The Sixth Shelf: Hardware I: Weapons, Things, and Science – Introduction by Mike

Pulp technology and science is a very strange animal. It can encompass everything from steampunk to space opera, Monoplanes to UFOs, and yet it remains grounded in the very real technology available in the 1920s and 1930s.

The difficulty is always not undermining that foundation, which is what happens when weird science is industrialized. You altar balances of power, which in turn impacts economics and politics and political relations, which can massively alter the course of history. At the same time, you should use science and technology to intrigue and surprise your PCs; it’s an essential part of the color of the genre.

One trick that we have found particularly useful is to use the 1940s and 1950s as both templates and misdirection. If something is discovered or becomes possible in the immediate post-pulp era, it’s not unreasonable that weird science will make those things possible to a select few in the pulp era; the only trick is ensuring that such technology does not find its way into the production lines prematurely, upsetting the historical apple-cart to too extreme a measure. As for misdirection, calling a weird science invention by a name that means or implies something in the post-pulp world, but giving it an equally rational but entirely different significance in your campaign world is a sure way to get the PCs interested in the situation when they hear the name.

The Adventurer’s Club campaign has seen heat rays, a moon base (and the rockets to reach and sustain it), super-hypnotism, a mechanical strength-enhancing suit, a super-acid that turns into an explosive when it dries, and – in the adventure now underway – a prototype teleporter that has turned a gangland boss into a human/fly hybrid. On top of that there have been two medical miracles – one for an extremely rare psychological condition and another for an equally rare form of leukemia, and all manner of strange vehicles (which I’ll discuss when we get to the next shelf).

Relevance to other genres

Most fantasy games are just like Pulp, only the foundation technological level is different. On top of that, magic can do things that technology can’t.

It might seem that since a scientific understanding of phenomena such as lightning lay centuries into the future, that the GM is free to invent whatever he likes. And yet, when that approach is adopted in fantasy novels and games, the uncertainty about what is possible and what is not undermines the credibility of adventures and fuels player paranoia toward the GM. By far, the more successful approach is for the GM to apply a “game physics” that places constraints and consistency on the game world; even if the players and PCs don’t know or understand this “game physics”, its presence will still be felt.

When you get down to it, that’s a large part of the difference between a child’s fairy tale and a fantasy novel for grown-ups.

Almost anything could be possible, but not everything that could be possible will be permitted.

And, when you think about it, you find that this is a universal truth, applicable to every genre of RPG, from Science Fiction to Westerns.

By far the simplest starting point is knowing the way the real world works, at least in general principle, and being familiar with some of the stranger ideas that people held in various eras – so that you can file off the serial numbers and use them as inspiration.


books on cart, architecture prominent title

image credit: / drquanli


Shelf Introduction

Science & Technology takes in a very wide breadth of scope, especially when some of the more – well, let’s be polite – “fringe” theories and “technologies” that may not work in the real world but might be entirely acceptable in a pulp universe, are taken into account.

In fact, there’s an entire spectrum of scientific credibilities that this section embraces. The really out-there stuff (and some not-so-out-there that didn’t quite fit with the contents here) have been grouped with superstitions and religions and the like. But even excluding those there’s a wide range contained on this shelf.

There’s the material that is generally accepted as being scientifically accurate, at least at the time of publication – “accuracy” is always a moving target in the world of science – or at least is close enough to be generally so from a layman’s perspective. It explains the real way the world works enough for a layman to use, let’s say.

Then there’s the material that contains at least some grain of truth, or that was an honest but misguided attempt at genuine science. You would also have gotten a taste of that on the previous shelf with the section on Easter Island. This includes medical practices originating outside the sphere of western medicine, which certainly contains some validity that has slowly been recognizes by unprejudiced scientific testing, but which also contains material that at best can be described as ‘unproven’. Millions of people can swear by practices such as acupuncture, for example. The current general description for these therapeutic techniques is “alternative medicine” – but there are parts of the world, especially in the pulp era, where they are accepted and it’s western medical practices that are considered “alternative” or “fringe” and “unproven at best”.

And then there is the material that most people consider to be from cloud-cuckoo-land; you also got a taste of that on the previous shelf with the sections on The Hollow Earth theories, Atlantis/Lemuria, and the Bermuda Triangle. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Pulp GM considering these to be at least partially valid, if it makes for a great adventure.

