Saturday, August 31, 2013

Rivals of Weird Tales-Strange Tales of the Mysterious and Supernatural

In my previous article, I wrote about the American magazine Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror. Today I will write about the similarly titled British magazine Strange Tales of the Mysterious and Supernatural. Like its predecessor, the British Strange Tales was short lived, lasting only two issues.

I don't know what connection the American magazine Weird Tales might have had to a British magazine of weird fiction and fantasy, but Weird Tales would not have been unfamiliar to British readers. The American version of the magazine would easily have made the crossing to Great Britain by mail. Over the years, many British writers contributed to Weird Tales. More to the point, Weird Tales was printed in a British edition on three occasions, once prior to the publication of Strange Tales, once roughly contemporary with it, and once afterwards:
  1. Weird Tales war edition--G.G. Swan of London printed three issues of Weird Tales, one each in February, March, and June of 1942. The first American servicemen arrived in the British Isles at about that time. The British wartime edition may have been printed for their reading pleasure, but I don't know that anyone has addressed that as a possibility. (Those three issues were reprints of the September 1940, November 1940, and January 1941 issues of Weird Tales, respectively.)
  2. Weird Tales ca. 1946 edition--William C. Merrett of London printed one unnumbered, undated issue in about 1946. That issue reprinted selections from the October 1937 issue of Weird Tales.
  3. Weird Tales 1953-1954 edition--Thorpe & Porter of Leicester printed twenty-eight issues of Weird Tales with roughly the same contents of selected American issues from July 1949 to May 1954.
In addition, British readers would have seen Christine Campbell Thomson's Not At Night series. Printed in a dozen volumes between 1925 and 1937, the stories from the Not At Night series numbered 170 in all. One hundred of those stories came from Weird Tales. (1) The upshot of all this is that Weird Tales and a taste for weird fiction had, by 1946, made the crossing to Great Britain.

As I said, Strange Tales of the Mysterious and Supernatural lasted all of two issues dated six months apart. That suggests either a semi-annual schedule or real trouble. We should remember that Britain underwent a period of severe austerity after the war ended. (2) The British Strange Tales would have suffered from economic hard times just as its American predecessor had. In any case, the publisher was--ironically--Utopian Publications of London. The editor is unknown. 

Here is the complete list of contents from the first published issue, called the "First Selection", provided by Susanne V. Paradis:
  • "Non-Stop to Mars" by Jack Williamson (originally as "Nonstop to Mars" in Argosy, Feb. 25, 1939)
  • "Pink Elephants" by Tarleton Fiske (originally in Strange Stories, Aug. 1939, as by Robert Bloch)
  • "The Brain of Ali Khan" by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach (originally in Wonder Stories, Oct. 1934)
  • "The Hunters from Beyond" by Clark Ashton Smith (originally in Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror, Oct. 1932)
  • "Experiment in Murder" by John Russell Fearn (originally as "Portrait of a Murderer" in Weird Tales, Dec. 1936) 
  • "The Tombstone" by Ray Bradbury (originally in Weird Tales, Mar. 1945)
  • Cover art by Alva Rogers; interior illustrations by Fredric

Here are the contents of the second published issue, called the "Second Selection." I believe this to be a complete list:
  • "The Moon Devils" by John Beynon Harris, pseudonym of John Wyndham (originally in Wonder Stories, Apr. 1934)
  • "The Nameless Offspring" by Clark Ashton Smith (originally in the American Strange Tales, June 1932)
  • "The Sorcerer's Jewel" by Tarleton Fiske, pseudonym of Robert Bloch (originally in Strange Stories, Feb. 1939)
  • "The Song of the Dark Star" by Richard Presley Tooker (originally as "The Song from the Dark Star" in Astounding Stories, Sept. 1936)
  • "Cool Air" by H.P. Lovecraft (originally in Tales of Magic and Mystery, Mar. 1928; reprinted in Weird Tales, Sept. 1939)
  • "The Manikin" by Robert Bloch (originally as "The Mannikin" in Weird Tales, Apr. 1937)
  • Cover art by Alva Rogers; interior illustrations by Fredric

According to a vague listing on an Internet book sale site, the First Selection was actually the second issue. The first issue was withdrawn either from publication or from distribution because the cover art showed a woman with bare breasts. The website doesn't say what happened to that first issue or what its contents might have been. I wonder if the First Selection was just a reprinting of the first issue with a different cover. In any case, with the Second Selection, the whole magazine went the way of the first issue. Luckily for us, Thomas G. Cockcroft indexed the contents of the magazine in the 1960s.

