The Pulp Story... Uncovered

They were seven inches wide and ten inches high. Pulp fiction magazines were oversized tickets to cheap thrills.

Made of cheap "pulp" paper, the pulps were packed with short stories of amazing adventures.

For ten cents, you could buy a week's worth of entertainment... search for buried treasure, travel to exotic lands, or destroy evil to save the world.

Pulp fiction magazines grew out of the four-page "story newspapers" and dime novels that entertained children and the working class at the end of the 19th century. The old dime story lines seemed weak and the characters flat.

Then, at the turn of the century, a magazine revolution occurred. Publishers slashed printing costs and crammed type onto the page. They left out expensive "slick" ads that required glossy paper...and the pulps were born.

From 1900 to 1950, millions of working class citizens and immigrant laborers escaped reality under the covers of the pulps. Their collective imagination was loosed in the pulp pages of the Wild West... the mean streets of the metropolis... and the distant planets of outer space.

Today, the characters that entranced us are America's most popular icons-the hardboiled detective, the superhero, film noir and science fiction characters-and all of them took shape in the pulps.

Each genre has a remarkable story and the hacks that created them are among America's most colorful characters: Louis L'Amour, Ray Bradbury, Sinclair Lewis, Raymond Chandler, Isaac Asimov, and Providence's very own H.P. Lovecraft.

These writers inspired the next generation of popular culture, including Star Trek, Marilyn Monroe, Psycho, Humphrey Bogart, Stephen King, John Wayne, Spider-Man, and George Lucas.

John Nicholas Brown Center  .  357 Benefit Street  .  Providence, RI