Pulp is Back

A comment by Jeffro Johnson that bears repeating and pondering:

the elevation of Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein to the status of “the big three” is basically a repudiation of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Post-Christian sff is also post-romance. If you look at what actually fired the imaginations of sff game designers in the seventies, I think you can really see how irrelevant the “serious” and “respectable” sff really was.

A case in point for that would be in Traveller, which also came up last night. Who defined the future for Marc Miller? It wasn’t Asimov’s Foundation. It wasn’t Herbert’s Dune. It was H. Beam Piper, E. C. Tubb, Poul Anderson, and Jerry Pournelle. Tubb wrote in the tradition of Burroughs and Brackett and provided the independent worlds, the blades, the passage types, and the drugs. Meanwhile, Anderson and Pournelle laid the groundwork for Miller’s 3rd Imperium. Christianity was a first class element of its literary antecedent.

That was at the height of the New Wave.

Bringing this back around to the Puppies in general and to Castalia House in particular: the only person I’ve read that really has the same kind of punch as Edgar Rice Burroughs would be Larry Corriea. The only person I’ve read that is really doing anything remotely like Lord Dunsany is John C. Wright. Indeed, Wright writes as if the pulp era never stopped.

I see a lot of “Puppy” rhetoric that acts as if turning back the clock to Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov is what we ought to be shooting for. But that’s not what’s actually going on here. Successful authors are actually regressing much harder than that!

The sort of people that would have endorsed this “Big Three” framework? That would be Joanna Russ.

My comment: He is quite right that John W Campbell Jr had his ‘big three’ in Sf, men who penned hard Sf, which was a new genre. Campbell’s editorial policy deliberately set its face again pulp fiction, with its colorful action, strong moral character, and Victorian elaboration of prose (often called purple prose, despite that the vocabulary was richer and more learned).

The prose of Heinlein and Asimov was a conscious imitation of Hemingway, who, in turn, attempted an experimental technique of minimalism. His prose reads like a telegram. The prose of pulp writers like HP Lovecraft and Clarke Ashton Smith reads like a Victorian love letter, such letters being composed and ornamented rather than jotted off.

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