The Road to the Pulps

Tuesday, January 17, 2009

The paths to our most cherished obsessions take on many varied forms. For me, one such passion is reading science fiction and fantasy from an older, often more spirit-soaring, freewheeling era. My Yellow Brick Road to the type of pulps we publish at Planet Stories began at an early age with an uncle bequeathing to me a longstanding love of Edgar Rice Burroughs's works. Probably the foundation for my fascination with the pulps was laid much earlier, reading H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, although at the time I didn't really realize their novels were serialized in magazines like Burroughs's. And even after I'd read a healthy dose of Burroughs, it wasn't until I found Irwin Porges's mammoth biography, Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man Who Created Tarzan, that I first saw reproductions of those splendid All-Story Weekly, Blue Book, Argosy, Amazing Stories, and Fantastic Adventures covers and made the connection between ERB and the pulps.

Then, of course, there was Philip José Farmer. Farmer was for me, as for thousands of SF/F readers growing up in the 1970s and '80s, the mega-gateway to the pulps. And like many, I stumbled across his writings through Burroughs, picking up Farmer's post-modern metafictional masterpiece Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke, and later his "biography" of the 1930s scientific genius and crime-fighter Doc Savage. In these books Farmer proposed his intricate Wold Newton faux genealogy, linking together into one giant family an array of pulp era heroes and villains ranging from Allan Quatermain to Solomon Kane, Captain Nemo to Fu Manchu, and everything in between—and in many cases beyond. A virtual reading list of the "hero pulps," for which I will forever be grateful to Farmer for having amalgamated. If I would have been told back then that one day I would meet the man and edit three collections of his fiction, I would have lit up with such joy that my glowing manifestations would probably have been visible on far-off Poloda (for the as-yet ERB-uninitiated, I refer to a planet in the strangely shaped solar system from Burroughs's Beyond the Farthest Star).

I radiate a similar joy working with Erik and Pierce and James bringing back into print fantastic lost classics of the pulp era for Planet Stories. I think I speak for all of us when I say the task is more than a job, more even than a privilege, although it is unquestionably the latter. Planet Stories is about tradition, about carrying on the flame of the spirit of adventure and excitement and wonder of the type of science fiction that first soared free in the pulps.

But enough said about my road to the pulps. I encourage you to stop by the Planet Stories messageboards and let us know of your own unique journeys to the world of science fiction and fantasy literature. Like the out-of-this-world genre they lead to, they are always tales of wonder.

Christopher Carey
Planet Stories Editor

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