Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, January 20, 2020


Openers:   They called me -- when I walked the earth in a body of dense matter -- Richard Devaney.  Though my story has little to do with the war, I was killed in the second battle of the Marne, July 24, 1918.

-- Willard E. Hawkins, "The Dead Man's Tale"  (Weird Tales, March 1923)

Hawkins (1887-1970) was a pulp writer and the editor of The Author & Journalist (formerly The Student Writer) from 1916 through 1938, a self-published magazine at the beginning and -- presumably -- throughout its existence.  According to Hawkins published over sixty stories, most of them in the western field where he had several series, including one about two characters called Dingbat Jones and Chuck McGee.  He published 10 stories in the science fictipn field from 1940 to 1952.  "Dead Man's Tale" appears to be an outlier, his only horror story; his next published fantastic work was "The Dwindling Sphere" in the March 1940 issue of Astounding Science Fiction.  "The Dwindling Sphere" was his most successful story, having been reprinted in anthologies edited by Laurence Janifer, Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg, and Hank Davis.  I think it is safe to say that Hawkins was not the greatest writer to come down the pike and may be justly called a forgotten writer.

Hawkins does have a place in fantastic literature.  "The Dead Man's Tale" happens to have been the first story in the first issue of the legendary magazine Weird Tales, probably the most important fantasy/horror magazine of the Twentieth century.

The premiere issue was not much to speak of.  The most noted story in the issue was the cover story "Ooze" by Anthony Rud. a popular pulp writer who became the editor of Adventure the before he died at age 40.  "Ooze" has been reprinted at least eleven times since its first publication.  (Sadly, it's not a very good story.)  The March 1923 issue contained "Twenty-Two Remarkable Short Stories," Three Unusual Novelettes," and "A Strange Novel in Two Parts."  A more rational person than the one who came up with these lines wold say the issue had twenty-five and a half stories.  Most of the writers here are completely unknown; the better-known writers included Joel Townsley Rogers, R. T. M. Scott, Harold Ward, future Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright, and Otis Adlebert Kline.  (Kline was the author of that issue's serial, "The Thing of a Thousand Shapes," which began fairly well in this issue and ended with a thud in the next.

Publisher J. C. Henneberger was an admirer of Edgar Allan Poe's works.  After a number of well-regarded writers told him privately that they seldom write fantastic stories because there was no true market for them, Henneberger decided to start one, giving it the subtitle "The Unique Magazine."  The first Weird Tales editor was Edwin Baird, who published early stories by H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and Seabury Quinn, as well as stories by Frank Owen and Vincent Starrett.  Other writers, such as Francis Stevens and Austin Hall, found that Baird was receptive to their unpublished, trunk stories.  "The Loved Dead" by C. M. Eddy, Jr. (actually written by Lovecraft), gained notoriety in 1924 for touching on the subject of necrophilia while gaining a (mostly apocryphal) reputation for having forced the issue to be banned.

The magazine's second editor, Farnsworth Wright ("Farnie the Rat" according to HPL, because of his typically slow payment) started off with Frank Belknap Long and Greye La Spina in his first issue.  Other authors introduced during his reign included Conan's Robert E. Howard, E. Hoffman Price, August /Derleth, Donald Wandrei, Manley wade Wellman, Nictzin Dyalhis, Donald Wandrei, Robert Bloch, C. L. Moore, Henry Kuttner, Henry S. Whitehead, G. G. Pendarves, and many other legendary names.  Wright also improved the look of the magazine, making it far more attractive and introducing such artists as Margaret Brundage, J. Allan St. John, Hannes Bok, and Virgil Finley, among others.  Wright also lessened the amount of science fiction tales in the magazine while at the same being receptive to almost any type of  "unique" story; Edmond Hamilton, for instance, began sending many of his SF stories to other markets while reserving Weird Tales for his pure fantasy stories.  Wright also would publish controversial stories once in a while, realizing that a bit of controversy is healthy for a magazine; this was sometimes done reluctantly -- he once held one of E. Hoffman Price's stories (in which Christ meets Satan) for six months before publishing it.  .Under Wright the entire quality of the magazine improved although the quality of many stories remained mediocre.  Overall though, there were enough excellent writers and stories to make the magazine's legendary status secure.

