Dienstag, 24. Februar 2015

An Appreciation of August Derleth on His Birthday

(Here is a piece I wrote last year for "Weird Tales" now defunct website.)

I Wrote to a few authors associated with August Derleth stating  my intention in writing an appreciation of Mr. Derleth in honor of his 106th birthday . I then asked them whether they would be so kind as to make a statement regarding their  own thoughts on the man.

Here is an email reply that  I received from Mr. Brian Lumley regarding August Derleth.

Dear Mr. Draa – in answer to yours of 7 Feb. 2014:

No one would ever reasonably dispute the fact that August Derleth – a wonderful author in his own “write,” not to mention an accomplished editor and a shrewd and immensely knowledgeable publisher of weird fiction – was the most influential member of the original Lovecraft Circle and the greatest “fan” and constant champion of the peerless H. P. Lovecraft. Derleth’s now famous Arkham House publishing concern, whose distinctive black-bound hardcover books would come to be recognized as standing among the most collectible of their like in the English speaking 20th Century world, ensured Lovecraft’s continuity and indeed that of his “Mythos,” in the wake of an era when the authors of strange tales enjoyed few outlets for their work and who, with the demise of the so-called “pulp magazines” where much of it was published, were in the main forgotten…

But due initially (albeit posthumously) entirely to the efforts of his champion, H.P.L. was never in danger of being forgotten; Derleth published not only his entire body of fiction but also five volumes of his letters to fans, devotees and established authors of like talents and persuasions: a huge task for any man, but a labour of love for August Derleth. H.P.L., however, superb author as he was, was not alone in Derleth’s affections; he shared space with an entire panoply of dark stars in the stellar nursery that was Arkham House. Such names as Robert Bloch, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, A. E. van Vogt, Ray Bradbury and others: a seemingly endless list of luminaries, were also given additional prominence by Derleth’s publishing genius…

 And a reply from David Drake..

August Derleth read and critiqued my first submitted story. He read my rewrite and critiqued that. Finally he bought my second rewrite, saying it still wasn’t right but he’d edit it himself.

            Mr Derleth wasn’t gentle, but he spent time on me for no reason but basic kindness to a wannabe writer. I may not owe him the fact that I became a successful writer–but there’s no one to whom I owe more.

 Dave Drake

Today, the 24th of February, is August Derleth’s 106th birthday. Now a 106th birthday isn’t nearly s special, as say, a 100th Birthday. It will have to do though, being that I’m five years to late on this. One of the reasons for writing this is naturally Mr. Derleth’s association with the original incarnation of Weird Tales Magazine. That’s not my main reason though.

I’ll explain. A few months ago I stumbled across an online petition to have H. P. Lovecraft’s name removed from the Carroll @ Graff  editions of  The Lurker at the Threshold and The Watchers out of Time.  At first glance I thought that the petition’s creator simply wanted  Lovecraft’s named removed  from the titles simply because  they were some of Mr. Derleth’s infamous “posthumous collaborations” with Mr. Lovecraft. Upon rereading the petition I realized that the petitioner’s ire wasn’t with Mr. Derleth per se, but with Carroll & Graff’s misleading marketing of the two books. The front covers contained Mr. Lovecraft’s name alone, with no mention of Mr. Derleth’s “co-authorship”. I’ll admit that I agree with this wholeheartedly, since it has to be an intentional deception. But I agree only up to a point though. I’ll explain why at the end of the Appreciation. I then went on to read some of the comments made by the petition signers. Sadly, the more I read, the angrier I became. Here are a few comments……

You are dragging Lovecraft’s name in the dirt!

An outrage for all us Lovecraftians….

Slap the marketing weasels and pull Derleth off of Lovecraft’s coattails.

this is bullshit… down with derleth

stop Derleth’s bad influence, and “Cthulhu mythos” falsity!


Derleth is mooching on Lovecraft’s good name!

Those are from the first 10 pages. This stuff then goes on for  another 49!

I honestly understand the confusion and anger, but only to a point. What bothered me was this generalized kind of “hater’s” mentality. It makes me despair that so-called fans and admirers know so little about August Derleth and his contributions to the genre. This goes to show that sometimes those who scream the loudest are the ones who know the least (And for God’s sake! I’m not talking about you Mr. Joshi!)

Now let me say up front that I am neither a scholar nor am I the most deeply insightful of men,  I am simply a fan. I do believe though that only those who are poorly informed about what they claim to love so dearly would try to judge Mr. Derleth’s stature solely based on 15 short stories and one novel. The sum of the man is so much greater than the parts. And some of the parts are pretty damned amazing.

I’ve known for years that Mr. Derleth never considered his genre writing to be his primary or best work. He reserved this opinion for his historical and regional writings. His Sac Prairie Saga was what he believed to be his to be his greatest achievement. Now what I didn't know was that Mr. Derleth was awarded, because of the first volume of his Saga, a highly prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship under the sponsorship of Edgar Lee Masers and Sinclair Lewis.

