Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Weird Fiction & Fantasy Magazines-Weird Tales Part 1

Weird Tales, the first magazine devoted exclusively to weird fiction and fantasy, arrived on the newsstand with a cover date of March 1923. This year marks the ninetieth anniversary of the magazine that fantasy fans know and love, even if it ceased publication before some of them were born. Weird Tales was never on firm footing. It faltered in its first year or two in print. The magazine's founder, Jacob Clark Henneberger, believed in his creation however and did what was necessary to keep it alive. The first incarnation of what has been called "the magazine that never dies" lasted for 279 issues, finally to give up the ghost in September 1954.

Weird Tales called itself "The Unique Magazine." That descriptor--"unique"--was I suppose used to set the magazine apart in the eyes of readers, or more importantly perhaps, potential readers. Weird Tales was unique in another way however, for it was the only magazine of its kind to have lasted for more than a few issues or more than a few years. In fact, "The Unique Magazine" is still in existence. Like a cat or an interstellar creature that lies sleeping in its submarine vault, it has many lives. Other publishers have attempted to duplicate the success of Weird Tales (which was, in the end, not financial so much as cultural). It's fair to say that no one has succeeded, despite some good efforts. Some early attempts were in competition with Weird Tales. Some later attempts were self-conscious imitations, even pastiches. Since the late '60s or early '70s, fanzines and small press magazines have probably outnumbered conventional publications. Like J.C. Henneberger, hobbyists and amateur publishers have had faith in weird fiction and in Weird Tales. They have been loath to let the thing they love die. Although the original readers of Weird Tales are dwindling in numbers, the name and spirit of the magazine live on.

This is part one of a series in which I will attempt a catalogue of weird fiction and fantasy fiction magazines from 1923 to today. I'll start with Weird Tales of course. I welcome comments, corrections, and additions.

Weird Tales
The Unique Magazine
March 1923 to September 1954
279 issues (Volumes 1 through 46)
Published byRural Publishing Corporation (Mar. 1923 to May/July 1924); Popular Fiction Company (Nov. 1924 to Oct. 1938); Short Stories, Inc. (Nov. 1938 to Sept. 1954)
Edited by: Edwin Baird (Mar. 1923 to Apr. 1924); Otis Adelbert Kline (May/July 1924); Farnsworth Wright (Nov. 1924-Dec. 1939); Dorothy McIlwraith (Jan. 1940-Sept. 1954)
Format: Small pulp size (6 x 9 inches) (Mar. to Apr. 1923); Letter size (8.5 x 11.75 inches, sometimes called large pulp or bedsheet size) (May 1923 to May/July 1924); Standard pulp size (7 x 10 inches) (Nov. 1924 to July 1953); Digest size (5 x 7.5 inches) (Sept. 1953 to Sept. 1954)

This was the original Weird Tales, perhaps more properly, the one and only, the true and original Weird Tales. Weird Tales was the home of authors H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith, as well as artists Margaret Brundage, J. Allen St. John, and Virgil Finlay. Sadly, the magazine came to its end in 1954. Leo Margulies acquired the Weird Tales property shortly after that. He wanted to revive it at least twice, but Sam Moskowitz talked him out of the idea. There are those with their grievances against Moskowitz. It's easy enough for us to say "what if" and to add his advice to Margulies to the list of grievances. In any case, Weird Tales slumbered through the 1960s except for four paperback anthologies ostensibly edited by Leo Margulies. You might call them the first reincarnation of Weird Tales. They are next in this series.

First and last covers--Weird Tales, March 1923, and September 1954. The first cover was done by Richard Ruh Epperly, the last by Virgil Finlay. These two images are not on the same scale: the first cover was six by nine inches, the last five by seven and a half inches. (Please forgive the slop over into the margin. Once this posting moves down on the page, there shouldn't be any distraction.)
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley