Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: WEIRD TALES, March 1943, edited by Dorothy McIlwraith: 20th Anniversary issue, featuring stories by Robert Arthur, Robert Bloch and Ray Bradbury

A while back, I did a quick survey of the two U. S. newsstand fantasy fiction magazines, F&SF and Fantastic, that had produced 20th Anniversary issues in 1969 and 1972, respectively.  Both magazines made a bit of a fuss, as well they might, for as I realized as I thought about it that only one other primarily fantasy newsstand magazine in English, Weird Tales, had managed to get that far along...not even such notable colleagues as Famous Fantastic Mysteries, nor the little magazine Weirdbook, nor the UK's Science Fantasy had lasted two decades (one could suggest that Fantastic Adventures, which had been folded into its sibling Fantastic in 1954, after a couple of years of simultaneous publication, could count, but only by stretching the point).

The cover painting for this issue is definitely not among WT's best.

This issue can be read here.

The ISFDB index:

Cover art supplied by Galactic Central


Weird Tales has few rivals in its influence among fantasy-fiction magazines. and those cited above might be most of that crew, if we add reference to Unknown Fantasy Fiction, Whispers and Famous Fantastic Mysteries and perhaps Beyond, Twilight Zone, Realms of Fantasy and Cemetery Dance, among a very few others.  And the periodical book series, such as Shadows...Gerald W. Page's volumes of the DAW Books annual The Year's Best Horror Stories were also notable for publishing some first-publication fiction of note.

But editor Dorothy McIwraith, and the publishers of WT, did nothing to commemorate the 20th anniversary, at least not in an advertised, formal way. But they did feature fiction, as in many issues, from several of the most popular of their regular contributors, among them here Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury and Robert Arthur (among others, but I've just read or reread their contributions to the issue), and none of them are the regulars' best work for the magazine...even given that Bradbury's story, "The Wind", is one of his better-known works of the era. However, as urgently as the story tries to get across the cosmic uncanniness of a seemingly malevolent spirit of Wind pursuing the protagonist, the haunting is a bit more clumsily over the top than persuasive, as presented. Likewise, Bloch's "A Bottle of Gin" (where the bottle in question actually contains a djinn, or "genie") is more frantic than genuinely witty, striving too hard for comic effect and the effort distracts. Arthur's "The Book and the Beast" is a bit more sure-footed than his colleagues' contributions, but is also straining for effect, and slight...I seem to remember from reading it elsewhere that the Henry Kuttner novelet, at least, is a slightly better showing, but I'll check back in about that...Bloch, Bradbury and Arthur at their best are brilliant. They are close to their worst with these stories, thus still readable but uncompelling, despite the reputation "The Wind" had at one point (Arthur even included it in one of his Alfred Hitchcock Presents: anthologies in the '60s, where I first read it decades back).

For more of today's short fiction, please see Patti Abbott's blog.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Lots of familiar names here but I doubt I've read many. Unless they were collected in an anthology my library bought perhaps.

Todd Mason said...

Robert Arthur's "Hitchcock" anthologies, both adult and YA, introduced me to a Whole Lot of writers, and other anthologists were not far behind...

Diane Kelley said...

I've been reading a lot of classic fiction this Summer: Tarzan and Doc Savage!

Todd Mason said...

I'm always ready to delve into decades much to touch base with, new and old.

Jerry House said...

Other favorite authors in this issue include Seabury Quinn and August Derleth; both can be hit-or-miss but when they hit their stride are hard to beat. As with Bradbury, Bloch, and Arthur (and Kuttner, too), I find even their minor writing to be worthwhile.

Todd Mason said...

I think I'm more in sync with you there on Derleth and certainly Kuttner than Quinn, but I know what you mean. And I've had rather good luck with E. Hoffman Price's fiction over the years, if only having read a smattering.