Now this alone gives the man some serious literary street cred. Another thing that many fans don’t realize is that Mr. Derleth is seriously considered to be a pioneer in Conservationism and Environmentalism.  So you see, we already have a man who is so much more than merely some hack riding upon another author’s coattails.

As an author of weird fiction Mr. Derleth ranged from mediocre at his worst to exceptional at his best. He even once stated that many of his stories that appeared in Weird Tales were simply filler material. He still managed though to write some genuine genre classics with such tales as The House of Magnolias (1932), The Thing that Walked on the Wind (1933), Drifting Snow (1939), The Lonesome Place (1941) and Who Shall I say is Calling? (1952). Now this is purely subjective, but I consider The Drifting Snow and The Lonesome Place to be two of the best horror tales to ever see print.

The greatest debt we owe Mr. Derleth is that he quite likely saved H. P. Lovecraft from obscurity by co-founding Arkham House publishing along side Donald Wandrei for the express purpose of preserving Mr. Lovecraft’s works and to present them to a wider audience. We will never know if anyone else would have done this if Mr. Derleth hadn’t.  The fact is though, that he was the one who did this and helped bring Mr. Lovecraft’s stories to the world at large.

It’s quite possible that without Mr. Derleth’s efforts, Mr. Lovecraft would have been resigned to a foot note in the annals of weird fiction.  Mr. Derleth also championed such writers as Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith, to name just a few. Arkham House also published Dark Carnival, Ray Bradbury’s first novel. I’m pretty sure this collection was neither a career breaker or nor maker for Mr. Bradbury. And it was during the 1960s that Mr. Derleth discovered and encouraged the two genre giants, Ramsey Campbell and Brian Lumley. Through Derleth’s patronage it was Arkham House which introduced these gentlemen to generations of fans. And David Drakes first sale was also to August Derleth.

Not only was August Derleth a publisher and author, he was also a respected anthologist.  He edited 29 anthologies between 1944 and his death in 1971. And it was through such anthologies that the stories of many a talented Horror and Science Fiction author was rescued from complete obscurity.  I own over a dozen of these collections and they are honestly some of the best that I have ever read. I treasure every one of them.

Now lets deal with the touchiest of subjects from Mr. Derleth’s career and what folks love to whine about the most. The posthumous collaborations with H. P. Lovecraft. It’s a known fact that these collaborations are actually tiny morsels of Lovecraft converted into full blown works by Mr. Derleth. Any reader will immediately see that these works are greatly inferior to those that are 100% HPL. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out since Mr. Derleth wasn’t Mr. Lovecraft. Is it correct and fair that Mr. Lovecraft’s name appear in huge text on the covers while Mr. Derleth’s name appears as little more than an afterthought? Not really. That’s an out and out marketing gimmick. I have no idea if Mr. Derleth was capitalizing on HPL’s name or simply honoring a man who he greatly admired. I don’t know and neither does anyone else. It could be a mixture of both.

What I do find very interesting is this statement at the very beginning of the first paperback edition of  The Survivor and Others from Ballantine Books in 1957….

“Among the papers of the late Howard Philips Lovecraft were various notes and/or outlines for stories which he did not live to write. Of these, the most complete was the title story of this collection. These scattered notes were put together by August Derleth, whose finished stories grown from Lovecraft’s suggested plots, are offered here, as a final collaboration, post-mortem.”

Interpret that as you see fit. But I find it somewhat telling that such statements disappeared from editions published after Mr. Derleth’s death.

This leads me to believe that the publishers were/are the actual guilty parties as far as trying  pass off Derleth as Lovecraft. Just look at the well intentioned petition to have Lovecrafts name removed from the two posthumous collaborations published by Carroll & Graff. They didn't deem it necessary to place Mr. Derleth’s name on the covers along side that of HPL’s. Mr. Derleth had nothing to do with this fraudulent practice  since he was long dead when those editions were published. So it appears that the publishers have played a great role in perpetuating the confusion over the collaborations.

Never forget that Mr. Derleth never got rich on any of this and was making most of his money elsewhere. So I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that the authorship issue was just as much an effort to honor HPL as it was a marketing ploy. I will continue to believe this until someone can prove otherwise. and at that time I will be more than willing to eat these words.

