Thursday, December 20, 2012

So... Why Pulp?

‘Tis The Season Of Pulpy Giving

At this time of year, the majority of us are thinking holiday gifting. So I thought I’d throw out a few ideas for what to give your favorite pulp writer or artist. There should be something in here for every budget, if you think creatively.

First of all, most of us are readers as well as creators, so books are quite appreciated. Certainly, we’d love reprints of classic pulps as well as works of modern authors in the pulp world. Don’t be afraid to look outside of pulp either, we often have eclectic tastes. Coffee table collections of classic pulp art are out there, and they make great inspirational page turning. Reference books are never a bad idea either, because we all can use them. Talk to your local bookstore or take a cyber jaunt through the online booksellers, and see what is available. Or just ask your pulpy friend or loved one what she or he really would love to read, I’m sure you’ll get a bunch of things to choose from. Most of us have a far larger wish list than we have funds. Gift cards are always welcome, and have the advantage of allowing the reader to wait until there’s a new release we’re coveting or a sale where you can get extra ‘bang’ for every buck. One of those E-readers or a tablet might be just the ticket too. Not all of them are expensive, and they allow you to carry an extensive library around at a fraction of the cost with no more weight than the device itself. There are a lot of public domain literature freebies out there for downloading, so you’ll be giving a gift that keeps rewarding.

Movies and TV show collections are crowd pleasers, both as relaxation and inspiration. You will need to think beyond the ubiquitous Tarentino flick, but there’s plenty to choose from. Any fast paced, hard driving, action adventure story with a heroic twist in just about any genre would work, so the sky is the limit. Ask what your favorite writer or artist is working on and find something in the same vein. All of us love to chat about what’s in the works these days, so a couple of judiciously pitched queries will garner you plenty of ideas. If you don’t know what to choose, a paid subscription to some streaming video such as Netflix of HULU Plus would fit the bill, or maybe a movie cinema gift certificate so we can afford to get out once in a while. Most of us are chronically under-funded and overworked, and could use a change of scenery. It’s good to be reminded that there is a world full of ideas living outside our heads.

Give the gift of music! Most writers and artists I know have some favorite tunes or recording stars we love to have playing in the background while we’re working. Personal taste aside, anything that relaxes or energizes will influence good working vibes, and that’s going to go over well. Don’t overlook the soundtracks to cherished movies; those are great mood setters for projects. Whether digital downloads or CDs, there are always gift cards so your creative person can do their own cherry picking. A portable playing device will always be welcome, though a lot of folks do everything on their favorite electronic gizmo. And, while you’re at it, an excellent set of headphones is also a thoughtful gift. I know from personal experience, being able to screen out background noise and accomplish something while sitting in the middle of chaos often depends on slipping those muffs over my ears and cranking up the volume. Yes, there are earbuds that will do the same thing without all the bulk, so shop around a bit. I just happen to prefer the big headsets, but not everyone does. If you don’t know, snoop! Or ask…

Supplies are always needed, whether it’s printer paper, writing utensils and sketch pads, memory cards and flash drives, business card stock, or other coveted tools of the trade. Even a desk calendar or a rolodex can be a big labor saver in keeping addresses, appointments, and deadlines handy, thus avoiding frayed nerves. Light boxes and other tools of the drawing/painting trade can be expensive and tricky to choose, so a gift certificate to the artist’s favorite shop can go a long way in making bigger ticket item affordable. If you go to an office supply store, look for archival pens, so we can sign our books and prints without cheap ink eating away at the pages. Storage solutions for said supplies can be inexpensive and creative, whether purchased from the big box discount place and jazzed up a bit, or fabricated from repurposed thrift store baskets, painted/fabric covered cans and flower pots. A little creativity and some trims, and the desk or worktable is going to be a lot neater, with supplies more easily at hand.

If you’re at all technically inclined; upgrading memory or hardware, installing a new word processing program, additional font pack, or graphics program; even getting that all-in-one printer to talk to the PC, will be greatly appreciated. With the increasing use of Skype interviews, online podcasts, and video conferences; a stand microphone, webcam, or microphone headset are all very welcome. An ergonomic or backlit keyboard (personal fave there) and a good quality mouse makes the workday easier. A bigger monitor is a blessing when eyes are tired, time is short and the midnight oil is a burnin’. Time and funds are generally in short supply and most of us pulp geeks aren’t as technically savvy as we’d like to be. A lot of us are limping through with old, outdated equipment.

