Pulp Fictions in SCUA

 

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Special Collections holds a fantastic collection of science fiction magazines. Commonly called "pulps," because of the cheap, low-quality, wood pulp paper they were printed upon, these magazines can teach us much about the history of science fiction as a genre. The Chater Collection of Science Fiction holds many of these colorful treasures.

As magazine culture grew in America in the early 20th century, the reign of the pulp magazine began. Pulps were produced in numerous genres besides science fiction: for example, romance stories, adventure stories, detective stories, westerns, sports, and horror stories. Each issue would be chock full of short stories and advertisements, and would entice readers into buying through colorful and provocative front covers. Pulp publishers asked their writers to focus on producing a great volume of stories rather than quality writing, because the demand for magazine fiction was so high. To ensure that demand would continue, the stories were often serialized, with installments appearing over a period of weeks or even months. From the 1920s to the early 1950s, the pulp magazine was the sole way the many people read fiction.

Science fiction pulps began with Hugo Gernsback's Amazing Stories in 1926. From the start it was highly successful, and very influential in shaping the emerging genre. Though most of the content was poorly written, as in other pulp genres, some of what are now considered to be classics of science fiction short stories were published in Amazing Stories during this era. Astounding Science Fiction debuted in 1930 and imitated Amazing Stories openly. Its publisher, John W. Campbell, demanded a higher quality of writing from his writers, and readers responded favorably to this increase in value. Many other pulps emerged during this time, but many switched to a digest format later in the 1950s, and the age of the "true pulps" slowly faded with what is often called the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

Though pulps are often vulnerable because of their fragile physical condition, they are important artifacts to consider when studying science fiction, and we invite you to stop by SCUA to browse our collection, which includes Amazing Stories , Astounding Science Fiction, Fantastic Adventures, Galaxy, and more!

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