It is also clear that many readers, scholars and critics have some serious and understandable issues with Mr. Derleth’s own take on the structure of what himself christened “The Cthulhu Mythos”. I don’t like it either that he broke the deities down into good guys and bad guys. Nor do I like the fact that he attempted to convert them into Elementals.  And it’s also another fact that he never forced this cosmological interpretation onto anyone else. It was his take on things and his alone. And it’s another fact that readers vote with their dollars. The books sold and have been reprinted a few times. So it seems that they did find some resonance with part of the fan base. Mr. Lovecraft’s vision was an open one that wasn’t written in stone. There have been countless writers who have had their own take on the Mythos and they haven’t taken nearly the amount of heat that Mr. Derleth has.  I’m tired of hearing how Derleth damaged the Mythos and Mr. Lovecraft’s stature/reputation. I see no evidence of this. So here is my challenge to the haters. Please show me how any of Mr. Derleth’s collaborations or works under his own name  alone have in any way done harm to Mr. Lovecraft. If you can prove me wrong then I’ll be more than happy to append this piece and eat my own words. Such “fans” should spend more time and effort combating those who are actively trying to harm Mr. Lovecraft’s reputation instead of wasting time tearing down a dead man who spent the greater part of his professional life championing and promoting Mr. Lovecraft! He has earned at least that much of our respect and gratitude!

So please take one last look at the mans achievements ….

Patronized as a young writer by Edgar Lee Masts and Sinclair Lewis.

Pioneer Conservationist and Environmentalist.

Brought HPL to the masses!

Wrote some damn good stories!

Excellent Anthologist!

Never got rich off of HPL!

Gave us many fine new authors!

And did I mention that he brought HPL to the masses?

Happy Birthday Mr. Derleth!

We owe you one.


And as always, these are all scans of book I have in my collection.

Sonntag, 30. November 2014

Henry S. Whitehead: The Forgotten Master of Jumbee and Vodoun

Henry S. Whitehead: The Forgotten Master of Jumbee and Vodoun
And he's back in print!

Although mostly forgotten, the Rev. Henry S. Whitehead was one of Weird Tales most popular writers between 1924 1933. Rev. Whitehead ,who was a Harvard Graduate, spent 8 years as acting archdeacon of the Virgin Islands for the Episcopalian Church. Towards the end of his short life Rev. Whitehead became a personal friend of HPL, who after traveling down to Florida to visit the Reverend described him so.....

"He has nothing of the musty cleric about him; but dresses in sports clothes, swears like a he-man on occasion, and is an utter stranger to bigotry or priggishness of any sort."

It was during his years in the Virgin Islands that Rev. Whitehead gained a knowledge and understanding of the region, it's peoples, their culture and religion that gave his weird tales such a strong note of authenticity. The majority of his tales take place on the Island of St. Thomas and are 2nd to none when dealing with the region. It is just y opinion but these are some of the finest stories dealing with Voodoo/Voudon that ever appeared in the pulps. Even if the Reverend wasn't a believer, he still took the Islanders and their beliefs seriously and always treated the subject with respect. A major rarity in Rev. Whitehead's stories was the dignity and respect with which he treated the characters in his story. There's nary a cringe inducing moment in his stories dealing with the Islands. He wrote about human beings and portrayed the same way. This wasn't exactly the most common way non-whites were portrayed during the pulp era. The Reverend, was for his time, an extremely progressive man.
The majority of Rev. Whitehead's tales take place in the Virgin Islands and the majority of his stories appeared in the pages of Weird Tales Magazine. Several of which have been heavily reprinted. These are Cassius, The Lips, The Passing of a God and The Trap. All of which have been heavily reprinted during the 1960s and 70s. It's of interest to mention that The Trap was co-written with H. P. Lovecraft.

The tales written by Rev. Whitehead are some of the most eerie, readable and entertaining horror stories out there. And they have also aged extremely well when one considers that the were written over 80 years.

Up until now, if you wanted to get you hands on a collection of Whitehead's tales you needed some fairly deep pockets. Aside from the two (now) expensive and hard to find Arkham House collections and one Ash Tree Press collection.

My copy of the 1976 Mayflower UK Edition with a lovely cover by Peter Jones

 Plus there were only two paper back editions, which printed in the UK back during the 1970s. So these are also now sought after collectors editions.

The newest collection from Wordsworth

Luckily that has been rectified by Wordsworth Books. Last year Wordsworth released the most complete collection of Whitehead's tales that has ever been published. Last year the released Voodoo Tales: The Ghost Stories of Henry S. Whitehead. It contains 37 of the 46 stories that Rev. Whitehead had published. What's even more amazing is the price. This thick, but compact, 691 pages of smallish print trade paperback cost's on $3.60 over at Amazon! The low price is due to all of the stories having fallen into the public domain.

So use this opportunity to discover the weird thrills and joys of the genre's greatest but sadly forgotten masters.

