laurie's wild west

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:

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.