Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Neo-pulp manifesto

Welcome friends and agents of the Pulp Collective... This is Doctor Lightning broadcasting from the depths of the Atlantic ocean from my submersible armored zeppelin, the Flying Reaper.

What is it about pulp fiction and it's offspring (comics, movie serials) that has stood the test of time? Flash Gordon, Tom Mix, Zorro, Tarzan, the Green Hornet, the Shadow to name a few.

Each of those heroes mentioned, and those not mentioned, have had a direct influence in many movies over the last 80 years more or less. You may not see it, but the influences are there. From the clichéd piece of crap like Quentin Taratino's Pulp Fiction that panders to absurd, delusional movie elitists to the subtle, quietly boiling, softly simmering Sin City by Robert Rodriquez. From the REAL cyberpunk masterpiece that is Blade Runner and Wild Palms to the tawdry drivel that is the Matrix trilogy, pulp fiction exists in almost all forms of fiction.

So what exactly is "neo-pulp?" Well, the way I see is that one takes the sensibilities of cliffhanger serials, hardened pot-boilers, cracking good ripping yarns of masked men and evil scientists and apply a liberal dose of modern thought. Taking the literary gentrification disease that are "techno-thrillers" for example and crap like that, smacking hard it across the face with a roscoe.

Miss Zero, an associate from the online game City of Heroes has sent me this list she has found -
Further down the list, incidentally, you'll see red text. Those are things I wholly disagree.

So without further ado, I present to you... the NeoPulp Manifesto!

(revised 21/12/2006)


1. To Begin With
2. Concerning Etymology
3. Furthermore
4. Some Attempts at Definition
5. Serving Suggestions
6. Fine Tuning
7. In Conclusion
8. NeoPulp salutes those who have paved the way

1. To Begin With:

NeoPulp is not a new style of writing. It is a fusion of several well-tenured styles of writing.

NeoPulp draws liberally from the fantastic stories of this and previous centuries, a melange of mythology and popular culture (take a bit of Godzilla, a bit of Paradise Lost, some giant robots, the sexual tension of a romance novel and the Bhagavad-Gita and mix them all together), and adds to this a “literary” understanding of characters’ motivations and emotional needs.

NeoPulp embraces the clichés of pulp writing: the naïve superscience of B-movies, the nefarious underworld criminal mastermind, the lone sheriff against a town of outlaws, the young woman torn between love for a mysterious stranger and respect for her fiancée, and the mad god bent on destruction, and examines them closely in an attempt to find - or try - something novel: a subversion, an inversion, a juxtaposition, a statement about the human condition.

NeoPulp is born of a love and admiration for the flawed nature of pulp culture; it is not an exercise in poking fun at the plot and character shortcomings that are endemic to pulp. Such things are obvious and have been done to death. Rather, NeoPulp attempts to create a real and sympathetic portrait of these bizarre and self-contradictory characters and situations.

NeoPulp fuses the legacy of romantic, realist, post-modern and modernist writing with popular culture entities such as B-movies, comics, television, pop music and airport novels.

NeoPulp places realistically-defined characters into fantastic situations. It avoids the two-dimensional characterisation of pulp fiction while embracing every aspect of its subject material.

NeoPulp takes what is great about pulp fiction - the action, the sense of adventure and danger, the exploration of strange and fascinating ideas - and combines it with what is great about contemporary fiction - sophisticated understanding of characterisation and an awareness of and a willingness to draw upon literary history.

NeoPulp stands opposed to the tendency to pigeonhole writing as one or another kind of genre or sub-genre.

NeoPulp is not restricted to one medium. NeoPulp occurs in poetry, short stories and novels alike. It occurs in comics, song lyrics, movies and television. NeoPulp transcends genre boundaries; it likewise transcends boundaries of medium.

NeoPulp lacks the po-faced portentousness of contemporary genre fiction.

NeoPulp is fun without being stupid.

NeoPulp is not aimed at a specific demographic.

NeoPulp is for anyone who enjoys reading.

2. Concerning Etymology:

The “Neo” of NeoPulp refers to NeoPulp’s tendency to use distinctive elements of contemporary popular culture. This is not to say that NeoPulp can only be set in the present. It is merely to imply that the sensibilities of NeoPulp tend toward the contemporary.

The “Pulp” of NeoPulp acknowledges the progenitors of this kind of writing: the authors who have worked within various genre fields and gone largely unacknowledged by people other than highly specialised groups of fans.

3. Furthermore:

It is a widely acknowledged fact that all manifestoes contain within them a series of outrageous and dubious claims. Here then is such a claim that may be freely associated with NeoPulp:

"The current trend toward 'realist' fiction has created a reading public who simply look for the most accurate reflection of themselves in what they read. They hold a mirror to themselves with the books that they choose. This is an intolerably narrow standpoint. NeoPulp challenges the idea that this is all that people want. It stimulates the imagination and the sense of adventure, the sense of humour, the sense of fun, the sense of amazement in a way that is beyond the capabilities of 'realist' fiction."

