Steampunk Family

ConTemporal‘s time port stabilizes next weekend in 1933. My first reaction: I don’t have anything to wear. (This Is a common reaction for me. Don’t Panic.) I’m pretty firmly steampunk, with no dieselpunk chops. But wait – does that say PULP?

ConTemporal contacted us just as I was engrossed in Paul Malmont’s “The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril”. I love, love, love this book. It reconnected Phineas and I with our narrative childhood.

This is a book about pulp. And it is pulp. The heroes are the authors of the pulp fiction of the early twentieth century, between the wars. It begins with the author of The Shadow challenging a younger man, writer of pulp Westerns (and future founder of Scientology) to listen to a story, and tell him what, in the story, is real, and what is pulp.

That is your job, faithful reader – to follow the crazy adventures of these authors, most popular but lowest on the literary ladder, as they navigate their own pulp adventure. One of most fascinating thought games for me, as I surfaced from the thrilling pages for air, was to try to sort the fact from fiction. Did that happen? Who actually attended the funeral of H.P. Lovecraft? Did L.Ron Hubbard drink with Walter Gibson at the White Hart?

So this wonderful novel sucked back in to the pulp world, and I remembered. I remembered that one of the first books I read when I left the children’s section** was Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Princess of Mars”. And in quick succession, all the rest of the Mars series, and Pellucidar, and Venus.

And reading the excellent “The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril” I realized how much the pulps shaped my idea of fun. Star Wars was pulp. Indiana Jones was a huge Valentine to the Era. So was The Mummy (1999). And John Carter (2012). Why didn’t that movie kill at the box office? Why can’t I have a sequel or 5? Are these people difficult to look at?


I didn’t think so.

Something I enjoy about the pulp resurgence, is how the stories are improved by modern updates. You know, how popular culture is slowly discovering that even non-white and/or non-male persons can have compelling stories to tell? That’s what I love about these films. 2012 movie Dejah Thoris is the Dejah I would have wanted to be, if she had actually been a playable character in the books. (Of course, that’s the thing about reading books like that as a young girl. I wanted to want to be Dejah, but she did so little, that I also wanted to be John Carter. Or Kantos Kan. Always want to be Kantos Kan, especially as played by James Purefoy.


* From “The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril” by Paul Malmont. Spoken in the text by Lester Dent, the man who created Doc Savage, Man of Bronze.

** The first was “The Canterville Ghost” by Oscar Wilde. I am fiercely proud of this. Especially since I thought than ANY MINUTE the librarians would grab me and force me back down to Nancy Drew land.

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