Weird Tales | publication history

Publication history

Rural Publishing Corporation

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1923 1/1 1/2 1/3 1/4 2/1 2/2 2/3 2/4
1924 3/1 3/2 3/3 3/4 4/2 4/3 4/4
1925 5/1 5/2 5/3 5/4 5/5 5/6 6/1 6/2 6/3 6/4 6/5 6/6
1926 7/1 7/2 7/3 7/4 7/5 7/6 8/1 8/2 8/3 8/4 8/5 8/6
1927 9/1 9/2 9/3 9/4 9/5 9/6 10/1 10/2 10/3 10/4 10/5 10/6
1928 11/1 11/2 11/3 11/4 11/5 11/6 12/1 12/2 12/3 12/4 12/5 12/6
1929 13/1 13/2 13/3 13/4 13/5 13/6 14/1 14/2 14/3 14/4 14/5 14/6
1930 15/1 15/2 15/3 15/4 15/5 15/6 16/1 16/2 16/3 16/4 16/5 16/6
1931 17/1 17/2 17/3 17/4 18/1 18/2 18/3 18/4 18/5
1932 19/1 19/2 19/3 19/4 19/5 19/6 20/1 20/2 20/3 20/4 20/5 20/6
1933 21/1 21/2 21/3 21/4 21/5 21/6 22/1 22/2 22/3 22/4 22/5 22/6
1934 23/1 23/2 23/3 23/4 23/5 23/6 24/1 24/2 24/3 24/4 24/5 24/6
1935 25/1 25/2 25/3 25/4 25/5 25/6 26/1 26/2 26/3 26/4 26/5 26/6
1936 27/1 27/2 27/3 27/4 27/5 27/6 28/1 28/2 28/3 28/4 28/5
1937 29/1 29/2 29/3 29/4 29/5 29/6 30/1 30/2 30/3 30/4 30/5 30/6
1938 31/1 31/2 31/3 31/4 31/5 31/6 32/1 32/2 32/3 32/4 32/5 32/6
1939 33/1 33/2 33/3 33/4 33/5 34/1 34/2 34/3 34/4 34/5 34/6
1940 35/1 35/2 35/3 35/4 35/5 35/6
Issues of Weird Tales from 1923 to 1940, showing volume/issue number.
Editors were Edwin Baird (yellow), Farnsworth Wright (blue), and Dorothy McIlwraith (green).
There was no issue numbered 4/1.[11]

Henneberger chose Edwin Baird, the editor of Detective Tales, to edit Weird Tales; Farnsworth Wright was first reader, and Otis Adelbert Kline also worked on the magazine, assisting Baird. Payment rates were low, usually between a quarter and a half cent per word; the budget went up to one cent per word for the most popular writers.[10] Sales were initially poor, and Henneberger soon decided to change the format from the standard pulp size to large pulp, to make the magazine more visible. This had little long-term effect on sales, though the first issue at the new size, dated May 1923, was the only one that first year to sell out completely—probably because it contained the first instalment of a popular serial, The Moon Terror, by A.G. Birch.[12][13]

The magazine lost a considerable amount of money under Baird's editorship: after thirteen issues, the total debt was over $40,000.[14][notes 1] In the meantime, Detective Tales had been retitled Real Detective Tales and was making a profit, as was College Humor. Henneberger decided to sell both magazines to Lansinger and invest the money in Weird Tales.[12][16] This did not address the $40,000 in debts, much of which was owed to the magazine's printer. The printing company was owned by B. Cornelius, who agreed to Henneberger's suggestion that the debt should be converted to a majority interest in a new company, Popular Fiction Publishing. This did not eliminate all of the magazine's debts, but it meant that Weird Tales could continue to publish, and perhaps return to profitability. Cornelius agreed that if the magazine ever became profitable enough to repay him the $40,000 he had been owed, he would give up his shares in the company. Cornelius became the company treasurer; the business manager was William (Bill) Sprenger, who had been working for Rural Publishing. Henneberger had hopes of eventually refinancing the debt with the help of another printer, Hall Printing Company, owned by Robert Eastman.[12]

