100 YEARS of WEIRD TALES nominated for RONDO AWARD


(c) Rue Morgue

2023 marks a full century since the publication of the first issue of the most important horror magazine that ever existed, and in which some of the most important horror writers of the era, such as Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard and many others, published their major works.


One of the ways in which it was celebrated was a big article about that anniversary, in the world's best horror magazine, RUE MORGUE (No. 210, Jan-Feb. 2023). I conceived and wrote it myself - with the help of some big names in horror whom I interviewed on the occasion.


Specifically, in those three interrelated articles, those who regularly follow RUE MORGUE could read answers to my questions from such masters as theorists and experts, S. T. Joshi (The Weird Tale, The Modern Weird Tale) and Bobby Derie ( Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard and Others, Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos), and two of today's top writers whose works have an obvious debt to stories from Weird Tales, namely: Ramsey Campbell & Laird Barron.


Additional speaker is Darrell Schweitzer, the distinguished editor who edited the monumental anthology The Best of Weird Tales, vol. 1, on 700 pages, for Centipede Press (it was announced for the beginning of last year, but has not yet appeared to date).


And why am I telling you all this now, when it was published a year ago and you have all read it a long time ago?


Well, here's a new moment: I was nominated for the RONDO HATTON award (or, to put it fully, 22nd ANNUAL RONDO HATTON CLASSIC HORROR AWARDS!), precisely for this trilogy of articles. And if you decide to vote for me, maybe this year I will get that award as well - as I already got it once, last year, also for the article about the 100-years anniversary (then the occasion was the film HAXAN, 1922-2022).




Feel free to read the articles BELOW and then be sure to VOTE!




Click on THIS LINK, and there you will find the list of nominations.


CHOOSE from that list what you will vote for (you don't have to vote in all categories, you can, for example, vote only in 2-3, or 5-6, out of over 20 offered).


Whatever you choose, according to the instructions given there, send it to the email you have there. It won't take you more than 5 minutes for all of this - and with that simple action, you can help RONDO come to Serbia this year as well!

This award is voted on by horror fans: if there are any here, now - what are you waiting for? Vote! This may be the only fair election you will be able to vote in this year!




(P.S. Although, in theory, you can vote only for me, I advise you not to do that anyway. You must like at least one of the films or series or books offered... Vote for RUE MORGUE magazine wherever you see it - a few more authors have been nominated from this mag.)


So when you read my article, below, if you liked it, go here and vote: https://rondoaward.com/rondoaward.com/blog/


The deadline for voting is April 16, but don't wait for the last day: you'll forget! Go and vote NOW.


And here's why.


WEIRD TALES, the influential magazine of horror fiction that gave birth to the literary careers of H.P. LOVECRAFT, ROBERT E. HOWARD, RAY BRADBURY and others, celebrates a centenary.

RUE MORGUE sits down with authors RAMSEY CAMPBELL and LAIRD BARRON and scholars S.T. JOSHI and BOBBY DERIE to look back at…




(c) Rue Morgue, Dejan Ognjanović

(c) Rue Morgue


When the first issue of Weird Tales appeared on stands, in late February of 1923 (dated March), it was truly, as its subtitle claimed, “The Unique Magazine”. Few other publications at the time would consider more than a hint of the supernatural. Detective stories thrived, as did westerns, adventure yarns and science fiction, yet horror was the pulp magazines’ red-headed stepchild. Then J.C. Henneberger, the creator of this magazine, saw a niche and made it his own.


It was not just “The Big Three” – H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard – for whom Weird Tales was the major outlet: anyone writing weirdness who mattered, or was about to matter, was published there, from genre stalwarts like Frank Belknap Long and Henry Kuttner through young Robert Bloch and Ray Bradbury to odd surprises, like Tennessee Williams and Val Lewton.

