Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, June 5, 2015


WT50:  A Tribute to Weird Tales (1974) and The Weird Tales Story (1977) written and edited by Robert Weinberg

Weird Tales, "The Unique Magazine," began with the March 1923 issue,  It was published by J. C. (Jacob Clark) Henneberger and J. M. Lansinger's Rural Publications, Inc., a new company which started Weird Tales and Real Detective Tales and Mystery Stories at the same time.  Both magazines were edited by Edwin Baird, assisted by music critic Farnsworth Wright and author and later literary agent Otis Adelbert Kline.

Weird Tales, arguably the first magazine of it's kind, did not click.  Sales were poor and Baird proved to be an erratic editor.  Henneberger, who had long dreamed of publishing an all-fantasy magazine, had faith in the concept and purchased the magazine from his partner.  Part of the deal had Baird remaining editor of Real Detective, which was now completely owned by Lansinger.  Henneberger tapped Farnsworth Wright to edit the newly restructured magazine,

It was a wise choice.  Wright knew what his readers wanted.  He filled his magazine with stories of literary merit and with slam-bang lesser stories that appealed to the general reader.  Despite being handicapped with progressively worse Parkinson's Disease, Wright transformed Weird Tales into one of the country's most important pulp magazines during his seventeen-year tenure. Regular contributors included H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Seabury /Quinn, Robert Bloch, Henry Kuttner, Henry S. Whitehead, E. Hoffman Price, Frank Belknap Long, Greye la Spina, August Derleth, Edmond Hamilton, Hugh B.  Cave, H. Warner Munn, Carl Jacobi, C. L. Moore, Mary Elizabeth Counselman,  Manly Wade Wellman, Nictzin Dyalhis, David H. Keller, and Jack Williamson, among many others.  Wright also published a not very good story by 14-year old Thomas Lanier Williams -- the first professional publication by an author who would later be known as Tennessee Williams.  Wright also nurtured the careers of artists such as Virgil Finley, Hannes Bok. Margaret Brundage,   Hugh Rankin, J. Allen St. John, and Curtis C. Senf were among the well-known artists recruited for Weird Tales.

In 1940, the magazine was sold and Dorothy McIlwraith became the editor.  (Toward the end, Wright's palsy was so bad he could not hold a pencil in his hand.  He died several months later.)  McIlwraith continuing publishing many of the magazines mainstays as well as newer authors such as Ray Bradbury, Fritz Leiber,  Joseph Payne Brennan, Margaret St. Clair, and Fredric Brown.  SF legend Robert E. Heinlein even made an appearance.

By the end of that decade, it was obvious that times were changing.  Prosperity, competition, and such things as television were changing America's habits.  Pulp magazines were on the way out.  Budgets were tight and, despite moving to a digest format, Weird Tales died, it's final issue dated September 1954.

In 1973, Robert Weinberg -- an acknowledged expert on the magazine -- began editing and writing WT50:  A Tribute to Weird Tales, to commemorate the magazine's fiftieth anniversary.  The self-published, perfect-bound, typed book contains 17 articles and remembrances by people associated with the magazine and by noted fans, as well as five stories by Robert E. Howard (two stories), Carl Jacobi, Joseph Payne Brennan, and H. Warner Munn.  An obvious work of love, the remembrances are the heart of the collection.  Here, E. Hoffman Price pays tribute to his friend Farnsworth Wright, giving new insights into the man.  Robert Bloch, Frank Belknap Long, Wallace West, and others tell of their experiences with the magazine.  Joseph Payne Brennan explains what Weird Tales meant to him and how important it was to have a story accepted by the magazine.  And Weinberg pays tribute to the magazine's great cover art and artists in a longish article bedecked with many examples (reprinted in black and white, alas).

In 1972, T. E. Dikty and Darrell Richardson founded FAX Collector's Editions, a small press devoted to publishing material from and about pulp magazines.  In 1977 they published Weinberg's The Weird Tales Story, an expanded look at the magazine that incorporated much of the material in WT50.  Included is a detailed history of the magazine under its three editors and remembrances (some of which had been included in WT50) by Frank Belknap Long, E. Hoffman Price, Greye la Spina. H. Warner Munn, Robert E. Howard, Edmond Hamilton, Wallace West, Manly Wade Wellman, Carl Jacobi, Robert Bloch, Robert Barbour Johnson, Lee Brown Coye, and Joseph Payne Brennan.  There are also long sections on the magazine's cover and interior art with many examples include (again, alas, reprinted in black and white).  The magazine and the people around it come through clearly in this second tribute.