Baird stayed with Lansinger, so Henneberger wrote to H. P. Lovecraft, who had sold some stories to Weird Tales, to see if he would be interested in taking the job. Henneberger offered ten weeks advance pay, but made it a condition that Lovecraft move to Chicago, where the magazine was headquartered. Lovecraft described Henneberger's plans in a letter to Frank Belknap Long as "a brand-new magazine to cover the field of Poe-Machen shudders". Lovecraft did not wish to leave New York, where he had recently moved with his new bride; his dislike of cold weather was another deterrent.[12][17][18][notes 2] He spent several months considering the offer in mid-1924 without making a final decision, with Henneberger visiting him in Brooklyn more than once, but eventually either he declined or Henneberger simply gave up. By the end of the year Wright had been hired as the new editor of Weird Tales. The last issue under Baird's name was a combined May/June/July issue, with 192 pages—a much thicker magazine than the earlier issues. It was assembled by Wright and Kline, rather than Baird.[12]

Popular Fiction Publishing

Woman clutches a man using a knife to fend off a winged humanoid monster
The May 1934 cover, illustrating Queen of the Black Coast, one of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories[20]

Henneberger gave Wright full control of Weird Tales, and did not get involved with story selection. In about 1921, Wright had begun to suffer from Parkinson's disease, and over the course of his editorship the symptoms grew gradually worse. By the end of the 1920s he was unable to sign his name, and by the late 1930s Bill Sprenger was helping him get to work and back home.[12] The first issue with Wright as editor was dated November 1924, and the magazine immediately resumed a regular monthly schedule, with the format changing back to pulp again.[11] The pay rate was initially low, with a cap of half a cent per word until 1926, when the top rate was increased to one cent per word. Some of Popular Fiction Publishing's debts were paid off over time, and the highest pay rate eventually rose to one and a half cents per word.[notes 3] The magazine's cover price was high for the time. Robert Bloch recalled that "in the late Twenties and Thirties of this a time when most pulp periodicals sold for a dime, its price was a quarter".[23] Although Popular Fiction Publishing continued to be based in Chicago, the editorial offices were in Indianapolis for a while, at two separate addresses, but moved to Chicago towards the end of 1926. After a short period on North Broadway, the office moved to 840 North Michigan Avenue, where it would remain until 1938.[24]

In 1927, Popular Fiction Publishing issued Birch's The Moon Terror, one of Weird Tales' more popular serials, as a hardcover book, including three other stories from the magazine's first year. One of the stories, "An Adventure in the Fourth Dimension", was by Wright himself. The book sold poorly, and it remained on offer in the pages of Weird Tales, at reduced prices, for twenty years.[24][25] It was at one point provided as a bonus to readers who subscribed.[26] In 1930 Cornelius launched a companion magazine, Oriental Stories, but the magazine was not a success, though it managed to last for over three years before Cornelius gave up.[24][27] Another financial blow occurred in late 1930 when a bank failure froze most of the magazine's cash. Henneberger changed the schedule to bimonthly, starting with the February/March 1931 issue; six months later, with the August 1931 issue, the monthly schedule returned.[28] Two years later Weird Tales' bank was still having financial problems, and payment to authors was being substantially delayed.[29]

The Depression also hit the Hall Printing Company, which Henneberger had been hoping would take over the debt from Cornelius; Robert Eastman, the owner of Hall, at one point was unable to meet payroll. Eastman died in 1934, and with him went Henneberger's plans for recovering control of Weird Tales.[24] The magazine advertised in the early science fiction pulps, usually highlighting one of the more science-fictional stories. Often the advertised story was by Edmond Hamilton, who was popular in the sf magazines. Wright also sold hardcovers of books by some of his more popular authors, such as Kline, in the pages of Weird Tales.[30] Although the magazine was never greatly profitable, Wright was paid well. Robert Weinberg, author of a history of Weird Tales, records a rumor that Wright was unpaid for much of his work on the magazine, but according to E. Hoffmann Price, a close friend of Wright's who occasionally read manuscripts for him, Weird Tales was paying Wright about $600 a month in 1927.[24]


Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1941 35/7 35/8 35/9 35/10 36/1 36/2
1942 36/3 36/4 36/5 36/6 36/7 36/8
1943 36/9 36/10 36/11 36/12 37/1 37/2
1944 37/3 37/4 37/5 37/6 38/1 38/2
1945 38/3 38/4 38/5 38/6 39/1 39/2
1946 39/3 39/4 39/5 39/6 39/7 39/8
1947 39/9 39/10 39/11 39/11 39/12 40/1
1948 40/2 40/3 40/4 40/5 40/6 41/1
1949 41/2 41/3 41/4 41/5 41/6 42/1
1950 42/2 42/3 42/4 42/5 42/6 43/1
1951 43/2 43/3 43/4 43/5 43/6 44/1
1952 44/2 44/3 44/4 44/5 44/6 44/7
1953 44/8 45/1 45/2 45/3 45/4 45/5
1954 45/6 46/1 46/2 46/3 46/4
Issues of Weird Tales from 1941 to 1954, showing volume/issue number. The
editor was Dorothy McIlwraith. The apparent error in duplicating volume 39/11 is in
fact correct.[11]

Cornelius retired in 1938, and Popular Fiction Publishing was sold to William J. Delaney, who was the publisher of Short Stories, a successful general fiction pulp magazine based in New York. Sprenger and Wright both received a share of the stock from Cornelius; Sprenger did not remain with the company but Wright moved to New York and stayed on as editor.[28][30] Henneberger's share of Popular Fiction Publishing was converted to a small interest in the new company, Weird Tales, Inc., a subsidiary of Delaney's Short Stories, Inc.[11][30] Dorothy McIlwraith, the editor of Short Stories, became Wright's assistant, and over the next two years Delaney tried to increase profits by adjusting the page count and price. An increase from 144 pages to 160 pages starting with the February 1939 issue, along with the use of cheaper (and hence thicker) paper, made the magazine thicker, but this failed to increase sales. In September 1939 the page count went down to 128, and the price was cut from 25 cents to 15 cents. From January 1940 the frequency was reduced to bimonthly, a change which stayed in effect until the end of the magazine's run fourteen years later.[28][30] None of these changes had the intended effect, and sales continued to languish.[30] In March 1940, Wright left and was replaced by McIlwraith as editor; histories of the magazine differ as to whether he was fired because of poor sales, or quit because of his health—he was by now suffering from Parkinson's so severely that he had trouble walking unassisted.[28][30][31][32][notes 4] Wright then had an operation to reduce the pain with which he suffered, but never fully recovered. He died in June of that year.[12]

McIlwraith's first issue was dated April 1940. She was assisted by Lamont Buchanan, who worked for her as associate editor and art editor for both Weird Tales and Short Stories. August Derleth also provided assistance and advice, although he had no formal connection with the magazine. Most of McIlwraith's budget went to Short Stories, since that was the more successful magazine;[30][32] the payment rate for fiction in Weird Tales by 1953 was one cent per word, well below the top rates of other science fiction and fantasy magazines of the day.[33] War shortages also caused problems, and the page count was reduced, first to 112 pages in 1943, and then to 96 pages the following year.[30][32]

The price was increased to 20 cents in 1947, and again to 25 cents in 1949, but it was not only Weird Tales that was suffering—the entire pulp industry was in decline. Delaney switched the format to digest with the September 1953 issue, but there was to be no reprieve. In 1954, Weird Tales and Short Stories ceased publication; in both cases the last issue was dated September 1954.[30][34]

1970s and early 1980s

Spring Summer Fall Winter
1973 47/1 47/2 47/3
1974 47/4
1981 1 & 2 3
1983 4
1984 49/1
1985 49/2
1988 50/1 50/2 50/3 50/4
1989 51/1 51/2
1990 51/3 51/4 52/1 52/2
1991 52/3 52/4 53/1 53/2
1992 53/3 53/4
1993 53/3 53/3
1994 53/3 1/1
1995 1/2
1996 1/3 1/4
1998 55/1 55/2
1999 55/3 55/4 56/1 56/2
2000 56/3 56/4 57/1 57/2
2001 57/3 57/4 58/1 58/2
2002 58/3 58/4 59/1 59/2
Issues of Weird Tales from 1988 to 2002, showing volume and issue numbers. Note that the four issues starting with Summer 1994 were titled Worlds of Fantasy & Horror. Note also that five of the Winter issues were dated with two years: 1988/1989, 1992/1993; 1996/1997, 2001/2002, and 2002/2003. Editors were Moskowitz (gray), Carter (purple), Ackerman & Lamont (bright pink), Garb (green), Schweitzer, Scithers and Betancourt (orange); Schweitzer (dark pink); and Scithers and Schweitzer (yellow).[35]

