The Pulp Magazine Archive Lets You Read Thousands of Digitized Issues of Classic Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Detective Fiction

Pulp Fic­tion will like­ly hold up gen­er­a­tions from now, but the res­o­nance of its title may already be lost to his­to­ry. Pulp mag­a­zines, or “the pulps,” as they were called, once held spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance for lovers of adven­ture sto­ries, detec­tive and sci­ence fic­tion, and hor­ror and fan­ta­sy. Acquir­ing the name from the cheap paper on which they were print­ed, pulp mag­a­zines might be said, in large part, to have shaped the pop cul­ture of our con­tem­po­rary world, pub­lish­ing respect­ed authors like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne and many an unknown new­com­er, some of whom became house­hold names (in cer­tain hous­es), like Isaac Asi­mov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Philip K. Dick.

Begin­ning in the late 19th cen­tu­ry, the pulps opened up the pub­lish­ing space that became flood­ed with com­ic books and pop­u­lar nov­els like those of Stephen King and Michael Crich­ton in the lat­ter half of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry.

They var­ied wide­ly in qual­i­ty and sub­ject mat­ter but all share cer­tain pre­oc­cu­pa­tions. Sex­u­al taboos are explored in their naked essence or through var­i­ous genre devices. Mon­sters, aliens, and oth­er fea­tures of the “weird” pre­dom­i­nate, as do the fore­run­ners of DC and Marvel’s super­hero empires in char­ac­ters like the Shad­ow and the Phan­tom Detec­tive.

Unlike high­er-rent “slicks” or “glossies,” pulp mag­a­zines had license to go places respectable pub­li­ca­tions feared to tread. Genre fic­tion now spawns mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar fran­chis­es, one after anoth­er, purged of much of the pulps’ sala­cious con­tent. But pag­ing through the thou­sands of back issues avail­able at the Pulp Mag­a­zine Archive will give you a sense of just how out­ré such mag­a­zines once were—a qual­i­ty that sur­vived in the under­ground comics and zines of the 60s and beyond and in genre tabloids like Scream Queens.

The enor­mous archive con­tains thou­sands of dig­i­tized issues of such titles as If, True Detec­tive Mys­ter­ies, Witch­craft and Sor­cery, Weird Tales, Uncen­sored Detec­tive, Cap­tain Billy’s Whiz Bang, and Adven­ture (“Amer­i­ca’s most excit­ing fic­tion for men!”). It also fea­tures ear­ly celebri­ty rags like Movie Pic­to­r­i­al and Hush Hush, and ret­ro­spec­tives like Dirty Pic­tures, a 1990s com­ic reprint­ing the often quite misog­y­nist pulp art of the 30s.

There’s great sci­ence fic­tion, no small amount of creepy teen boy wish-ful­fill­ment, and lots of lurid, noir appeals to fan­tasies of sex and vio­lence. Swords and sor­cery, guns and trussed-up pin-ups, and plen­ty of crea­ture fea­tures. The pulps were once mass culture’s id, we might say, and they have now become its ego.

Enter the Pulp Mag­a­zine Archive here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load Issues of “Weird Tales” (1923–1954): The Pio­neer­ing Pulp Hor­ror Mag­a­zine Fea­tures Orig­i­nal Sto­ries by Love­craft, Brad­bury & Many More

Enter a Huge Archive of Amaz­ing Sto­ries, the World’s First Sci­ence Fic­tion Mag­a­zine, Launched in 1926

Clas­sic Radio­head Songs Re-Imag­ined as a Sci-Fi Book, Pulp Fic­tion Mag­a­zine & Oth­er Nos­tal­gic Arti­facts

Free: 355 Issues of Galaxy, the Ground­break­ing 1950s Sci­ence Fic­tion Mag­a­zine

Isaac Asi­mov Recalls the Gold­en Age of Sci­ence Fic­tion (1937–1950)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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