|CHRISTMAS IN PULP MAGAZINE LAND!
Of all of the pulps, only Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine made it a point to glom onto the
Christmas theme every year.*2 Pulps did not shy away from other holidays or seasonal themes.
Valentine’s Day and Halloween were widely presented across many genres.
|Some attempts were poorly executed. Christmas Cthulhu, anyone?
Pulp magazines were indulgences people generally bought for themselves. The idea of enticing a
stray Christmas shopper into an impulse buy for personal consumption did occur to publishers on
occasion. Especially when it came to certain types of magazines.
Just as they had created or contributed to
many genres, the pulps invented Christmas
Porn.*3 This was their only real lasting
contribution to the yuletide season. As pulp
magazine legacies go, it’s fairly typical.
Beyond genre, there were other reasons the
pulps stayed away from Santa Clause. Pulps
were not very high mark up items. The same
retailers and distributors who handle pulps
are also dealing in high mark up seasonal
items, which have a very limited sales time
frame. Knowing that they were going to get
crowded out, many pulps suspended
publication, putting out a single issue to
cover the period from Thanksgiving through
New Years. This is why even the most
frequent pulp is likely to only put out ten
issues a year. Pulp magazines also require
the consumer’s undivided attention,
something that is likely to be in short supply
during the season. Just as newspapers cut
back to avoid impacting circulation, cutting
or combining an issue isn’t likely to reduce
your monthly sales averages. Finally, many
pulps weren’t very frequent. The majority of
the niche titles, which is the majority of the
titles from 1930 onward, have taken a cue
from the Dime Novels and dated themselves
months, sometimes years ahead of their
actual date of publication. This was an
attempt to extend their shelf lives, to fool the
retailer into displaying the magazine for
months. For most of us, Santa’s smiling face
means many happy returns. For the retailer,
Santa’s face on an unsold anything means
that it gets shipped back January 1st.
Hil-Gle.com wishes you all the best of
the season. Merry Christmas!
*1. From 1940 to the mid 1960s romance
titles were the majority of the pulp magazine
industry. They were almost always monthly
and many of them twice weekly. Unless a
romance title was in a specific niche, such
as Gangland Romance or Strange Love
Crimes, they were likely to turn over very
quickly. Thus they had no fear of becoming
attached to seasonal themes. The same
cannot be said for other pulp magazines.
*2. Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine has
since discontinued this theme as they have
the practice of placing the director’s face on
every issue. The magazine is still being
published today. Although it is a digest, I
consider it in the pulp era.
*3. In all likelihood, they borrowed it from
Burlesque. There is a lot of cross over
between the production of a girlie show and
the production of a girlie magazine. Who is
influencing who is often a matter of
speculation, however I highly doubt the
stripper pictured here came up with an elf
suit just for this shoot. 10 Story Book was a
pulp magazine which eventually became
smut. This issue is from 1938.
Although not quite as regular as Alfred Hitcock's, Galaxy Science Fiction jumped on the old
Saint Nick marketing wagon each and every time an edition was put out during the Yuletide.
Fellow SF digest Universe also made at least one crack at it. For some reason the peddler
of Science Fiction seemed more willing to embrace the season of giving.