Amongst The New Pulpeteers (Or, “What The Good Goddamn Is ‘New Pulp,’ Anyway?”)
I don’t know what New Pulp is.
But I think I’m it.
Or, in it. Or, part of it. Maybe I’m soaking in it?
A brief hop-skip-and-a-jump history:
Then, article author Damien G. Walter takes a look at New Pulp at his blog. (There you’ll find a bevy of links and definitions attempting to figure out just what the hell it even is.)
Yesterday, Do Some Damage talked up the notion of New Pulp.
And here we are.
So, just what is New Pulp? By my meager definition, at least?
New Pulp Cares Not For Your Mortal “Genres”
I’ve long admired writers who bend genres to their whims instead of being bent to the strictures of genre — a guy like Joe Lansdale is all over the fucking map in terms of what he writes. Everything from crime thrillers to sci-fi to satire to Southern Gothic to Weird Westerns to whatever the hell wants to come out of his head at any given moment. Sometimes this turbid genre muddiness is found in a single book. Hell, look at Stephen King’s Gunslinger series. What is that? Horror? A little. Fantasy? A little. Western? A little. It’s its own thing, that series. You might describe it using one of my favorite non-words: “unpindownable.”
A New Pulp writer doesn’t know what to call himself. He can’t say, “I’m a thriller writer,” or, “I write crime.”
He just writes. Whatever crazy-ass shit enters his head goes to the page one way or another.
It isn’t just psychic dinosaurs. Or noir tales of moral doom. Or sex, or heroism, or Batman, or serial killers, or steampunk assassins or any of that stuff. It isn’t about what’s written. It’s about what can be written.
New Pulp says, “Fuck genre.” Then it clubs genre on the head like a sailor clubbing an unruly tuna.
New Pulp Has A Hot Flush Of Literary Injection
For all the wars about “genre” versus “literary” (a bullshit line in the sand if ever there was one), I like to think that New Pulp plays a little loosey-goosey with language and story — I sense a faint poetic throughline in New Pulp. In the sense that jazz is a kind of ordered chaos, New Pulp brings a level of noise to the signal — a little messy, a little unkempt, a little wild-eyed with the metaphors and the structure.
I don’t know that the art or poetry is in there on purpose or whether it shows up unbidden.
But I think it’s in there just the same. Unsummoned but present.
New Pulp Is Jackrabbit Fast
New Pulp moves fast. Production. Creation. Fresh fast content. I hate to call it “fast food” — that’s a metaphor that for me doesn’t hold up. Fast food is notoriously shitty: low quality, high churn, “cheap” instead of “inexpensive.”
Better metaphor: food trucks. New Pulp is food trucks. Still fast food, just not in the traditional sense.
It’s street food, but street food produced fast and reliably and with a little of that… sense of poetry and playfulness I mentioned. It’s cheap art. Beautiful trash. And it comes out lickity-quick.
New Pulp Is About Writers Writing
New Pulp is as much about the writer as about what’s written. And the writers of New Pulp are, I suspect, workers. Meaning, it’s nose to the grindstone time — these are authors who aren’t writing only to be read but who are producing in order to pay bills, feed families, keep the goddamn lights on. They’re here to get shit done. A blue collar ethos is on the table in terms of New Pulp, I think.
Which means that New Pulp is a whole lot about the attitude.
New Pulp Refuses Rules, Defies Definition
As much as I’m trying to define it, it keeps squirming out of my grip like a python lubed with Astroglide.
The very nature of New Pulp is that it doesn’t want to be kept in any one box, and maybe that’s its most telling definition of all — that is has no definition. And I like that. I like that a whole lot.
I like when people ask me about Joe Lansdale, I can find something they like which lets me recommend him honestly. I like that when they ask me about Blackbirds I can find something they dig — horror, fantasy, female protagonist, whatever — that maybe gets them interested.
I like that New Pulp doesn’t want to wear any one hat and thinks it looks good in all of them, goddamnit.
Of course, what the hell do I know?
You tell me. What’s New Pulp to you? What should it be? What can it be?