(c) Rue Morgue


Lovecraft declined the offer to edit Weird Tales in early 1924 because he was married and reluctant to move to Chicago, where the office was based. Farnsworth Wright undertook editorship, heralding the stellar years (1924-1940) and making WT the major horror publication for decades. Being a trailblazer is no easy feat, but the magazine survived various hardships, debts, The Great Depression, even the Second World War, before it folded, after 279 issues, in 1954.


Weird Tales came after the “Golden Age of the Weird Tale” (Machen, M.R. James, Blackwood) and before the birth of the modern horror in the 1950s (Bradbury, Richard Matheson). The 1924 editorial titled “Why Weird Tales?” claimed that their main endeavour was “to find and publish those stories that will make their writers immortal.” From the distance of a full century we can safely confirm that this aim was achieved.

(c) Rue Morgue


The Weird Tales legacy is palpable, and we summoned several authors and experts to discuss this magazine’s importance – and afterlife. We are honoured to have input from leading scholars, S. T. Joshi (The Weird Tale, The Modern Weird Tale) and Bobby Derie (Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard and OthersSex and the Cthulhu Mythos), and two living legends whose fiction is indebted to the Weird Tales: Ramsey Campbell and Laird Barron.


Rue Morgue: Weird Tales magazine has been associated with “pulp”, which was synonymous with bad writing. Was that really the case? How many of its stories can be defended and read today? 

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Bobby Derie: There was a lot of terrible, hackneyed writing in the pulps—perhaps the bulk of it—but that made the really good writing stand out all the better. Many great writers got their start in the pulps, including Tennessee Williams, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Robert Bloch, and Ray Bradbury. I wouldn’t defend any of them, because that would suggest they were wrong: good or bad, they were stories of a particular market and time, and should be read as such.


Ramsey Campbell: In our own field, the likes of Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith demanded a high degree of literacy from their readers (or at the very least access to a good dictionary), and we may note how many letters in the letter columns enthused about them. Robert E. Howard was less of a stylist but brought enormous vigour to his best work. There certainly is bad pulp – fiction where the author’s imagination fell short of engagement or was perhaps incapable of it, producing under-motivated characters and stock situations devoid of life, not to mention prose infested with clichés in which (to quote my old and much-missed friend Peter Straub) nothing is ever really seen or felt—but I think it fair to say that Weird Tales gradually left this sort of thing behind in the main, as the magazine and its best contributors attracted writers of comparable worth.

(c) Rue Morgue


Laird Barron: I’m a staunch advocate of Sturgeon’s Law: Ninety-percent of everything is terrible regardless of literary niche. Not difficult to proceed to a conclusion that a majority of pulp wasn’t terrific. Nonetheless, while it’s true that “pulp” is often used as a blanket pejorative, I prefer to think of it simply as shorthand for a particular mode of narrative. Pulp is colourful, action-oriented, and favours broad strokes in regard to characterization. I adore its primal, bombastic elements. Pulp was designed to be eminently readable. That element shines through the dust and clutter of archaic style.



R.M. Who are the great Weird Tales authors, or single first-rate stories, worth digging up from obscurity?


Bobby Derie: There were always more single good stories in Weird Tales than there were authors; while the individual authors would rarely make a best-of list, Edmond Hamilton’s “The Monster-God of Marmurth,” Everil Worrell’s “The Canal,” and Arthur J. Burks’ “The Bells of Oceana” are among the best things WT ever published. C. L. Moore and E. Hoffmann Price had relatively few stories in Weird Tales, but those stories are exceptional.


Laird Barron: Manley Wade Wellman, August Derleth, Robert Bloch. There are others, but I like the symmetry—blow-for-blow, this latter trinity had its moments and lives on in the annals of the genre.


