Friday, November 21, 2014

Monsters Alone on the Cover of Weird Tales

There were many monsters on the cover of Weird Tales over the years, but most of those monster covers showed the monster menacing a human being, very often a woman. You can see some of them in my previous postings:


There will be at least a couple of more categories with monsters, but the following three covers don't fit into any of them, for they show monsters alone with nary a human in sight.

Weird Tales, January 1947. Cover story: "The Hog" by William Hope Hodgson. Cover art by A.R. Tilburne. Albert Roanoke Tilburne specialized in depicting animals, but he also had a flare for truly weird monsters. His image of Hodgson's diabolical hog is a perfect example of that.

Weird Tales, July 1948. Cover story: "Twilight of the Gods" by Edmond Hamilton (?). Cover art by Matt Fox. Who else could have created such a phantasmagoria?

Weird Tales, July 1949. Cover story: None. Cover art by Matt Fox. 
Fox's cover reminds me of Grandpa's Ghost Stories by James Flora (1978), a book that might just as easily be called Weird Tales for Kids. It's hard to recommend books to other readers. My list extends to three books for adults, True Grit by Charles Portis (1968), Red Sky at Morning by Richard Bradford (1968), and maybe The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester (1956). I feel much more confident recommending children's books. Grandpa's Ghost Stories is near the top of the list.

Text and captions copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Aliens on the Cover of Weird Tales

Weird Tales was a magazine of fantasy, horror, weird fiction, and the supernatural, but it also published science fiction, especially after World War II, when that genre took over our popular culture and aliens seemed to be watching us. I count eight covers in this category, but only three that came after the war. I assume that all the creatures on these covers are aliens. If anyone knows different, please let me know, too. It's worth noting that neither Margaret Brundage nor Virgil Finlay drew any aliens on the cover of Weird Tales. Note also that six of the eight aliens shown here are green.

Weird Tales, April 1925. Cover story: "When the Green Star Waned" by Nictzin Dyalhis. Cover art by Andrew Brosnatch. If I remember right (not that I was there), in the 1920s there was a discussion among the readers of Weird Tales on whether the magazine should print science fiction. The April 1925 cover seems to have provided an answer, but readers should not have forgotten that the first cover story in Weird Tales, "Ooze" by Anthony M. Rud (Mar. 1923), was also science fiction, before that genre even had the name by which we know it today. (The term science fiction didn't show up in print until 1929.) The "Green Star" in the title is Earth. A year after the publication of Dyalhis' story, in April 1926, Amazing Stories, the first American science fiction magazine, made its debut.  

Weird Tales, May 1928. Cover story: "The Bat-Men of Thorium" by Bertram Russell. Cover art by C.C. Senf.

Weird Tales, Feb. 1929. Cover story: "The Star Stealers" by Edmond Hamilton. Cover art by Hugh Rankin.

Weird Tales, Jan. 1932. Cover story: "The Monster of the Prophecy" by Clark Ashton Smith. Cover art by C.C. Senf, one of his best covers, I think.

Weird Tales, November 1944. Cover story: "The Dweller in Darkness" by August Derleth. Cover art by Matt Fox. This was Matt Fox's first cover for Weird Tales. I'm not sure that these creatures are aliens. They may actually be demons or supernatural monsters. I have put them in this category because the imagery is science-fictional rather than fantastical: beams of light are coming from the sky, like from a flying saucer, illuminating strange creatures who have pointed ears, green skin, multiple limbs, and tentacles, all of which later characterized different species of space aliens.

Weird Tales, November 1948. Cover story: "The Perfect Host" by Theodore Sturgeon (?). Cover art by John Giunta. Now we're into the science fiction era and the imagery and technique are those of the science fiction artist. John Giunta was one of the first science fiction artists to come out of fandom and to see his work in print nationally. This could have been the cover of a science fiction novel from the 1960s.

Weird Tales, November 1951. Cover story: None. Cover art by Frank Kelly Freas. Weird Tales may have had a tight budget for most of its run, but it landed some very fine artists, including a young Frank Kelly Freas. This was the second of his three covers for the magazine.

Weird Tales, July 1953. Cover story: None. Cover art by W.H. Silvey. This is among my least favorite covers for Weird Tales. For decades, the magazine had pretty well avoided cheap, exploitative, or cruel imagery on its covers. The exploitation and cruelty here aren't overt, but when a man or a male character is holding something in his hand, that object can be taken as an extension of his hand or of his body in general. In other words, the spoon in this picture is more than just a spoon.