Nothing makes getting down to work easier than having a good workplace setup. A new desk, drawing table, or a far more comfortable chair can make a whale of difference in what you accomplish and how you feel by the end of the session. Even a small, inexpensive file cabinet or bookcase dedicated to keeping things most used at hand is a thoughtful gift. You don’t have to outlay a lot of cash for that, but think in terms of store certificates that allow the recipient to go pick something out. My family often chips in on those big ticket items that are just too expensive for one person to afford.

A dedicated ‘office’ coffeemaker and a selection of imported brews, a basket full of teas and mugs, a couple cases of soda, or some other beverage of choice that your hardworking scribe or ink-slinger prefers will bring big smiles. Ditto snacks or easy-to-fix foods, because we’re always pressed for time. Consider gift certificates to one of those tony coffee shops or the local donut & joe-to-go purveyor, because now and then, we all deserve a treat. Dark chocolate and decaf coffee or tea is always welcome in this writer’s household!

Con-wear! No, you don’t have to hunt for those outlandish and quite expensive costumes, because working writers and artists aren’t going to have all weekend to march around as storm troopers and elven rangers. We would however, love to stand out a bit. If you can find tee shirts or caps with favorite licensed characters, those are always welcome. Ditto anything that advertises what we create—for instance I have an entire drawer of fantasy-themed tees that I trot out whenever I plan on being somewhere my writing might be mentioned; and I can attest, they do get conversations started. Those discussions can lead to sales. Along with the casual wear, at least one dressier outfit for book signings and café readings is thoughtful too. I can tell you right now, fedoras are very big at pulp cons for both guys and dolls; and we all love those nerdy gadgets like ray guns, handheld or cell phone games, and sonic screwdrivers. There are down times when you’re sitting and just staring into space, and looking busy is always better than seeming alone and forlorn. Those toys can be conversation starters as well, and as any huckster will tell you, chatting people up in a friendly way often leads to sales.

Since we do travel at times, anything from suitcases to GPS units are useful. Or how about a smart phone upgrade, for those who go that route? Staying in touch is important. A small digital camera and extra memory card to capture those con memories is a thoughtful gift. Even a cash boost so that the con reservations are more affordable will garner you grateful thanks.

How about decorating our workspace? Motivational signs, prints and posters with a tie-in to what we usually work on, or some sort of montage frame filled with favorite family photos are appreciated. We all need to look up and see anything besides the mountains of work on the desk. Ditto a little something that speaks to our other hobbies or interests. Every single one of us needs to be reminded daily that we have alternative aspects to our lives that exist outside of pulpdom.

You know what can you give that doesn’t cost a whole lot but will bring some big smiles? Your time and energy. Record our favorite TV program when we’re going to miss it. Take the kids out for the day, or the dog for a walk on a regular basis, so we have quiet, stress-free periods to concentrate. Let us sleep in the next morning after a long night pounding the keyboard or slinging paint on deadline projects. Make or bring us dinner now and then, or pitch in with the housework without being asked. Offer to help proofread or mark up a manuscript if you are so inclined. Maybe give some constructive and politely-worded criticism on the latest illustration-in-progress. Just sit and talk with us about what we’re doing now and then; you have no idea how much that helps, because a lot of writing and artwork time is spent in total isolation. Do some free promotion for us wherever you can: write a review, or chat up the book or art piece online. If you have a blog, how about a guest interview? Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth advertising and online ‘hits’ as promotions, even on simple, homey sites. You’re doing your creative pal or family member a huge service by being there as part of the process, because we all want and need our names and work spread around.

So there you have it; an entire laundry list of possibilities for the favorite pulpster in your life. Not everything has to be expensive, because it’s the connection with what we do, and the supportive encouragements for our pulpy passions, which make a gift thoughtful and appreciated.

Now you go have a happy holiday too!

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