Beyond the theory that explains the world, there is the practical realities of the technology that existed during the pulp era. That period, as we have defined it for the purposes of this series, is almost a century old, and so much technology that was invented afterwards was established routine and taken for granted before those reading this were even born, that it can be difficult to realize what wasn’t around at the time and what the absence did to everyday life. The story of technology is not just a tale of ingenuity and engineering, it’s a story about society and culture, a blend that makes it fascinating and something the modern-day GM needs to know about if they are to represent the world around the PCs. Even if that world has been transformed somewhat by the exigencies of fictional discoveries necessary to generate a pulp “atmosphere”, the real world remains the starting point, with changes to be made carefully and after considerable scrutiny.

And, to close out the section, we have one of the most ubiquitous forms of technology with which the PCs will be concerned – weapons, and in particular, firearms.

Era Technology – This section is concerned with the technology that existed in the real world during the pulp era and is essential to the look-and-feel of the campaign as well as dictating what characters are capable of without weird science assistance. This is an era in which shoe stores have X-ray machines to ensure a good fit, powered at levels that are the equivalent of hundreds or thousands of modern x-rays, per usage.

Currency & Valuables – This might well have been included in the “Everyday Life In The Pulp Era” section, but that was bursting at the seams – so much so that we had no hesitation in offloading it onto this shelf. For the most part, we aren’t concerned with economics or even the predominant economic theories of the time; those probably won’t be exactly the same in a pulp environment, anyway (though we generally view the “New Deal” as symbolic of what would have been the prevalent economic theories in such a world). No, we have listed books about the forms that valuables can take – specifically, the sort of valuables that the PCs might end up chasing after.

Weird Science – This section contains the most unlikely “science”, so far out on the fringe that most people don’t consider it science at all. It also includes all the fabulous technology of the Pulp Hero and Villain – everything from jetpacks to x-ray glasses.

Fringe Science – Existing in between accepted science and weird science is the scientific fringe, where individual subjects may hold a single grain of truth or mighty veins of it. But it’s all good for pulp adventures!

Accepted Science – We’ve already discussed why this is important, no matter what your genre. The pulp era is a particularly important one from a scientific perspective; in the pre-Victorian era, the quest was to explain natural phenomena that had been known and recognized for millennia. In the Victorian era, new phenomena were discovered that needed explanation, and the old phenomena were harnessed on an industrial scale. In the Edwardian era, explanations for those new phenomena were devised and used to harness the new forces – electricity and telephones and radio and the like, while new phenomena like radioactivity demand explanation. During the pulp era, the technologies resulting from those second-generation forces slowly become widespread (but still remarkable) while explanations begin to emerge for the new discoveries – explanations that will manifest in functional technologies in the post-pulp world.

Weapons – Not much more needs to be said about the final section! Weapons are a central part of any pulp campaign, and while you can probably get by just knowing the names, being able to attach some understanding of the limitations, strengths, and weaknesses of different specific weaponry adds color and credibility, leaving the GM with a little more wriggle room to be fantastic elsewhere.

A Recurring Note On Images:

Wherever possible, we have provided an illustration showing the cover of the book or DVD under discussion scaled to the same vertical size (320 pixels for Recommended Books, 280 for DVDs, 240 for items in the ‘For Dummies’ Sections). Where there was none available, we have used a generic icon.

Prices and Availability were correct at the time of compilation but are subject to change.


Books About Era technology


Spacer brevertons-encyclopedia-of-inventions

580. Breverton’s Encyclopedia of Inventions – Terry Breverton

A listing of what was invented when, including techniques, scientific discoveries and theories, with many interesting sidebars. Amazon has many more copies than those to which we have linked but the rest are slightly pricey at $26-plus – search for the title.


581. The Fantastic Inventions of Nikola Tesla – Nikola Tesla with additional material by David Hatcher Childress

Most of these “inventions” never made it into reality and some of them didn’t seem to work as advertised, but the scope and impact of Tesla’s genius is still being felt today. He has been described as “the man who invented the 20 th century” and some argue that he invented the 21 st as well, so fundamental are his discoveries and inventions to the technology all around us.


