Pulp Hero Micro-Fic Contest

February 21, 2012

HILOBROW is pleased to announce our seventh micro-fiction contest! The contest is sponsored by our friends at the used and rare bookseller Pazzo Books.

PS: Our thanks to Carolyn Kellogg at the LA Times‘ literary blog Jacket Copy for talking up this contest!

THE CHALLENGE: Inspired by the invent-a-hero narratives and symbolic backstories compressed into a few jam-packed sentences in pre-midcentury radio serials (“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men…”), pulp fiction, and comic book opening panels, we challenge you to write a pulp-style blurb for a classic work of fiction or film. (E.g., “One autumn night, Jay Gatz beheld a ladder above the trees that revealed to him the secret of all desire. Thus was born The Great Gatsby!” etc.) We won’t try to define “classic,” for you; you’ll have to use your own best judgment.

In order to inspire your blurb-writing, between today and the contest’s end, HILOBROW will publish a series of posts, each of which will feature several Golden-Age comic book opening panels. Example:

DEADLINE, GUIDELINES: Publish your entry of NO MORE THAN SIXTY-FIVE (65) WORDS to the comments section of this post, using the “Leave a Reply” field below. (Please provide a working email address. HILOBROW will never share this info.) The deadline for submissions is 9pm EST on Wednesday, March 14th. Winners will be announced on Monday, March 19th, and the winning stories will be published shortly after that. HiLobrow friends are permitted to enter; so are previous winners. As noted below, the winning stories will be published on this website.

PS: For a previous example of how this sort of submission process works, see the Comments section for our “Troubled Superman” contest announcement from January 2010.

THE JUDGES: Matthew Battles, HILOBROW’s literary editor and a fellow at Harvard’s network-culture think tank metaLab; John Hilgart, editor of the online comic-book details galleries 4CP, Comic Book Cartography, and Supertype!; and Tom Nealon, scholar of pre-modern cookbooks and cookery, and sole proprietor of Pazzo Books. All three are regular contributors to HiLobrow. The contest is orchestrated by HILOBROW’s Joshua Glenn.

THE PRIZES: First Prize is three vintage Dell “mapback” mysteries/thrillers — and the first-prize entry will be illustrated by HiLobrow friend and contributor Rick Pinchera! First Runner-up Prize is Berkeley Medallion’s 1969 reissue of Robert J. Hogan’s G-8 and His Battle Aces stories of the 1930s-40s, vols. 1-6. Second Runner-up Prize is Avon’s 1973 Flash Gordon series of paperback novelizations, vols. 1-4, by “Alex Raymond” (actually Ron Goulart). All book prizes were donated by this contest’s sponsor, Pazzo Books.

THE DEAL: The winning entry in the contest, and also the two runners-up, will be published here at HILOBROW. HiLobrow’s contributors (listed by name in the post’s author field) control the copyright to their work; we only retain the right to use the story on our website, RSS feed, and daily emails. See our Policies Page for more info.

RSS: Follow contest updates by subscribing to hilobrow.com/tag/contest/feed/

PAST CONTEST WINNERS! 1. (RADIUM AGE SF) TROUBLED SUPERHUMAN: Charles Pappas, “The Law” | 2. (RADIUM AGE SF) CATASTROPHE: Timothy Raymond, “Hem and the Flood” | 3. TELEPATHY: Rachel Ellis Adams, “Fatima, Can You Hear Me?” | 4. OIL SPILL: A.E. Smith, “Sound Thinking” | 5. LITTLE NEMO CAPTION: Joe Lyons, “Necronomicon” | 6. SPOOKY-KOOKY: Tucker Cummings, “Well Marbled”


What do you think?

  1. Grand hotelier, disdained. Intrepid explorer, spurned. Hero of the gridiron, ignored. Rufus has just one chance left to win the dowager of his dreams: Statesman of Considerable Renown! Clad in the Tailcoat of Destiny, smeared by the Greasepaint of Loquacity, guided by the Specs of Brow, he must transform himself from lowly pierrot into today’s most exciting Super-Hero. He must become–The Firefly!

  2. Nice one, TGG. I didn’t anticipate that this contest would make us editors do some puzzling to figure out which novel or movie was being pulp-ized, but I like that about it. (Aha! Rufus T. Firefly!)

    Folks, this is the place to post your entry. Thanks for getting the contest started, TGG.

  3. The Hero, while reading the newspaper in the comfort of his home, read that his arch enemy, The Spider, one of the worst villains of all time and the Hero imprisoned himself, escaped yesterday from the state prison with thirty of his accomplices. Before his departure, the spider, decided to kill forty of his enemies in prison. The Hero cried.