In the mid-1950s, Leo Margulies, a well-known figure in the magazine publishing world, launched a new company, Renown Publications, with plans to publish several titles. He acquired the rights to both Weird Tales and Short Stories, and hoped to bring both magazines back. He abandoned a plan to restart Weird Tales in 1962, using reprints from the original magazine, after being advised by Sam Moskowitz that there was little market for weird and horror fiction at the time.[36][notes 5] Instead Margulies mined the Weird Tales backfile for four anthologies which appeared in the early 1960s: The Unexpected, The Ghoul-Keepers, Weird Tales, and Worlds of Weird.[37] The latter two were ghost-edited by Moskowitz, who proposed to Margulies that when the time was right to start the magazine up again, it should include reprints from obscure sources that Moskowitz had found, rather than just stories reprinted from the first incarnation of Weird Tales.[37][39] These stories would be as good as new for most readers, and the money saved could be used for an occasional new story.[37]

The new version of Weird Tales finally appeared from Renown Publications, in April 1973, edited by Moskowitz. It had weak distribution and sales were too low for sustainability; according to Moskowitz the average sales were 18,000 copies per issue, well short of the 23,000 that would have been needed for the magazine to survive. The fourth issue, dated Summer 1974, was the last, as Margulies closed down all his magazines except for Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, which was the only one that was making a profit. Mike Ashley, a science fiction magazine historian, records that Moskowitz was unwilling to continue in any case, as he was annoyed by Margulies's detailed involvement in the day-to-day editorial tasks such as editing manuscripts and writing introductions.[37]

Margulies died the following year, and his widow, Cylvia Margulies, decided to sell the rights to the title. Forrest Ackerman, a science fiction fan and editor, was one of the interested parties, but she chose instead to sell to Victor Dricks and Robert Weinberg.[40] Weinberg in turn licensed the title to Lin Carter, who interested a publisher, Zebra Books, in the project. The result was a series of four paperback anthologies, edited by Lin Carter, appearing between 1981 and 1983;[41] these were originally planned to be quarterly, but in fact the first two both appeared in December 1980 and were both dated Spring 1981. The next was dated Fall 1981;[42] Carter's rights to the title were terminated by Weinberg in 1982 for non-payment, but the fourth issue was already in the works and finally appeared with a date of Summer 1983.[43]

In 1982 Sheldon Jaffery and Roy Torgeson met with Weinberg to propose taking over as licensees, but Weinberg decided not to pursue the offer. The following year, Brian Forbes approached Weinberg with another offer. Forbes' company, the Bellerophon Network, was an imprint of a Los Angeles company named The Wizard. Ashley reports that Weinberg was only able to contact Forbes by phone, and even that was not always reliable, so negotiations were slow. Forbes' editorial director was Gordon Garb and the fiction editor was Gil Lamont; Forrest Ackerman also assisted, mainly by obtaining material to include. There was a good deal of confusion between the various participants in the project:[44] according to Locus, a science fiction trade journal, "Ackerman says he has had no contact with publisher Forbes, does not know what will happen to the material he put together, and is as much in the dark as everybody else. Lamont says that he is still renegotiating his contract and is not sure where he stands".[45] The original plan was for the first issue to appear in August 1984, dated July/August, but before it appeared the decision was taken to change the contents, and a new, completely reset issue finally appeared at the end of the year, dated Fall 1984. Even with this delay a final agreement had not yet been reached with Weinberg over licensing. Only 12,500 copies were printed; these were sent to two distributors who both went into bankruptcy. As a result, few copies were sold, and Forbes was not paid by the distributors. Despite the financial setback, Forbes attempted to continue, and a second issue eventually appeared. Its cover date was Winter 1985 but it was not published until June 1986. Few copies were printed; reports vary between 1,500 and 2,300 in total. Mark Monsolo was the fiction editor, but Garb continued as editorial director; Lamont was no longer involved with the magazine.[44]

Terminus and successors

Spring Summer Fall Winter
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2003 59/3 59/4 60/1
2004 60/2 60/3 60/4
2005 337
2006 338 339 340 341 342
2007 343 344 345 346 347
2008 348 349 350 351 352
Issues of Weird Tales from 2003 to 2008, showing volume and issue numbers. Most issues were titled with either the month or with two months (e.g. "March/April 2004"). One issue, Spring 2003, was titled with the season instead. Editors were Scithers and Schweitzer (yellow); Scithers, Schweitzer and Betancourt (orange); Segal (blue); and Vandermeer (gray).[35]