582. The Inventions That Changed The World (Eventful 20th Century series) – Reader’s Digest

In addition to an alphabetic listing of thousands of inventions, when they happened, and so on, there are two appendices of note: the first lists the great inventors and gives capsule biographies; the second is a chronological listing of the devices and inventions featured in the book, so that for any given year of a game setting, you can see what hasn’t been invented yet, what’s new, and what’s been around for long enough to become commonplace. Covers from 4,000,000 BC to 1981.

This book has been issued with a number of different covers and (presumably) different editions – the one we have is all silver metallic, but the one with linked to first has the cheapest copies. Note that condition may improve at higher prices! Links, in order of increasing price:



583. Secret Weapons and World War II: Japan in the shadow of Big Science – Walter E Grunden

“The atomic bomb. Rocket-propelled bombs. Jet propulsion. Radar. By failing to develop effective programs for such “secret weapons,” Japan increased the probability that it could not triumph [in World War II]”. Which is not strictly relevant to a pulp era, but is enlightening not only in terms of Japanese culture in the period, but of the Weird Science arms race that would necessarily occur – in a Pulp world. That context is what has placed it in this section.


584. Popular Furniture of the 1920s and 1930s – Schiffer Publishing Ltd

A reproduction of the Elgin A. Simonds Company’s furniture catalog highlighting the changes in style and function through the pulp era. 226 pages, and, as you would expect, lots of photographs. This book is actually designed to be a reference for furniture collectors, as these are now antiques and quite collectible, but ignore the suggested values quoted in the book, if for no other reason than that this was published in 1998 and values will have changed radically in the last 18 years.


585. Furniture of the Depression Era: Furniture and Accessories of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s Robert W. Swedberg and Harriet Swedberg

At 143 pages, this is less comprehensive than the Schiffer Publishing volume listed above, but it goes beyond furniture to other common objects of the era. The book explains the history of the furniture and its development, with lots of anecdotes along the way, and has a lot of color photographs.


586. Wasn’t the Future Wonderful: A View of Trends and Technology from the 1930s – Tim Onosko

Inventors create all sorts of things every year. Most of these go on to absolute obscurity, though they may attract short-term attention from magazines devoted to domestic innovation like Popular Mechanics. The heart of this book is the vision of the future that these obscure inventions promised in such magazines in the 1930s, especially “Modern Mechanix”.

Or, to put it another way, this can be considered a style guide for Weird Science and Exotic inventions in Pulp.

Most books of this type attach high prices, some as high as $50, but this accidental discovery is quite reasonably priced, even if it is only 188 pages – unless you insist on buying one of the 4 new copies, that is.


Documentaries About Era technology



587. Britain’s Greatest Machines (National Geographic, Season 1: 4 episodes, season 2; 4 episodes)

Each episode details advances within a specific decade of the 20th century. These aired in chronological sequence in Australia but are not presented in that sequence on these DVDs for reasons known only to National Geographic; the sequence is (Series 1) 1930s, 1950s, 1960s, 1980s, (series 2) 1910s, 1920s, 1940s, trains special.

Presumably there is a series 3 that is not yet available because Mike is sure he has seen episodes on the 1900s, 1970s, and 1990s – and is equally sure that he hasn’t seen the “trains” episode. Obviously, about half this series is not directly relevant to the pulp GM, but knowing that a technology didn’t arrive until the 1950s or 60s can be useful. Much to our surprise, we were only able to find this series for sale in the UK and Australia:

Series 1 Amazon UK (Region 2) – limited availability, international shipping options, £11

Series 2 Amazon UK – out of stock, 2 second-hand copies available only, £7.81

Series 1+2 Amazon UK (Region 2) – very limited availability, international shipping options, £15

Series 1 ABC Shop, Australia (Region 4) “Limited stock” but no indication of how many copies that might be, AU$25



588. Inventions The Shook The World: 1900s,1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s (season 1, episodes 2, 3, 4, & 5)

Some episodes are more relevant than others, but half of this entire series gets a tick even without contemplating weird science bringing future discoveries forward.

Each episode looks at a number of significant technological advances in detail and a multitude more in snapshot, showing not only the origins of the idea but the struggle to realize it as a viable technology, and the impact that it had.

There are a number of copies available through Amazon USA at reasonably typical prices for a box set and individual episodes can be streamed from Amazon

Amazon UK has only a small number of US Imports available (NTSC Format)

Amazon Canada has a very small number of native box sets and only a few more US Imports, both at ridiculous prices.

