Thursday, July 7, 2011

Granddaughters of the Pulps: Researching the Past for Future Generations

I'm very excited to be part of a panel at PulpFest this year, "Granddaughters of the Pulps," which will be on Friday night. The last two years I was able to chat with Karen Davis Cunningham, granddaughter of Frederick C. Davis. This year there will be two more women with family members who were pulp writers.

What I find interesting is that finding and collecting the original issues that contained our ancestors' stories has become a years or decades-long passion for all of us. I for one never thought that, 12 years after finding my grandfather's career writing for Wild West Weekly, I'd still be finding new stories that my grandfather wrote.

Why does it take so long? The sheer volume of stories they wrote is one reason. When you're talking about Karen's grandfather who wrote 1000 stories, you can see the enormity of the task. Another is that many of the magazine's bookeeping and editorial records were lost or weren't available for decades. So it wasn't as easy as looking someone's name up on Google or even going to an archives or special collections to track down records.

But through the hard work of a lot of collectors, historians and enthusiasts, a lot of these magazine's records have been researched and that information made available to others, which has helped us track down these stories. I, for one, am deeply grateful to all of those folks (some of whom read this blog) who have done this work. I'm sure the other three women are thankful too, because it's helped us collect very important family heirlooms that will probably be passed down to other family members or donated to archives. These collections would not have been possible otherwise.

Anyway, I'll get off my soapbox. Here are the bios for all four of us who will be participating in the "Granddaughters of the Pulps" panel.

Karen Davis Cunningham

Karen Davis Cunningham is the granddaughter of author Frederick C. Davis. While she grew up reading many of his murder mystery books, she knew little about his pulp career until many years after he'd passed away. When she read a passage that suggested he'd written nearly 1000 pulp stories, she began a quest to find out what they were. Her search brought her to her first PulpCon in Dayton, Ohio in 2000, where she was sucked into the vortex and has not been able to escape since. In a parallel life out in the real world, she teaches conflict management at Kent State University, and lives in Ohio with her husband Tom, four cats, Zeke the wonderdog, and has two grown children who are in the process of leaving the nest but somehow keep finding their way back.

Elizabeth Bissette

Elizabeth Bissette is the great-niece of Norvell W. Page, one of the most prolific pulpsters who was the author of The Spider novels. A critically acclaimed actress, director, playwright, and producer of multimedia programs, Elizabeth is also a singer/songwriter, rhythm guitarist, fine artist, and an art and music writer for FINE ART MAGAZINE and a number of music websites. She is currently working on adaptations of Beowulf and the pulp character The Purple Scar for Airship 27. Elizabeth lives in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson

Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson is a granddaughter of Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, prolific pulp fiction writer, founder of DC Comics, military intelligence office and inventor among his many accomplishments. Nicky has been actively researching her grandfather’s life and work since 1997. She is a writer, editor and publisher co-owning Berkshire Media Artists with experience in audio, film, animation and book publishing. Nicky holds a Master’s Degree in Classical Greek Mythology. Her published work includes articles on the environment, Native American elders, comic book history and scripts for theatre and animated film. Nicky’s most recent published work is, as an editor and contributor to, Oil and Water and Other Things That Don’t Mix, an anthology to benefit environmental groups on the Gulf Coast and an article about “The Major” for The Overstreet Comic Book Guide. She fell madly in love with the “true” pulp genre when she bought her first pulp with The Major’s byline—“The Czarina’s Pearls,” (Argosy, July 19 and 26, 1930) and with the determination of Nancy Drew has been pursuing the elusive trail of collecting all her grandfather’s works ever since.

Laurie Powers

Laurie Powers is the granddaughter of Paul S. Powers, a prolific and successful pulp fiction writer who wrote over 400 stories for such pulp fiction magazines as Wild West Weekly, Weird Tales, Thrilling Western, Texas Rangers, and more. Later Paul wrote a successful and acclaimed Western novel, Doc Dillahay.

Laurie did not know of her grandfather's career as a pulp fiction writer until 1999 when she discovered his contributions to Wild West Weekly through an Internet search. Later that same year, she reunited with Paul's daughter Pat, who gave Laurie Paul's personal papers. In there was a manuscript, Pulp Writer: Twenty Years in the American Grub Street, Paul's memoir of being a pulp fiction writer, which was eventually published in 2007.

Laurie is currently completing a new collection of Paul Powers western stories, Riding the Pulp Trail, which will be released in July 2011 and will be available for sale at PulpFest 2011. She is a writer and editor, is active in the pulp community, and lives in Los Angeles.

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Deka Black said...

1000 stories... 0_0 were the chained to the typewriter? Is incredible the amount of words some people have priduced.

Richard R. said...

What a wonderful post, thanks. That will be some panel, I hope you can compete with the Friday night old-friend get-togethers! It sure would be great to hear this one, I wish PulpFest broadcast / podcast the panels.

Cap'n Bob said...

I didn't realize there were more pulp femmefans like you. How neat. I'd love to hear that panel.

Barry Traylor said...

I am definitely looking forward to this panel.

Walker Martin said...

In the entire history of pulp conventions, going back to 1972, there has never been such a deluge of female collectors. I don't know if I will be able to stand the shock of seeing 4 ladies talking about pulps.

Just another big reason for attending PulpFest. Anywhere else in the world if 4 women get together to talk about pulps, the discussion will center around getting rid of them, clearing up the clutter of old magazines, how to send the hoarder/husband to a therapist, and methods of convincing the collecting spouse to sell the collection.

But this panel will actually be talking about the care and collecting of old magazines!