Sunday, August 25, 2013

Weird Fiction & Fantasy Magazines-Oriental Stories & The Magic Carpet Magazine

When Weird Tales began in 1923, it had a companion called Detective Tales. A year or so later, with Weird Tales gasping for air, J.C. Henneberger sold Detective Tales (which was retitled Real Detective Tales and Mystery Stories, later just Real Detective.) Weird Tales would spend the rest of the 1920s alone.

In November 1924, Weird Tales returned to the newsstand after many months' absence. Farnsworth Wright, the new editor and a native Californian, was interested in what was then called the Orient. He wasn't alone. The Orient--a broad swath of the earth's surface covering everything from Morocco to Japan--had long fascinated Europeans and Americans. In the 1890s and early 1900s, an exaggerated fear of "the Yellow Peril" filled the popular imagination. (1) That period coincided with the end of dime novels and the beginning of the pulp fiction era. The Yellow Peril was personified in Fu Manchu, Wu Fang, Dr. Yen Sin, Ming the Merciless, and countless other Oriental villains. Farnsworth Wright took a more nuanced approach in his new companion magazine to Weird Tales.

October 1930 wasn't exactly an opportune time to launch a new magazine. The stock market had collapsed exactly a year before. The nation was approaching the very depths of the Great Depression. Nonetheless, the Popular Fiction Company chose that month to launch Oriental Stories. The title probably suggested to potential readers that within these pages they would find stories of magic, mysticism, intrigue, and menace. A look at the table of contents would have confirmed that their favorite writers from Weird Tales--Frank Owen, Otis Adelbert Kline, Paul Ernst, G.G. Pendarves, and Robert E. Howard; later E. Hoffman Price, Clark Ashton Smith, H. Bedford-Jones, Seabury Quinn, and Edmond Hamilton--were well represented. (2)

Like Weird Tales, Oriental Stories was a mix of short stories, novellas, verse, illustrations, and letters of comment. In its first three issues, Oriental Stories was bimonthly. In April 1931, it switched to a quarterly schedule. A more significant readjustment came in January 1933 when the title was changed to The Magic Carpet Magazine. A change in a title (or in a main character) is a sure sign that a creative endeavor is in trouble. Sometimes the change works. Usually it doesn't. With The Magic Carpet Magazine, it didn't. The magazine lasted only another year and a noble experiment met its end in January 1934. Weird Tales was once again alone and would remain that way until being purchased by Short Stories, Inc., in 1938.

Notes
(1) Strangely enough, Kaiser Wilhelm II coined the term according to Barbara W. Tuchman in The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War: 1890-1914 (1966), p. 145.
(2) E. Hoffman Price, a true Orientalist among the Weird Tales crowd, recounted that Farnsworth Wright "had once worked, during a school vacation, somewhere in Oregon or Washington, as a labor foreman in charge of a gang of Hindus. At this stage, he would say, 'An experience which makes me eminently fit to edit Oriental Stories. I learned enough Punjabi to ask for a drink of water'." From The Weird Tales Story (1977), p. 12.

Oriental Stories
Oct./Nov. 1930 to Summer 1932
9 issues (Volumes 1 and 2)
Published by: Popular Fiction Company
Edited by: Farnsworth Wright
Format: Pulp size (6-5/8 x 9-3/4 inches)

The Magic Carpet Magazine
Jan. 1933 to Jan. 1934
5 issues (Volumes 3 and 4)
Published by: Popular Fiction Company
Edited by: Farnsworth Wright
Format: Pulp size (same as Oriental Stories)

Note the gap in publication between Summer 1932 and January 1933. Weird Tales survived being out of print for several months in 1924. The Magic Carpet Magazine wasn't so lucky.

I previously wrote about Oriental Stories and The Magic Carpet Magazine. Click on the titles in the previous sentence for links.

Text copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

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