New Orleans Trip Report, Part 2.

After my early morning tour of the French Quarter on Friday morning, I headed over to the conference to listen to fellow pulp historians present their papers.  If I haven’t mentioned it before, each area of study (Pulp Studies) was divided into categories. For example, The Pulp Southern Gothic” contained talks on how the Southern Gothic was present in pulp studies or how it influenced writers. Each category contained 4 presentations of 15 minutes each.

I did not attend all of the pulp studies segments due to my late arrival on Thursday, and for other reasons, so I am only mentioning the ones I attended here.

In the Pulp Southern Gothic segment, these were the talks presented:

Zombies from the Pulps!: Race, Imperialism, and the Dawn of the Living Dead Genre (Jeffrey Shanks); 􀂘The Brooding, Fear-Haunted Side: Voodoo and Conjure Stories of Robert E. Howard (Karen Kohoutek); 􀂘Pigeons From Nawlins: A Horror Story’s Roots in the Crescent City; (Rusty Burke); and 􀂘The Crescent City Weird Tale: New Orleans and the Liminal Uncanny (Jonas Prida).

I was very pleased that in two of the presenters in this segment, Jeff Shank’s and Jonas Prida’s, showed the Weird Tales cover from June 1925 that featured my grandfather’s story “Monsters of the Pit.” Here’s Jeff with his:

photo (12)

Karen Kohoutek’s presentation on the presence of voodoo in Robert E Howard’s stories was fascinating too, especially considering that Karen and I had visited the voodoo museum the day before.

In the next pulp section, “WEIRD TALES: The Unique Magazine,” the following presentations were given:

Weird Tales, Modernism, and the Gothic: The Search for Literary and Cultural Territory in Working-Class Culture (Justin Everett); 􀂘 Strange Collaborations: Shared Authorship and Weird Tales (Nicole Emmelhainz); Disintegrating Verse: The Poetry of the Weird Tales Writers (Jason Carney); and [Who] Can Write No More?: The Contested Authorship of CM Eddy’s “The Loved Dead” (Daniel M Look).

I was REALLY intrigued by Daniel’s presentation because he discussed stylometric analysis, which uses mathematical algorithms to analyze stories to try to determine the “real author” of a story, whether it be the credited author or perhaps an editor who partook in some heavy rewriting. Certain word choices and placement and patterns are entered into the algorithms to come up with an answer. I know I’m over simplifying this, so if I can find anything online about this subject and how it affects pulp history I will post it.

The last presentation for Friday were in the category, “H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard,” contained the following presentations:

The Thing cannot be described:” The Paradoxical Appeal of the Horrible in H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu” (Joshua Peralta); 􀂘 Dark Sun: Lovecraft’s Challenge to the Philosophical Life (Clancy Smith);  Robert E. Howard’s DNA [Distinctive Narrative Attributes]: A Study in Subjective Stylometrics,Rhetorical Analysis, with Some Preliminary Thoughts on “Themetric Analysis” (Frank Coffman);  Local Color and Its Underlying Meaning in RobertE. Howard’s (Weird) Westerns, Southern Gothic Horror Stories and Detective Stories, (Dierk Günther).

I especially enjoyed Dierk Gunther’s presentation; Dierk is German, but has been living and teaching at university in Japan for the past 20 (I think, correct me if I’m wrong) years. It’s especially gratifying to see the interest of pulps reaching far and wide, past our own shores.

By the time these presentations were done, it was past 6 PM, and we were all fried. Nonetheless, we all met for dinner later that evening. By the time we all met up in the hotel lobby, it was 8:30 and I could not wait any longer for food. You know how it is with group dinners: by the time everyone shows up in the lobby and then walk over to the restaurant, get seated, get the waiter to present the menu, order, and then get your food, it could be 10 PM. Knowing this ahead of time, I caved and ordered a salmon dinner in the hotel’s restaurant/bar in the lobby, not caring that “bar food” could be sketchy at best. But we were in New Orleans, and the chef didn’t disappoint. It was an amazing dish. I ended up ordering dessert at the group dinner, strawberry shortcake (did I mention that I have stomach problems, so I have to eat bland) and actually that was just okay.

