Why pulp fiction is inauthentic (The ACU theory of literature)

I’m going to be a little fancy today.  I got into a “get off my lawn” type argument at the blog of a guy who really digs pulp fiction and midcentury sci-fi.  This led to someone else making a post about some of my comments here.  Ultimately the whole thing is a little inside baseball, as is typical for neophyte literary movements, but the back and forth made me realize why I was so crabby at all about the “Pulp Revolution” and all that.

It’s that pulp fiction is inauthentic and thus if you think it’s the only worthwhile fiction to model your more current fiction writing upon, you will end up in an even more inauthentic place and be less popular and interesting than original pulp and pulp-like genre fiction.  And that’s where the Pulp Revolution (also goes by PulpRev) and similar folks like Superversive are.  They are enamored of pulp fiction because their ideological enemies (SJWs and other ultra liberal types) think all pulp fiction scummy and gross and they found some that was pretty good reading and entertaining so they feel like “TAKE THAT SJWS PULP FICTION IS ACTUALLY ULTRA KEEN FABBO”.

This is mostly false.

To explain why I’m going to introduce my own “three-legged stool” theory of successful literature.  The three legs are authenticity, craft and universality, or the ACU of the post title.  Authenticity is, I suppose, literary qualia, how real-feeling the fiction seems to the reader.  A highly authentic work will typically be pretty universal in appeal and thus quite popular.  There are exceptions, but the more authentic, the more relatively successful and universal/crossover-friendly the work is likely to be.

Craft is, well, craft.  You can get pretty far into the inauthentic end of authenticity and still reach a relatively larger audience just by upping your craft game.  *cough Margaret Atwood cough*.   But pure craft is not enough.  There are a lot of prettily written fiction works that can’t reach a larger audience because they describe a world too inauthentic and non-universal for readers to connect with.

Universality is pretty obvious.  I may not like J.K. Rowling, but she is essentially beyond-pulp, doing what pulp writers did in subverting conventional literature, but retaining a sense of true authenticity of experience that readers could latch on to.  She integrated decades of popular, universal literary tropes and character types with modern touches and achieved something both authentic and fairly universal, with an above average degree of craft.  Her work, whatever one might say about her as a person or celebrity, is an example of all three legs being firmly represented.

And yet, there is a bit of pulpishness to the Harry Potter world.  The reason regular old pulp fiction is inauthentic is because it can’t be sufficiently universal.  It was formed in a specific time and place thematically and that means it describes a world a bit too private to break out of the genre cage.  And this is obvious with any pulp fiction that achieved popularity in the mainstream.  It was beyond-pulp, pushing aside the narrow scope to do something more authentic and often also more universal.

Instead of scrabbling in the dusty pages of pulp magazines trying to defend a good line or two in badly written and not very interesting pulp story after pulp story (this is a frequent occurrence at the Castalia House blog, though it does cover a broad range of topics), I guess I expected pulp fiction rediscoverers to move forward from the pulp fiction that was a little more authentic and thus a little (sometimes a lot) less pulp.  I thought they’d go look at mainstream fiction of its day, much of which wildly outsold pulp authors in general and rediscover the whole package, not just the seamy crumbs at the bottom of the package.  Robert Howard had craft, and he sometimes achieved a relatively higher level of authenticity and in his most famous creation he found a moderate degree of universality.  But in general his work was not solidly three-legged ACU fiction.  Cordwainer Smith, a favorite of mine, is nevertheless inauthentic because his world was a little too private to be universal-enough for mass popularity.  Deeply strange, profoundly intimate, but ultimately closed-off and full of private humor and emotion inaccessible to most readers.

Pulp fiction, and genre writing as a whole, are such that very good examples will not read quite like the norms for the genre and the best examples will expand the scope of or otherwise break out of the genre’s convention.

This is, of course, quite open to discussion.





You can drink water out of a crystal goblet

Not actual size.


We got a set as a wedding gift and they collected a great deal of dust and then after moving here I realized I could just drink water out of them.  It does help with both drinking more water and getting into a medieval state of mind.

Reviving Castle Ladyhawke

That is my current name for where we moved to.  It doesn’t look much like the former wedding venue, but it does have neo-medieval touches and flourishes we’d like to intensify.

Not actually our Castle Ladyhawke.

I hope it comes out as we’d like, but it’s a multi-year, multi-stage undertaking and we’re at stage “Hey, let’s blog-name the place Castle Ladyhawke because the movie’s aesthetic is one we’d like to put into our remodeling and additions!”




If parents aren’t working 9-5, why chain us all to it?




These are some links from the Census about how for married, double-earning parents, Working non-standard hours is more common than 9-5.  There’s also some interesting things like non-standard working hours result in slightly higher likelihood of kids being in gifted programs and social clubs.

February reading update

I read 12 books for this month.  Two were from a trilogy very popular with Cure fans, four were a super cool post-apocalyptic maritime series with far future Franco-Asians who’ve mastered wind power and Islamic pirates and fightin’ Africans, three were novellas about a very cheesy but amusingly chaste “Master Thief”, one was from the military science fiction series There Will Be War, Castalia reissues.  One was book two in a cute, fairly clean new series called Magebreakers (book one is fun and cute too) and to make a round dozen, I also read a book strictly for the premise.  That one is about far-future humans being flung back in time to the Viking era of the 9th century or so and having to build a spaceship, somehow, for the future.  The guy got people to Kickstarter for it and I will be buying books 2 and 3, when he puts them out, just to see if they build that spaceship.


The current count is 22 down, 78 to go. I’ve also taken up reading the Bible near daily.  I’m still working on a target I can hit every day, but of late I have only missed a day and easily recovered from it rather than falling behind a week or more and feeling overwhelmed.

“Honey, I’m tired of steak every day.”

T.W.O. voiced this thought aloud a few days ago when we were going over how long it would take us to be unpacked.  His guess is late summer, mine is late spring.  I am always optimistic in such matters.

I laughed because it’s pretty funny.  Anyway I gave him the other half of my chicken salad and he was happy, although it sent him on a quest to learn all there is to learn about the caper.

We eat steak (frequently but not always on a bed of vegetables) a lot because it’s nearly impossible to mess up when you’re exhausted and the kids will sometimes eat a little of it.  But if they won’t it’s easy to give them eggs with their vegetables and let them eat bread for their starch.

His break was temporary, it’s going to be sirloin tonight. Which is, technically, not steak every day this week.

Nuts for nuts

So apparently a lot of kids are eating nuts.  About 1/3 eat them on any given day.  Asians weren’t broken out but white kids were at about 40% (over 40% among non-teens, with teens being around 1/3), while black and Hispanic kids were at about 25% no matter the age of the kid.

Higher income (350% of the federal poverty level or more) kids were at around 50% for non-teens with teens in that income range at 37%.  So higher-income households really love nuts.

About 75% of nuts eaten were by themselves or as part of a grain-based food.  Most of the remaining total was nuts as part of candy.


Source pdf: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db238.pdf