Book Review: The Pulp Mindset: A NewPub Survival Guide by JD Cowan

If you’re wondering what this “pulprev” and “newpub” stuff I keep writing about on this blog is, JD Cowan has you covered. Cowan is no stranger to this blog, and is a fine author of exciting fiction, but with The Pulp Mindset he’s created an excellent, essential primer to the world of NewPub and what those looking to independent writers in the digital age need to understand.

The Pulp Mindset is not writing guide, though I have no doubt Cowan could write a book packed with useful tips and techniques. What this book will do is help get you to think like a NewPub writer, and that means going back to the golden days of early twentieth-century pulp.

Cowan defines “pulp,” of course, walking us through the history of the genre, its luminaries, and those wonderful publications which thrilled readers for decades. He then dissects what makes a pulp story pulp, and why these elements are important to combat the morally ambiguous and unexciting gray sludge coming out of modern writers pens. These elements are ACTION and WONDER.

And besides these mechanical elements, which Cowan elaborates on, he also drills down to the most important aspect of being a NewPub author: WRITE WHAT YOUR AUDIENCE WANTS. And that is good guys being awesome and defeating bad guys. No moral equivalence or relativism. No nihilism and despair. Just kick-ass action, despicable villains, with lots of weird and wild obstacles thrown in our protagonist’s ways. 

Oh yeah–Cowan also gets into what makes a pulp hero. 

Nobody reads anymore. As Cowan states, this is in large part because the writers in the OldPub industry do not write for their audience. Many write for themselves. Some, in fact, seem to hate their readers. Many use subversion and twists as an ego trip to show off how clever they are and not to entertain.

OldPub hated the pulps because they stood in the way of said ego trips. As you’ll read in The Pulp Mindset, a small cadre of writers and critics decided that fiction should not entertain, but should teach. Pulps and their popularity were then scrubbed from the pages of history and derided as trashy, violent, and simplistic when nothing could be further from the truth.

Read The Pulp Mindset, learn which old authors and magazines you need to read and learn from, and then get out there and write. Join the revolution


My own pulp-inspired work can be found here.

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