Weird Tales | contents and reception

Contents and reception

Henneberger gave Weird Tales the subtitle "The Unique Magazine" from the first issue. Henneberger had been hoping for submissions of "off-trail", or unusual, material. He later recalled talking to three well-known Chicago writers, Hamlin Garland, Emerson Hough, and Ben Hecht, each of whom had said they avoided writing stories of "fantasy, the bizarre, and the outré"[10] because of the likelihood of rejection by existing markets. He added "I must confess that the main motive in establishing Weird Tales was to give the writer free rein to express his innermost feelings in a manner befitting great literature".[10]

Edwin Baird

A man and woman being attacked by tentacles
First issue of Weird Tales, dated March 1923. The cover art is by R. R. Epperly.[56]

Edwin Baird, the first editor of Weird Tales, was not an ideal choice for the job as he disliked horror stories; his expertise was in crime fiction, and most of the material he acquired was bland and unoriginal.[9][10] The writers Henneberger had been hoping to publish, such as Garland and Hough, failed to submit anything to Baird, and the magazine published mostly traditional ghost fiction, with many of the stories narrated by characters in lunatic asylums, or told in diary format.[57][58] The cover story for the first issue was "Ooze", by Anthony M. Rud; there was also the first installment of a serial, "The Thing of A Thousand Shapes", by Otis Adelbert Kline, and 22 other stories. Ashley suggests that the better pulp writers from whom Baird did manage to acquire material, such as Francis Stevens and Austin Hall, were sending Baird stories which had already been rejected elsewhere.[59]

In the middle of the year Baird received five stories submitted by H. P. Lovecraft; Baird bought all five of them. Lovecraft, who had been persuaded by friends to submit the stories, included a cover letter that was so remarkably negative about the quality of the manuscripts that Baird published it in the September 1923 issue, with a note appended saying that he had bought the stories "despite the foregoing, or because of it".[60] However, Baird insisted that the stories be resubmitted as typed double-spaced manuscripts; Lovecraft disliked typing, and initially decided to resubmit only one story, "Dagon".[60] It appeared in the October 1923 issue, which was the most noteworthy of Baird's tenure, since it included stories by three writers who would become frequent contributors to Weird Tales: as well as Lovecraft, it marked the first appearance in the magazine of Frank Owen and Seabury Quinn.[14][59]

Robert Weinberg, in his history of Weird Tales, agrees with Ashley that the quality of Baird's issues was poor, but comments that some good stories were published: "it was just that the percentage of such stories was dismally small".[58] Weinberg singles out "A Square of Canvas" by Rud, and "Beyond the Door" by Paul Suter as "exceptional";[58] both appeared in the April 1923 issue. Weinberg also regards "The Floor Above" by M. L. Humphries and "Penelope" by Vincent Starrett, both from the May 1923 issue, and "Lucifer" by John Swain, from the November 1923 issue, as memorable, and comments that "The Rats in the Walls", in the March 1924 issue, was one of Lovecraft's finest stories. It is unclear whether Baird or Henneberger was responsible for buying Lovecraft's stories; in one of Lovecraft's letters he makes it clear that Baird was keen to acquire his stories, but Henneberger has said that he overrode Baird and that Baird did not like Lovecraft's writing.[61] It was Henneberger who came up with another idea involving Lovecraft: Henneberger contacted Harry Houdini and made arrangements to have Lovecraft ghost-write a story for him using a plot supplied by Houdini. The story, "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs", appeared under Houdini's name in the May/June/July 1924 issue, though it was nearly lost—Lovecraft left the typed manuscript on the train he took to New York to get married, and as a result spent much of his wedding day retyping the manuscript from the longhand copy he still had.[62][63]

The May/June/July 1924 issue included another story by Lovecraft under another name: "The Loved Dead", a story by C. M. Eddy Jr. which included a mention of necrophilia.[64][65] According to Eddy, this led to the magazine being removed from the newsstands in several cities, and beneficial publicity for the magazine, helping sales, but in his history of Weird Tales Robert Weinberg reports that he found no evidence of the magazine being banned, and the financial state of the magazine implies there was no benefit to sales either.[64] However, S. T. Joshi has said the magazine was indeed removed from newsstands in Indiana.[66]