However, simply searching Google for “inventions that shook the world youtube” found three of the episodes that we are recommending, and we expect that the others would turn up in a more targetted search.

Links to the three we found:



589. The Genius Of Design Pts 1 and 2

Industrial design has influenced the look-and-feel of society for as long as there has been civilization, even if for most of human history that design was based on the artisan producing one-offs, each of which served their intended purpose a little better or worse or looked a little prettier or uglier. But it was in the 20th century that industrial design became a focal point that both reflected and drove broader social trends.

This series was so revelationary to him that Mike turned out an extension to his series on “Putting The SF Into Sci-Fi” entitled, “The Design Ethos Of Tomorrow” inspired by it. You might also want to read this extensive review of the series if you need further persuasion.

So, to availability:
Amazon US has two copies and there are some other copies available One is cheap, most are a bit on the expensive side at around $24.

Amazon UK has one US-import copy and a few others through other retailers for about twice the price, which is really getting too expensive to warrant a recommendation (but all hope is not lost).

Amazon Canada also has one copy and a few more through other vendors, again at about twice the US price.

But, when those run out, there is another series of the same name and a different cover which we are 95% certain is actually a reissue of the same series, or maybe the domestic UK version, or something.

Amazon US have copies of this for about the same price as the one we are sure of, and some second-hand copies that are even cheaper at about US$14; Amazon UK have copies for a lot less; and Amazon Canada have a very small selection (at unreasonable prices, as usual)



590. The Bomb

Although the Manhattan Project only officially came into existence in October of 1941, it’s developmental roots extend back into the Pulp Era when a number of European scientists fled the Nazi regime to Britain and the US.

This documentary is one of the few that tell this early part of the story, how the Bomb played into US internal politics and vice-versa, and that – plus the projects’ service in public eyes as the prototypical “Secret Government Project”, make this 1hr 54min documentary highly worthy of inclusion.

Available from Amazon US for about $15

There are very limited copies from Amazon Canada for about CDN$19 up

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be available in the UK on DVD, you’ll have to either order a US import from one of the links above or settle for a 720pixel HD YouTube video unless you can access streaming video from Amazon US for $12.99 (purchase) or $4.99 (rent)


Books About Currency & Valuables



591. The World’s Most Mysterious Objects – Lionel & Patricia Fanthorpe

Exotic and unusual objects and phenomena. Some are post-pulp but many have been found by the end of the Pulp Era, and make great MacGuffins.


592. & 593. GURPS Who’s Who #1 & #2 – Phil Masters (Steve Jackson Games)

Not many of the people profiled are from the Pulp Era, most of the them predate it, but these are still excellent for the origins of Macguffins.



594. Dig Here – Thomas Penfield

Over 100 lost treasures of the American Southwest, most of which make perfect MacGuffins or plot triggers.


595. Fortune And Glory: A Treasure Hunter’s Handbook – David McIntee

Tips for treasure hunters, descriptions of famous lost treasures, and an excellent bibliography covering books, movies, and video games on the subject. This book could have been listed under several different categories!

Amazon US $6.25-$15

UK £3.70-£9

Canada CDN$5.40-$18



596. New Mexico Treasure Tales – W C Jameson

26 legends of lost mines and buried treasures.



597. Metal Prices in the United States through 1998 – US Geological Survey (US Department Of The Interior)

We could not conclude this subsection without referring readers to this invaluable *free* PDF. The prices quoted are all in 1998 dollars, but there are a number of websites that will handle a conversion to 1920s or 193x currency for you. We simply divide by 10 to get a close-enough number.

Mike mentioned this PDF in an example in his article at Campaign Mastery, Lightning Research: Maximum Answers in Minimum Time but didn’t include a link, saving that for this article:

He also reports that there is an updated version that is available as a website and a spreadsheet and runs through to 2010:


Books About Weird Science

Weird Science is the term used by Pulp Hero to describe not only exotic forms of ordinary technology such as Wristwatch Radios (shades of Dick Tracy!) but devices that could never exist in the real world (at least at that point in time, some have become practical realities in the decades since. Death Rays, Electric Stun-Guns, Disintegrator Beams, Bulletproof Clothing, Mole machines… the list goes on and on.

We have excluded superstitions and religions considered fringe by the mainstream, even though some of them intrude into this territory. More pertinently, we have also excluded the Hollow Earth, Atlantis, Lemuria, etc (they are on Shelf 5) and Cryptozoology, which will be found on the mysticism-religion-paranormal shelf to come.