The Contents:

Introduction (by David Stuart Davies)

The Black Terror
West India Lights
The Shut Room
The Left Eye
Tea Leaves
The Trap
The Napier Limousine
The Ravel
Sea Change
The People of Pan
The Chadbourne Episode
Scar Tissue
"'—In Case of Disaster Only'"
The Great Circle
Obi in the Caribbean

Black Tancrède
The Shadows
Sweet Grass
The Tree-Man
Passing of a God
Hill Drums

The Black Beast
Seven Turns In A Hangman’s Rope
Mrs. Lorriquer
The Projection Of Armand Dubois
The Lips
The Fireplace

The Moon Dial
No Eye-Witnesses
Across the Gulf
The Tabernacle
The Door

This wonderful collection can be purchased by following the links below.

Voodoo Tales at Amazon.com

Voodoo Tales at Amazon.co.uk

Samstag, 29. November 2014

Yes Virginia there is a Krampus

This email arrived last week and I don’t make it a habit to answer such mails in a public forum. I am making an exception this time and have decided that it would be best to share this with every one out there. I’m posting this against the advice from several good friends. And the powers that be will most definitely frown upon this and accuse me panic mongering. It might even cost me my blog and potential future as a hack writer, but I’ve come to the simple conclusion that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
So forgive me for breaking with format and tradition to bring oyu this urgent message.

Dear Uncle Doug,
My name is Virginia Weese and I’m in the 4th grade at Johnny Clem Elementary School in Newark Ohio and I have a question that my Mommy and Daddy won’t answer. At the beginning of December our teacher Mrs. Huddy was telling us about Christmas in other countries. She told us about the bad Krampus man who takes away naughty children and eats them. This scared us all a lot, but since we aren’t babies anymore none of us really believed her. It was just a cool story.
Anyways, my friend Billy Pierce said that he had heard from the 6th graders that it was a true cross my heart hope to die story! And so Billy says to me that he’s awful scared that he will get taken away by the Krampus man. Billy said that his mommy and daddy were always after him to be gooder and not so bad. And that he heard his mommy and daddy talking won night when they thought that he was asleep that they wanted to send him to the Campus. He thought that the Campus was what the growed ups called the reformatory up in Mansfield where the bad children go. He says that now he’s all scared because he thinks that maybe they reely said Krampus and not campus. I saw him later on and that e said that the wikipeedia told him that the Krampus man comes on 5 December. I told him not to be a baby and believe stupid stories. My daddy says the Wikipedia is bullshit. I’m sorry for the bad word, but that is what my daddy says a lot. Anyways Billy never came to school on the day after the Krampus is supposed to take the bad kids.  I aksed billyies parents where billy was and they looked at me funny and said that he had gone to live with his grandma down in Carolina. I know that this is a fib. Billy told me his gramma is in Pataskala in a old folks home. I went home and told my mommy and daddy and they told me not to believe stupid stories and that if Billy’s parents said that he was at his grams then that’s where his is. Daddy said that if I keep pestering Billy’s family I’ll get a spanking. I looked in the internet and saw that your magazine had told about the Krampus man. So now I’m writing to you as my last resort. Can you help me??? Is there a Krampus???

Your friend

Dear Virginia,
I am deeply moved and honoured that you got in touch with me. I hope that I can be of some assistance and that I might be able to clear up a few things. You seem like a bright kid, so I won’t talk down to you and sugar coat the situation. I have some good news and I have some bad news.

The good news:
Yes Virginia, there is a Krampus.

The bad news:
It’s so much worse than your ten-year-old mind could ever have imagined!

It’s like this honey, big people lie. They lie to children all the time. Sometimes they lie to protect you or to keep you in line and some times they lie to keep you vulnerable. Michael Jackson and the Octo-Mom are good examples of lies used to keep you in line and the Krampus is the other kind of lie.
For you see dear, the Krampus is as old as the world is and just as real. When people talk about the Krampus, they are actually talking about a European bogeyman from some mountains that they call the Alps. (I hope that you are taking notes so that you can Google all of this later.) This bogeyman helps Santa Claus into scaring children into behaving. They tell them that, if they are bad, the Krampus will get them on the night before Saint Nicholas day and take them to hell and eat them or drown them on the spot. This is a very old story from a people called the Norse. You can think of them as the Vikings. They believed that the Krampus was the son of the lady who ran their Hell. Here name was Hel. Anyways, when the Christians came and got rid of the old religions they added some of the old religions' beliefs into Christian traditions to make the people happier about being Christians.  So the Krampus, being active during the winter, ended up with a Christmas connection that went on for hundreds of years.
We now have to move up into the 1920s. A group of explorers and archaeologists were way out in the Gobi Desert looking for old cities from a long time ago. Oh, this is in China. And they actually did find one city that had been buried in the sand for many thousands of years. Nobody knows who these people were or even if they were people. One of the things that they found while digging up the old city was an old book written on some kind of funny metal that had never rusted. They call this book the “Ghooric Manuscript”. After many years of hard work some very smart people were able to translate it.
It tells the story of how the world was before people came into it. And the book says that a long long time ago the world was full of monsters who were the bosses. Finally these monsters were chased away by some even stronger monsters. Some of these weaker monsters got killed; some got locked up at the bottom of the sea or sent into other dimensions (These are kind of like worlds between the worlds); some went into hiding. The book goes on to tell that one of the monsters who went into hiding was the Krampus. Except that Krampus is not its real name. People in old times gave it a new name because they believed that if you say its real name out loud you will get its attention and it might come after you. And believe me honey, that’s the last thing that you want.
The Krampus’ real name is “Shub-Niggurath”. They also call it the “Goat of a Thousand Young”. A recent translation of the book shows that the earlier scientists made a mistake. The correct translation is the "Goat with Thousands of Young”. This is a reference to the countless children who have been taken away over thousands of years. Even the cavemen had Krampus trouble. This is also why they like to portray the Krampus as a great big, hairy, devilish goat man. The truth is though, that the Krumpus is so horrible that they were too scared to make any pictures that showed how truly awful the Krampus actually is. We only have one picture of the Krampus that actually shows how  horrible a monster it is. A little boy named Matt Fox survived a Krampus attack and drew a picture of it for a magazine once he grew up and became an artist. I don’t want to scare you, but here is what the Krampus really looks like.

