The rise of “pulp fiction” in the United States began as a flashy offshoot of the sudden and unprecedented democratization of reading that followed the upheavals of the Civil War. Soaring literacy rates among the working class joined with new technologies of paper production, created a thriving market for accessible, entertaining stories in an inexpensive, portable format.
To meet this demand, the pulp book and magazine industry invented itself from the ground up, recruiting hundreds of new artists and writers. By the 1920s, publishers were churning out an astonishing number of magazines and books in such wide-ranging genres as science fiction, romance, western, horror, and crime. In an increasingly saturated market of mass distribution, pulp publishers competed for consumers’ attention with sleek cover art whose bold colours and design masked the cheap paper stock lurking within. (The Rise of Pulp Fiction)
Pulp Fiction got its name from the paper it was printed on. Magazines featuring such stories were typically published using cheap, ragged-edged paper made from wood pulp. These magazine covers were sometimes called pulps.
Though the heyday of pulp fiction has passed their eye-catching covers and dramatic, fast-pace and simple stories, have left behind a legacy that can still be seen in today’s movies, TV, books and comics, featuring action heroes and over-the-top villains.