598. Where’s My Jetpack – Daniel H. Wilson, PhD

The technologies promised for the future that were never delivered (or practical) in real life – brilliant for coming up with Weird Science gadgets – also available as an Audio CD and a Multimedia CD (different covers).


599. The Wonderful Future That Never Was – Gregory Benford & the editors of Popular Mechanics

Extracts from early issues of the magazine looking at Future Technologies, from Flying Cars to Parachute Mail Delivery.

Unusually, the hardcover is often cheaper than the paperback.,,


600. The Amazing Weapons That Never Were – Gregory Benford & the editors of Popular Mechanics

A companion to the preceding work by the same authors, just as useful, and even cheaper!


601. Death Rays, Jet Packs, Stunts & Supercars – Barry Parker

Devoted to the physics behind the James Bond movies, but most of these gadgets will fit seamlessly into a Pulp Campaign.


Books About Fringe Science

Fringe Science is part “flaky” and part “legitimate” from the point of view of western science. These are positions that have changed quite a lot in the ensuring years; our guideline has always been the common Western-society perspective as it was in the pulp era. That means that this section will also contain books on everything from herbalism to Asian medicine.


602. Hitler’s Suppressed and Still-secret Weapons, Science & Technology – Henry Stevens

A compendium of inventions supposedly created by the Nazis during WWII, but great for equipping a pulp villain with.


603. Weird Science and Bizarre Beliefs – Dr Gregory L Reece

Less general than the title suggests but excellent in what it does cover: Bigfoot/Sasquatch, Lost Worlds & the Hollow Earth, Ancient Astronauts, and rumored Tesla Technology.


604. Suppressed Inventions & other discoveries – Jonathon Eisen

Most of this is too modern but the section on Orgone Energy is useful and not often covered elsewhere these days.

The mass-market paperback edition is more widely available at a cheap price
but if they run out, try the regular paperback There is also a Kindle edition available.


605. The SS Brotherhood of the Bell: The Nazis’ Incredible Secret Technology – Joseph P Farrell

While the theory is very contemporary, it’s too perfect a fit not to include it on this list.


606. Chariots Of The Gods – Erik Von Daniken

So plausible it became a best-seller, and hence essential reference for what might be in a pulp universe. The first in a very long series of increasingly speculative books on the subject, and note that many of the foundations have been discredited in the years since. There have been more than 40 editions with multiple cover designs, don’t be misled.


607. Suppressed Transmission: the first broadcast – Kenneth Hite (Steve Jackson Games)

Fringe science, Fringe history, and other things of interest, these volume could have found a home in several different categories on this list.

Available in limited quantities from Amazon but also as a PDF from Steve Jackson Games


608. Suppressed Transmission 2: the second broadcast – Kenneth Hite (Steve Jackson Games)

More of the same. Same quantity problem and prices just out of our normal recommendation range from Amazon but also available through Steve Jackson Games for a more reasonable fee


609. Arktos: The Polar Myth – Joscelyn Godwin

An overview on the theme of polar shifts, polar civilizations & super-races. We have linked to two different offerings on Amazon, one is cheaper but has fewer copies available; check both and make the best choice available to you at the time.

Link 1:

Link 2:



610. Hitler’s Flying Saucers – Henry Stevens

A discussion of supposed German “flying disc” projects during World War II.

There are two editions of this book, and we aren’t certain of what the differences are, only that the first edition is 100 pages long and the ‘new edition’ 240 pages long, and that the covers are quite different. The problem is that there aren’t all that many copies of either edition – certainly not enough that we can pick and choose.

1st edition

2nd edition (pictured)


611. Man-made UFOs: WWII’s Secret Legacy – Renato Vesco and David Hatcher Childress

Traces Nazi flying disc and other technologies, and links them to modern UFO sightings.


612. Roswell and the Reich – Joseph P Farrell

Talks about the Roswell UFO case of 1947 and its possible connection to Nazi technology. This is pretty close to the outer fringes of Pulp relevance.