The cover art during Baird's tenure was dull; Ashley calls it "unattractive",[9] and Weinberg describes the color scheme of the first issue's cover as "less than inspired", though he considers the next month's cover to be an improvement. He adds that from the May 1923 issue "the covers plunged into a pit of mediocrity". In Weinberg's opinion the poor cover art, frequently by R. M. Mally, was probably partly to blame for the magazine's lack of success under Baird.[56] Weinberg also regards the interior art during the magazine's first year as very weak; most of the interior drawings were small, and with little of the atmosphere one would expect from a horror magazine. All the illustrations were by Heitman, whom Weinberg describes as "... notable for his complete lack of imagination. Heitman's specialty was taking the one scene in a frightening story that featured nothing at all frightening or weird and illustrating that".[67][68]

Farnsworth Wright

A naked woman gazing through a window at devilish figures
One of Margaret Brundage's nude covers. This one is for the September 1937 issue.[69]

The new editor, Farnsworth Wright, was much more willing than Baird had been to publish stories that did not fit into any of the existing pulp categories. Ashley describes Wright as "erratic" in his selections, but under his guidance the magazine steadily improved in quality.[70] His first issue, November 1924, was little better than those edited by Baird, although it included two stories by new writers, Frank Belknap Long and Greye La Spina, who became popular contributors.[71] Over the following year, Wright established a group of writers as regulars, including Long and La Spina, and published many stories by writers who would be closely associated with the magazine for the next decade and more. In April 1925, Nictzin Dyalhis's first story, "When the Green Star Waned", appeared; although Weinberg regards it as very dated, it was highly regarded at the time, with Wright listing it in 1933 as the most popular story to appear in Weird Tales. That issue also contained the first instalment of La Spina's novel Invaders from the Dark, which Baird had rejected as "too commonplace". It proved to be extremely popular with readers, and Weinberg comments that Baird's rejection was "just one of the many mistakes made by the earlier editor".[72]

Arthur J. Burks, who would go on to be a very successful pulp writer, appeared under both his real name and under a pseudonym, used for his first sale, in January 1925. Robert Spencer Carr's first story appeared in March 1925; H. Warner Munn's "The Werewolf of Ponkert" appeared in July 1925, and in the same issue Wright printed "Spear and Fang", the first professional sale of Robert E. Howard, who would become famous as the creator of Conan the Barbarian.[72] In late 1925 Wright added a "Weird Tales reprint" department, which showcased old weird stories, typically horror classics. Often these were translations, and in some cases the appearance in Weird Tales was the story's first appearance in English.[73]

Wright initially rejected Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu", but eventually bought it, and printed it in the February 1928 issue.[74] This was the first tale of the Cthulhu Mythos, a fictional universe in which Lovecraft set several stories. Over time other writers began to contribute their own stories with the same shared background, including Frank Belknap Long, August Derleth, E. Hoffmann Price, and Donald Wandrei. Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith were friends of Lovecraft's, but did not contribute Cthulhu stories; instead Howard wrote sword and sorcery fiction, and Smith produced a series of high fantasy stories, many of which were part of his Hyperborean cycle.[70] Robert Bloch, later to become well known as the writer of the movie Psycho, began publishing stories in Weird Tales in 1935; he was a fan of Lovecraft's work, and asked Lovecraft's permission to include Lovecraft as a character in one of his stories, and to kill the character off. Lovecraft gave him permission, and reciprocated by killing off a thinly disguised version of Bloch in one of his own stories not long afterwards.[75][notes 6] Edmond Hamilton, a leading early writer of space opera, became a regular, and Wright also published science fiction stories by J. Schlossel and Otis Adelbert Kline.[57] Tennessee Williams' first sale was to Weird Tales, with a short story titled "The Vengeance of Nitocris". This was published in the August 1928 issue under the author's real name, Thomas Lanier Williams.[77]