Strange Tales of the Mysterious and Supernatural
Apr. 1946 to Oct. 1946
2 Issues
Published by: Utopian Publications, London, England
Edited by: Unknown
Format: A little less than digest size (4-3/4 x 7-1/4 inches); 64 pages

Notes
(1) Christine Campbell Thomson also contributed to Weird Tales under the pen name Flavia Richardson in 1927 and 1929.
(2) George Orwell composed 1984 during this period (1947-1948). I have read that apologists for totalitarianism (they don't call themselves that, but that is their function) consider Orwell's novel to be merely a satire of postwar British austerity. The rest of us know better.

A poor reproduction of the cover of the first issue of Strange Tales of the Mysterious and Supernatural. There may not be a good reproduction of this image, as the magazine was withdrawn because of the offending naked breasts of the woman on the cover. It isn't clear to me whether the contents were repackaged with a different cover or not. Postscript (Sept. 3, 2013): In looking over Index to the Weird Fiction Magazines by T.G.L. Cockcroft, I found this note: "Copies of the first issue of the British Strange Tales exist which, like the second, have a cover picture by Alva Rogers rather than by H.W. Perl." I presume, then, that this cover is the work of Alva Rogers and there were at least a few copies that made their way into the marketplace. Presumably the contents of the magazine shown here and of the one shown below were the same. Second postscript (July 8, 2015): Information provided by Susanne V. Paradis confirms that Alva Rogers was the cover artist.
Here's the much less offensive cover of the "First Selection" (instead of first issue) of the magazine. I'm not sure what this illustration has to do with weird fiction or fantasy, but at least it made its way to the newsstand. The artist was H.W. Perl.
Here's the cover of the "Second Selection" with art by American artist Alva Rogers (b. 1923). Note that this is a three-color cover or even a two-color cover vs. a four-color cover for the First Selection--a sign of a tightened budget.
As a bonus, here's an interior illustration by an artist named Fredric for "Cool Air" by H.P. Lovecraft, reprinted in Strange Tales in October 1946.
Postscript (July 8, 2015): Here is a much better image of Strange Tales number one, kindly provided by Susanne V. Paradis, who has a copy of the magazine offered for bid on Ebay. Thank you, Susanne. You can find her listing by clicking here.

Revised and updated July 8, 2015.
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

3 comments:

  1. It's interesting that the first edition came out in 1946. I think there was a paper shortage in the UK throughout the war and this might have impacted on locally-produced pulps.

    Given the publishers' certainty their English readers would be unfamiliar with American stories that were nearly nine years old, I'm guessing 'Weird Tales' low sales figures in the States meant that importing and selling it in the UK was never a viable proposition.

    On that note, there was a news vendor who used to sell 'Vampirella', 'Creepy' and 'Uncle Eerie' on O'Connell street, albeit only a limited number: this was in the late Seventies, but the magazines were all 72 - 73. I only mention this because 'Cool Air' featured in one and was my introduction to the graphic art of the (then) king of classy black-and-white graphic art, Berni Wrightson.

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  2. http://grantbridgestreet.blogspot.ie/2010/09/h-p-lovecrafts-cool-air-by-berni.html?zx=7ceea2a072fea3df

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  3. Hi, Aonghus,

    Thanks for the background. I remember and admire Berni Wrightson's art, too. I didn't know that he had drawn "Cool Air." Thanks for the link.

    TH

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