|Company||Nth Dimension Media|
Weird Tales is an American fantasy and horror fiction pulp magazine first published in March 1923. It ceased its original run in September 1954, after 279 issues but has since been revived. The magazine was set up in Chicago by J. C. Henneberger, an ex-journalist with a taste for the macabre. Edwin Baird was the first editor of the monthly, assisted by Farnsworth Wright. The sub-genre pioneered by Weird Tales writers has come to be called weird fiction.
Baird first published some of Weird Tales' most famous writers, including H. P. Lovecraft, C. M. Eddy, Jr., Clark Ashton Smith and Seabury Quinn, author of the hugely popular Jules de Grandin stories. The magazine lost a considerable sum of money under Baird's editorship, however—running through $11,000 in capital and amassing a $40,000 debt—and he was fired after 13 issues.
Henneberger offered the job to Lovecraft, who declined, citing his reluctance to relocate to Chicago; "think of the tragedy of such a move for an aged antiquarian," the 34-year-old writer declared.
The magazine also became the subject of controversy after a story by C. M. Eddy, Jr. was published in the May–July 1924 issue, "The Loved Dead", that briefly mentioned necrophilia. There was a public outcry and according to Eddy, Weird Tales was removed from several newsstands as a result, but also the publicity regarding the story resulted in increased sales and helped to save the imperiled magazine from bankruptcy.
The publisher then gave the job to Farnsworth Wright, who became the magazine's best-known editor. Wright (who suffered from Parkinson's disease) continued to publish stories by Lovecraft, Smith, and Quinn, though he was more selective than Baird; he rejected Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness", "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" and (initially) "The Call of Cthulhu", among other stories. Many of Smith's Hyperborean cycle stories were rejected as well.
Among the new writers Wright found for the magazine were Robert Bloch and Robert E. Howard, whose Conan the Barbarian stories, among many others, were hugely popular. Wright put playwright Tennessee Williams into print for the first time (with his story "The Vengeance of Nitocris"). Edmond Hamilton's earliest science fiction stories also first appeared in Wright's Weird Tales.
Notably, Wright hired the former fashion designer and illustrator Margaret Brundage to produce the magazine's cover illustrations, starting in 1933—making Brundage the only female cover artist of the pulp era. She created many striking images, especially of nude or semi-nude young women in provocative poses (her whipping scenes attracted the highest attention). Though her art was far from flawless, Brundage's covers became a focus of extreme attention and controversy—which of course helped to sell the magazine. Wright also ignited the careers of two important fantasy artists, Virgil Finlay and Hannes Bok, by buying and publishing their work, first and frequently.
Weird Tales always struggled financially. In the 1920s and 1930s, the magazine's business manager, William Sprenger, was crucial in keeping the enterprise afloat. It is estimated that the monthly circulation of Weird Tales never topped 50,000 copies per issue. (In the 1920s, circulation figures for the most successful pulps topped one million; even in the depths of the Great Depression, popular pulps like Doc Savage or The Shadow enjoyed circulations of 300,000 per issue, monthly or even semi-monthly.) After 1926, Farnsworth Wright paid his contributors at the rate of one cent per word, double the going pulp rate of a half-cent per word; but during the 1930s, the magazine was sometimes very late in making its payments to authors (which was not unusual in the pulp field as a whole, at the time).
In 1938, Henneberger sold Weird Tales to William J. Delaney, owner and publisher of the magazine Short Stories. Davis brought in Dorothy McIlwraith (1891-1976), the editor of Short Stories, to assist Wright. A period of policy clashes and declining sales led to Wright's departure from Weird Tales in March 1940. Wright died in June of that year.
Under the editorship of McIlwraith, beginning in April 1940, Weird's later years were distinguished by an influx of newer writers, including such major figures as Ray Bradbury, Manly Wade Wellman, Fritz Leiber, Henry Kuttner, C. L. Moore, Theodore Sturgeon, Joseph Payne Brennan, Jack Snow and Margaret St. Clair, a somewhat more eclectic range. McIlwraith was instructed by Delaney not to publish fiction which he considered "disgusting" or "more esoteric", which meant the magazine no longer published "sword and sorcery" stories as it did during Wright's tenure. Occasionally the magazine would publish Lovecraftian pastiches presented as pieces of "lost" Lovecraft completed by his self-appointed literary executor August Derleth, who also wrote fiction for the magazine under his own name.
Like most pulp magazines, Weird Tales suffered from the newsprint shortage during World War II, and after the War from increasing competition from comic books, radio drama, television and paperback books. Commercially, the magazine declined until it ceased publication in September 1954, after 279 issues.
The second was a series of four paperback anthologies published from 1981 to 1983 and edited by Lin Carter. The series was licensed by Robert Weinberg and Victor Dricks, who purchased the title after Margulies' death. The rights to the title reverted to Weinberg when the Carter-edited version was dropped by Zebra Books.
