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PulpFest 2016 Report

Posted in Conventions,PulpFest on August 1, 2016 @ 10:58 pm

The eighth annual PulpFest, held for the fourth year in downtown Columbus, Ohio’s Hyatt Regency Hotel, got off to a running start last Thursday, July 21st. Once again a fairly small but hearty group of pulp-fiction enthusiasts—more than 400, according to convention chairman Jack Cullers—from all across the country assembled to buy, sell and trade vintage books and magazines as well as audit pulp-themed solo presentations and panel discussions.

Actually, although most PulpFest attendees stayed at the Hyatt, the hotel meeting rooms we customarily occupy had been booked by a larger group that same weekend, so we were shunted rather unceremoniously into the adjoining Convention Center—an upgrade in that the massive room given over to our vendors was fronted by a wall of glass, allowing considerably more light than we’ve been used to in the Hyatt’s grand ballroom. A hundred or more dealers’ tables, along with a dozen or so round banquet tables at which attendees could sit and schmooze with fellow hobbyists, filled this space nicely while allowing wide aisles for easy passage.

pulpfest 2016 room 1

Thursday evening saw hucksters and early-bird shoppers wheeling and dealing during the evening hours, and programming got underway at 9 p.m. with presentations on Street & Smith’s second-string hero pulps and the time-travel fiction of H. G. Wells. At 10 a.m. on Friday morning the dealers room was opened to all and the festivities began in earnest.

I missed the “opening bell” because a serious attack of heart palpitations the previous evening had persuaded me to visit the emergency room of Columbus’ Grant Medical Center. The palpitations ceased about an hour after I arrived, while the doctor was still awaiting test results, but the good folks at Grant insisted I remain under observation for a day. As you can imagine, this annoyed me no end because I could visualize my fellow collectors beating me to all the good stuff in the dealers room. Since every test indicated no damage had been done, the palpitations were written off as a manifestation of accumulated stress and excess adrenaline—no doubt the result of two sleepless nights before undertaking a 12-hour drive and then rushing around in blistering heat to unload our van before dashing through the dealers room to snap up those early-bird bargains. My ticker started thumping irregularly once I sat down to relax and have dinner with friends. I’d endured the palpitations for several hours before taking a cab to Grant’s emergency room.

Released from the hospital at 2 p.m. on Friday, I lost no time returning to the Hyatt and made a beeline for the convention center. It took only a few minutes to arrange my sales stock on the Murania Press table and open for business. Sales were brisk and I picked up some nice pulps to boot.

Still seriously sleep-deprived, I took a nap after dinner on Friday and missed presentations on Philip José Farmer (have I mentioned that Farmercon is held in conjunction with PulpFest every year?) and the artists who illustrated Argosy. By the time I got down to the programming room, shortly after 9 p.m., science-fiction fan Joe Coluccio had already started his talk on Amazing Stories, the first all-science-fiction pulp magazine, whose 90th anniversary PulpFest celebrated this year.

Joe was followed by my good friend Laurie Powers, whose power-point presentation on Love Story Magazine and its famous editor, Daisy Bacon, was one of the weekend’s highlights. Laurie has been researching Bacon for several years now, preparatory to writing a long-overdue biography of this highly influential pulp-fiction personage, and she presented wonderful information along with rare photos of Daisy.

Novelist and pulp scholar Will Murray was to have discussed Western Story Magazine after Laurie’s talk, but pressing family matters kept him from attending the con. My old pal and traveling companion Walker Martin, possibly the only collector to have a nearly complete file of Western Story (lacking less than a dozen issues of the 1285 published between 1919 and 1949), joined me in substituting for Will. I can’t honestly say it was one of my finest presentations, because I’d not had time to prepare and by this time had not slept in three nights (having gotten not a wink in the hospital). But Walker and I muddled through reasonably well under the circumstances.

Me saying something semi-profound while Walker listens bemusedly.