613. Lost Ancient Technology of Peru and Bolivia – Brien Foerster

Focuses on an argument we first read in Chariots Of The Gods, i.e. that the ancients could not have shaped the stone blocks of places like Machu Picchu without advanced technology, and therefore the ancients had such technology. This book comes in for a lot of criticism even from supporters of the contention for being poorly written, hard to read, with abysmal photographs, and grammar that is not even at a 10th-grade level. But there are obvious pulp potentials. 236 pages, but many of them are reportedly almost empty and a large font has been used to pad the page count, so be warned. Kindle and Paperback.


614. The Complete Idiot’s Guide To The Paranormal – Nathan Robert Brown

We had no idea how this book treats the subject; we were sold by the title alone. If it is a debunking, there are Pulp Characters who do that in adventures; if it has a more “open-minded” approach, that can be a source of adventures, too. Either way, just about everything included is likely to be grist for the Pulp GM’s mill. While there is some overlap with other books on the subject, there is a secondary focus on Asian and especially Japanese paranormal “events” that has no real equivalence elsewhere.


Documentaries About Fringe Science



615. The Witch Doctor Will See You Now (4 eps)

This is an absolutely brilliant series on the methods and effectiveness of traditional medical practices in different parts of the world: China, India, Cameroon (Africa), and South America from memory. The ‘hallucinogenic healing’ episode provided a central conceptual element for the Adventurer’s Club pulp campaign in the form of an underpinning theory of theology that influenced the campaign in ways well beyond the strictly theological, but the two most directly relevant episodes will be the ones on China and India. Unfortunately, the countries of discussion are not identified in the episode names.

Amazon US has one copy of the series as an Australian import but that still puts them ahead of the UK and Canadian sites, who don’t seem to have heard of the series at all.

There are more Australian copies for sale through an Australian Distributor at this page, but we have no idea whether or not they will ship internationally, and even if they do, they won’t play on most non-Australian DVD players / TVs.

Fortunately, three of the four episodes are currently available through youTube:

“Snake Blood Remedy” (Chinese Medicine)

“Cow Urine Cure” (Indian Medicine), and

“Goat Blood Bath”


Books About Accepted Science

It’s important to note that these are books about the accepted science of the Pulp Era, though many deal with a broader palette.


616. Breverton’s Nautical Curiosities – Terry Breverton

A compendium of all sorts of information related to the sea and living/working at sea, full of interesting anecdotes – but it’s the “daily life” element that elevates this above other, similar works


617. Deadly Doses – a writer’s guide to poisons – Serita Deborah Stevens with Anne Klarner

An excellent reference – the forms the poison takes, how quickly they act, the symptoms, treatments and antidotes, and more.


618. Poisons from Hemlock to Botox & the Killer Bean Calabar – Peter Macinnis

A reference of self-evident value. There is an older edition that is cheaper but may not be in the same condition here and a reprint with a slightly different cover here Cover is of the newer edition.


619. The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York – Deborah Blum

Blum is a Pulitzer-prize winning science writer. In this book, she relates the careers and discoveries of two of the pioneers of Forensic Medicine – Dr Charles Norris, Manhattan’s first trained chief medical examiner (and a figure who has appeared a couple of times in the Adventurer’s Club Campaign) and Alexander Gettler, it’s first toxicologist. “Moving chronologically from Norris’s appointment in 1918 through his death in 1936, Blum cleverly divides her narrative by poison, providing not only a puzzling case for each noxious substance but the ingenious methods devised by the medical examiner’s office to detect them” (Publisher’s Weekly).

You don’t get much more directly relevant than that.


620. Asimov’s New Guide To Science – Isaac Asimov

Now dating but still the most comprehensive and readable introduction to every science in existence, and the discoveries within it, that has ever come to our attention. The older edition dated to 1965 and was entitled “The New Intelligent Man’s Guide To Science” but was completely updated in the 1990s. That’s right, it’s 25 years out of date and still an automatic recommendation – as much because it is so readable, as for any other reason.

There are two editions available through Amazon – one is a very thick paperback, the other is a hardcover. Second-hand copies of the paperback are relatively cheap but we recommend the slightly more expensive but still very affordable hardcover as a first preference. We’re listing both so that readers can make up their own minds. The paperback admittedly has the prettier cover, so that’s what we’re presenting!


621. Indiana Jones Off The Beaten Path – George Beahm

A dissection of the Indiana Jones movies and Young Indiana Jones TV Series. Goes into each film individually and attempts to separate fact from fiction, and also discusses film locations and describes a day in the life of a real archaeologist.