Two men with rifles stare in shock at a huge jewel in the hand of a skeleton
Cover of the December 1936 Weird Tales, by J. Allen St. John, illustrating Robert E. Howard's The Fire of Asshurbanipal

Weird Tales' subtitle was "The Unique Magazine", and Wright's story selections were as varied as the subtitle promised;[4] he was willing to print strange or bizarre stories with no hint of the fantastic if they were unusual enough to fit in the magazine.[73] Although Wright's editorial standards were broad, and although he personally disliked the restrictions that convention placed on what he could publish, he did exercise caution when presented with material that might offend his readership.[70][78] E. Hoffmann Price records that his story "Stranger from Kurdistan" was held after purchase for six months before Wright printed it in the July 1925 issue; the story includes a scene in which Christ and Satan meet, and Wright was worried about the possible reader reaction. The story nevertheless proved to be very popular, and Wright reprinted it in the December 1929 issue. He also published "The Infidel's Daughter" by Price, a satire of the Ku Klux Klan, which drew an angry letter and a cancelled subscription from a Klan member. Price later recalled Wright's response: "a story that arouses controversy is good for circulation ... and anyway it would be worth a reasonable loss to rap bigots of that caliber".[78] Wright also printed George Fielding Eliot's "The Copper Bowl", a story about a young woman being tortured; she dies when her torturer forces a rat to eat through her body. Weinberg suggests that the story was so gruesome that it would have been difficult to place in a magazine even fifty years later.[79]

On several occasions Wright rejected a story of Lovecraft's only to reconsider later; de Camp suggests that Wright's rejection at the end of 1925 of Lovecraft's "In the Vault", a story about a mutilated corpse taking revenge on the undertaker responsible, was because it was "too gruesome", but Wright changed his mind a few years later, and the story eventually appeared in April 1932.[80] Wright also rejected Lovecraft's "Through the Gates of the Silver Key" in mid-1933. Price had revised the story before passing it to Wright, and after Wright and Price discussed the story, Wright bought it, in November of that year.[81] Wright turned down Lovecraft's novel At the Mountains of Madness in 1935, though in this case it was probably because of the story's length—running a serial required paying an author for material that would not appear until two or three issues later, and Weird Tales often had little cash to spare. In this case he did not change his mind.[82]

Quinn was Weird Tales' most prolific author, with a long-running sequence of stories about a detective, Jules de Grandin, who investigated supernatural events, and for a while he was the most popular writer in the magazine.[notes 7] Other regular contributors included Paul Ernst, David H. Keller, Greye La Spina, Hugh B. Cave, and Frank Owen, who wrote fantasies set in an imaginary version of the Far East.[70] C.L. Moore's story "Shambleau", her first sale, appeared in Weird Tales in November 1933; Price visited the Weird Tales offices shortly after Wright read the manuscript for it, and recalls that Wright was so enthusiastic about the story that he closed the office, declaring it "C.L. Moore day".[84] The story was very well received by readers, and Moore's work, including her stories about Jirel of Joiry and Northwest Smith, appeared almost exclusively in Weird Tales over the next three years.[70][85]

Several naked elves cavort on a cliff top
Illustration by Virgil Finlay for Tennyson's "The Princess", from the October 1938 issue

As well as fiction, Wright printed a substantial amount of poetry, with at least one poem included in most issues. Originally this often included reprints of poems such as Edgar Allan Poe's "El Dorado", but soon most of the poetry was original, with contributions coming from Lovecraft, Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith, among many others.[86][87][88] Lovecraft's contributions included ten of his "Fungi from Yuggoth" poems, a series of sonnets on weird themes that he wrote in 1930.[89]

The artwork was an important element of the magazine's personality, with Margaret Brundage, who painted many covers featuring nudes for Weird Tales, perhaps the best known artist.[70] Many of Brundage's covers were for stories by Seabury Quinn, and Brundage later commented that once Quinn realized that Wright always commissioned covers from Brundage that included a nude, "he made sure that each de Grandin story had at least one sequence where the heroine shed all her clothes".[90] For over three years in the early 1930s, from June 1933 to August/September 1936, Brundage was the only cover artist Weird Tales used.[90][91] Another prominent cover artist was J. Allen St. John, whose covers were more action-oriented, and who designed the title logo used from 1933 until 2007.[70] Hannes Bok's first professional sale was to Weird Tales, for the cover of the December 1939 issue; he became a frequent contributor over the next few years.[92]

