Looks like we'll finally get that space war every pulp fan craves.
We're always on the lookout for modern pulp, and this, ladies and gentlemen, fits the bill perfectly. These are the newly revealed Jetsonesque logos for the U.S.'s pending Space Force, a sure-to-be trillion dollar boondoggle that should finally do the trick of fiscally smashing the country wide open like a ceramic piggy bank. But forget that for now, and forget the horror of space war, and the radiation and the melty skin and the mutations that leave us with eyestalks, and forget the terrifying fact that it's not enough for humanity to fight over a speck of dust in an immeasurably vast cosmic void without fighting over the cold, inhospitable void itself. Forget all that because these logos are fuckin' sweet!
The retro-futuristic uniformity of these can't be an accident. It happened due to presidential oversight, beyond a doubt. And even if it didn't, he'll take credit. Where were we when the government came looking for logo designs? Oh, right—not in the U.S. Well, that's too bad for us, because if we'd gotten this logo gig we'd have charged thirty thousand per and we'd be using the resultant pile of cash to buy beachfront in Bora Bora right now. And we'd party like it's 1999 until the rising waters washed it all away. Oh well. We missed that boat, but maybe we'll catch the next one, and it'll be a starboat, and we'll soar up and away, as Sinatra sings, “In la-la-land there's a one-man band... and he'll toot his flute for you... come fly with me, fly with me... let's take off in the blue...”
They do vote! By the millions! And only for Democrats!
We couldn't resist a comment on the recent election. Generally we keep Pulp Intl. a politics-lite zone, but every once in a while a book cover or movie pushes us in that direction, and today's has done that. Out here in the reality based world here's what the facts show: there haven't been even a hundred verified cases of voter impersonation in the U.S. since the year 2000, and of course impersonation is the only type of fraud the voter ID laws so many conservative lawmakers are pushing would prevent. So when a law is designed to stop a handful of lawbreakers (thirty-one in fifteen years according to one extensive study, which statistically is almost 0%) at cost of the rights of millions of people, we can safely call these laws attempts to suppress the vote. At least, in the real world we can do that.
But the lies around voter impersonation continue to grow—we now hear of 3 million illegal votes cast in 2016, people bused from one state to another, etc. All of this taking place, of course, with no paper or digital trail, no sign of organization at any level, no flow of money, not a single person out of those millions willing to blow the whistle on the plot, and—most crucially and ridiculously—no suggestion that a single one of these alleged fraudsters voted Republican (Trump: “If you look at it they all voted for Hillary."). Meanwhile, absent actual evidence, the besmirching of the electoral system continues. It deserves to be besmirched, of course, but because of the ridiculous choices on offer, not because of fantasies of systemic fraud. Yet conservative politicians cynically keep trying to generate mistrust. They're playing a dangerous game, and if they keep it up there will be serious consequences down the road.
If you've visited Pulp Intl. a lot you know we've spent time in some gnarly corners of the planet. Here's how it goes: first, all losses are contested, even losses by millions of votes, and orderly transitions of power fail to occur. Second, violence at polling places becomes commonplace. Third, election seasons become destabilizing events, often requiring a police presence, which suppresses the votes of marginalized communities. Fourth, economic and diplomatic activity suffers as the country is perceived by the international community to be a bad place for investment. And mixed in throughout are the passing of laws ostensibly designed to fix the system, but really meant to consolidate power. The cycle, once established, repeats and worsens. If you think it can't happen, consider that The Economist—that hive of leftwing villainy and scum—recently downgraded the U.S. from a “full” to a “flawed” democracy.
That's our missive from the factual universe, to be heeded or ignored as you please. Stiffs Don't Vote has nothing to do with any of that, not directly, anyway. There's a crooked political campaign involved, but the story actually deals with an axe murder investigated by the heroes Humphrey Campbell and Oscar Morgan. The book was originally titled Forty Whacks, referencing the famed Lizzie Borden rhyme, and the murder in the story constantly makes the protagonists think of Borden. The copyright on this Bantam edition is 1947, and the unusual cover art was painted by Hy Rubin, who we've never featured before, but will again, if this is any indication of his talent. We'll see what we can dig up.
French artist Jacques Puiseux spins us round with his pulp influenced vinyl art.
Pulp Intl. friend Jacques Puiseux staged a gallery show earlier this autumn and e-mailed over a few of his pulp influenced pieces. The exhibition was in Aup, a small town in the French Provence region, and Jacques' trompe l’œil pin-ups mimicking vinyl records managed to draw the attention of local feminists, female and male, who staged a protest concerning objectification of the female body. Apparently, they compared his work to the famed Pirelli calendars and said Jacques was almost as bad as Donald Trump.
Pulp Intl. would doubtless likewise be labeled sexist by these particular protesters, but of course a pulp history website could hardly fail to be. We would simply suggest that appreciation for beauty, whether male or female, is not inherently exploitative. While many feminists are actually quite vocal in their appreciation of beauty and sex (personified by the new wave of woman centered porn websites), a subset seem to believe that any male expression of appreciation for female beauty is a form of violence.
As we've mentioned before, since 99.9% of humans came into being through an act of sex, and sex drives our existence, biologically speaking, it follows that it's unreasonable to expect it not to be on people's minds much of the time. We're all wired that way. And since it is on people's minds, those thoughts and desires will be expressed. We agree there's a best and worst way to do it, and that a refusal should be taken at face value, and that safety is paramount, but we disagree that any expression of sexual interest by an unknown male toward a unknown female is wrong.