Text and captions copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Giants on the Cover of Weird Tales

This is a loose collection of two giant robots, a dinosaur, a rogue elephant, and a green-skinned demon. They don't have a lot in common, but the people (and demons) on these five covers do: they're all frightened, wide-eyed, and hurrying to get out of the picture as fast as they can go.

Weird Tales, December 1926. Cover story: "The Metal Giants" by Edmond Hamilton. Cover art by Joseph Doolin.

The frightened people in the foreground running from something terrible in the background is a pretty common image in popular culture. Here's an example from comic books, drawn by Basil Wolverton.

Weird Tales, November 1930. Cover story: "A Million Years After" by Katherine Metcalf Roof. Cover art by C.C. Senf. 

Weird Tales, February 1939. Cover story: "Death Is an Elephant" by Nathan Hindin (Robert Bloch). Cover art by Virgil Finlay.

Weird Tales, July 1941. Cover story: "The Robot God" by Ray Cummings. Cover art by Hannes Bok. (The man in the picture is almost certainly a self-portrait.)

Weird Tales, November 1947. Cover story: "The Cheaters" by Robert Bloch. Cover art by Matt Fox.
Text copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Woman and God or Idol on the Cover of Weird Tales

Gods and idols figure prominently in weird fiction. The sculpture of Cthulhu from "The Call of Cthulhu" is among the most famous of idols from Weird Tales. Unfortunately, Cthulhu never made it to the cover of the magazine. Instead, there are ten covers (by my count) showing gods or idols. Every one of them also shows a woman as worshipper or supplicant. 

Weird Tales, December 1927. Cover story: "The Infidel's Daughter" by E. Hoffman Price. Cover art by Hugh Rankin. Price and his friend Hugh Rankin were both orientalists. . .

Rankin would have found a model for his cover design close at hand, for the University of Chicago Oriental Institute holds a gypsum (?) relief sculpture of a Lammasu or Ĺ edu, a beneficial deity from Assyrian mythology. This one is from Dur-Sharrukin, the Assyrian capital, now Khorsabad, and dates from the Neo-Assyrian Period, ca. 721-705 BC.

Weird Tales, January 1928. Cover story: "The Gods of East and West" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by C.C. Senf. I find this cover bizarre, if not ridiculous. Pity the poor artist who got the assignment.

Weird Tales, December 1928. Cover story: "The Chapel of Mystic Horror" Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Hugh Rankin.

Weird Tales, March 1929. Cover story: "The People of Pan" by Henry S. Whitehead. Cover art by C.C. Senf. Senf's composition here is odd and complicated, but I believe it works. This is much more successful than the cover from January 1928.

Weird Tales, September 1932. Cover story: "The Altar of Melek Taos" by G.G. Pendarves. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. This was Margaret Brundage's first cover for Weird Tales. All of the following covers in this category are hers as well.

Weird Tales, June 1933. Cover story: "Black Colossus" by Robert E. Howard. Cover art by Margaret Brundage.

Weird Tales, October 1934. Cover story: "The Black God's Kiss" by C.L. Moore. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. A very similar cover to the one preceding it.

Weird Tales, June 1937. Cover story: "The Carnal God" by John R. Speer and Carlisle Schnitzer. Cover art by Margaret Brundage.

Weird Tales, January 1945. Cover story: "Priestess of the Labyrinth" by Edmond Hamilton. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. I'm not sure that the minotaur in this story is a god, but in the original myth, the Minotaur was the offspring of a gift from the Greek god Poseidon and the wife of Minos of Crete. In this illustration, the Minotaur has an appearance of bronze, like a statue or idol. In any case, this is the only cover in this category in which the woman is clearly superior in power or status to the god or idol. That's Margaret Brundage for you.

Weird Tales, January 1951. Cover story: None. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Weird Tales recycled Margaret Brundage's illustration from six years before in its issue of January 1951. The first of the ten covers in the category of woman and god or idol shows a bull with a man's head. The last shows a man with a bull's head, and so we come full circle.

