Friday, August 16, 2013

Weird Fiction & Fantasy Magazines-Weird Tales Part 4

Leo Margulies died on December 26, 1975, at age seventy-five. As I understand it, Robert Weinberg acquired the Weird Tales property from Margulies' widow. Mr. Weinberg had assembled and published a commemorative book, WT 50: A Tribute to Weird Tales, a year and a half before Margulies' death, in the same season that the last of the Margulies-Moskowitz issues of Weird Tales was published. Mr. Weinberg followed that up with The Weird Tales Story, published in 1977 by FAX Collector's Editions of West Linn, Oregon. In the meantime, the magazine itself laid dormant.

Born in 1930, Lin Carter became a fantasy fan as a child. In 1957 he went to work in advertising and publishing, only to strike out on his own as a freelance writer and editor in 1969. Many if not most of his own books were pastiches or imitations of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, and other writers. A more charitable way of looking at Carter's career is that he wrote tributes to the great fantasy authors of the past, or that he wrote the books they might have written had they lived. He did his fellow fantasy fans an invaluable service by editing Ballantine Books' Adult Fantasy series of 1969-1974. He also edited the Flashing Swords series of heroic fantasy (1973-1977) and The Year's Best Fantasy Stories series for Donald A. Wollheim (1975-1980). By 1980 he was ready to give Weird Tales a try.

Lin Carter edited and Zebra Books published four "issues" of Weird Tales from 1981 to 1983. Those four issues comprise volume 48 of the series. The odd thing about them is that they aren't magazines but instead mass market paperbacks, numbered sequentially like a magazine title and even including a letters column. In his first editorial, Carter wrote that he and his publishers "concluded that the pulp magazine era is truly at an end and that such periodicals simply cannot compete in the marketplace with the enormously popular paperback book," hence the decision to "revive Weird Tales as a 'paperback periodical'." Carter sounded as though he had high hopes for the revival. Instead he got no farther (in the number of issues at least) than Sam Moskowitz had before him.

I don't think anyone would argue against the idea that the pulp magazine era had ended many years before Lin Carter's Weird Tales went to print. (The only argument might be as to when it had ended: The mid or late forties? Sometime during the 1950s? Certainly no later than the early sixties.) At first glance, you might see paperback books as one of the nails in the coffin of pulp magazines. It might be more accurate to say that paperbacks are just pulp magazines in a different format.

The relationship between pulps and paperbacks is on full display in Volume 48 of Weird Tales. That's not to say that it was a first. Donald A. Wollheim approached the idea with his Avon Fantasy Reader series of 1946-1952. Other publishers issued "paperback periodicals" in the 1960s and '70s. Leo Margulies' four-book series of Weird Tales anthologies from the 1960s may have been a model for Lin Carter's effort. Byron Preiss' Weird Heroes series of "New American Pulp," published in the 1970s, would have been closer at hand.

In any case, Weird Tales, Volume 48, was a mix of old and new material. H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and other prized writers of the original Weird Tales were represented. So were newer writers such as Ramsey Campbell, Tanith Lee, and of course Lin Carter. Like the preceding incarnation, Carter's Weird Tales lasted four issues. The gap separating it from the following volume would be narrow indeed.

Weird Tales
Spring 1981 to Summer 1983
4 issues (Volume 48)
Published by: Zebra Books (Kensington Publishing Corp.)
Edited by: Lin Carter
Format: Mass market paperback

Weird Tales, Volume 48, Number 1. The book bears a copyright date of 1980. According to Jaffery and Cook's Collector's Index to Weird Tales, the date was Spring 1981. In any case, this was the first of Lin Carter's version of Weird Tales, issued in the form of a mass market paperback. The cover art is by Tom Barber.
Weird Tales, Volume 48, Number 2, Spring 1981, with cover art again by Tom Barber.
Weird Tales, Volume 48, Number 3, Fall 1981. Tom Barber was the cover artist.
Weird Tales, Volume 48, Number 4, Summer 1983. Tom Barber was the cover artist again.
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley


  1. It's amazing that a few "pulp" magazines -- although I think they prefer to call them "digests" now -- like Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Analog, and a couple others, are still being printed. While these may not have had origins in the so-called classic period of the 20s and 30s they have been around for a good many years. I remember copies of Alfred Hitchock on my grandmother's end table in the early 1960s (gosh, even then a long time ago!). It will be interesting to see how much longer they last, especially as titles seem to disappear at a faster rate than ever before.

  2. John,

    I wrote that the era of pulp magazines may have come to an end in the 1940s. There were paper shortages during World War II. That was part of it. Moreover, paperback books, comic books, and television arrived on the scene. Those three media would have drawn readers away from pulp magazines. It looks to me like one of the most significant developments was the conversion from pulp magazine size to digest size. That started in the 1940s and was virtually complete by the late 1950s or early 1960s. I think we include the digest magazine era with the pulp magazine era, but maybe they should be two separate things. The history and origins of the digest magazine could be subject for another article.

    Like you, I wonder how long those old digests will last.


  3. Re Lin Carter. I knew him principally as an editor for Ballantine books and one book in particular - 'The Young Magicians', which pretty much introduced me to Howard, Clark Ashton Smith et al. Whatever his shortcomings as a writer, he was a pretty good editor, his enthusiasm for these authors being particularly infectious.

  4. Aonghus, I agree with you about Carter. If it wasn't for his "Ballantine Adult Fantasy" series of books, I might never have had the opportunity to be exposed in such a way to a roster of fantasy greats. He and Sprague de Camp also helped to further my interest in H. P. Lovecraft, whom I'm still very much interested in today.

    I will also state that I am an unabashed admirer of Lin Carter's pastiches! I have thoroughly enjoyed the brief, exciting reads of his Thongor of Lemuria and Green Star series. His Lovecraft pastiches are also highly entertaining if one chooses to put away the literary gauntlet for the time it takes to read one of these fun books.

    Terence, I suppose that consideration should be given to the "digests" being distinctive and apart from the "pulps". There was that halting point in time, then the mystery and sci-fi digests popped up like so many mushrooms. I also have a short run of the "Espionage" digest 'zine that was around for a time around the mid-70's when Follett, Ludlum, et al, where enjoying their popularity. Good point you have there and worthy of further thought.