  4. In a world where Edwardian gentlemen are always one step away from arranged marriage, two heroes have the courage, the skills, and the harebrained schemes to preserve upper-class bachelorhood. Wherever matchmaking aunts lurk, wherever cow-creamers are stolen, wherever copious amounts of liquor need to be drank, you’ll find Wooster and Jeeves.

  5. She circled the globe seeking pleasures of the spirit… and the flesh! See what happens when this insatiable hellcat dries her eyes and pries herself off the bathroom floor!

  6. From humble beginnings in Virginia to the lacquered toast of 19th century Boston, Silas Lapham rises as a boldly square-chinned phoenix to the heights of high society. Will he marry off his daughter to a better station in life than whence she came, or will the blue bloods of Boston’s old money make this painted Horatio Alger, captain of industry, see red?

  7. Though he doesn’t have the mighty strength of Superman nor the lightning fast speed of the Flash, he’s got money. Lots of them.

    He’s the Batman.

  8. Exiled to a desert-island with only his beautiful daughter Miranda for company, Prospero — the wise-and-just Wizard-Duke of fabled Milan — swore revenge on the usurper, his evil brother Antonio. Prospero WILL have his throne back, for with all the dark forces at his command, he has the power of a TEMPEST!

  9. A screaming comes across the sky heralding the birth of Rocket Man! He was Lieutenant Tyrone Slothrop, reprobate, malingerer, until the maniacal Captain Blicero and his blood-thirsty octopus Grigori attacked Slothrop’s love, the exotic Katje. Taking flight across the Zone, a landscape of the conscious and subconscious, Rocket Man pursues the origins of fabled Rocket OOOO and his very existence, becoming caught in GRAVITY’S RAINBOW.

  10. We’re off to a terrific start! Keep those stories coming. March 14 (at 9pm EST) is the deadline.

  11. Taunted mercilessly about her weight by her mad, cruel mother, young Joan Foster vowed that she would be SLIM and SUCCESSFUL when she grew up! She succeeded beyond her wildest dreams, even teaming up with the mysterious POLISH COUNT, and the fabulous ROYAL PORCUPINE. Now, however, a dark stranger is threatening to reveal her secret past as… LADY ORACLE!

  12. Rocketed down the Nile as a baby from the doomed House of Israel, young Moshe was adopted by the kindly daughter of Pharoah. Given a new, royal name, he grew to adolescence as a Prince of Egypt. But after hearing the word of I AM WHO I AM in a burning bush, he became the legendary Liberator of Israel, the Divider of Seas… MOSES!

  13. Swept away, the world deaf to his cries, our hero is removed from home and comrades. Or so he thinks, for as he is rushed along, a wooden box keeping him from being dashed against the rocks, his faithful companion races to find him. Apart, they brave wild weather, and harrowing encounters with the natives. And we wonder, will Milo and Otis ever be reunited?

  14. CITIZEN KANE: born into poverty, providence bestows him with a fortune in gold! Armed with fantastic wealth, he establishes a media empire, with which he wages war against the powerful and corrupt. From his fortress “Xanadu”, he watches over the people of New York, and the world; and broods over the one thing he can never have: an enigma known only as “ROSEBUD”…

  15. All Ishmael wanted was no-stress work at sea, trimming sails, swabbing decks…. What he got was a sailor’s nightmare! A fanatical captain, seeking vengeance, drives his crew to the brink as they hunt a great white demon of the deep! Dangerous prophecies, harpoons, island savages, severed limbs! And the final, deadly confrontation with the ghostly beast itself! “I only am escaped alone to tell thee!!”

  16. See Dick explore India. Explore, Dick, explore! Dick sees Jane. Thuggee cultists see Jane. Run, Jane, run! See Dick fight the savages. Dick is strong. See Dick punch the savages. Dick and Jane are friends. Adventure, Dick and Jane, adventure!

  17. In a world where documents must be copied by hand, only Bartelby had the endurance to gorge on legal documents day and night. And yet, he feels the pull of a higher calling. He must face the Existential Desolation of Life with his Will as his only power. He is The Scrivener… and He Prefers Not To!

  18. Disguised as a common pork vendor, our mustachioed vigilante trudges day and night through the filthy streets of The Big Easy — a city Rife with homosexuals, floozies, and crooked cops! Cruel Fortuna will stop at nothing to thwart his moral quest, but our hero Soldiers on, fighting for decency, avenging the meek, and punishing the depraved! In a world full of dunces, Reilly is king!