Text and captions copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Baby's Ear

Still more on the question Is science fiction dying? I'll begin with a long quote:
One morning in 1938, shortly before leaving the Communist Party, while feeding his young daughter, [Whittaker] Chambers concluded that the shape of her ear could not be explained by Marxist materialism. Something this beautiful and unique, Chambers observed, implied design, which implied the existence of God. Understanding the divine gift of his daughter Ellen, also strangely related to the horrific irruption within Chambers of the "screams" from Communism's suffering victims. He writes "[O]ne day the Communist really hears those screams. [The screams]  . . . do not merely reach his mind. They pierce beyond. They pierce to his soul." A soul in agony, in this case, a person under persecution by Communist authorities, has attempted to communicate with another soul through memory and across time. The crucial significance of both episodes rests in Chambers embracing the presence of his soul, thus denying the false materialism of Communism and the darkness it had covered him in. As Chambers observed, "A Communist breaks because he must choose at last between irreconcilable opposites--God or Man, Soul or Mind, Freedom or Communism."
The quote is from an article called "Two Faiths: The Witness of Whittaker Chambers" by Richard M. Reinsch from Religious Liberty (Vol. 22, No. 1). You can read it by clicking hereWhittaker Chambers was vilified, as the True Believer is always vilified (if not imprisoned, tortured, exiled, or murdered), by his fellows when he finally awakes. In any event, he was not alone, though his conversion may have covered a greater distance than most.

Chambers' thoughts are echoed in popular culture, in the lyrics of "Isn't She Lovely" (1976) by Stevie Wonder, written on the birth of his daughter Aisha:

We have been heaven blessed
I can't believe what God has done
Through us he's given life to one
But isn't she lovely made from love

And in the lyrics of "Heaven" (2003) by Live:

I don't need no one to tell me about heaven
I look at my daughter, and I believe

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously wrote "Hitch your wagon to a star." That exhortation is as good for the science fiction writer as anyone--maybe even better. But if science fiction has hitched itself to science, and science has hitched itself to materialism, which says that parents love their children only because we all have selfish genes, then it can be no wonder why science fiction--or our society as a whole--is in trouble.

While at Columbia University, Whittaker Chambers fell in with likeminded men, among whom was Guy Endore (1901-1970), a translator and a writer of novels and screenplays, including many genre works. The Werewolf of Paris, from 1933, was and is widely admired. The cover art, showing either a were-beagle or a giant-sized woman, is by William Randolph, who I find, through the wonder of the Internet, wrote a letter to Weird Tales, published in August 1928.

If you think I'm done, think again: Unlike Whittaker Chambers, Guy Endore never seems to have come to his senses. He went on believing in Leftist or Statist causes all his life and even became interested (according to Wikipedia, that fount of all information) in mysticism, theosophy, and Synanon. As G.K. Chesterton wrote in "The Miracle of Moon Crescent" (1924):

You hard-shelled materialists were all balanced on the very edge of belief--of belief in almost anything.
I have written before that a decadent society doesn't reach for the stars, but atheists and materialists just might, for they are likely to be forever consumed by the unquenchable need to show that the universe is in essence material (if that's not a contradiction in terms) and that their fervent belief in the non-existence of God will be borne out by their explorations. Remember the rocketship Integral, designed for a mission "to subjugate to the grateful yoke of reason the unknown beings who live on other planets," from the novel We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1921).

Finally, people from Synanon appeared as extras in George Lucas' dystopian film THX-1138 (1971). I guess if you follow any line long enough, it comes around to make a circle.

Text and captions copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Two Topics In Search of a Venue