Weird Tales was more lastingly revived at the end of the 1980s by George H. Scithers, John Gregory Betancourt and Darrell Schweitzer, who formed Terminus Publishing, based in Philadelphia, and licensed the rights from Weinberg. Rather than focus on newsstand distribution, which was expensive and had become less effective in the 1980s, they planned to build a base of direct subscribers and distribute the magazine for sale through specialist stores.[46] The first issue had a cover date of Spring 1988, but it was produced early enough to be available at the 1987 World Fantasy Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.[46][47] The size was the same as the original pulp version, though it was printed on better paper. There were also limited edition hardcover versions of each issue, signed by the contributors. A special World Fantasy Award Weird Tales received in 1992 made it apparent that the magazine was successful in terms of quality, but sales were insufficient to cover costs. To save money the format was changed to a larger flat size, starting with the Winter 1992/1993 issue, but the magazine remained in financial trouble, with issues becoming irregular over the next couple of years. The Summer 1993 issue was the last to have a hardcover edition; it was also the last, for a while, to bear the name Weird Tales, as Weinberg did not renew the license. The magazine was retitled Worlds of Fantasy & Horror, and the volume numbering was restarted at volume 1 number 1, but in every other way the magazine was unchanged, and the four issues under this title, issued between 1994 and 1996, are regarded by bibliographers as part of the overall Weird Tales run.[46]

In April 1995, HBO announced they had plans to turn Weird Tales into a three-episode anthology show similar to their Tales from the Crypt series. The deal for the rights was facilitated by screenwriters Mark Patrick Carducci and Peter Atkins. Directors Tim Burton, Francis Ford Coppola, and Oliver Stone were executive producers, with each one expected to direct an episode. Stone was to be director of the pilot, but the series never came to fruition.[48]

Winter Spring Summer Fall Winter
2009 353 354
2010 355 356
2011 357 358 nn
2012 359 360
2013 361
2014 362
Issues of Weird Tales from 2009 to 2014, showing volume and issue numbers. The issue labelled "nn" was not numbered; it was a preview copy given away at the World Fantasy Convention. Editors were Vandermeer (gray); Segal (blue); and Kaye (mauve).[35]

No issues appeared in 1997, but in 1998 Scithers and Schweitzer negotiated a deal with Warren Lupine of DNA Publications which allowed them to start publishing Weird Tales under license once again. The first issue was dated Summer 1998, and, other than the omission of the Winter 1998 issue, a regular quarterly schedule was maintained for the next four and a half years. Sales were weak, never rising above 6,000 copies, and DNA began to experience financial difficulties. Wildside Press, owned by John Betancourt, joined DNA and Terminus Publishing as co-publisher, starting with the July/August 2003 issue, and Weird Tales returned to a mostly regular schedule for a few months. A long hiatus ended with the December 2004 issue, which appeared in early 2005; this was the last issue under the arrangement with DNA. Wildside Press then bought Weird Tales, and Betancourt again joined Scithers and Schweitzer as co-editor.[35][46]

The first Wildside Press edition appeared in September 2005, and starting with the following issue, dated February 2006, the magazine was able to stay on a more or less bimonthly schedule for some time. 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.[39] 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 and Segal became senior contributing editor.[49]

On August 23, 2011, John Betancourt announced that Wildside Press would be selling Weird Tales to Marvin Kaye and John Harlacher of Nth Dimension Media. Marvin Kaye took over chief editorial duties. Issue 359, the first under the new publishers, was published in late February 2012. Some months before the release of issue 359, a special World Fantasy Convention preview issue was given away for free to interested attendees.[50][51][52][53] As of April 2018, the most recent issue to appear was dated Spring 2014.[54] Despite this, Harlacher continues to sell 4-issue subscriptions to Weird Tales, with no updates provided on the magazine's website regarding development of future issues of the magazine.[55]

On August 14, 2019, the official Weird Tales Facebook magazine announced the return of Weird Tales with author Jonathan Maberry as the editorial director. Issue #363 became available to purchase at the Weird Tales website.[56]

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