No copies available from Amazon US to the casual search but if you dig a little deeper you find some:


622. Anthropology For Dummies – Cameron M Smith

The study of humans within societies past and present (as opposed to sociology, which is the study of those societies). Covers subjects such as the evolution of language and the value of societies. This book comes highly recommended by people who know a lot more on the subject than we do as a highly-accessible introduction to the subject (sometimes with a minor caveat over the use of Latin names in the section on biological anthropology, which is about how humans evolved, and is what most people think is the sum total of the whole subject). If you want cave-men, or lost viking villages, or modern-day Amazons, this book is a useful source. See also “Sociology For Dummies”.


623. Archaeology For Dummies – Nancy Marie White

Archaeology is considered by Americans to be a branch of Anthropology, while the rest of the world considers the study of past cultures through their physical remains to be a completely separate subject. We don’t particularly care where people stand on that question – Indiana Jones was an archaeologist, and that’s good enough for us (we’re making the assumption that Anthropology For Dummies takes the European approach, or (at best) covers this subject in less detail than a dedicated book would). That’s why we’re recommending this book. Mike has one concern: the techniques of archeology have changed greatly over the last twenty or thirty years, and changed almost as much in the period between then and the pulp era, so this might be entirely too modern in approach and content to be useful. So we recommend buying a cheap copy, just in case, unless you’re interested in the book for its own sake.


Documentaries About Accepted Science



624. Pain, Pus, and Poison (3 eps)

The history of pharmaceuticals and through them, the history of medicine prior to and shortly after the Pulp period. The first episode deals with pain and painkillers, the second deals with infection and antibiotics, and the third deals with poisons and how they can be used as curatives – from Curare to Botox. This DVD package comes with a 27 minute extra that we haven’t seen, “Wonders of the Microbe World”. The series was released under the name we have used, and under which it aired in Australia, but was subsequently re-released in the US under the name “The Story Of Medicine: Pain, Pus, and Poison”, and is far more widely available in this release, so that’s what we’ve linked to.

Amazon US – $26 or you can stream the episodes via Acorn TV for about the same price which we would only contemplate if the reasonably-priced copies are all sold.

Amazon UK – limited quantities of the US import at £22 but there are still more copies available and at better prices than under the original title.

Amazon Canada – from CDN$31 which is “relatively” cheap.


For-Dummies Books About Accepted Science

In most cases, we haven’t read any of these, and are recommending them for consideration based purely upon the publisher’s descriptions and on general principles except where otherwise noted. This also shifts the content of each review from one of “this book is recommended and here’s why” to “this book might be useful and here’s why”. We have made the assumption that availability and price would fall within our parameters, or close enough to them; we have rarely found this not to be the case.

Selected works were so promising and so relevant, that they have been promoted to the main list of recommendations, excluding them from the above caveats.

A note about Complete Idiot’s Guides

While the “For Dummies” series has a website that lists all the books currently available in the series, there is no equivalent for the “Complete Idiot’s Guides”.

Our blanket advice is that if Amazon lists a “Complete Idiot’s Guide” that matches the subject of one of our “For Dummies” recommendations, you should buy both.


625. Architecture For Dummies – Debrah K Dietsch and Robert A M Stern

If you want to be able to describe the differences between a Greek Alley and a Spanish side-street, all you need is a couple of good photos and a flair for narrative. If you want to understand why the differences occur and how they can manifest in differences in action sequences, you need to understand Architecture. – at least, that was Mike’s argument for promoting this book into the main list of recommendations. Blair and Saxon agreed that he had justified its presence on the list – but not in the main recommendations.


Books About Weapons

We fretted about this category. Was it too broad – should it be subdivided? Was it too narrow? Where would things like Tanks fit?

Ultimately, the fact that many of the books referenced cover the subject in broader terms argued against a subdivision. It was also decided that Tanks and other such weapons platforms would be considered types of vehicle.


626. Armed and Dangerous: a writer’s guide to weapons – Michael Newton

Short on specific weapons characteristics but excellent as a history of firearms. Only half the book is directly relevant to a pulp campaign, but some of the later chapters may offer ideas for weird science super-weapons. There are two editions, 1990 and 2011, but we don’t know if there are any differences in content between them. The link and cover are for the later edition; the 1990 edition had a yellow illustration and a thick blue border.