Virgil Finlay, one of the most important figures in the history of science fiction and fantasy art, made his first sale to Wright in 1935; Wright only bought one interior illustration from Finlay at that time because he was concerned that Finlay's delicate technique would not reproduce well on pulp paper. After a test print on pulp stock demonstrated that the reproduction was more than adequate,[93] Wright began to buy regularly from Finlay, who became a regular cover artist for Weird Tales starting with the December 1935 issue.[94] Demand from readers for Finlay's artwork was so high that in 1938 Wright commissioned a series of illustrations from Finlay for lines taken from famous poems, such as "O sweet and far, from cliff and scar/The horns of Elfland faintly blowing", from Tennyson's "The Princess".[95] Not every artist was as successful as Brundage and Finlay: Price suggested that Curtis Senf, who painted 45 covers early in Wright's tenure, "was one of Sprenger's bargains", meaning that he produced poor art, but worked fast for low rates.[96]

During the 1930s, Brundage's rate for a cover painting was $90. Finlay received $100 for his first cover, which appeared in 1937, over a year after his first interior illustrations were used; Weinberg suggests that the higher fee was partly to cover postage, since Brundage lived in Chicago and delivered her artwork in person, but it was also because Brundage's popularity was beginning to decline. When Delaney acquired the magazine in late 1938, the fee for a cover painting was cut to $50, and in Weinberg's opinion the quality of the artwork declined immediately. Nudes no longer appeared, though it is not known if this was a deliberate policy on Delaney's part. In 1939 a campaign by Fiorello LaGuardia, the mayor of New York, to eliminate sex from the pulps led to milder covers, and this may also have had an effect.[97]

A man holds a woman's severed head in a length of cloth
Finlay's illustration for Earl Peirce's "The Homicidal Diary" in the October 1937 issue

In 1936, Howard committed suicide, and the following year Lovecraft died.[98] There was so much unpublished work by Lovecraft [notes 8] that Wright was able to use that he printed more material under Lovecraft's byline after his death than before.[99] In Howard's case, there was no such trove of stories available, but other writers such as Henry Kuttner provided similar material.[28] By the end of Wright's tenure as editor, many of the writers who had become strongly associated with the magazine were gone; Kuttner, and others such as Price and Moore, were still writing, but Weird Tales' rates were too low to attract submissions from them. Clark Ashton Smith had stopped writing, and two other writers who were well-liked, G.G. Pendarves and Henry Whitehead, had died.[98]

Except for a couple of short-lived magazines such as Strange Tales and Tales of Magic and Mystery, and a weak challenge from Ghost Stories, all between the late 1920s and the early 1930s, Weird Tales had little competition for most of Wright's sixteen years as editor. In the early 1930s, a series of pulp magazines began to appear that became known as "weird menace" magazines. These lasted until the end of the decade, but despite the name there was little overlap in subject matter between them and Weird Tales: the stories in the weird menace magazines appeared to be based on occult or supernatural events, but at the end of the tale the mystery was always revealed to have a logical explanation.[100] In 1935 Wright began running weird detective stories to try to attract some of the readers of these magazines to Weird Tales, and asked readers to write in with comments. Reader reaction was uniformly negative, and after a year he announced that there would be no more of them.[101]

An old woman and a half-naked young woman sit on a rock with bats flying overhead
Cover of the January 1938 issue, by Margaret Brundage