I hope that this isn’t scaring you too much, because it’s only going to get worse. So fasten your seat belt, it’s going to be a bumpy ride from now on.

In olden times the people thought that the Krampus/Shub-Niggurath was a kind of god. Not GOD, but a god of sorts. And back then people used to give presents to the gods. And traditionally these presents had to be things that held great value for the people that they didn’t want to part with. These were things like food that they didn’t have enough of, gold that they didn’t have much of, or children that they had plenty of. You call these kinds of gifts “sacrifices”. So sadly a lot of times the people would “sacrifice” their children to the Krampus. Historical records show that the Krampus was most active during the days which had the longest nights. They called this the Yuletide. This is also Christmas time. That is why the old church decided to pair up the Krampus with Santa Claus. They also knew that for some reason, maybe magical, the Krampus could only roam around the mountains we call the Alps and only for a few nights in December when the nights are longest.
Now they think that World War I had something to do with it, but afterwards, the power confining the Krampus to the Alps had either been weakened or destroyed. They assume this because directly after WWI the reports of Krampus attacks began to be experienced farther and farther away from the Alps. It was in the early 1920s in the States when little boy named Matt Fox survived and reported the Krampus attack he experienced.

Now I have to tell you the worst part dear Virginia, so please be brave. It’s been suspected for a long time now that many of these Krampus attacks are neither coincidences nor punishments dealt out to naughty children, but actually sacrifices arranged by mommies and daddies who want to get rid of their children. That’s correct honey, some mommies and daddies are setting up their own children to be taken by the Krampus!

It seems that the mommies and daddies who want to get rid of their own children use chalk to scrawl a special symbol above their front door on Krampus-night to let the Krampus know that there’s a sacrifice waiting inside and that it is welcome to come in and receive it. For you see, the Krampus can not enter a house that is protected by a special symbol called the “Elder sign”. Nor can it enter a domicile where it has not been invited to enter. Investigations have shown that the symbol used most often by rotten parents looks like this.

 But please do not despair Virginia! For all is not lost. Even a small one like you can protect themselves and their friends. Uncle Doug is going to tell you what to do!

    First you‘ll have to spend the next eleven months practicing on sneaking down stairs at night after your parents go to bed. You’ll need this skill during the days that fall before and after the fifth of December. These are the days when the Krampus is underway collecting sacrifices. If you see that your parents have actually been mean enough to leave the symbol above the door then wash it away immediately. This isn’t a guarantee that the Krampus will pass your house by. It will reduce the chances though. For you see, just placing the sign above your front door will have already drawn the Krampus’ attention. It’s not a guarantee, but at least it will be a start.
Now all’s fair in love and war, or as my grandpa used to say “payback is a bitch”- So if you want to get even with your mommy and daddy, all you have to do is to redraw the symbol upside down and backwards. This will turn the Krampus against those who originally drew the sign. Of course it would be smart to hide in the attic for the rest of the night just to be on the safe side.

Now so far I’ve shown you the easiest way to “hopefully” survive the night. I have to be honest though, it seems that the Krampus also takes un-offered sacrifices when the mood strikes it. So here are a few tips to increase the odds of you making it through the night in one piece.

1: The Krampus is big and squishy. It also has a lot of legs and tentacles (which have sucking mouths on their tips.) and has a hard time squeezing into tight spaces. Think of it as a big trans-dimensional Octo-Goat.  So find a closet or crawl space to hide in.

2: Being squishy, the Krampus isn’t very strong. So barricade your bed room door and keep an axe by your side at all times. Or if you can find one, a shoulder fired RPG or acetylene torch is even better. You can’t kill it, but at least you will go down fighting like the brave little trooper that I know you are.

