The unique fucking magazine

Posted: 08/20/2013 in Uncategorized

I probably act much different than I used to. Maybe I don’t.

I was really disappointed by an indie novel I tried to read, so I decided to engage in some good old fashioned shopleaving, because the book still looked fairly new. I planted it on the shelf in the corporate-ass bookstore and took, in its place, The Damned Highway: Fear and Loathing in Arkham by Keene and Mamatas. Figured what the hell, maybe it’s time to rekindle my love of Mythos. I used to be so into that shit, man. When I was a pup I picked up an H.P. Lovecraft book in Borders (I would say RIP but it honestly was not a very good bookstore) because I liked the cover, having never heard of the maniac before. It was destiny.

I think TDH:FaLiA was a pretty good choice and I don’t understand why more horror novels aren’t narrated in the voice of Hunter S. Thompson (RIP) but I was tripped up by a reference to Weird Tales (as in, the magazine) in the narrative. An homage for fans, of course, but it felt forced to me; I sincerely doubt Thompson in 1972 had ever read Weird Tales or even knew what it was, and not just because it hadn’t existed for a couple decades at that point. But it made me wonder: where the fuck is Weird Tales?

Here’s what I remember. I cut my teeth on Weird Tales during the Scithers/Schweitzer years, once I learned that the magazine that made Lovecraft famous was still around (though it had been through some strange times and gone away for a while in the middle). I learned about a lot of authors that way. Gene Wolfe and Thomas Ligotti come to mind. I lost interest later when the magazine started to get redundant. I remember someone (but I don’t remember who) commenting that it had been “tried-and-truing its way to the grave.” I mean, I’m not gonna tell you that it had always been great before that. They used to publish Tanith Lee a whole damn lot, so I’ve read a lot of her shit, and I could not tell you the plot of a single one of them to save my life. But the issues I picked up in like 2005 or 6 were like, damn.

But the fact that the work they published was formative for me is undeniable. My early, shitty writing was usually an attempt to write for Weird Tales. They were way more nostalgic than cutting-edge in those days, but they were good at what they did, for the most part. I’ve met Darrell Schweitzer a few times since then, and there are worse guys to go to for a conversation, for what that’s worth.

The magazine got rescued in 2007 with Ann Vandermeer coming in as editor. I wouldn’t like to judge whether Vandermeer was the best editor the magazine ever had (the other contender being, of course, Farnsworth Wright). What I can say is that she unquestionably had what both the magazine and the weird fiction genre needed, as an editor. I remember feeling like those issues of the magazine were actually relevant, in a “not just to me personally” way. I mean, it won awards and shit.

Then a couple years ago I remember hearing that Marvin Kaye had bought the magazine so that he could edit it himself. I was familiar with Kaye and had nothing particular bad to say about him, but this made me feel unpleasant. I felt it was a step in the wrong direction. That feeling solidified when I heard that he planned the first issue under his editorship was going to be Cthulhu-themed. That, along with my recollection of Kaye as something of a pulp-era sycophant, made it clear what was going on: he was planning to turn Weird Tales into an imitation of itself, which as Tigger (as in, the godfather of boylesque, not the stuffed toy who is most assuredly not the only one) will tell you is as good as an artistic death sentence. I went, eww yuck, and took my leave. I haven’t seen an issue of Weird Tales anywhere since.

Now, wondering what happened, I decided to do some research. It’s about as bad as I was concerned it would be. The magazine has reverted to its old design and appears to be publishing one whole issue a year, to fairly negative reviews (Locus apparently said that the content ranges “from mediocre to awful, to really awful”), and also that a bunch of people aren’t dealing with them anymore due to them doing something racist. The reason I haven’t seen them is because they lost newsstand distribution and have been selling online-only. Word on the street is that they aren’t doing too well. All I can say is that my work has never appeared in Weird Tales and it’s looking like that might not happen.

Whatever. I just want to ride my bicycle. Maybe I’ll spend some time trying to mine out the minority of Lovecraftian fiction that is actually good, or maybe I won’t.

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