Before about 1925, the secret of publishing a general fiction pulp was to make it a family magazine. The contents might include westerns, detective stories, science fiction and off-trail fiction, but the rule would be it was suitable for – and entertaining to – the whole family. Thus in Argosy, All Story or The Popular romance flourished, whether it was the scientific romances of Edgar Rice Burroughs or the western romances of Max Brand. Straight romances and human interest stories were commonplace as well. Burroughs’ “A Princess of Mars” might excite young males with its marvels and swordfights, but young women were expected to enjoy it for the love story of Earthman John Carter and the Martian princess, Dejah Thoris.

As pulp publishers began to issue magazines that specialized in one particular type of fiction, such as Street & Smith did with Western Story in 1919 and Love Story in 1921, readers began to look for magazines that carried more of the sorts of stories they enjoyed the most. By the 1930s most of the family pulps had either fallen by the wayside or were decidedly slanting their appeal toward a male audience. In many cases they were declining in sales, as well. Most women, it seems, were reading the romance titles.

Fiction House was a small to medium sized publisher that began its career in the early 1920s with Action Stories and over the next five years added such titles as Frontier Stories, Love Romances, Air Stories, Fight Stories and Lariat Western. Love Romances, Air Stories, Fight Stories and Lariat Western were specialized magazines, of course, as their titles suggest; but both Action Stories and Frontier Stories were general in nature. Action ran any kind of story that fit its title, from western to boxing, from sea story to jungle adventure, from stories set on tropical islands to stories set in the Yukon Territory. It was to Action that Robert E. Howard sold his humorous Breckinridge Elkins westerns, which are still in print in book form today.

But in the 1940s the editorial policies of Action Stories and Frontier Stories began to reflect the growing popularity of the western. After the Second World War, Action Stories might interrupt its flow of western stories by Walt Coburn or Les Savage Jr. with an occasional sport story or African adventure but out of eight stories in an issue, no more than two would be non-westerns. Sometimes it was less than that. As for Frontier Stories, the idea of variety there was to run an occasional story of the American frontier during Colonial times. Gone were the days when the Australian Outback or jungles of Borneo or South America were considered “frontier.”

Of course our purpose here at Pulp Spirit is to bring back those days to the extent we can.

Our only rule is that we can’t publish the same type of fiction you might find in Planetary Stories. Since Planetary Stories publishes space adventure and other types of science fiction, you might think that leaves us with a vast and wonderful field to harvest.

And let’s face it, you’d be right.

This issue, for example, features a story (“The Paste Ruby”) such as you might have found in Spicy Detective Stories. You will also find a western (“End of the Trail”) that might have graced a pulp like Thrilling Western, a northern (“A Long, Cold Wait”) that could have come from the pages of North-West Romances and a horror story (“Door Closing”) that reminds us of Weird Tales. There’s even another Armadillo story. We’re not sure which pulp magazine might have featured Army; possibly Action Stories which gave us Howard’s Breckinridge Elkins stories. But we’re sure someone would have given him a home.

So what about next issue? Well, another Diamondville Dolls detective story this one probably better suited to Popular Publication’s Dime Mystery, another fine pulp hero story by Erwin K. Roberts well suited to The Phantom Detective, even an Armadillo. But what about the other stories?

There are a number of writers who have promised us stories in the coming months. We know of several who are working on westerns for us, for example. But there is also a sword and sorcery story promised us, and an animal story. And one of our writers is researching a historical adventure story. So if you want to see just how many different types of stories we can publish, come back in three months and read them for yourself. Or write one and send it to us. We need new writers.

By the way, our PulpRack feature this time focuses on stories about World War I. During the preparation of it, our panel of experts exchanged some notes about various aspects of both world wars, and you’ll find them over in Planetary Stories, in the letter column “The Vibrating Ether.” We think you’ll enjoy them also.

-- Gerald Page

CONTENTS Pulp Spirit