In 1939 two more serious threats appeared, both launched to compete directly for Weird Tales' readers. Strange Stories appeared in February 1939 and lasted for just over two years; Weinberg describes it as "top-quality",[98] though Ashley is less complimentary, describing it as largely unoriginal and imitative.[102] The following month the first issue of Unknown appeared from Street & Smith.[103] Fritz Leiber submitted several of his "Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser" stories to Wright, but Wright rejected all of them (as did McIlwraith when she took over the editorship). Leiber subsequently sold them all to John W. Campbell for Unknown; Campbell commented each time to Leiber that "these would be better in Weird Tales". The stories grew into a very popular sword and sorcery series, but none of them ever appeared in Weird Tales. Leiber did eventually sell several stories to Weird Tales, beginning with "The Automatic Pistol", which appeared in May 1940.[98][104]

Weird Tales included a letters column, titled "The Eyrie", for most of its existence, and during Wright's time as editor it was usually filled with long and detailed letters. When Brundage's nude covers appeared, a lengthy debate over whether they were suitable for the magazine was fought out in the Eyrie, with the two sides divided about equally. For years it was the most discussed topic in the magazine's letter column. Many of the authors Wright published wrote letters too, including Lovecraft, Howard, Kuttner, Bloch, Smith, Quinn, Wellman, Price, and Wandrei. In most cases these letters praised the magazine, but occasionally a critical comment was raised, as when Bloch repeatedly expressed his dislike for Howard's stories of Conan the Barbarian, referring to him as "Conan the Cimmerian Chipmunk".[105] Another debate that was aired in the letter column was the question of how much science fiction the magazine should include. Until Amazing Stories was launched in April 1926, science fiction was popular with Weird Tales' readers, but after that point letters began to appear asking Wright to exclude science fiction, and only publish weird fantasy and horror. The pro-science fiction readers were in the majority, and as Wright agreed with them, he continued to include science fiction in Weird Tales.[106] Hugh B. Cave, who sold half-a-dozen stories to Wright in the early 1930s, commented on "The Eyrie" in a letter to a fellow writer: "No other magazine makes such a point of discussing past stories, and letting the authors know how their stuff is received".[107]

Dorothy McIlwraith

A skeleton writing with a quill pen at a high desk
Cover of the November 1941 issue, by Hannes Bok[108]

McIlwraith was an experienced magazine editor, but she knew little about weird fiction, and unlike Wright she also had to face real competition from other magazines for Weird Tales' core readership.[98] Although Unknown folded in 1943, in its four years of existence it transformed the field of fantasy and horror, and Weird Tales was no longer regarded as the leader in its field. Unknown published many successful humorous fantasy stories, and McIlwraith responded by including some humorous material, but Weird Tales' rates were less than Unknown's, with predictable effects on quality.[28][103] In 1940 the policy of reprinting horror and weird classics ceased, and Weird Tales began using the slogan "All Stories New – No Reprints". Weinberg suggests that this was a mistake, as Weird Tales' readership appreciated getting access to classic stories "often mentioned but rarely found".[109] Without the reprints Weird Tales was left to survive on the rejects from Unknown, with the same authors selling to both markets. In Weinberg's words, "only the quality of the stories [separated] their work between the two pulps".[109]

Delaney's personal taste also reduced McIlwraith's latitude. In an interview with Robert A. Lowndes in early 1940, Delaney spoke about his plans for Weird Tales. After saying that the magazine would still publish "all types of weird and fantasy fiction", Lowndes reported that Delaney did not want "stories which center about sheer repulsiveness, stories which leave an impression not to be described by any other word than 'nasty'". Lowndes later added that Delaney had told him he found some of Clark Ashton Smith's stories on the "disgusting side".[110][notes 9]

McIlwraith continued to publish many of Weird Tales' most popular authors, including Quinn, Derleth, Hamilton, Bloch, and Manly Wade Wellman.[28] She also added new contributors; as well as publishing many of Ray Bradbury's early stories, Weird Tales regularly featured Fredric Brown, Mary Elizabeth Counselman, Fritz Leiber, and Theodore Sturgeon.[70] As Wright had done, McIlwraith continued to buy Lovecraft stories submitted by August Derleth, though she abridged some of the longer pieces, such as "The Shadow over Innsmouth".[99] Sword and sorcery stories, a genre which Howard had made much more popular with his stories of Conan, Solomon Kane and Bran Mak Morn in Weird Tales in the early 1930s, had continued to appear under Farnsworth Wright; they all but disappeared during McIlwraith's tenure. McIlwraith also focused more on short fiction, and serials and long stories were rare.[28][111]