Another requisite element of manifestoes is a somewhat pompous and slightly incoherent rant about the purpose and future of the movement:


4. Some Attempts at Definition:

The most important clarification is to point out what NeoPulp isn’t. This will allow an understanding of what NeoPulp is.

NeoPulp is not horror, although elements of horror are present in NeoPulp, such as zombies, vampires, serial killers and haunted houses.

NeoPulp is not fantasy, although elements of fantasy are present in NeoPulp, such as magic, Gods, mythological characters and certain character archetypes such as the warrior and the wise man.

NeoPulp is not science fiction, although elements of science fiction are present in NeoPulp, such as advanced technologies (eg robots, cloning, teleportation devices) and alien races.

NeoPulp is not realism, although elements of realism are present in NeoPulp, such as sophisticated portrayals of the psychological profiles of characters depicted, and aspects of the mundane world (eg the need for employment, desire to be entertained, governmental restrictions, a narrative understanding of the consequences of actions…)

• Most importantly, NeoPulp is not satire. The subject matter which NeoPulp draws from is undeniably flawed in many ways. To point out these flaws would be an easy and redundant matter. Instead NeoPulp attempts to respond to these flaws in a different way, utilising them as the underpinning of a re-interpretation of pulp fiction conventions that is sympathetic to its protagonists, rather than cynical, critical or dismissive.

5. Serving Suggestions:

NeoPulp draws on various sources for its iconography and archetypes, including (but not restricted to) comics, pop-songs, mythology, B-movies, epic poetry, cartoons, romance novels, westerns, television and fairytales. The following are examples of NeoPulp archetypes.

a) The goddess suffering an existential crisis.
b) Philosophical musings of the radioactive dinosaur.
c) The robot in love with the evil robot it was designed to destroy.
d) The internal politics of a superhero team.
e) The childhood reminiscences of the astronaut monkey.
f) The broken-hearted ex-sheriff with a time machine.
g) Frankenstein runs for President.
h) Vishnu joins the space program.
i) The ex-commando private eye is diagnosed with cancer.

These are not held up as proscriptive examples, merely a taste of what is possible within the ambit of NeoPulp (see point 8, "NeoPulp salutes those who have paved the way" for more examples).

6. Fine Tuning

Since its inception, NeoPulp has encountered several well-meaning misinterpretations of its fundamental characteristics. The following are intended to correct common misconceptions regarding whether or not a piece of writing is truly NeoPulp:

NeoPulp always contains a significant amount of recognisable, tangible elements drawn directly from the contemporary culture of the authors of NeoPulp stories.

NeoPulp is more than the simple name-dropping of obvious popular culture icons for the sake of humour or nostalgia. A key element of NeoPulp is a considered and creative approach to the consequences of the structural inadequacies of pulp writing.

NeoPulp is not deliberately constructed as an allegorical story-telling form. Thinly-disguised concepts that "stand in" for contemporary social situations are unnecessary in NeoPulp. The social situations themselves can be used in NeoPulp stories.

• It is acknowledged that NeoPulp bears a striking resemblance to postmodernism, but its dialectic is more concerned with the interplay between "high" and "low" culture than it is with the interplay between the past and the present.

7. In Conclusion:

It should be pointed out at this time that, as with most manifestoes, the use-by date on the NeoPulp Manifesto is rather close. By the time the reader reaches this point of the NeoPulp Manifesto, the manifesto itself will have become obsolete.

8. NeoPulp salutes those who have paved the way.

The writers of the following texts are presently unaware of the existence of the NeoPulp manifesto. Many of these texts predate the manifesto's existence. Regardless, the following is a list of exemplary NeoPulp writing, to be used as a benchmark indicating the form's potential.


• Steven Sherrill - The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break
• Michael Moorcock -
The Cornelius Quartet
• Kirstin Bakis -
Lives of the Monster Dogs
• Earl Mac Raunch -
Buckaroo Banzai
• Jan Lars Jensen -
Shiva 3000
• Stephen Dobyns -
Heat Death


• Ben Kooyman - Hamlet vs. Faustus (new addition)
• Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba - Casanova (new addition)
• Alan Moore –
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
• Elizabeth Watasin –
Charm School
• Warren Ellis –
• Grant Morrison -
The Invisibles
• Ann Nocenti -
• Jill Thompson -
Scary Godmother
Benjamin Birdie - Genre City

(Doctor Lighting -What nonsense... music?)

• The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
• The Buggles -
The Age of Plastic
• Devo -
Duty Now for the Future (esp. "Secret Agent Man" & "Smart Patrol")
• Laurie Anderson -
Mister Heartbreak
Batboy the Musical

film and television

(Doctor Lightning - Buffy? Bill Murray? I think not. Though his film The Man who knew too little would be much more appropiate)

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (film) (new addition)
Firefly/Serenity (TV/movie) (new addition)
Bubba-Ho-Tep (film)
Heat Vision and Jack (television pilot)
Amateur (film)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV)
Evil Dead III: Army of Darkness (film)

Truly an insightful piece of information. Follow the guidelines and soon you too will be able to understand.

This is Doctor Lightning signing off...

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