After Wright's death, the magazine fell to Dorothy MacIlwraith, who concurrently edited Short Stories.  Authors represented during MacIlwraith's term included Ray Bradbury, Fritz Leiber, Mary Elizabeth Counselman, Joseph Payne Brennan, Theodore Sturgeon, and Richard Matheson.  Artist Lee Brown Coye was also heavily featured.  A limited budget and growing competition hindered McIlwraith and her tenure was considered by some to be not as successful as Farnworth's, although others feel the overall quality of the magazine improved.  In November 1954, Weird Tales closed its doors, presumably for good.

During the Fifties and Sixties, the magazine's reputation grew as fantasy and science fiction became a viable market for both paperbound and hardcover books.  Individual stories from Weird Tales were reprinted in anthologies, Weird Tales authors (previously limited to publishing houses such as Arkham House) had collections issued, and several anthologies featured only stories from the magazine.

Publisher Leo Margulies had acquired rights to Weird Tales in the Fifties, but plans to relaunch the magazine did not come into fruition until the summer of 1973, when the magazine was reborn, mainly as a curiosity.  Edited by Sam Moskowitz, the new incarnation creaked through four issue before being closed.

Robert Weinberg bought the rights to Weird Tales from the Margulies estate and licensed them to Lin Carter, who then revised the magazine into a quarterly paperback anthology from Zebra Books.  Carter, a talented editor and imitative writer, brought out only four issues.

In 1984, Brian Forbes tried to publish another incarnation of Weird Tales.  Muddled management, poor finances, and even poorer distribution killed this version after two issues.

Weinberg then licensed the magazine to Terminus Publishing, a group formed by George H. Scithers, John Gregory Betancourt, and Darrell Schweitzer.  Their version of Weird Tales was attractively packaged, smartly edited, and marketed to direct subscribers and specialty stores.  Hardcover versions of each issue were also available.  Each of the early issues spotlighted an important author in the field:  Robert Bloch, Ramsey Campbell, Gene Wolfe, Tanith Lee, Keith Taylor, Avram Davidson, and others.  After the Spring 1994 issue (featuring artist Phil Parks), Terminus lost the license to the magazine but continued publishing under the title Worlds of Fantasy & Horror -- essentially Weird Tales under a different title.  Four issues of this magazine appeared between 1994 and 1996.

Weird Tales returned in 1998 under the editorship of Scithers and Schweitzer, published by DNA Publications, but struggled financially.  Betancourt in the meantime had formed Wildside Press and joined as a co-publisher of the magazine beginning with the July/August 2003 issue.

Wildside Press bought the magazine in 2005 and, with Scithers and Schweitzer once again joining Betancourt as editors, began publishing in September 2005.   The Magazine That Would Not Die was revamped in 2007 with Stephan H. Segal as the editorial director.  Ann Vandermeer, fiction editor under Segal, became the magazine's editor in 2010.  Betancourt sold the magazine the following year to Nth Dimension media with Marvin Kaye as editor; this incarnation lasted until 2014 with issue #362.  In late 2009, the magazine was once again revived with Jonathan Maberry as editorial director and issue #363 was sold only through the magazine's website.  The quality of the magazine fell distinctly since 2007 and it suffered from several controversies involving editorship.

Despite its rocky history, Weird Tales remains both in history and fact one of the most important fantasy and horror magazines ever.  All issues of Weird Tales through the Dorothy McIlwraith years are available to view online, as are many of the subsequent issues.


  • Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois, editors, Unicorns.  Fantasy reprint anthology with fifteen stories.  (Yes, one -- Frank Owen's "The Unicorn" -- is reprinted from Weird Tales.)  Authors include Harlan Ellison, Ursula K. Le Guin, Theodore Sturgeon, Roger Zelazny, T. H. White, Larry Niven, and Vonda McIntyre.  A good mix of familiar and not-so-familiar stories dating from 1939 to 1982.
  • Suzanne Marrs & Tom Nolan, editors, Meanwhile There Are Letters:  The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross MacDonald.   Marrs is the expert on Welty and has published three earlier books on the writer.  Nolan is the expert on MacDonald; he has edited several books by MacDonald and his biography of MacDonald won the Macavity Award and was nominated for both the Edgar and the Anthony Awards.  Just skimming through the volume I could tell the book is magical.  "Across barriers of gender, background, region, and literary practice, two writers extend the gift of friendship to one another.  The result is literature itself."  -- Kevin Starr, The University of Oklahoma
  • April Genevieve Tucholke, editor, Slasher Girls & Monster Boys. YA horror anthology with fourteen stories.  Authors whose names I recognized are Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Jonathan Maberry, and Carrie Ryan.  The book is attractively packed.  I expect the stories to be pretty good.

