Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Weird Tales and the End of the World

As everyone knows, the Mayan calendar (and so too the world) ends on December 21, 2012.  Rather than just get a new calendar as we all do every year, we're just going to let this happen I suppose. Before it does, though, you might want to read a little about Mayas and the end of the world, and what better place than in the magazine Weird Tales?

Stories about the end of the world abound. It's enough to make me think that the end of the world is a common, if not universal, fantasy. (Why should this be so? I have a feeling that it has something to do with our knowledge that we ourselves are going to end while the world will go on. Maybe the only way to correct that perceived injustice is for all the world to end as well--for all of us to go at the same time.) In any case, here are some stories and poems from Weird Tales on the occasion of the end of the world. (I have selected these stories and poems solely for their titles. I haven't read them myself and don't know their plots or themes.)

  • "In Mayan Splendor" by Frank Belknap Long (poem, Apr. 1934)
  • "World's End" by Henry Kuttner (short story, Feb. 1938)
  • "The World Wrecker" by Arlton Eadie (serial, Apr.-June 1929)
  • "In the World's Dusk" by Edmond Hamilton (short story, Mar. 1936)
  • "The Planet of the Dead" by Clark Ashton Smith (short story, Mar. 1932)

You could of course also read "The Call of Cthulhu" by H.P. Lovecraft, and though the world doesn't end in that story, it's only because the stars aren't right. Finally, here's a story I have read, and though humanity doesn't meet its end in this one either, we live on only because people from Venus save our bacon: "When the Green Star Waned" by Nictzin Dyalhis.

In Mayan Splendor is a collection of poems by Frank Belknap Long (1901-1994), published by Arkham House in 1977. The back cover shows the familiar circular motif of Mayan art. If a circle has no end, why shouldn't the calendar as well?
Of all the covers I have looked at this evening, this one seems most appropriate to the subject at hand. The cover story is "The Monster of the Prophecy" by Clark Ashton Smith. The cover art is by C.C. Senf. I think this is one of his better covers, not only in its design but also in its execution.
Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley


  1. It's a shame Lovecraft never wrote a real, in-the-moment end-of-the-world story (aside from stories in which it's implied or stated the world *will* end eventually, just not right now). "Nyarlathotep" counts, but it's so short. And "'Till All the Seas" sorta fits the bill, though I wish Lovecraft had rewritten it to show the lizards rising to dominate the Earth after the last man dies.

  2. Jason,

    Lovecraft didn't write about the end of the world. Robert Bloch did it for him in Strange Eons, though. I guess we should make a distinction. "The end of the world" could mean the end of our civilization or the end of our species, or it could mean that the earth itself is destroyed. If humanity is exterminated but Cthulhu still reigns over the earth, is that the end of the world?