After more than a year of pandemic living, we could all use some good, old-fashioned tall tales, so head to PulpFest, a celebration of the periodicals that influenced generations of writers, artists and filmmakers.
The event will be held Aug. 19-21 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Mars. Early bird shopping is from 1 to 5 p.m. on Thursday. Regular convention hours are 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Mike Chomko, the event’s marketing and programming director, has been a fan of pulp magazines — named after the cheap, wood pulp paper on which they were printed — since he was a kid in the late-1960s.
“Most of the time when you describe them, people think you’re talking about a comic book. They gave birth to comic books,” Chomko says. “The covers were hand-painted in oil by accomplished artists. Inside they had prose fiction with some pictures and illustrations.”
Pulp magazines, which entertained people before the digital age, are finding a resurgence among younger readers who enjoy the old-school adventures.
Chomko is excited to see a new generation discovering a century’s worth of creative publications that run the gamut from sci-fi, horror and crime to sports, westerns and romance.
This year’s festival theme is Love in the Shadows, a nod to both Love Story Magazine (published from 1921 to 1947) — the bestselling pulp of all time, which distributed 600,000 copies nationwide every week — and The Shadow, which spawned radio programs, comic books and movies.
Quentin Tarantino’s 1995 movie “Pulp Fiction” was inspired by the magazines, although Chomko says the term “pulp fiction” can be a derogatory one used by critics who dismissed the stories as drivel.
The convention, which attracts around 500 fans annually, was first held in St. Louis in 1972. Pittsburgh became PulpFest’s official headquarters in 2016. Guests can peruse a dealer room with more than 60 vendors selling pulp magazines and related memorabilia and attend film screenings, auctions, live readings and panel discussions.
Ed Hulse, author of “The Art of Pulp Fiction: An Illustrated History of Vintage Paperbacks,” will moderate a session on Walter B. Gibson, creator of The Shadow. Writer Will Murray, artist Jim Steranko and publisher Anthony Tollin will share personal anecdotes about Gibson.
The pulp magazine fanbase isn’t just a boys’ club. PulpFest also will honor groundbreaking female editors and artists, including Margaret Brundage, who created intricate covers for “Weird Tales.”
PulpFest signed a three-year agreement with the DoubleTree, so Chomko hopes the convention will continue to grow in its new home. Next year will mark the event’s 50th anniversary.
Critics aside, nostalgia for this brand of fiction is very real.