular Fiction at university, and it was inevitable that we were eventually going to hit the pulp era at some point. I’ve always had a soft spot for pulp era fantasy (the “weird tale”), especially the Big Three: Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and H.P. Lovecraft. As you might expect, we did talk about Lovecraft in relation to the birth of popular Horror, but didn’t talk at all about Howard and Smith–for me, Lovecraft comes in a distant third in terms of writing quality, but his influence has been without a doubt the greatest among them. I struggled to really explain my love for the old pulp beyond “adventure and excitement” until I took a good look at the pulp phenomenon. A lot of the material found in Hard-Boiled: Working Class Readers and Pulp Magazines by Erin A. Smith applies just as well to Weird Tales and Argosy as to Black Mask. The pulps exploited low production costs thanks to industrialization and rising literacy rates among the urban working class to create literature for the marginalized. There was no top-down structure in pulps for feeding lower classes middle-class values—the audience dictated content. And who was the audience? “[T]heir readers were widely held to be socially and economically marginal…[t]hey were working-class, young, and poorly-educated, many were immigrants” (Smith 23) Well gosh, that actually sounds like my background and the situation of those around me as a young immigrant in Canada!

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