Me saying something semi-profound while Walker listens bemusedly.

Saturday was another fun day. I sold more Murania product and did a little more shopping. PulpFest’s daytime programming is largely given over to the “New Fictioneers” contingent of writers turning out books in the classic pulp style. PulpFest regulars Ron Fortier and Win Scott Eckert, joined by several comrades, held forth on “Writing Hero Pulp” and read from their works. I’m always scurrying around the dealers room during PulpFest afternoons but one of these years I’m going to sit in on the New Pulp events.

Saturday evening’s program began with the annual business meeting, during which it was revealed that the Hyatt was no longer interested in hosting our convention on the grounds that their spacious facility could be more profitably rented to larger groups that, presumably, would book more sleeping rooms and spend more money in the hotel lounge and restaurant. Chairman Jack Cullers vowed to begin immediately the search for a new venue, in Columbus if possible but perhaps elsewhere in Ohio or a neighboring state.

After the meeting, convention committee member Barry Traylor presented this year’s Munsey Award to the aforementioned Laurie Powers. The Munsey (named for the publisher of the first pulp periodical, The Argosy) is given to an individual whose efforts—in writing, research, and/or publishing—have helped keep the spirit of the pulps alive for generations not yet born when the last rough-paper magazines disappeared from newsstands. Laurie joined our community as a result of her deeply personal mission to revive interest in her grandfather, the legendarily prolific Paul S. Powers, whose yarns filled the pages of Street & Smith’s Wild West Weekly from 1928 to 1943. Her labors on his behalf, along with her research on Daisy Bacon, certainly entitled her to this year’s award, and everybody agreed that she was the perfect choice.

Doug Ellis, super-collector and chairman of the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention, did a terrific presentation celebrating Argosy‘s 120th birthday, showing dozens of covers from the magazine’s history. This was followed by the annual auction, conducted by Adventure House’s John Gunnison with his usual panache. Many great deals were to be had, but not by me: I bid on close to 20 lots but only won two.

As things wound down on Sunday morning, I made a few last-minute sales before closing up shop at the Murania table. I’d brought close to 70 pieces and was going home with just four. Not bad.

Unexpected hospital visit notwithstanding, I had a great time at this year’s PulpFest. Thanks go to chairman Jack Cullers and his family, committee members Mike Chomko, Barry Traylor, Chuck Welch, Bill Lampkin, and all the other volunteers who work so hard all year round to make this convention such an enjoyable event. Here’s hoping the search for a new venue bears fruit soon!

Another view of the dealers room.  Photos by William Lampkin.

Another view of the dealers room. Photos by William Lampkin.


457 thoughts on “PulpFest 2016 Report

  1. Pingback: Yellowed Perils | PulpFest 2016 reports

  2. Excellent report Ed! I’ve taken time off from my latest project of comparing 239 ADVENTURE magazines which I picked up at the convention. Which is the better cover, which is the better spine, which is the better paper? Most people would report to the nearest insane asylum but I’m having fun.

    Aside from the ADVENTURES and the issue of WESTERN STORY I found(I now need only 10 issues of almost 1300 issues!), I think the highlights of the show were Laurie Powers getting the Munsey Award and David Saunders getting the Lamont Award. Two my favorite people getting awards. That has to be great!

    I’ve found out that as I get older, it’s getting harder and harder to survive the excitement of a room full of pulps. Maybe you have started to reach that stage also. Our love of books and pulps is just too much and maybe we should step back. Hah!

    Too hell with that though. We have to make plans for Pulp Adventurecon on November 5, 2016 in Bordentown, NJ!

  3. I’m happy that Walker mentioned David’s receipt of a “retro” Lamont Award, the service award of Pulpcon, the summertime pulp convention that inspired the creation of PulpFest.

    Since David Saunder’s painting serves as our “Munsey Award,” we decided it was appropriate to honor Dave’s years of service to the pulp community with an award from that bygone convention. It was richly deserved!

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