Sunday, December 20, 2015

Evidence #836: Pulp SF Has Returned

Every once and a while I like to take a screenshot of the books available for review on NetGalley as a kind of cross section of the state of genre. Long story short, it's not looking good.  No less than five pairs of oiled pecs, some with animals, and somehow only one with a sword-wielding girl superimposed over a generic ethereum.  And the titles, Forbidden Dance, Iron Dominance, Shadow Rites, it's like low budget, straight to television film...  I'm feeling nauseated...


  1. It's a pretty dire selection, has been for most of the year. But to be honest, I'd label a lot of this stuff as modern day bodice-rippers -- it's not really pulp SFF, it's more pulp romance, a lot of urban fantasy/supernatural romance represented here. Maybe that's where the genre is going in a post-Twilight world, but I'm not sure that glancing at NetGalley gives you the beating pulse of science fiction or fantasy... There's a lot of smaller presses here, who need publicity via NetGalley a lot more than DAW or Tor do. I remember reading a forum years ago where indie publishers and self-published authors speculated about NetGalley and book blogging, namely that a large percent of bloggers using it were women who read mostly fantasy-romance and YA, and it was detrimental to post books not in those categories. (In terms of quantity/quality of reviews they'd receive, which the small press and self-published folks were already having trouble with. There was also a fiery debate about how many lost sales would come from three star reviews. Wish I could find that forum again.) I'd like to see numbers backing that up, but some days it sure feels that way.

    Really though, have you looked on Goodreads or Amazon to see some glorious output from fellow professional reviewers? A lot of those indie authors felt gypped by the reviews they got, and having seen plenty of single-sentence I-hated-its and didn't-read-it-so-I-recapped-the-blurbs, for major releases, it makes me wonder about the site. You didn't like Ambrose Bierce because the writing was "old-fashioned"? You didn't like the horror novel because you didn't notice it was a horror novel? Maybe I'm bitter, but there's an awful lot of lowest common denominators out there.

    1. Supernatural pulp, paranormal pulp, urban fantasy pulp, supernatural romance pulp - it all fits into pulp sf&f to me. And as much as I'd like to disown myself from that portion of genre, I have to accept it on pedantic grounds. An interesting point to me is that literary fiction has significantly less trouble keeping the riff-raff out. It's almost a self-policing entity. The content is usually sophisticated enough to drive away the lowest common denominator, not to mention most people who enjoy literary fiction are also capable of writing considered opinion, which is another turn-off for many low-level readers. Sf&f, on the other hand, is incapable of policing itself. Any story can be made into sf&f with the inclusion of a yet possible/impossible element - as evidenced by the shit pictured above. As you're well aware, it forces the informed sf&f reader to be very discriminating reading reviews. For you and I, goodreads and Amazon are a last resort, whereas for readers of the stuff above, it may be the first.

      So, you're right, my usage of the term cross-section was reactionary. The books above are not fully representative of sf&f, but I still feel they go a long way toward representing a significant, significant portion of genre as of 2015. One weekend while at university, there was a massive rain storm, so massive it blew the city's infrastructure to pieces, causing manholes to pop and sewage to mix with stormwater and pool on the streets. I can't think of a better analogy for the state of genre today...