Under the Influence: Why I Don’t Pine for Anyone Else’s Nostalgia

It’s Lester Dent’s birthday, the author best known for writing Doc Savage. So, here’s a post on the good and the bad of the pulps as I encountered them!

When I was starting out as a writer, I read a lot about influences. I’d done this as a musician, too. Who inspired Led Zep or Black Flag or Tom Waits? What ingredients helped make them who they are? Would I like them, too? Find out!

When I sold the guitar and picked up the pen, I remember wishing I’d been born in an era where I could have a childhood rich and full of pulp fiction like the Shadow, and Doc Savage, or dime novel westerns or Lone Ranger radio serials, etc. That mythic goop of junk culture that somehow rises above its failings to become entertainment and inspire young writers. After all, they’d inspired lots of writers I loved. Damn, I was born out of time!

But when I tried reading some of those old pulps, I often found them dull, boring, and never as cool as the cover art. Figured you had to read this stuff when you were a kid, to be able to put up with the mess and still enjoy the awesome hiding inside. The one exception for me was Robert E. Howard, but I’ve talked enough about old Two Gun Bob. Needless to say, I love the idea of the Shadow more than reading the original stuff. Sorry, pulp purists! I’ll return my decoder ring in the mail.

It was a good day when I realized I had enough junk culture in my closet to use as fodder for stories, that I wasn’t beholden to Harlan Ellison or Joe Lansdale’s childhood influences. Instead of wishing I’d grown up watching hammer horror on the big screen, or listening to horse operas, I just rekindled my love of the mythic goop in my own past: punk rock, comics, and wrestling! And as far as I’m concerned, Ric Flair can kick the Shadow’s ass any day of the week. WHOOOOO!

That said, I’m glad the pulps exist. They gave birth to the comic book industry and made a lasting impact in the world of mythic and iconic storytelling. So, cheers to Lester Dent and his kin. You were ground breakers and trailblazers, so thanks for all the hard work, which helped create much of the greasy kid stuff I love.



About ridlerville

Jason S. Ridler is a historian, writer, and improv actor. He is the author of A TRIUMPH FOR SAKURA, BLOOD AND SAWDUST, the Spar Battersea thrillers and has published over sixty stories in such magazines and anthologies as The Big Click, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Out of the Gutter, and more. He also writes the column FXXK WRITING! for Flash Fiction Online. A former punk rock musician and cemetery groundskeeper, Mr. Ridler holds a Ph.D. in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada. He lives in Richmond, CA. Visit him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jason.ridler.56
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2 Responses to Under the Influence: Why I Don’t Pine for Anyone Else’s Nostalgia

  1. Doc Riddler,

    As counterpoint let me point out that I did indeed grow up with those ancient influences, because my father provided me with a bookshelf stuffed with pulps and told me I could read anything I liked. I took a different pulp to bed every night when I was a kid. I had no idea the prose was wretched and that most of the ideas already hackneyed by the 1930s.

    Most of them I’ll never read again, because I don’t want my adult judgement to cloud my fond feelings.


    • ridlerville says:

      Glad you got to enjoy them during the golden age of reading (childhood). I can’t read a lot of the comics I enjoyed as a kid, but love how they gave me my first dose of mythic storytelling. Were you a Shadow or Doc Savage fanatic?

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