Ok, I have to preface this with a bit of American history. In the early 20th century, young authors kept flesh on bone by writing short stories and sending them to magazines. Entire magazines were dedicated to these stories, and were supported by advertising. To increase profits, the magazine owners used the absolute cheapest paper they could get their hands on, the nastiest wood pulp out there. For that reason, the stories in them were often called pulp fiction. Sometimes the paper was so bad that it wouldn’t stay paper, it just crumbled. So they’d buy old rags and shred them and throw them in the mix to give the paper something to bond to. Hence, the magazines were often called rags.
Some pretty famous authors got their start writing pulp fiction. Louis L’Amour wrote hundreds of short stories, and his son has been re-releasing them in collections for years now. Isaac Asimov is another, having his first published work appear in a rag at the age of 17. Pulp ficiton magazines tended to be very genre specific. There were some that were just literary collections, but in general there were westerns, sci-fi, romance, etc.
After World War II, pulp fiction magazine started to fade away. They were always on a shoe-string budget, and it didn’t take much to push them over the edge. Joel Davis of Davis publications knew that in order for them to survive at all, they needed to have widely known names attached to them. He’d already made Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and it worked well. He wanted a science fiction rag, and who better to contact than Issac Asimov?
A couple weeks ago, I bought my very first pulp fiction ever, Vol 29, number 36 of Asimov’s Science Fiction.
It’s a combination of stories, poetry, and commentary. The commentary was particularly interesting, because one of the two articles was devoted to censorship in literature, focusing on a specific event in Grandville MI. For those who don’t know, that’s very close to where I live. Apparently a young girl picked it at random from a reading list (where it had been mis-labeled "children’s literature") and took it home. Her mother was outraged that her daughter was able to obtain such filth at school.
Now, there are sexual references even in the issue I got. There’s some violence, and I suspect in other issues, drug use. But none of it is depicted explicitly, and in true sci-fi form, these subjects are struggled with philosophically. One character is a lesbian, but there are no lesbian trysts; rather, she visits a planet where it’s illegal on moral grounds, and the author has characters on both sides of the morality issue.
The poetry didn’t do much for me. I think I have picky tastes in poetry, and sci-fi poetry tends to be a little "out there".
The stories were good. Apparently they tend to have one larger story, and several relatively short stories. This issues stories dealt with reality, human/mutant relations in a post apolcolyptic world, human sexuality and faith, and the future of Christianity. The Christianity story felt very much like the author had a very low opinion of Christianity, but at the same time did not rule out God’s hand in the "miracle" that occurs.
The longer story blends ancient Nepalese culture and religion and futurism. Titled The Little Goddess, the author follows a young girl through being a Goddess (a tradition that exists today) through adulthood in a time when technology is far far advanced from today. It’s placed in both Nepal and India, and those places are not much different from the way they are today, yet infused with amazing technology like artificial intelligence devices that can fit in your ear.
On the whole, I enjoyed the issue. It wasn’t amazing, but then each issue changes authors, so the next one might be. But then, it might totally suck too.