627. The Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Firearms – Ian V Hogg

Useful for finding the weapons you want to know more about through the index at the back. Our reference version is the 1984 edition but there is a new one, “The New Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Firearms” (same author, different cover, shown), which was published in 1992 – obviously the content is updated, but does that mean that there is less room for the historical period that we’re interested in? Page count was not provided for the older edition by Amazon, but the book thickness is 0.1” thinner… We’re not sure, so we recommend going for the older edition in preference. YMMV.


628. Small Arms Of The World – W H B Smith, 10 th edition revised by Joseph E Smith

A book that’s excellent reference once you know what you specifically want information about – but there aren’t not enough copies available, and the price is marginal (from $19.99) by our criteria

However, there is a newer edition available at even cheaper prices (but still limited quantities) that may serve: There is also an older edition if neither of those is available at reasonable prices, but again, we haven’t seen the differences in content:


629. The Palladium Book of Weapons and Assassins – Erick Wujcik

The half-sized typewriter font may be hard to read, but the contents can be pure gold. The weapons are Asian and especially those which were supposedly used by Ninja. Far from comprehensive but very detailed within its limits. The Google search which provided the cover image also showed another edition with a painted Ninja. Note that the book is on backorder with Palladium themselves, so buy from Amazon or be prepared to wait, possibly for a very long time.


630. Reich of the Black Sun – Joseph P Farrell

“Nazi secret weapons research” – at least, according to the guy who connects Roswell to secret Nazi technology.


Documentaries About Weapons



631. Nazi Megastructures

While you might expect every part of this National Geographic / PBS series to be relevant, there were actually only three episodes that contained information not already known to us: Season 1 episode 2, “V-2 Rocket Bases”; episode 3, “U-Boat Base”; and episode 4, “Super Tanks”. The others, including all of season 2, were interesting, but not as useful to the pulp GM.

Amazon US has no copies. None, nada, nix.

Amazon UK has Season 1 in stock at a quite reasonable £14.99.

Amazon Canada don’t even acknowledge that the DVD series exists!

There is some suggestion through Google Search that the series appears to also be known as “Nazi Mega Weapons” in a different series order (it’s worth noting that the order shown is the one listed officially at various websites but isn’t the same as the broadcast order in Australia, either).

There are rather more copies under this name available through Amazon US at reasonable prices, Amazon UK has no copies available, and Amazon Canada has a limited number of copies at relatively ridiculous prices as usual (but more, at relatively reasonable prices second-hand and from other vendors)

The episodes are also available on YouTube, at least for now:

“V-2 Rocket Bases”;

“U-Boat Base”, and

“Super Tanks”

We recommend that you watch these episodes in reverse order because the “Super Tanks” episode provides valuable context for interpreting what the other two are showing you.



Afterword by Mike:

The Pulp era in the real world bridged two eras of rapid development in the category of things. Society moved from industrialization into mass manufacturing and the expectation of mass-manufactured products, and these radical concepts overhauled everything that a person of the time could see or touch. It was an age of miracles, in which records were being rewritten in virtually every field.

In a pulp world, not only these forces still extant, but there is a resurgence of the home inventor, cobbling together a prototype of mythic capabilities in his basement. Strange and exotic creations are noteworthy but – as a class of object – unexceptional.

The gadgets of a James Bond are Pulp in spirit, if perhaps a little more refined. Bulk them up and make them larger and more dramatic than they could ever be in real life, and you will capture the essence of the Pulp Era. Double-hull Zeppelins, Experimental Death Rays, Silent Explosives, Flying Boats, Rocket-assisted Gyrocopters, exotic antennas the size of buildings – there will always be a characteristic of showmanship in the great Pulp technologies.

As always, the trick is knowing how far you can stretch credibility. Be especially careful when mixing strange tech with the supernatural, as the two are inherently contradictory in their world-views, the former shouting “there is nothing science cannot do” while the latter disdainfully replies, “there are some things science will never understand.”

It was this very dissonance that led to the separation of the weirdness that – for the most part – at least pretends to be science-based or that has achieved some scientific credibility in the eras subsequent, from those weirdnesses that do not, and the further subdivision of the former into “fringe” and “weird” science.

Pulp wouldn’t be same without a touch of the exotic and bizarre in its science and technology.

A week from now: The 7th shelf: Vehicles!

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