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Curator of the art, history and fiction of old dreams.
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15 Sep
“Space is big. Really big,” as Douglas Adams observed. So why haven’t we seen any alien life yet?

Odds are a big universe must have some – or are the odds wrong? This is the Fermi Paradox, and today in pulp I’m looking at some of the novels that have explored it.

Don’t panic…
In 1950 Physicists Enrico Fermi and Michael Hart were chatting in the Los Alamos canteen when the topic turned to UFOs. Where were they? After a few calculations Fermi felt the probability of alien life was high enough; we just didn’t have any evidence ‘they’ were out there.
Frank Drake built on this in 1961. The Drake equation looked at the probabilities for how many stars and planets over what period could host life that could become intelligent and travel in space. Life on Earth meant the probability must be more than zero, but how much more?
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14 Sep
Today in pulp... let me introduce you to Mark Hardin: The Penetrator!
Mark Hardin is a one-man strike force against corruption. Orphaned at the age of four he was brought up mean and hungry. He learned his fighting skills in Vietnam before returning to an America gone bad.
Actually The Penetrator is one of a long list of vigilante pulp heroes thrown up in the 1970s counter-counterculture backlash, along with The Destroyer, The Executioner The Iceman and The Marksman to name but a few.
Read 10 tweets
14 Sep
Today in pulp I look back at an amazing but slightly forgotten British publisher: a company that made a virtue of necessity and an art form out of amazement...

Badger Books!
John Spencer and Co was founded in London in 1946 by Samuel Assael and specialised in publishing original fiction, normally written to order by freelance writers using house aliases. Like many pulp publishers they paid a flat rate for copy – up to ten shillings per 1,000 words.
Initially Spencer focussed on story magazines in digest and pocketbook form: Tales of Tomorrow, Out Of This World and Supernatural Stories focussed on fantasy and sci-fi short stories. But the digest market was beginning to decline as the post-war paperback market began to boom.
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6 Sep
A bluffers guide to #ReadABookDay now follows...
"Yes, Mary McCarthy is a much neglected novelist now and that's a shame..."
"Gee it really is hard to argue against Emile Durkheim..."
Read 9 tweets
5 Sep
Today in pulp I look at the history of the Wimpy Bar!

Oh it was the future once... #SundayThoughts
The Wimpy chain originally began in 1934 in Chicago. The name was inspired by the character of J. Wellington Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons created by E. C. Segar.
And in 1954 the company sold a license to J. Lyons & Co - owners of the Lyons Corner House - to use the Wimpy name in the United Kingdom.
Read 15 tweets
2 Sep
"In the '90s I had two facial expressions: one in case I met Hanson, and one in case I met Evan Dando..." ImageImage
"What do we want?"
"Cargo skirts!"
"When do we want them?"
"1996!!" Image
Stance. Dance. Advance. Image
Read 5 tweets
2 Sep
Time now to look at one of the biggest stars of wrestling: a man who had the crowds booing, hissing and paying to see him in the ring and on TV.

I am of course talking about Gorgeous George... Image
George Raymond Wagner was born in Nebraska in 1915. Age 17 he was paid 35 cents to wrestle at a carnival. When his amateur wrestling coach found out he kicked him out, furious that he was now a "professional wrestler." Image
Wagner was 'only' 5ft 9in tall and weighed 215 pounds, but he was athletic and technically solid. By 1938 he had won his first title. Image
Read 12 tweets
27 Aug
Did you know: dinosaurs had precisely six different reactions* to their mass extinction 66 million years ago! Let's take a look at them...

(*stock photography doesn't lie about such things)
"Did you just fart or something?"
"Ooh, that's not good..."
Read 8 tweets
26 Aug
Georgii and Vladimir Stenberg were graphic designers from Moscow who produced a range of amazing constructivist film posters during the 1920s.

Let's look at some of their work...
Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg were born in Moscow in 1899 and 1900 respectively. Their father was a Swedish artist who encouraged their interest in both painting and graphic design.
The Stenberg brothers were students at the Stroganov School of Applied Art when they first started to design posters. They founded the Society of Young Artists in 1919 and held their own constructivist art exhibition in 1922.
Read 12 tweets
26 Aug
Today in pulp I look at the original white stripes.... the world of dazzle camoflague!
Traditional pattern camoflague had been used by the British Royal Navy to break up a ship's outline for some time. But in 1917 artist Norman Wilkinson presented the Admiralty with a different idea - camoflague that confused the enemy rangefinders.
Dazzle - known in the US as Razzle Dazzle - would use high contrast colours in irregular patterns to make it difficult for enemy gunners to calculate a ship's range and bearing. This would (hopefully) lead to them taking up a poor firing position when they attacked.
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21 Aug
Between the typewriter and the word processor there was a time - 1961 to 1975 or thereabouts - when one technology ruled the world of typing: the IBM Selectric!

