Introduction On Racism Epigraphs A History of the Pulps A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Glossary and Character Taxonomy Breakdown by Country of Origin Bibliography Table of Contents The Best of the Encyclopedia
On racism in the pulps and in the characters seen on this site
Even the most obtuse and resistant observer of the pulps is forced to admit that they were often deeply racist and deeply bigoted toward anyone who wasn't a WASP. This is simply a fact, and there's no point in trying to deny it. Racism, misogyny, antisemitism, anti-Catholicism, homophobia, transphobia, and messages of hate toward Native Americans, Africans, Asians, people of the Middle East and the peoples of Central and South America were all too common in the pulps. And because they are unavoidable in the pulps, characters embodying those hatreds appear on this site. (Far too many characters to name). Regardless of how entertaining or how well-written the stories featuring those characters are, they are nonetheless full of racism and hate and are reprehensible.
This fact presented me with a dilemma: how to handle the racism in the book and on this site. I'm a completist, so I couldn't simply skip over the characters who were the product of racism and the various bigotries. But I couldn't include trigger warnings on every racist and bigoted character's entry on this site, either; doing so would have taken me an enormous amount of time, and I could never be sure that characters who I didn't label as racist didn't appear in racist stories that I missed.
So, please, take it as a given that many (many) of these characters and/or their surrounding cast and/or the stories they appeared in are racist and bigoted and offensive, and that reading the entries about these characters may be triggering. My lack of visible outrage at these characters and stories should in no way be taken as an agreement with their racism and bigotries. Trust me: you only have to read about Hawk Carse. I had to read every word of his stories and trudge through the sewers that were Harry Bates' and Desmond Hall's minds.
Defenders of the pulps will no doubt say that it was a different age, that racism and bigotry were common back then, and that many of the authors of these stories meant well and didn't intend to be offensive. (P.G. Wodehouse, for example, had a couple of moments in racism in the Reginald Jeeves stories, and I'm quite certain his only intention was to entertain and make people laugh, and not at the POC characters). Fuck that. Racism is racism. Bigotry is bigotry. Those sentiments and characterizations and stories were offensive and wrong and evil then, and they're offensive and wrong and evil now.
The only other things to be said about racism in the pulps is that the pulps weren't exceptional in their bigotry--go take a look at any popular medium of the pulp decades; you'll find just as much bigotry and racism and hatred in that medium as you will in the pulps--and that the pulps were exceptional in the number of POC characters who were heroes and heroines. There are far more heroic women and Native American detectives and Chinese cowboys and African protagonists in the pulps than there were in the novels, films, comic strips, and radio serials of the day. So it must be said that the pulps were deeply racist, but also that certain authors and editors did their best to write and publish stories about heroic POCs.
Introduction / Table of Contents / Annotations / Blog / Books / Patreon / Twitter / Contact me