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Pulp Mill Presents: Golden Age Ads: Week 1 - Sexy Women & Secret Libraries

Primarily, I love the sci-fi pulps of the 40's and 50's for the same reason I am passionate about VHS horror: the secret history of the genre. These volumes are full of the stories that didn’t make the cut at becoming classics and have since drifted into obscurity, but undoubtedly, for better or worse, shaped the future of the genre in very real and tangible ways. An added bonus, however, is the treasure trove of advertisements that accompany these stories from which we can learn quite a bit about the time and context in which they were published, as well as the readership that the stories were expected to meet. For this first batch of ads I am going to show off some of the more salacious marketing ploys that appealed to the burgeoning audience’s culturally repressed libidos. When one thinks of the sci-fi pulps from this time period one usually imagines introverted pre-adolescent boys scraping together left-over lunch money to strip the local newsstands of their most other-worldly covers. These advertisements, however, suggest one of two things: either the intended readership was quite a bit older, or that their pimply patrons were damn good at hiding their reading material. Our first selection comes from a 1949 issue of Fantastic Adventures (featured in Lunchmeat #4). I suppose this is geared towards the kid who has gotten all he could from the pages he tore out of National Geographic and was looking for the logical next step. There are a few things that catch my attention for this ad. First, we have that all important appeal of the mysterious, advertising this collection as strange and secret photographs. Who exactly is keeping them secret? And just how did Metro Publications in NYC get a hold of them? Second, we’re reminded of that inescapable cultural ignorance of the times as we are promised the “strangest customs of the red, white, brown, black, and yellow races. Finally, the headline of the ad is “Female Beauty Round the World” but what are we actually being sold? – The Secret Museum of Mankind. That’s right a cheapo exploitation encyclopedia. Kids, you’d be better off with National Geographic Our next entry comes from a 1959 issue of Action for Men, so perhaps it's not as surprising, nonetheless, I get a kick out of the exploitation-style tagline: available in this country for the first time . . . and seriously, is that first author’s name real? Dr. A. Willy? Come on! Finally, and my personal favorite, this ad comes from the Fall 1946 issue of Planet Stories (Lunchmeat #3). The ad pretty much speaks for itself, and that cover looks pretty thick . . . good luck hiding that under your mattress, post-war America! Next Week: we’re going to war! - Ted Gilbert (7.7.11)

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