3: STAY AWAKE! So hoard up on a few cases of Red Bull or keep a Mr. Coffee machine hidden under your bed. A second of napping could result an eternity of indescribable suffering and agony!

4:  The Krampus has a sort of dog who accompanies it at times. This dog’s name is “Tindalos” and Tindalos can do a very special trick. Tindalos can come through angles and bring the Krampus with him. Now an angle is where two straight lines come together. So mix yourself up a big batch of plaster and fill in all of the corners in you room where the walls come together with each other and where they meet the floor or ceiling. This will at least force the Krampus, if it even comes, to use the front door. You don’t want to be surprised from above, behind, below or between. Believe it or not, Tindalos can attack from in-between

5:  Have an escape route. If all else fails, you should have a rope ladder ready or a big aluminium one leaning up against the house directly under your bed room window. There is no shame in running away. So forget any crap about cowards dying thousands of deaths. You only die once and it’s usually the heroes who fall first!

6: Have surrogate sacrifices ready. If you haven’t already turned the tables on your parents for selling you out then make sure that other victims are close at hand. Once you’ve fled via step #5, you should run like hell to a neighboring house and break in as quickly as you can. Start screaming blood murder once you have gained entry. You wanted to wake up the people in the house. The screaming will not only accomplish this, but should also place them in a confused and frightened state of mind.  Now head out the back door as quickly as possible and run as fast and as far as your chubby little legs will carry once you are sure that they are awake and coming down to investigate the ruckus.

That pretty much covers it. I hope that I have been of some assistance and that I have given you the means to survive the holiday season next year.

So yes Virginia, as sure as there is a Santa Claus and Cthulhu, there is a Krampus.

Good Luck

Douglas Draa aka "Uncle Doug"
Hack Horror Writer

Sonntag, 2. November 2014


 Hey all,
My deepest apologies that I've been away from here so long. I was busy beyond my wildest dreams my duties for Weird Tales Magazine. Halloween was my last day with WTs. I stepped down in order to spend time on my own writing.
Here is my first published story...

I've also been lax in my reading. So I'm going to double dip and reprint a piece that I wrote for Weird Tales. I hope that you all forgive me for not returning with an original piece. I promise that those will follow.

90 Years of Weird

Keeping the brand alive:
The Paperback Years

Don't cry, Karen, Frosty's not gone for good. You see, he was made out of Christmas snow and Christmas snow can never disappear completely. It sometimes goes away for almost a year at a time and takes the form of spring and summer rain. But you can bet your boots that when a good, jolly December wind kisses it, it will turn into Christmas snow all over again.

Frosty the Snowman 1969

As kitschy as it sounds, the above quote is a perfect analogy for Weird Tales Magazine. For you see, just like the Christmas snow that Santa was speaking of, Weird Tales never really went away. It just took on different forms between its original demise in September 1954 and it’s rebirth in 1988. The major form it took was recycled stories that were massively reprinted in paperback anthologies from the 1950s up until the end of the 1970s.

The birth of the American paperback at the end of the 1940s was one of the larger nails in Weird Tales coffin. Not that it was just the Paperback that killed Weird Tales and many of the other pulps, Television also played a large part. It's just that the paperback's duel nature as innovator and anthropophagist gave the role that they played in Weird Tales history a special irony. For not only did the paperback help kill Weird Tales by taking readership away from the unique magazine, but by cannibalizing Weird Tales corpse did they also manage to give it a pseudo form of life. The magazine literally becomes one of the Undead! Weird Tales truly became the magazine that never died.

The very first time that I remember actually being conscious of the name Weird Tales and understanding that it was a, at the time, defunct magazine was while reading the introduction to the 1971 Scholastic Books collection The Shadow over Innsmouth and other Stories of Horror. I think I actually got a nose bleed trying to wrap my 10 year old brain this collection's Lovecraftian delights such as The Festival, The Colour out of Space and The Shadow over Innsmouth! And even when I didn't know what Weird Tales actually was, I sure as hell knew that it must have been something mighty special by the time I finished that collection of stories! It still boggles my mind to this day that Scholastic was peddling Lovecraft to 10 year olds. May the gods bless who ever was on their board of advisers. And on a side note; only after producing a physical copy of the book did my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Sennef let me get away with colour on a spelling test.

This was how Weird Tales became a larger than life living entity to me. I had already discovered horror at this time, but it was only after reading that Scholastic edition of Baby's First Lovecraft did I actually start to bother paying attention to or even start caring about where all these wonderful tales came from. And From then on it was an entirely new world.