There were about 20 of us at the dinner, with a few spouses attending. I loved the fact that many of those in the group that presented papers were of the “younger generation” (I can’t believe I’m saying that), tattoos and all, and they have a passionate and unflagging passion for all things pulp.

But I was stunned to hear some of them say that they had never heard of the pulp conventions.  I piped up and told them ALL that the pulp conventions were full of historians who had an enormous amount of knowledge and many of them were celebrated and respected authors on their subjects. Jeff Shanks backed me up on that. But it put into relief how much the two worlds are separated. I wish there was an easy way to get the academic historians and the pulp collectors to comingle more.  It’s something that needs to be done if you ask me.

That’s all for now…back later this week with a report on the last day of my trip.


3 thoughts on “New Orleans Trip Report, Part 2.

  1. Laurie, I’m really enjoying your New Orleans reports and I hope you continue with more detail and photos. Concerning academic historians and pulp collectors, they usually exist in separate worlds and the reason is pretty simple. Academics are not usually collectors. They may like to publish papers and books but they have no real interest in attending Windy City and Pulpfest and collecting the old back issues of pulp magazines. So they don’t go to the conventions as a rule.

    However, there are exceptions. At last year’s Pulpfest, I was on a couple panels discussing such magazines as UNKNOWN WORLDS and TERROR TALES, and there were at least two professors on the panels: Garyn Roberts and Tom Krabacher. But both of these academics are pulp collectors also. They are not just there delivering a paper, they are actually collecting the magazines(and of course reading them). Randy Cox is another retired professor who is an expert on dime novels, among other things.

    Plus some professors I know have tremendous collections but they are former math professors like Jack Irwin and Steve Lewis. But usually you have to have an interest in actually collecting the magazines in order to attend the pulp conventions.

    Another example of what I’m talking about: I’m a member of a discussion group that states that it exists to discuss fiction magazines, etc. Most of the members are teachers, professors, authors, editors, but they don’t attend the two major pulp conventions. Why? Because though they may like to discuss fiction magazines, they don’t really collect the magazines. So they have no interest in attending.

    I think *collecting* is the key here. If you are a non-collector of old magazines, then you read books and study some of the major writers but you usually don’t bother with accumulating piles of old pulps and attending the pulp conventions. But if you are in the teaching profession and collect pulps also, then of course you have an interest in Windy City and Pulpfest.


  2. But Walker I think you’re short selling all of the knowledge of the history of the pulps that is in the rooms at PulpFest and Windy City. It’s not just about collecting. If it was I wouldn’t be there every year. There are panels and talks and films chock full of experts on the history, and not just from people like Garyn. Conversely, a lot of scholars and historians need to read these pulps that they are studying – if they aren’t, they’re in big trouble. And they should know that these pulps are readily available at the conventions, and at prices not necessarily as high as they would find elsewhere. In my limited experience, I have found that the majority of collectors also have a deep passion for knowing all about what they’re collecting. They’re not just collecting willy nilly just based on condition. (Well, maybe a few are.) Look at all the historical books and biographies written by collectors that are for sale at the conventions. This is knowledge that a lot of scholars in academia should appreciate.


    • Please do not take this the wrong way as I have no wish to offend but even though I have little interest in westerns myself, I have found the books you wrote about your grandfather very interesting. Likewise, right now I am reading “Wordslingers: An Epitaph For The Western by Will Murray and am finding it fascinating reading. The same with the work you have done and are doing about Daisy Bacon as I have been interested in what went on behind the scenes in the pulp industry for years now. I have read some books about the magazine industry by academicians over the years and they have either given the pulps rather short shrift or gotten the facts wrong.
      Walker might remember the lady that used to be a professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio years ago when Pulpcon was there (back in the 1980’s I think) she was very interested in the Romance pulps and used to bid on them when any were in the auction.


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