Monday, November 27, 2017

Lin Carter's 1980s WEIRD TALES Revival

In the same interview published in March 1980 in which Carter described his plans for the Zebra fantasy series, as discussed in my previous blog post, he also discussed at length his plans to revive, also with Zebra, Weird Tales magazine, which originally ran from 1923 through 1954, and which had been revived once under the editorship of Sam Moskowitz for four issues in 1973-1974.

Weird Tales #1 and #2, both published in December 1980
Carter managed to get four issues done, though their subsequent publication was sporadic and spread out over three years. It is interesting to note that Carter had apparently turned in to the publisher all four issues previous to his March 1980 interview, for a note in the same issue as the Carter interview gives news from Roy Torgeson that "four issues are complete at this time" and the first issue of the quarterly will a appear in "July at the latest."  Actually the first two issues, both dated Spring 1981, appeared simultaneously in December 1980; the third issue (dated Fall 1981) in August 1981 (the same month as Bloch's Mysteries of the Worm appeared); and the fourth and final issue (dated Summer 1983) snuck out without much notice towards the middle of 1983.  (The first volume was actually reprinted, with a new ISBN and a raising of the printed price from $2.50 to $2.95, in conjunction with the appearance of the fourth volume.)

Here are Carter's lengthy comments, with some interspersed footnotes, marked by asterisks:

"I am reviving Weird Tales with the cooperation of Zebra Books, and I'm so thrilled—it's one of those things that I never dreamed could ever happen, when I was fourteen years old and picking up Weird Tales on the newsstand, in helpless admiration of the writers in it, and to find myself the fifth editor of Weird Tales in half a century is a dream come true that I never dared to dream. It's like having an Arkham book published. I had an Arkham book published, I never dreamed I could have an Arkham House book published. I have only two dreams left, that's to write an Oz book and to do my Tarzan [Laughs].

"With Weird Tales, well, I guess I'm best known for sword and sorcery, and I want to promise people that I'm not going to turn Weird Tales into half sword and sorcery and half Cthulhu mythos. It's going to be exactly the same magazine it always was. The mainstay of the thirty years that Weird Tales published regularly was always the urban horror story; the modern scene, urban horror story. We forget, because Conan and some of the swashbuckling Howard stuff attracts our attention, but in every issue, the bulk of the issue was modern day, urban-scene horror stories, and it's going to be exactly like that, if I have to go out there and rewrite the stories. Thank God, Ramsey Campbell is out there; nobody has ever done the urban horror story better than Ramsey, and Ramsey has a story in the first issue and a story in the second issue, and he'll have a story in every issue if I have anything to say about it, which of course I do. There will be a little sword and sorcery, of course. There will be at least one story in every issue. There will be Cthulhu Mythos stories, when I get good Cthulhu Mythos stories, but the rest of the stuff is going to be as close to the stuff Weird Tales used to print as possible. The fact that it's coming out as a paperback periodi­cal—I think the reason that the pulp magazines went under in 1954 was that pulp magazines no longer had space on the newsstands, because of the rise of the paper­back book. You could either buy a magazine for 25 cents or a book. And people wanted the books. So, since we can't lick 'em, we gotta join 'em. . . .