The feminist cause is right and moral, but we don't imagine the coming world as one in which women are never looked at by unknown men as sexual beings, or approached by unknown men at bars or parties, or complimented on their beauty by unknown men. We imagine a world in which those things happen and it goes only as far as a woman's consent permits. That might be no farther than a few exchanged words, but conversely it might go all the way to someone's bed for a lovely night. Doesn't that sound like a fun world?
Jacques, we think, would agree. He's a guy who thinks women are beautiful and that interest comes out in his art, as it has for countless other artists and always will. He also likes pulp, et voilà—what you get is what he's done above and below. We really like these, and they fit nicely into our conception of modern pulp. You can see a few more Puiseux pulp stylings at this link, and feel free to check out more of his record-like creations at the tumblr page Vinyles Passion.
Politics turn out to be hell—literally.
The Hell Candidate, which was written by Graham Masterton using the pseudonym Thomas Luke, first appeared in bookstores in July 1980. Ronald Reagan, who unwittingly provided Luke with inspiration, became the Republican nominee for president the same month. The book did well, but was almost forgotten until recently. In the last few months we've seen completely worn copies of the paperback version for sale online for $150. We got ours for $13 because, fortunately, not everyone researches book prices before they post them on an auction site. Why do people suddenly want to read The Hell Candidate again? Well, it has to do with the campaign of a certain Donald J. Trump. While the parallels are interesting and terrifying, the important aspect of the book is that it deals with contemporary American politics. Its lesson is that horrible candidates appear because voters secretly like them. Do we agree? Not entirely. But considering how useless most U.S. political candidates are, it's a point worth consideration.
The basic idea in The Hell Candidate is that an otherwise affable politician of moderately conservative bent named Hunter Peal is possessed by Satan and becomes a profane, warmongering, sexually violent monster. His aides and friends are horrified by the change in his personality and are sure he's doomed to flame out on the campaign trail, but a strange thing happens—the American people love him. His promises of violent action against foreign enemies and unrestrained plenty on the home front propel him closer and closer to the Oval Office. His promises are impossible. They're simply a means to power. But they keep working. From his early campaign stops in the sticks to massive rallies in major cities, candidate Peal utilizes doublespeak, tricks, illusions, and tortures to rise onto political center stage. He's beyond ruthless. Early in the book he rapes his wife eight times in one night—and admits it with pride. Later he dispatches a debate opponent by magically afflicting him with diarrhea. Yeah, it's that kind of book.
Could such a story really be worth reading? We think so. There's real terror, and some moments of insight, like this one:
“Suddenly you're prepared to rationalize all those weird things you saw at Allen's Corners, and suddenly you're prepared to rationalize the fact that good old Hunter Peal has turned into a raving rightwing fascist [snip] and you know why? Because you're like every other creep around every other presidential candidate. If the candidate looks like he's winning then you'll forgive him anything. Rape, murder, fraud—anything.”
“Hunter isn't guilty of any of those things.”
“He raped his wife didn't he?”
While The Hell Candidate is unambiguously a political allegory of at least minor historical significance, and it's also a unique horror novel, it's additionally an early-to-mid example of transgressive fiction—in fact a defining example, though it's never appeared on a list of such books we've ever seen. But consider—transgressive fiction deals with characters who break free of perceived social norms in violent, sexual, or illicit ways, and such characters often seem mentally ill or nihilistic. Hunter Peal, once possessed, pointedly destroys all boundaries of socially acceptable behavior through repeated acts of profanity, depravity, cruelty, and shockingly lethal violence. Meanwhile other characters spend ample time misunderstanding his satanic nature, instead discussing whether he's merely gone insane.
It's similar in some ways to American Psycho—a landmark transgressive book critics mostly failed to understand. Peal becomes an embodiment of America's impulses toward violence in the same way Patrick Bateman becomes an embodiment of runaway capitalism. The books are also similar in that their violence is so vivid that merely reading it can make you feel complicit. That Peal's victims are sometimes forced through mind control to respond to his blood-drenched brutality as though they're in the throes of sexual ecstasy will do a number on your head. But this is the Devil we're talking about. Such sexualized hyperviolence fits—at least in terms of how he's conceptualized in Western lore. Masterton pulls no punches. The Hell Candidate is visceral, pornographic, and utterly enervating, often terrible to experience, but a modern pulp masterpiece.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1954—Joseph McCarthy Disciplined by Senate
In the United States, after standing idly by during years of communist witch hunts in Hollywood and beyond, the U.S. Senate votes 65 to 22 to condemn Joseph McCarthy for conduct bringing the Senate into dishonor and disrepute. The vote ruined McCarthy's career.
1955—Rosa Parks Sparks Bus Boycott
In the U.S., in Montgomery, Alabama, seamstress Rosa Parks refuses to give her bus seat to a white man and is arrested for violating the city's racial segregation laws, an incident which leads to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott resulted in a crippling financial deficit for the Montgomery public transit system, because the city's African-American population were the bulk of the system's ridership.
1936—Crystal Palace Gutted by Fire
In London, the landmark structure Crystal Palace, a 900,000 square foot glass and steel exhibition hall erected in 1851, is destroyed by fire. The Palace had been moved once and fallen into disrepair, and at the time of the fire was not in use. Two water towers survived the blaze, but these were later demolished, leaving no remnants of the original structure.
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