Pulp Fly #1, Reviewed

Pulp Fly Logo

Well, I promised you a review of the inaugural edition of Pulp Fly, and, lo and behold, it appeared on my iPad a few hours ago. I managed to put it down through one long couch session this morning.

It’s good. If you’re here reading this, you should buy it. For a few reasons. One, it’d reward the hard work of the many contributors, if only in beer money. We’re not talking Louis C.K.-next-generation-content-economics here, but if everyone makes out well enough for a nice dinner (or a good bottle of bourbon) it’s a success.

Second, a win in this first effort would compel everybody to put time and energy for another few trips. The Pulp Fly concept, if I have understood it correctly, is to foster the same sort writer-friendly environment the original pulp magazines did, but for a fishing audience. While lots of magazines like that eventually published work by dozens of amazing authors, they didn’t start that way; the writers were the product of the framework which allowed them to dash off quick work and get paid for it. So drop your $4.95 and get on with it. “I don’t have a Kindle” isn’t an excuse. Any computer or smartphone can play that content, same with most tablets.

As to the stories, they’re up and down. Mostly decent. A few standouts. I tended to like the ones looking forward, or at least at the present, better than the ones that looked back. Anachronism is a disease in our sport. It hangs like a knotty priest, awkward and ugly. Heritage and tradition and sentimentalism prevent us from putting it away and making new, contemporary paths.

Field & Stream‘s editor, Kirk Deeter, introduced the collection, and wrote “there are many fly fishers who write, and a scant few writers who fly fish.” Leaving aside the titans of literature who have cast along shadow and force a lot of fishing fiction into cliched territory just because they’ve done the same thing much, muc better, the key to Deeter’s sentiment is being able to tell a story, with real people in it.

We get caught up in procedure in teling stories, because it’s natural. It works like this, a lot of the time: Wake up. Go through human household rituals. Start character/drama setup. Drive. Rig the rods. Fish. Fishing struggle bit full of metaphor for earlier character/drama setup. End character/drama setup. Thankfully most of Pulp Fly‘s debut stories move away from this paradigm.

This is pretty clear, too, in most other media devoted to our sport, which split fairly predictably between Mashable-SEO wizardry “10 Nymphs … ” how-to, and fish porn power riff braggadocio. I saw the same thing at the Fly Fishing Film Tour a few weeks ago. The standout there was about a group of old duffers who’ve come out from the darkness of Chicago punk clubs to fish. (Spoiler: they aren’t very good, and that’s part of the fun.) I’m sure the “sweet trip, bro” sentiment moves a lot of units, and everyone’s liable to click through to find out how to mend their nicked fly line, but a venture that’s more about helping elevate new voices can take time and not worry about that stuff.

I think Pulp Fly will have found its stride when the stories aren’t all necessarily about fishing, or don’t feel the need to insert an obligatory fishing scene, but just work in the magazine’s context. This sport has a lot of breadth. It takes all different kinds of people, from the East Coast dry purist, to the burly Oregon steelheader to the sun-soaked cajun flats guide. Here’s the big question for Pulp Fly to probe: Does it have depth? Is there something, more than just fishing, we have between us?

If you helped put this together, good job. Pat yourself on the back. And keep looking for those voices that’ll shake up a community that tolerates the status quo. We’ll keep buying it if you do.

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