S. T. Joshi: Lovecraft himself identified several authors or stories that deserve commendation: Everil Worrell’s “The Canal” (December 1927), the stories of Henry S. Whitehead, etc. Robert Barbour Johnson’s “Far Below” (June/July 1939) appeared just after Lovecraft’s death. It is one of the most powerful and artistically fashioned weird tales of that era. Even such a prototypical pulp hack as Anthony M. Rud produced a splendid specimen, “Ooze,” published in the first issue of Weird Tales (March 1923).


Ramsey Campbell: C. L. Moore was a remarkable fantasist whose work embraced the atmospheric weird (her Jirel tales) as well as alien eroticism (“Shambleau”) and a Lovecraftian sense of other worlds in the Northwest Smith tales generally. Her husband Henry Kuttner started out Lovecraftian (the tersely gruesome “Graveyard Rats”) but soon became his enviably innovative self. The pre-war work of Frank Belknap Long is uneven but often showed real inspiration, not least in “The Space-Eaters”. August Derleth’s best weird work is in the ghostly tale—he generally fell short of the cosmic, a peak his one-time friend and fellow contributor Donald Wandrei often scaled—and Weird Tales published most of his finest. Mary Elizabeth Counselman was an inventive writer whose “Three Marked Pennies” is a classic conte cruel. Everil Worrell could be excellent—“The Canal” is a powerfully atmospheric vampire tale, and “The Hollow Moon” borders on the surreal. Carl Jacobi and Joseph Payne Brennan often displayed real imaginative power and originality. Manly Wade Wellman drew on or invented folk traditions to add authenticity to his strange tales. Margaret St. Clair and Leah Bodine Drake both made memorable contributions to the last years of the magazine, “Brenda” (St. Clair) and “Mop-Head” (Drake) in particular. Let’s not forget fine infrequent contributors such as Robert Barbour Johnson (“Far Below”) and P. Schuyler Miller (“Spawn” and “Ship in a Bottle”).


R.M. What was the greatest contribution of Weird Tales magazine to the evolution of horror literature?


S. T. Joshi: Given that Weird Tales was, at the time of its initial publication, the only magazine to focus on the weird and the supernatural, it provided a valuable outlet for authors whose work would have been difficult to place elsewhere. Mainstream magazines in the US and UK, influenced by the literary “Modernists”, scorned weird fiction as unrealistic and escapist fiction. Even other pulp magazines rarely published weird fiction. Weird Tales had few rivals during its long run, so it became the “go-to” venue for weird writers of all stripes.


Ramsey Campbell: I believe it was a crucial link between the classic and modern period. Lovecraft developed and codified a new approach to the uncanny, merging it with science fiction, an approach we may see echoed in work such as I Am Legend. Writers like Fredric Brown (“Come and Go Mad”) and Robert Bloch (his work from the late forties onwards) helped bring the prose of our field up to date and applied modern psychological insights to their fiction. Fritz Leiber mostly carried on such work over at Campbell’s Unknown magazine, but contributed to the forward movement of the field in Weird Tales too (“The Hound”, for instance). As for Matheson and Bradbury, both had roots in the magazine. I’d argue that a significant amount of modern horror derives from the magazine or indeed was published there.


Bobby Derie: Weird Tales (1923-1954) trained a generation of weird fiction writers, and raised at least two generations of weird fiction readers. It gave fantasy and horror a market almost through the entire pulp era, and provided the raw material for the popular horror anthologies which were drawing from the contents of WT. The fans that wrote to Lovecraft and Howard in the ‘30s like Donald A. Wollheim and James Blish became editors and publishers in the ‘40s and ‘50s.


Laird Barron: Oxygen. Pure, life-giving oxygen. It’s easy to get tangled up in literary movements, or to speak of particular authors as saviours, but lacking a platform, writers are shouting into a void. Weird Tales provided a foundation, walls, and a ceiling for horror, fantasy, and weird fiction to flourish and to mutate into new forms.