There were two issues, though only the first saw much in the way of distribution, in 1984 and 1985, from the small publisher the Bellerophon Network. Brian Forbes, (via a company called The Wizard in West Hollywood) leased the title from copyright holder Robert Weinberg. It had been reported that the first issue would be distributed by Pacific Comics with a print run of 20,000. The fiction editor was Gil Lamont. In August 1984, Forrest J. Ackerman was contending that he was the editor, with Gil Lamont working for the distributor as first reader only. Lamont stated he was the fiction editor, with Ackerman in charge of reprints. In Oct 1984 Locus reported that neither Ackerman nor Lamont knew where they stood with the elusive publisher, but that instead of being printed, the galleys for the first issue (edited by Lamont) were re-set. Locus magazine reported that most copies went to two distributors, Seagate and Longhorn, who, among others, never paid for them, causing Forbes financial difficulties. An A.E. van Vogt collaboration which commenced in the first Forbes issue was inexplicably not continued in the second. The editor of the second 'Forbes' issue was Gordon Garb. Both the Forbes issues are rare.
Weird Tales was more lastingly revived in 1988 under license by publisher/editors George H. Scithers, John Gregory Betancourt and Darrell Schweitzer, beginning with issue 290. The revived magazine saw initial success, publishing notable contemporary writers such as Tanith Lee, Brian Lumley and Thomas Ligotti alongside artists including George Barr, Jason Van Hollander, and Allen Koszowski. However, after years of losses and reversion of the license by Weird Tales, Ltd., Weird Tales later became part of the DNA Publications chain for several years around the turn of the millennium. In 2005, the magazine was sold entirely to Wildside Press (owned by former co-editor Betancourt).
In early 2007, Wildside announced a revamp of Weird Tales, naming Stephen H. Segal the editorial and creative director and later recruiting Ann VanderMeer as the new fiction editor. Scithers and Schweitzer remained as contributors, Betancourt as publisher. The April/May 2007 edition (issue #344) featured the magazine's first all-new design in almost seventy-five years. During the next few years, Weird Tales published works by a wide range of strange-fiction authors including Michael Moorcock, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Norman Spinrad and Carrie Vaughn, as well as artwork by a younger generation of artists such as Molly Crabapple, Steven Archer and Jason Levesque. The period also saw the addition of a broader range of nonfiction, ranging from narrative essays to comics to features on weird culture. The magazine won its first Hugo Award in August 2009 at the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal, two Hugo Award nominations in subsequent years, and its first World Fantasy Award nomination in more than seventeen years. In January 2010, the magazine announced Segal was leaving the top editorial post to become an editor at Quirk Books. VanderMeer was elevated to editor-in-chief, Mary Robinette Kowal joined the staff as art director, Paula Guran joined as nonfiction editor and Segal became senior contributing editor.
On August 23, 2011, John Betancourt announced Wildside Press would be selling Weird Tales to Marvin Kaye and John Harlacher of Nth Dimension Media. Marvin Kaye took over chief editorial duties, though Ann VanderMeer remained a contributing editor. Issue 359, the first under the new publishers, was published in late February 2012, though most of the content in this issue was handled by the previous editorial team. Some months before the release of issue 359, a special World Fantasy Convention preview issue was given away for free to interested attendees. It was not well received by Locus Online, which stated it was "a preview that bodes not well" and "the other offerings range from mediocre to awful. To really awful . . . It doesn’t bode well for the future of this once-great publication." The first issue under Marvin Kaye's editorial direction was sent only to subscribers after having lost newsstand distribution earlier in the year. As The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has pointed out, "its future is once again in the balance."
In August 2012, Weird Tales became involved in a media altercation after the editor announced the magazine was going to publish an except from Victoria Foyt's controversial novel Save the Pearls, a novel which many critics have accused of featuring racist stereotyping. This decision received widespread criticism. Since then the original post has been deleted and the publisher has indicated the magazine will not run the excerpt of Save the Pearls: Revealing Eden after all.
In June 2013, Kaye returned to writers material he had previously accepted for publication and described as "excellent". In a note to such writers, he wrote, "Dear Contributor, I regret to inform you that the publisher of Weird Tales has decided to pass on quite a few stories, yours included. This is a measure to reduce our huge fiction inventory. If you have not sold your submission elsewhere, try us again in 9 months. If we have room at that time, it will be an automatic sale (but do remind us of this message!)." In a further note Kaye commented, "I don't like having to do this, but the pressure to reopen the submission portal has been growing and we can't ignore it any longer." The submission portal has yet to be opened months after this, no new issues have come out in 2013 since the release of Issue 361, and the managing editor is longer involved with the magazine.
There is some question about who actually owns the magazine and the Weird Tales trademark, though strong evidence points to Viacom/MTV, having acquired the trademark for a planned TV series. In 2012, a Viacom executive stated: "I can confirm that we have owned the Weird Tales catalog since 2008, but I'm not in a position to disclose what the status of the project is today." However, in Issue 361, the masthead clearly states: "WEIRD TALES ® is a registered trademark owned by Viacom International Inc."