  19. ANOTHER KIND OF WAND. “This,” she said, and pulled forth a thick dream stick, “is the emptied shoulder blade of the Kalobatippus, a prehistoric horse from the Pliocene. Adds some epos to the dream stasis.” She placed the black opium pearl on the pipe-bowl, and started heating it over the oil lamp till the fumes arouse. “Are you ready for a slicky, silky road trip?”

  20. London is dying, infested with vermin and infected with disease. The city’s survival can only come through a trial by fire, and that tale can only be told in “The Diary of Samuel Pepys”

  21. A hero of few words awakens to a prehistoric odyssey. You’ll absorb every printed word of Augusto Monterroso’s “The Dinosaur”!

  22. A global conglomerate seeks to impose a new imperialism targeting the world’s children during the most leisurely of activities.
    Academics Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart have uncovered the shadowy and subtle conspiracy.
    Will they be able to teach the world HOW TO READ DONALD DUCK?

  23. Just gotta add, doesn’t the “Shock Gibson” origin above sound exactly like the origin of the Silver Age Flash, 20 plus years later?

    Nothing new under the sun, I guess!

  24. Winnie, the ursine hero, rules the Seven Acre Woods with a plush paw. Enter his nemesis, Tigger, a menace who threatens to bounce the serene world into oblivion. Can The Pooh defend the inhabitants of the woods with only Piglet at his ample side? Hope surges through his promise: “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

  25. Betrayed by the country he served, burdened by the king’s men and forced to scratch a living out of an infertile land, Christopher Syn turns the tables on the tax collectors of Romney Marsh. By day he’s a farmer, but by night, he is…THE SCARECROW!

  26. Sworn to love a world that fears and hates him, Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin returns from a remote Swiss sanatorium endowed with an impossible naïveté, a forcefield impenetrable by bourgeois propriety, and a new name – he is: THE IDIOT.

  27. A carefree and debonair bachelor, a tycoon with a shadowy past,… and five sisters who will do ANYTHING to get their man! It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of… PRIDE AND PREJUDICE!

  28. From the depths of Saturn’s gravity, a man claws his way to the surface. Looking for a symbol of the absolute good, he swears to defeat all that is antithetical to that until he does. He is Saturn Lad!

  29. “When the white whale took his leg, Captain Ahab vowed revenge. He assembled the finest crew the port had to offer. He honed his harpoon in the fires of hatred and tempered it with blood. Now he sets out to battle the sea itself and meet his destiny!”

  30. He was born man, but after he died Dr. Frankenstein made him into something else. How could something so unnatural have a mind, a heart, a conscience, a soul? And yet, in this new existence, all the monster wants is a mate to keep him company. Too bad Dr. Frankenstein has other plans.

  31. Victor works tirelessly in his laboratory, creating an abomination stitched from dead flesh. Hatred and loneliness fuel the creature. Only its creator can stop the monster’s rampage. Galvanism! Murder! Romance! From Geneva to the Arctic Circle, follow the trail of FRANKENSTEIN.

  32. Set a course for adventure, your mind on a new romance! With the whole Mediterranean for his playground, with brains, brawn, and bronze, he’s Odysseus, with lots of time to kill – and lots of monsters!

  33. He’d lived by the rules of the strange age to which the druids had exiled him. He’d hid his savage nature. Then he’d gone eighty-four days without a fish, and when he finally caught one the black-finned villains came to steal it. That’s when he cracked, when he drew forth the great sword “DiMaggio,” and became once more Santiago the Slayer, warrior of Atlantis.

  34. Troubled girl juvie Dorothy Gale flees the family farm for a place where Yorkies can roam free from spinsters bearing straw baskets. When a tornado drops her in Oz, a land of garrulous scarecrows and monkeys in fezzes, she realizes Kansas wasn’t so bad after all. Beating the odds, she liquidates the bad witch and jumps a rainbow home—all while wearing snazzy red heels.

  35. He stalks the night in a reign of terror that’s lasted hundreds of years. Now Count Dracula has come to London. Our only hope is Professor Abraham van Helsing. Give garlic to your virgins and get your stakes ready. We’re going vampire hunting.

  36. CURSED by a withering comment from the lounging woman at a dinner party, milquetoast everyman J. Alfred Prufrock begins a nightmarish descent into the bowels of his own twisted psyche. Dogged by silent mermaids and crab envy, Prufrock suffers and struggles, battling the forces of self-inflicted social ostracism in his quest to finally eat a peach.

