Author, Books, Creativity, Science fiction, writing

Is The Current e-Book Era a Second Pulp Fiction Era?

By Christopher Wills

Image from Pulp Covers

In this post I will briefly examine the similarities between the current e-book era and the early twentieth century Pulp fiction era.

Note I am not suggesting e-books are pulp fiction; I am suggesting the current e-book era has similarities with the Pulp fiction era.

What is Pulp fiction?

Pulp paper was made from cheap wood pulp which was widely available in the 19th century. Pulp paper is still used today in newspapers, magazines and yes… toilet paper.

In 1896 the fiction magazine, The Argosy, was published on pulp paper with untrimmed edges and no images inside or on the cover. It was eight pages of serialized fiction. Within ten years it was a weekly magazine selling 500,000 copies every issue.

The Pulp fiction era is considered to have been between 1896 and 1939, although if one includes cheap paperback books printed after the war, one could suggest the era continued until the 1950s. Paper shortages during the Second World War brought a decline in magazine sales and after 1945 new paperback publishers, comic books and television helped the decline in pulp magazines.

In 2004 Sony released the Librie in Japan which is acknowledged to be the first e-book reader with an electronic ink display.

However the e-book era probably started in 2007 with Amazon’s issue of their first e-book reader, the Kindle. The name came from the idea of kindle as fuel to start a fire, so the Kindle was a metaphor for fuelling the love of reading. Wood kindle is like wood pulp – spooky. The first Kindle sold out in 5 hours.

The e-book was possibly invented in 1949 although that was a mechanical device so maybe it should be called an m-book. Another version of an e-book was invented in the 1960s but that was based on an IBM mainframe computer so it wasn’t very portable.

So what are the comparisons between the Pulp fiction era and the current e-book era?

Pulp fiction made it cheaper to publish and sell short stories and serialized fiction which created a boom in magazine publishing, meaning many more people were able to write for a living and many more people were able to access their writing by buying the cheap pulp magazines.

E-books have made it much cheaper to be able to publish short stories and novels which has led to a boom in publishing, meaning many more people are able to write for a living and many more people are able to buy fiction to read.

The staples of early Pulp fiction were the many short story magazines like Argosy, Black Mask and Amazing Stories where writers were paid by the word. Longer story meant more income for writers.

Kindle Unlimited pays writers by page reads which is effectively paying writers by the word. More pages more income for writers.

Pulp magazines and books developed amazing colourful book covers which clearly defined the genre of the stories inside.

To sell e-books one is encouraged to get amazing colourful book covers that clearly define the genre of the stories one is writing.

But one might ask, hasn’t this always been true of books?

No. Go to your bookshelf, or your parents’ bookshelf or a library bookshelf and look at the covers of some older paperback books in some genres. Some are amazing and well designed, but many are not. I looked up James Bond book cover art and discovered a variety of styles. Some paperback James Bond books had no images on the cover at all; they only had text stating the title and writer.

Book covers have always been designed but only in the last thirty years or so have some traditional book covers started to conform to genre styles. Think Chicklit or Mislit. Some genres like Science Fiction and Westerns have always had a genre style image on the cover.

During the Pulp fiction era new genres were created and these genres became established as part of the fiction canon. A couple of examples are Science Fiction and Hard Boiled Detective stories.

Today in the e-book era many new genres and sub-genres have been created and have become established such as Paranormal Romance and Military Science Fiction.

Some Pulp fiction writers were writing huge numbers of words per day; some wrote up to 8,000 words. Imagine writing 8,000 words on a typewriter every day. That must have been before RSI was invented 😊.

Today many e-book writers write a few thousand words every day and some “write” even more using voice to text technology.

This is a bit more productive than the famous quote attributed to traditional authors such as Flaubert, Wilde and Conrad:

“I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out.”


Some Pulp fiction writers had more than one pen name as they wrote in more than one genre.

Some e-book writers today use more than one pen name for the same reason.

During the Pulp fiction era writers were paid on acceptance for magazine stories and the rates of payment were agreed in advance. This transparency and speed of payment helped with the payment of bills.

Today one advantage e-book authors have over traditional writers is the quick payment of money for sales and the transparency of the amount of money earned.

So there are similarities between the Pulp fiction era and the current e-book era. Some may have concerns that comparisons between the two eras could introduce the idea of e-books being labelled as Pulp fiction.

