Pulp Fiction: The Golden Age of Storytelling

This cheesy 2009 documentary offers a brief but fascinating overview of the writers who sweated out stories for the pulps from the 20s right through to the early 50s, across all genres, although it leans heavily towards sci-fi and fantasy — in fact, its alternate title is “Pulp Fiction: The Golden Age of Sci Fi, Fantasy and Adventure,” and originally aired on UFOTV.

Still, it’s worth a peek, and any writer who proudly romanticizes himself as a “pulp writer” ought to really check out this healthy reality check, as when Ray Bradbury grandpa-splains what is was really like toiling for a 1/4 cent a word. And as always, you can’t beat the artwork.

Among the handful of interviewees are writers both past and present (Bradbury, Frederick Pohl, Kevin J. Anderson, Tim Powers), editors (John Gunnison) and fans/bookstore owners such as Otto Penzler.

Less interesting — and certainly more irritating — is the blatant and occasionally heavy-handed revisionist attempt to make Church of Scientology founder L. Ron  Hubbard out to be anything more than a B-list pulpster at best. There are just a few too many lingering shots of old pulp covers bearing his name, and a few too many copies of his recent pulp reprints conspicuously placed on bookshelves in the background of people being interviewed to be coincidence, causing some to suggest that this video was covertly financed by The Church of Scientology itself, to expressly extol the literary virtues of L. Ron Hubbard.

And it turns out they’re right — there’s nothing covert about it. One of the talking heads  — and one of the producers — is John Goodwin, who runs Galaxy Press, which publishes the fiction of L. Ron Hubbard.

Then again, there’s plenty of interesting stuff here, being the Hubbard Cheering Squad.

My suggestion?

Come for the Bradbury and Penzler, and tough it out or FF through the Hubbard crap.


    (2009, Global Science Productions)
    512 minutes
    Written by Elliot Haimoff and Diane Tishkoff
    Directed by Elliot Haimoff
    Supervising producer: Elliot Haimoff
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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