My Take on the Pulps

When I was 12 or 13 I discovered the Doc Savage novels. These were pulp adventures from the 1930s with the lead character Clark ‘Doc’ Savage and his troop is talented men that crisscrossed the globe fighting evil. For a time these were quite popular and a team of writers working under a single name churned out loads of books. There was a 1975 film, but it was lackluster and gathered no attention.

Lately it has been circling my thoughts what would it be like to write one of these pulp adventures set in the here and now? (Or at the very least a parallel here and now.) Now I can see there are people writing pulps today but they are primarily set in the 1930 and that is not what I am thinking about. I also see some novels pushed as having a pulp-like quality but in my opinion that do not quite hit that mark and are distinctly different from theses adventures books.

All of this has prompted me to formulate a set of rule for writing a pulp adventure, should I do this crazy thing.

1) Short. Perhaps it was a function of the costs of paper, or the hellish deadlines these writers worked under, but the classic pulp novel were usually around 50,000 words long and often shorter. (For comparison my military sf novels are around 90 to 100 thousand words.)

2) Third Person Objective. These novels did not get into people’s heads very much. They were plot driven with events sparking the next event in the sequence until the adventure was over.

3) Black and White. Adventures about the struggled between Good and Evil were the bread and butter of the pulps. These were not written with nuance and the villains were not the heroes of their own story.

4) No Crisis of Conscience. The Heroes of pulp adventures, fitting in with the Black and White plots, did not doubt that they were right, and they did not have temptation to do the evil thing or take an immoral short cut.

5) No Evolution of Character. The Heroes, already in their perfected form, did not grow and change due to the course of their adventuring. They ended the story exactly the same person as they went into it.

6) No Quiet Introspective Moments. These are adventures, fights between Good and Evil, not explorations into the protean nature of the human soul. Pulp book did not waste time having characters just thinking and doubting themselves for pages and pages.

7) Do the Right Thing. Heroes not anti-heroes are the name of the game and that means that the lead characters always are moral, both in spirit and in deed. They always do the right thing.

Looking over these rules, I can see writing one of these would be quite a challenge.

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