Weird Tales is the magazine that will not die.  The title was purchased by Leo Margulies who brought the magazine back in 1973 under the editorship of Sam Moskowitz,  It lasted four issues,  Weinberg himself bought the rights to the magazine several years later from Margulies' widow.  In 1980, he leased the rights to Lin Carter who revived the magazine as a quarterly paperback series.  this, too, lasted for four issues.  A third (and somewhat murky) attempt to back the magazine was done by West Coast publisher Brian Forbes who put out two issues, one in 1985 (dated 1984) and one in 1986 (dated 1985).  The current incarnation began in 1988 when Terminus Publishing Company leased the rights with George Scithers, Darrell Schweitzer, and John Gregory Betancourt as editors.  Betancourt left in 1990 and shortly after Schweitzer became the sole editor with Scithers as publisher.  In 1994, rights to the title expired and the magazine changed it name to Worlds of Fantasy and Horror.  This lasted for four irregularly published issues.  Warren Lapine of DNA Pulblications became published in 1998, with Scithers and Schweitzer as editors.  Betancourt, now with Wildside Press, rejoined the magazine as co-publisher in 2003.  Weird Tales now had three publishers (Terminus, DNA, and Wildside) -- a confusing situation which only added to an erratic publishing schedule, By 2005 the dust had settled somewhat and Betancourt was the sole publisher and co-editor.  In 2010, Ann Vandermeer was named editor as the magazine moved more to 'new Horror."  In 2011 Weird Tales was sold again, this time to Marvin Kaye, who took over as editor in 2012.  The future of the magazine -- or, at least, this incarnation -- is iffy, but if there is one thing history has shown us it is that we can never count Weird Tales out.

There have been many reprint anthologies taken from the brittle and browned pages of Weird Tales but very few books about the legendary magazine.  These two by Weinberg are keepers.


  1. I finished an article in January on Weird Tales, particularly on Howard, Lovecraft, and C. L. Moore. It was accepted for a book length work but that project has been substantially altered so everything is in limbo right now.

  2. I finished an article in January on Weird Tales, particularly on Howard, Lovecraft, and C. L. Moore. It was accepted for a book length work but that project has been substantially altered so everything is in limbo right now.

  3. Cool...small typo in the first line--WT began in 1926, not 1929 (I can't remember my aunt's name, or anyone's, sometimes, but I can remember that). I've read somewhere McIlwraith let her assistants do most of the work on WT in her years, but I have that from only one source...anything like that from the RW/TD books?

    1. Todd, it was actually 1923 (1926 was when AMAZING STORIES began). Corrected now. Thanks.

      I haven't found any indication that McIlwraith's assistants carried most of the load of the magazine. (The only assistant mention by Weinberg was Lamont Buchanan, who also served as art director.) McIlwraith had been the assistant editor of WEIRD TALES and SHORT STORIES and used her SHORT STORIES connections in an effort to bolster WEIRD TALES -- "McIlwraith was using her regulars from one magazine to boost the other. she gambled on the big names from the non-fantasy pulps to boost circulation. The gamble didn't work. Worse, the stories were not particularly good ones." Also from Weinberg: McIlwaith "was a veteran pulp editor and handled the magazine as best she could. Her biggest trouble was that she was not as familiar with weird fiction as her predecessor" and that she "had done her best to keep WEIRD TALES going under a limited budget and under policies not always in the best interest of the magazine." All of which suggests that McIlwraith's hand was on the helm during her entire tenure. (I should also add that, despite the above, McIlwraith published some really good stories.)

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  4. Yep, 1923...further evidence of my continuing decline. Did you know THE THRILL BOOK just published it's 3000th issue?

    McIlwraith was the best of the first three editors, by me...and it's notable she felt it wise to go by "D. McIlwraith" as editor of SS, not hiding her gender in WT. SS, as it would subtitle itself in its final issues, was For Men, after all.