Weird Tales


Weird Tales
   Pulp magazine (1923–54) in which many of HPL’s stories appeared.
   WT was founded in 1923 by J.C.Henneberger, who with J.M.Lansinger founded Rural Publications, Inc., in 1922 to publish a variety of popular magazines (including the successful College Humor). Henneberger had received promises from leading popular writers of the period—among them Hamlin Garland and Ben Hecht—that they would contribute “unconventional” stories to the new magazine; but as it happened, they did not contribute, and the only significant names to appear in the magazine (whose first issue was dated March 1923) were Vincent Starrett and such veterans of the Argosyand All-Storyas Don Mark Lemon and Harold Ward. Accordingly, WTwas, more than many other pulp magazines, open to the contributions of beginning writers.
   HPL read and purchased it from its first issue, and was encouraged by numerous colleagues—Everett McNeil, James F.Morton, Clark Ashton Smith—to submit to the magazine. He did so in May 1923, sending in five stories (“Dagon,” “The Statement of Randolph Carter,” “The Cats of Ulthar,” “Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family,” and “The Hound”). Edwin Baird, the magazine’s first editor, liked them all, but wished them to be double-spaced (the single-spaced typescripts survive at JHL). HPL grudgingly retyped the stories. His first published contribution to the magazine, however, was his snide cover letter accompanying the stories, published in the September 1923 issue. HPL quickly became a fixture in the magazine, appearing in most of the issues edited by Baird. The summit of his early involvement occurred in February 1924, when Henneberger commissioned him to ghostwrite “Under the Pyramids” for Harry Houdini, paying HPL $100 in advance.
   Around this time HPL was offered the editorship of the magazine, but he declined. HPL has been criticized for so doing, since it would have given him a stable income at a time when, newly married, he needed one. But the job would have required his moving to Chicago, a prospect HPL did not fancy; moreover, the magazine was deeply in debt, and it might well have folded, leaving HPL stranded in Chicago and far from his wife in New York and family in Providence. In any event, Baird was dismissed in the spring of 1924 and Farnsworth Wright was appointed as interim editor, becoming the permanent editor in the fall. Wright was more idiosyncratic in his editorial criteria than Baird and was careful to offer readers what he thought they wanted; he rejected several tales by HPL (“The Shunned House,” At the Mountains of Madness,“The Shadow over Innsmouth”) because he thought them too long, not sufficiently “action”-packed, and (as with the initial rejections of “The Call of Cthulhu” and “Through the Gates of the Silver Key,” later accepted) too exotically imaginative for the average reader. Wright was also concerned about the gruesomeness of some of HPL’s tales (e.g., “In the Vault,” “Cool Air”), even though in other senses they seemed just the sort of relatively conventional stories that Wright would have wanted. But he had been alarmed at the near-banning of WTin Indiana as a result of its publication of the HPL-Eddy story “The Loved Dead” ( WT, May– June–July 1924), and from that time forward he was extremely careful not to accept stories that were too grisly. HPL was irritated and even wounded by these rejections, thinking that they reflected upon his own abilities as a creative artist. Wright, however, customarily rejected many stories with the understanding that writers would revise them and resubmit them; but HPL never did so, and those tales that were accepted after an initial rejection were accepted only because Wright asked to see them again.
   Toward the end of his life HPL thought that the unconscious desire to write material suitable for WT had made his work too obvious and explanatory. In speaking of the rejection of a collection of his stories by Putnam’s in 1931, HPL noted: “That ass Wright got me into the habit of obvious writing with his never-ending complaints against the indefiniteness of my early stuff’ ( SL3.395–96). HPL is probably correct in this assessment. HPL was so disgusted with Wright’s rejections that he himself submitted only one story (“In the Vault”) to WTin almost five and a half years (Spring 1931– Summer 1936), although in this period others such as August Derleth submitted HPL’s stories without his knowledge or permission.
   HPL might have had more leverage with Wright if he could have developed a second pulp market to offset
   WT Amazing Stories had taken “The Colour out of Space” in 1927, but it paid him only of a cent per word for the story. (WT generally paid HPL 1 to 1? cents per word, the latter being its highest rate.) He submitted several stories to Strange Tales (1931–33), edited by Harry Bates, but all were rejected as the magazine wanted “action” stories quite unlike HPL’s average product. Carl Swanson’s Galaxy, contemplated in 1932, never got off the ground. HPL’s two late sales to Astounding Storiesmay have contributed to Wright’s quick acceptance of “The Thing on the Doorstep” and “The Haunter of the Dark” in July 1936, although they were just the sort he would have liked in any case.
   After HPL’s death Wright accepted many HPL stories and poems that he had formerly rejected, when they were submitted by August Derleth. This policy continued with WT’s third and final editor, Dorothy McIlwraith, who took over in 1940. It was, however, her decision to abridge some of HPL’s longer works (“The Mound” [November 1940]; The Case of Charles Dexter Ward [May and July 1941]; “The Shadow over Innsmouth” [January 1942]), although these had appeared or were about to appear in collections of HPL’s tales published by Arkham House.
   For a complete list of HPL’s contributions to WT,see S.T.Joshi, “Lovecraft in Weird Tales” New Lovecraft Collector10 (Spring 1995): 3–4. H.P.Lovecraft in “The Eyrie,” ed. S.T.Joshi and Marc A.Michaud (Necronomicon Press, 1979), contains letters by or about HPL in the letter column of WT.
   See Robert Weinberg, The Weird Tales Story (West Linn, Ore.: FAX Collector’s Editions, 1977); Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Weird Fiction Magazines, ed. Marshall B.Tymn and Mike Ashley (Greenwood Press, 1985); Frank H.Parnell and Mike Ashley, Monthly Terrors (Greenwood Press, 1985) (contains complete issue-by-issue index to WT).

An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. .

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