Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine

Tagged: Publication

Quarterly "magazine" in hardcover-book format, in fact an Original-Anthology series; edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch; published by Dean Wesley Smith trading as Pulphouse Publishing of Eugene, Oregon; 12 issues (each 1250 copies) from Fall 1988 to the final issue #12 in Fall 1993. It was superseded by the ambitious Pulphouse: A Weekly Magazine which saw 19 issues (not one of them weekly) from 1 March 1991 to the summer of 1995, its title changing to Pulphouse: A Fiction Magazine from #5 (20 September 1991).

This interesting, eclectic and mostly successful experiment alternated horror, speculative fiction, fantasy and sf in different issues. Horror and dark fantasy, in which categories much of the best work appeared, were the most repeated genres. Science Fiction only made issues #4 (Summer 1989) and #8 (Summer 1990), with issue #11 (Spring 1991) being speculative fiction. The intended market appears to have been sophisticated: Pulphouse published some experimental work, and despite the notional pigeonholing of the fiction into categories, many of its stories transcend or ignore genre conventions. Many new authors were published by Pulphouse – issue #3 (Spring 1989) contained one of the earliest stories by Jonathan Lethem, issue #5 (Fall 1989) saw the debut of Adam-Troy Castro, and issue #8 (Summer 1990) the first magazine story by L Timmel Duchamp; more experienced contributors included George Alec Effinger, Charles de Lint, Robert Sheckley, Lisa Goldstein, Joe R Lansdale (1951-    ) and Harry Turtledove. Pulphouse Publishing overall, rather than the magazine specifically, won a special World Fantasy Award in 1991 in the non-professional category. An anthology is The Best of Pulphouse: The Hardcover Magazine (anth 1991) edited by Rusch.

There was a plan to switch the hardcover Pulphouse to a weekly in 1991, edited by Smith, and the new Pulphouse: A Weekly Magazine, in letter-size format, debuted with a test issue marked "Issue Zero" (1 March 1991), with the contents entirely reprinted from the Hardback Magazine, with the official #1 dated 1 June 1991. Although in theory it replaced the hardcover series, that still saw one further volume (#12 in 1993), and the two series had nothing in common apart from some of the writers. The new 48pp magazine was anything but weekly to begin with, and, belatedly realistic, changed its title to Pulphouse: A Fiction Magazine with #5 (September 20, 1991) and announced a biweekly schedule, which it also failed to sustain. In fact it took four and a half years to reach 19 issues, which means it averaged a quarterly schedule but, in truth, was irregular.

A regular weekly magazine is an ideal place for serialized novels and, in anticipation, Pulphouse Weekly began three novels in its first official issue, some of the novels being written as the magazine appeared. With the ever-growing delays in the weekly there was no concern that the authors would not finish, but there was concern that the readers would lose interest. One serial took nearly two years to complete: Jasmine Nights (1 June 1991-#16 [February] 1993; 1994) by S P Somtow; "The Scheherezade Machine" (1 June-31 December 1991) by Robert Sheckley petered out after 8 episodes and was not completed, being available today complete only in Polish; Starseed (1 June 1991-29 November 1991; 1991) by Spider and Jeanne Robinson did reach its conclusion after seven episodes, but by then the complete book version had already been published.

Serials aside, each issue of Pulphouse Weekly was a mixture of short fiction – often very short – and regular columns, some not so regular. Charles de Lint sustained "The Eclectic Muse", which was an eclectic personal column, for most issues. "Debb and Nina's Excellent Video Adventures" by Debra Gray Cook and Nina Kiriki {HOFFMAN} ran for five alternate issues. Ron Goulart opened up his "Comics Shop" on 17 August 1991, but only did one more. "Ask Uncle Harlan", a column that Harlan Ellison had started in Orson Scott Card's Fanzine Short Form in August 1989 resurfaced in Pulphouse Weekly for 25 October 1991 but only saw two more columns. Esther M Friesner tried a matching "Ask Auntie Esther" and that lasted longest of all, seven columns through to issue #17. But there was no certainty, issue to issue, what Pulphouse Weekly would carry.

Its short fiction, on the whole, was either enjoyable but shallow, or dark and nasty; very few of them were traditional sf, but mostly fantasy or horror. Mike Resnick, who was the magazine's most persistent contributor, and also attempted a serialized novel in later issues, but that too ceased, contributed some clever, short sharp stories. There were strong stories by Michael Bishop (a reprint from a literary review), Suzy McKee Charnas, William F Wu and Rusch herself. There was a special double issue, #12/13 (September/October 1992) to catch up some of the backlog. Jonathan Bond took over as editor on issues #15 and #16 (January-February 1993) and then the magazine went into hiatus for almost two years, when a financial crash put the company into jeopardy. Issue #17 (August 1994), the only one in 1994, stated it would now be a quarterly, but issue #18 did not appear until early 1995. That was guest-edited by Damon Knight, and featured stories about Jesus Christ, all written by graduates of Clarion Science Fiction Writers' Workshop. Just one more issue appeared, #19 towards the end of 1995, and then Smith and Rusch decided to close down Pulphouse Publishing in early 1996. By then Rusch was editor of F&SF and Smith's writing career had taken off, and the Pulphouse experiment, which had proved very successful for a while, was over. Stories remaining in the inventory were published as Buried Treasures: An Anthology of Unpublished Pulphouse Stories (anth 1996) edited by Jerry Oltion.

In 2017 Rusch and Smith announced plans for a 2018 revival of Pulphouse with initially crowdsourced funding. [MA/PN]

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