Creative Writing · graphic novels

Pulp Doesn’t Mean Tasteless

Pulp:  popular or sensational writing that is generally regarded as being of poor quality.

There’s a stigma to writing what is known as “pulp fiction”.  People tend to assume that pulp is tasteless, talentless crap.  That any author who is willing to sink him or herself into the sewers of pulp fiction must have really hit rock bottom and need to catch up on alimony payments.


Let me clarify.  In no way am I saying that all pulp writing is fantastic and deserving of awards.  Just like any other type of art, there are magnificent masterpieces and things usually found in a second grade classroom’s trash can, underneath week-old tuna.

I generally get the same three responses when people read my work.

  1. “Are you doing okay?  This seems really violent for someone who attends church.”
  2. “Oh, this is too violent for me.  I like things that take thought.”
  3. “This needs to be funnier.  It would be good if it was funnier!”

Now, there are a number of people who genuinely like my work.  And it’s good to have those reassurances that I’m writing good material — that there are people who understand what I’m writing, why I’m writing it, and who my target audience is.

Pulp doesn’t mean tasteless.  Let’s take Cinemax as an example.  Many consider the network (currently owned by HBO, to give some perspective) to be a classless outlet for high-budget pornography.  This is what gave the network its nickname, Skinemax.  In the last decade or so, Cinemax has come out with some grade A original, scripted series.  One of these, Banshee, was produced by HBO alum, Alan Ball.  Yes, Banshee is very comic book-esque in the way it’s written and directed.  And yes, it’s got copious amounts of sex and violence.  But it’s one of the best-written shows on TV in the last five years.

I write the way I write because I like it.  I like to shock the audience (and sometimes myself).  I like evil characters that we still inherently root for.  I like the way it looks when our protagonist goes from a sexual conquest in one panel to the scene of a murder in the next.  Shock is one of the pulp writer’s greatest tools.

There are plenty of incredibly talented pulp writers out there.  Our man Quentin Tarantino is chief among them with titles like, Pulp Fiction (oh gee!), Reservoir Dogs, Django Unchained, and The Hateful Eight.  So remember, just because YOU don’t like the way it’s written, doesn’t mean it’s bad writing.

Unless it’s anything by Skip Woods.  Fuck that guy.

Silas Dunn

Creative Writing

Novelist By Day, Narcissist By Night

Pour yourself a cup of coffee and put on some Jackson Browne, folks.  Before I really get started, I’m going to let anyone reading this know that I have no idea what the hell I’m doing.  I’m a graphic novelist — and, no, I don’t mean erotic thrillers.  I mean GRAPHIC NOVELIST — Stan Lee, Ed Brubaker, Brian K. Vaughn.  Essentially, I write violent picture books for a living.

Writing, for me, was more of an outlet when it first started; a way to escape the hum-drum of everyday life and enter a world where anything was possible.  I was finally who I wanted to be and no one could bring me down.  Well, not for more than an episode or two.  Writing started out as a way to cope with depression, but it morphed into so much more than that.

I was probably about a year in before I realized, “Hey!  I like this.  A lot!”  And people started telling me I should go for it.  Yeah, the normal people — family, friends, people who either care too much or not enough to tell me I suck.  But it wasn’t always those people.  Sometimes it’d be people I didn’t know from Adam.  Friends of friends of cousins or the occasional ex-girlfriend’s grandma.

So, I started thinking about doing this for a living.  Putting words to paper.  Which seemed quite alright to me, because, as it turns out, I really liked hearing myself talk.  Understandably, I liked making other people hear me talk, as well.

But what I didn’t know is that I sucked.  I was bad.  And I don’t mean the guy whose story is alright but his grammar isn’t.  I wrote a “screenplay” — and I use that word lightly — with a buddy of mine when we were both in eighth grade.  A few months back, I re-read that piece of crap and I almost threw up my lunch.  It was called something like Project Levee and I realized that something like half of it was plagiarized from the USA Network show Burn Notice.  Apparently, that was my idea of great writing at the time. Didn’t want to plagiarize Tarantino or Nolan.  No!  Matt Nix and his writing staff for Burn Notice was who set the line for me.

Thankfully, I got better.  I hope I did, anyway.  I don’t know, maybe people still baby me.  Maybe they read a piece of mine and say, “Holy crud, this thing’s a big ol’ dump.”  Because, you know, people talk like that, right?

This medium, the blog, is all very new to me.  I guess what I’m saying is that I have no clue what this is about, no clue where this is going, and no clue what my third no clue was going to be.  So bear with me, anyone who’s reading this.  Probably my mom or, like, my uncle.

And if you’re reading this from at least twenty years into the future, I’d really like to know how I die.  Or if food is served in capsule form.

Silas Dunn