Farnsworth Wright

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Farnsworth Wright (1888 – 1940) was the editor of the pulp magazine Weird Tales during the magazine's heyday. (He edited 179 issues, from November 1924-March 1940). Jack Williamson called Wright "the first great fantasy editor".[1]

Life and career[edit]

Early Life and Army Service[edit]

He was born in California, and educated in the University of Nevada and the University of Washington.[2] Wright's mother taught music and inspired in him his zeal for the Classics and for art; he loved poetry and later encouraged its appearance in Weird Tales, making it one of the few pulp markets for verse. His first job was as a reporter, but he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1917 and served in the infantry in WWI. [3]

Weird Tales[edit]

He was working as a music critic for the Chicago Herald and Examiner when he began his association with Weird Tales, founded in 1923.[4] At first serving as chief manuscript reader,[5] he replaced founding editor Edwin Baird in 1924 when the latter was fired by publisher J. C. Henneberger.[6]

During Wright's editorship of Weird Tales, which lasted until 1940, the magazine regularly published the notable authors H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith. Yet Wright had a strained relationship with all three writers, rejecting major works by them — such as Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness and The Shadow Over Innsmouth,[7] Howard's "The Frost Giant's Daughter,"[8] and Smith's "The Seven Geases" (which Wright dismissed as just "one geas after another").[9] He could be both discouraging and encouraging with equal lack of logic. His preference for shorter fiction particularly led him to discourage Lovecraft's, whose best works emerged at longer lengths during the early 1930s. Nevertheless, as Mike Ashley has pout it, "Wright "developed WT from a relatively routine horror pulp magazine to create what has become a legend." [10]

Wright's wide tastes allowed for an extravagance of fiction, from the Sword and Sorcery of Robert E. Howard, the cosmic fiction of Lovecraft, the occult detective stories of Seabury Quinn, the chinoiseries of E. Hoffman Price and Frank Owen, the terror tales of Paul Ernst (American writer) and the space operas and pandimensional adventures of Edmond Hamilton and Nictzin Dyalhis.

Wright also anonymously edited an anthology of WT stories, The Moon Terror (1927), as a bonus for subscribers. However the anthology's contents (unfortunately representative of the worst of magazine's early years)meant the book took years to sell out. Wright also edited a short-lived companion magazine, Oriental Stories (later renamed Magic Carpet Magazine) which lasted from 1930 to 1934.[11]

Wright (nicknamed "Plato" by his writers) was also noteworthy for starting the commercial careers of three important fantasy artists: Margaret Brundage, Virgil Finlay, and Hannes Bok. Each of the three made their first sale to, and had their work first appear in, Weird Tales. Wright was close friends with writers who submitted to the magazine such E. Hoffman Price (who often helped read the slushpile submissions) and Otis Adelbert Kline.[12]

E.F. Bleiler describes Wright as "an excellent editor who recognized quality work" in his book The Guide to Supernatural Fiction. [13]

Wright also published some of his own fiction, but his stories are considered unmemorable. His poetry (as for his fiction, Wright used the pseudonym 'Francis Hard' on several of these pieces)[1] is considered more delicate, but he limited its appearance.[14]

Weird Tales author Robert Bloch describes Wright as "a tall thin man with a small, thin voice. The latter, together with a persistent palsy, was probably due to the effects of Parkinson's disease, an affliction which had plagued him since wartime military service. An authority on Shakespeare and a former music critic, this soft-spoken, balding, prematurely aged man seemed miscast as editor of a publication featuring bimbos uncovered on its covers and horrors concealed within its pages." [15]

Later Life: Parkinson's Disease and Death[edit]

Wright had developed Parkinson's disease in 1921; by 1930, he was unable to sign his own letters. He attempted to launch Wright's Shakespeare Library in 1925 with a pulp-format edition of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Despite the illustrations by Virgil Finlay, the book flopped. .[16]

Wright's failing health forced him to resign as editor during 1940, and he died later that year.[4] He was succeeded as editor of Weird Tales by Dorothy McIlwraith (who also edited Short Stories magazine).

