Elder Signs is a website dedicated to old-style Horror fiction, like that written by H. p. lovecraft and the authors of Weird Tales . My own contribution to this style of tale is The Book Collector, a dark detective who seeks out the arcane books of the Mythos for his employer, the mysterious Telford.

Listen to the Book Collector on Pseudopod:

"Goon Job"

"Merlin's Bane"

Buy the book now!


Read G. W. Thomas' Book Column

"Writing the Mythos"

at Innsmouth Free Press



Weird Tales Author

C. Hall Thompson: Lost Opportunities

The Ghostbreaker Mythos

Why Write Horror?

The First Deep Ones

The Avon Fantasy Reader Covers

Dark Bards: Mythos Poetry

Ithaqua: Walker on the Winds

Frank Belknap Long's The Castle of Otranto

Le Fanu and the Critics: Seeing Through Other Eyes

H. Warner Munn's "City of the Spiders"

Boris Dolgov: Artist of Darkness & Light

C. L. Grant's The Grave: In the Shadow of Otranto

Michael May's Adventureblog

"The Door to Infinity"

"The Graveyard Rats"

"The Yellow Nineties"

"Spider Mansion"

"Why I Watch Under the Dome"

"The Eyes of the Panther"

"Adventures Into the Unknown"

"The Fangs of Tsan-Lo: Man's Best Monster"

"Ghosts at Christmas: Dickens to Davies"

"Anne of Green Horrors"

"The Greater Gatsby"

"Weird Tales Radio"

"Literary Slumming: August Derleth and Marc R. Schorer"

"The Call From Beyond"


Every since 1954, people have been trying to resurrect Weird Tales as if it were an undead corpse in a tale by H. P. Lovecraft. Why they do this is out of love for the past, a golden age that was only appreciated after it was gone. Because the fact is, being published in Weird Tales was almost a non-event in the wider view. For example, when Marc R. Schorer, Tennessee Williams or Lucy Maud Montgomery died, no one mentioned Weird Tales on their CV. It was merely a low-paying market that accepted stories with ghosts and ghoulies in it. If The Saturday Evening Post or Colliers would have them, no doubt, these authors would have published there instead. In interviews, Fritz Leiber was known to get a little miffed with younger folks who never understood this. He published where he did, not because of the name of the magazine, but because it was the only place that published that kind of story.

Another fact that resurrectionists, our bibliographic Herbert Wests, ignore is that Weird Tales skirted financial collapse pretty much the entire run. It was never a money-maker. From a business point-of-view, why bring back something that was a virtual failure? For a small group, Weird Tales provided the kind of stories horror fans love. We call it a niche market nowadays. I guess the hope is if we bring Weird Tales back lightning will strike twice and more great horror fiction will happen. This may have been true in 1923 but ignores that today one of the most successful writers is Stephen King, a horror writer. (Not to speak of Anne Rice, V. C. Andrews, Ira Levin, John Saul or any of the dozens of other writers who struck it big with vampires, zombies, etc.)

The idea bringing back "The Unique Magazine" is naïve. First, when people look back at Weird Tales they see the legacy, not the facts. It is a kind of nostalgia that ignores the realities. And this is essentially what Lin Carter's attempt to revive Weird Tales was back in 1981. Supposedly by making it a paperback he was being more realistic, accepting that the days of Pulp magazine were over. As a communication vehicle, this is true but what of the contents? Carter congratulates Leo Marguiles and Sam Moskowitz (the last two crazy enough to try it) for their four issues in 1973-4, known as the California Issues. He figures in his first editorial to avoid their fate by making WT a paperback magazine. And then he proceeds to do exactly what they did….