Let's look back at the future of writing...
The Selectric typewriter, launched in 1961, was a radical departure from the traditional typewriter. Out went the individual type bars striking an ink ribbon...
...and in came the revolutionary golf ball typing head! Initially called a 'mushroom head' the golf ball tilted and rotated to match the right character with the right keystroke.
Read 13 tweets
19 Aug
For some unknown reason people keep trying to insist the Hammond organ is a sexy beast. Is it really?

Let's find out... Image
First made in 1935 the Hammond organ was a curio. It could mimic the sound of a pipe organ through some ingenious technical wizardry. Image
Its creator Laurens Hammond was a mechanical engineer who had started his own clock company. But he became fascinated by the noises of the moving gears in his electric clocks... Image
Read 12 tweets
12 Aug
Time once again for my occasional series "Women with great hair fleeing gothic houses!"

And today is a mega-thread of my 100 favourite gothic covers, in no particular order.

At #100: Ravenswood, by Janet Louise Roberts. Avon Books, 1971. I love this garden!
at #99: The Haunting of Drumroe, by Claudette Nicole. Fawcett Gold Medal, 1971.

Who says a gothic lady can't rock a white nightie in the snow?
At #98: Bridge Of Fear, by Dorothy Eden. Ace Gothic, 1971.

Bookman Swash is the official font of gothic romance.
Read 103 tweets
9 Aug
Happy #NationalBookLoversDay everybody! But are you really a book lover, or just a book flirt?

Luckily I have a handy quiz to help you out... Image
A friend buys you a book 'they know you'll love!' but you already have it. Do you:
a) ask for the receipt
b) accept it, but re-gift it later
c) shout "Woo-Hoo! More books!! MORE BOOKS!!!" Image
In a bookstore you and another customer both want the last copy of the same book. Do you:
a) let them take it
b) toss a coin for it
c) rip out the last page and scream "You'll never have it! NEVER!!!" Image
Read 8 tweets
8 Aug
Happy #808day everybody! And as we're celebrating the Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer I make no apologies for sampling one of my favourite previous threads.

This is the story of digital synthesised music...
In the 1940s Musique Concrète introduced the idea of sampling and sound distortion into musical composition - often with the help of audio tape splicing.

It was all very avant-garde, but it was limited by the available technology.
However by 1957 the massive experimental RCA Mark II Sound Synthesizer had shown composers how an analogue synthesizer could be paired with a programmable sequencer to play music too complex for human musicians to manage.

Yes, it is big.
Read 25 tweets
8 Aug
Today in pulp... the mysterious JX Williams!
JX Williams was an alias used by many writers who knocked out cheesy sex pulp for Greenleaf publishing. At least 20% of each novel had to be sex scenes with the other 80% titillation, voyeurism or padding.
As a result Greenleaf plots were somewhat thin affairs: sexy sensationalism was more important than character arcs or the niceties of the three act drama.
Read 12 tweets
7 Aug
Time for a pulp countdown now, and today it's my top 10 of modern sins for the professional classes!

Sometimes the only way to go places is by going bad...
At #10: the sin of grade inflation! "Thou shalt not refuse to deduct marks for spelling..."
At #9: the sin of Agile software development! "Thou shalt not hide thy poor interface behind claims of 'permanent Beta'..."
Read 12 tweets
6 Aug
Meet the 16 year old entrepreneur interested in cryptocurrency: Image
OK, so you want accordion tweets again? We're going there today... Image
They're not laughing now... Image
Read 8 tweets
6 Aug
Time once again for my occasional series "Women with great hair fleeing gothic houses!"

And today it's a Queen-Sized Gothic special... Image
'Queen-Size' is a polite way of saying large print, which is a format that has a lot going for it. For a start it's much easier to read! Image
However for years the standard size for a paperback book was the dimensions of a coat pocket. Paperbacks were meant to be read on the train or bus, so they had to be compact. The US term for them was 'pocket books.' Image
Read 12 tweets
6 Aug
Today in pulp... proof (if it were needed) that all the ladies love a lad in lederhosen!

That's not Sean Bean btw... Image
I know, it's an idle vice... Image
"This is not what I meant Gretchen when I said stockings might spice up our love life..." Image
Read 9 tweets
6 Aug
Today in pulp... I look back at an artist whose brazen, action-packed news images captured the essence of post-war Italy: Walter Molino! Image
Molino began his career as an illustrator and caricaturist in 1935, working on a number of Italian newspapers. But in 1941 he took the prize spot for Italian commercial artists: cover illustrator for La Domenica del Corriere. Image
La Domenica del Corriere came out every Sunday, free with Corriere della Sera, and its hallmark was always its cover illustration: striking, exciting and sensationalist! Image
Read 14 tweets