I’m going to range a bit, so let’s not bury the lede: today is Michael Moorcock’s 75th birthday. The image topping this post is a random assortment of covers for books that he has written. Books that were highly influential to me as a kid. That are still influencing me now. Thank you, sir. I hope there are many more to come.
I’ve been wanting to write something about the pulps for a little while now. Dean Wesley Smith wrote a blog post a little while back called “Pulp Speed,” wherein he breaks down some numbers for varying speeds of what he calls pulp writing. Let’s be honest. Anything these days that is falling into the category of Indie Publishing Put Food on the Table can probably be short-handed as “pulp.” And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Food on the table is a good thing. When all is said and done, my recent forays into traditional publishing haven’t been stellar in getting more contracts to fall into my lap, but that’s probably due to my lack of eager follow-through as much as anything else. (And I’ve been busy with bootstrapping Resurrection House over the last year.) All of which is to say: yes, pulp writing; let’s do some of that.
Michael Moorcock, over the years, has been outspoken about the pace at which he wrote some of his early books. Many of those haven’t aged well for me (rather, I think I’ve aged out of them), but there is undeniably a time and place and audience for those sorts of books. The fact that they’ve managed to survive at all (and still be in print) is certainly a testament to the underlying energy of Mr. Moorcock’s writing and imagination. Did you know that the origin of the names for the ancient gods of Granbretan (from the Hawkmoon books) are none other than the Beatles? Yeah, totally missed that when I was a kid. Now? It strikes me as a funny riff grabbed out of the ether by a writer who is plowing hard on a deadline. Like, “started on Friday, done by Sunday” sort of deadline.
They call this a working job, I hear. The sort you show up for and spend eight hours or more a day for. Crazy talk, I know. But hours worked = content created = money from readers. It’s pretty straight forward, isn’t it? Once upon a time, we used to ask ourselves whether we’d want be read in academia or be read by millions of paying readers. I was young then, and answered that I’d prefer the recognition offered by academia. So young; so foolish. Nowadays, the lure of the paying reader is mighty strong.
On this occasion of Mr. Moorcock’s 75th birthday, it’s worth noting that this is nothing new. The Paperback Fanatic, a zine out of the UK dedicated to the pulps of the ’60s and ’70s, has been cataloging the back in the day equivalent to the frenzied ebook market of these last few years. It’s still a content creator’s market, really. The trick is, as always, making content.
I’d like to do a little of that in 2015. It seems like a good year to make some books. I’ve got some good role models to follow.