You can be shaped by what you will not do. I will not drink. I will not curse. I will not lose my temper.
Exclude the vices and you become other than vicious.
But “other than” is not enough. The bad is a privation of the good; but the good is not a privation of the bad. You must also be shaped by what you do. Include the virtues and you become virtuous.
We all know science fiction has become vicious. It is a platform for despising God, truth, men, women, and civilization. It gathers the mentally disordered and celebrates their diverse disorders. I just want to read about the defeat of killer robots and instead I must read about six-way sex on the planet Luvwyns.
As a writer I can — rightly, wisely, sanely — refuse to serve the vicious. No, I will not bash the Church. No, I will not bash masculinity. No, I will not bash the family. No, I will not bash this civilization or the people who built it.
But in some ways that is easy. It is easy enough to say I will not step in filth. The real question, the thing to ask of my stepping along, is: Quo vadis?
Whither are you going?
Without question, whither I go as a writer should be towards the virtuous. However, I don't want merely to propagandize for the good. Nothing wrong with propaganda, per se
; the Gospel is propaganda, after all. But fiction, as we all know, suffers when story is subordinated to the message. That has been a primary lesson of these past dreary years of SF. In writing, as in all art, whither
is only part of it. The more pertinent question may be: Quomodo efficis?
How are you doing it?
As you can tell from this blog post, I have a condition that might be called High-Falutinitis. My work can be overdone. Yet a virtuous work is best if it is at ease
with virtue; if it is at ease in general.
Pulp is so much at ease.
I've read a lot of commentary from the Pulp Revolution. And what have I gathered? That pulp accepts the natural order of things and just runs with it. Right; wrong. Good; evil. Men as men; women as women. Even when weird, pulp is not deviant. That doesn't mean pulp is simple-minded, or that it foregoes high artistry, or that it disallows moral ambiguity in its characters. Pulp simply starts with story and, hewing to story above all, lets virtue take care of itself; because a good story cannot be in service of the vicious.
Nihilism is never served by a rip-roaring tale.
I have been writing for a long time. I have written my share of more or less nihilistic works. To be sure, even nihilism has a place in art. If nothing else, a privation depicted (but not extolled) can inspire a healthy lament for the good that was lost. But in this age of nihilism ascendant, I've wanted to be more manifestly on the side of good. I wrote The Giant's Walk
to accept, against this age, the reality of God, but also to acknowledge how hard it is, in any age, to be on God's side. Since then, as I have watched the Pulp Revolution unfold, I have learned a forgotten lesson, an efficacious way to write on behalf of right:
Tell an exciting
Let heroes be heroic. Let villains be punched and girls be kissed! And God will inevitably be smiling in the background.
Now, you may notice that the title of this post refers to a pulp "attitude" and the subtitle to my being a "fellow traveler." I have not actually read lots of pulp and I can't claim to be among the revolutionaries. Of late, and prompted by the enthusiasm of bloggers, I've been exploring authors like Moore and Brackett and magazines like StoryHack
, but my definition of “pulp” comes primarily from those bloggers. For all I know, the Pulp Revolution is misapprehending the nature of pulp. But I don't think so. It sounds right, given my independent experience of pulp (such as Hammett and van Vogt).
And I'm being only a little
hyperbolic when I say that God smiles at pulp. It's akin to the assessment that pulp presumes a Christian worldview. It's why the Pulp and Superversive movements overlap so much. But in some ways Pulp seems the safer path, at least initially, for those trying to escape the modern modes of writing. Superversive, insofar as it consciously
rejects the subversive, risks creating its own kind of message fiction; and whatever its exemplary attitude towards wonder and grandeur, it might be a better second
step away from the modern rot.
Anyhow, I'm learning to pulp my fiction, and enjoying it.