Let’s examine this briefly. Many great writers wrote stories for Pulp fiction magazines to supplement their incomes and as part of learning their craft. These include:

  • Agatha Christie
  • Louis L’Amour
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Isaac Asimov
  • Arthur C Clarke
  • Joseph Conrad
  • Raymond Chandler
  • Philip K Dick
  • F Scott Fitzgerald
  • Dashiell Hammett
  • Robert A Heinlein
  • Frank Herbert
  • Rudyard Kipling – Nobel Prize for Literature
  • Elmore Leonard
  • Sinclair Lewis – Nobel Prize for Literature + offered but declined the Pulitzer Prize for Literature
  • H P Lovecraft
  • Upton Sinclair – Pulitzer Prize for Literature
  • Micky Spillane
  • Mark Twain
  • H G Wells
  • Tennessee Williams.

Personally I would not consider it an insult if my name was associated with some of those writers. What do you think?


About Christopher

Christopher has been a soldier, sailor, teacher, trainer and is now a storyteller. He has an MA in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Winchester and has recently qualified as a Tony Buzan Licensed Instructor in Mind Mapping.

In 2019 Christopher published a 3 book Military SciFi series and will publish a non-fiction book to help writers.

He has a website in development titled Soldier Sailor Teacher Trainer Storyteller at http://www.crwills.com

Social Media: Twitter | Facebook | Amazon


This post first appeared on the ALLI blog on September 23rd 2019

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Author, Creative Writing Energy Podcast, Creativity, writing

Bringing Yourself to the Page


Life is a series of thought-provoking moments, eliciting our emotions and imprinting our psyche. Life is creation in-action. No one gets a free ride. We all love like crazy; maybe feel pangs of hate; take a deep breath before a leap of faith, and sometimes we get hurt — we learn and grow through pain. We sing with angels and rejoice with heart — we bleed, break and scar. Whoever ever said that life was easy, huh? It’s not. And neither is sitting with your emotions to confront your deepest truths.

Consider what Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Carl Jung had to say about the meaning of life:

“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls. We meet ourselves time and again in a thousand disguises on the path of life. Real liberation comes not from glossing over or repressing painful states of feeling, but only from experiencing them to the full.”

Hmm… that explains a lot. I may have just had an epiphany.

Moving on.

If, as Jung suggests, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being, then the expressive use of a pen may surely help pave the way toward enlightenment.

Yes?

How about using your writing in a more meaningful way — as an outlet to document and sift through your human experience — and then bring what’s on the inside to the page?

“Who looks outside, dreams’ who looks inside, awakes.”

  • Carl Jung

I’m talking about the deep, convoluted feelings that make you tick and drive purpose in your life — there’s a wealth of experience and lessons learned buried in your past. Use those little wisdom-nuggets.

Writing emotional responses evoked from our experiences is a great asset to writers. It’s the perfect outlet to work through your emotions, drive home your beliefs about the world, and then incorporate them as an important theme in your stories.

Right? Every great book brings an authentic message delivered with its underlying story theme. The way I see it, story theme gives us the opportunity to spread change to the world in our own small way.

Like layering up the good stuff.

It’s the reason you probably started writing in the first place.

The fact is that you are a complex creative-creature with many layers and depth. No one sees the world in quite the same way as you.

You view life through the fluidity of your unique perspective as you evolve, change and reach for new experiences.

Don’t be afraid of what’s deep inside.

More from Jung:

“Sometimes you have to do something unforgivable just to be able to go on living. We only gain merit and psychological development by accepting ourselves as we are and by being serious enough to live the lives we are entrusted with. Our sins and errors and mistakes are necessary to us, otherwise we are deprived of the most precious incentives to development.”

Sounds delicious, does it not?

Making mistakes and doing something that may be considered unforgivable might sound absurd to some, but I think it sounds more like living your truths.

I also feel as if more of us need to embrace the flaws that make us who we are instead of feeling ashamed about them  Imagine if we could drive home that message in our stories? Or something similar?

Sweet glory.

Bringing your flaws and unique worldview to the page by exploring your inner-most emotions, perspectives and feelings is a gift not only to yourself but to others.

Think of it like this: You are the flesh and blood; the tangible and malleable. Yet, you are also a part of the mysterious — the light and the dark. Which ultimately means you have so much of the rich stuff to offer through your words.