Numerous anthologies of stories from Weird Tales have been published.
- The Moon Terror (1927) edited anonymously by Farnsworth Wright.
- The Unexpected (1961)
- The Ghoul Keepers (1961)
- Weird Tales (1964)
- Worlds of Weird (1965) all edited by Leo Margulies.
- Far Below and Other Horrors (1974) ed. Robert Weinberg
- Weird Tales (1976) ed. Peter Haining.
- Weird Legacies (1977) ed. Mike Ashley.
- Weird Tales: The Magazine That Never Dies (1988) ed. Marvin Kaye.
- Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Terrors (1988) ed. Weinberg, Stefan R. Dziemianowicz and Martin H. Greenberg.
- The Eighth Green Man and Other Strange Folk (1989) ed. Weinberg.
- 100 Wild Little Weird Tales (1994) ed. Weinberg, Dziemianowicz and Greenberg.
- Best of Weird Tales (1995) ed. John Gregory Betancourt.
- The Best of Weird Tales: 1923 (1997) ed. Kaye and Betancourt.
- Weird Tales: Seven Decades of Terror (1997) ed. Weinberg and Betancourt.
- Weird Tales: The 21st Century (2007) ed. Segal and Wallace.
- Ashley, pp. 1000-1003.
- Carter, pp. 35-37.
- H. P. Lovecraft, letter to Frank Belknap Long, March 21, 1924; cited in Carter, p. 43.
- Murray, pp. 11-14.
- "The Story", Weird Tales: The Unique Magazine (fansite).
- The McIlwraith Family: A Cultural and Intellectual Biography at The University of British Columbia.
- Delaney rejected Clark Ashton Smith's story "The Coming of the White Worm" as he considered it unsuitable for "Weird Tales". See "Story Notes: The Coming of the White Worm" by Scott Connors and Ron Hilger in The Collected Fantasies Of Clark Ashton Smith Volume 5: The Last Hieroglyph. Night Shade Books, 2010 ISBN 1597800325 (p.309-10)
- "Weird Tales revived Again", Locus (June 1984) No 281
- "Whos on First?", Locus (Aug 1984) No. 283
- "Weird Tales in Limbo", Locus (Oct 1984) No 285, p. 4
- Locus (Sept 1986) No 307.
- Laufenberg, Kathleen (August 23, 2009). ""Weird" wins: Tallahassee sci-fi editor brings home a Hugo Award". Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved September 8, 2009.
- "January 2010 Weird Tales Press Release". Weirdtales.net. 2010-01-25. Retrieved 2012-09-16.
- Marvin Kaye buys Weird Tales by Ian Randal Strock. SFScope.com, Retrieved February 9, 2011.
- Kaye to Buy Weird Tales Locus Online, Retrieved 09-02-2011.
- "World Fantasy Convention Special Preview Issue". Scribd.com. 2012-01-16. Retrieved 2012-09-16.
- Author: Your Name/Company. "Lois Tilton Reviews Short Fiction, Mid November 2012". Locusmag.com. Retrieved 2013-08-22.
- Warriors of the Storm by Jack L. Chalker. "Weird Tales entry". Sf-encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2013-08-22.
- "A Thoroughly Non-Racist Book". Retrieved 2012-09-16.
- Racism row over SF novel about black 'Coals' and white 'Pearls' Guardian, 21 August 2012. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
- Name *. "A Message from the Publisher". Weirdtalesmagazine.com. Retrieved 2012-09-16.
- Ansible *. "Magazine Scene". Ansible. Retrieved 2012-07-01.
- "Tuesday Sick Notes". Nihilistic-kid.livejournal.com. Retrieved 2012-09-16.
- "Meteor 17, Weird Tales, and MTV/Viacom". Meteor17.com. Retrieved 2012-09-16.
- "WEIRD TALES - Trademarks411, Trademark Search Made Simple". Trademarks411.com. Retrieved 2012-09-16.
- By L. Vincent Poupard (2012-07-11). "Weird Tales on TV: The Stars are Right". Tv.yahoo.com. Retrieved 2012-09-16.
- Mike Ashley, "Weird Tales",in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, John Clute and John Grant, eds., New York, St. Martin's Press, 1997.
- Lin Carter, Lovecraft: A Look Behind the Cthulhu Mythos.
- Robert Weinberg, The Weird Tales Story, West Linn, OR, FAX Collectors' Editions, 1977.
- Clark Ashton Smith, The Book of Hyperborea, Will Murray, ed.
- Wildside Press, press release, February 14, 2007.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Weird Tales.|
|Wikisource has original works on the topic: Weird Tales|
- Weird Tales official website
- Wildside Press – previous publisher.
- All Weird Tales cover photos and information on the stories they contained
- Galactic Central Magazine Datafile for Weird Tales
- "What a Long, Weird Trip Its Been"