"I've been sitting on a pile of stuff ever since the Ballantine series dropped out from under me. I've had people from all over the world sending me Xeroxes and manuscripts of things that they happened to have. I'll mention a 10,000 word fraction of a novel by Clark Ashton Smith*1 that was sent to me from New Zealand, which is not known to otherwise any longer exist. The Ballantine series did not last long enough for me to get all of these things into print. For ex­ample, there's a trove of short stories by Hannes Bok,*2 who of course is much better remembered as an artist and an illustrator, but did about seven stories for Weird Tales over the years. Not the best stories in Weird Tales, but still . . . Ever since the idea of Weird Tales has come up, I have been calling, writing, begging, asking—and there are enough of the old authors, there are enough of the surviving members of the Weird Tales group still writing, that I can, at least with the first four issues, bridge the gap between what Weird Tales was and what Weird Tales will have to be in the future, because we are running out of the original authors. Ob­viously, to be viable to go on for years it will have to depend on the newer authors like Gary Myers, Tanith Lee, Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley.*3 But Joseph Payne Brennan has given me a story. Carl Jacobi has given me two stories. I have a story from Robert Aickman; also one of the newcomers.*4 I have unearthed unpublished stories by Howard, by Smith, by David H. Keller.*5 I have this trove of Hannes Bok stories.*6 I have stories promised me from Frank Belknap Long and Mary Elizabeth Counselman.*7 I just received a story from Manly Wade Wellman.*8 And I'm gonna do my damnedest to coax and wheedle stories from C.L. Moore, E. Hoffmann Price. Robert Bloch, Ted Sturgeon, people like that.*9 You see, Weird Tales lasted such an incredible length of time—a human lifetime, thirty years of publishing, that towards its end, a lot of the authors were fairly young. And there's still a residuum of unpub­lished work by the great masters—a little bit is left. Howard and so forth."
Weird Tales #3, published in August 1981
*1. The fragment of a novel by Clark Ashton Smith was "The Infernal Star," first published in Strange Shadows (1989). edited by Steve Behrends, with Donald Sidney-Fryer and Rah Hoffmann.

*2. Hannes Bok published five stories between 1942 and 1944 in the original Weird Tales. Carter published for the first time Bok's tale "Someone Named Guiborg" in Weird Tales #1.

*3. Gary Myers (with Marc Laidlaw) contributed "The Summons of Nuguth-Yug" to Weird Tales #3. Tanith Lee contributed "When the Clock Strikes" to Weird Tales #1 and "The Sombrus Tower" to Weird Tales #2. Ramsey Campbell contributed "Trick or Treat" to Weird Tales #2. Brian Lumley's "The House of the Temple" appeared in Weird Tales #3, in the interim having also appeared in English in the Italian magazine Kadath in issue #3, November 1980, a special Brian Lumley issue. 

*4. Joseph Payne Brennan contributed "Fear" to Weird Tales #2.  Carl Jacobi contributed "The Pit" to Weird Tales #1 and "The Black Garden" to Weird Tales #3. Robert Aickman (who died in February 1981) contributed "The Next Glade" to Weird Tales #4. This was perhaps Aickman's last story.

*5. Carter published "Scarlet Tears" by Robert E. Howard in Weird Tales #1. Gerald W. Page completed a Howard fragment "The Guardian of the Idol" for Weird Tales #3. Carter completed fragments by Clark Ashton Smith, "The Light from the Pole" in Weird Tales #1 and "The Decent into the Abyss" in Weird Tales #2.  David H. Keller's "The House without Mirrors" appeared in Weird Tales #1.

*6. No other stories by Hannes Bok, beyond the one mentioned in footnote 2 above, appeared in Carter's Weird Tales.

*7. Frank Belknap Long's "Homecoming" appeared in Weird Tales #4. Mary Elizabeth Counselman contributed two stories, "Healer" in Weird Tales #1, and "The Lamashtu Amulet" in Weird Tales #2.

*8. Manly Wade Wellman's "Nobody Ever Goes There" appeared in Weird Tales #3.

*9. No new stories by C.L. Moore, E. Hoffmann Price. Robert Bloch (a reprint of "The Feast in the Abbey" from 1935 appeared in Weird Tales #2), or Ted Sturgeon appeared in Carter's Weird Tales. However, letters from Bloch and Sturgeon (and from Ray Bradbury) appeared in the letter column "The Eyrie" in Weird Tales #1.
"For the first issue of Weird Tales, I desperately wanted something by Seabury Quinn, be­cause Quinn, of all the authors who ever wrote for Weird Tales, had more appearances in that magazine than anybody else. I think, just talking off the top of my head, that he appeared in 168 issues. Now, I could be wrong, I'm just talking off the top of my head, I don't have my notes. But there's not a word of unpublished Quinn left. But there are three stories Quinn wrote, ob­viously for Weird Tales, which were obviously rejected by Weird Tales, because they ended up in Weird Tales, short-lived com­petitor, Strange Stories, and they have never been reprinted, anthologized, or put in any collec­tion of Quinn, and therefore their exposure has been very limited. I'm going to be reprinting them in the weird story reprint department, which was there from the very first year of the magazine, and there was one story left in manuscript that appeared in Jack Chalker's fanzine Mirage, which I'm going to lead off with, since that's had the least exposure of all. . . .*10"

*10. Seabury Quinn's "Master Nicholas" appeared in Mirage #6 (1964), but it was not reprinted in Carter's Weird Tales. Instead, "Some Day I'll Kill You" (from Strange Stories, February 1941) appeared in Weird Tales #1. It was the only Seabury Quinn story that appeared in Carter's four issues. Carter's Weird Tales did not retain the "Weird Story Reprint" department, and only had the letters column, "The Eyrie," in Weird Tales #1.

Weird Tales #4, published circa April 1983
Carter published a story of his own in each of the four issues, as well as his two posthumous collaborations with Clark Ashton Smith.  Carter did manage to include other authors from the heyday of Weird Tales, including August Derleth (reprinting his first contribution from 1926) and Evangeline Walton (utilizing the bulk of the extensive prologue she wrote for inclusion in the 1950 UK edition of her novel Witch House, which had originally been published by Arkham House in 1945). For Weird Tales #2, Carter trumpeted R.H. Barlow's story, "The Night Ocean," as by H.P. Lovecraft and Robert H. Barlow [sic; Barlow always signed his contributions with his initials and surname], because it had  been revised lightly and stylistically by Lovecraft, who would never have claimed any credit of partial authorship.

The license of Weird Tales to Lin Carter and Zebra was revoked in 1982 owing to non-payment (though Zebra went ahead and published issue number 4 in 1983). Zebra seems always to have worked on the edge of financial disaster, and they were known to pay only very small advances and to be lax about accounting for sales and subsequent royalties. It is probably this financial instability that doomed from the outset both Lin Carter's new fantasy series, as well as the revival of Weird Tales. It was a sad last hurrah for Lin Carter's editing career. In 1985 Carter was diagnosed with oral cancer, and he died three years later at the age of fifty-seven.*11

*11. In an interview with Robert M. Price, published in the Yule 1985 issue (#36) of Crypt of Cthulhu, Carter outlined another project which did not come to fruition, a new magazine to be called Yoh-Vombis:

"In the beginning it will consist of the stories I would have published in Weird Tales if I had been permitted to continue editing Weird Tales. I'm only returning a handful of stories which are too long. Yoh-Vombis will have about 25,000 words of material in every issue. And, naturally, I will have to be going for the shorter stories. It will also contain poetry and art, and every other issue will have a section called "Epistle" which will feature unpublished letters from Lovecraft and Smith and people like that. It will also have, in alternate issues, a section called "Folio" which will consist of unpublished art by Clark Ashton Smith, Roy Krenkel, Mahlon Blaine, etc. There will be at least one item, either story or verse, by Howard and Smith in every issue."


  1. "Carter published a story of his own in each of the four issues, as well as his two posthumous collaborations with Clark Ashton Smith. "

    Oh dear, I remember those. I'm afraid Carter was the wrong choice to try and complete anything by CAS - Michael Shea or Brian Stableford would have been much better choices to finish the CAS stories.

    By the way, a friend of mine suggested C. S. Lewis might have read "Weird Tales". It's not
    impossible (US WT issues were imported into the UK, and there were several reprints of WT in the 1950s) but I believe it's unlikely Lewis would have read such a lurid-looking publication (despite the good fiction inside).

    1. I tend to think that "posthumous collaborations" (with Smith, Lovecraft, or whomever) shouldn't exist!

  2. "a sad last hurrah for Lin Carter's editing career"

    Do you happen to know why Carter ceased editing the Year's Best Fantasy series for DAW after 1980?

    1. No, but I note that Carter's other annual, Flashing Swords (published by Dell), ceased with #5 (1981).

  3. For the record, I also appeared in the first issue with "Down There". "Trick or Treat" wasn't my title ("The Trick" was), and I didn't know it had been changed until the issue came out. Lin did also buy "Calling Card", but it didn't appear, and he rejected "The Voice of the Beach" as being insufficiently Lovecraftian.