Once I started checking out the copyright pages, of the horror paperbacks I was buying, I noticed that Weird Tales was all pervasive. And even though I didn't know it until many years later, Popular Fiction Publishing Co., which was practically the 2nd most common copyright source in these collections, was also Weird Tales. You couldn't get away from the magazine even if you were deranged enough to want to. I also discovered that such divine, in my eyes, personages as August Derleth and Lin Carter held the magazine in the highest esteem. Even my beloved Alfred Hitchcock collections Monster Museum and Ghostly Gallery were reprinting stories from Weird Tales. You have to understand that up until the 1980s, horror anthologies with original content were extremely rare creatures. The anthologists back then were scavengers of the most special sort. They weren't feeding on carrion. They were taking, for the most part, only the choicest cuts. And being such fine connoisseurs, the corpse that they fed upon the most was Weird Tales. I have to be fair and point out that this was simply how business was done back then. They obviously took the most economical path and reprinted stories from the fiction and pulp magazines. And as the old saying goes, if you’re going to steal, then steal from the best. And Weird Tales had the best. Just consider their top rank authors, Lovecraft, Bob Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Catherine Moore,Henry Kuttner, Robert Bloch and Ray Bradbury. To this day these people are the personification of weird fiction. Even Weird Tales` second tier writers  such as Seabury Quinn, August Derleth, Mary Elizabeth Counselman, Edmond Hamilton, Robert Arthur and Davis Grubb stood head and shoulders above most other genre writers of the time.

One of the earliest Weird Tales plunderings was Ballantine Books' edition of Ray Bradbury's October Country which appeared in 1956. This is a quasi-reprinting of the earlier Arkham House edition of Dark Carnival, a collection of Mr. Bradbury's early horror stories. Several of which were debut stories written for Weird Tales. The trend really took off in 1959 when Avon Books Cry Horror! took the post-Weird Tales reprint route by being the first HPL collection to appear in paperback after the magazine folded. This is an iffy honour since it's actually a reprint of Avon's 1947 HPL collection The Lurking Fear. Still, if for nothing else, this collection, with its memorable Richard Powers cover, does have the honour of being the very collection that introduced Mr. Ramsey Campbell to the works of that oh so weird gentleman from Providence.

One of the earliest multi-author paperback collections to feast heavily upon the magazine's remains, after it's untimely, undeserved and ultimately non-final demise was The Macabre Reader edited by Donald Wolheim back in 1959. This volume contained stories culled almost exclusively from Weird Tales. The Macabre Reader utilized wonderful stories from authors such as H. P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard along with other lesser known but just as talented word smiths. Strangely, as far as I know, this was one of the few horror anthologies that Ace ever published. It would be such publishers as Belmont, Pyramid, Manor and Lancer who would almost immediately pick up the ball that Ace dropped. Luckily for us Mr. Wolheim did not repeat this mistake when he left Ace Books in 1971 to establish DAW Books a year later in 1972.
Not wanting to denigrate Ace, Mr. Wolheim did manage to publish two volumes of Edmond Hamilton's Interstellar Patrol stories which originally appeared in Weird Tales during the late 1920s when he was still at Ace.

The 1960s were a good time for fans of the magazine that never died. Both the H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard booms/revivals kept the memory of the magazine alive. There wasn't a single introduction written for these collections that didn't fail to mention the significance of Weird Tales and to mourn it's passing. Most of these introductions were written by August Derleth who was himself a member of the original Lovecraft Circle, Weird Tales author, and editor and co-founder of Arkham House Publishing which did more than any other entity has ever done to keep Weird Tales alive in hardback format. During the early 1960s it was Belmont books, capitalizing on the success of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, who  published 4 volumes of Robert Bloch stories. These four collections from Belmont reprinted the two Arkham House collections that contained Mr. Bloch's entire Weird Tales output from the 1930s and 1940s.

It was also during this period that Pyramid Books brought out four volumes of horror that used exclusively Weird Tales contents. These four collections were "edited" by Leo Margulies with much of the work being done by genre historian Sam Moskowitz. These were The Unexpected, The Ghoul Keepers, Weird Tales, and Worlds of Weird. These were all multi-author collections that highlighted the width and breadth of the type of story that appeared in Weird Tales. As a bonus to collectors, the covers were done by John Schonherr and Virgil Finlay. Sam Moskowitz then went on to publish three Weird Tales collections for Berkley Medallion at the beginning of the 1970s called Horrors Unseen, Horrors in Hiding and Horrors Unknown.

One of the strangest examples of cannibalizing the cannibals was Avon Books attempted revival of The Avon Fantasy Reader. 1969 saw Avon release both The Avon Fantasy Reader and The Second Avon Fantasy Reader. These were edited by Donald Wolheim who did some serious double-Double Dipping. The original Avon Fantasy Reader could probably be considered the missing link between pulps and paperbacks. It was a digest sized magazine that was distributed like a paperback. The Fantasy Reader ran from 1947 to 1952 and relied exclusively on reprinting already classic material, with a new issue appearing only after the previous issue turned a profit. And of course it is no surprise that Weird Tales was a very large source of material for the digest. So what Mr. Wolheim did was to reprint material that have been first reprinted in the digest during its original 5 year run that had ended 17 years earlier. So what you bought was two collections reprinting reprints. Thank the gods that at least Weird Tales appeared on the copyrights page.

