Jess Nevins is an author and librarian, already known for his meticulous annotations of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and his World Fantasy Award-nominated Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana. But rather than resting on those laurels, Nevins is determined to become the leading expert on the world of pulp fiction. And when we say world, we mean that he’s dedicated over a decade to studying popular literature from around the globe, including pulp fiction from Britain, Japan, Egypt, Indonesia, and many countries in between. This work has finally culminated in 1,000-page guide titled The Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes.
Luckily Jess Nevins’ day job is research friendly, as he is a librarian Specifically, the division liaison for English, literature, education, languages and developmental studies at the LSC-Tomball Community Library. Nevins spoke to Chron, a division of The Houston Chronicle, mentioning his global interests:
Most people today would think that popular culture was the purview of Americans. […] The world of popular culture is gloriously varied and complex, and there’s just so much stuff in it that we don’t know or have just forgotten about,” Nevins said. “What we know about in America is really limited compared to what’s out there.
Even with the internet, however, it still isn’t easy to research characters like the Burmese answer to Sherlock Holmes, or the Japanese King Kong. To augment his study, Nevins regularly uses his two-weeks of vacation time to travel to London, where he puts in 12-hour days at the British Museum’s archive of global literature. He has also crowd-sourced translations, and used both Google Translate and dictionaries to work his way through pulps in languages he doesn’t read.
Nevins spent about eight years researching and compiling The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana, a massive work containing not only entries about well-known characters like Phileas Fogg and Dracula, but also more obscure Victorians such as Rocambole and Captain Chlamyl. In addition to straight encyclopedia entries, Nevins included essays on larger topics like “Yellow Peril” and “Lady Detectives” to look at trends in Victorian literature, and examine the ways those trends laid the groundwork for popular culture in the twentieth century. It was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in the Special Award: Non-Professional category in 2006. You can learn more about the Encyclopedia here, or search Nevins’ alphabetical directory of Pulp and Adventure Heroes here!
In addition to the Encyclopedia, Nevins spent years on a meticulous annotation of Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Some of the annotations were collected as Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and contained praise from Moore himself, who said, “I realised that if we had [him] tracking down all of the references for the readers, then we could be as obscure and far-reaching as we wanted.” You can find annotations for The League Volumes One and Two, The Black Dossier, and Volume Three here.
Nevins’ The Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes will be published by England’s PS Publishing, so hopefully we’ll have this guide in our hands soon. In the meantime, you can learn more about his project over at Chron!