Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

The Return Of The Pulps… And What I’m Going To Do About It

Posted in books by Andrew Hickey on September 28, 2011

Earlier today, I was looking through the Webscriptions catalogue of ebooks. Webscriptions is both a great site and an annoying one. It sells DRM-free, multi-format science fiction ebooks – and it gives them away free to disabled readers. It sells them cheaply – average price is $6.

The problem is, for every one good book on there (and there are some astonishingly good ones, like Greg Egan’s most recent three novels or the two Dangerous Visions collections), there is an entire metric shitton of right-wing sub-Heinleinery, mostly published by Baen (who run Webscriptions) on there that reads like:

“Goddammit!”
Trooper Jones’ sinewy thews glistened with the strain as he threw his blaster-rifle aside. It was jamming again. He pushed his manly hands through his crewcut blond hair, as he scrunched up his bright blue eyes and tightened his chiselled jaw.
“Goddam beancounter faggots back on Earth won’t give us the money to do the job they sent us here for!”
Since Barry O’Bama had wormed his way to the top of Earth’s government the previous year, the funding for the Space Marine Corps – the only body that stood between the earth and total annihilation by a swarm of stinking lizard men from the desert planet Qari – had been slashed, in order to pay for free medical care for pedophile serial killers.
Now as the fiendish Qarabians approached, wielding their laser-scimitars to finish him off, Jones knew that only good old-fashioned moxie, of the kind his old dad had shown on his farm in Iowa, would be enough to see him through.
But moxie, of course, was something Jones had in spades.
“All right, you bastards, come and get me.” he grunted, and ran toward them.

And so on, for 500 pages.

So after looking through some of these, I tweeted, rather stroppily – “Wish I had less self-respect. I could turn out hack genre novels by the dozens if I could bring myself to do it…”

But then I started thinking. I could never write that kind of thing and live with myself, but looking at the successes in e-publishing, a clear pattern appears:

They all write ‘genre’ books, whether that be thriller, horror, ‘paranormal romance’, or whatever.
The books are short – 200 pages or less – not huge blockbusters.
They’re mostly stand-alone novels, but featuring recurring characters.
They’re cheap – 99 cents to three dollars.
And they’re written very quickly (see for example writer Dean Wesley Smith, who when he publishes short stories as ebooks notes down on his blog the time in hours it took him to write them).

These are books as pure entertainment, rarely if ever actually *about* anything. In other words, what we’re really seeing with self-published ebooks is the return of the pulps in all but name.

Now, while I can’t write *crap* for money, I think I *can* write entertainment for money. I think I could do that, have fun doing it, and write something that people would enjoy. And there’s a grand tradition of writing quickie pulp adventures – see this by Michael Moorcock on how to write a novel in three days.

So what I’m going to do is write a series of cheap, short, ebook-only pulp-adventure novellas in parallel with the other books I’m writing. These won’t be serialised here, because this blog is where I talk about ideas, and those books won’t have many ideas as such – they’ll just be adventure and entertainment. Pulp. I will, however, let everyone know when they’re out.

And I’m going to write them under a pseudonym – I’ll be using the name Olsen Bloom (the name I use for my music).

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with this.

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