This is an excerpt from a letter written by A.A. Wyn in defence of the pulp magazines. It appeared in the New York Times, 04 Sep 1935, and was written in response to a snooty editorial that put down the fiction published in the pulps.
For your information, here are some facts about the pulps.
There are approximately 125 pulp magazines published every month, buying upward of 35,000 tons of paper a year at a cost of approximately $1,500,000.
More than 2,000,000 worth of printing a year.
Approximately $250,000 worth of art work, and another $250,000 of photo engraving a year.
More than 100,000,000 words a year at a cost of more than $1,500,000.
The pulp industry contributes to the support of:
The United States Post Office (of the manuscripts that come In, approximately 1 per cent are usable, so that some 10,000,000,000 words of manuscript make a round trip, and manuscript postage runs high!).
Typewriter and typewriter ribbon industries; ink manufacturers; the glue and wire industry (both of them latter are used in binding magazines).
Railroads—2,000 carloads of magazines go out every year and 2,000 car loads of paper come in every year. And it takes approximately five carloads of raw materials to make one carload of paper.
National -distributers, wholesalers and dealers of magazines.
Second-hand magazine stores, the Salvation Army, which collects and sells old Issues; waste paper dealers.
Writer’s magazines, literary agents and services.
“The story’s the thing”—so must the prehistoric savages in their caves have told some glib story-teller relating his adventures with man and beast in the wilderness when his ingenuity ran dry.
Today, “the story’s the thing” in the pulp magazines, and 30,000,000 Americans can’t be wrong.
I love reading about attacks on pulp fiction from the 1920's, 1930's, and 1940's. The vast majority of literary fiction from that period has been completely forgotten, yet here we are, decades later, still discussing and reprinting pulp fiction.
I agree with Walker. The masses still read the mass produced books/magazines, while the literary stuff is merely praised by academia. I remember when we had to read Shakespeare and Homer in school. We sneaked a comic book into class with us. Although I admit to loving classic literature, and do collect some of it, if it wasn't for pulp and paperback adventures I would never have become a serious reader.
I think this is really Sturgeon's law ("Ninety percent of everything is crap.") in operation. Over the long term, people only remember the good 10%, which is the subject of the reprints these. 90% of the stories and authors in the pulps will never be read or discussed again, and that is probably as it should be.
The 10% is definitely worth talking about. That's 10 million words a year for approximately 4 decades (if one were to go by the statistics in the article I quoted). We won't run out of stuff to talk about (or reprint) any time soon.
Even if we were to talk about the crème de la crème, the top 1% of all stories and novels, that's around 40 million words – at least 500 novel length books. The 10% number would be around 5000 books.
And that number of course ignores all the pulp histories and author biographies and so on. Pulp reprint publishers, you know what your target is now…Readers, you now know what size bookshelves to order.
Have fun getting those 5000 books.
I agree literary critics (with the exception of Michael Dirda) and teachers (except for a few) have a lot to answer for. They'd rather criticize people's choice of reading matter than wonder why the unwashed masses don't read the works they recommend.