We can’t overlook the importance of influence. Those who arrived later, the early modern writers, surely took sustenance from the works and authors supported by WT and similar magazines. Any artist worth their salt seeks to build upon and renovate tradition. I behold shades of Clark and Howard when I crack Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane stories, or Leiber’s Swords and Deviltry. Lovecraft may be enjoying a moment too. Short fiction is a devalued currency in the contemporary marketplace. That it survives even in a diminished state is directly attributable to Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, et al.


R.M. Are the Weird Tales type of stories entirely a thing of the past?


Ramsey Campbell: These stories were part of a developing tradition, just as today’s stories are. Cosmic horror, for example, is surely here to stay as long as writers feel inspired to reach for it, and sword and sorcery hasn’t gone away. Good fiction doesn’t, and I hope imagination never does.


Bobby Derie: There will always be weird tales, and always people hungry for something different. The stories we remember from Weird Tales generally aren’t the prosaic cave-man stories or weird crimes, they’re the strangest, the most original, brilliantly imaginative, and outside-the-box. Readers wanted something different, and Weird Tales delivered that.


Laird Barron: Fragmentation of the written word and cinema means some categories currently assumed dead might simply be dreaming. Weird Tales has reincarnated at least three times during my lifetime—helmed by Scithers and Schweitzer; then Ann VanderMeer; and lately, Jonathan Maberry. I note there were publication gaps between these iterations. The ebb and flow of weird fiction, space opera, and sword and sorcery charts to other venues as well. There’s something to the notion that this genre recedes, but the tide inevitably comes in again.


S. T. Joshi: I do not think it is possible for writers today to write a “Weird Tales story” except as an exercise in nostalgia. Such a story—featuring generally wooden characters, stereotyped scenarios, and a relatively simple and straightforward prose style—would have little resonance today, where readers have far different expectations for weird literature. That said, some elements of the Weird Tales style may still be viable: the focus on the weird phenomenon itself rather than on the human characters in the story; a narrative drive that carries the story on from beginning to end; and a prose idiom that does not dwell excessively on the characters’ fluctuating mental states. So some of the lessons of Weird Tales writing can still be learned, if properly adapted to today’s very different intellectual and social climate.




Is there a better way to celebrate a century of Weird Tales than with a huge selection of their best stories? Behold three such anthologies!




(c) Rue Morgue, Dejan Ognjanović


In early 2023 Centipede Press, famous for their luxury special editions of horror classics, publishes a monumental 700-pages anthology The Best of Weird Talesvol. 1. It is edited by Darrell Schweitzer, writer, editor, and critic who co-edited Weird Tales’ new incarnation (1988 – 2007), which earned him and his editorial colleagues the 1992 World Fantasy Award.


Centipede will publish three volumes in total, devoted to 1920s, 1930s, and one for the 1940s and 1950s. Schweitzer is also collaborating with John Betancourt, another ex-WT editor and effectively the founder of the revived Weird Tales, on a series of anthologies by the year: The Best of Weird Tales:1924 is in progress at Wildside Press now. In his selection of stories, Schweitzer is aiming to strike a balance between the historically essential and those that many readers may not have seen: 


“Of course a representative WT anthology must have a Lovecraft story in it, but they are widely available. I chose “The Outsider” because it is extremely famous and short. There would not be much point in reprinting a longer story such as “The Call of Cthulhu” one more time when those pages could be used for less familiar material. For example, I am reprinting the original novelette of “The Werewolf of Ponkert” by H. Warner Munn, which hasn’t been seen much lately.”


One other criterion, alas, is avoidance of overt racism which was taken for granted in the 1920s, e.g. Arthur J. Burks’s series of stories set in Haiti, popular in the day, are not reprintable now.


“Literary value of course matters”, Schweitzer adds. “Not all the stories in WT were exactly sterling masterpieces. I would define WT’s standards thus: It did not always insist on good writing but it would allow good writing. Most pulp magazines didn’t. They wanted strictly formula writing in a uniform, jaunty style.”


Digging through the dusty old issues certainly brought some surprising discoveries, but the biggest re-evaluation concerns his increased respect for Farnsworth Wright, the editor who made the magazine immortal.


“The Edwin Baird issues [from 1923] are pretty bad,” Schweitzer admits. “But the quality of the magazine goes up sharply once Wright took over [in 1924]. He was an energetic and imaginative editor, who didn’t just take what came in the mail, but reached out and got stories by prominent and often foreign writers, such as Gaston Leroux, author of The Phantom of the Opera, and E. F. Benson, an important British ghost story writer. He also got a story by Algernon Blackwood, and even one by Max Brod, Kafka’s literary executor. His WT was a treasure-trove, which is why so much of what he published is still being read.”


Another unique aspect which the editor hopes to bring out in the three big Centipede anthologies, through a generous selection of verse, is that Weird Tales was the only pulp magazine of any sort to develop a school of poetry. As for the significance and legacy of its prose, Schweitzer has no doubts.


Weird Tales laid the foundations for the whole field of supernatural fiction in the 20th century, and also for sword and sorcery and other subgenres. Most of the important fantasists of the mid-20th century, like Fritz Leiber and Ray Bradbury, got their starts or significant early boosts to their careers in Weird Tales. Without Weird Tales there would have been no Lovecraft and none of the Conan stories of Robert E. Howard. Consider the cultural and literary impact of just those two.”




The Art of Weird Tales was a significant, though sometimes controversial contribution to the genre




(c) Rue Morgue, Dejan Ognjanović


Weird Tales was open to fresh, unknown writers – but also artists. Some of the giants of fantasy and horror art, like Virgil Finlay and Hannes Bok, sold their first professional works to Weird Tales and helped create an unmistakable visual impact which distinguished it from the crowd.


Finlay was best known for his detailed black-and-white line drawings, but he could work wonders in colour, too, when given opportunity (e.g. the cover inspired by Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Garden of Adompha”). Since Smith’s stories were popular with the readers, the multi-talented author was allowed to illustrate a few of his own WT contributions, although those drawings are not among his best.


Bok, on the other hand, leaned as far towards Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism as a commercial venue would let him, with an art which jumped from the page with its illusion of depth and dimension.


In the magazine’s heyday the sales were boosted with titillating covers featuring dames in peril, nude or barely clad, or equally under-dressed femme fatales, both threatening and attractive. C.C. Senf and Hugh Rankin were experts for this type of artwork, but it was a female artist, Margaret Brundage, who specialized in those and became a star illustrator, contributing 66 covers to the mag.


“I have no objection to the nude in art”, Lovecraft complained in a 1936 letter, “but I don’t see what the hell Mrs. Brundage’s undressed ladies have to do with weird fiction.”


But he was in minority. Readership, predominantly young males, thought otherwise. The issue which sold out the quickest boasted Mrs. Brundage’s cover with a semi-nude woman whipping a chained, fully naked girl (illustrating R. E. Howard’s “The Slithering Shadow”).


Interior artwork, however, contained genuine creepiness by some masterful artists. Boris Dolgov was one of the most prominent: he achieved striking grainy effects with brushes, very stylized. Frank Utpatel was another WT regular worth noting. Fred Humiston was great for depicting the blend of fantasy and horror promoted by Weird Tales. 


Lee Brown Coye was a specialist for blood-curdling. He also illustrated non-fictional topics, like full-page features on witchcraft in 1948, where he did not shy away from such tasteful details like a bloodied dead baby next to a witches’ cauldron. He also provided some of the best covers in WT’s final years.


In the magazine’s later days, when Dorothy McIlwraith became the editor, the covers tended to stress horror rather than eroticism. Whether titillating or creepy, crude or subtle, sensationalist or arty, one thing is for sure: the Weird Tales covers were never dull. They did their business, attracting readers and appealing to their imagination… And in many cases they left a stamp upon it far more lasting than the stories they illustrated.


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