Photo by Eriks Cistovs

Man-dar of Atlantis by Sousa is a continuation of the fantastical stories in early 1900s pulp magazines that take readers to exciting adventures in other worlds.

The first book in a planned trilogy, Man-dar of Atlantis by Kenneth Sousa, follows the adventures of the titular character Man-dar (whose alter ego is Manny) as he attempts a daring rescue mission to save a barbarian princess from the evil clutches of the High Priest of Inanna and perhaps find love in a magical world full of war and terror. 

Man-dar of Atlantis is a shining example of the fantasy subgenre popularly known as sword and sorcery. The genre is characterized by its abundance of sword-wielding and adventuring heroes who pursue exhilarating and often action-filled quests in search of either glory, treasure, or the hand of a young maiden who can be a princess, a lovely peasant girl, or a powerful witch. Unlike, say, The Lord of the Rings, stories that fall under sword and sorcery are more focused on the personal and the intimate (stories that are mainly centered around the decisions of the main character and the consequences that follow these decisions) rather than with world-spanning threats or subjects (e.g., stories that have overarching plotlines and a main goal at the end). 

But where the Man-Dar of Atlantis draws its greatest inspiration from, whether consciously or subconsciously (remember, culture is memetic), is from the pulp magazines of the distant past.

The premise of its protagonist, who comes from the present, being transported to another world is quite similar to A Princess of Mars (the first novel in the Barsoom saga), whose main character John Carter finds himself mysteriously transplanted on the surface of Mars from the Post-Antebellum south. A Princess of Mars was first serialized in the pulp magazine All-Story Magazine. Another similarity is from the Conan the Barbarian mythos with its barbarians, princesses, dark lords, and brutal world. 

Yet despite its predecessors and roots, Kenneth Sousa’s Man-dar of Atlantis is not a cynical carbon copy nor a simple derivative. It develops a unique niche for itself, modifying and building upon old concepts and tropes, subverting and reinventing them in fresh new ways but in a capacity that still retains its pulp character. 

If you grew up before the 80s, chances are you will be familiar with pulp magazines. They were a widespread source for affordable popular fiction in those times before paperbacks became more available and the internet provided digital books. They regularly ran as periodicals and were called pulp magazines because they were made from cheap wood pulp; this is in contrast to slick magazines, which were printed on better quality paper and had glossier and shinier surfaces.

Almost every genre of fiction could be found in pulp magazines, having succeeded and replaced penny dreadfuls, dime novels, and the like as the main source for popular fiction. Many famous novelists and writers during the mid-20th century had their works published in pulp magazines.

Here are a few examples:

  • Agatha Christie. Wrote Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple and other successful detective fiction.
  • Arthur C. Clarke. Popularly known for co-writing the screenplay for 2001: A Space Odyssey and authoring several short stories.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs. Wrote Tarzan and the Barsoom books.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald. Wrote This Side of Paradise and The Great Gatsby.
  • Frank Herbert. Wrote the Dune saga.
  • H.G. Wells. Wrote The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, The Time Machine, and other foundational science fiction stories.
  • H.P. Lovecraft. Wrote the Cthulhu mythos and pioneered the subgenre of speculative fiction of cosmic horror.
  • Isaac Asimov. Wrote the Foundation series and many short stories exploring robotics and artificial intelligence.
  • Robert E. Howard. Wrote the Conan the Barbarian mythos.
  • Rudyard Kipling. Wrote the Jungle Book and was the winner of the 1907 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Pulp magazines are a foundational inspiration for plenty of popular contemporary tropes and genres today—from sword and sorcery, detective stories, superheroes, spy fiction, science fiction, etc. The influence is decidedly still potent enough that a lot of plotlines, archetypes, and clichés associated with modern storytelling can be traced back to stories published in pulp magazines.

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