Weird Tales/Volume 11/Issue 2/The Eyrie
What constitutes a "weird tale"? This question is answered so clearly and succinctly in a personal letter to the editor from H. P. Lovecraft, author of The Call of Cthulhu in this issue, that we can not forebear quoting him, although the letter is really an explanation of his own stories rather than a general discussion of the "weird tale."
"All my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large," writes Mr. Lovecraft. "To me there is nothing but puerility in a tale in which the human form—and the local human passions and conditions and standards—are depicted as native to other worlds or other universes. To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, have any existence at all. Only the human senses and characters have human qualities. These must be handled with unsparing realism (not catchpenny romanticism), but when we cross the line to the boundless and hideous unknown—the shadow-haunted Outside—we must remember to leave our humanity and terrestrialism at the threshold.
"If I were writing an 'interplanetary' tale it would deal with beings organized very differently from mundane mammalia, and obeying motives wholly alien to anything we know upon Earth—the exact degree of alienage depending, of course, on the scene of the tale; whether laid in the solar system, or the utterly unplumbed gulfs still farther out—the nameless vortices of never-dreamed-of strangeness, where form and symmetry, light and heat, even matter and energy themselves, may be unthinkably metamorphosed or totally wanting. I have merely got at the edge of this in 'Cthulhu,' where I have been careful to avoid terrestrialism in the few linguistic and nomenclatural specimens from Outside which I present. All very well—but will the readers stand for it? That’s all they're likely to get from me in the future—except when I deal with definitely terrestrial scenes."
The popularity of Lovecraft’s stories in Weird Tales seems to provide a definite answer to his question, "Will the readers stand for it?" And when he has departed most widely from human motives and standards, as in The Outsider, he has attained the greatest favor with you, the readers of this magazine. It is such wholly unearthly standards that made the charm of Donald Wandrei's The Red Brain, in last October's Weird Tales; it is the utter strangeness and unterrestrialism of The Space-Eaters, by Frank Belknap Long, Jr. (shortly to be published), that give this story its gripping horror and fascination.
Clark Ashton Smith's unusual poem, The Saturnienne, has made a real hit with you, the readers, judging by the enthusiastic comment it has evoked.
"The Saturnienne is a masterpiece of its kind," writes Charles M. Walker, of Federalsburg, Maryland. "This poem is grotesque and unique, to say the least, and I would like to read more of this man's work."
"I read Clark Ashton Smith's bit of verse with delight," writes August W. Derleth, of Madison, Wisconsin. "I hope you run more of his poetry."
"Weird Tales appeals to me because it is different," writes M. Artine Miller, of Pine Ridge, Oregon. "I can always rely upon finding at least one entirely different story from any I have ever read. Long life and much success to Weird Tales."
Writes J. T. Ballew, of Newport News, Virginia: "For some time I have been a constant reader of Weird Tales, and find it the most interesting magazine on the market. Am casting my first vote, on stories in the December issue, for The Time-Raider; second, for The Infidel's Daughter; third, The Devils of Po Sung."
A joint letter, from "six California readers who are thrilled by your magazine," asks for more variety. "The historical weird story seems to be forgotten," write these readers from Los Angeles. "Did you ever have stories submitted with Napoleon or Washington or Cæsar as a ghost? Why not? These might be quite instructive at the same time, and remind us of historical events which we have forgotten since our school days. Too many of your newer writers seem to imitate Lovecraft, who is unique in his eery tales. Anybody trying to wield Lovecraft's thunder appears ridiculous. His tales can not be beaten for weirdness."
"The Time-Raider is one of the best serials that ever ran in your magazine," writes Ralph McCormack, of Ashland, Oregon. "Stories of thousands of years in the future are always interesting. I like this story much better than The Time Machine by that famous English author, H. G. Wells; he had the people of the future fragile, small creatures, and very timid. The people in his story were much worse off than we are now, and didn't know much about science. It seems to me that people would be very much more scientific in the future, as they are in Edmond Hamilton's serial in Weird Tales. I hope that you will publish more stories like The Time-Raider. In your December issue, I liked especially the man-eating orchids in The Devils of Po Sung. That was a great story."
"I am still avidly devouring W. T.," writes Lillia Price Savino, of Portsmouth, Virginia. "The stories are mostly good, some of them splendid, and I like them all; but I would like to see the illustrations more modestly done. My little daughter hides them in the bookcase when her boy friends call. A man to whom I recommended the magazine said he never bought a copy because of the glaring covers which gave the impression of a trashy affair; but when I told him Victor Rousseau was a regular contributor he seized upon it, and I do not think he ever misses a copy now. He is crazy over H. G. Wells, too, and Seabury Quinn, both of whom are Weird Tales writers. Well, it remains my favorite magazine, and I take a good many."
Nictzin Dyalhis writes from Columbus, Ohio: "Just looked over a copy of the December number. Must say that E. Hoffmann Price, with The Infidel's Daughter, is good. Also, I think that Rankin turns out the best-looking cover, so far as workmanship goes, that ever graced a Weird Tales magazine issue. He seems to have genuine imagination and the ability to express it creatively."
Readers, your favorite stories in the December issue, as shown by your votes, are The Infidel's Daughter, by E. Hoffmann Price; part third of The Time-Raider, by Edmond Hamilton; and The Devils of Po Sung, by Bassett Morgan. What is your favorite story in this issue? It will help us to keep the magazine in accord with your wishes if you will let us know which stories you like best; and which stories you dislike, if any.