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Archive for November 19th, 2013

Commercially Confused

Posted by Dirck on 19 November, 2013

I’ve recently happened upon the Pulp Magazine Project, an interesting effort to bring the experience of early 20th century popular fiction reading to the masses of the early 21st century.  I have, of course, been having a look, and not only because there is frequently a young lady in a diaphanous outfit on the cover (but if that’s the what you’re after, you’ll be heading straight for Ginger Stories).  As an amateur and slightly half-assed historian, I’m at least as interested in the hints about the everyday lives of the readers as I am in the literary content– especially since I’ve already read all of Lovercraft’s works.

Particularly, given my particular pathology interests, I was hoping I might have found a mine of price data for vintage pens of diverse makes.  My reasoning was thus; many of the readers of these things were also writers, or at least had ambitions in that direction, so it would be an eminently sensible place to flog the materials of the writer’s craft– pens, paper, slang dictionaries from which sheltered young men might drag the elements for lines like, “Now, Eliot, I’m what the man in the street would call fairly ‘hard-boiled’, but I’ll confess that what I saw on the walls of that room gave me a bad turn.”

It turns out I’m sort of right.  There’s a surprising number of full page ads for typewriters of various makes.  But of pens… hardly a whisper.  The closest I’ve come so far in my canvassing is a tiny panel promoting the wares of The Britmor Co., which I suspect is more a re-seller of cheap pens than a maker of them, and I’m not particularly concerned to know that you could get one of their pens with a REAL GOLD POINT! for a dollar.

Because it's easier to read a pulp magazine if you've got eyes.

Because it’s easier to read a pulp magazine if you’ve got eyes.

What one does find is the sort of stuff one would expect to find in late night “paid programming” and “infomercials”, and in sidebar ads on websites you shouldn’t be wasting your time with.  Dodgy but conveniently priced prostheses.  Cheap radios you can take apart to learn radio repair.  Pamphlets that guarantee to show you the way to secure a government job which will being financial security.  Booklets full of young ladies in diaphanous outfits, euphemistically described as Artists Reference Poses.  Earn money in your spare time!

In short, what I learned in this short examination of the pulps in their natural state is that targeting the socially-insulated has been going on in a very modern way for rather longer than one would have though.  The media has changed, but the message hasn’t– send us some money you can ill afford to part with, and we’ll fix you.  I’m amazed there’s not a lot of ads for pimple creams.

Today’s pen: Parker Vacumatic
Today’s ink: Herbin Éclat de Saphir

oh, a post script– I’m told that my department at The Regular Job is migrating sometime in between tomorrow and a week hence.  I may get a trifle spotty here, since I rely on a computer that’s connected to both internet and power for my entries.

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