Helen Wismer was a pulp editor at the time this article was published. She would go on to marry James Thurber, and be the main force behind his writing career in the final 26 years of his life. This article appeared in the June 24, 1933 issue of the El Paso Herald, 2 years before she met Thurber.
|Helen Wismer, pulp editor c. 1933
Slender, delicate, feminine as a bride’s bouquet, Helen Wismer edits gutsy, two gun, he-man pulps for Magazine Publishers, Inc., in her boudoir office at 67 W. 44th St.
“those hell-ships struck nine times—yet no one had seen them.. and before he died suddenly, mysteriously — he had only time to babble of green death ships — and scream out a startling warning…” This, from “Flying Aces,” is a sample of her muscular muse; and several sonnet sequences from Ronald Elbank that beguiled her in her violet days as a sweet young thing at Mount Holyoke College.
Besides “Flying Aces” she is also editorially responsible for the gory heroics of “Sky Birds.” For these she selects the stories, haggles the authors, needles their stuff when they get too lah-de-dah, (sometimes they write “darn” for “damn”) and corrects their terminology in the technics of aircraft and machine guns—her two expert topics.
For this she gave up the lavender life of the Ladies Aid, her father being the Rev. Dr. E. L. Wismer, pastor at the First Congregational Church, Newport. His daughter’s career, of which he was ignorant until recently, first amazed, now amuses him.
Likes the Job
Miss Wismer sees no contrast in her early life as violet by a mossy manse in Bristol, Conn., where she was bred, to the Tarzan types she now shoulders into print. Meek, and exceedingly mild, she whispers, argumentative, gently, as though coyly rejecting gallantry in a garden tete-a-tete. “There is no reason why a woman shouldn’t edit a man’s magazine as well as a love magazine. After all, the masculinity of the stories is the concern of the authors. It is my job to see that their scripts follow standards of structure and action. Feminine reaction in writing, if there is such a thing, doesn’t mean anything here. It is a matter or technique.”
“I like my job,” she went on, her dark luminous eyes lighting up. “The ‘pulps’ as they are called, need no justification. The occasional criticism of the so-called sophisticates is incorrect.”