What the heck is pulp?!
Back when I was a young lad I had no idea what this term meant, nor had I heard it applied to anything other than orange juice. Little did I realize that one of my favorite movies of all time fell into this genre.
Raiders of the Lost Ark was a revelation to me, the second such I had received in a span of just four years, Star Wars being the first. I was ten years old when it was released into theaters and boy was I hooked. I had the soundtrack (cassette), the t-shirt, the action figures, the storybook (with record), the poster, the trading cards, the Atari game and more. I couldn’t have known back then how much this movie would shape and guide and influence my life. As I write this I am still planning on returning to school for my archeology degree. But before that happens let me describe for you my “pulpy” path.
The release of this movie just happened to coincide with my discovery of roleplaying games, and while it was not fantasy like D&D it was certainly adventurous. There were traps, treasures, villains, damsels in distress and nasty creatures (why did it have to be snakes?!). At the center of it all was the hero. A pulp hero. Again, I had no idea what this term meant until years later when I began to delve into the stories and serials that influenced this movie and others like it.
Quick history lesson: in the early 1900’s authors began writing tales that were published in cheaply-made magazines printed on low quality paper made of wood pulp. These serialized stories and novels became known as “pulp fiction”. The tales were typically cranked out very quickly and in high volume so the authors could get paid as soon as possible and in greater amounts. The characters were stereotypical with obvious plots, predictable twists and not a lot of depth or meaning, just simple straightforward action, adventure and entertainment. The heroes were hard to kill and the villains would tend to escape to pester the world another day. But the damsels were usually rescued and the ending was a happy one.
With the advent of WWII supplies became scarce and the public had become burned out on the genre so the pulp mags sadly went away to be replaced by comic books in subsequent decades. Thus the era when those stories and magazines flourished came to be known as the “pulp age”.
But pulp has taken on a greater meaning. One can say that new/current/modern tales set during that era are pulp stories. Then again, even Star Wars can be considered a pulp tale since it has all the same ingredients, including the characters, plot, pacing and general sense of adventure. That’s why for me pulp is an era, a genre and a style all unto itself, one I had to explore and tap into with the creation of this game.
Exactly 40 years to the day Raiders has come full circle for me as I unleash my own pulp creation upon the world. I hope your adventures in the early part of the 20th century are both fun and educational. History is full of weird and exciting tales, dastardly villains and exquisite treasures. May you experience them all in your own search for fortune and glory!