In May 1951 Weird Tales once again began to include reprints, in an attempt to reduce costs, but by that time the earlier issues of Weird Tales had been extensively mined for reprints by August Derleth's publishing venture, Arkham House, and as a result McIlwraith often reprinted lesser-known stories. They were not advertised as reprints, which led in a couple of cases to letters from readers asking for more stories from H. P. Lovecraft, whom they believed to be a new author.[112]

A smiling woman surrounded by demonic figures
Cover of the May 1952 issue, by Virgil Finlay

In Weinberg's opinion, the magazine lost variety under McIlwraith's editorship, and "much of the uniqueness of the magazine was gone".[28] In Ashley's view, the magazine became more consistent in quality, rather than worse; Ashley comments that though the issues edited by McIlwraith "seldom attain[ed] Wright's highpoints, they also omitted the lows".[70] L. Sprague de Camp, towards the end of McIlwraith's time as editor, agreed that the 1930s were the magazine's heyday, citing Wright's death and the departure for other, better-paying, markets of several of its contributors as factors in the magazine's decline.[113]

The quality of Weird Tales' artwork suffered when Delaney cut the rates.[114] Bok, whose first cover had appeared in December 1939, moved to New York and joined the office art staff for a while; he eventually left because of the low pay. Boris Dolgov began contributing in the 1940s; he was a friend of Bok's and the two occasionally collaborated, signing the result "Dolbokgov". Weinberg regards Dolgov's illustration for Robert Bloch's "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper" as one of his best works.[115] Weird Tales' paper was of very poor quality, which meant that the reproductions were poor, and along with the low pay rate for art this meant that many artists treated Weird Tales as a last resort for their work.[116] Damon Knight, who sold some interior artwork to Weird Tales in the early 1940s, recalled later that he was paid $5 for a single-page drawing, and $10 for a double-page spread; he worked slowly and the low pay meant Weird Tales was not a viable market for him.[117]

The art editor, Lamont Buchanan, was able to establish five artists as regulars by the mid-1940s; they remained regular contributors until 1954, when the magazine's first incarnation ceased publication. The five were Dolgov, John Giunta, Fred Humiston, Vincent Napoli, and Lee Brown Coye.[116] In Weinberg's review of Weird Tales' interior art, he describes Humiston's work as ranging "from bad to terrible", but he is more positive about the others. Napoli had worked for Weird Tales from 1932 to the mid-1930s, when he began selling to the science fiction pulps, but his work for Short Stories brought him back to Weird Tales in the 1940s. Weinberg speaks highly of both Napoli and Coye, whom Weinberg describes as "the master of the weird and grotesque illustration". Coye did a series of full-page illustrations for Weird Tales called "Weirdisms", which ran intermittently from November 1948 to July 1951.[118][119][120]

The letter column, "The Eyrie", was much reduced in size during McIlwraith's tenure, but as a gesture to the readers a "Weird Tales Club" was started. Joining the Club simply meant writing in to receive a free membership card; the only other benefit was that the magazine listed all the members' names and addresses, so that members could contact each other. Among the names listed in the January 1943 issue was that of Hugh Hefner, later to become famous as the founder of Playboy.[121]

Towards the end of McIlwraith's time as editor a couple of new writers appeared, including Richard Matheson and Joseph Payne Brennan.[70] Brennan had already sold over a dozen stories to other pulps when he finally made a sale to McIlwraith, but he had always wanted to sell to Weird Tales, and three years after the magazine folded he launched a small-press horror magazine named Macabre, which he published for some years, in imitation of Weird Tales.[122]