I have written recently about the question Is science fiction dying? To paraphrase and reverse Doctor McCoy's claim, I'm a blogger, not a doctor. I can't say whether science fiction is dying or not. If it is, I can suggest causes: We have arrived at the future and it ain't what it was cracked up to be. Readers have become disillusioned with science. They are disappointed that all the things that were promised us by science have not come about. They have turned away from the future or have given up hope. Science has become Scientism, atheism, or materialism, beliefs of religious intensity that claim that all things can be explained in purely material terms by the priests of Science. If the religions of Scientism, atheism, and materialism are correct, then nothing can be irrational (except certain numbers), there can be no mystery, and all things can be, must be, and will be explained by science and science alone. Put another way, if the goal of science is to answer all unanswered questions, solve all unsolved mysteries, and explain all unexplained things, and if all questions, mysteries, and unexplained things will in the end yield to scientific inquiry, then where does that leave the very human and very essential need for mystery? If the universe is purely material, then, in the end, we will be living in a kind of experiential entropy, a universe entirely evened out by science, devoid of any further questioning, searching, or striving. Granted, if the universe is purely material (I'm certain that it isn't), it will still take a long, long time for science to answer all questions. But who looks forward to the eradication of mystery from our lives and experience? I prefer--and I believe most people would prefer--mystery to all-knowledge. Maybe that's one reason why fantasy is preferred to science fiction these days. One alternative to having science fiction die is for believers to give up on their faith in Scientism, atheism, and materialism and to allow mystery its essential place in the universe. Another is for people to be hopeful and to turn their eyes once again to the future, disregarding the doom the doomsayers say. A third (which probably overlaps the second) is for people to go on believing in God, humanity, love, and a mysterious universe.

***

I have also written about contemporary science fiction as running out of options in that, if you give up hope for the future, you're reduced to either dystopia or apocalypse. There are other options that I didn't consider. One is science fiction about a sort of gray, quotidian misery or despair. That seems to be the course our serious literature has taken. Having given up on faith, hope, and family, many people in the real world have gone down that same path. Another is science fiction about inversion or self-absorption, a dead end if ever there was one, in storytelling as well as in real life. Of course despair and self-absorption can lead to dystopia and apocalypse. We see signs of that in our contemporary culture. Maybe the end point of despair is inevitably apocalypse as it passes through violence and dissolution. Maybe the end point of self-absorption is inevitably dystopia as it passes through self-loathing and a loathing of all humanity. Maybe that's all carrying the theorizing too far.

A third option for science fiction is religious or Christian science fiction, a sub-genre about which I know almost nothing but that seems to me must be built upon hope. You might say that the idea of the future comes from religion, perhaps more specifically from Christianity, which turned history from endless cycles into an arrow flying through time. We hear of scientific, technological, social, political, and economic "progress." Where would any of those things be without the very Christian ideas of progress and faith in the future? In the end, maybe science fiction without Christianity is an impossibility. That's not to say science fiction should be Christian. But how can science fiction--or anything else for that matter--carry on without hope, or, as Donald A. Wollheim called it, faith in an infinite future?

Love in the Ruins (1971) is a post-apocalyptic novel by Walker Percy, ordinarily a writer of what's called "serious" literature, i.e., definitely not science fiction (although the apocalypse in the book is pretty mild as apocalypses go). Percy was a convert to Catholicism, as were G.K. Chesterton, Graham Greene, Tennessee Williams, Dean R. Koontz, and, indirectly, J.R.R. Tolkien. (He joined the Catholic church as a child when his mother converted.) C.S. Lewis was a convert from atheism to Christianity (as is Anne Rice). If you're drawing up a list of Christian science fiction and fantasy writers, his name should probably come first. All wrote genre fiction, including mysteries, spy novels, science fiction, and fantasy. Tennessee Williams contributed to Weird Tales as a teenager.

Copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Happy Birthday to the Second Incarnation of Weird Tales

Ninety years ago this month, in November 1924, Weird Tales began its second incarnation. The magazine was never on sound footing. That trend appears to be continuing to this day. But in 1924, it very nearly folded. Weird Tales began in March 1923 under the editorship of Edwin M. Baird. Subtitled "The Unique Magazine," it ran for an unlucky thirteen issues until the triple-sized May/June/July issue of 1924. By then Weird Tales was in trouble. That summer, the publisher, Jacob Clark Henneberger, sold his interest in his other publishing ventures to keep his brainchild, Weird Tales, going. Baird was out as editor. In casting about for someone to take his place, Henneberger offered the position to H.P. Lovecraft. We can all wonder how history would have been different if Lovecraft had accepted the position. Instead, Henneberger found Farnsworth Wright, a Chicago writer and music critic, to assume the role of editor. Weird Tales went back into print in November 1924 after a gap of four months. Also new in that issue, Andrew Brosnatch came on as artist, and readers could submit correspondence to "The Eyrie," a new letters column. Weird Tales carried on until September 1954. I wonder if Edwin M. Baird, who died that same month, saw the last issue of a magazine he helped bring into the world.

Weird Tales, November 1924, with cover art by Andrew Brosnatch.
Text copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley