Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Thing's Incredible! The Secret Origins of Weird Tales by John Locke (2018)

This month, March 2019, marks the 96th anniversary of the publication of the very first issue of "The Unique Magazine," Weird Tales. That first issue was big: 196 pages and twenty-six stories all together, plus the first installment of a letters column called "The Eyrie." The history of Weird Tales, especially in those early days, is shrouded in mystery. I have written before that if something in biography or history seems not quite right, it's for good reason. There seems to be something not quite right about the early history of Weird Tales, and author John Locke has delved into that not-quite-rightness in his book The Thing's Incredible! The Secret Origins of Weird Tales, 1923-1924, published last year (July 2018) by Off-Trail Publications of Elkhorn, California. Mr. Locke has done his homework, and his book shows it. In reading it, you're likely to come across things you have never seen or heard of before. The main body of text is 229 pages, and its facts are well documented and supported by extensive notes, seven appendices, and two pages of bibliography. Thank God and John Locke that there is also an index, a feature too often lacking in books about popular culture.

A lot of the information on Weird Tales and its founders, Jacob Clark Henninger and John M. Lansinger, is just plain missing and will probably never be recovered, but Mr. Locke makes the best of a bad situation by fleshing in around the missing parts. The result is a series of holes or gaps in a certain shape, and that shape is one of a bitter, final, and irreconcilable break between the two founders of the magazine. It's a wonder that Weird Tales ever got off the ground or survived its first year or year and a half in print. Somebody believed in it, though, and fought for it, and that somebody seems to have been J.C. Henneberger. In my mind, Henneberger was an unlikely hero of weird fiction. There seems to be something not quite right about his story and the early history of his creation. But we have only the evidence, and the evidence is a magazine that should never made it past its infancy--but did. Weird Tales lived for thirty-one years in fact, and since 1954 it has come back again and again--although the current holders of the license or owners of the rights have still not put out an issue since 2014. But that's a story for another day. The point here is to let everyone know that John Locke's book of the early history of Weird Tales is available. You can find it by following this link to the website of Off-Trail Publications:

Text copyright 2019, 2023 Terence E. Hanley