Moskowitz, Carter, and Bellerophon

The four issues edited by Sam Moskowitz in the early 1970s were mostly notable for a detailed biography of William Hope Hodgson, serialized over three issues, along with some rare stories of Hodgson's that Moskowitz had unearthed. Many of the other stories were reprints, either from Weird Tales or from other early pulps such as The Black Cat or Blue Book. In Ashley's opinion, the magazine "had the feel of a museum piece with nothing new or progressive", though Weinberg describes the magazine as having "an interesting jumble of contents".[123] The subsequent paperback series edited by Lin Carter was criticized in similar terms: Weinberg regards it as having "too much reliance ... on the old names like Lovecraft, Howard and Smith by reprinting mediocre material ... New writers were not sufficiently encouraged",[123] though Weinberg does add that Ramsey Campbell, Tanith Lee and Steve Rasnic Tem were among the newer writers who contributed good material.[123] Ashley's opinion of the two Bellerophon issues is low: he describes them as lacking "any clear editorial direction or acumen".[44]

Wildside Press and after

The April/May 2007 edition 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 and Tanith Lee, as well as newer writers such as Jay Lake, Cat Rambo, and Rachel Swirsky.[39] The period also saw the addition of a broader range of content, ranging from narrative essays to comics to features on weird culture. The magazine won its first Hugo Award in August 2009, in the semiprozine category,[124] two Hugo Award nominations in subsequent years,[125] and its first World Fantasy Award nomination, for editors Segal and Vandermeer, in more than seventeen years.[125][126]

In August 2012, Weird Tales became involved in a media altercation after the editor announced the magazine was going to publish an excerpt from Victoria Foyt's controversial novel Save the Pearls, which many critics accused of featuring racist stereotyping. The decision was made despite the protests of VanderMeer, and prompted her to end her association with the magazine.[127] The publisher subsequently overruled the editor, and announced that Weird Tales no longer had plans to run the excerpt.[128]


Weird Tales was one of the most important magazines in the fantasy field; in Ashley's view, it is "second only to Unknown in significance and influence".[4] Weinberg goes further, calling it "the most important and influential of all fantasy magazines". Weinberg argues that much of the material Weird Tales published would never have appeared if the magazine had not existed. It was through Weird Tales that Lovecraft, Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith became widely known, and it was the first and one of the most important markets for weird and science fantasy artwork. Many of the horror stories adapted for early radio shows such as Stay Tuned for Terror originally appeared in Weird Tales.[3] The magazine's "Golden Age" was under Wright, and de Camp argues that one of Wright's accomplishments was to create a "Weird Tales school of writing".[129] Justin Everett and Jeffrey H. Shanks, the editors of a recent scholarly collection of literary criticism focused on the magazine, argue that "Weird Tales functioned as a nexus point in the development of speculative fiction from which emerged the modern genres of fantasy and horror".[130]

The magazine was, unusually for a pulp, included by the editors of the annual Year in Fiction anthologies, and was generally regarded with more respect than most of the pulps. This remained true long after the magazine's first run ended, as it became the main source of fantasy short stories for anthologists for several decades.[131] Weinberg argues that the fantasy pulps, of which, in his opinion, Weird Tales was the most influential, helped to form the modern fantasy genre, and that Wright, "if he was not a perfect editor ... was an extraordinary one, and one of the most influential figures in modern American fantasy fiction",[132] adding that Weird Tales and its competitors "served as the bedrock upon which much of modern fantasy rests".[133] Everett and Shanks agree, and regard Weird Tales as the venue where writers, editors and an engaged readership "elevated speculated fiction to new heights" with influence that "reverberates through modern popular culture".[134] In Ashley's words, "somewhere in the imagination reservoir of all U.S. (and many non-U.S.) genre-fantasy and horror writers is part of the spirit of Weird Tales".[5]

A man stares at a figure with a woman's upper half and a spiral shell-like body
A woman worships an idol that looks like an owl
The title of a story, "Yours Truly – Jack the Ripper" with a scarecrow-like figure armed with a long knife
A stocky figure in heavy cloak and hat with a hand-letter paragraph describing him, with the title "Weirdisms"
Four interior illustrations from Weird Tales. From left to right, the artists are Finlay (1938), Bok (1941), Dolgov (1943), and Coye (late 1940s or early 1950s).
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