Volume 31, Number 1 May 2012
Wednesday September 20th 2017

Pulp Librarian

I am a librarian and am also a writer of short stories. I am attempting to write my first crime novel. Some of my favorite literary role-models have always been librarians, including one undeniable master of short fiction, Jorge Luis Borges, who was at one time chief librarian of the National Library of Argentina. Borges has written brilliant allegorical tales using the setting and spirit of the library to create meaning.

In “The Library of Babel,” Borges imagines the world as a library. Using beautiful imagery and language he captures the truest aesthetic of our institutions of records, archive, and learning. I like to imagine the literary landscape of his story when I wander the stacks at my library. Within each row, I gaze at titles and marvel at the endless and infinite world that Borges imagined. Borges had the rare quality of combining the literary with speculative fiction. His role as “gatekeeper” of knowledge was a responsibility that he took very seriously, and it found its way into his dreams as well as his writing. He described the library as “circular and infinite.”

As Emerging Technologies Librarian at Queensborough Community College,  I marvel at the advancements in preservation and dissemination of knowledge,  language, art, image, and, ultimately, ideas. It is indeed a pleasure to be a part of this revolution of information in the information age, as well as to be a part of rich heritage that Borges channeled. This paradigm of old-world librarian heritage working synergistically with librarians using new technology is not only useful to society, but it can in fact stimulate the creativity of the librarian/writer.

The mediums of information and literature are rapidly changing. This is a major concern of librarians. Many envision a library without books. The crux of these issues is something that I  concern myself as a librarian and as writer as well. Some librarians and critics say that the print medium is dying. As a younger writer, I was seeking to find a haven for my work. Specifically, most of the pieces I have written had been short stories and flash fiction. To find a market for my scribbling, I used the web and stumbled across a site called Duotrope Digest, which links the fledgling writer to markets in print, online, and audio. The subject range and type of venues are quite astounding, and I have watched them grow over the past five years. As a result of persistence, with an emphasis on making my work fit into a marketable format, I have published nearly two dozen stories online and a few in print.

When I claim that I am a published writer of fiction, I usually get the steely cold gaze and the standard question that follows, “Where have you been published?” to which I reply, “Mostly online e-zines.” I can see the look of skepticism the moment I mention “online.” It is paradoxical, that while many feel that print is dying, some still find it more respectable for certain things such as literature.

One of my early publications includes the Scottish crime e-zine Pulp Pusher, maintained by popular Scottish crime novelist, Tony Black. It mostly showcases interviews with up-and-coming writers as well as established writers such as Trainspotting writer Irvine Welsh. I published a short, gritty, character study called “The Transcendence.”

My early stories were inspired by and the likes of Ray Bradbury, a self-proclaimed autodidact through the use of the library, who has become a strong proponent of the library. He constantly expounds on the inspiration he has gained from libraries. He also was a pioneer in many of the pulps. Can it be said then that online crime-zines are the pulps of the new millennium.  Bradbury, known as the “poet of pulps,” also represents the aesthetic found in pulp novels. Certainly the aesthetic can be seen in these online pulps as well.

After publishing a few early stories, I published some more gangster noir with trick endings such as “New Boyfriend” in another gritty venue called Beat to a Pulp. This site features work from seasoned pros and award-winning authors, including Dave Zeltsterman and Sophie Littlefield.   I imagine that when I proclaim that I am a published author, online, that is,  I am met with the same glare that the early pulp writers in 10-cent pulp mags were met with in the 1930s throughout the 1950s. For example, cult favorite crime writer Jim Thompson published his first crime story at the age of twelve. The cheap pulp paper they used is akin to the cheap costs of producing an online magazine. The advantage is that these cheap digital creations can reach tens of thousands of people, and they have a permanence that paper format does not.

So the question is: Is an online publication in fiction “real” and as prestigious as print? Well, just ask any librarian about the advantages of online distribution versus print. Most librarians who keep current will surely tell skeptics to embrace the new medium. While online publications mean less expense to the publisher, as well as the reader, and the cash flow in general is minimized, the distribution of the product is extremely explosive. While most serious online journals have a PDF and print-on-demand product as well as the content they host on their websites, there are some who feel that there has to be a persnickety editorial process that admits only an exclusive few to a club who produce writing that only an exclusive few read.

Being a librarian and a writer has its benefits. Not only do you know how to access information that will help you tap into a market, but you aware of the growing technologies and formats to market your work. Additionally, in the spirit of being men and women of letters, librarians see the world in a way that others are not so fortunate to. The world of information is our oyster, and we can use our expertise and imaginations to achieve publication on any level. Print is not dead; neither is online publishing a shoddy replacement for print publication. They both work toward one major achievement: to bring art, information, entertainment, and truth to those who seek these essentialities in our rapidly developing world. I, for one, as a librarian and writer, am glad to be a part.

Bill Blick (Queensborough)

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