Your emotions are your greatest muse.

“Everything begins with words — our stories, thoughts, messages. Each word has its own vibration, too. It is these vibrations that create the reality that surrounds us. Words create more than just stories; they inform our universe, our lives and our reality — and they teach us. Through creating words, I have managed to reacquaint myself more fully with my soul and to live a more authentic, love-driven and passionate life.”

– From Creative Writing Energy

Other benefits of exploring your feelings through writing:

Clarity

By expressing yourself and communicating complex ideas in a much more effective way, you will discover more about yourself and learn how to honor it by bringing your deepest truths and beliefs into your work.

Eliminates stress

Emptying your mind through writing helps to eliminate stress. Capturing those moments, developing and working through your ideas produces a ripple effect; since not only do you declutter your mind, but it is also a process of rationalization — story themes right there.

Productivity

Writing activates neurons in your brain and gets you set to face the day. Serious writers have demonstrated that setting goals or systems in their daily writing habits significantly increases the possibilities of achieving them.


Some fellow writers swear by starting their day with a little self-reflective journaling. Journal writing your feelings teaches you about you and helps to strengthen your writing skills and find your voice.

It also encourages greater self-awareness.

“The only meaningful life is a life that strives for the individual realization — absolute and unconditional — of its own particular law.” — Jung

Writing down what you have in mind regularly — your dreams, worries, fears, deepest desires, is a viable path toward self-realization.

Writers often use snippets of their self-reflections in their work because it’s important to create characters that feel real to our readers. Well, I know that I tend to lean on my past experiences and feelings when tapping into the essence of my characters.

“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your writing.”

– Gustave Flaubert

So, if I’m feeling a little like:

Frustration

I might use the edge to help drive story conflict. You know, inject some attitude into my words. Helps to release the tension too, by the way.

Then I take it deeper, spinning my characters with sass and diving into the gritty, dark, even profane.

Heartache

Even better. Well, maybe not so much for me, but my character’s benefit from my soul-crushing pain. Lucky them. The fact is that words created from an aching heart have a way of bringing depth and authenticity to the page.

Real feelings mean readers will relate to, care about and resonate with your character and their world because everyone has been hurt in some way.

Love

Need I say more?

We can’t get enough of the love-stuff. It’s where alchemy and magic abounds.

Personally, I spend more time than I probably should contemplating the concept of love and exploring its meaning, and I’m not even a romance writer, per se. Regardless, love always winds its way into my writing. Every time.

Love affects us all. It’s the universal language we all know and understand, and bringing it to your story creates real-world feelings and connection.


Go on, give it a try — dig deep, unravel yourself from the inside out and let your emotions be your greatest muse.


Originally published by Living Out Loud on Medium

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Write with Feeling: How Relationships Bring Depth to Our Characters


Do you struggle to create full-bodied characters?

Churning out words, outlining and wrapping your brain around plot twists, story themes and arcs can often be mentally exhausting, and then we have to make sure our characters have depth enough to resonate with our readers.

“I know the feelings but I don’t know how to express them in words.”

That’s what my new client said during a recent meeting. She had reached out for assistance after reading some of my work. She has an important story to tell.

After an extraordinary experience, her quest to bring her unique story into the world fell short when it came to expressing high-level concepts and deep emotion through the written word.

Enter, me.

It is true that I write about love, relationships and soul connections in addition to my fiction work. I post these articles regularly on Medium and my blog. When the year is out, the articles are then culminated into a book - a keepsake documenting both my nonfiction writing pieces along with my own personal journey.

Life lessons and personal growth.

Some people baulk at the idea of sharing their personal experiences publicly. There was probably a time when I might’ve reacted the same way. It’s different now. I feel different now. I’m not the same person I was when I first began writing.

I realized that by sharing our experiences and perspectives, and then expressing the lessons we’ve learned from those fragments in our lives is one of the most powerful ways we can impact the world and help one another.

Obviously, not all of us are writers. There are many other ways to make a positive difference in the world. Humanitarians and those in service occupations seek to promote human welfare. The magical paint strokes of gifted artists have the capacity to uplifts spirits; thereby raising vibrations through the loving energy invested in the creation.

The same is true for words.

Yehuda Berg said:

“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”

As a word smith, and whether you write nonfiction, fiction or both, it is vital to have a firm understanding of the power literally at your fingertips.

