What would you consider to be the easiest way to get into vintage pulp stories? Are the magazines available in reprintings or collected volumes or something like that?
You are absolutely in luck, because in the past three years, it’s become incredibly easy to start reading old pulp stories because of kindle readers. Because publishing for e-readers is a gold rush now and it has very little overhead and zero per-unit cost, publishers are, for the first time, dipping into their back catalogs and even going into public domain materials. Seriously, the past few years are the best time in history to ever be a fan of old pulp fiction. It’s easier to get more old pulp stuff now than even in the 1920s-1950s.
The key thing to remember is this: don’t be afraid of exploring alternate formats. Leigh Brackett’s People of the Talisman is exactly the same, has exactly the same entertainment value, if you buy a vintage pulp magazine at $70 off ebay, than if you buy a $1 ebook or a 50 cent paperback from the 1970s! Remember that lot of pulp scifi was reissued in the 1960s-1980s during the paperback boom, so it’s not unusual to find it in paperback formats, and the thing about paperbacks is, there’s such a glut of them that used booksellers usually clear them off for under a dollar. Pay attention to the following old paperback publishers, because they specialize in reprints: Ace Books, Lancer, DAW (who had the best covers, maybe in paperback history) and Del Rey.
If you want to try kindle or ebooks, the best place to start would be collections of a single author or a single theme, what they call megapacks. It’s not unusual to see them selling for 99 cents or less on Amazon. The covers look very Mickey Mouse, with poser art that make them all seem vaguely like porno or fetish art, but most of the stories are pure gold. It’s possible to buy in bulk.
If you want to read old pulp scifi, a lot of public domain materials are easily available. It’s possible to buy all 16 John Carter of Mars novels in one go for less than $5 for an e-reader, as is Ray Cummings’ Girl in the Gold Atom, the collected works of Stanley G. Weinbaum, including his best novel, the romance about immortals, The Black Flame. Hell, even Edmond Hamilton’s Captain Future is available in ebook form…where else can you get four novels in one?
If you want to roll the dice, there are even theme packs, with titles like “Golden Age Science Fiction Megapack,” but since most of them cost $1, you’re not gambling much, and they often contain pure gold. Since it’s ridiculously easy to get reprint rights, the ratio of hit to miss is higher than you’d think.
If you want pulp horror-fantasy, try the ebooks for C.L. Moore’s Jirel of Joiry, about an amazon warrior lady in the middle ages - nearly everything by Moore is available in ebook form for peanuts. There is a great megapack for the oddly named Nictzin Dyalhis, containing everything he ever wrote in Weird Tales. And best of all, the entire life’s work of Abraham Merritt, who is surprisingly readable, including Dwellers in the Mirage, about a legendary world of squid-worshippers hidden behind an illusion, and the Moon Pool, about a portal on a lost island to a weird supernatural world.
If you want lost-world adventure, Dian of Lost Land, about stone age men riding giant birds in Antarctica, is great, as is Thyra, Romance of the Polar Pit, about a lost kingdom of Vikings discovered by airship explorers.
But here’s a quick piece of advice if you want to buy public domain e-books. You could save yourself a bit of time by searching for them on Project Gutenberg Australia, where you can get e-books for free. Project Gutenberg makes public domain materials available, but here’s an interesting quirk about copyright law: in the US and Europe, it’s been Life of the Author + 70 years, but in Australia, it’s life + 50. So you will always find more materials on Project Gutenberg Australia. (This is yet another indication of how copyright is totally unworkable in its present form in the internet age, but that’s a discussion for another time.)