Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

A Dip Into the Past…

Looking Through the Twenty Issues of the Original Pulphouse Magazine…

In the last Pulphouse Kickstater, we offered a stretch reward that we said would be coming out about now that was a sample of the stories I published back in the original Pulphouse: A Fiction Magazine. So I was putting that together tonight.

I quickly came to realize a few things.

The small volume I was putting together could not be a best-of volume because there are just far, far too many great stories in those twenty volumes. I needed to pick eight for this short sample of stories from back 30 years. So this would not be a best-of volume in any way. Got that out of my head.

Then as I was looking through the issues, I realized that in some issues, over half the authors were dead. And another large percentage had vanished, not really selling any more stories after they sold to me. I even did Google searches on a few of them with no luck at all. Sold me a story and then became a “Whatever happened to?” for some reason or another.

So finding the writers, or the author’s estates would be very, very difficult. Worth the time to try if we were doing a large “best of” issue, but not for this fun, little sampling book.

So I went through a second time through all twenty issues and just made myself sad leaving out all the dead or lost writers in my picks. So many of those writers who have passed on were good friends. Mike Resnick, J.N. Williamson, Edward Bryant, Harlan Ellison, and so on. Andre Norton had a great original story in the very first issue. I only worked with her a few times and met her only once, but she was an amazing writer and a very nice person.

So finally I made myself ignore that death aspect of the issues and worked to just find eight stories that would really represent the craziness of that time period and the fun as well.

So as soon as Kris reads my introductions tomorrow for typos, I will turn the book in to WMG Publishing. And then maybe in a few years down the road, we can plan a real “Best of” volume from those twenty issues.  But wow will that be fun, a lot of work, and very sad, all at the same time.




  • allynh

    I have an odd question.

    Why not simply print new copies of the existing Pulphouse. You are the publisher.

    Was there a limit in the contracts that would not allow you to continue printing the original editions, as is.

    • dwsmith

      LOL, well, not for about a dozen reasons. First off, I do not own the stories. That is called copyright. Second, those originals were printed on a web press 30 plus years ago. I know most folks these days do not understand layout for old web presses, but not pretty or easy. Everything was printed in 16 page signatures for the magazine and the covers were printed on off-set press and they were combined on a massive machine that could spit out the entire 4,000 print run in just under five minutes.

      Today, the signatures for web presses are laid out in computers and the big web presses are even more amazing and faster. But back then those signatures were laid out by hand.

      The reason so many of the authors are dead is that it has been thirty years. The modern technology we now use for indie publishing didn’t exist in a usable form much more than ten years ago.

      Third reason… Pulphouse Publishing Inc. no longer exists. We dissolved it in 1996. WMG Publishing Inc. bought the name and the last of the stock still sitting in a warehouse in 2008. There were no rights to any of the books in that because all rights rested with the authors. Back to copyright and contracts.

      • allynh

        You never actually answered my question.

        You might want to look at some of those old Pulphouse contracts you have to see if you missed something.

        As far as I can tell, you can keep making copies of any existing issue that Pulphouse published.

        Pulphouse paid each author for the rights to publish their work in issues of Pulphouse. As Publisher you have the right to “go back to press” to make as many copies of those issues as you need. That does not mean “web press”, unless you specified that in the contract you had with the writer, so you can use POD to continue making copies of each existing issue.

        Isn’t that the very point that you have talked about many times, how Trad publishing can keep an existing book still in print, by turning it into POD. That book then never goes out of print and never reverts back to the author. All while staying within the existing contract.


        • dwsmith

          Uh, why in the world would I do that? For thirty years now, at times, I have been tossing boxes of those things away. And in a storage unit in Lincoln City, I finally got it down to 300 copies of each issue, which is 20 massive boxes. At some point I’ll save ten full runs and recyle the rest.

          Besides, I would rather pay the authors more money to bring their story back into a form that is selling with WMG Publishing. I had no rights in the Pulphouse contracts (I was the publisher so I know for sure) to reprint their stories. All those contracts were trashed a decade ago. They had no use since Pulphouse Publishing Inc. was dissolved legally.

          So no. Novel trade publishers buy all rights for the life of the copyright. For Pulphouse Publishing, I bought one-time anthology or magazine use, nothing more, and all rights remained with the authors. So now thirty years later, they are making more money on their stories. AS IT SHOULD BE!!!

          • allynh

            I see where I’m confused.

            When I think of “Pulphouse”, I always think of the hardbacks. I forgot that you had the standard paper magazines. I have number 7 of the hardback. I had just found the hardback magazine when everything vanished and was unable to track down the rest.

            Looking at my catalogue, I have issues 1 to 19 of Pulphouse magazine, I need to pull them out and read them again.

            Thanks for reminding me.

            The 1990s were a time of frenzy in publishing. There was a flood of books coming out. I was buying over 400 mass market books each year, they leapt off the shelves. I was following so many authors, then they vanished from the local bookstores when the distribution system collapsed.

            I have yet to find anybody writing about what happened.

          • dwsmith

            The 1990s distribution collapse I write and talk about all the time in classes and different places.

            What happened in a nutshell, is that Safeway and Walmart killed it. How they did that was some accountant in corporate Safeway decided they were tired of paying over a thousand invoices to all the local and regional distributors of books, so one day they just came out and said, “We will buy from just four.”

            And Walmart and other major chains followed suit. So there was a massive fight as to which distributor was going to take over what area, and it went from upwards of 1,200 distributors that knew their own regions and cities down to about ten in less than a year, and then kept dropping so that there are about three national ones now.

            Only way the distributors could deal with this was only take bestsellers from the publishers for their racks. Not buying midlist and first books. And that caused sales to go down in the stores and pocket spaces over the next few years to shrink down to the sad state it is in now.

            So what caused the major book distribution collapse of the 1990s? An accountant at Safeway.

            Totally different from the major distribution collapse of 1958 that killed many, many author’s careers.