A face for the pulps

So, you’re working on your pulp project. You’ve written your piece, now you’re working on the display type. Helvetica, Arial, Times or New York just won’t capture the 1930s feel you’re looking for. Thanks to fontographers such as Dave Bastian you have some pulp-like choices.

Bastian has created Startling, a freeware typeface based on the logotype of the classic science fiction pulp, Startling Stories. In the Read Me file distributed with the typeface, Bastian says, “I thought the masthead appealing, so I ventured to extrapolate an entire alphabet with only the characters A, E, G, I, O L, N R, S and T as my guide. The result is a mixed bag that seems a heckuva lot more wacky than the venerable nameplate that sired this misbegotten font.”

Keep in mind when you’re setting type in the Startling face, that it’s a display face. That means it should be used in sizes larger than 18 points. Don’t set the text of your pulp project in Startling — that will certainly discourage anyone from reading it. Also be aware that the typeface doesn’t include any lowercase characters or punctuation.

Or, consider Fedora, a freeware font by Derek Vogelpohl. Fedora doesn’t have a specific pulp logotype ancestor, but certainly has a Raiders of the Lost Ark look. Fedora features a complete character set – capitals, lowercase (well, actually small caps), numerals and punctuation. Like Startling, it’s also a display font that should be only be used for headlines and logos.

Both typefaces are available as TrueType (.ttf) fonts, which means they should work on both Macintosh and Windows computers. Check out the read-me files accompanying the fonts for installation instructions.

If you’re looking for something else and your budget doesn’t include fonts by Adobe, Bitstream or Emigre, there are hundreds of freeware or shareware fonts available for download on the Web. For instance, there’s a 1001 Free Fonts website with dozens of display typefaces (you just have to put up with a lot of pop-up ads). The quality may not be as good as the professional fonts, but often, if you’re creating just a logo or headline, a freeware or shareware font will work just fine to capture the pulp flavor you’re looking for.