The Weirdest Tale of All…
It’s been a strange twenty-four hours for anyone interested in the genre magazine Weird Tales.
For those who don’t know the details, Jeff Vandermeer’s recent blog post is probably the most comprehensive run-down of all the nooks and crannies of this increasingly bizarre series of events. I won’t recap everything here. But I will offer some commentary.
Like most people interested in cosmic horror, Weird Tales has long been dear to my heart. In 2001, I purchased a copy off the rack at a bookstore and had my first encounter with the fiction of Thomas Ligotti (specifically, “Our Temporary Supervisor”). I didn’t “get” Ligotti’s work at the time, but eventually he became my favorite author…and I came to treasure the experience of having first discovered him in-between Weird Tales‘ pulpy pages. In later years, I also enjoyed the direction Ann Vandermeer took the magazine (particularly enjoying Catherynne M. Valente’s story “Secretario” in issue 356.)
Then, of course, there’s the history of the magazine. This past year, I’ve spent a fair amount of time reading older horror fiction in anthologies like Peter Straub’s American Fantastic Tales. As a result, I came to appreciate the vast influence exerted by the pulps in general (and Weird Tales, in particular) on the fields of dark fantasy and horror.
The name Weird Tales means a lot.
Or, at least, it used to.
The events of the past twenty-four hours have tarnished the magazine’s reputation, apparently for the foreseeable future. I’m saddened (and a little angered) that editor Marvin Kaye and publisher John Harlatcher apparently thought so little of the Weird Tales legacy that they sacrificed it to the altar of an apparently poorly-written, self-published YA science fiction novel about a dystopia founded on so-called reverse racism, in which blacks are “coals” and whites are “pearls”. The whole thing is as heartbreaking as it is absurd.
Rest in Peace, Weird Tales. Though your body still breathes, your brain is clearly dead.
UPDATE/EDIT: Okay, so this was my response to the Weird Tales / “Save the Pearls” debacle. Since that time, I’ve been heartened by the decisions made by Weird Tales to reverse course on this issue. In fact, after thinking about it long and hard, I actually followed-through with my story submission and my tale “I Am Moonflower” appeared in issue #361. I was tempted to remove this article (because of the critical things I said about the Weird Tales team — which could seem hypocritical in light of my later publication with them.) Instead, I’ve decided to leave the article up (as a record of how I felt at the time), but also attach an editorial note indicating “the rest of the story”. I have to confess, my association with Weird Tales has been a positive experience and my statement (in this blog post) that the magazine was effectively brain dead was a rush to judgement and incorrect. — N.C.