Not every writer has the desire to burrow into their deepest selves to divvy up those experience-gems publicly. I can understand that. There is a certain amount of vulnerability and courage required when you begin the deep, meaningful work - and make no mistake, releasing messages into the world at an intimate level takes a brave heart (and maybe a firm set of balls).

Either that, or those of us who journey through the murky territory are just plain crazy.

Psyche.

The good news is that we don’t necessarily have to roll up our sleeves and get gritty (and maybe a bit soppy) by revealing our inner-most selves in order to make real connections and benefit the human experience through our words.

The fact that you write is gift enough. Throw in some passion, a generous side of imagination and the beautiful resources existing within the fabric of your past experiences, and you are a potential change-maker.

Smile.

You just felt the little tingles ignite at the base of your spine, right?

At least, I hope you did.

Those zingy feelings are more than just confirmation that a draft is blowing from the window you left open in the other room - they are a part of your inbuilt intuitive system and appear as way of confirmation when the truth rings true.

Learn to trust your tingles.

Grab your cape and give yourself a pat on the back, too. You, dear writer, are a gift to the world and your words have power. Used with intent, love and courage our words become a force to be reckoned with. We have the capacity to influence, create waves and stir the pot to bring meaning to the lives of those who read our work - particularly when created with the breadth of our hearts.

We can achieve this through delving deep within; stripping the layers to extract the nuggets from past and present relationships; looking back on memorable experiences and reflecting on our most intimate feelings to examine the way we relate, perceive life and love others.

After all, love is the ultimate source of emotional resonation. It is the most profound emotion we will ever experience.

Whether romantic or platonic, whirlwind and complicated or long term and lifelong, it is love that has the power to nourish meaningful relationships, crush our hearts and teach us important lessons.

“When Love speaks, the voice of all the gods,

Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.”

– William Shakespeare  -  From Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Is it no wonder that the greatest writers in history explored love in all its forms through their literature?

There was only one Shakespeare. There is only one you.

Love in literature is boundless because it defies barriers by appearing across all genres and age groups, as well as periods in history. The presence of love in our stories has the ability to bring acutely heartfelt and memorable moments to the page, regardless of the outcome.

We all know about love and relationships to some degree. Even hate is love turned upside down. Honestly, we learn so much and gather bucket loads of personal data through the relationships we form; and we can use these insights when developing our characters to bring authenticity into their worlds and connect with readers.

To help get you into reflection mode, let’s take a deeper look into what Greek philosopher, Aristotle had to say about relationships. He described three kinds of relationships, with only one of which is built to bring true happiness.

First: The Relationships of Pleasure.

These are the romantic interludes fueled by passionate sex, a possible side of drugs and a generous helping of ego. Insert a playlist that looks like Metallica’s Master of Puppets and Bulletboys Smooth up in Ya, and you get the drift. These affairs are more about body and less about soul and connecting - never a great recipe for lasting happiness.

Second: The Relationships of Utility.

These types of relationships may be grounded in materialism or hopes of gathering status of some sort. They can also include relationships that involve a need for each other for the “necessities of life” and raising children. Aristotle describes the friendship of utility as shallow, easily dissolved, and for the old.

Keep in mind that even though he may have been coined “the father of philosophy” he was just one Greek guy who liked to explore high-level concepts … with a very thick beard.

Third: The Relationship of Shared Virtue.

Like a classic Rod Stewart song, Aristotle firmly advised hauling up your sails over stormy waters in search of what he called Relationships of Shared Virtue. This is where you arrive on the shores to find a partner who truly gets you in soul - your core self.

It’s that real-connection love who will ignite change, challenge and inspire you to grow into your highest potential.

Jack Nicholson’s character in As Good as It Gets said it best when he said: “You make me want to be a better man.”

Of course, the above relationship examples described by Aristotle are brief summaries of the complex bonds and emotions that we experience through those who touch our lives. Yet, taking a look at what some of the world’s greatest philosophers had to say about the human condition can act as a springboard to unlocking parts of our past when creating full-bodied and dynamic characters - ones that imprint a lasting memory on our readers.

Deep reflection is a muscle you can strengthen to bring the essence of your story to a place where the power of your words has the potential to positively influence and improve the lives of your readers. Even if only an inch at a time.

Keep it real.

