We recently chatted with Ed Hulse, an editor for the Murania Press, regarding a work in progress -- the publishing company's reprinting of several obscure early Pulp adventure books featuring science fiction, horror, high adventure and exotic locales. Readers can find more information on the company and its work in this field at http://muraniapress.com/.
What sparked your initiative to release these titles?
I've been reading pulp fiction for more than 50 years — initially in paperback and hardcover reprints, but also in the original magazines, which I started collecting in earnest about 25 years ago. A lot of that reading was done in the process of researching articles for my fanzine BLOOD 'N' THUNDER, which I published between 2002 and 2016. Along the way I came across many fabulous stories that either had never appeared in book form or had once been published in hard covers but were long out of print and forgotten by all but the most dedicated fans of pulp. It seemed to me that these stories deserved to be made available again, especially since they appeared in magazines going back as far as 1908 — magazines that are almost impossible to find today.
When I started publishing reprints of pulp fiction under my Murania Press imprint, I released new editions of some of these stories. But my dream was to prepare an entire series of such "forgotten classics," with a uniform design for covers and interiors, and market them as a group. I dragged my feet on the idea for years, mostly because books of this type aren't big sellers, and it seemed like there were always more productive ways to invest my time. But my New Year's Resolution for 2019 was to finally finish work on these ten books and get them on the market.
Could you tell us a little about the individual titles?
I had specific titles in mind all along, but I gave the series a lot of thought. First I settled on ten books as a nice round number. Then I decided that they would have to be in the public domain, because I frankly don't have any money to pay royalties and licensing fees. But that wasn't as much of an obstacle as you might think, because the stories I had already decided upon were written between 1908 and 1921, and therefore had fallen into the public domain anyway.
I would liked to have included more than one book by certain authors but ultimately decided to have ten books by ten different authors for variety's sake. I also decided to include stories set in varying locales and time periods — again, for the sake of variety. In general, with one or two exceptions, all ten qualify as adventure stories. But I chose some novels that had elements of several genres. THE SPOOK HILLS MYSTERY is a Western with a mystery/horror element. THE ELIXIR OF HATE blends romance, horror, and science fiction. THE ABYSS OF WONDERS falls under the heading of high adventure but also contains elements of fantasy, occultism, and science fiction, with a dash of romance.
Even in the straight adventure stories I settled on yarns with varied settings. THE WILDERNESS TRAIL takes place in mid-west America in the early 19th century and incorporates real historical figures into the narrative. BAREHANDED CASTAWAYS takes place on a desert island. SAVAGES takes place in the South Seas. YASMINI THE INCOMPARABLE is set primarily in India. THE RETURN OF YORKE NORROY unfolds in a mythical European country. And so on.
The common denominator is that each book is a great read. You'll periodically come across some hokey dialogue and archaic expressions, but for the most part these stories are written in straightforward, vivid prose and remain easily readable.
What do these have to offer to the modern reader?
Well, they're great stories. Beyond that, they offer themes and narrative concepts that were still fresh when these stories were originally published in the pulps. Some of those themes were used later to good advantage by other, most famous writers. For example, I find it very difficult to believe that James Hilton had not read THE ABYSS OF WONDERS when he set out to write LOST HORIZON, which was not only a best-selling book but also the source for a classic 1937 movie. I can't say more without giving away important plot points, but after reading ABYSS anybody will know what I mean.
I love all kinds of pulp fiction. But too many of today's reprints are skewed to the hero pulps, which hardly represent these type of storytelling at its best. The magazines in which the "Forgotten Classics" novels originally appeared — ARGOSY, ADVENTURE, ALL-STORY, BLUE BOOK, CAVALIER, THE POPULAR MAGAZINE — were considered the top pulps and had huge circulations back in the Teens and Twenties. Many of their biggest hits — like the first stories featuring Tarzan and Zorro — have remained in print and are still well known today, if only for the many movies and TV shows adapted from them. But all many great stories from those early magazines have been, well, forgotten. I read them and loved them, and I want to introduce them to a new generation of readers.
Is there a specific timetable for releasing these books?
I brought them out one or two at a time during May and early June. As of June 14 all ten are available for purchase, either individually or as a complete set. Each book costs $15.95 (which includes shipping to customers in the U.S.), but you can buy the whole set for $120 (U.S. shipping included) only on my website, muraniapress.com.
Will you release a second wave of obscure titles?
Yes, if this first group sells reasonably well. As I mentioned earlier, there were several authors who had multiple "forgotten classics" I'd like to reprint. If the first batch of ten meets my sales expectations, I could have a second batch ready by year's end.