Famous Monsters of Filmland. Creepy. Eerie. Vampirella. Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Spider. Savage Sword of Conan, The Conan comics. Have you heard of them? If you’re a male older than thirty with any interest in pulpy sorts of work you almost certainly have. These are all magazines (or in one case a comic) from the past, although Conan comics are still being published and Vampirella also experienced a resurgence.
If you have heard of them, did they have any influence on you? Your writing? So many of my male friends who are writers tell me how influential these magazines were on their lives. I’m jealous of those friends. Because I never heard of any of these as a kid. I didn’t even hear of most of them or see a copy until I was at least in my twenties.
I’m pretty sure I would have loved ‘em all. But they never made it to Charleston, Arkansas. The library didn’t carry them. They weren’t for sale at the drug store. There were no bookstores in town, and the comic carousal at the quick stop held only a few DC and Marvel comics, Superman, Fantastic Four, Spiderman. Not one of my friends had a subscription to any of them, or even had a copy that they’d gotten from somewhere. I know because any time I was at a friend’s house I looked at their books and comics. I traded some, borrowed others. I was a reading addict and read everything I could find, and was on a constant hunt for more. Had Famous Monsters and the like been available I would have found them.
There is no way to know how differently I might have turned out, or how differently my writing path might have been, had I been exposed to these sources that so many of my writing cohorts enjoyed. Would my imagination have been tuned differently? Or would I have just come upon certain themes in my writing earlier? Or might I have been hamstrung by reading all those magazines? Maybe I would have felt like everything had been done and given up on my own ideas. Maybe it was good that my imagination got to develop in relative isolation. Still, I feel a bit of envy for those who thrilled to such long ago thrillers.
I believe that one’s future reading choices are strongly influenced by the works we discover when we’re between the ages of 8 and 18. That’s why Edgar Rice Burroughs is such an influence on me. That’s why today when I read the exploits of The Shadow or Doc Savage I just don’t find them compelling. I missed the reading window when I would have fallen in love with them.
How about you? What did you miss out on when you were a kid? Is there anything you wish you’d discovered then that you learned of only later? How do you feel about that? The writer in me wants to know.