By David Goudsward
The original Weird Tales Story by Robert Weinberg appeared in 1977 to much acclaim. Weinberg's background as a collector, pulp scholar, and publisher provided him with a vast array of fanzine remembrances by the WT pulpsters and access to surviving contributors to interviews. For decades, it was the only significant history of the original run of Weird Tales (1923 to 1954). This is not to say the book does not have flaws that carry over into the new edition (published by Pulp Hero Press this past April). Both versions lack source citations for Weinberg's anecdotal accounts. Many of these appear to be from Weinberg's personal correspondence and lack a way to verify their accuracy. The book also exudes an almost hagiographic devotion to Farnworth Wright's tenure as editor. Weinberg also minimizes Edwin Baird's contributions and all but damns Dorothy McIlwraith's time--without placing either editor in a context to support his opinions.
This edition of the book, as the subtitle suggests, has been expanded, almost doubling the page count. Much of the added page count makes up for the comparatively short shrift the original edition gave to Robert E. Howard. Indeed, Howard may now be the most well-represented figure in the book. For this Pavilion Blog book review, it was impressed upon me to focus on the REH materials.
There are two articles on Howard, both by scholars well established in Howardian scholarship: Bobby Derie (author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard and Others [Hippocampus Press, 2019) and Rob Roehm, (editor of several REH Foundation publications). Derie's "Robert E. Howard and the Early Weird Tales (1923-1925)" and Roehm's "Robert E. Howard and the Later Weird Tales" overlap slightly on the topic of REH's introduction to Weird Tales and his early stories. However, their differing approaches to the material make this barely noticeable. Derie, as with most of his published work, approaches the material as a "Descriptive Contextualist." His interest is not in the early WT stories per se. Derie is looking at what motivated REH to write and submit these formative tales when he did. He juxtaposes these stories with Howard's thoughts on writing them, quoting Howard's correspondence copiously, placed against a background of the magazine operations.
Roehm, alternately, is less focused on the creation of the stories as he is with the reaction to them. Roem finds synergy between Howard's stories, poems, and the response of the WT audience as appearing in "The Eyrie." Robert Bloch's non-existent "feud" with Howard started in "The Eyrie" and threatened to impact Bloch's fiction debut in WT. The discussion of reader reaction extends post mortem as Roehm juggles audience feedback on the Howardian tales published after his death with the fan tributes to the deceased author. This is a refreshing change from the usual, overly repeated remembrances from Howard's peers, culled from (primarily Lovecraft's) correspondence.
Weird Tales Story--Expanded and Enhanced is a marked improvement, but the statement comes with caveat. It remains jarringly uneven in spots. Many of the author sketches are disconcertingly brief, considering they represent the best of Weird Tales. There are missing WT contributors, most notably Henry S. Whitehead. Yet, there was room for comparatively superficial essays on contributors who only appeared once in WT and another on authors who should have appeared in Weird Tales. C. L. Moore's embarrassingly brief section is not even included in the Table of Contents, also raising questions about technical editing.
Despite these concerns, the Howardian contributions of Derie and Roehm more than justify the acquisition of the book. Recommended, but with the caveats mentioned above.
Blogger bio: David Goudsward is the author of sixteen books, including H. P. Lovecraft in the Merrimack Valley (Hippocampus Press, 2013). He recently edited the annotated reissue of Cassie Symme’s Old World Footprints (Bold Venture Press, 2021). A retired librarian turned independent scholar, he is completing Adventurous Liberation--H. P. Lovecraft in Florida.
The Pavilion Blog is the companion blog of The Dark Man: Journal of Robert E. Howard and Pulp Studies. It features brief, conversational reflections related to Robert E. Howard at around 500-600 words. Interested in contributing? E-mail the editors at email@example.com