The pulp science fiction renaissance has begun. Edgar Rice Burroughs and E.E. "Doc" Smith both have Hollywood blockbusters in the pipeline. The Burroughs-inspired Avatar broke DVD sales records. But can today's creators update pulp storylines without including the cultural baggage?
Old-school pulp storytelling is a thing of wonder and fascination. It's hard not to be swept away by the inventiveness and narrative energy of writers like Burroughs and Smith, whose stories are epic and larger than life. You can read the first John Carter novel, A Princess Of Mars, online, and you'll easily find yourself looking up from your screen and realizing that an hour has passed while you've been caught up in reading about the Tharks' weird sense of humor, and battles with four-armed apes. At the same time, these works are a product of their times, and some wrong shit does tend to come up.
Just in the last couple of days we've had reason to think about this. First, there was the news that a Belgian court was considering banning a 1930 Tintin comic, Tintin in the Congo, for its insanely racist depictions of African people. Here's a sample: