Sonntag, 2. November 2014

I'm BAAACK!!

 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.
Doug
 All Scans were made by me from books in my collection.
Doug Draa


Kommentare:

  1. Welcome back and please continue to update this awesome site. I discovered it randomly and can't wait to dig deeper. Love it!

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  2. Glad to see you back. And thank you for the information above. I look forward to more.

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  3. I remember buying the book THE MACABRE READER not knowing what macabre meant but liking the cover painting. I liked the book and learned what the word meant along with my bent for the macabre.

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  4. Just found this page and really enjoyed reading your history of Weird Tales.

    Do you think you could add a list of those 58 multi-author anthologies you mentioned so I can get started finding them myself!?

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  5. I've never listed them, but I did scan my collection.....

    http://vintage-horror-paperbacks.tumblr.com/

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  6. Thanks Doug. I look forward to looking through all 34 pages!

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