Lin Carter has a special place among the ranks of Weird Tales preservationists and revivalists. During the late 1960s and early 70s he edited and reprinted many H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith collections as part of his Adult Fantasy Series published by Ballantine. Mr. Carter never failed to sing praises to Weird Tales from the roof tops in his numerous introductions to the collections in this series. At the beginning of the 1980s Mr. Carter even went as far as to revive Weird Tales in paperback format for four issues. This incarnation wasn't a darling of the critics, but I found it to be enjoyable and true to the original vision of the magazine. Even if Mr. Carter's editing of the Lancer Conan editions along with L. Sprague de camp is highly controversial, this more than made up for by championing the cause of Weird Tales Magazine and weird fiction in general. Thank you Mr. Carter, I drink to your Shade!

Weird Tales was also kept alive in the UK thanks mostly to anthologists Peter Haining, Christine Campbell Thompson, Kurt Singer, Mike Ashley, and August Derleth. Peter Haining alone, edited over a dozen anthologies that utilized the unique magazine. Most notable were his two Weird Tales best of collections Weird Tales and More Weird Tales. Mrs. Thompson was active during 1930s by publishing a series of UK hardback horror anthologies know as the Not at Night collections. Four of these collections were reprinted during the 1960s and early 70s. Kurt Singer was also not opposed to using many post WWII era Weird Tales stories to fill up many of his anthologies. But Mike Ashley has the honour of printing the first Weird Tales tribute collection in the UK with 100 % Weird Tales content called Weird Legacies. This collection came out in 1977. One year before Peter Haining's two Best of collections. It must be noted that the situation with August Derleth is the strangest by far. During his time running Arkham House, Mr. Derleth edited and published 8 horror anthologies consisting entirely of reprinted material. And as usual in the situation, these collections relied heavily on Weird Tales as the source of many of the stories used. Now here is what seems so odd with the situation surrounding these eight collections All were reprinted in the UK as paperbacks while only two of them were released in this format in the U.S. The two that were released as Stateside paperbacks were Stories from Sleep no More and Nights Yawning Peal. This is a terrible shame considering the high quality of content in these eight collections. Mr. Derleth was an outstanding editor and anthologist who was always digging up lesser known but superb stories from the pages of Weird Tales.Two prime examples of which are Clark Ashton Smith's The Seed from the Sepulchre and The Canal by Everil Worrell.

The UK also was fortunate in that they saw many single author collections being published several years before they ever appeared in the U.S. One notable example was the two volume collection which consisted of Jumbee and other Voodoo Tales and The Black Beast. Both of these volumes showcased the Weird Tales appearances of the Rev. Henry S. Whitehead for the first time in paperback. Two collections of Carl Jacobi's weird tales were also available in the UK several years before any American paperback collections of Mr. Jacobi's works appeared. And I can't neglect to mention that the number of British paperbacks collecting Lovecraft, Howard and Smith during their initial revivals were just as large, numerous and popular as they were in the States.
So even with the magazine's blood on their hands, the paperback houses and their editors were the driving forces behind keeping Weird Tales alive in the hearts and imaginations of millions of readers who never had the opportunity read the magazine during its initial incarnation.
I don't know whether it was luck or fate, but the trend of using magazine reprints as the main source of material for paperback anthologies lasted up till the beginning of the 1980s when the publishers switched over to using more and more original material for their anthologies. Even though Lovecraft, Howard and Smith are all still around in paperback format, most other Weird Tales authors are now the stuff of inter-net auctions, small specialty publishers or simply forgotten. What's amazing for Weird Tales Magazine itself, was that this trend in paperback anthologies using only original material would have removed the magazine from the consciousness of  younger and newer genre readers. But it was exactly at the same time that this shift in focus was happening that Lin Carter attempted his Weird Tales re-launch paperback which only lasted for four issues from 1980 until 1983. All was mostly quit for the next few years and it looked dire for the unique magazine's memory and legacy. But, it was then during 1988 that the magazine was finally revived and still exists to this day, 25 years later.
So even though the paperback played a major role in killing the pulps, it also saved Weird Tales from becoming simply a footnote in the history of the genre. Just by looking at my own collection alone and using Justin Marriot's Paperback Fanatic Weird Tales Special as a quick reference, I've counted 58 multi-author anthologies that each use at least several Weird Tales stories each. If you want to count single author collections, then the number would at least double. That's quite a legacy for a magazine that was supposedly dead at the time. I guess that this proved for once and for all that Weird Tales truly is the magazine that never died.
 Thanks fro stopping by!
Take care.
 All Scans were made by me from books in my collection.
Doug Draa