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