It’s worth investing the time to reflect on your past and present loves to give your characters depth and relatable complexities. Aim for the Kindle highlights.

Just like love, your words can change lives forever.


Originally published by The Ascent at Medium.


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Author, writing

I am a BIRD


When my mother was pregnant with me, my parents moved to a tidy brick, semi-detached home nestled in a quiet street in the southern suburbs of Sydney. There was a huge tree on the street outside our home, and the front yard had two small sections of lawn. The gardens were minimal but well maintained thanks to my father, and the backyard was a huge concrete oasis, which was fabulous when you’re six years old and you ride a bike like the wind. Not so great when you stack it, though. There were no pushbike helmets in the ‘80s, but I survived.

Rockdale.

Honestly – and I’ve never admitted this to another soul – I was never proud to be born and raised in that suburb. It’s not that I’m ashamed. I guess the town has served a purpose in shaping my life. It’s through these contrasts that we learn what we don’t want. It’s more that I never really felt comfortable there. I got out as soon as I could, fleeing to the Gold Coast with my boyfriend when I was 21 years old because I thought life would be beautiful there. Well, it had to be better than southern Sydney, right?

Wrong. Well, maybe a little.

I have since travelled and lived in at least ten cities across Australia, yet it wasn’t until recently that I really felt comfortable where I was – and it turned out it had nothing to do with the location, and everything to do with myself.

When you’re little, you know no different than the experiences to which you are born. The truth is, I had no idea we lived on the wrong side of the tracks until I had started school. Another truth? Even the right side of the tracks in Rockdale sucks. It’s not a beautiful town, but that’s not why it sucks. It’s the energy. It’s fast and unforgiving, and everyone is out for themselves. It’s a multi-cultural hub with a rancid veil hovering over the town. It’s all about drugs, gangs and illegal gaming houses, dictated by those with the most muscle. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a smidgen, but you get the picture.

I’ve heard of the old times when Rockdale had some charm, but those days were long gone even when I was a child. In the old days, the world was untarnished and charm was everywhere. I guess you could say it still is – that charm, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. What Rockdale lacks in charm, it makes up for with an ever-growing population. Maybe that’s where the problem lies, because people aren’t always charming. Nor are they always good.

But what is good? I hear you say.

Good is deep in your bones and ingrained in your soul. Good is empathy, and integrity, and treating others with respect and dignity. Good is your truth. It’s in your words and actions, your thoughts and feelings, and it’s the small voice whispering in your ear when confronted with choices. We can’t always be good all of the time, but good is not killing a baby bird for pleasure.

One of the first and harshest lessons involving the lack of good in humanity came when I was about five years old. Before that day, I knew not everyone was good all of the time, but I’d never witnessed cruelty firsthand. I guess that’s why this day has imprinted upon my memory like an ugly stain.

Don’t get me wrong, I was and still am no angel. I’m not always good. In fact, sometimes I like to be bad – in the best sense possible. The point is, I don’t intentionally cause pain to another living being.

The school day was just beginning and it was raining. There was a bird’s nest nestled deep along the eaves of one of the school buildings and a baby bird had fallen to the ground of the asphalt playground.

My heart had leapt from my chest at the sight of the little grey bird struggling helplessly in a puddle of rainwater, and I remember being frightened for the creature. Before I had a chance to do anything, three older boys raced towards the chick. I was relieved. They would save the bird and hand it over to a teacher who would somehow return it to safety.

I was wrong.

Those boys huddled around the bird and began to laugh. Then the unthinkable – they started to take turns at stomping on the little grey bird as if it were better amusement than a Game & Watch Donkey Kong game (which by the way, I mastered – only a Generation X would appreciate that fact).

My heart shattered and I screamed at those boys. They took no notice of me though. They just continued to stomp and laugh and I eventually had to turn away from the scene.

I’m not sure why those boys did that to the little helpless bird. I’m not saying they were or are bad people. Good people make wrong choices too. The incident played out within a matter of minutes, and it was over just as fast. Little birds turn to mush fast when stomped upon in the rain. I cried for that bird. I cried in the playground, and I cried when I got home from school, and I cried when I awoke with the nightmares that had ensued.

One small bird showed me what it was to love and feel pain for something outside of myself and my family. One small bird showed me how to empathise, and taught me that people don’t always do good things. And one small bird revealed something about myself that has remained with me all the days after – I am a bird.

You are too.

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