The Indomitable King of Pulp-Land, or, The Sanctity of the Middlebrow

The single work that I have watched the most amount of times in the world just happens to be Steins;Gate. The single book that I have read the most amount of times in the world happens to be the Selected Non-Fictions of Jorge Luis Borges. I have experienced both around 5 times already.

Does that seem like a kind of stretch? One happens to be a Science Fiction Thriller, appealing to the lowest denominators with Otaku humor and plenty of cute girls doing cute things with a mad scientist to boot. The other is a series of essays written by one of the most well-read men to have ever walked the whole of Planet Earth. My mind reels at the startling gulf between these two separate poles.

But are they really so separate? The premise of Steins;Gate comes from a time-travel device involving multiple timelines. Borges, arguably, wrote the first story in the world involving the concept of multiple-worlds: The Garden of Forking Paths. Well, that’s the surface difference anyway.

Furthermore, both are works enamored with ideas. The first half of Steins;Gate is probably the first Science Fiction work I’ve ever seen that doubles as a Discovery (Scientist) Fiction, in the vein of Stanislaw Lem’s His Master’s Voice, combining that with Slice of Life. Sure, it isn’t as rigorous in its ideas as Lem’s work, but even the process pseudoscientific discovery is more or less portrayed at a nice, flowing pace. The effect is purely atmospheric. The saturated atmosphere of Paranoia in a digital age, mixed in with subculture, communication technologies, and conspiracies. Correspondences to real institutions in the world. Larger than life archetypal characters shooting the shit about various things within said context. Who ever writes Science Fiction, that, you know, actually depicts the relaxing process of discovery? On the other hand, you have Borges, the king of the fictional abstraction. Stories with little analogue to real life except as philosophical meditation. Strong mystical poeticisms with the rhythm of a baroque academic.

Not many people believe this, but the two halves of Steins;Gate are necessary. Some people want all action, others want all relaxation. It’s confusing when we have a unity of both. But that gradual incline towards a manifested conflict is something only possible by the best of creators.

If you think about it, the Brother’s Karamazov has the same kind of upflow. Alyosha runs through a vibrant cast of characters, all with discernably hilarious larger-than-life personalities, as everything mounts into a philosophical treatise coupled with a murder.

He who wishes to be the indomitable king of Pulp-Land, a structure he must have. He who wishes to be the indomitable king of Pulp-Land, entertainment he must have. He who wishes to be the indomitable king of Pulp-Land, critical conflict he must have.

Borges wrote with a pulp-writer’s sensibility, even though he was a genius. He wrote Lovecraftian Homages, and he even tried his hand in the Detective Story. He spent his time coming up with inventive structures more than actually executing them. Some of his best stories are invented books. Clearly he was having the kind of fun that pulp writers have, when they come up with vibrant story-lines.

Dostoyevsky wrote with a pulp-writer’s sensibility. This is unmistakable. He wrote murder plots and lengthy humorous scenes. He loved brooding philosophical inquiries made over knife and dagger. He loved intellectual battles between super-geniuses, waaaay before the full flowering of Mystery Fiction.

And we don’t even need to talk about Shakespeare, who had half a corpus made entirely of pulp.

Pulp, as an aesthetic, is rooted in the idea of generosity. A generosity towards narrative quickness. A generosity towards entertaining characterization. A generosity towards heart-pumping conflicts. A generosity towards rip-roaring witticisms and jokes. Steins;Gate, as a story, is whole-heartedly generous, in its ideas, humors, and narrative turns.

They would like to believe that reaching out to the so called ‘Eternal Universal Values’ requires them to be slow and moody. Well, in the end, I resolve to draw the faster blade, while the writers of dreary monumentals can swing their hammers down. Even Post-Modernist ironic humor is a bulky bag of bricks, simply because the sharpness is lacking. The pulpist must, at his pulpit, be simultaneously uproarious, boisterous, and sharply striking as well. A joke lagged too far off kills the tempo, and groany meta-fictionality sluices in the soul.

He who stands on the twilight of pulpitry and higher goals, must simultaneous give and obscure himself. Generous in his surface offering, he plays a silent game underneath, and when the entertainment falls away, and the curtains are drawn, only then does the world’s first dawning accumulate. I like to define Middle-Brow as not a position of its own between Low-Brow and High-Brow, but a bridge. A necessary relation that exists between both entities. The mediator of communication between two opposing sensibilities.

And that’s why I believe, never write without the brain of a writer, and the heart of a pulpist.

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