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Protecting Project Pulp No. 25: Russell A. Boggs

January 1, 2013 by Frederic Himebaugh

Main Fiction: “Agent Andy” by Russell A. Boggs, first published in Adventure Magazine, August 3, 1919.

Narrator: Tim Maroney.

“You remember what I told you last Spring. You’ve been absent from your office for at least forty-five minutes this afternoon. I know, becuase I was at the station waiting. You’re done—fired.”

Play

Comments

  1. I don’t know what your general policy is when the content of the story rings a bit sour to the modern ear, but I would have appreciated a notice on this one. Something like “This week’s story comes from 1919, and assumes some outdated and possibly offensive attitudes and language toward African-Americans. We hope you will enjoy the story, and understand that the attitudes were typical of the era.”

    I’m enjoying the stories otherwise and hope you’ll keep up the good work. Thanks.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with Jonathan. I fully realize that the Pulp genre hails from a time of substantially-different cultural norms, and that’s fine. I’m no fan of pandering to overly-delicate sensibilities or air-brushing over meaningful history. In this case, however, Boggs’ short story lacks the literary merit and simple entertainment value to redeem the offending elements. Of all the alternatives that you might have selected from Pulp’s Golden Age, this one was a poor choice for production. I am a long-time fan of the DoW, and I am confident that no deliberate offense was intended, but I can assure you that listeners were offended.

    It ought to be obvious, but I’ll point out that when an unmistakeably-white narrator affects that jarring, Amos-n-Andy-like elocution of ostensibly-black American dialect, most modern listeners- of whatever race- cringe. It is tantamount to audio Blackface… and yes, I realize that the author composed the dialogue exactly like that, which is what should have been considered at the outset, before producing this thing. There is no way that this story could have come off satisfactorily- not if you had James Earl Jones narrate it. Add to that the content of the narrative- the repetitive emphasis on the nature of those shiftless, greedy “darkies” and so forth… good grief. I’m sorry, Gentlemen, but this one stunk.

    Again, I’ve listened to the Starship for years, and to the other DoW podcasts since they began, and it is obvious to me that your organization’s culture is a forward-thinking, progressive one; I can’t begin to imagine you guys capable of deliberate bigotry. My concern is that, were a new prospective listener to explore PPP, and were he unfortunate enough to click on this podcast production the first time, he would probably come away thinking otherwise.

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

  3. Editor,
    I have just discovered your podcasts.

    I am 66 & female. I am able to make a judgement about what I listen to & read. I have been making these decisions since before I was 20.

    I have read classic pulp and am now enjoying new interpretations of classics and new pulp stories.

    So to the person who chose Boggs’ story to read; continue to read them as written and read the stories that have survived. I can and have moved on to another story because I didn’t like what I was reading or thought the writing was bad. My decision.

  4. Hi Nadine – thanks for your comment.

    It’s certainly challenging terrain – we’re aware of the big disparity between the values of that time and now, but we generally treat our audience as discerning adults who can, as you say, move on if the story doesn’t suit. We’ll continue to make the best judgement call that we can, and if the content feels particularly controversial we’ll consider offering a disclaimer – but ultimately we’ll try to represent the pulp era as honestly as we can – warts and all.

    Thanks to everyone posting here for their contribution – keep the feedback coming and we’ll keep reading it. :)

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