Notable Relatives of Farnsworth Wright[edit]

Wright's nephew, David Wright O'Brien (1818-1944), was killed during WWII after a brief but prolific period as a contributor to the Ziff-Davis pulp magazines, including Fantastic Adventures, to which he contributed many humorous fantasies. .[17]

Wright's granddaughter was the Hollywood actress Paula Raymond.[18]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Williamson, in Gombert, (p. ix).
  2. ^ Weinberg, pg. 4.
  3. ^ Mike Ashley, "Farnsworth Wright" in John Clute and John Grant, eds, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. London: Orbit, 1997, p. 1037
  4. ^ a b Joshi and Schultz, p. 304.
  5. ^ "The Authors", Weird Tales: The Unique Magazine
  6. ^ Carter, pp. 37, 46.
  7. ^ Joshi and Schultz, p. 305.
  8. ^ Hoffman and Cerasini, pp. 93-94.
  9. ^ Murray, p. 13.
  10. ^ Mike Ashley, "Farnsworth Wright" in John Clute and John Grant, eds, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. London: Orbit, 1997, p. 1037
  11. ^ Encyclopedia of Fantasy, p. 1037. See also Weinberg, p. 5.
  12. ^ E. Hoffman Price, "Farnsworth Wright 1888-1940"in price, Book of the Dead: Friends of Yesteryear: Fictioneers and Others Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 20001, p. 15
  13. ^ Bleiler, p.369.
  14. ^ Mike Ashley, "Farnsworth Wright" in John Clute and John Grant, eds, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. London: Orbit, 1997, p. 1037
  15. ^ Robert Bloch. Once Around the Bloch: An Unauthorised Autobiography NY: Tor Books, 1993, p. 78
  16. ^ Mike Ashley, "Farnsworth Wright" in John Clute and John Grant, eds, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. London: Orbit, 1997, p. 1037
  17. ^ Mike Ashley, "Farnsworth Wright" in John Clute and John Grant, eds, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. London: Orbit, 1997, p. 1037
  18. ^ Parla & Mitchell, p. 198.

References[edit]

  • Mike Ashley, "Wright, Farnsworth" in: Encyclopedia of Fantasy, John Clute and John Grant, eds., New York, St. Martin's Press, 1997.
  • E.F. Bleiler, The Guide to Supernatural Fiction, Kent State University Press, 1983.
  • Lin Carter, Lovecraft: A Look Behind the Cthulhu Mythos, New York, Ballatine, 1972.
  • Richard W. Gombert, World Wrecker: An Annotated Bibliography of Edmond Hamilton. Wildside Press LLC, 2009 ISBN 1434457265,
  • Charles Hoffman and Marc A. Cerasini, "The Strange Case of Robert Ervin Howard", in: The Horror of It All, Robert M. Price, ed., Mercer island, WA, Starmount House, 1990.
  • Paul Parla and Charles P. Mitchell, Screen Sirens Scream!: Interviews with 20 Actresses from Science Fiction, Horror, Film Noir and Mystery Movies, 1930s to 1960s. McFarland, 2009, ISBN 0786445874.
  • S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia, Westport, CT, Greenwood Press, 2001.
  • Clark Ashton Smith, The Book of Hyperborea, Will Murray, ed., West Warwick, RI, Necronomicon press, 1996.
  • Robert Weinberg, The Weird Tales Story, West Linn, OR, FAX Collectors' Editions, 1977.

Further reading[edit]

E. Hoffman Price, "Farnsworth Wright",Ghost (July 1944); rpt. Anubis No 3 (1968); rpt Etchings and Odysseys No 3 (1983); in Price's The Book of the Dead (Sauk City WI: Arkham House, 2001).

External links[edit]

Wright's gravesite at findagrave [2]