Time for a Change?:  Lee Child, author of the best-selling Jack Reacher novels, has decided to stop writing the series.  Rather than killing off the character (something which child considered) Child is passing the authorial torch to his brother Jim Grant, already an established thriller writer.  The times they are a-changin'.

Stoogemania:  Thi week marks the 80th anniversary of You Nazty Spy, the first Hollywood film to satired Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party.  While I am not as big a fan of The Three Stooges as some people, I think Larry, Moe, and Curly did some mighty fine work on this 18-minute short.  See for yourself:

Florida Woman:  Combining the Adventures of Florida Woman with People at Walmart comes the tale of Emily Stallard, 37, who was arrested for making a homemade bomb in a Tampa Walmart using only the materials available in the store.  This do-it-yourself project resulted in a nail bomb in a mason jar that Stallard was about to light as store security and an off-duty police officer swooped in.  Stallard was arrested for attempted arson, fire bombing, child abuse (she had her young son with her), and battery of a police officer.

Yesterday, Leigh Lundin of the SleuthSlayers blog imagined how it all happened.  Leigh's "reconstruction" of the crime indicates he has far too great a knowledge of Walmart.

I read the News Today, O Boy:  O boy, o boy, o boy...Dog the Bounty Hunter reveals that he's broke: medical costs for his late wife's illness, the lack of a TV contract, and supporting his 12 children, 11 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren have left a hole in his finances...Also less wealthy than before are Harry and Megan who have given up their royal funding and have agreed to repay 3 million pounds in taxpayer money that had been used to refurbish their official residence at Windsor Castle.  No longer "working royals," the couple have also lost their royal titles.  Prince Charles has indicated that he will provide some private monetary support for the couple.  Looks like going on the dole is not in the cards...The first official "Space Force" uniforms have been revealed.  The jungle camouflage uniforms will blend in nicely in the blackness of space...The National Archives blurred images of the anti-Trump wording on signs in a photo of the 2017 Woman's March.  Following an outcry, the image has been removed from display...Us officials are not only confident that the number of separated children at the border is 4,368, they are "highly confident"...President Trump, speaking privately to donors at his Mar-a-Lago resort, gave details of the raid that killed Iranian general Soleimani.  Trump did not mention imminent strikes against US embassies among the reasons he called for the strike.  Trump also railed against environmental protections that are hindering his border wall, saying kill all the turtles and rattlesnakes...As the impeachment trail grows closer more details are beginning to come out, some of which appear to implicate Attorney General Barr, Vice President Pence, and Republican Representative Devan Nunes.  Mitch McConnell has already betrayed the oath he took as an impeachment juror to judge the proceedings impartially and a former Bush administration ethics officer said that this makes McConnell guilty of perjury.  McConnell continues to spread the canard that the trial is a political one and not a legal one.  Evidently the Speaker of the House is unfamiliar with the Constitution,,,Australia continues to burn...The Florida Supreme Court rules in favor of making felons pay off their fines before getting their voting rights restored -- something I feel goes against the intent of the electorate when it voted to restore a felon's right to vote...The Trump administration is rolling back on Obama-era regulations on school lunch programs...Winter storms are causing havoc across the country...and so it goes...

Happy, Happy:  In good news this week:

"Three things in human life are important.  The first is to be kind.  The second is to be kind.  The third is to be kind." -- Henry James

Today's Poem:
Forgive Me

Sometimes I come too soon
Like I came into this world
Or sometimes too late
Like I loved you at this age

I am always late for happiness
I always go to misery too soon
Either everything has already come to an end
Or nothing has started yet

I am at a step of life that is
Too soon to die, too late to love
I am latte again, forgive me my love
I am on the verge of love, but death is closer.

-- Aziz Nesin (1915-1995)
(translated from the Turkish)


  1. Been meaning to read the correspondence between Ross and Eudora for years. Two of my favorite writers.

  2. That was the book that caught my eye, too.