PULP Literature


When summer rolls around, I take the kids to the library and get them started on the summer reading program. While they're wandering, I wander too and end up with a lot of books I didn't plan on reading.

In other words, my planned summer reading gets hijacked by tempting books found on la biblioteca's shelves.

Among the victim's of this year's hijacking was my latest issue of Pulp Literature---in fact, a later latest arrived before I finally returned to the latest. I'll cover them both now.

Spring 2015: another pretty great issue.

But let me admit first that my story, "The Naked Woman," is awesome. Seriously. Some of my finest work. Even if, as I read it, I second guessed some of my prepositions. But I'm always reguessing my prepositions. It's congenital. So know this: "The Naked Woman." There's a reason I included it in my MFA apps back when I thought that was a good idea. I stand by this story. Come at me.

Some others:

"Super" by Laura Kostur
Yes, hypnosis as a device was kind of silly, but besides that detail, this was a powerhouse, over fifty pages of domesticity and parenting and bill collectors punctuated with startling violence. A mother's violence. This is a motivation we don't see much in fiction. I liked it. I'll talk about this more when we get to the next issue.
(three connected bits of flash fiction) by Kirsty Favell
Click on her name to read some. These tales are charmingly poetic bits of fantasy about a man and a woman and an aging angel of love.
As a general observation, one thing I like about this rag's contests are the judge's explanations of how they make their selections which---no surprise---are often intensely personal. The contest winner published in this issue was drowning in references to the stage at the expense of the story (imho). The judge had lived that life and was charmed by those elements. I get it. If I were judging a contest and one story involved, say, being a Mormon missionary in Korea or teaching high school in the Bay Area, and really captured the nuances of that experience, even if it were B work, I might still reward it. It's certainly imaginable. So I appreciate that transparency.

"The Naked Woman" by Theric Jepson
Or have I mentioned this one already? Golly gee whoops.
On to the next issue!

And having read this one, I am now caught up. Good for me. And now I need to renew my subscription....

"Fallen Angels" by Robert J. Sawyer
My one previous foray into Sawyer's oeuvre was ultimately disappointing, but this one was less moralistic and I found it rather enjoyable. Certainly its representation of a hell both genuinely hellish and satisfyingly comfortable was striking and a worthy destination.
"Stella Ryman and the Case of the Vanishing Resident" by Mel Anastasiou
As I mentioned regarding the last Stella Ryman story, I love how Anastasiou is taking pulp conventions and using them to tell the relatively "mundane" story of a woman's final years (months? days?) in a nursing home. Also, I bring it up now because I want you to remember it when I follow through on my promise to talk about "Super" again.
"Mermaid Hunt" by Holly Walrath
This was a curious mix---almost an experiment in how much background information you can hint at without ever actually explaining anything. So there are mermaids and I guess there was some great war between us and them and...well I can give you quite a few details but their exact connections are unclear. And that's okay. It's short and strange and uncomfortable and lovely.
"It Was Summer When He Left" by Marta Salek
This story is near-future Australia and a couple is split up when one is sent to space (rather as in this nice little short-film). The story particularly interests me for two reasons. First is its depiction of sex and pregnancy which strikes me as very . . . female (which might sound like I'm being dismissive, but not so---if anything, assume the opposite). Second is its point-of-view, which is simultaneously broad (never leaving the property, rarely leaving her bed) and multigalactic. This is possible because of the protag's relationship with her beloved (and a little alien tech, natch) which makes their mix of nearing and distancing all the more painful. I'm thinking also of an issue of One Story I'm now reading that finds feminism in the same place Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" did---in the lives women live rather than the lives their daughters wish they had. It's a bit more of a stretch for "It Was Summer" than these other two stories, but in all three cases we see a woman who is embodied as a woman and opens the door for us to find meaning in her experiences.

But I only know what I'm saying to a certain point. Which is why we need fiction.
Anyway, "It Was Summer"---like the Stella Ryman stories and "Super" (among others) are unusual in my sf/f/othergenre reading (probably because the genres have been traditionally dominated by men) in that they are at their core stories about women's experiences---experiences not-women can't really have. In other words, they are providing a perspective I haven't really bumped into much in my reading. I mean---I read a lot of books both by and about women, but the genres matter and in the genres my experiences are less when it comes to by-and-about-women. And stories like these in particular force me to confront questions that strike me as important in this moment of time.

Anyway, I've already written more than I intended to.

Can I mention without seeming creepy at this point that you should read "The Naked Woman"?


  1. .

    Re: that brand of feminism, see also Castle Waiting.

  2. Thanks for the review. I'm happy you liked Super. The Naked Woman creeped me out btw. Great story. I don't want to reveal any spoilers so I'll just say I loved how you made me think about dangerous choices I made as a child that seemed logical at the time.

  3. Excellent, I'll have to catch up on that.

  4. .

    Thanks, Laura. Ours was perhaps my favorite PL issue so far.

    And David---it's a venue you should think about trying to publish in as well.