The Moskowitz edited California Issues

Sam Moskowitz in a letter at the back of the first issue says about the California Issues:

"I twice talked Leo Marguiles out of reviving the magazine, once in 1958 and again in the sixties, because I thought he would lose his shirt. When he did revive it briefly, in 1973-74, I resisted the idea of making it all reprints from Weird Tales, and suggested reprints of stories so out-of-the-way as to be virtually new, since hardly anyone had ever read them or could be expected to remember them, and to continue the magazine in this manner until a new string of contributors could be developed…"

When you look at the contents of a Weird Tales resurrection you will inevitably find the following categories: (1) lost stories by old WT alumni such as H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard or Clark Ashton Smith. (2) These may be wholly theirs but there is a good chance they have been "finished' by younger hands-- what we call "posthumous collaborations". (3) Then there are the new pastiches of the Cthulhu Mythos or similar fare. (4) There is the classic "Weird Tales Reprint" (ie. Stuff you already read from 1936), plus (5) new stories by the old authors who still survive, and finally, (6) a small number of new writers that supposedly follow the WT tradition. These names bring current readers to the magazine. These are your best hope of finding something new worthy of reading.

Let's break down the four issues using these criteria:

Robert E. Howard, Lovecraft and Barlow with Barlow's parents, and Clark Ashton Smith

1. Newly discovered stories from dead WT almni

Issue 1:

"Scarlet Tears" by Robert E. Howard"
"Someone Named Guiberg" by Hannes Bok
"The House Without Mirrors" by David H. Keller
"Red Thunder" by Robert E. Howard

Issue 2:

"Song of the Gallow's Tree" by Robert E. Howard

Issue 3:

"To the Nightingale" by Clark Ashton Smith

Issue 4:

"The Doom-Chant of Than-Kul" by Robert E. Howard
"The Sea-Gods" by Clark Ashton Smith

Lin Carter and Gerald W. Page

2. Posthumous Collaborations

Issue 1:

"The Light from the Pole" by Clark Ashton Smith and Lin Carter

Issue 2:

"Descent Into the Abyss' by Clark Ashton Smith and Lin Carter

Issue 3:

"The Guardian of the Idol" by Robert E. Howard and Gerald W. Page

Brian Lumley, Gary Myers and Marc Laidlaw

3. Pastiches

Issue 1:

"Dreams in the House of Weir" by Lin Carter

Issue 2:

"Something in the Moonlight" by Lin Carter

Issue 3:

"The House of the Temple" by Brian Lumley
"The Summons of Nuguth-Yug" by Gary Myers and Marc Laidlaw
"The Winfield Inheritance" by Lin Carter

Issue 4:

"The Vengeance of Yig" by Lin Carter

August Derleth, Seabury Quinn and Robert Bloch

4. Reprints

Issue 1:

"Someday I'll Kill You" by Seabury Quinn (Strange Stories, February 1941)

"Bat's Belfry" by August Derleth (Weird Tales, May 1926)

Issue 2:

"Night Ocean" by H. P. Lovecraft and Robert H. Barlow (The Californian, Winter 1936)
"The Feast in the Abbey" by Robert Bloch (Weird Tales, January 1935)
"The Sapphire Siren" by Nictzin Dyalhis (Weird Tales, February 1934)

Issue 3:

"The Wind That Tramps the World" by Frank Owen (Weird Tales, April 1925)
"The Red Brain" by Donald Wandrei (Weird Tales, October 1927)

Issue 4:

"The City of Dread" by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach (Tyrant of Time, January 1955)
"Ooze" by Anthony M. Rud (Weird Tales, March 1923)


Carl Jacobi, Mary Elizabeth Counselman, Evangeline Walton and Ray Bradbury

5. New Stories by Living WT Authors

Issue 1:

"The Courier"/"The Worshippers" by Robert A. W. Lowdnes
"The Pit" by Carl Jacobi
"Healer" by Mary Elizabeth Counselman

Issue 2:

"The Lamashtu Amulet" by Mary Elizabeth Counselman
"Fear" by Joseph Payne Brennan
"Liberation"/"The Guardian" by Robert A. W. Lowdnes

Manly Wade Wellman, Joseph Payne Brennan, Frank Belknap Long and Robert A. W. Lowdnes

Issue 3:

"The Chinese Woman" by Evangeline Walton
"The Black Garden" by Carl Jacobi
"Nobody Ever Goes There" by Manly Wade Wellman
"The Summons"/"The Viola" by Robert A. W. Lowdnes

Issue 4:

"The Next Glade" by Robert Aickman
"There Are No Ghosts in Catholic Spain" by Ray Bradbury
"Homecoming" by Frank Belknap Long

Ramsey Campbell, Tanith Lee and Steve Rasnic Tem

6. New authors to WT

Issue 1:

"Down There" by Ramsay Campbell
"When the Clock Strikes" by Tanith Lee

Issue 2:

"Boy Blue" by Steve Rasnic Tem
"Trick or Treat" by Ramsay Campbell
"Valse Triste" by Ray Faraday Nelson
"The Sombrus Tower" by Tanith Lee

Issue 3:

"The "Messenger" by Steve Rasnic Tem
"The Opposite House" by John and Diane Brizzolara

Issue 4:

"Crocuses" by Charles Sheffield
"The Belfrey" by James Anderson
"Compliments of the Season" by John Brizzolara
"Save the Children" by Steve Rasnic Tem
"Late Night Final" by Stuart H. Stock

If we do a little math, we will see the make-up of each issue is approximately the same with between 1-4 in Category (1), 0-1 in Category (2), 1-3 in Category (3), 2-3 in Category (4), 3 in Category (5) and 2-5 Category (6). In other words, a balance between these 6 categories is pretty good with only a slight variation between them, such as Issue 4 did not feature a post-humous collaboration. Issue 4 featured more new writers, perhaps the beginning of a new trend? The variety amongst authors was pretty good too, with only Lin Carter and Clark Ashton Smith appearing in all the issues and Steve Rasnic Tem and Robert A. W. Lowdnes in three. Other writers like Ramsey Campbell, Mary Elizabeth Counselman, Tanith Lee and Carl Jacobi appeared twice. The reprints tended to come from Weird Tales rather than "
stories so out-of-the-way as to be virtually new" but Carter most likely wanted the old fans along with new readers.

Carter did an impressive job of collecting many of the biggest names from the old Weird Tales including H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Seabury Quinn, Manly Wade Wellman, Frank Belknap Long and Ray Bradbury. I would have liked to see Edmond Hamilton in a future issue as he was such a quintessential author to the magazine. Also to Carter's credit is including the late 20th Century's best fantasy and horror writers in Ramsay Campbell, Tanith Lee, Brian Lumley, Steve Rasnic Tem and Robert Aickman. Who knows, if the magazine had gone on, Carter might have even snagged a Stephen King short story.

In the final analysis, I have to give Carter credit for his selections, though perhaps a little too much Cthulhu Mythos pastiches for my taste (I think I loved them when I bought this back in 1981-- now, not so much.) He represents Horror well, though he hasn't any Science Fiction or much Sword & Sorcery (which is probably smart from a marketing POV). He includes poetry (which Marvin Kaye entirely ignores in Weird Tales: The Magazine That Never Dies, 1988). What is missing in Carter's magazines are the illustrations and the letters. This is supposed to be a magazine, not just a paperback anthology. "The Eyrie" was such a part of what Weird Tales was, I am surprised he dropped the letters after issue one.

Ultimately, Lin Carter's Weird Tales was no more successful than the California issues of 1973-74, with only four. I think Carter's paperback magazine failed for precisely the same reasons, for the blend is very similar to what Margulies and Moskowitz did seven years earlier. Carter did have the assistance of the awesome Robert Weinberg and Roy Torgeson, but this, in a way, is a trap. The nostalgia trap. The Carter issues looks more backwards than forwards. Would dropping the old stuff in favor of an all-new line-up have worked better? Well, the Smithers/Schweitzer Weird Tales of 1988 will try that and …. Well, that's another piece altogether.

Some familiar names on that first cover....

© G. W. Thomas unless Fair Use is intended.