  37. Struck by a meteor at the 50-yard line of Boise’s Cowboy Stadium, mild-mannered Dr. Matt Barney transforms into a strange, grotesque creature of the human libido. Now, follow our hero through firing squads, blue Astroturf, prosthetic limb manufacturers and the deep, dark recesses of the sexual psyche as Dr. Barney comes to terms with his alter ego… THE CREMASTER!!!

  38. Evil beware what you cannot behold! For though he is before your very eyes, he is after your wanton ways. Keep your eyes sharp, doers of villainy everywhere, for the last question you may find yourself asking is… WHERE’S WALDO?

  39. A mole…tired of the system.
    A badger…sick of society.
    A rat…content with boating.
    And a toad…hijacking a ride on the road to ruin.
    On the fringes of civilization!
    Getting their kicks!
    living underground…
    and eating buttered toast with jam!
    Discover the secrets…in Kenneth Graham’s…
    The Wind in the Willows!

  40. Trapped on an island with his fellow school chums, young Ralph is a born leader, doing what he can to protect his friends from chaos and danger with only his wits and his powerful conch shell. But when night falls and the shadows dance, Ralph must fight off the Hunters, the Beast…and the dreaded LORD OF THE FLIES!

  41. Mild mannered Winston Smith is an official Keeper of Truth. Or so he thinks. Falling into a forbidden love with the enigmatic Julia and seduced into a secret organization of dangerous, anti-government rebels, Winston will be forced to decide which is stronger: Love or Fear! Read on, Dear Reader, and discover for yourself that perhaps two plus two really is five!!

  42. Far from public view, a group of sinister men meet behind the closed doors of the Roman Senate. They are lead by the misguided Brutus who casts the dice against the most powerful man of Rome: Julius Caesar. Blood brothers torn apart, seers and ghosts predicting the end of days, the women who stand beside their dishonored men, and the tragedy that rocked the nation.

  43. Besieged by aliens that haunted the sunlit realm, he strove to master his fear and fight against the insidious plots and strange weapons of his obsessed foes. He is the albino leviathan like no other. He is … Moby Dick!

  44. Surrounded by government parasites and lazy plebes, he leads the entrepreneurial few on a fantasy ride of such monumental incoherence that he ironically inspires a generation of financial pirates. He is the Crusader for Capitalism; the Atlas who Shrugged; he is … John Galt.

  45. When love is a tool and corruption a virtue, how can one man stand tall against the shadows of nationalistic villainy? A bitter man with a dangerous past is confronted by the old flame that betrayed him. When she claims her love was true, he tricks all the tricksters, and sees Love safely away. He is Rick Blaine. Call him The Casablancan.

  46. He mangled the midget. He choked the cyclops. He even engaged in hand-to-gland combat.  But in a world where the air was dirty and the sex was clean, the only way Portnoy could survive was to complain.

  47. He is a lord among men and the king of the apes. His only friend is a chimp and his only clothing is a loincloth. But no matter how far he swings on vines that sweep him over his primal world, Tarzan can’t escape the crueler jungle of civilization, where men fight to the death not with ferocious lions but feral lawyers.

  48. Archie: A young boy caught on the knife edge of manhood. Veronica: a cruel heiress with a debit card for a heart. Betty: an angel trapped in a cesspool of sin. Moose: half man, half ungulate. Reggie: He’s got more angles than Picasso’s paintings. Jughead: The only thing lower than absolute zero is his IQ. Together they’re the … Riverdale Dogs.

  49. In a world where men take bulls by the horns and women in the back of taxis, Jake Barnes has left his country and lost his cojones, but he’s willing to fight, fish and drink his way into the heart of the woman he loves, but can never lay, because he knows that while the it set on his libido…The Sun Also Rises.

  50. That’s it! Feckless Harry Angstrom has escaped from the clutches of the all-powerful MagiPeeler, through a mysterious chain of events that catapult him beyond convention, beyond morality, into a new life as…the Rabbit! Join him on his cavalcade of earth-shattering, world-spanning adventures, as he’s pursued by the twin forces of Red Ruth and Janice Jitter! Run, Rabbit–Rabbit, Run!

    If by chance this should be illustrated, you should know that the Rabbit is never without his trusty golf club.

  51. Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus are two lost souls who are unaware of their powers. Bloom is an introvert who brings truth in the definition of self. Dedalus moves mountains in his search for identity. Together these two heroes forge freedom to a world in transition. However, it is one woman, Molly, who exposes Bloom for who he really is: the one and only, ULYSSES!

  52. Thanks for the stories, everyone! An excellent selection for our judges to choose from. As of now the contest is officially closed.

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